´FREEDOM ON THE MARCH´ (NEW YORK POST EDITORIAL) 01/30/05)
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January 30, 2005 -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could
scarcely contain his glee last week: "I believe that conditions have
been created which will enable us and the Palestinians to reach a
historic breakthrough in relations between us," he said.
True, Sharon cautioned that these conditions "must be put to the
test." Nevertheless, he added, there have been "positive
developments" in the willingness of the new Palestinian leader,
Mahmoud Abbas, to openly confront terrorism.
It´s been some time since any Israeli leader let alone Ariel
Sharon was publicly so optimistic about the chances for reaching a
genuine peace. Part of that, clearly, is the fact that the arch-
terrorist Yasser Arafat is no longer on the scene.
But movement on the Israeli-Palestinian front is in large measure due
to an opening up of the entire Middle East part of the positive
fallout from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Today, Iraqis will take part in what is for them a unique experience:
an open and honest nationwide election to select a sovereign, self-
governing authority. This follows on the heels of similar balloting
in the Palestinian Authority.
To be sure, there are many question marks and uncertainties
surrounding today´s election. The so-called insurgents with ties to
al Qaeda have promised deadly violence, in hopes of intimidating
voters into staying home.
"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and
all those who seek to enact it," says Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of
the terrorist forces in Iraq.
And no wonder for democracy is the ultimate threat to fanatical
ideologies, of the type propagated by the Osama bin Ladens and al-
Zarqawis and their ilk.
Which is why President Bush, in his recent inaugural address,
committed America to actively encourage the spread of democracy
around the globe and particularly in the Middle East. For, as he
said, "the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on
the success of liberty in other lands."
Already, the Middle East is being remade for the better in the
wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
* Saddam Hussein is gone, no longer a threat to his immediate
neighbors or to anyone else.
* The terror-sponsoring Taliban has been ousted from Afghanistan and
democratic elections held.
* The Jordanians and Egyptians, long content to watch cautiously from
the sidelines, are becoming more actively engaged in trying to solve
the region´s problems.
* Again, the Palestinians finally are moving toward the creation of a
genuinely democratic government, willing to seriously negotiate with
Today´s election no matter who wins is a first, critical step
down the road to true freedom.
"The advent of democracy in Iraq will serve as a powerful example to
reformers throughout the entire Middle East," President Bush said
Friday. What happens there today, he added, is a page out of history
"history that will change the world."
It may take a while before the Iraqi people fully grasp the
intricacies of self-government.
But the fact remains that they will have taken a giant step toward
permanently deciding their own fate.
Bush said as much when he told The New York Times that while he
believes U.S. troops should remain to help the new Iraqi leadership,
he nevertheless is prepared to withdraw them if asked to do so.
"Absolutely," he said. "This is a sovereign government. They´re on
No one least of all the president is so confident as to believe
that today´s election marks the end of the road to full democracy in
Iraq. Further challenges doubtless remain including from the still
But a roadblock has been cleared. As President Bush said
Friday: "Freedom is on the march and the world is better for it."
(Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc. 01/30/05)
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