As most regular readers know, I've been extremely skeptical about American involvement in Iraq. The White House's justification for going to war always seemed shaky to me; its execution, nearly as wobbly.But the sight of so many Iraqis risking their lives to vote yesterday, that was beyond inspirational. And I have to give the President and his team credit here. They had the collective stones to stick with these elections -- even when seizures of violence made the plan look like fantasy. And they had foresight to predict the electrifying power of the ballot in Iraq -- no matter how confused, how rushed, or how scary the election may have been.In Iraqis, the White House saw a group who couldn't wait to grab control of their lives, after so many years without leverage at all. The President's people were right. And, as a result, something beautiful happened on Sunday.Here's how one friend, who's been helping the Iraqis set up these elections, described yesterday's events:
Today was a day for voters and electoral workers, and both groups exceeded expectations. Throughout the day, we worked the phones to get updates from friends and associates across Iraq. The phrasing of one seemed to have been echoed by many: we heard explosions and gunfire, but we were together and were not afraid. A quintessential example of what happened here today is relayed in an anecdote from Quadisiyah, a district of Baghdad at the end of the peninsula. Voters lined up outside a polling station and then scattered when an insurgent appeared down the street with an RPG and fired. The grenade missed its target, and an hour later the voters regrouped, in greater numbers, to finish the job.Nearly forty died across Iraq today in the violence that had been promised. Nine suicide bombers also visited polling stations. Insurgents chased down voters exiting polling stations and hit them with grenades. And there were mortars. They waited an hour or so until after the polling stations opened here before hitting in force. And then there was silence, and in that silence, a people beset by hardship went about the business of self-expression. The honor of the fallen was upheld by the undeterred.A couple weeks ago, a bright young friend of mine asked me who is this Ben Franklin guy? I asked what made him wonder and he said, still staring at his internet screen, because he said that people who think there is a choice between security and liberty deserve neitherI think thats pretty cool, would there be any problem with my printing this out and hanging it on the wall? No problem at all, Mohammed, print away.