- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Sunday was supposed to be the day that democracy died in Iraq, as terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi had urged. Instead, democracy reigned. By nearly every conceivable standard, the election stands as a major victory. We won’t know the exact numbers for at least another week or two, but a general turnout estimate hovers around 60 percent of all registered voters. If that holds, then Iraq’s historic election will have just slightly surpassed the last U.S. election, which wasn’t under threat of suicide bombers or mortar attacks. In other words, contrary to what Sen. John Kerry said Sunday, legitimate sounds like an apt description to us. The Iraqis certainly think so. Their jubilance can be summed up in a blog post by a pair of Iraqi brothers, who wrote: “Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not.” Along with the rest of the world, the Iraqis should enjoy the moment for as long at it lasts. They have overcome the years of oppression, the devastation of war, an insurgency and the Western snobs who said the Arab world is not ready for democracy. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Middle East, the reverberations from Iraq’s bid for freedom will not go unnoticed, by both the oppressed and oppressor alike. Perhaps even some Democrats will get the message. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, with many bloody and contentious months ahead for Iraq. A newly elected 275-member National Assembly must draft a constitution by September. The Sunnis must be made to feel welcome, and the Kurds kept within the fold. These are delicate issues that will take an enormous degree of patience to hold in balance. Nevertheless, for a country whose last election was 50 years ago, what occurred Sunday was a massive, unified undertaking, fraught with opportunities for confusion and violence. More than 6,000 organizations oversaw 140,000 workers at 5,000 polling stations, every one of which had to be guarded. As promised, the insurgents increased their attacks, which normally average about 50 a day, to just under 200. One of the unheralded successes is the exceptional performance of the Iraqi police and military forces. Forty-four people were killed, yet it’s perhaps a testament to their courage that half of those were Iraqi servicemen. Both American and Iraqi forces must continue to operate as they always have, lest the historic gains achieved Sunday be squandered by wishful thinking. This means rejecting Sen. Ted Kennedy’s rant that the American presence is the problem and Sen. Harry Reid’s tiresome line that now is the time to form an “exit strategy.” Had these Washington lawmakers had their way, the election would never have taken place. Indeed, Saddam Hussein would still be in power.

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