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Fighting bullets with ballots in Iraq (NEW YORK DAILYNEWS EDITORIAL) 01/30/05)Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ideas_opinions/story/275960p-236365c.html NEW YORK DAILY NEWS NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The Iraqi people go to the polls today for a courageous exercise in democracy. They will be risking their lives to vote, as they´ve never been permitted to vote, with all the world watching - and with far too many hoping this historic election will fail.

Traumatized by Saddam Hussein´s oppression, battered by war and bloodied by a relentless and savage insurgency, they will go to the polls against a backdrop of car-bombings and mortar attacks. Will the turnout be 40%, 60%, 80%? The larger the better, but the exact proportion matters less than that Iraq, at the end of the day, will be governed by its own elected Assembly.

Few peoples have paid more for the right to democratic self-rule. Iraqi civilians have died at 10 times the rate of American troops. An estimated 15,000 to 18,000 have now been killed, with more dying every day at the hands of insurgents determined to snuff out every breath of freedom. Yet there´s no shortage of candidates for election. Yet millions have registered to vote. Yet the dominant Shiite majority have responded to their attackers with forbearance, choosing ballots rather than bullets.

And what´s this fight really about? The election is radical Islam´s line in the sand. Months ago, Al Qaeda´s man in Iraq, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, told his boss Osama Bin Laden in an intercepted communication that they were finished should democracy take root. Their only choice then would be to wage war on the Iraqis themselves. And that´s why they´re determined to block the voting at all costs.

"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," al-Zarqawi declared last week. And in case the voters missed that message, militants on Friday warned them to avoid the polling places, aka "centers of atheism and of vice," lest they not survive the electoral process. "We have warned you," declared the killers, "so don´t blame us. You have only yourselves to blame."

Can´t get much clearer than that. And still the peace-at-any-cost brigade denies the correctness of the U.S. presence, slanders American troops as occupiers and, deep down, may very well hope to find validation for its views in an abject washout today. Our money´s on the Iraqi man and, yes, woman at the polling place. Not on Ted Kennedy. It is a landmark moment for Iraq. For the world. For the rights of humanity. (© 2005 Daily News, L.P. 01/30/05)

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