Sunday, August 28, 2005

I Favor Peace and Freedom in Iraq

I want the U.S. (and "coalition") military forces to withdraw from Iraq. Does that mean that I want to hand the country over to whatever warlord(s) can seize power? Does that mean that I want to condemn Iraq to a (dare I say) quagmire of civil war with yet more guns, bombs, and extremist hotheads?

No. (Gosh, what a surprise. We were so sure you were going to say yes.)

I favor peace and freedom in Iraq. I support the right of Iraqi women to have jobs, own property, and be the legal equals of Iraqi men. I support the creation of a new Iraqi state by the Iraqi people to serve the needs of the Iraqi people. In fact, you might call it a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people," if I may borrow a phrase from my namesake. I support the creation of an Iraqi state in which "all people are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.

The thing is, our "government of the people, by the people, and for the people," was created by the people, not by a foreign army. Yes, the French helped the colonial army, but they did so under the coordination of colonial leaders. Iraq might have its answer to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, John Hancock, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, but instead it got George W. Bush, Ahmed Chalabi, Paul Bremer, and General Jerry Boykin, plus the occasional dose of Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz.

When the United States was formed (not "born"; that suggests that it was inevitable), there were issues dividing us about as deeply as the Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds are divided today. There was the little issue of slavery, just for one example. Six states had it, seven did not. There were also pesky issues of the degree of federalism appropriate to the new nation. Some states were deeply committed to "states' rights"; others wanted a more powerful central government. There were issues of small states and larger states.

It took 11 years from the Declaration of Independence to sort out compromises on those and a few other issues and write our Constitution. Some of the compromises were awkward. The compromise on slavery — slavery was protected by Article V until 1808 — merely postponed the inevitable conflict that led to the Civil War. The compromise on small and large states led to the House of Representatives, with votes based on population, and the Senate, with two votes per state, regardless of size. Then there was the electoral college, a unique institution in the world. Each state gets a number of votes equal to its Reps plus Senators. Thus, California gets 55 votes while Wyoming gets 3. Sounds nice for California, except that California has over 70 times the population. That means that if Wyoming has 3 votes, California would have 212 by population alone.

(Side note: am I the only person on earth who saw Karen Hughes on CNN in late December 2000, proudly stating that if — as many pre-election polls suggested — Bush had won the popular vote but Gore won the electoral vote (instead of vice-versa) that the Republican team was fully prepared to launch a court challenge to the Constitutionality of allowing the electoral college to override the popular vote. If anyone can document that, or if you can prove that it was a feverish delusion and she never said any such thing, please let me know.)

Anyway, now Dubya expects to march into Philadelphia Baghdad, depose King George III Saddam Hussein, and have the Iraqi people rise up and write a Constitution on the back of a napkin in twenty-two minutes.

Does Dubya have a recipe for peace, freedom, and stability in a democratic Iraq? If he does, he must be hiding it in Dick Cheney's "undisclosed location," 'cause what he's doin' ain't workin'!

Just a few more thoughts, live from Camp Casey II, Crawford, Texas....