And Yet, There Is Hope
[Cross-posted on AmbivaBlog]
You know what? The conservative blogs are right: not all the news from Iraq (and Afghanistan) is bad, by a long shot. And since perception leads as well as follows reality, we all have a sacred responsibility to the long-suffering yet high-spirited people of Iraq (and Afghanistan) to add to their measure of hope by proclaiming the good news. Read it, because your consciousness is one of the places where the balance is teetering between hope and hopelessness. You'll never know whether your thought is the atom that could tip the scale.
This post at Gateway Pundit tells of fed-up Iraqi civilians making a courageous citizen's arrest of terrorists. (Thanks: Karen Bathalon.) The post also quotes Colonel Robert Brown, Commander of The 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Multinational Force-Northwest -- a Stryker brigade in Mosul -- from this Department of Defense Operational Update Briefing:
Prior to the elections last January, we faced a very well-trained foreign fighter and some very intense battles. And what we've seen is a population that was on the fence at that time, to post-election, a population that has absolutely understood that their government, their Iraqi security forces support them, and the terrorists offer no hope for the future.
One of the great pieces of information we got recently is 80 percent of the al Qaeda network in the north has been devastated. And those are not our figures, those came from the last six leaders in Mosul, al Qaeda leaders that we captured; they informed us of that. We also had a letter that was captured from Abu Zaid (sp) going to Zarqawi. We recently killed Zaid (sp) and we had that letter, and it also talked about the desperate situation for the al Qaeda and the insurgents in Mosul and in the north. And then also, sources we have inside the al Qaeda network up here have also informed us of that.
So we're very proud. We have a situation where the Iraq army is being rebuilt. The Iraqi police that ran away in November are standing and fighting. In fact, they recently found one of the largest caches certainly in the north, and maybe all of Iraq. And they're doing a very good job.
And then we have the population, I think is the most significant change I've seen over the last 11 months, from a population clearly on the fence, not sure -- they want freedom, but they weren't really sure what freedom was, and they were clearly intimidated, to a population that clearly understands they want freedom; they are absolutely sick and tired of the terrorists, the brutal acts against innocent civilians, and they want a brighter future for their children. And we've got a lot of statistics to back that up. Like when we first got here in October, there was -- no hotline existed. We opened a hotline; we got about 40 calls a month prior to January. The last six months, we're up to 400 calls a month. Every day the citizens are stopping us on the street telling us where a potential suspicious individual is who may be a terrorist, and telling us where they tried to plant IEDs and those type of devices. So the population is clearly very confident.
Also, I'm out -- I was out every day over the last 11 months on the ground, and great news about elections up here. You know, we went from last January we weren't sure if we could even have elections. Right now, 80 percent of the folks on the street in Mosul and Nineveh province in the north here say that they will vote. And very interesting -- these are -- many of the folks I talked to are Sunnis who are very upset that they were lied to last election, told not to vote, and they were very excited to vote this election. And I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting enough ballots to the polling sites because so many people want to vote . . .
To Centerfield's surprise, The Boston Globe has also published an op-ed eyewitness account of good things happening in Iraq, by Brian Golden, a major in the US Army Reserve in Iraq and a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy:
On the night of the draft [Constitution]'s approval, it was interesting that the Iraqi Army generals who work near my office watched local television coverage of spontaneous celebrations throughout Iraq. . . .
January's election turnout was astounding; it will certainly be surpassed this fall. A recent poll in the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat reports that 88 percent of Iraqis plan to vote in the October referendum. The Kurds and Shi'ites, comprising 80 percent of the population, embrace the draft constitution. Even disgruntled Sunni Arab leaders are redoubling their efforts to register voters. Many Sunnis will vote in opposition, but opposition in a democracy isn't a bad thing; it's a victory.
And what does this mean for the insurgency? It's a disaster. The insurgency is despised because Iraqi civilians suffer most at their hands. Recently, even the spiritual leader of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader, demanded that attacks on civilians cease.
When you read this, it may dawn on you that the near-assumption (of which I've been guilty myself) that Iraqi Arabs don't really want or can't handle democracy, that they're doomed to either a civil war or a Shia theocracy, is nothing but bigotry based on ignorance. Golden provides some corrective information:
Can constitutional democracy work here? Bernard Lewis, a premier historian of the Middle East, identifies the West as originator of harsh authoritarianism here, from Napoleon's dictatorship in Egypt in the 19th century, to the arrival of European-style fascism in the 20th century. Lewis insists that prior to European approaches the region produced far less menacing leaders. Lewis sees hope in history because these earlier leaders -- while not democrats -- governed through consultation and consensus among the major stakeholders in society. Looking at the political posters throughout Baghdad left over from the January election, I realize there may be a historical and cultural foundation that accepts democracy. . . .
Capable people comprise the constructive forces in Iraq. While Saddam Hussein's policies devastated education in the 1990s, older Iraqis grew up in one of the most literate countries in the Middle East. They can produce goods and services and run businesses.
Then there's the awesome voter turnout in Afghanistan today. We should only vote in such numbers, and take such joy in it -- and we don't have Taliban mortars pointed at us:
"We're building our country, we're making our parliament," said Mohammed Twahir, 36, after voting in the southern city of Kandahar, once a bastion of support for the Taliban.
"Before there was no democracy, now we have democracy. Democracy means freedom."
That enthusiasm was echoed by many other voters.
"I'm so happy, I couldn't sleep last night and was watching the clock to come out to vote," said Qari Salahuddin, 21, in the eastern city of Jalalabad soon after voting began.
Who's inspiring whom here? Really. Read the stories. Time is against the insurgents. Give these people your heart.