Both of the above headlines are from the New York Times. And if there's one thing for which you can count on the Times, it's not to whitewash goings-on in post-Saddam Iraq.
Iraqis went to the polls for the second time in seven years to vote in national parliamentary elections. (It's been pointed out that it took the U.S. 12 years after 1776 to do it once.) According to the BBC, turnout was 62%. (Which also dwarfs U.S. turnout, when nobody is shooting at us.) Turnout in Anbar Province, a former extremist stronghold that includes Fallujah and Ramadi, was up from 2% last time to 61% now.
"It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections. Bombs and missiles, al Qaeda threats and war fatigue failed to deter millions of Iraqis of all sects and regions from exercising a right that is rare in the Arab world. Even the U.N.'s man in Baghdad called the vote 'a triumph'." - Wall Street Journal
"In a country that not so long ago was accustomed to the sham elections that kept Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party in office, this one has turned into a nail-biter between Prime Minister al-Maliki and former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi." - Baltimore Sun
I've talked to a number of anti-war people who seem not to have caught the fairly important fact that: We won the war. I sort of thought this went without saying, but I find I have to keep pointing it out.
"Everything is on track for [withdrawal] to happen… The plan is we will continue to turn control over to the Iraqi security forces, and by August we believe we'll be able to end our combat mission and get down to about 50,000 [troops]." - Commanding General Ray Odierno
There were of course a lot of noble reasons for which one might have been opposed to the war. There's still plenty of scope for feeling that the war wasn't worth the cost not in blood, nor treasure, nor insurgency mayhem, nor (as many saw it) the trampling of international law.
But the fact remains that if the anti-war crowd had gotten their way in 2007, we would have suffered a battlefield defeat at the hands of al Qaeda, handed the center of the Arab world and the world's third-largest oil reserves and 31 million people who trusted us over to the head-hackers and mosque-bombers, and condemned the Iraqi people to even more decades of misery, misrule, imprisonment, and terror.
Instead, we have helped to midwife the first decent, consensual, pluralistic democracy in the Arab Middle East. (I previously argued that this was the most important reason for the intervention and the only deep and substantive response to 9/11.) We have freed 31 million people from a Stalinist terror state run by a psychopathic crime family. We have allowed the Arab world to see a free and fair democratic election right on their borders one in which a Shia majority shares power with minority groups and a vision the theocratic, messianic mullahs of Iran must ardently wish they could cause the people of Iran to unsee.
We've done all this on the backs of the incredibly brave, skilled, devoted, professional, and upright men and women of the U.S. military and, not to mention, with the indispensible partnership of the extremely brave and cool and long-suffering Iraqi people themselves. Freedom can't really be granted it can only be won. And the Iraqi people are doing the extremely hard work of securing their own freedom and prosperity, after decades of misery and tyranny and war.
We should wish them all the best. And we should be happy and humbled that the people of Iraq are going to share a bond with the people of America that is certain to last a very, very long time indeed.