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The Blue Badge of Courage

Commentary by Greg Lewis /
January 31, 2005

Although there are many things that struck me about yesterday's election in Iraq, the overwhelming impression I took away from following the day's events as they unfolded was a sense of the utter courage of the Iraqi people in the face of what would surely have been for so many of us the debilitating threat of terrorist violence.

Because of the security lockdown on virtually all vehicular traffic, Iraqi citizens traveled on foot, often over many miles, to polls whose very locations were closely held secrets until the last. And as if the fact of their simply being on the roads wasn't enough to reveal their intent and make them terrorist targets, they frequently walked in groups, implicitly defying those who would deny them the opportunity to exercise their rights under the incipient Iraqi democracy.

Indeed, in the run-up to election day one of the television commercials broadcast by the Iraqi interim government to encourage Iraqis to vote portrayed a lone Iraqi man, on his way to a polling place, turning the corner into a narrow street. At the other end of the street appeared several menacing figures, obviously terrorists, their faces hidden behind hoods and masks. They were clearly bent on preventing, by any means, including murder, the citizen from casting his ballot.

As the scene unfolded, first one, then several, then a large group of Iraqi citizens rounded the corner to join the first voter. This group, quite simply and profoundly, stood its ground, staring down the street directly at the terrorists, daring them to so much as think about trying to deprive them of the newly-won right to vote.

The commercial is a powerful emblem of the courage of Iraqi citizens, not only on election day, but in the face of abhorrent threats to their lives and the lives of their families that they face daily and which the act of voting would indeed seem to exacerbate, if that is possible. It is a call to action, evoking the resolve of the human spirit — against paralyzing odds — to bring into being through the force of the collective will of the Iraqi people a society which reflects desires that are constant in every human heart.

Each of millions of Iraqi citizens (initial estimates put near 70 the percentage of registered voters who actually cast their ballots) came away from the polling place with an indelible blue ink mark on his or her index finger. In other words, not only did they brave the threat of terrorist violence to make their way to the polls, they came away bearing an ineradicable and difficult-to-conceal sign that they had, indeed, voted.

Iraqi voters in effect said to their terrorist adversaries, "I defy you to take your revenge on one of your own. I defy you to try to desecrate the right and the obligation that each one of us has partaken of to begin to control our own destiny, to shake off the yoke of murderous tyranny that has been our lot for more than a generation.

"You may continue to kill us, your fellow Iraqis, your fellow Muslims, in the cause of re-imposing your heinous will on us, but by our actions today we are serving notice that your cause is a lost cause and that the cause of liberty and justice for all Iraqis will triumph. We know the day is coming soon when your time on this planet will be over. We are taking but another step to hasten your demise."

Every Iraqi who voted for democracy and against Islamist tyranny wears on his or her finger the mark of national immortality in the form of a "blue badge of courage." Participating in a free and democratic society confers on us a kind of immortality, a sharing in the fulfillment of a commitment to the universal spiritual truth embodied in the manifestation of the principles of freedom and justice.

It is the courage of the Iraqi people in making such a profound and powerful statement of national will that has moved me to the bottom of my soul. It is above all their courage and witness that I salute on this glorious day.



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