Friday, October 21, 2005

Honoring the Process of Justice

One of Saddam's lawyers was abducted by 10 armed men. He was found dead later with two bullets through his head. I think this is a terrible thing. I can understand the psychology of those who hate Saddam, but attacking the mechanisms of justice cannot lead to a better society.

I'm sure some Americans resented Johnny Cochran for representing OJ in a murder trial where he was obviously guilty. However, most Americans, on both sides of that case, understand sufficiently how justice works, and Johnny Cochran was as widely admired, even after the acquittal, as OJ had once been. If Cochran had been attacked during the trial, Americans would have been united in anger at the attackers for tampering with justice. I am not expecting Iraqis to unite in anger over the murder of Saddam's defense attorney.

The difference is that we have a civic religion about the mechanisms of government and justice that the Iraqis have not had time to develop. For instance, criminals who threaten or kill witnesses evoke a sense of horror far beyond the original crime. In Iraq, it's just business as usual.

This is a teachable moment for Iraq. I'm hoping for a dramatic response from the judge and the Iraqi government.

10/21/2005 1:43 PM

UPDATE 10/24/2005 08:11AM
Iraq the Model has a discussion of this issue with a sprinkling of insightful comments added by readers. He concatenates the recent destruction of the statue of Abu Jaafar, who built Baghdad. I was given pause by one particular comment:

The American revolution remains a model because it was NOT taken over by the most radical elements after victory was secured. France didn't get this and priests and nobility were slaughtered while the people celebrated their coming freedom without considering how liberty would be secured if that liberty was denied to those they defeated. I pray that the people of Iraq take heed of these two similar events and note which one got it right for the long run. ...

I agree. People in the US still underestimate the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, how fortuitous the whole situation was. With the Shiite militias still running loose, Iraq has a problem. The Iraqi government, being Shiia-based, may well not wish to suppress them.

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At Saturday, October 22, 2005 9:21:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

JJ, is it because we are among the few societies that is raised within a social contract with ourselves?

At Saturday, October 22, 2005 10:30:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

That's an interesting theory. You're suggesting that the habit of democracy, maybe as practiced normally among all kinds of groups in the US, from little boys' tree-house clubs to New England town meetings, leads to this civic religion? Since we don't have a king, since there's no "natural order" handed down, since tradition gets little respect, we therefore fall back on our shared responsibility?

For me, I think my grandfather taught me to respect the Constitution before I knew what it was. He told me what to expect from judges and juries and why. I also had a male history teacher in 7th grade who got emotional about all the mechanisms and documents of the US government, as far back as the Magna Carta.

I think movies may have had something to do with it. 12 Angry Men. High Noon. Mr. Smith goes to Washington. How about the Untouchables on television? Judge Judy! Sesame Street even! I think we are inculcated with the values of our society in a million ways. Those values just happen to include a very different set of prejudices and predilections than the Iraqis hold. We, ourselves, are often untrue to our own values. You can understandably expect the Iraqis to have great difficulties in this area for a long time to come.


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