Catching killers and Democracy: Both take time
Americans are an impatient people. We want Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein brought to justice – yesterday. We want the newly freed Iraqi people to have a new constitution and hold open, fair and free elections right away so our troops can come home. All understandable desires.
But our own recent history should tell us finding two culprits isn’t all that easy. For example, the Beltway Snipers, John Lee Malvo and his mentor, John Allen Muhammad, armed with a single, semi-automatic rifle terrorized America for weeks, across a swath that ran from Louisiana to Georgia to Virginia and Maryland
The world’s most sophisticated law enforcement agencies, backed by the world’s most elaborate communications systems and aided by an entire population hoping and praying for the capture or killing of the Beltway Snipers were helpless for all that time.
And how were Malvo and Muhammad discovered? Not by the police, but by two truck drivers who thought they saw a car that might fit the description of a Chevy Malibu featured in an all-points bulletin. If only more Iraqi truck drivers would be so helpful.
Law enforcement agencies are practically non-existent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communications are primitive. Moreover, at least 25-percent of the locals are aiding and abetting Saddam and Osama.
So, if our highly sophisticated nation, working in concert, couldn’t find Malvo and Muhammad for all that time, we probably ought to cut our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan some slack.
The same goes for the process of creating some forms of freely elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. It took until 1776 (156 years) for us to just declare our independence from Great Britain. It required a four-year war to win it. And, it took until 1787 to even start drafting the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, we didn’t have actual federal government until1789.
But, in 1789, we had scarcely begun. To fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to make our Constitution the instrument to do so, we needed to add the first Ten Amendments, AKA the Bill of Rights.
Then, since we still hadn’t lived up to “all men are created equal,” we had to fight a Civil War over slavery and then add the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, the 14th Amendment which give the newly freed slaves citizenship and civil rights, and the 15th Amendment that said race, color or previous condition of servitude should not prevent the former slaves from voting.
Even then, we weren’t done. We had to overcome the “separate, but equal” concept of Plessy v. Ferguson with Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Finally, Republican President Eisenhower had to send paratroopers to Arkansas because the redneck Democrat governor wouldn’t let Blacks go to school with Whites.
Recently, this observer had occasion to spend time in Philadelphia’s historic areas, the places where the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were written. To walk on the same streets trod by giants such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison Monroe, Hamilton, Franklin and the other Founding Fathers was both humbling and inspirational.
From reading much of what is in print and from watching “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel and a smattering of the four stooges: CNN/ABC/CBS and NBC, I haven’t discovered any Iraqis with the towering intellectual stature of the men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787.
So, what does this observer predict for Afghanistan? The government we installed and the warlords will muddle along in their ancient ways, but not threaten us.
In Iraq, we’ll bring Saddam (if he is still alive) and his followers to justice. Oil production will begin to pay for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Meanwhile, the Iraqis will muddle ahead with attempts at self-government, with or without a written constitution.
We won’t create “a perfect union” in either Iraq or Afghanistan. But, we won’t let “perfect” become the enemy of “good.” ‘And, we’ll leave them better off than when we came.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2003. William Hamilton.