The Guardian Manages To Find The Worst Columnists

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Iraq, the 51st state
Why did the columnist think calling Iraq the 51st state would be original or cute or funny? Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. To wit:

Now that war is finally upon us, we must all hope or (if we share our leaders’ piety) pray that, within a matter of days, the thing is done with, the Iraqi people will be free of their oppressor and able to enjoy the benefits of American-style democracy. Here is a brief reprise of some of the changes they can expect if the US decides to give Iraq a facsimile of its own highly regarded system.

Nevermind that the United States is the world’s oldest democracy, however imperfect at times. The author also seems to know nothing of federalism, either, as we shall see.

1. At present, according to the official website of the Iraqi National Assembly (“a major organ for the expression of democracy”) the 250 members are elected by blocs of 50,000 voters throughout the country. This suggests the outline principle is the same as in the US. However, the American constitution demands that the 600,000 inhabitants of its own capital city should not be allowed to take part in this process. The reasons are so obvious that no one can remember what they are, but most of those affected are poor and black, anyway. To ensure true devotion to US principles, the same will have to apply in Iraq; doubtless the Americans will break the news to the people of Baghdad tactfully.

No student of American history, this one. The residents of D.C. don’t get representation because they are not a state and can’t be a state. It’s the home of the federal government which is intended to be neutral because not only are the people of this country constituents, but the states are as well. As for most of them being black, I have no idea why that is but it’s immaterial; they could all be white and the same would be true.

2. In Iraq’s last presidential election, Saddam Hussein received 100% of the votes, a fact we know because officials said so. Instead, the Iraqis can expect a choice between two different American electoral models, either (a) the one employed in Florida in 2000, designed to ensure that the candidate with the most support loses, or (b) the modern version, as applied in more advanced states, where people vote on touch-screen computers. No one has yet got 100% of the votes by this method but Republican senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska did get 83%. We know this because the company that built the machines – which he part-owns – said so.

Apparently Mr. Engel has no positive suggestions regarding voting — he disses machines and those screwy Florida ballots.

3. Under various decrees of the revolutionary command council, capital punishment can be handed out cruelly and whimsically in Iraq for a wide variety of offences. Guilt or innocence is irrelevant. This is reported only by a few outside human rights bodies. This would cease under an American-installed system. Instead, executions would be largely confined to black murderers, most of whom will probably be guilty, accused of murdering whites and too poor to afford a decent lawyer. This will be reported only by a few outside human-rights bodies.

This is insulting in the extreme. I oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, but the idea that the country that pioneered the concept of due process should have to take heat from this turd over methods is infuriating. He also makes no mention about the statistical correlation between violent crimes among blacks and black people who receive the death penalty. Come back with those numbers and then we’ll talk.

4. Under decree 59 of 1994, Iraqis can lose their right hand for theft of more than 5,000 dinars and their left foot for a second offence. This will presumably be replaced by the three-strikes law, ratified this month by the supreme court, under which Leandro Andrade has been jailed for 50 years for stealing nine videos and Gary Ewing got 25 years to life for the theft of three golf clubs.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. The three strikes laws are stupid and arbitrary because they fail to consider context. Also, during our get-tough-on-crime phase a lot of penalties that used to be misdemeanors are now felonies.

5. Any Iraqi journalist thought likely to ask Saddam Hussein a difficult question is now subject to the dictates of paragraph 3. The American way (as seen during the presidential press conference two weeks ago) provides for such people to be stuck at the back of the room and simply not called.

He’s talking about that old hack Helen Thomas who lost her coveted place in the front row after the White House got sick of answering her loaded questions and having her turn a press conference into a debate. They should have just kicked her off the front row when she left UPI — who owned that seat — but thought they should be nice to the old battle axe.

6. Saddam has been universally seen firing his gun indiscriminately and menacingly. Under the second amendment, this right would be extended to everyone.

Cute. Gun control has worked so well for Britain. Guns were banned and violent crime increased. You would think an island nation would be the perfect place for gun control to work, but no. He obviously has no use for the right to self-defense.

7. Saddam has conducted unnecessary and aggressive foreign wars to distract his benighted people from domestic economic collapse. Such behaviour would be unthinkable under American democracy.

Again, cute. First, Saddam is a dictator so it doesn’t matter how the economy performs. He’ll just tie dissenters to a pole in the middle of Baghdad and cut his tongue out — it happened last week. Better yet he’ll run dissenters through shredders meant for heavy-grade plastic as was reported recently by a female MP in Britain.

8. Under Saddam, prisoners are held secretly and without trial, and tortured to extract information. Ditto.

The torture charge is absurd and the people being held at Gitmo are living in a comparative Club Med compared to where they came from. There have been some encroachment on the Constitution regarding habeas corpus and the right to an attorney, but he’s overstating it and it will get fixed as it did last week with Jose’ Padilla.

9. The Iraqi system is largely dynastic and a leader like Saddam can pave the way for his son to attain wealth and power without regard to merit. Same again.

Elections asshole. That’s the difference.

10. Saddam “electronically bugged” UN weapons inspectors, President Bush said in his speech on Monday night. The US has not yet tried to refute the Observer story that it bugged private meetings of other security council members. It’s probably too busy to dignify it with an answer.

You’re probably right.

11. Saddam has also threatened his neighbours. A well-placed source in Chile reports that Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, informed the Chilean foreign minister that, if they didn’t do as they were told in the security council, their free trade treaty would not be ratified and loans would mysteriously cease. One small example.

Probably true, but what of it? Free trade with us is not a right for Chile. I must add I think its in our interest to have it, but politics involves hardball.

12. The National Assembly’s system of passing legislation has proved inadequate. Things are different here. When a Georgia congress man slipped in an exemption to organic food labelling rules into a recent bill to protect a firm that gave him a $4,000 campaign donation, it was noticed and criticised. True, the bill was already law before this happened, because no one in Congress had bothered to read it. But the US will ensure that the new legislature cannot be bought secretly for long. At least not that cheaply.

An argument for less government, though I doubt that’s what he’s suggesting.

13. There will be no setting fire to oil wells. We need that stuff, dammit.

The Iraqi people need it.

14. It would be impossible for a war to be conducted solely because one domineering leader forced a cowed and compliant parliament into agreement.

The new Iraq will be nothing like that. It could only happen in Britain.

He obviously didn’t see Tony Blair’s persuasive speech today at the House of Commons. Probably too busy writing this nonsense.

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