People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves.

We, as Americans, should be damned proud. Unfortunately, more care about who won Super Bowl XLIII than even know where Anbar Province is. Thank God we have some young men and women who know and care and are willing to sacrifice to give others that which we take for granted. Good on them…shame on us.

All Hands: Major General John Kelly sends this Iraq election notice Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

I don’t suppose this will get much coverage in the States as the news is so good. No, the news is unbelievable.

Something didn’t happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.

What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives. With the expectation of all of the above (suicide bombers) they walked miles (we shut down all vehicle traffic with the exception of some shuttle busses for the elderly and infirm) to the polling places. I slept under the stars with some Grunts at Combat Outpost Iba on the far side of Karma, and started driving the 200 miles up the Euphrates River Valley through Karma, Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi, Hit, Baghdad and back here to Al Asad. I stopped here and there to speak with cops, soldiers, Marines, and most importantly, regular Iraqi men and women along the way. It was the same everywhere. A tension with every finger on a trigger that broke at perhaps 3PM when we all began to think what was almost unthinkable a year ago. We might just pull this off without a bombing. No way. By 4PM it seemed like we’d make it to 5PM when the polls closed. At 4:30 the unbelievable happened: the election was extended an hour to 6PM because of the large crowds! What are they kidding? Tempting fate like that is not nice. Six PM and the polls close without a single act of violence or a single accusation of fraud, and nearly by early reports pretty close to 100% voted. Priceless.

Every Anbari walking towards the polling place had these determined and, frankly, concerned looks on their faces. No children with them (here mothers and grandmothers are NEVER without their children or grandchildren) because of the expectation of death. Husbands voted separately from wives, and mothers separately from fathers for the same reason. In and out quickly to be less of a target for the expected suicide murderer. When they came out after voting they also wore the same expression on their faces, but now one of smiling amazement as they held up and stared at ink stained index fingers.

Norman Rockwell could not have captured this wonderment. Even the ladies voted in large numbers and their husbands didn’t insist on going into the booths to tell them who to vote for. One of the things I’ve always said was that we came here to “give” them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.

Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province. Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.

Semper Fi.


Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

(Thanks Lois and Pat for sending that on)

One Response to “People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves.”

  1. olotliny Says:

    Voting fraud is being questioned… just remember the questions raised during our past 2008 election here in America… the current re-count and challenge in Minnesota…

    from: Wall Street Journal
    FEBRUARY 5, 2009

    Iraq’s Latest Progress
    Political compromise follows security, not vice versa.

    One sign that Iraq’s local elections went well on the weekend is that there’s been so little reporting of the event. Mayhem in the Middle East always gets attention, but a democracy growing in Baghdad is apparently a snooze.

    The result is nonetheless worth noting because it showed several encouraging trends in Baghdad while settling some old debates in Washington. While complete results won’t be known until the end of the week, the vote itself was peaceful and early returns suggest a victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition and other secular parties at the expense of more religious Shiite parties.

    This isn’t surprising considering that Mr. Maliki is getting — and deserves — credit for rescuing Basra, Baghdad’s Sadr City and other parts of Iraq from sectarian violence in the last year. Mr. Maliki’s coalition ran on a nationalist platform, in contrast to a couple of the religious parties more closely identified with Iran. The theory that a democratic Iraq would inevitably fall under the orbit of the radical mullahs in Qom has taken another blow.

    Iraqi Shiites in particular seemed to favor a strong central government in Baghdad, rather than a splintered nation of the kind favored only a couple years ago by sectarian politicians — not to mention then-Senator Joe Biden. Iraqi Sunnis also participated this time, unlike in 2005, which shows that they too believe they can get their share of power from the still-largely Shiite government in the capital. Ethnic tensions haven’t vanished — especially in Mosul and Kirkuk in the North, where Arabs and Kurds mix uneasily — but we are a long way from the fragmenting Iraq of famous prediction.

    The peacefulness of the election is also noteworthy. When provincial elections were last held in 2005, terrorists attacked more than 100 polling stations, and U.S. and Iraqi military leaders were girding this time for a macabre reprise. But al Qaeda and other terrorists were a no-show, and we’ll wager that isn’t because they made a strategic decision to be nice. Rather, it’s evidence both of al Qaeda’s weakness in Iraq, along with the growing effectiveness of Iraq’s security forces.

    The election is further evidence that President Bush and proponents of the 2007 surge were right on another point as well: to wit, that security would precede political reconciliation. Recall that Senator Jack Reed, Mr. Biden and for that matter Barack Obama insisted in 2007 that a political agreement was needed before the killing would stop. But such an accord was impossible until Iraqis began to feel safe enough to be able to make compromises. The surge brigades (Iraqi and American), the new U.S. counterinsurgency strategy and above all the demonstration of sustained U.S. commitment improved security so much that democratic deal-making became possible.

    All this amounts to a huge strategic gift to the Obama Administration. Iraq now stands as a democratic and pluralistic model for other Arab states, and as proof that Iranian-style theocracy isn’t in the Shiite political DNA. If the “smart power” that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likes to talk about has any meaning, it’s to capitalize on developments like these.

    That’s why we’re puzzled by media reports that Mr. Obama intends to name Christopher Hill to replace Ryan Crocker as America’s ambassador in Baghdad. Part of the puzzle is that retired Marine General Anthony Zinni — a straight-shooter if ever there was one, with long experience in Mideast diplomacy — claims he was tapped for the job, until the White House withdrew the offer without notice or explanation.

    But the greater puzzle is why Mr. Hill — who has spent the better part of the last few years making unreciprocated concessions to North Korea and whose previous stints included postings in Macedonia, Poland and South Korea — is qualified to be the ambassador. Unlike Mr. Crocker, Mr. Hill has no real diplomatic experience in the Middle East and is not an Arabic speaker, no small point since Prime Minister Maliki is not an English speaker.

    Especially with U.S. troop levels going down, Iraqis need the assurance of someone both more knowledgeable and sympathetic. Plenty of Iraqis — especially Sunnis — remain suspicious that the U.S. will bargain with Tehran by conceding Iranian interests in Iraq. As ambassador, Mr. Crocker held talks with the Iranians but emerged with a sober view of Tehran’s malignant role in Iraqi politics. The elections were another notable sign of Iraq’s democratic progress, and the U.S. needs an emissary who won’t lose the Iraqi trust so painstakingly won by so many.

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