TCS Daily


The Blue-Finger Revolution

By Ryan H. Sager - January 31, 2005 12:00 AM

America had its Declaration of Independence, and now Iraq has had its Blue-Finger Revolution. Just don't expect those on the far left to afford the Iraqis the respect that they are due.

Just as the colonists who signed onto Jefferson's handiwork pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to each other, Iraq's bluefingers have risked their very necks -- not just in showing up at the polls on Sunday, but in the weeks and months ahead as the indelible, blue marks of their bravery slowly, slowly fade from their skin.

Though perhaps it is mawkish to dwell on the point, Americans should not forget -- and many will not be able to -- the great physical risk that each Iraqi voter willingly undertook. It's not as if they weren't warned. The blue finger was already a symbol in the weeks leading up to the election: Reportedly, al Zarqawi's men put up posters in Mosul warning, "You vote, you die." The picture accompanying that poster showed an ink-stained finger next to a headless corpse.

And the real article may yet surface in coming days, as terrorists seem certain to try to extract vengeance against those who have delegitimized their entire cause in the space of a few hours -- demonstrating to the world that the so-called insurgency does not speak for the majority of Iraqis, and possibly not even a sizeable minority.

And, yet, the fear among Iraqis of the insurgency is less than that they felt under the Saddam regime. Either that, or their will to defy it is simply greater.

Remember Iraq's last "election," back in 2002. Then, Iraqis had a rather binary choice, in contrast to the hundred-plus parties this time: Saddam, yes or no? In 1995, Saddam had received 99.96 percent of the vote. (And 0.04 percent of the population paid dearly.) In 2002, with an American invasion looming, he received 100 percent.

The Washington Post interviewed Iraqis ahead of the 2002 election. Just try to imagine the fear in this society:

        * "God willing, this time it will be 100 percent," said Kifah Kazem, 43, a 
        sporting club manager. "It will be an expression of our love for our president."

        * At a Baghdad tea stall ... a group of men interviewed in the presence 
        of an Information Ministry minder tried to outdo one another when asked at 
        what time they would arrive. "I'll be there at 8," one man said. "I'll be there 
        before the doors open," another interrupted. "I'll arrive at 5 a.m.," a third man 
        interjected.

        * "We are not obliged to come here," said Marcelle David, a retired 
        math teacher. "We are coming to vote because we want to show with all 
        our hearts that we love our president."

And on and on the accounts gathered by the Post went.

Sunday, Iraqis cheered and cried at the polls. Apparently, life under Baathist rule wasn't quite the kite-flying party the Michael Moores of the world had made it out to be. Apparently, Iraqis know a little bit more about oppression than the Ohio-irregularity conspiracy theorists and the Western human-shield volunteers (who were willing to guard Baathist palaces but not schoolhouse polling stations).

And yet, the Michael Moores of the world are still out fighting the good fight (that's the one against America). Speaking of Moore, his Web site on Sunday downplayed the election in favor of the story of a British cargo plane that crashed near Baghdad. A file picture of a C-130 Hercules transport plane took up a quarter of a screen; pictures of Iraqi men and women with blue-tipped fingers could be found nowhere.

Similarly, John Kerry was out on the town Sunday, doing "Meet the Press" for the full hour, reminding Americans just why they sent him back to Massachusetts (or at least the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue). Asked by Tim Russert whether the international community would view Iraq's election as legitimate, Kerry's stammering response was that the election had "a kind of legitimacy -- I mean, it's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't vote and doesn't vote."

Apparently Massachusetts' junior senator had been expecting different news from Baghdad.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign, however, is that such nonsense was confined to the far left on Sunday and Monday (even The New York Times ran a largely celebratory editorial).

Watching the news coverage on Sunday afternoon on the East Coast of the United States -- after polls had closed in Iraq -- it was stunning to see the mood of the American anchors who were on the scene. While cynicism is usually to be expected, many of CNN's leading lights, such as Anderson Cooper and Jane Arraf, seemed overwhelmed by the ebullience of the Iraqis.

They had just borne witness to history, and it seemed that they could feel it.

Ryan Sager is a member of the editorial board of The New York Post. He also edits the blog Miscellaneous Objections and can be reached at editor@rhsager.com.

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