GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
LEAVING FEAR BEHIND IN IRAQ
John D. Negroponte is U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and George W. Casey Jr. is commander of the Multi-National Forces.
By John D. Negroponte and George W. Casey Jr.
BAGHDAD — Although the heroic vote for freedom here in Iraq was humbling, it did not surprise us. Since the transition to Iraqi sovereignty seven months ago, we have seen daily manifestations of Iraqi courage and determination. Once again, as in South Africa, El Salvador and Ukraine, democracy proved stronger than fear.
Despite attacks by terrorists and insurgents — indeed, partly because of them — Iraqis were determined to put their mark on history. Even so, it is impossible to overstate the bravery displayed when people walked out their front doors armed only with their convictions.
There are scores of examples of the indomitable Iraqi spirit. One group of women marched along chanting, "We have no fear," defying insurgents to strike them down. After mortar rounds struck near one polling site, voters got out of line to assist those wounded. Once they cared for the injured, the voters got back in line.
President Bush said, "The people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East." It was a voice long muted by the tyranny of the former regime but now resoundingly heard thanks to the extraordinary efforts of so many extraordinary people.
The critical first line of defense came from Iraqis with important Coalition support. It was a proud day for Iraq's soldiers and police, and a proud day for those of us who worked hard to help train and equip them to preserve and protect Iraq's precious sovereignty.
In addition to those increasingly capable, brave and patriotic Iraqis, all the Coalition countries, the United Nations, the European Union, and many nongovernmental organizations ( NGOs)and volunteers helped make these elections a success. So did journalists who chronicled this victory of ballots over bullets, not to overlook the indispensable efforts of American servicemen and women, diplomats, civilians and contractors.
But when the votes are counted, it will be clear that the voice heard Sunday was indisputably Iraqi in character. The members of the Transitional National Assembly will create a new government, draft a constitution and upon ratification hold another election to select a permanent government — not an interim or transitional one.
This progress is not good news for those who desperately sought to wreck the electoral process. The Iraqi people have now stared terror in the face and defied it, leaving fear behind. Stiff challenges lie ahead for Iraq. No constitutional process is easy.
The attributes and values enunciated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 — "a federal, democratic, pluralist and unified Iraq, in which there is full respect for political and human rights" — will test Iraq's will and imagination. They are the indispensable elements of an Iraq where the rule of law prevails, justice is served and freedom is guaranteed.
Ultimately, this is how the virulent insurgency that besets Iraq will be eliminated, undermining any rationale for violence by offering a fair, open system of political cooperation and participation to all.
The nascent democracy in Iraq will, we know, continue to require the steadfast support of friends in the world community, but we look forward to cooperating with the transitional Iraqi governmentas it pursues its mission. The United States and the Coalition will make every effort to support Iraq's efforts through diplomacy, security cooperation, economic development and reconstruction assistance, and the kinds of international contacts that strengthen civil society.
Having watched Iraqis summon the courage and resolve to hold their first free national election in decades, we need no more motivation to respond in kind. The Iraqis deserve our continued best efforts, and that's a commitment theUnited States and the Multi-National Force-Iraq are honored to make.
(c) 2005, Global Viewpoint