- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

This January, two historical events are scheduled to occur that will help shape the course of freedom and opportunity throughout the world for years to come.

The first, the inauguration of President George W. Bush on Jan. 20, was decided by the people throughout the United States in November; we will stay the course in the war on terror and our ultimate goal to spread freedom around the world. The second, the Iraqi election on Jan. 30, is also significant, though there are critics who would assert that postponing the election is a better option right now. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No one would deny that the situation in Iraq today is dangerous. There are regular attacks on American and coalition troops, civilian contractors and the brave Iraqis who have volunteered to serve in positions within their newly formed police, security and government. The American and coalition partners, along with the Iraqi people, are attempting to bring freedom to the former dictatorhip.

These attacks are being carried out by vicious terrorists who detest freedom and aim to push back not just the election, but to keep democratic elections from ever taking place in Iraq. Their ultimate goal and victory would be to return Iraq to a repressive state or an intolerant theocracy. Postponing this election would mark a victory for recalcitrant terrorists and Saddam Hussein’s corrupt tyranny.

But, the terrorists must not win in Iraq. The Iraqi elections must proceed on Jan. 30 so that the long-suffering people of Iraq can exercise the principle right in a democracy: To vote for their servants in government who share their values and philosophy.

There is no doubt that in areas such as the Sunni Triangle, it will be very difficult for Iraqis to vote because there are remnants of Saddam’s regime and a number of fundamentalist terrorist hornet’s nests. But we should not deny the Kurdish people in the north, the Shi’ites in the south and others across Iraq the right to vote. The Iraqi interim government wants to proceed with the elections this month, and I believe the people of Iraq should not be intimidated or thwarted in their ability to cast a vote to determine the future of their nation by forming their own government.

If the election is delayed, we would be backing down to the terrorists, whose hope is that if they continue with these intimidating acts of murder and destruction, they’ll be able to regain power in Iraq. By postponing the election, we would not only be doing a grave disservice to the Iraqi people, but also the brave American men and women of our armed forces who have risked and given life and limb in honorable service to the security of our country by advancing freedom in Iraq.

As Americans, we must do everything we can to ensure that we take care of our soldiers killed in action and their surviving families. George Washington cautioned that the willingness of future generations to fight for their country, no matter how just the cause, will be proportional to how previous veterans are treated. I think it is important that we show a deeper appreciation for those heroic soldiers who died defending liberty and their brave families back home who have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well.

That is why this month I am proposing in the Senate a bill that would raise the “death benefit” to $100,000 for the families of those servicemen and women who have lost their lives serving our great nation since Oct. 1, 2001. The current amount of $12,420 is a miserly and paltry amount that I strongly believe should be much higher. I sense that the people of a grateful nation want to better help the widows and children of those who have given their lives in defense of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is because of men and women like those who serve in the war on terror, that throughout history free elections have endured even in difficult circumstances such as what we see today in Iraq. And I think what we’ll see in Iraq — and this is my faith in human beings — is a large turnout by a determined nation that has endured decades under the repressive rule of Saddam Hussein. We’ve seen these sorts of threatening situations in the past in Afghanistan and Latin America. Yet people came out in large numbers, men and women, which was especially unique in Afghanistan. I think the same will be true in Iraq on Jan. 30.

During this historical month for old and new representative democracies, we must ensure that terrorists will not stop the right of the Iraqi people to form their government for their own freedom and opportunity. As Martin Luther King, whose birthday we remember this month, extolled, “Let Freedom Ring!”

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, is also a former governor (1994-98).

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