Well, it’s over, and I must say it was very successful. Not my tour in Iraq, that circus is just starting. I am talking about the elections. It has been a very long day, but I have to admit that is was really amazing to see such a wonderful turnout. At every polling station, we saw hundreds of people, waiting in line, waiting outside, talking politics, holding up banners, posters, signs even bed sheets. People that had voted proudly held up there purple finger, waving at anybody who would wave back. I saw people praying in the streets, singing, dancing and crying. People were getting bussed in to the election sites at 7 in the morning, they came in trucks filled with people, they walked, they pulled wagons, and they came in on crutches and in ambulances. They came to celebrate this miraculous practice called the democratic process, and to experience the freedom that the democratic process promised.
As the night wound down and the crowds started to disburse, I noticed a sense of true relief in eyes of my Iraqi’s. As I spoke to them about the events of the day, they seemed to be grateful that the day passed with no incidents. One of their biggest fears was that a bomb would go off inside one of the polling places, or that somebody would try that suicide vest thing. They were ready to celebrate, but the commanders were doing there best to keep the soldiers in line and focused, ready for anything.
It didn’t take to long. About 15 minutes after the polls closed, we started hearing gunfire around the highways. Reports started filtering in about drive by shootings. Not far away, we listened to a large firefight erupt on three sides with machine guns and RPG’s. As it started to get closer, we got into our cover positions, Iraqi’s and Americans side by side. We could see some tracers reaching out into the sky, and the sound of men shouting got closer. We could see women and children racing into houses, and police sirens wailing as cars filled with Police and soldiers raced into the fight. The wind picked up rapidly, blowing trash and dust into the air to mingle with the smoke, creating a hazy, eerie fog.
Looking around quickly to assess the readiness of the men, I saw the Iraqi commander to my left. He was smiling at me, with his thumb up and his pistol in his hand. At the gate, the Iraqi’s were raising an Iraqi flag on one side, and the American flag on another.
The price of freedom is paid for by the blood of its soldiers…
Side note: After about a half hour, the fighting stopped. No shots were fired by our men. No injuries were sustained. It was over as quickly as it began.