Freedom is an itch that spreads as it is scratched, and yesterday's highly successful (if not triumphant: the Sunnis generally stayed home, there were 44 killed in anti-election violence) election in Iraq is a scratch that has already changed the characterization of the state of affairs in the former land of Saddam.
Note the following quotes:
- Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the former Democratic presidential nominee, called the vote "significant" but warned on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "what really counts now is the effort to have a legitimate political reconciliation that is going to take a massive diplomatic effort and a much more significant outreach to the international community than this administration has been willing to engage in."
....The apparently healthy turnout in Iraq's election won praise from some of the toughest critics of the U.S. intervention in Iraq. France, which led opposition to a U.N. resolution approving the use of force to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, called Iraqis "courageous" and said the vote was "necessary," despite earlier calls to delay it.
"This is a great victory, if this process succeeds, first and foremost for the Iraqis who together felt sufficiently courageous despite the hardships, despite the violence, to go and vote," said French government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.
....Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, congratulated Iraqis and backed off from a warning last week that the vote could become "a disaster" if the Sunni minority emerged without representation.
"The elections represent an important step forward for Iraq. Despite the many difficulties that lie ahead, the elections mark progress towards a transition to a democratic, free and peaceful Iraq," he said in a statement.
To strengthen relations at this strategic juncture, Rice leaves Thursday on her first trip as secretary of state for talks in Europe and the Middle East. [Washington Post]
So Kerry calls for outreach to the international community, new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepares for a trip to do just that, and France and the EU — among the most vocal of the "friendly" critics of our Iraq policy — give clear signals that they view the elections as a success and a significant step toward a "democratic, free and peaceful Iraq."
I'd call that real progress from all sides as all parties can now focus on the elections and aftermath rather than the U.S. occupation. Note the statements from hardcore administration critics:
- "It was Sistani who demanded one-person, one-vote elections. So to the extent it's a victory, it's a victory for Iraqis. The Americans were maneuvered into having to go along with it," said Juan Cole, an Iraq expert at the University of Michigan.