Elections in Baghdad

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Elections in Baghdad

Feb. 3, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0241}

NOTE:  A headshot of Lewis is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. James Lewis**

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The air was thick with tension as the Baghdad night fell Jan. 29, in anticipation of the long anticipated and, by some, feared election.

The terrorists had threatened in words and heinous deeds, with posters, fliers and decrees, that those who vote would die and the streets would be covered in their blood. Coalition Forces had been working quietly in the background in the weeks leading up to this ominous day, sapping what resources of the terrorists they could. The enemies of democracy were being slowly whittled away, either being captured or killed by freedom's fight, yet painfully making themselves the all-consuming reality in the city. All indicators were the election would go forward and, as promised, drenched in the blood of brave voters. The Arab press throughout the region was grave, holding out little hope, but the voice of the people would finally be heard, and the end result would be a costly, if subdued, victory. Despite our best efforts, all expectations were that blood would indeed flow in abundance on election day, with vast numbers of potential voters staying away from the polls in a very real fear for their lives. In the classic tradition of war, this victory would not be without its cost.
Before morning's dawn, soothing calls to prayer echoed across the city, along with the harsh sound of explosions and scattered gunfire. And we waited.
The polling places, every one threatened with death and destruction, were anxiously manned by brave Iraqi's risking their own lives and the lives of loved ones by their mere presence. Yet, they were there, the sweat of fear beading on hopeful faces in the cool of the dawning morning. Yet, they were there. They heard the gunfire; they heard the explosions, some in the distance, some close at hand. Yet, they were there, standing their ground.
The voters came, first in a trickle. Most of the bullets and blasts were off their mark, only shaking the nerves, not touching the soul. Then, first blood was spilled early in the day, then more, and the story was the same across the city: Death would come to the voting line; the line would break; those unharmed bent to the wounded and maimed, cared for their hurts, then returned to the line to proudly, bravely cast their votes. The lines grew. Death would come again, but the story remained the same — step out of line to care for the wounded and maimed, get back into line to vote.

Fathers came carrying their children, braving the danger that they, too, could be a part of this historic event. The women came, especially from the north and the south, in numbers no one expected. Everyone proudly, even gleefully, waving fingers dipped in blue ink, the mark of courage. For a few, the blue fingers were the mark of death, as desperate terrorists tried in vain to stop the veritable tidal wave of Freedom. They came on foot, they came with children, and they came in wheelchairs or were carried. One old man was seen to kiss the ballot box before depositing his vote. Hands shaking in fear for their lives, they cast their votes, then beamed with the knowledge that, indeed, a new day was dawning. 
Women went out courageously, leaving behind husbands too timid to vote. Dancing broke out in the streets. The people on the street pushed past flying explosives to grab terrorists and drag them to the police. Coalition forces looked on in satisfaction from a distance — their place was not on the front lines. Iraqi forces, Iraqi police, protected Iraqi voters in this historic Iraqi election.  Coalition forces stayed in the background, lending confidence and occasional aid to freshly trained troops. Iraqi soldiers' blood was spilled protecting the Iraqi vote, as Coalition forces wept with resolve at the brave human blood splattered to cleanse the land from terrorist oppression.   Coalition forces smiled inwardly in satisfaction — "THIS is why we came!"

The blood and death was real, and yet ... it was to be a day of miracles. The day being bathed in the prayers of the world prevented terrorists' hopes of streets being bathed in blood, for Death went away hungry this day. Death could have feasted on hundreds of souls, or more. Yet, less than 30 Iraqis died this day for their freedom. The war is not over, more death will come, yet their voice had been heard, not in frightened whispers, but in proud, ringing shouts, as millions cast their votes, with a nearly 70 percent voter turnout and some areas having more than 90 percent turning out to vote, refusing to be silenced anymore. 

Thanks to countless prayers, thanks to brave souls throughout Iraq and from across the globe, the voice of freedom now rings more clearly across desert sands and to every corner of the globe.

This commentary relates to Christian Mission.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Lewis is a chaplain serving in the 111th Chaplain Detachment in Baghdad, Iraq.

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