No liberty is possible in theocracy

Saddam Hussein’s death sentence, in some senses, marks more of a defeat than a victory for President Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom” – the reactions of Iraqis and others in the international community have shown that neither Iraq nor any other countries in the Middle East are ready for representative government.

That’s not to say that such a conclusion to Saddam’s trial suggests injustice or failure – on the contrary, the man deserves to die, and in a much more grisly way than a quick hanging. What has proven a failure, though, is the innately flawed idea that the unlimited majority rule of “democracy” will somehow mollify Iraq’s ills.

The laughably shortsighted idea of making Iraq a democratic nation stems from the integral tenets of Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom.” Bush attributes the exportation of terror and violence to the Middle East’s lack of democracy.

But a full three years after the inception of the “Forward Strategy of Freedom,” the three countries in which the United States has pressed for “freedom” – Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq – have proven altogether unreceptive to liberty. This is because Bush’s notion of freedom is limited to voting, not the protection of individual rights.

The bourgeoning “free nation” of Afghanistan, for example, reinstated Hanafi jurisprudence, a form of Islamic theocratic law. Surprise, surprise – even in “mild” forms, theocracy proves incapable of coexisting with liberty.

Take the case of the Abdul Rahman. In February 2006, nearly five years after the United States ousted the fundamentalist Taliban regimen, Rahman was arrested and faced the death sentence. Rahman’s egregious crime was apostasy – the poor man had converted to Christianity. According to the Afghan attorney general, Rahman “should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed,” thus to comply with Hanafi laws of the nation.

Next, there’s Palestine. Free elections were held. The result? Palestinians elected outspoken terrorists into office. Moreover, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Bahum was recently quoted saying, “We as the Palestinian people support whoever supports our people, and president Saddam Hussein was one of those”. Apparently, it doesn’t faze Bahum that Hussein gassed 300,000 Kurds, because Hussein paid benefits to suicide bombers’ families. In other words, Hussein shouldn’t be killed despite being a genocidal despot because – yippee – he hated the United States and Israel.

Although the Iraqi government has all the characteristics of a free nation on paper – a constitution, voting rights and the rule of law – the fact of the matter is that many Iraqis value religious or tribal affiliations more than they do the notion of citizenship. Rather than defer to the objectivity of the judicial process, many Iraqis prefer the collectivist medievalism of tribal vendetta seeking. This sad phenomenon is demonstrated by the proliferation of sectarian death squads that kill members of religious groups because other members of the group may have, at one time, committed a crime.

In other words, many Iraqis do not consider each other to be autonomous individuals, but rather entities that share the characteristics and culpability of their religious or ethnic subgroup.

The government the United States helped to establish ferments this ideology. By allowing Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parties into the Iraqi parliament, the United States signifies that ethnic and religious affiliations, as well as their incumbent conflicts and rivalries, have a place in development of Iraqi policy.

This problem was best demonstrated by the feared reaction to Hussein’s trial. Though chaos has not yet erupted, coalition forces initially enacted a curfew to preemptively counter possible Sunni backlash to the court’s decision. If Sunnis did react in such a way, it would be for one reason and one reason only: They would consider it a personal affront that a “fellow” Sunni received the death sentence, even if that “fellow” Sunni is, beyond a doubt, guilty of murder and genocide.

If the citizens of Iraq lack the maturity to unanimously agree that punishment of a murderer is right merely because of the murderer’s religious affiliation, Iraq is obviously ill prepared for a free political system requiring religious and ethnic neutrality.

Instead of proactively combating this problem and barring Hussein’s Baathist cronies from power, the Shiite majority offered disenfranchised Sunnis concessions in the form of job reinstatement. Such a move does not send the message that all Iraqis must ideologically uphold Iraq’s legal system, but instead implies that violence elicits a positive outcome.

This policy, sadly backed by the United States, nearly promises tyranny will ensue for all Iraq. Moreover, it will occur legally. As freedom is paraded under the guise of favoritism and group privileges, whatever modicum of legal protections that remains for the individual will unravel.

Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French