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Creating freedom in Iraq

By Henry Lamb
web posted October 17, 2005

An elderly Iraqi woman casts her vote in Iraq's constitution referendum in Baghdad on October 15An elderly Iraqi woman casts her vote in Iraq's constitution referendum in Baghdad on October 15

Regardless of which way the Constitutional referendum in Iraq turns out, the people win. The bloody process of making a government for Iraq is not that different from the bloody process of making a government for the United States. What is important for both countries is that the people are making a government for themselves, rather than submitting to the rule of a dictator.

It took eight and half years - from April 19, 1775, when the "shot heard around the world" was fired in Lexington, Massachusetts, until the Treaty of Paris was finally signed on September 3, 1783 - to rid the colonies of dictatorial rule.

The colonists could not have done it without help from the French.

So far, the Iraqis have fought two and a half years to rid their country of dictatorial rule. The Iraqis could not do it without help from America.

It took 17 years - from the first Continental Congress in 1774, to the eventual ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1791 - to create the government of the United States.

In the same two and a half years that the Iraqis have been fighting for their independence, they have elected an interim government and have developed their first effort at a Constitution. Any honest appraisal would have to conclude that this is a remarkable achievement.

The Iraqi Constitution will not be perfect. It may even be rejected; in which case, the people will start over, and try again. What is important is that the people are making their own government.

This event could well be the most important political event of the century. If the Iraqi people can discover that the only legitimate government arises from the consent of the governed, they can transform their country, and become a beacon of hope for people in other countries who still live under the iron fist of a dictator.

For centuries, most of the Muslim world has lived under the control of dictators. Some have been benevolent; others - like Saddam Hussein - have been brutal. This Iraqi experiment in representative self-governance has to be a frightening adventure for all Muslims, but especially for those whose heritage or religion has promised them continuation of governmental power.

Those who stand to lose the most, are the people who most bitterly oppose the birth of freedom. The Sunni population in Iraq exercised their power viciously, under the authority of dictator Hussein. Their power has now been removed, but they continue to oppose a representative federal government.

The people who stand to lose far more than the Sunnis, are those fanatics who subscribe to the bin Laden-al Zarqawi brand of Islam. These people realize that if they lose control of the people, they can no longer control the madrassas - Islamic schools that teach children to make war on the infidels. They realize that if the people control the oil resources, Iraq's wealth cannot be used to buy weapons and palaces. They realize that if the people are free to pursue their own happiness, they will be less likely to volunteer for suicide bombing missions.

And they realize that if the people in Iraq gain their freedom, it will be a powerful incentive for the people in other Muslim nations to seek their own freedom.

This is why Iraq has become al-Qaida's killing field. If al-Qaida can succeed in Iraq, it can control the Muslim world. If it fails in Iraq, it will be the beginning of the end of Islamic extremism.

The determining factor is America. The Iraqi people cannot yet defend their fledgling government on their own. If America withdraws, Zarqawi and his goons will slaughter their opposition, as did Saddam Hussein. Iraq will become the new haven for terrorists, and a launching pad for them to wage their war against the infidels.

They know that Americans have a weak stomach for blood and terror. That's why they schedule their bloody attacks to garner maximum television coverage. They celebrate, every time a new public opinion poll shows support for the war in Iraq diminishing. They know if they can hang on long enough, Americans will tire of the nightly death report, and force their leaders to bring the soldiers home.

The war in Iraq is the best chance America has, to stop, or at least slow, the growth of Islamic fanaticism. If Iraq can stand up its own government, and its own defense, it will be the best defense America could have against the spread of terrorism.

The American blood and treasure invested in Iraq is an investment not only in the people of Iraq, but in the future of freedom in America, and in the world.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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