THE pictures of long lines of Iraq men and women waiting to vote last Sunday had something in common with the memorable images of black Africans queuing patiently for hours at the first elections after the end of apartheid ten years ago.
In the case of Iraq, however, many of those determined to vote were also showing considerable courage in defying the threats of the terrorists that voting could mean death.
One can understand the relief in London and Washington that the election took place with only minimal interference from armed thugs and that the turn-out appeared to be strong except in the Sunni heartland.
On the other hand it is difficult to accept the euphoric statements on Sunday and Monday by Mr Bush and Mr Blair implying that their invasion of Iraq had now been justified by the holding of the election and their assumptions about its result.
They did not go to war to establish democracy in Iraq but in order to meet what they claimed was a threat to their own security in the form of weapons of mass destruction.
The democracy argument has been developed as a substitute for the nonexisting weapons of mass destruction.
Nor should Mr Blair be allowed to claim that the elections were a blow to the heart of terrorism that threatens destruction not just in Iraq but in Britain and virtually every major country around the world.
Iraq had no terrorism of the kind Mr Blair had in mind before the United States/United Kingdom invasion and any idea that a provisional election of the kind held on Sunday will be a blow to the heart of al-Qaeda, say, is optimism of the most irresponsible kind.
Last Sunday's election was a very small step out of the mire that Iraq has become under US/UK mismanagement. Nothing more.