“We are living through a watershed moment in the story of freedom. Most of the focus now is on this week’s elections — and rightly so. Iraqis will go to the polls to choose a government that will be the only constitutional democracy in the Arab world. Yet we need to remember that these elections are also a vital part of a broader strategy for protecting the American people against the threat of terrorism.”

–President George W. Bush in an excellent speech yesterday

As of mid-afternoon, it looks like the watershed moment is all that we could have desired. It’s a good watershed moment. The Los Angeles Times reports a “large and largely-peaceful” turnout:
“Iraqis across ethnic, sectarian and religious divides voted in droves today in a high-stakes election that could determine the course of the nation and the success or failure of the U.S. effort to bring Western-style democracy to the Arab Middle East.

“‘I am proud as an Iraqi because our country is becoming a center of attraction for all Arab countries,’ said Mohammed Wadi, a 50-year-old Shiite schoolteacher casting his ballot in the capital’s Karada district.

“‘The new situation in Iraq, the democratic system, is starting to put pressure on the Arab systems to make some changes toward democracy.’

“In Baghdad, Mosul and Basra, in tiny hamlets along river valleys, in the mountainous Kurdish north, in the marshy Shiite south, in the arid Sunni Arab west, voters packed election centers, which have now closed, to cast ballots.”

As the President made clear yesterday, these elections won’t stop the violence. But I am hoping they shore up American resolve. The only way we will lose in Iraq is if we lose our nerve.

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan makes a simple but brilliant observation about the Bush-lied response to our failure to find WMDs: 

“Later Howard Dean, that human helium balloon ever resistant to the gravity of mature judgment, said of the administration that they lied us into war. He left no doubt that he meant they did it deliberately and cynically. But there seems to me a thing that is blindingly obvious, and yet I’ve never seen it remarked upon. It is that an administration that would coldly lie us into Iraq is an administration that would lie about what was found there. And yet the soldiers, searchers and investigators who looked high and low throughout Iraq made it clear they had found nothing, an outcome the administration did not dispute and came to admit. But an administration that would lie about reasons would lie about results, wouldn’t it? Or try to? Yet they were candid.

“Wouldn’t it be good if our serious journalists and historians looked into what happened to weapons that Saddam once used and once had? He abused weapons inspectors who came looking, acting like a man who had a great deal to hide. And wouldn’t it be good for our serious journalists and historians to look into exactly how it is that faulty intelligence, of such a crucial nature and at such a crucial moment, came to America and Britain? It is still amazing. Oh, for journalists and historians who would look only for truth and not merely for data that justify their politics and ideology.”

See also Fox on today’s elections.