The Price of Freedom and Election Day in Baghdad

by Shirley W. Madany


Freedom comes with a price. And we are all debtors to brave men and women who have given their lives so that we can live as we do. On January 22, 1942, my brother Roly paid that ultimate price for freedom. It wasn’t freedom for himself. It was freedom for others, who were fighting the Nazi oppression which was gripping Europe and threatening an invasion of England, the land of his parents.

After intensive training, he graduated as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. By November 1941, he was stationed in Lincolnshire, England, where his squadron would be flying reconnaissance over the North Sea. The target was enemy shipping. There was no fighter plane cover and the pilots needed to fly as low to the ship as possible before dropping the bombs, which sometimes malfunctioned. The large Hudsons were an easy target for anti-aircraft guns on the ships. By January, most of his squadron had been killed or gone missing. We were almost prepared for the bad news when it came.

That reconnaissance operation was ended before the year was out. Too many specially trained pilots and too many planes had been lost. Fortunately there was no immediate howl from any war correspondent or news commentator about it all being a mistake. The need to win this war was so intense that no one would dream of that foolish kind of criticism. Wars are full of “mistakes” which cost lives. Unfortunate but true.

Roly had such potential. He had taught himself trigonometry and filled a notebook full of math equations to design what he called “a flying wing”. Such a design has since been realized. He was always intrigued by flying and had organized a model airplane club in our small prairie town. He would have made a great engineer. I have never forgotten this wonderful brother, or those war years which are etched on my mind and heart.

Two months after his death, I got a job as one of the first female civilian employees at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan airport, a few miles south of town. A string of such stations had sprung up quickly all across Canada, and were receiving students from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Our airport was training bombers and navigators. Classes graduated and fresh classes assembled. By 1944 the large bombing raids were taking place and it seemed to us that far too many of those winsome young men had been killed, giving their lives for freedom. In the mess hall, where we civilians sat down to lunch with the airmen, I remember one British boy saying “I hope I have just one more Christmas.” That was the mood of the day. The odds were staring you in the face. Those were serious days.

Recently I was attracted to an article from Policy Review, written by James V. Schall, S.J., and professor of government at Georgetown University. It dealt with the subject: “When War Must Be the Answer.” I was intrigued by that title. Prof. Schall pointed out the ultimate result of “peaceful” alternatives. One of them is to allow yourself to be conquered by a hostile power; another would be to allow a complete destruction of all the civilizational values which surround you now.

“Civilizational values”. In the free world, those could be a loving and forgiving society. Men who had survived the Dunkirk evacuation from France spoke quietly of revenge. But the foundation was always there which would allow for post-war visits to former German prisoners-of-war, and the inclusion of Japanese into our circle of friends. This is what Christianity engenders. An atmosphere free from hatred.

The attitude of those who protest the war in Iraq is particularly distasteful to those few of us who still remember World War II. There are organizations like “Kairos,” part of the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiative, who would even dare to ask the question: “has any good ever come from war?” What an amazing question if you have any knowledge of history. Even more amazing that people with immigrant background, who benefited from the sacrifice of all these noble young men, could buy into such an organization in order to weaken our “war” effort.

When looking up Prof. Schall’s article, I was interested to discover another one entitled “A Brief War Primer”. Having given a lot of thought to the subject of war, he decided that a statement on the current war would be valuable. He explained that “This war, at first seems to be a different kind of war, and it is. But it is still a war.” It was written in the form of an outline with 19 points. I would like to share the first and last item.

“1) This is a real war with an active, dangerous enemy. It is at its heart a ‘civilizational’ war, however reluctant we might be to acknowledge it. It is not due merely to a few "fanatics," not forgetting that the few have always led great movements.”

