Sunday, August 07, 2005


The American ambassador to Iraq has been “warning” Shiites about not trying to undermine the rights of women (an article on that here) and minorities in the draft constitution. So what exactly is the relationship between the US and that process? Some clarity is called for. Do we consider ourselves to have a veto? If the answer to that is yes, then we are treating the supposedly sovereign Iraqis in a paternalistic and demeaning manner which will remove any legitimacy from the constitution. If no, we are neglecting the duties we accepted when we decided to occupy another country, and our 130,000 troops will be in the position of protecting by force of arms this stripping away of human rights. Yup, it’s a no-win situation, but one that’s inherent in the occupation of another country.

Viewed from the outside, the Iraqis seem to be fighting mostly over words rather than details. Will Islam be “the main source” of Iraqi law or “a main source.” Will Arabic be the only “official language,” whatever that means, or will Kurdish be a second official language. Will the state be called a “federal” one.

Speaking of fights over words, James Dobson this week compared stem-cell research to the ouvre of Nazi concentration-camp doctors, to a certain amount of outcry, but I want to point to on another word he used to characterize that research, utilitarian, which I’ve noticed beginning to crop up in this argument as a term of abuse. Because the last thing you’d want in medical research is utilitarianism. You know, it’s late and I don’t feel like coming up with a clever way to segue to a mention of Jeremy Bentham directing that after his death [1832] he be publicly dissected for the edification of the general public and his body be kept on display, which it still is to this day. Dammit, if I feel like inserting a picture of the very late Jeremy Bentham, that’s just what I’m gonna do.

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