A Day to Remember (NY TIMES OP-ED) By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN 02/03/05)
NEW YORK TIMES
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As someone who believed, hoped, worried, prayed, worried, hoped and
prayed some more that Iraqis could one day pull off the election they
did, I am unreservedly happy about the outcome - and you should be,
Why? Because what threatens America most from the Middle East are the
pathologies of a region where there is too little freedom and too
many young people who aren´t able to achieve their full potential.
The only way to cure these pathologies is with a war of ideas within
the Arab-Muslim world so those with bad ideas can be defeated by
those with progressive ones.
We can´t fight that war. Only the Arab progressives can - only they
can tell the suicide bombers that what they are doing is shameful to
Islam and to Arabs. But we can collaborate with them to create a
space in the heart of their world where decent people have a chance
to fight this war - and that is what American and British soldiers
have been doing in Iraq.
President Bush´s basic gut instinct about the need to do this is
exactly right. His thinking that this could be done on the cheap,
though, with little postwar planning, was exactly wrong. Partly as a
result, this great moment has already cost America over $100 billion
and 10,000 killed and wounded.
That is not sustainable because the road ahead in Iraq is still long.
We have to proceed with more wisdom and more allies. But proceed we
must, and now we can at least do so with the certainty that
partnering with the Iraqi people to build a decent consensual
government is not crazy - it´s really difficult, but not crazy.
But wait - not everyone is wearing a smiley face after the Iraqi
elections, and that is good, considering who is unhappy. Let´s start
with the mullahs in Iran. Those who think that a Shiite-led
government in Iraq is going to be the puppet of Iran´s Shiite
ayatollahs are so wrong. It is the ayatollahs in Iran who are
terrified today. You see, the Iranian mullahs and their diplomats
like to peddle the notion that they have their own form of
democracy: "Islamic democracy." But this is a fraud, and the people
who know best that it´s a fraud are the ayatollahs and the Iranian
When any Iranian reform candidate who wants to run can be vetoed by
unelected ayatollahs, and any Iranian newspaper can be shut by the
same theocrats, that is not democracy. You can call that whatever you
want, but not democracy. They don´t allow bikinis at nudist colonies
and they don´t serve steak at vegetarian restaurants, and theocrats
don´t veto candidates in real democracies. The Iraqi Shiites just
gave every Iranian Shiite next door a demonstration of what
real "Islamic" democracy is: it´s when Muslims vote for anyone they
want. I just want to be around for Iran´s next election, when the
ayatollahs try to veto reform candidates and Iranian Shiites ask, Why
can´t we vote for anyone, like Iraqi Shiites did? Oh, boy, that´s
going to be pay-per-view.
Then there is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This Charles-Manson-with-a-turban
who heads the insurgency in Iraq had a bad hair day on Sunday. I
wonder whether anyone told him about the suicide bomber who managed
to blow up only himself outside a Baghdad polling station and how
Iraqi voters walked around his body, spitting on it as they went by.
Zarqawi claims to be the leader of the Iraqi Vietcong - the authentic
carrier of Iraqis´ national aspirations and desire to liberate their
country from "U.S. occupation." In truth, he is the leader of the
Iraqi Khmer Rouge - a murderous death cult.
The election has exposed this. Because the Iraqi people have now made
it clear that they are the authentic carriers of their national
aspirations, and while, yes, they want an end to the U.S. presence,
they want that end to happen in an orderly manner and in tandem with
an Iraqi constitutional process.
In other words, this election has made it crystal clear that the Iraq
war is not between fascist insurgents and America, but between the
fascist insurgents and the Iraqi people. One hopes the French and
Germans, whose newspapers often sound more like Al Jazeera than Al
Jazeera, will wake up to this fact and throw their weight onto the
right side of history.
It´s about time, because whatever you thought about this war, it´s
not about Mr. Bush any more. It´s about the aspirations of the Iraqi
majority to build an alternative to Saddamism. By voting the way they
did, in the face of real danger, Iraqis have earned the right to ask
everyone now to put aside their squabbles and focus on what is no
longer just a pipe dream but a real opportunity to implant decent,
consensual government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.
(Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 02/03/05)
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