It’s now a week since Iraqis flooded the streets for their first free election in decades, and America, midwife to the birth of Arab democracy, is still in relieved thrall. Sunni clerics urged boycotts; the French dripped ridicule; terrorists promised to wash the streets with the blood of anyone foolish enough to cast a ballot. And 6 in 10 eligible Iraqis – roughly equal to the turnout in President Bush’s own victory last November – voted anyway.
Honestly, has there ever been an election so inspiring?
Unfortunately, yes. Ponder the first sentences of one dispatch from this newspaper’s archives: “United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election,” it reads, “despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.”