I was up at 5 a.m. and my head was pounding and my sinuses were
killing me. I was up and out with my team by 5:30. The day started
slow, and we had some small arms fire . . . eight rockets shot
at us and we found one IED.* The small arms fire and the rockets
The IED was another matter. But we called our bomb guys and
they took care of it with the bomb robot, which, by the way is
their third robot. The other two died in the line of duty. The
polls opened at 7 a.m. and that's when things got interesting.
The press showed up in droves.
It would have been impossible to swing a dead cat and not hit
a reporter in our area of operation today. I met Campbell Brown
from NBC. She was likable, but you could tell she did not want
to be in Baghdad. She was very jumpy. I guess we were that way
when we first got here, too, but you get used to the shooting.
We had very tight security on the polling sites and all around
our area of operation. Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army Soldiers were
at every polling site, defending them. I have been planning for
about eight days for this mission, and it was the largest we have
done to date. Infantry, armor, attack helicopters, engineers .
. . you name it, we had it.
The Iraqi Government shut down all traffic in the country so the
streets were deserted. At about 10 a.m. the streets were packed
with large crowds of people walking to the polls. We were on edge
waiting for more attacks that never came. By about 3 p.m. we could
start to let our hair down and talk to the people. The sight was
We dismounted from our vehicles and were instantly mobbed by about
200 kids. The kids were all over the place, playing in the street
while their parents voted. The kids walked with us for about two
miles, while we were talking to the adults. I have never seen
anything like it.
People everywhere wanted to talk to us and thank us. This is
what it must have been like when the Allies liberated Paris.
Iraqis of all ages wanted to shake our hands and thank us for
allowing them to vote. The kids were proud to tell us that their
parents voted. Adult after adult wanted to thank us for making
this day happen.
When the Iraqis voted, they dipped their fingers in indelible
purple ink so that polling officials could tell who had already
voted. When we walked the streets the Iraqis would hold their
purple finger up in the air as a mark of pride. They were very
proud of their purple finger.
The Iraqi' statements to us were all the same:
Thank you for your sacrifices for
the Iraqi people.
Thank you for making this day possible.
The United States is the true democracy
in the world and is the country that makes freedom possible.
God blessed the Iraqi people and
the United States this day.
We have never known a day like this
under Saddam. This day is like a great feast, a wonderful
I shook more hands today than I have ever in my life. If you missed
a hand they would follow for a mile to get a chance to shake and
say thanks. It was nothing like we expected or have ever seen.
The Iraqi people were strong and brave today. The Iraqis, stoic
to danger, faced fear and went out and voted. Then after they
voted they stayed on the street to celebrate by singing, dancing,
and trying to shake the hand of any American they could find.
Even though today was as great day for Iraq, they took their lumps.
There were six car bombs, two of them in Baghdad. One, I believe,
did more for Iraqi morale than any other event that I have ever
witnessed here. A suicide car bomber drove up to a polling site,
which was not too far from us and blew up. The bomb did not kill
anyone but the bomber himself.
After the bomb went off the Iraqi voters calmly walked out of
the polling site and spit on the remains. The polling site
stayed open and the voting continued. That incident ran all day
on Iraqi TV. It was a beautiful act of defiance for the Iraqi
people. They stood up for themselves today and stuck a purple
finger in the enemy's eye.
Later in the day, I thought about our sacrifices that we have
made. I wondered if the three men that my unit had sent home in
flag-draped coffins was worth what I saw today. I am still not
sure if that is the case, but when a grown Iraqi man thanks me
with tears running down his face, it made me feel better about
what we have accomplished.