I love Maureen Dowd, I really do. She’s a witty writer, a fiercely intelligent woman and a committed defender of civil liberties. I try to never miss her column in the New York Times. She never tires of pointing out the myriad examples of incompetence on the parts of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, and while I do not believe it as passionately as Dowd seems to, I agree that their goofs are reason enough to demand resignations from both of them. It is to Dowd’s credit that she bases her arguments on basic job-performance analysis rather than mere political beliefs.

But increasingly, she and other favorite columnists of mine, both on the right and the left, are starting to bug me a bit. While I agree that the Bush Administration handled Iraq (the war itself and everything surrounding it) poorly – that it could have and should have been done differently – I think the current discourse on the war, the occupation, the insurgency and today’s elections (which, according to the BBC Radio Worldservice, has been going remarkably well up until now) is missing something vital: the welfare of the Iraqi people.

It hasn’t been completely ignored; indeed, Thomas Friedman, another Times columnist, has brought up essentially the same point on previous occasions. But in my opinion, there has been far too little mention of what America owes to the Iraqi people, namely, commitment to their security and welfare and especially their freedom. Having this view doesn’t mean I think we’ve been the bad guys; on the contrary, I think that since we profess to have waged this war to get rid of Saddam Hussein for both our and the Iraqi people’s benefit, then we ought to be talking about what we need to do for the sake of the Iraqis at least as much as we speak of our own priorities in that country. For example, let’s not forget that bringing our troops home isn’t only about happy family reunions and reducing military overstretch – it’s also about the fact that reducing troops in Iraq, if it’s done for the right reasons, will be an indication that we have improved the lives of the Iraqis through our presence.

After hearing Bush’s 2nd inaugural address, a friend of mine sent me an email saying, "This is the America that I had hoped for when I watched Serbian thugs rob and rape Bosnia with abandon.  This is the voice that Polish writer Adam Michnik heard when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "empire of evil."  This is a president who says America is on the side of every dissident in every jail in every land." Many people would argue about the politics behind this statement and start quibbling about details. Granted, such quibbling very often turns into great and eloquent political debate, but in this case I just want to point out that political implications aside, the goals of freedom, democracy and security are admirable, and in Iraq, we now have a chance to show just how committed we are. A minute ago, an Iraqi journalist told a BBC interviewer with a quiver in his voice that he was "voting for his freedom," and whether you think America should have gone into Iraq or not, it’s hard to not be moved by such a statement. I guess my hope for Bush’s 2nd term in office is that we’ll spend more time listening to voices like these and spend a little bit less time crying over spilled milk.