The Iraqi people voted en-mass. They voted with enthusiasm. And they voted despite, almost because of the danger from the resistance. The Iraqi people had no say about the invasion (aka the liberation). One of the key problems of any intervention is that if a people have not themselves taken freedom they have not gained the confidence needed to build freedom. Larry Diamond is not alone in describing the humiliation that the Iraqis felt because they themselves had proved unable to overthrow Saddam. This time tho, on election day, it was the Iraqi people acting for themselves.
That's why Bush should be careful about claiming credit for these elections. Above all, because it wasn't part of the plan. The Bremer regime did all it could avoid direct elections. Only when faced with the mass demonstrations called by Sistani did Bremer cave in and concede that direct elections should be held before the end of January 2005. As it turned out they took it right to the line delaying elections to latest possible moment without violating their promise. Give them credit. When faced with no alternative, the Americans did do the right thing. They stood back and let the Iraqis do it themselves. There was a lot of criticism before the poll of the decision to let the Iraqis handle the security. Well it turns out that the Iraqi police were more than up to the job. Check out the this account of Abdelamir Najem Kazem who, when he realized that the man he was searching was a suicide bomber, threw the bomber to the ground and himself on top so taking the blast, saving the lives of others at the cost of his own. I'm sure Iraqis wish they lived in a country that didn't need heroes but it does - but it does have them.
There are signs that Sunnis did vote in large numbers in Basra. In the Sunni majority areas it was, of course, a different story. To the extent that that was due to resistance intimidation that is a real success for them. What's there to say but to echo hopes that the winners in these elections put their words about reaching out to the Sunnis into action.
The elections show that democracy not a foreign import, it has become something authentically Iraqi. But lets not overlook how it also shows the strength of the threats it still faces.
"The elections of the twenty first century took all the limelight and focused it on the Iraqi heroes. Iraqis can now be the proudest among all nations. They have broken their chains."
Khaled in Baghdad