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Democracy grows in Middle East

| Monday, February 28, 2005

While reading Gary Caruso’s column in an Army Morale, Recreation and Welfare (MWR) facility in Baghdad, I could only chuckle at his indignation at a camera angle and his offering of a couple of now-tired jabs at the states of Florida and the Supreme Court.

Caruso, I wish you could be over here right now to see what I’m seeing. It was my honor to witness the birth of democracy in Iraq when on Jan. 30, 8 million Iraqis bravely and proudly stood in line to tell the insurgents that a new Iraq was born. I wish you could see the new hospitals, schools, and businesses that are springing up daily. But mostly, Caruso, I wish you could see the hope of the Iraqi people. It’s infectious. It’s the dream that life will be better, that the era of fear is headed for the history books, that Iraq will finally be able to regain its place in the pantheon of nations that it has been prevented from entering for so many decades – often because of the complacency or outright collusion of the Europe you so desperately want us to mend fences with.

Amazingly too, this hope has not been confined to Iraq. In the last several weeks, we have been watching the embers of democracy catch hold throughout the Middle East. These are tenuous fires to be sure and they might still be blown out, but from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Lebanon to Palestine, people are looking to Iraq and saying, “If they can do it there, why can’t we do it here?” In each of those countries, we have seen the people demand from their governments greater freedoms and a seat at the table of democracy. The Middle East is at a crossroads and those crossroads do not run through Paris.

If the price of this historic and amazing shift towards democracy throughout the Middle East is a few insulted Europeans, that’s a price I’m willing to pay. More importantly, the people of the Middle East are showing us that it’s a price they are willing to pay as well.

Christopher J. DesBarres

Class of ’03

Baghdad, Iraq

Feb. 27