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A reason to celebrate

Iraq's election means many things, but not 'mission accomplished'

We should celebrate the enormous turnout of voters in Iraq. But let's not confuse that with accomplishing the mission President Bush set out on when we invaded that country in 2003.

The Iraqi election proves a point that no one should be shocked to learn: People will embrace freedom and self-rule.

Saddam Hussein was a murderous monster who ran a government that was barbaric even in comparison to other oppressive Middle Eastern regimes. Few beyond those who directly benefited mourned his ouster and few should mourn his likely execution for the crimes he committed while in office.

Iraqis turned out in huge numbers to vote last week, with estimates that 70 percent of the population participated. Sunnis, who had largely boycotted an earlier vote on the country's constitution, showed they now understand they need to participate if they wish to have any say in how their government works.

And so a form of democracy appears ready to take root. We can't say what the result will look like, or even if it will survive its infancy. We do, however, celebrate when people are allowed to make their voices and their votes heard without fear of oppression from their government.

But, again, do not mistake this for mission accomplished. Our mission in Iraq was to make the United States safer from terrorism and to destroy any weapons of mass destruction held by the Iraqis. Creating a democracy there was a beneficial side-effect, but few in the United States would have supported a war solely on those grounds ' if we did that, we would be endlessly at war somewhere in the world.

— The truth is, we went to war for the wrong reasons. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and ordinary citizens of the United States are currently more at risk and require more protection than at any time in our history.

So let us celebrate the Iraq election and wish the Iraqis success. But we should also remember that the mission was flawed from the outset and that our goals have not been accomplished.

Play ball, already The ideologues in Washington, D.C. have struck again, this time making political sport out of a sport and adding to the world's dim view of Americans.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department said it would follow a long-standing policy and not allow a Cuban team to enter the United States in 2006 to play in the World Baseball Classic. That's wrong on several levels.

For starters, athletes from Cuba have been allowed into the United States to participate in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a 1999 exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles and the 2004 Gold Cup soccer tournament. So much for the long-standing policy.

Beyond that, the partisan players in the administration are missing the point: Events like the baseball tournament help to bring people ' and countries ' together in a non-political setting where they almost always discover they have more in common than they thought.

There is another issue: At least one member of the International Olympic Committee has said the action could jeopardize future U.S. efforts to host the Olympics. The IOC recognizes that international sports must be depoliticized; boycotts of the Olympics in recent decades accomplished nothing beyond depriving athletes of opportunity and the world of an uplifting experience.

Bringing a Cuban team to the United States would do more to encourage democracy in that country than any embargo the anti-Communist hawks could ever dream up. Let them come and let them see how a country thrives when its people are given freedom.

But, most of all, let them play baseball without the political curveballs.