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Iraqi Optimism

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

The votes are still being counted in Iraq. Despite terrorist attacks, millions of Iraqis went to the polls to elect two-hundred-seventy-five members of a transitional national assembly. They also voted for members of Iraq’s eighteen provincial councils, and the Kurdistan National Assembly. Once seated, the transitional national assembly will choose a new government and draft a constitution.

"I feel very optimistic that things will change for the better because of the strong turnout," Ali Jassem, a bakery manager in Baghdad, told a reporter. Haider Abdul Hussein, a pharmacy owner, said, "You can feel the situation has changed. People seem to linger on the street longer. You can feel the momentum, the sense of optimism." And Iraqi national guard Sergeant Kathem Hanish said, "We are arresting more terrorists than ever before. The people are coming to us with information. They are cooperating."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says now that the election is over, "The coalition's involvement in Iraq has entered a new phase":

"In this new phase, the priority will be on increasing our efforts to help the Iraqis assume more responsibility for providing security for their country. It is the Iraqi people, not the coalition, who over time will defeat the insurgents. And they have shown that they have the heart to do that."

For more than three decades, the Iraqi people lived under a repressive regime. Mr. Rumsfeld says that under Saddam Hussein, "There was no premium or reward for being brave or for sticking your head up or for arguing or disagreeing or showing your feelings":

"It [the Saddam Hussein regime] imposed a conformity on that society. And you worry over time: what does it do to people's courage? And yet there they were. They went out. Some of them walked around the polling place [and] didn't go in to vote. Finally, some seventy-year-old woman walked in, and everyone followed. When they see that they simply must take heart from that, take courage from that and begin to feel, 'Well, everyone else thinks the way I do. I want to vote.' And they went to vote."

Car bombers and assassins are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis expressed in free elections. President George W. Bush says, "The whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people."