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Turnout in Iraq bodes well



Published: Wed, February 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Detroit Free Press : A country where voting can be discouraged by the threat of rain has to marvel at the people who voted Sunday in Iraq under threat of death.

In fact, 44 people were killed for venturing near polling places, but others literally stepped around corpses to remain in line. In a nation that has not known democracy in modern times, this was an encouraging start. It reflected a hunger for self-determination and a strong desire to show the terrorists who's in charge. It also reflected a long-oppressed Shi'ite majority seizing an opportunity to, on paper at least, end the domination of Sunni Muslims, who led the intense campaign of terror to derail the election.

The surprisingly heavy turnout was due in part to a declaration of martial law by the interim Iraqi government, the deployment of thousands of police and military, and a daylong ban on driving, depriving terrorists of both a favorite weapon and means of escape.

Too soon to tell

As a practical matter, such conditions cannot be sustained, and it is far too soon for anyone to be talking about an exit strategy for America's 150,000 troops. Much as the American public would like their loved ones out of harm's way, U.S. forces are still the primary peacekeepers and terrorist hunters in Iraq.

To set a date for a pullout would only let the terrorists know how long to keep their powder dry before attempting to topple the new government.

Jordan's King Abdullah was among Arab leaders calling the Iraqi vote "a positive thing."

"People are waking up," he said. "... I don't think there is any looking back."

Of course, the new Iraq assembly could draft an imperfect constitution that perhaps would not afford women the right to vote or might even tolerate slavery. Sometimes, new nations take a while to get things right.




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