Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Iraqi Elections

DoD is optimistic.

Written by 101st Sustainment Brigade

Story by Spc. Rick Rzepka
Scimitar Assistant Editor

Story by Spc. Rick Rzepka
Scimitar Assistant Editor

On Dec. 15, 1791, America's founding fathers ratified the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights became a beacon of freedom and liberty.

Exactly 214 years later on Dec. 15, 2005, another nation will accept the torch of democracy and elect its first full-term government.

For the first time, Iraqis will be represented by a permanent, democratically-elected legislative body.

Thousands of Iraqi citizens are expected to flock to the polls Thursday to vote under the new Iraqi Constitution. It’s the birth of a Middle East democracy.

Gen. George W. Casey, Multi National Force - Iraq, commanding general, said if the recent past is any indication, Iraqis want the ability to participate in the political process by voting. Iraq's transition into democracy "has not come about by accident or coincidence, but by shear will power and the determination of the Iraqi people," he said.

According to a recent report by Reuters, even Saddam loyalists, who turned their backs on January's election have done an about face and encouraged fellow Sunnis to vote in the Parliamentary elections, going so far as to say they were prepared to defend polling stations from al Qaida terrorists.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also encouraged his followers to become involved by issuing a fatwa urging Iraqis to vote Thursday.

“The future of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqi people,” said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad on Dec. 6. “The future of the Middle East is important to the future of the world.”

The significance of the elections are also evident to many servicemembers here. For Airman 1st Class Brittany Barnes, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, “It means a lot to be here doing my job and to be a part of this; a part of history in the making.” She and fellow Senior Airman Jose Peterson, 332nd Air Wing, said that the election is a major milestone in the quest for peace. “They're setting up for their own independence, sort of like our 4th of July and that makes me feel good to see this. It's a right they've never had before and I'm proud to be part of giving them that,” said Peterson.

“It's great to be taking part in something like this,” said Staff Sgt. Willie Signil, an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Q-West Base. As a member of the cadre, Signil trains Iraqi recruits in basic soldier skills such as entering and clearing procedures, basic marksmanship with the AK-47 rifle and land navigation. During the elections, his former students will provide security for polling sites.

“I believe they can handle that job,” said Signil. “This nation is finally coming out of oppression. To be a part of this is something good. You're a part of history.”

— Sgt. Rachel A. Brune, 101st Sustainment Brigade contributed to this story.