Tuesday, February 01, 2005

David Brooks on the Iraqi Election.

One of most favorite books of all times is Witness by Whitaker Chambers (see sidebar). Today (Tuesday), David Brooks in his column in the NYT makes an apt analogy:
As I watched the images of Iraqis lining up to vote, even in the face of terrorists who threatened to wash the streets with blood, I couldn't help thinking of Whittaker Chambers.

Chambers broke with the Communist Party in 1938, testified against Alger Hiss in 1948, and then emerged as a melancholy but profound champion of freedom. Chambers once wrote a letter to William F. Buckley in which he explained that a former Communist has certain advantages in understanding the truly evil nature of his foe.

"I sometimes feel," he wrote, "that it takes a tainted mind to understand - to really understand - the threat of Communism. To really understand Communism is to have touched pitch: one's view of man is forever defiled. To understand Communism means to understand the terrible capacity of man for violence and treachery, an apprehension of which leaves one forever tainted."

André Malraux read Chambers's work and wrote to him, "You are one of those who did not return from hell with empty hands."

I thought of Chambers when I heard reporters in Iraq observe that beneath the joy and exhilaration that came with voting last Sunday, Iraqis showed something grimmer: a stern determination to not let evil triumph.

These Iraqis are people who, like Chambers, have spent their lives in hell and cannot have been unaffected by it. They have touched pitch and witnessed or participated in man's capacity for violence and treachery. They must be both damaged and toughened.

Check out the whole thing here. (free online subscription required)

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