revolts began with Afghanistan's October 2004 presidential election.
Ukraine's Orange Revolution added momentum. Palestinians and Iraqis
went to the polls in January 2005. Lebanon's pro-democracy street
rallies, following the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri, continued the surge.
revolutions, however, are slow, painfully incremental miracles.
Take Iraq's constitutional process as the au courant example.
Prior to the election, Iraqi Sunni negotiators insisted on an
amendment procedure, and they got it. This means the ratified
constitution can change, and probably will. Which means the constitutional
process "ain't over."
isn't necessarily bad. On the day of the election, I received
an email from an Iraqi reader. He's a Sunni Arab, a businessman
and by no means a public figure. While protecting his identity,
I will note I visited his hometown while on active duty last year
mixed excitement and pride with a touch of dread, as he noted
that the constitutional process and election experience told him
that "major players (in Iraq) are coming more and more to
realize that dialogue, alliances, common interests and just plain
politics are the way to win -- not violence, intimidation and
terror. So this (lesson) is apparently slowly 'sinking in' in
our confused and frightened Iraqi mentality."
of amendment held real appeal. He thought the emerging Iraqi consensus
amounts to: "OK, enough misery. We need a stable government
that can provide its first order of business (security). Let's
say yes, and since it is not a divine thing, we can always change
man's personal opinion, but today Iraqi opinions matter -- and
that's a dramatic, history-making change from Saddam Hussein's
awaits judgment in a court of law. One trial does not assure the
rule of law. Saddam's trial gives Iraqis an extraordinary opportunity
to test, as well as display, their new democratic judicial processes,
television, the entire planet will witness a Mesopotamian tyrant
in the dock (talk about a historic first). Arabic-speaking audiences
will need no translators, nor will their autocrats, as the tyrant
is called to account for his crimes. Saddam will rant, but let
the fool exhaust himself with bombast and bluster. The windbag
act will only expose his weakness.
but Saddam is a unifying figure for Iraq's fractured body politic.
Iraqis share in common the scars of his murder, corruption and
barbarism. Shias and Kurds bore the worst of his depredations,
but many Sunnis suffered, as well. Two generations of Sunni intellectuals
and technocrats were either jailed or corrupted by the Baath regime.
European intellectuals in the Cold War, educated Sunni Arabs entered
"internal exile" in order to stay alive. They kept their
mouths shut and eyes averted -- morally damning compromises, but
the life or death choice made by all but an exceptional few trapped
transparent, just trial, instead of fueling ethnic and religious
tensions, could well further reconciliation.
his constitutional referendum ballot, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim
al-Jaafari said: "The constitution is a sign of civilization.
This constitution has come after heavy sacrifices. It is a new
echoed comments I heard last year in Iraq. Several Iraqis told
me they knew democracy was "our big chance." One man
said Iraq had the opportunity to "escape bad history"
-- and Iraq has a lot of bad history to escape. Two other Iraqis
said toppling Saddam and building a more open society was their
chance "to enter the modern world."