And,

“19) The war is caused, planned, and carried out by specific religious groups within Islam. They claim, and probably justly according to their own lights, to be implementing the demands of their religion. They have a pious long-range purpose, to destroy the opponents of Allah, to make everyone else a believer. Generally speaking, we are so indoctrinated with ecumenism or liberalism that we cannot comprehend how this thinking could be credible, even though, in the long history of Islam, its own expansion and consolidation were largely due to such successful military forces. Islam did not, except in rare cases like Indonesia, expand by ‘peaceful’ means. It expanded by war and military control, particularly against, but not only against, Christian peoples.”

I had other motivation for wanting to write this article. Yesterday I logged into an Iraqi blogspot and read with deep sympathy and sorrow, all that a young Iraqi had to say about his personal losses in these terrible days in Baghdad. I wanted to be able to tell him that we cared for him just as we cared for my brother and for all the young men from my small hometown, who had died for the cause of “freedom.” Here is what he said:

“During the time that I took off, I lost some acquaintances and distant relatives. Two very fine young men were shot in front of the shop they owned as they were closing down to go home, they were distantly related to me. The Assistant Dean of the medical college of Baghdad, a relative of a close friend of mine was gunned down as he drove his daughters back from college. This was a fine and brilliant man and only 45 years old, and besides he was the only man in a house full of old and young women and girls. The women are now left without anybody to look after them and horribly traumatized. Another old friend of mine, a prosperous and successful engineer and contractor was murdered near Abu Ghraib leaving a big family behind.

“Thus, the daily massacre of completely innocent people goes on. The very best people in society are targeted. The hardest hit is the professional middle class. Many Doctors and professionals are closing down their very profitable businesses and escaping outside the country.

“As for the elections, they are doing their best to intimidate and threaten people. What can be more abominable than this; openly intimidating people from participating in the first truly free elections in the history of not only Iraq but also probably the entire region. And what lame excuses they give! The security situation? But it is you gentlemen who are responsible for the havoc. And; what guarantee can there be if the elections are postponed that the situation will not get worse? In fact, we all know that you will do your best to aggravate it further in the vain hope that you might achieve your vile objectives. Fair elections cannot be held under occupation! : As if we ever saw any fair elections when there was no “occupation” for almost a whole century when your minority clan was lording over the people. Besides, Palestinian elections were recently held under Israeli occupation, and we did not see anybody objecting. You are not telling us that the Israeli occupation is better than the presence of the MNF who have liberated the country from your tyranny.

“Oh, and they want a precise timetable for the MNF to leave. That, we assure you does not stem from any patriotic sentiment. You can be certain that within a few hours from the departure of the last American soldier, the old Saddam military and security apparatus will reemerge from their holes, reinforced this time with the vampires of the Bin Laden clan and their likes. The pogrom that would ensue then would be a horror unparalleled in the entire history of genocide and mass murder. In fact, it would be merciful, if our American friends ‘nuke’ the whole place before leaving (to use the cute expression I have read somewhere). That would eliminate the scum while giving the rest of the population a quick death, which is better than the horrible torture that could await them; a kind of mercy killing, you might say: Euthanasia.

”Well, I am sorry, but these are horrible thoughts for the New Year. Nevertheless, do not go thinking that we have weakened. This time America is right, and the Iraqi people will never allow the clock to be turned back. No matter what sacrifices are required: We Shall Overcome.

Love to all our friends in America and elsewhere: You shall be proud of the Iraqi people, your grateful friends.”

These Iraqis too, are paying the price for freedom. And they want to tell Americans how deeply they appreciate all that has been done for their sake. The media completely overlooks this except when they want to swell the number of casualties in order to continue their monotonous chant that the Iraqi engagement is all wrong.

Is it not puzzling that a country which was able to bring about freedom from slavery, at a horrendous price, should now, 150 years later, be torn apart by a vocal opposition to any further heroic engagements? Who cares about the Middle East or Iraqi freedom?

