President Bush keeps saying over and over again that he wants to export American democracy to Iraq. But how can you export something that you do not have? Or, at least, how can you export something that you are in the process of destroying on a daily basis?
If the Patriot Act is an example of democracy, then the activities of the Secret Police of the Nazis and the Communists were supreme examples of constitutional government in action.
If the cabal of government, big business, and religious fundamentalism are an expression of the hopes of the Founding Fathers, then mediaeval feudalism is an excellent case history of democracy.
If secret meetings among top government officials reflect a government of a free society, then the Star Chamber Courts of James I and Charles I are a fine examples of democracy.
On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt in his message to Congress announced that "In future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms." He listed 1. Freedom of Speech, 2. Freedom of Worship, 3. Freedom from Want and 4. Freedom from Fear as the four cornerstones upon which the world's hopes should be built.
The latter two freedoms are not specifically mentioned in either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. But they are goals of a society that in the Preamble to the Constitution declared "the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare do ordain this Constitution "
If these four freedoms represent the goals of a democratic society, it will not be long before the collective goose of the world will be cooked. The present administration disregards each one of these four prescriptions for a world of freedom and peace.
1) Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are simply two sides of the same coin. On more than one occasion, the President's representatives have firmly stated that to disagree with our Chief Executive Officer indicates a lack of patriotism. If such expressions represent the President's beliefs, then he has no right to speak of constitutional governance.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black quoted in "The New Republic," July 2, 1945, said, "The constitutional guarantee of a free press rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society
"Freedom to publish means freedom for all and not for some. Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but freedom to continue to prevent others from publishing is not."
Is it not interesting that the President wants to bring democracy to Iraq but our provisional government denied free speech to an opposition newspaper? This is a throwback to the papal right prohibiting publication of books that do not meet party standards. Is not such action a return to the mentality of the Dark Age?
Iraq has had that sort of censorship under Saddam. What is it we are exporting? Is it not fair to ask that perchance we are importing Saddam's repression of free speech into the U.S.?
2) Freedom of Worship is guaranteed in the First Amendment. Yet is has taken on a strange turn in recent years. Jefferson in a 1813 letter to Baron von Humboldt wrote, "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
In a letter to C. Clay in 1816, Jefferson remarked, "This loathsome combination of Church and State." Thomas Paine in "The Age of Reason" wrote, "The adulterous connection of church and state ."
The present administration embraces the politics of religious fundamentalism. The big issue revolves around abortion. By some legalistic contortion, derived from religious convictions rather than law, Supreme Court justices ruled that a fetus is a human
being. The scriptural basis for such thinking is found in Jeremiah 1:5. God said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you." Nowhere, except in religious dogma, do we find any support for the idea that a fetus unable to sustain itself outside the womb is a living human.
There is nothing in the Constitution requiring anyone to accept the Bible as an absolute statement issued by an assumed perfect God. The Constitution does not force anyone to surrender a religious conviction even if it is based on pure bias, myth, or ignorance. However, it does not grant anyone the right to impose her or his conviction on anyone else.
Some profoundly religious people do not subscribe to Jeremiah's assumption. There is no right to impose any tenet of faith on anyone else. Fundamentalists sneak in through the back door, claiming that abortion is the equivalent of murder. The state has the right to prevent murder--not on religious grounds--but solely for the benefit of the welfare and the peace of the state. By declaring the fetus a human being, fundamentalists attempt to make the state an enforcer of a religious view.
But when does a zygote--a fertilized egg--become a human being? The developing embryo passes through stages reflecting our evolutionary ancestry. In the fish stage, the embryo actually has gill slits. The brain of the developing organism forms from the inside out. It first forms the neural chassis, then the basal ganglia (the reptilian brain), then the limbic system (the pale mammalian brain), and finally the neocortex (the neomammalian brain).
Now, I am sure Jeremiah knew nothing of that. So assuming that God really spoke to the prophet, the former did not want to befuddle the old seer with 20th Century knowledge. Giving expression to a religious conviction, Jeremiah just assumed that God told him while he was still in his mama's womb that God knew who he was--gill slits and all.
If some folks nowadays want to assume that belief, that is fine. The Constitution gives anyone the right to spurn modern science and to remain in a state of ignorance. But the Constitution does not grant the right to impose mythological assumption on anyone else! Legal imposition of religious doctrines is a dogmatism no different from a dictator's fiat that one and all must subscribe to the party line--right, wrong, or indifferent.
I fear that the President in siding with religious fundamentalists has forgotten his oath to uphold the Constitution. Neither the President, nor the Pope, nor Pat Robertson has the right to inflict his dogmatic religious convictions on others.
If that is what the President is seeking to export to Iraq, they already have that kind of stuff.
3) While not in the Constitution, freedom from want is certainly a goal in keeping with the Preamble's intent to "promote the general welfare." You can't promote the general welfare when over 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. You certainly can't "insure domestic tranquility" when your major goal is to cut taxes and thereby undercut and destroy the infrastructure that is the life of any culture.
You can't promote freedom from want when the government spends money like a bunch of drunken sailors to benefit the favorite few. Present monetary policy favors the in-crowd but leaves millions upon millions facing declining pensions, declining Social Security, and a Medicare system that will soon be in shambles.
I am sure the Iraqis do not need to have that sort of stuff imported. Under Saddam, the few wealthy became even wealthier and the rest just grub for a living. America's fiscal policies do not promote the Constitution's goal to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty."
What present policies do is to establish a feudal system in which the rich think of themselves as lords and the rest of the folks are serfs. The idea of the divine right of kings went out the front door a long time ago. But it seems the concept has sneaked in by the back door in the last few years.
Iraq already had that during Saddam's reign.
4) President Roosevelt's "Grand Design" includes freedom from fear. I started to express my fears about the authority of the 130,000 people who are on the Homeland Security Force. What are the functions of these employees? In a country kept in fear with continuous rainbow alerts, how well are these troops being trained to protect us from terror while also maintaining our civil liberties? Where are they being trained? Who does the training? What are their qualifications?
I started to think about fears created by the covert operations of the CIA that seemingly always aligns itself with dictators and suppresses the welfare of the masses.
But just then my wife came into my office and called my attention to a website about the Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Cards. I went to that site, downloaded four pages that told me next to nothing. Then I clicked on another reference which was about 36 pages long. After reading that gobbledygook I am more afraid of a Congress that passed such a law and the bureaucrats who will implement it. If that is looking out for the "general welfare" of the people, then we are in bad shape indeed. About all it does is give folks on Medicare a mere lick of the lollypop while the private insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers get to swallow the whole thing.
Thinking about it, I am more afraid of senators who pass legislation to finance the building of an artificial rain forest, a local museum, battleships the Navy does not want, and who pork-barrel our limited funds to death.
I am afraid of the deceit, the mendacity, the unfairness which our government is palming off on us. We don't need that kind of stuff and I am sure the Iraqis will say, "No, thanks. We have already been there and done that." If that represents constitutional democracy, we are in bad shape indeed.
What is it we are importing to Iraq? Maybe the better question is, "What is Saddam importing to us?"
John Brand is a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry veteran of World War II. He received his Juris Doctor degree at Northwestern University and a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry at Southern Methodist University. He served as a Methodist minister for 19 years, was Vice President, Birkman & Associates, Industrial Psychologists, and concluded his career as Director, Organizational and Human Resources, Warren-King Enterprises, an independent oil and gas company.
He is the author of "Shaking the Foundations" and "Rebuilding the Foundations".
John Brand encourages your comments: jbrand@YellowTimes.org
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Copyright 2004 West-Art, Prometheus 92/2004