Monday 17 April 2006

Iraq is far away from a Gettysburg Address

The address of great import
Four months after a battle in which 7,500 soldiers perished, an afternoon was chosen for the dedication of the soldiers’ cemetery.
The program, elaborate as it was included an oration that last two hours after which the president was to give dedicatory remarks.
In 10 sentences of 272 words, his words were few but its message was loud and clear, if not laden with meaning beyond the reading of the message.
Those remarks are now referred to as the Gettysburg Address and it ended with the following words …
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” – Abraham Lincoln
Knowing the cause
From these closing remarks, Abraham Lincoln drew some specific inferences that matter in terms of history, occasion, politics, governance, freedom, liberty and civic duty.
They matter in that they establish in clarity the context in which our democracies must operate and how those who exercise authority should defer to the magnitude of their responsibility.
First, that we should recognise those that went before us in creating the society in which we now live and engage in fervent promotion of those values they espoused for the future in which we now live.
Second, that the cause of freedom for which life has been lost must never be derogated to goals that deprive us of those hard-earned liberties.
Third, that the things that make us united and the things that underpin our moral tenets offer opportunities of greater freedom.
And lastly, these are the things that give meaning to our democracy.
Not ready for a Gettysburg address
When I review these inferences, it begins to make sense why Iraq after four months of elections a leader has not emerged for the government for the people.
The country is in so much tumult, people are still dying that the “cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion” cannot materialise for adequate reflection.
Whilst we are still counting the dead, one cannot get to the point where “these dead shall not have died in vain”.
The nation of Iraq is an amalgam of disparate tribal and religious entities in conflict and far from agreement, the expected “new birth of freedom” looks patently stillborn.
So, even though the people have spoken, they have not yet been heard such that “that government of the people, by the people, for the people” has not taken root to allow for it to endure.
However, it is the earnest desire of many, especially now, the people of Iraq to see that their dreams and desires for peace, freedom, liberty, justice and good governance does “not perish from the earth”.
Looking for a Gettysburg moment
Whilst Iraq has exceeded in numbers the count of the dead and injured in battle as compared Gettysburg, they are far from a Gettysburg moment.
The closing remarks of the orator (Edward Everett) clearly indicate that Iraq is seriously unfinished business in need of a greater appreciation of what has past, what is now and where we are headed for the future.
But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that where so ever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg
The battles of Iraq for now have no particular end in sight; tectonic plates of opinion and process need to shift for that sight to be acquired.

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