Bloggers from Baghdad can express their feelings and their desires through their daily diary-like entries. The Iraqi people long for a better society. Similarly they are overwhelmed by chagrin at the horrendous acts of both Saddamists and insurgents. They know who these people are. They long to be able to show their gratitude by making the dream work. Our struggle is made all the more difficult by the forces which would work against America from within, the voices of dissent which are constantly looking for opportunities to level criticisms.

Did my brother die for this? Did Don and Murray (brothers), George Perry, Irvine and Jack, and all the others die, only to have Europe lose its Christian heritage and its freedom so soon? This is another world war.

A Moving Postscript

The following is from the same Mesopotamian blogspot where the writer has been keeping up almost a daily account of life in Iraq and particularly in Baghdad where he lives. It is not unusual for the professional in Baghdad to have a good command of the English language. This is a very moving account of his impressions of the election event.

Monday, January 31, 2005
Greetings friends,
What we have witnessed is something amazing. I am an Iraqi and a Baghdadi and should know, and deep down in my heart I knew; yet I must admit that I did not expect all this. The common Iraqi citizen has taken all by surprise, including those of us who are indigenous to this land.
It was expected that relatively secure areas in the South and North were going to see heavy turnout. Yet Baghdad; subjected to a terrorist and intimidation campaign of unprecedented scale and cruelty; Baghdad, deprived of electricity, fuel and lately even water( which is more dangerous than anything else); Baghdad, that lacks security, where the citizens face mortal danger every moment of their daily life; Baghdad, where life has almost ground to a standstill; that citizens of this Baghdad should line up at polling stations braving very real dangers, with mortars raining down and scores of suicide bombers sent out to blow up people, and moreover that many even brought their children: this Baghdad was a revelation even to Baghdadis.
There were amazing scenes; not very likely to seen anywhere else. There were acts of heroism. Abdul Amir Kadhim, saw a man whom he suspected to be a suicide bomber, he threw himself on the man before he could get to the waiting line of people; and sure there was an explosion and this young man gave his life to save the others. Prime Minister Allawi paid tribute to this heroism. At one station there was a suicide attack and several people fell; when people of the neighborhood heard of this, the waiting line suddenly swelled to three times in size; people rushed out of their homes and came running to wait in line; it was their way to express their defiance and anger at this crime. The examples of bravery and courage are too numerous to recount. People took courage from each other, as people came out others watched and did not want to be left out. It was something incredible to watch. Yes this was a historic day, a day to remember until our dying day. With one stroke, in a single day, the silent majority spoke and answered all the pundits and doubters, and those who spoke on their behalf. Yet we have been telling you this all along; we have been telling you ever since this blogging movement started. Do you now see that we were not representing minority views, that we were not some CIA agents trying to make propaganda?
I find it difficult right know to write coherently; I just want to convey to you some of the tremendous feelings overwhelming my soul now.
As for some of the Arab scum and other detractors, they are appearing on TV screens looking like they have just swallowed a cockroach, or perhaps had some awful lizard creeping up their backsides; They fidget, they try hard to find some words, some way to get round this, to belittle, twist to distort facts; but it is not easy, not easy when the entire world, the entire humanity are watching intently this incredible event.
Finally, we heard the speech of President Bush Loud and clear. He, and the American people and their British and other valiant allies have much to do with this event. All I can say is that this man has all the essential traits of character that distinguishes the great men of history; the insistence and utter conviction and the perseverance and steadfastness in the face of all doubters and detractors. This was no ordinary election, and it was not simply to elect a constituent assembly. It was the answer of the people, what they really thought about the liberation, what they really thought of the ideas preached by the president. This was a message by the Iraqi people to the American people and their great president. It was the heart of Iraq answering the heart of America that voted to give the President the mandate to finish the task; it was the answer that the common people of Iraq gave by braving danger and exposing their life and that of their children and families to death, this was their way to make their voice heard.
Well, thank you Mr. President, we heard you; and I am sure you also heard us.
Peace be upon you all and the mercy of Allah and his blessings.


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