In the latest of a series of historic actions, the Iraqi people have voted overwhelmingly for a new constitution.  In so doing they have affirmed their preference for democracy and rejected resoundingly nihilistic terrorism. They have re—affirmed the Preamble to their interim constitution — the Transitional Administrative Law — which stated

'The people of Iraq, striving to reclaim their freedom, which was usurped by the previous tyrannical regime, rejecting violence and coercion in all their forms... have determined that they shall hereafter remain a free people governed under the rule of law.'  

These stirring words were written only a year after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, a year after President George Bush, on the night of March 19 2003, addressed America from the White House.  He told us that the liberation of Iraq had begun, that

'we come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice.'

The President stressed the fact that

'We have no ambitions in Iraq except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.'

In September 2004, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, referred to by some as the George Washington of that country, addressed the United States Congress.  In a stem winder of a speech too many have forgotten, he thanked America for its sacrifices and reminded us all that Iraq was

'still a nation with an inspiring culture and tradition... an educated and civilized people. And Iraq is still a land made strong by a faith which teaches tolerance, love, respect and duty.' 

He spoke to the doubters who wondered aloud if Iraqis can achieve democracy.  They

'risk underestimating the courage (and) determination of the Iraqi people to embrace democracy, peace and freedom, for the dreams of our families are the same as the dreams of families here in America and around the world.' 

In closing, PM Allawi avowed that

'Neither tyranny nor terrorism has a place in our region or our world. And that is why we will stand by you, America, in a war larger than either of our nations, the global battle to live in freedom.'

Iraq is an ancient land, the birthplace of Abraham and Salah—ad—Din, home of Nebuchadenezzar, a country where Sumerians and Assyrians lived and fought, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia for the second time.  It is home to the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon and was once the capital of the Moslem world under Mohammed's son—in—law Ali.  But Iraq is perhaps best known as the site of the 'Fertile Crescent,' the place called Mesopotamia, or 'the land between the rivers.'  It was the birthplace of several civilizations. 

Between the Tigris of a strong, dedicated coalition and the Euphrates of a brave, determined Iraqi people, it is now the birthplace of a new democracy in the Middle East, flanked by waters consecrated with the blood of soldiers united in common cause, flowing towards the future with irreversible momentum.  The sources of these rivers are as old as the natural human desire for liberty and freedom, as new as the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.

After his forces had been kicked out of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein agreed to abide by various UN Security Council resolutions.  He proceeded to violate them all, and in 1991, threw out UN weapons inspectors.  Eight years later, Congress concluded that Iraq's WMD program threatened US national security; that Iraq was 'in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the president to take appropriate action.  There followed congressional authorization for the use of military force in Iraq and the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act.  Congress passed House Joint Resolution 114 on October 2, 2002, which again authorized the president to use force against Iraq. 

Five months before that, with Operation Enduring Freedom just concluded in Afghanistan, President Bush, in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute, said

'in the days just after September the 11th I told the American people that this would be a different war, fought on many fronts.' 

He cited military, diplomatic and financial facets of the battle, adding

'we will defeat the threats against our country and the world' and reminded Americans that 'this war will not be quick and this war will not be easy, that 'the terrorists have chosen a foe unlike any they have faced before... we're tough, determined and relentless.  We will stay until the mission is done.' 

In the three years since that VMI speech, as Iraq held its first free elections in decades and established an interim government on the path to full independence and sovereignty, President Bush has repeated these fundamental themes and reminded Americans and the world of the great progress achieved by that long oppressed citizenry. 

In a June 28, 2005 speech from Ft. Bragg he defined the nature of our terrorist enemy who come not only from Iraq, but from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. 

'They murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.  Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression — by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror... they wear no uniform, respect no laws of warfare or morality [and] take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras.  They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001.  They will fail...the American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.'  

In the aftermath of tremendously successful elections for the new Iraqi constitution, we must re—dedicate ourselves and contemplate the sacrifices made by our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and their families.  Armed with indefatigable perseverance and indomitable will, let us embody our president's words and be tough, determined and relentless until our goal of  'Victory — unconditional, unapologetic and unyielding' as Defense Secretary Rumseld recently defined it, is achieved.    

John B. Dwyer is a military historian.