Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Elections in Iraq - A Time of Reckoning

“The great debate of my youth has returned. Once again, the world is divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it. And, once again, the question that ultimately separates the two camps remains this: Do you believe in the power of freedom to change the world?”

Natan Sharansky – “The Case for Democracy” (page 17)

The people of Iraq are now just two days away from parliamentary elections. I pray that it become a historic milestone for the people of Iraq. As the day approaches, the rest of the world is anxiously watching and waiting, wondering whether Thursday’s elections will usher in a new era of promise for the Middle-East or new waves of terror.

These are momentous times. Some may accuse me of overstating the importance of what these elections mean to the world, but, then, freedom has always had its critics throughout history. The same critics who today dismiss the people of Iraq as incapable of self-governance and democracy now probably would have said the same sorts of things about America in the last three decades of the 18th century. The same critics who now say that the battle for democracy in Iraq cannot be won would probably have been ardent proponents of the status quo in 1776.

While I pray that Iraq and its people will prosper, I have no way of knowing it will be so. I do think it is safe to say that there will be days of great difficulty and a path with many challenges facing them. There will be no guarantees of success. The liberty they, along with their allies, have purchased with blood, must now be sustained and nurtured through the difficult days ahead.

I believe the people of Iraq are up to the task. They have suffered much over the past three and a half decades. Their lives have been left in ruins by an evil man and a world that refused to hear their cries for help. Their economy was left in tatters. The Kurds, the Shia, the Marsh Arabs, and anyone else who got in the way of the regime were tortured, murdered, and starved into submission. No one was exempt. The old suffered. Children suffered. Mothers and fathers suffered. I think a lesser people may have given up, but the people of Iraq didn’t.

There are some who now question whether America’s sacrifice on behalf of the people of Iraq was worth it. Over two thousand Americans have died in the fight to establish democracy there. Economic progress seems, based on media reports, to be slow. If the media reports are to be believed there is little reason to hope. The terrorists are reported to be smarter, tougher, more principled. They seem to be the darlings of the elites on the left and in the media.

The drumbeat of the naysayers has been effective. Some recent polls indicate many Americans surveyed do not believe that the sacrifices being made in Iraq have been worth it. I wonder how they would have felt about 18th century America’s slow, painful march to democracy. How would they have felt about four thousand lives given in liberty’s cause? Would the old ways be preferred to the sacrifice? How would they have felt about the years of economic difficulty that followed the revolution? How would they have felt about Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion? Would they have been seen as signals of democracy in its death throes? How would they have felt as they watched a fledgling democracy teetering on the brink of destruction? A lost cause?

When Nancy and I lived in New Jersey we would often take time to visit Morristown Memorial Park. Nestled close to the park’s entrance, preserved for each succeeding generation of Americans to see, are the rude huts that housed America’s earliest patriots. There, in the harsh winter of 1779, they hunkered down. They had no way of knowing that the war would go on for another four years until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, nor did they have any way of knowing that the years would bring more defeats on the battlefield than victories. Some, fearing the worst, abandoned the cause. History calls them “loyalists.” But, most chose to remain loyal to the cause of liberty. Their reward didn’t come in the form of prosperity. Their reward was liberty itself. The blessings of that liberty accrued to those who followed them, including us. They were self-less, caring more about principle and liberty for those who followed than for the comfort of tyranny.

They persevered because they knew that their cause was just. Yet, there are those who now enjoy the blessings of liberty who would deny it to the people of Iraq. The cause, they say, isn’t just. They are wrong!

By any measure the cause of the Iraqi people is just. All the remonstrations to the contrary by the critics of liberty cannot hide that fact. They talk about weapons of mass destruction and failed intelligence, but they refuse to talk about the cause of liberty. Why? The only reason I can think of is that they love liberty for themselves, but would deny it to others when the time for sacrifice came. They would expect others to come to their rescue at perilous times, but they would never come to the aid of another. They are prepared to secure and exercise their own liberty, but would abandon another at a time of need. The truth is, they have nothing to say. They are nothing more than self-absorbed fair weather friends.

The world, unfortunately has far too many of them. They have found places of power and privilege. They have spouted platitudes about freedom, democracy, and responsibility, but their actions have revealed the moral cowardice that infects their souls. It’s been that way for some time. The United Nations, the bastion of international freedom, for example, refused to act on behalf of Rwandans being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands. The United Nations refused to act on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia. The United Nations refused to act on behalf of the people of Iraq. The United Nations has turned a blind eye to all of this and more while their bureaucrats have produced documents that soothe their collective consciences:

“In both the broad conditions we identified - loss of life and ethnic cleansing - we have described the action in question as needing to be “large scale” in order to justify military intervention. We make no attempt to quantify “large scale”: opinions may differ in some marginal cases (for example, where a number of small scale incidents may build cumulatively into large scale atrocity), but most will not in practice generate major disagreement. What we do make clear, however, is that military action can be legitimate as an anticipatory measure in response to clear evidence of likely large scale killing. Without this possibility of anticipatory action, the international community would be placed in the morally untenable position of being required to wait until genocide begins, before being able to take action to stop it.”

They have decried the terror inflicted on millions, while at the same time they’ve condemned those who intervened on behalf of the abused and tortured. They have condemned unilateral intervention, while tacitly approving of terror and genocide by their inaction. Their inaction has made them traitors to the cause of freedom.

Where would the people of Iraq be today if the appeasers had their way? Being run through shredders. Being gassed. Being starved. I suspect that’s what many at the United Nations, along with their allies on the American left, would prefer.

In a few days the free people of Iraq will vote. In doing so, they will overcome decades of torture, murder, deprivation, and international neglect. They will do so, thanks to their willingness to fight for democracy and the sacrifice of her allies. They will prove their mettle, as they have over the past three years. They will prove that they are better than those who would give them over to terror. They will overcome. They will build a democracy. I pray that, as they do, their efforts will burn like coals of fire on what’s left of the consciences of those who would so easily abandon them.

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