A letter from Baghdad, and related items

From Sgt. Thomas Foreman Jr. writing from the center of the storm:

Every Iraqi I talk to has hope. I’ve written several times on the power of hope, and right here is a living, breathing 24-million-strong testament to it. As long as some hope endures for the Iraqi people, my time here will not have been wasted.

It will not be perfect. This very well could be the most dangerous period we face while we are over here. There will be some violence against election workers, voters, even the candidates themselves. That precedent has been set already in the past few weeks.

We are ready. The Iraqis are ready. And we all know what we have to do to see this vital task through to its conclusion.

Most of the forward-thinking Shi’a have implored voter participation and have promised a secular government that will be sensitive to both of Iraq’s minorities, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds of the North. This means that there is also much encouragement. One of the great fears is that the long-delayed emergence of the majority Shi’a will lead to civil war and division. The indications, however, are that the Shi’a are grasping this opportunity to express one of the oldest, deepest traditions of the three faiths of this region, Islam, Judaism and Christianity: “Love thy neighbor as thou would love thyself.”

Sean “P. Diddy” Combs told us a few months ago that we had to “Vote or Die.” Tell that to an Iraqi, and you’ll likely get a defiant smile and something along the lines of, “It’s worth it.”

The Iraqi people are standing on the doorstep of history. Democracy has never worked in this part of the world, say so many. On Jan. 30, a day that I don’t doubt will prove to be glorious and terrible, we will see just how many people believe it can work. They have hope. Who are we to deny them that?

I know I have no true place speaking to a people on how to govern their own land or whether the risks are worth it. But if I were given one moment to speak to all in this country, I would share with them the words of one of our greatest Americans, a man who also sought to lead his people from bondage. He knew the road was fraught with peril, but he never doubted. That great man was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his words are so relevant today:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man.”

Let Ted Kennedy smoke on his pipe and put THAT in!

And now a replay of a heart-rending piece from November, accompanied by an update as this editor, Dennis Anderson, relates what it is like to wait to hear if your son has been killed.

Today, my son survives. And that is one family’s cause to rejoice. But my arms and care and prayer encircle the strong backs and taxed shoulders of the families who were, and are, on the lists. We know who each other are. They pray for my son’s survival. I light candles to their sons’ memories. For anyone who knows it directly, war is a terrible thing.

Sobering. Chilling. So very much, and very many, to pray for.

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