Prior to the Iraqi election, the Sunni and Shi'a population of Al-Mudhariya, a village south of Baghdad, received the typical threats of violent reprisal that terrorist insurgents made against every Iraqi voter. But as reported by Mark Willacy, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Middle East correspondent, the villagers planned a surprise when the terrorists returned.
"We understand that last night, the insurgents came back to punish the people of Al-Mudhariya," Willacy reported on February 4. "But instead of metering out that punishment, the villagers fought back and they killed five of the insurgents and wounded eight. They then burnt the insurgents' car. So the people of that village have certainly had enough of the insurgents."
So had some citizens of Baghdad, as Thomas Friedman wrote in his column for The New York Times the previous day.
Friedman asked rhetorically whether anybody told Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi "about the suicide bomber who managed to blow up only himself outside a Baghdad polling station and how Iraqi voters walked around his body, spitting on it as they went by."
Those two reports illustrate that Arab-Muslim populations -- in whose name the jihadists claim to be acting -- are ready to reject the self-benighted, utopian, imperialist totalitarianism they represent.
Zarqawi himself admitted as much in his famous letter to al-Qaeda's high command that was captured last February:
"Many Iraqis would honor you as a guest and give you refuge, for you are a Muslim brother; however, they will not allow you to make their homes a base for operations or a safe house. People who will allow you to do such things are...rarer than red sulfur."
Zarqawi also recognized that the Americans' efforts to train Iraqi police and military personnel are succeeding, especially in the Sunni Triangle:
"[T]he problem is you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance to the people of the region. This region is our base of operations from where we depart and to where we return.
"If we fight them ... there will be a schism between us and the people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext, after the Americans start withdrawing? The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority. This is the democracy, we will have no pretext.
"Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!"
Zarqawi is not the only one facing suffocation. So does Iran, arguably the primary state sponsor of jihadism. Article II of Iran's constitution states that, as a Muslim nation, Iran is "duty bound to rest its general policy on the unity of Islamic nations and undertake efforts to realize the political, economic, and cultural unity of the Islamic world."
The key to thwarting Iran's geopolitical ambitions lies with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the power broker whose United Iraqi Alliance owns the plurality of votes -- and whose existence threatens the Iranian theocrats' totalitarian designs.
"Sistani is the last of the truly great transnational Shiite clerics," Revel Marc Gerecht wrote in the Weekly Standard. "His following inside Iran, particularly since he has so publicly backed a democratic franchise, which if it were applied in Iran would shatter clerical power, should not be underestimated.
"Sistani and his men know very well that the political game they play in Iraq will have repercussions throughout the Arab world and Iran. He and his men are not rash, but there will be no tears shed on their side if Iraq's political advancement convulses those clerics in Iran who believe in theocracy."
Iraqis reject jihadism not only because they refuse to submit themselves to more civil terror after emerging from Saddam Hussein's persecution. They also recognize Islamism as religious Nazism, a genocidal force that destroys everyone in its path.
In their quest for a utopia based on physical perfection, the Nazis not only exterminated Jews, Slavs, and members of other "inferior races," but also physically and mentally handicapped Germans who would supposedly contaminate the "pure Aryan" gene pool. In their quest for a utopia based on Muslim theological perfection, the jihadists not only would subjugate and kill "infidels" and "Zionist occupiers," but also inconvenient Muslims who get in the way.
In his letter, Zarqawi advocated attacking Shi'a institutions in Iraq to foment a civil war that would delay a transition to democracy and consolidate jihadist power.
"If we succeed in dragging [the Shi'a] into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of these Sabeans, i.e., the Shi'a.
"Some people will say, that this will be a reckless and irresponsible action that will bring the Islamic nation to a battle for which the Islamic nation is unprepared. Souls will perish and blood will be spilled. This is, however, exactly what we want ... The Shi'a destroyed the balance, and the religion of God is worth more than lives. Until the majority stands up for the truth, we have to make sacrifices for this religion, and blood has to be spilled. By God, the religion of God is more precious than anything else." (Emphasis added.)
Iraqis such as Shukur Jasim would beg to differ. Jasim was the friend of Naim Rahim Yacoubi, who was killed by a suicide bomber after delivering tea to the workers at his polling place.
"It's not the man who exploded himself who's a martyr," Jasim told The New York Times. "He wasn't a true Muslim. This is the martyr. What religion asks people to blow themselves up? It's not written in the Koran."
Hadi Aziz, Yacoubi's neighbor, agreed.
"This is the courage of Iraqis, and we will change the face of history," Aziz told the Times. "This is our message to the countries of the world, especially those that are still under a dictatorship and want to walk the same road as the Iraqis."
Certainly, the fight against Islamist terrorism is far from over. Iran remains a nuclear wildcard. Muslim terrorists will continue to seek targets of opportunity. Zarqawi himself wrote, "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag again...."
But the tide has turned, just as it turned after Antietam and Atlanta during the Civil War, and as it turned after Midway and Stalingrad in World War II.
The Iraqis have turned it by denying the jihadists a potentially large constituency. Unlike the Palestinians, who permit their children to be exterminated through suicide bombing, and unlike the shamefully silent Muslim religious establishment, the Iraqis will not be duped by such professional cynics as Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden and those who take Allah's name in vain by dedicating themselves to the piecemeal genocide of their own people.
The Arab people are willing to fight for free expression and their God-given rights. Iraq's first democratic election in half a century may prove to have been the turning point in the fight against Islamist terrorism.