Sunday, October 16, 2005

Arab Journalists Missing the Point

Arab commentators were all over the board in discussing yesterday's historic constitutional vote in Iraq. Some point out that adopting the constitution will not quell the violence that has plagued the country since the fall of Hussein's dictatorship. Others raise concerns about the obvious sectarianism being displayed in any negotiations between the three major factions. ( Arab commentators split over Iraq's future). All of the commentators have completely missed the point.

Sunni provinces experienced an extraordinarily high turn-out in yesterday's vote. Whether or not those provinces accept or reject the constitution, while meaningful, is not the real story. The point is that, unlike in January, the Sunnis have recognized the value of Democracy. Even if they choose to vote "No" to the draft constitution, they have resoundingly voted "Yes" to the democratic process.

Each ballot cast, especially in the Sunni districts, was a major defeat to the insurgency. These terrorists did not only need to prevent a constitution from being accepted, they also needed to prevent the people from having a voice. As long as all three factions have a voice, differences in the constitution can be negotiated and resolved. The insurgents lost what will likely be the deciding battle in this war.

Of course there will be more violence in the days and months to come. The terrorists are not going to give up simply because the vote was held. But as the old saying goes, "after a taste of freedom, captivity is no longer the same." In many ways, a "no" vote followed by the renegotiations that follow would be an even greater victory for the development of Democracy in Iraq. What better way to demonstrate to the people of Iraq and to the Arab world in general that their voice does matter?

Perhaps Ahmed al-Jarallah of the Arab Times said it best, "Terrorists will meet their final defeat in their final battle against the people of Iraq." Indeed they will, and yesterday's vote may well have been the killing thrust into the heart of the enemy.


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