Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"They will have to kill me to keep me from voting"

It's less than a week until free elections in Iraq, and the world will be watching this fledgling Democracy take flight in spite of having the deck stacked against it.

Via Donald Sensing I found this inspiring story from Ronald Wassom, a retired AF Colonel working with the U.S. Army Corps Engineers in Iraq.

An excerpt:

Many of the Iraqis I speak with every day bring voting up during our talks that are supposed to be about public works projects. Mustafa Ahmed is one such contractor who caught me off-guard when he asked me, "Mr. Ron, how did you vote in your last election when you were in Iraq and the voting booths are in America?" I told him that I went to my township and got an absentee ballot and voted before I left home. "How you know they count your vote, Mr. Ron?" I told Mustafa that I didn't know for absolute sure that my vote was counted, but that I trust the system in my hometown and that I feel certain that my voted counted.

"I'm not so sure about voting in Iraq, Mr. Ron. Maybe, how you say 'absentee' voting would be the way to do it here. Many people may die trying to vote here, Mr. Ron. Maybe it would be better for me to go to Paris or Rome and vote from there, it would be safer for me,"
he said chuckling.

I agreed it might be safer and then asked Mustafa if he planned to vote any way. "Mr. Ron, I have lived many years in Iraq. I can remember before there was a Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I have never been free to vote here, Mr. Ron. Iraqis don't know about voting. If I don't get killed going to vote or at the voting place, my vote may not even count anyway. So what have we gained? But I will tell you something, Mr. Ron; they will have to kill me to keep me from voting. And many of my tribesmen feel the same. We have suffered too much and been denied too long to not go this last step. Mr. Ron, it may be just a trickle at first, but when Iraqis see the results of their votes it will be like a flood over all Iraq. Iraqi people, Mr. Ron, want to be free more than anything else."

If you're not moved by that, take your pulse.


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