In an incredible repudiation of the terrorists, the doubters and the cynics Iraqis defiantly turned out and voted in record numbers, making a definative statement of how they want to shape their future.
Millions of Iraqis flocked to vote in a historic election Sunday, defying insurgents who killed 25 people in bloody attacks aimed at wrecking the poll.
Iraqis, some ululating with joy, others hiding their faces in fear, voted in much higher-than-expected numbers in their first multi-party election in half a century.
Election commission officials put the turnout at 72 percent.
Even in Falluja, the Sunni city west of Baghdad that was a militant stronghold until a U.S. assault in November, a steady stream of people turned out, confounding expectations. Lines of veiled women clutching their papers waited to vote.
"We want to be like other Iraqis, we don't want to always be in opposition," said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after he voted.
In Baquba, a rebellious city northeast of Baghdad, spirited crowds clapped and cheered at one voting station. In Mosul, scene of some of the worst insurgent attacks in recent months, U.S. and local officials said turnout was surprisingly high.
The BBC gave an hour by hour, place by place update:
We have seen voting here in the capital, and in the streets close to the BBC office the atmosphere was almost euphoric.
One elderly Shia man told us his two sons had been executed under Saddam and he was voting now to make sure there was no return to the old days.
Even the NYTimes couldn't find a way to report it negatively:
The voting in Baghdad streets of Baghdad were closed to traffic, but full of children playing soccer, and men and women walking, some carrying babies. Everyone, it seemed, was going to vote. They dropped their ballots into boxes even as continuous mortar shells started exploding at about noon.
Thirty-six civilians and three police officers died in mortar attacks and suicide bombings around the country, the Interior Minister reported. Twenty-two of the deaths occurred in Baghdad, Reuters reported, where mortar attacks took three lives and 19 people were killed by suicide bombers. At least 29 were wounded in the attacks in the capital, Reuters said.
But it the insurgents wanted to stop people in Baghdad from voting, they failed. If they wanted to cause chaos, they failed. The voters were completely defiant, and there was a feeling that the people of Baghdad, showing a new, positive attitude, had turned a corner.
I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.
I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".
Yes brothers, proceed and fill the box!
These are stories that will be written on the brightest pages of history.
Or Roger Simon live blogging the elections while watching Fox and CNN:
9:16 - Watching the line of Kurds voting makes you cry.
9:21 - I know it sounds corny, but those of us in the blogosphere--readers, writers, commenters--who supported our government's actions in Iraq and suffered the opprobrium of friends and family, were called warmongers and chickenhawks, this is a time to celebrate. This is what we were fighting for in the war of opinion. It's not much, especially compared to our brave troops, but it something.
The election in Iraq is without precedent. Never, not even in the dying days of Weimar Germany, when Nazis and Communists brawled in the streets, has there been such a concerted attempt to destroy an election through violence - with candidates unable to appear in public, election workers driven into hiding, foreign monitors forced to 'observe' from a nearby country, actual voting a gamble with death, and the only people voting safely the fortunate expatriates and exiles abroad.
Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders.
Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down? Why isn't there a trickle of applause in the press for the more than 6,000 Iraqis actually standing for political office at the risk of their lives?
Explaining this morose silence requires understanding how support for Iraqi democracy has become the casualty of the corrosive bitterness that still surrounds the initial decision to go to war. Establishing free institutions in Iraq was the best reason to support the war - now it is the only reason - and for that very reason democracy there has ceased to be a respectable cause.
The Bush administration has managed the nearly impossible: to turn democracy into a disreputable slogan.
Ignatieff gets most of it right, but misses on his conclusion. It wasn't the Bush administration which turned democracy into a "disreputable slogan", it was the rest of the world which did so. The rest of the world which sits idly by and criticizes while Iraqis struggle toward democracy. The rest of the world which is satisfied to talk the talk of democracy but have never, ever really been about walking the walk. The rest of the world which did nothing to help make an actuality that which the finger stained in purple ink symbolizes.
If democracy is a "disreputable slogan" now, its because most of the other democracies have acted in such a disreputable fashion by refusing to help Iraq become a free democratic state.
The author is correct when he observes that most of the socalled democracies did nothing. But thats why America is the city on the hill. America is remarkable now, before and forever. No other nation has done so much to spread freedom.