The success of the Iraqi election, with turnout approaching 60 percent, may have been in part due to its greatest opponent, al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
It looks like al-Zarqawi may have overstepped himself and, in doing so, raised the pleasant prospect that he and his murderous followers may be increasingly marginalized.
In an audiotape widely broadcast in the Arab world, al-Zarqawi said, “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology.”
Democracy is “heresy itself;” the candidates are “apostates” and the voters “infidels.” Subsequent tapes from the insurgents threatened to “wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters’ blood.” Even Osama bin Laden weighed in with a tape blasting the idea of free elections.
It became clear to Iraqis that al-Zarqawi was not just against this election but any elections at all. He was saying, in effect, that Iraqis were incapable of choosing their own leaders and, by extension, incapable of self-government.
Even the most anti-U.S. Iraqi could see that what al-Zarqawi was proposing was government by the religious zealot with the most AK-47s. Sunday was Iraq’s way of saying no thanks.
And that seemed to have spread to the Arab media. The New York Times noted that Arab newspapers and TV channels, which tend to dwell on the most lurid aspects of the ongoing violence, instead concentrated on the election itself and the courage of the ordinary Iraqis who turned out in droves to vote.
Al-Zarqawi’s attempt to halt the election may have been an act of desperation. His taped rants do sound increasingly desperate, and several of his top aides were recently taken into custody. Many Iraqis undoubtedly hope he’ll soon join them.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)