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September 12, 2005

welcome to Iraq; Jefferson will not be joining us today

Ooh. In case anyone hadn't yet started to doubt that the creation of "democracy" in Iraq lacks some of the nation-founding zeal and earnestness we like to attribute to our own Founding Fathers (those clever colonials with the funny pants and knee socks), Katha Pollit has this to say:
The new Constitution, drafted under heavy pressure from the Administration, sets aside the secular personal law under which Iraqis have lived for nearly half a century in favor of theocracy lite. "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation," Article 2 begins--the spin is that this language is a victory because Islam is not the source. "(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." On the other hand, "(b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy" and "(c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution"--as in, for example, Article 14: "Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination because of sex," religion, ethnicity and so on.

There's enough right here to keep a conclave of political theorists busy for years. Equal before which law? How can women be equal before Islamic law, according to which they are unequal?
Imagine if our colonials had written us a Constitution which simultaneously forbid the passing of laws that compromised American independence, and of laws that questioned the authority of the British crown. And, while we're at it, maybe instead of that ever-flexible "interstate commerce" clause, they could have specified that no law may abridge state power, just as no law may abridge federal power. And then they could've just thrown in an "everybody has to give George Washington a handjob on Tuesdays if and when the Congress is in session" just for fun.

Oh, and what if we'd written this most sublime document while another nation impossibly more powerful than our own had been overseeing the process while bombing the shit out of us? That's modern nation-building. Makes that pesky argument about gun control and the establishment of well-regulated militias seem downright quaint.

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