So, where was al-Zarqawi?

Most of us – I hope – have been praying that the Iraqi elections would be remembered for the high turnout and the palpable joy of the participants, and not for the hideous atrocity promised by al-Zarqawi:

“Beware, beware not to approach the centres of atheism and of vice…We repeat our warning to the owners of homes surrounding voting centres so that the shelling doesn’t reach them… We have warned you, so don’t blame us. You have only yourselves to blame”

Well, the day is not over yet. I hope that I won’t have to update or edit this post. There have been attacks, of course, from the “resistance” which “does not target its own civilians“, but they have been relatively few in number. Sure, the election day ban on cars has made car bombs attacks difficult to carry off. But al-Zarqawi has proved himself to be a resourceful operator, who has evaded attempts to confound him before, and with great success. Let’s face it: ensuring security hasn’t been the US’s strong suit to date.

Al-Zarqawi’s greatest problem has not been counter terrorism measures. His real difficulty is that, as a terrorist, he simply has no defence against the clear resolve of the truely vast majority of iraqi people to determine their own future and their absolute refusal to be intimidated.

With a handful of jihadist followers, al-Zarqawi has had some success in targeting iraqi infrastructure. He has beheaded foreign workers. His men have blown themselves up in recruiting lines for the police and army. However, suicide terrorists can only detonate themselves once, and when millions upon millions of electors turn up and vote, you need an awful lot of martyrs if you’re going to make a mark. And most importantly of all, people need to fear you.

Iraqis clearly took al-Zarqawi’s threats seriously. We’ve read countless interviews with voters today in which they appear to be astounded by their own courage in turning out to vote in an election which everybody predicted to be a bloodbath. What do we make of this:

Best anecdote of the day: in Qadissiyah, voters waiting in line fled when an insurgent arrived on the scene with an RPG. He fired and missed. An hour later, the same voters–with more neighbors, friends and family, came back to finish the job. That’s why the bad guys lost today.

All over Iraq, all over the world, the ideology of jihadism has been defied by muslims: the savages the islamophobes of the left and right would have you believe are incapable of democracy. Take this story from Australia:

[T]he riot erupted when a group of around 20 protesters started yelling insults at voters leaving the polling center in a Sydney neighborhood dominated by Iraqi Shiites. … [T] he protesters were holding up the same black flag with white lettering that has appeared as a backdrop in videos released by Iraqi insurgents featuring foreign hostages begging for their lives. [T]he fight broke out after the protesters took pictures of voters… Around 50 people wrestled in the street, threw punches and hit one another over the head with their shoes an insult in Iraqi culture.

Or this story – bizarrely and coincidently involving the manager of Oldham Athletic – from Manchester:

About 200 demonstrators were chased by another group who burned their flags, while other Iraqis clashed with police…The demonstrators were from Hizb-ut-Tahrir – an Islamic group which is against the elections in Iraq…”The Iraqi community here were saying, ‘Why are these people who are not even from Iraq protesting against these elections?

My brother in law remarked to me this morning that today’s news reports brought back memories of those lines of voters who turned out to vote down apartheid in 1994.

The only difference is that in Iraq, the voters turned out even when their promised reward – from an ideology which regards democracy as “this evil principle” – was their own murder.

They still chose to choose.