Lorne Craner
Over the last few months there has been much debate over whether Iraq’s January 30 election should be delayed. For more than 30 years democracy and freedom have been delayed, and to date, I have seen no legitimate reason given to delay democracy in Iraq any longer.

The Iraqi people understand the dangers facing them. They also understand the dangers of not moving forward, and despite the security situation, they are determined to vote. A recent poll International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted shows more than 60 percent of Iraqis are very likely to vote and another 17 percent are somewhat likely to vote.

The January 30 election is a crucial first step in Iraq’s process of building their democracy. The next year will bring three additional milestones — writing their constitution, voting on their constitution, and electing their National Assembly. To allow the terrorists a victory in delaying one, would delay all. Holding elections on January 30 will be a victory against the terrorists, a victory for freedom.

As President George W. Bush said in his second inaugural speech, “There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.” The terrorists know this is true, and it is the reason they fear elections.

The desire for freedom is always strong, but building a democracy is never easy. Our own history teaches us this. There are always challenges to face that require a resolute commitment to democracy and freedom. The right to be free and choose those who will govern you is the right of every man and women, not just those in the west. People only need to be given the tools to build a democracy to make it a reality for themselves and their countrymen. The Iraqi people have shown the desire for freedom and commitment to build a democracy themselves.

Lorne Craner left the International Republican Institute (IRI) for an interim of three years in 2001 to serve as assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for Secretary of State Colin Powell. He contributed to the conception and implementation of President Bush’s approach to democratization in the Middle East, sharpened the administration’s focus on human rights in Central Asia and initiated the first U.S. Government programs to advance democracy in China. Upon his departure from the State Department, Secretary Powell presented Craner with the Distinguished Service Award, the department’s highest honor. IRI was founded in 1983 and is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization committed to advancing democracy worldwide.