Last night, while much of America slept, about sixty percent of registered Iraqis voted. More than eight million people put their lives on the line to take their countries destiny in their own hands. We will not know the outcome for at least a week, but we already know one outcome: self determination, indeed good itself, has won a decisive victory against those wicked forces that oppose it.
This result does not guarantee Iraq will become a democracy, let alone a western-style democracy; it does not promise that the U.S. will not irredeamably bungle the followup; nor can we even be sure that ethnic civil war can be avoided. However, it does tell us that the people of Iraq are ready to try to collectively determine their destiny at no small risk to themselves.
We are strangely blessed by the evil of our enemies, the insurgency leader al-Zarqawi has explicitly declared war on democracy itself and fought with abominable methods. The insurgency has not passed away today, but has proven unable to stop the election despite its fervent desire to do so. The clarity of this day will soon pass, as advocates of different forms of government and conflicting distributions of power will craft the Iraqi constitution. The U.S. role in this process will be to provide security, resources, mediation, but first and foremost to get out of the way and let the Iraqis chose. This right to chose has been bought dearly with the blood of Iraqis, Americans, Britains, and others who have tried to help. Not all of the leaders' choices will be wise, but they will be the choices of the people of Iraq and that is all we can ask for.
It is my fervent hope that al-Zarqawi too will have a place in this new Iraq and that this place is in a cell or a grave. A fate more important than that of Saddam himself. His disposition will be a message to the Middle East and ultimately the world, that those who stand in the way of self-determination, be they rulers or terrorists, will be defeated. And this defeat will not be at the hands of the Americans, or the west, or the international community; instead this rejection will come from their own people.