A Free Election in Iraq
By U.S. Representative John R. Carter
February 2, 2005
This past Sunday, the excitement of the Iraqi elections woke me up from a dead sleep. Just a little over two weeks ago, I returned from the last congressional delegation trip to Iraq and Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to be briefed by military and country leaders on the historic elections.
On the trip, I traveled with several of my colleagues, including Representative Michael Burgess from Flower Mound and John Kline from Minnesota. In Iraq we were briefed by military commanders in Fallujah, Mosel and Baghdad about their plans and projections for the election. They were all cautiously optimistic. Their optimism was joined by the country's leaders and even the UN election monitor. They all predicted a turnout of around or above 60 percent nationwide with all parties participating. They presented us with a security plan that looked very effective and well thought out, and was proven successful on Sunday. Our military maximized the opportunity for the people of Iraq which by offering security and protection to them as they journeyed to vote.
Also while in Iraq, I was fortunate to visit with troops from Ft. Hood and Texas. Their spirits were high as they were all excited to be participating in something much larger than themselves, something that will forever be ingrained in the minds of Iraqis and written about in history books. It is because of their selflessness and the ongoing sacrifices of their families that our nation is safer and that, not only Iraq, but Afghanistan now have democracy and freedom.
Leaving Iraq I had a good feeling and believed we had a good chance for success in the Iraq elections. Once I returned home. I was engulfed by negativity and pessimism about Iraq and the upcoming election. Most everyone seemed negative and some were calling for a delay or cancellation of elections because of what they perceived as failed foreign policy. It was as if they were talking about a completely different country than the one I had just visited.
So, with much anticipation I watched the coverage of the Iraqi elections to find the truth. I sat glued to the television using a man's prerogative to change channels regularly so I could get a clear picture. The evidence was soon flooding the air waves. The Iraqi people were risking their lives to cast a vote for freedom and democracy.
As I sat watching the wonderful event, tears flowed as I thought about all of the wonderful men and women of our armed services who have been killed or wounded so that Iraq can have the same kind of freedoms that we Americans often take for granted. We rarely turn out 60 percent and most would never walk eight miles risking their life to vote. To me, the Iraqi people were quietly saying with their vote and their inked stained index finger in the air, "Thank you America for giving us your finest so that we can have freedom."
A United States Marine told me in Fallujah that because of the language barrier Iraqi citizens rarely say anything to our troops, but if you look real close you can see something in their eyes - thankfulness.
This time Iraq spoke to America, our coalition partners and the world in a clear loud voice, and they said, "Thank you."