Along the Tracks

Friday, April 18, 2003

Freedom in Iraq

This story is a bit disappointing on the one hand, yet encouraging on a deeper level.

Thousands of Iraqis marched in Baghdad today, calling for an Islamic state - and for coalition forces to leave. Now, Islamic states have a pretty poor record, and in Iraq, things would be particularly dicey, with a 60-40 split between Shi’ites and Sunnis. The group sponsoring the demonstration said it intended to unite both in a government - but didn’t say how. Larger questions about the group’s intentions (popular rule or a clergy-dominated autocracy; sharia or tolerance for non-Muslims and secularists; etc.) are, of course, unresolved at this early stage.

But the positives of this demonstration need to be considered as well. First, these people would have been slaughtered for doing something similar a month ago. This speaks to their confidence that Saddam is really gone - and their understanding that the U.S. and U.K. will not interfere with their non-violent marches.

Americans may not be too keen on the message these marchers carry, but the ability to speak freely is fundamental to a successful democracy. The first outlet in the “marketplace of ideas” has opened up shop. Now, it is important for America to make sure other voices are also heard without fear of retribution.

Let a thousand flowers bloom.

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