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Iraq election gives us hope

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8 March 2010 09:54

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

On Sunday, 7 February, Iraqis voted again. The national election was far from perfect, but there was no widespread violence.

The parliament that I am proud to say I had a hand in creating in 2005 has, for all its faults, actually passed bills. Sectarian parliamentary groupings even compromise every now and again, forming and reforming not just on hate and narrowness, but sometimes according to issues. It should give us hope.

Unlike 2005, there was campaigning with a robustness that might even be more developed than the institutions and the laws to control it. Campaigning occurred not just by posters, but also on TV, radio and mobile phones, with debates, questioning and comment.

The issues were not only sectarian, but practical: power, water, jobs, health and security. An anarchically free media is everywhere. It challenges and identifies the corrupt, and the courts have actually convicted some of them. In my time, the media was warned off at night by thugs or just killed.

The apparent success of these elections complements recent provincial elections, with non-sectarian candidates securing majorities in nine out of 18 provinces. In these elections too there was a comparatively low level of violence — terrorism now has no natural constituency in Iraq.

This is a world removed from a charity football match I attended last weekend in the peaceful Australian heartland of Bellingen near Coffs Harbour, where an army rugby league team played the local team. The match is the annual commemoration of a Bellingen hero, Sergeant Matthew Locke, who won a Medal of Gallantry in his first tour of Afghanistan and was killed on his second. I knew him only because he was a member of my bodyguard in Iraq.

As I sat with his father and his sister, the local mayor and the state and federal members watching the match, with Matt's son, his brother, and a number of Matt's SAS mates among the spectators, I spent a few minutes thinking about the emotional side of conflict, about honour, bravery, mateship, success, failure. Perhaps we can justify some things that we were all involved in by the fact that Iraq voted again.

Now the hard work begins; forming a government and continuing to embed the institutions of Iraqi democracy as US forces leave. In a grossly imperfect world, this is still an extraordinary achievement by Iraq, the US and many others. Millions of people like Matt Locke in Iraq and in Afghanistan, through their often invisible contributions, have remedied our collective errors and made this possible. Let's not over-analyse it, at least for a few days, and just consider what an amazing achievement this is.

Photo by Flickr user brownbearphotography, used under a Creative Commons license.

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