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The Price Of An Iraqi Vote:
12 Drops Of American Blood

GROUND ZERO PLUS 1220 DAYS,--New York, NY, Friday, January 14, 2005--Iraqis are defying threats of being killed if they vote, claim the leaders of the country. "The vote is going forward. We will not be intimidated," is the war cry of Iraqi spokesmen promoting the need for a national election.

There is a cost to such a stance.

It is American blood.

American blood is the cost of non-intimidation in Iraq

So far, more than 1,300 Americans have died in Iraq, and more fall daily at the hands of Terrorists attempting to disrupt the infrastructure and drive America and its allies back to their respective countries so tyranny and oppression can be reinstalled in the land of 24 million Saddam Hussein once ruled for a quarter century.

The human body contains about twelve pints of blood. The 1300 American deaths in Iraq amount to 15,600 pints of blood.

This doesn't include the blood spilled from the wounded.

When looking at the price of an Iraqi vote, it is important to think in terms of human blood. There are 96 teaspoons in one pint. Converting the 15,600 pints of American blood soaked into the Iraqi soil into teaspoons amounts to nearly 1.5 million.

A teaspoon equals about sixty drops. Multiplying that number times the 1.5 million teaspoons of American blood equals 90 million drops of American blood representing all the deaths of American troops to date in Iraq.

Nearly 90 million drops of American blood have been shed in Iraq

Converting the price of American blood to each Iraqi, Americans have spilled 3.75 drops of blood for each and every Iraqi citizen.

Farid Ayar of Iraq's Independence Electoral Commission said he expected half of the 15 million eligible voters in the war-torn country to cast their votes. There are 14 million eligible voters inside Iraq and another 1.5 million living outside the country who can vote absentee, he said.

The estimated 7 to 8 million voters, Farid Ayar commented, will brave threats by terrorists. Many religious leaders promote that the duty of each citizen is to vote, and refuse to be intimidated at the ballot box.

Elections slated for January 30 are expected to be held despite the killing of candidates for office and constant suicide bombings seeking to undermine the democratic process.

The price of such voting in American blood will be high--12 drops of blood for each vote if half the population, 7 million, cast ballots.

But will that price be worth the cost of an American life?

No more greater question rips at the fabric of America. Does America have a duty and obligation to sacrifice its young warriors to protect the freedom and liberty of others thousands of miles away?

Is the price of Iraqi freedom worth 12 drops of American blood per vote?

Is the price of Iraqi freedom worth 12 drops of American blood per vote?

I had such a question posed to me in 1966 in a place called Mo Duc, Vietnam.

I was one of the first U.S. Marine Combat Correspondents to land in Vietnam. One of the missions I went on was to protect the villagers of that nation in the first democratic election held in South Vietnam.

The Viet Cong threatened to kill any villager who attempted to vote.

The area we protected was called Mo Duc, a voting area in the middle of Vietnam. It was predominately rural, with rice farmers who lived in grass huts, had dirt floors, were barefoot, and wanted only to raise their crops. Freedom seemed as far distant to them--so I thought--as an ice machine. The vast majority had no electricity.

We were attacked the night before elections by the Viet Cong and a number of my Marine buddies were killed beside me. I survived unscathed with one exception. I held one of my dying buddies in my arms. He bled out on me, soaking me with his blood.

I wondered if the war was worth the death of my fellow Marines. I was sure no villager would risk death to vote. Who would go to a ballot box with a gun to their head if they did, I thought.

I wondered if the war was worth the death of my fellow Marines

The next morning my buddy's blood was caked on my uniform and hands. I looked at it and questioned again the value of human life for the nebulous, fleeting right of freedom for a people who seemed so far distant from what I knew about democracy. These were rice farmers, living in primitive surroundings as had humans thousands of years ago. What did they know about liberty? About freedom?

Perhaps, I thought, my friend and all others who had fallen in Vietnam died in vain.

Then it happened.

As the sun climbed into the blue Vietnamese sky, they began to appear, one after another, slowly, from the jungle, onto Highway One that carved a path from North to South Vietnam.

At first they were small black dots wearing their black farmer pajamas and conical straw hats, walking toward the voting poll of Mo Duc in the Quang Ngai province.

More appeared until the road was filled with villagers, primitive farmers who used water buffalos to plow their rice paddies and ate fish and rice cooked over blackened kettles in fires burning on dirt and sleeping on mats in grass huts with no electricity, newspapers, radios, televisions or other modern contrivances.

Each was risking his or her life to cast a vote for freedom.

A tear welled in my eye as I watched them brave their way to the voting polls and set their mark upon the ballot.

I looked at the blood of my brother Marine, caked and rust-colored as the beating sun turned it into scales on my skin. At that moment I realized why we were dying.

I realized there was value in giving one's life for the life of a people to be free and their children to be free

I realized there was value in giving one's life for the right of a people to be free, and for their children and their children's children's children to be free.

We may have lost the war in Vietnam by some standards. However, on that hot day in Mo Duc when the villagers voted, we won.

That victory has been washed over with much shame and guilt because we retreated from Vietnam, but I do believe that the villagers who cast a vote for freedom and liberty that day thirty-nine years ago knew exactly what they were voting for.

I believe they have passed on to their children the story of how they voted for freedom in the face of death, and that one day their land will be free and others will have the same right to vote as they once expressed.

Despite decades of people telling me how we lost the war in Vietnam, I know we didn't lose it. We didn't lose the right of freedom and liberty for those people who once voted, that they might vote again through their children and grandchildren at some distant point in time.

I believe when the villagers in Mo Duc voted we won the war and they passed on to their children how they voted for freedom in the face of death

I also know that the blood of my fellow Marines who died in Vietnam, and those who are dying in Iraq, was not wasted.

On January 30, when the Iraqis vote for their freedom and liberty, they will be casting their ballots not just with their ink, but with the blood of Americans. That blood--twelve drops per vote--will be the blood of liberty and freedom. It will be a worthy price to establish freedom.


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