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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner! And today, finally, she doesn't disappoint. No more feel-good drivel; nope, this one is about how great things are going in Iraq, and how lefties are evil opportunists who are using the dead to advance their radical agenda. So, in other words, lots of bad craziness.

First, there's the factual problems, which around the Kersten household are called "uh ohs!" According to her, the Iraqi constitution provides for "an independent judiciary and women's equality." That's a pretty interesting interpretation of it. From what I understand of the constitution (here's as good a summary as any), the constitution holds that Islam is the official state religion, and that "No law may be enacted that 'contradicts the established provisions of Islam.'" It also guarantees the right to democracy and freedom of religious worship. Seems to be that there could be a few contradictions in terms of those clauses, don't you think?

I'm not saying that 100% of the time the people who make the laws in Iraq will come down on the side of Sharia, but given the circumstances, I'm not terribly optimistic. Some interpretations of Islamic law leave very little grey area when it comes to how to treat non-Muslims, or how women should be treated. These interpretations are not necessarily the true faith of Islam, any more than Jerry Falwell is the true version of Christianity, but what matters is who controls the power. Like I said, it seems that democracy and women's rights could very easily fall by the wayside in Iraq in the name of adhering to "Islamic law." In any case, it can hardly be argued that the constitution as it is written protects an independent judiciary and women's rights; the judiciary is explicitly not independent of Islamic law, and women's rights are tenuously protected.

Ironically, one of the great protections of women's rights is a clause that requires 25% of the national assembly to be women. That sounds like a quota to me, and I find it odd that Kersten, who I believe is against affirmative action and quotas, would see this as a good thing. Would she support a 25% quota applied to the Minnesota Legislature, the Supreme Court, or Congress? I doubt it. 25% of Minnesota's representatives in Congress aren't women; let's require it!

In other misinformation news, Kersten refers to the Daily Kos website and says that it promotes "anti-war 'media-savvy' as the key for undermining American support for the war effort." Hmm. Without a link or a cite, it's hard to tell what this means. Is this from Markos himself? One of the other front-page contributors? Or is it from some random commenter? In the latter case, would it be fair to say that some conservative blogs believe that "Hitlery" Clinton is responsible for the murders of countless Washington, DC residents because some wingnut on Little Green Footballs says so? This isn't terribly responsible.

The rest of her column recounts the story of one Val Bernat of Burnsville, who has served in Iraq. Bernat tells a positive story about Iraq, talking about an open bidding process and how a man whose son had been taken in for questioning was pleased with the respectful manner in which it had been done. And these are certainly heartwarming stories; by all means, the majority of our troops in Iraq are doing a good job and are acting as admirable ambassadors of our country and what it stands for.

However, here's something I learned when I had a job that involved dealing with the public in a very visible manner: you have to have a lot of positive experiences to outweigh just one negative one. See, here's how it works: if you have a positive experience with a police officer, salesperson, etc., you may tell one or two people, who will tell nobody else. How many times have you seen news stories about all the people who weren't beaten by cops, but instead had polite, respectful, and uneventful traffic stops? Never. If you have a bad experience, though, you will tell a dozen people, who will each tell six of their friends, on and on, until you have a great big tree of resentment. Say what you will about focusing on the negatives, that's just human reality.

So even though Bernat is acting properly, just one kickback or unfair bidding process that favors Halliburton is going to undo a hundred proper bids. Just one incident where a U.S. soldier kills the son and rapes the wife, as Saddam used to do, wipes out all the times when soldiers acted like human beings. It's impossible to completely eliminate all the bad apples, but every effort needs to be taken to reduce the number as much as possible. This hasn't been done, and it's clear that those at the top aren't interested in doing it.

Which brings us to the final point: one important thing I learned long ago in my Political Science classes at the U of M is that it doesn't matter how many people actively support a democracy. The only thing that matters is how many people are opposing it, and you don't need a huge percentage to destroy the government. Think about it: what if only 5% of Americans were so against our Constitution and our government that they would be willing to kill for it? That's almost 15 million people wreaking havoc, which would certainly put an end to this country. Even one percent, less that three million, would do it; can anybody argue that if three million people in the U.S. were going around, acting as snipers and putting IEDs on the highways, that this country would survive? The U.S. survives not because so many people support the Constitution, but because there is such a miniscule fraction of a percent that actively opposes it.

I think it's safe to say that more than one percent of the Iraqi population wants to see this country fail, and that the number could be as high as five percent. When the vast majority of people see the U.S. and other forces as an "occupying force," the reality is that they will be attacked, not by a "ruthless enemy" as Kersten puts it, but by a population that resents being occupied, like any population does. I don't know about her, but if some other country invaded and removed Bush from power "for our own good," I would fight back, no matter how much I hate our current administration. That's how people work.

Like many conservatives, Kersten continues to believe that you can export democracy by force and that the actions of a "few bad apples" just don't matter one bit, even if those bad apples are torturing people with the full support of the military hierarchy. By continuing to believe in such fallacies, she is dishonoring the memories of those 2,000+ soldiers (and far more Iraqi civilians) that have died.

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