By Brian Bresnahan
I believe the Creator has instilled within all people the capacity for free will. This in turn yields a universal desire to be free, to live as we choose, and to do so with others, all under the auspices of His commands.
My experiences with the Iraqi people proved to me, that they too, are subject to this universally applicable imperative which solicits a desire for freedom.
My “job” in Iraq allowed me the privilege of working directly with the Iraqis several days per week. I worked in a capacity which could directly improve their lives, or at least provide some degree of solace for a suffered loss. Through these endeavors, and over the course of the first couple months, I saw a very distinct change in their attitude toward me, toward us, our mission there, and a growing appetite to take the initiative on matters which might improve their own lives.
Getting them to take the initiative like this was, in and of itself, an incredible challenge. The group I worked with was of the mindset that everything happens because Allah wills it to happen. They would openly ask, “Why take action on my own behalf?” Their point of view was “The outcome is not up to me. My choices and actions do not matter. It’s up to Allah to decide my fate, and I’ll faithfully accept his will and the direction he chooses for my life.”
But, because within each person is planted a seed which gives rise to the capacity for free will, eventually all people will choose the course of freedom. All they need is for the seed to be nurtured.
As the Iraqi’s and I became better acquainted we were able to discuss subjects beyond the business at hand. We talked about the same things that friends here might discuss. Friendships were formed and trust grew.
I explained that we weren’t there to occupy their country. When they finally understood we were only there to help, and that we wanted to go home when our time was up, just as much as they might want us to leave, the relationships grew more.
As they saw us helping them rebuild their lives, they began to realize the difference between us and the insurgents. The insurgents, either directly or indirectly, were the source of hardship, difficulty, or danger in their lives. The contrast between what we brought to the table and the problems caused by the insurgents was discussed and understood.
And then they made the conscious choice of those in pursuit of freedom. They chose to act on their own behalf, to exercise their free will for the purpose of framing a vision for the future and a better life. In spite of the danger to themselves, certain death if they were discovered, they started telling us who the insurgents were, where they were, and how we could find them.
Our conversations were altogether different after that. They began to share their hopes and what they wanted in life. These new friends began to share the desire for a better life for themselves and their children. I learned they wanted the same things out of life that you and I want - to be mom’s and dad’s, to make a decent living, to simply be safe and happy. And they acknowledged, with clarity, that the paths to those things were the paths of democracy and freedom.
Although they lacked an understanding of democracy, they knew, by the example of the United States, that democracy was the means by which freedom was attained. Details about democracy beyond the act of voting were nebulous, but freedom they understood.
Their new-found will to freedom and fresh entry into democracy progressed from a basic knowledge of these novel concepts into acts of freedom. Despite threats from terrorists, the Iraqi’s decided their own future, voted in three elections, and celebrated in the streets, rejoicing in the hope for a better life.
Living freely, they now charge forward with businesses and entrepreneurialism. They pursue capitalism, the only economic system which enables democracy and freedom to flourish; the only system that gives them a chance to raise their standard of living and lift the poorest among them from abject poverty.
Their choice to turn on the insurgents (the event that signified their aspirations for freedom) is now being repeated at record levels. For the month of April, the Multi National Forces received 5,855 tips about the insurgency from Iraqi civilians.
The willingness of the Iraqi’s to step up like this indicates strong hope for the future. It indicates an improving security situation – they wouldn’t come forward like this if it weren’t safe to do so. That in turn tells us our troops and the Iraqi troops are succeeding.
But most encouraging of all, it shows that more and more Iraqi’s are openly, personally pursuing freedom, spurred to do so because the seeds of freedom have been nurtured and enabled.