- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I’ve just finished reading David McCullough’s dramatic bestseller, “1776,” an inspiring retelling of the year of our Founding. One cannot ignore the parallels of what is happening today in Iraq as he leads us through a year when all seemed hopeless and lost up to the very end. The last chapter is appropriately titled, “Darkest Hour.”

The Iraqis are in their darkest hour but also on the brink of a historic political victory that will establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, beset by troubles, but determined to be free, independent and in charge of its own destiny.

Who doubts that the provisional Iraqi parliament will soon complete a constitution that will be the foundation to a permanent democratic form of government?

Despite a delay of a week or so (as of this writing), hardly a setback considering the ethnic and religious differences in Iraq, all that is required are the kind of compromises in language even America’s Founding Fathers most likely had to make. I think come Oct. 15 a constitution will be endorsed by a large majority of Iraqi voters and a free, representative government will be elected Dec. 15.

This is the emerging political reality in Iraq obscured by doomsayers and doubters due to the terrorists’ insurgency.

In the end, Iraq’s democratic rebirth had more to do with the Iraqis thirst for freedom and the previously underestimated power of a nation’s long-abused majority over a relatively small but bloodthirsty band of fanatics and murderers.

The national and foreign news media and President Bush’s antiwar critics have focused largely on the number of bombings and attacks by a few thousand insurgents, and not on the political aspirations of millions of Iraqis driving the movement toward democratic self-fulfillment.

And, too, there are the deniers who continue to believe the Iraqis are incapable of achieving a liberal democracy and are no better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein.

Listen to what Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “The idea of a liberal democracy with institutions that function like Western democracies is beyond my comprehension in the near term.”

But Mr. Biden apparently does not comprehend what drove Iraqi voters, at great risk to their lives, to patiently stand in long lines to elect a democratic provisional assembly. They wanted a democratic government that is of, by and for the people. That’s why they voted in surprisingly large numbers.

Or listen to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, who still can’t come to grips with historic changes in Iraq. Here’s what he said Sunday on “Face the Nation”: “It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq.”

This is the guy who, during his ill-fated presidential campaign, questioned whether any Iraqis were better off after Saddam Hussein was driven from power. Now, after women were allowed to vote for the first time and are serving in positions of governing authority in Iraq, Mr. Dean still suggests they will be worse off under a democratic government.

Not only has the role of women been elevated in Iraq — an issue still being debated this week by drafters of the constitution — but there have been some truly astonishing developments that suggest Iraq’s longstanding religious divisions and hatreds may be coming to an end.

Last week, several dozen Sunni Muslims in Ramadi, armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons, defended their Shi’ite neighbors from an attack by Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terrorist cutthroats meant to drive away 3,000 Shi’ites. The Sunni defenders killed five of Zarqawi’s guerrillas and forced the rest to flee. “We have had enough of his nonsense,” said Sunni Sheik Ahmad Khanjar. “We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis, regardless off their sect.”

There has been growing number of clashes where Sunnis and Shi’ites have joined to fight Jordanian-born Zarqawi’s followers, most of whom are from other countries. Slowly but surely, Iraq seems to be building a sense of nationhood, a social prerequisite for a democratic society.

The Sunnis, who boycotted the provisional election, have been brought into the constitutional drafting and their leaders given government positions. They now know the democratic movement, no matter what the terrorists do, cannot be defeated and they want to be part of its historic founding.

This is a story that should be all too familiar to Americans who remember their country’s history.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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