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Sunday, October 16, 2005

The proposed Iraqi constitution will not bring freedom to Iraq or security to America

An op-ed from the Ayn Rand Institute:

The Advent of Freedom?

By Onkar Ghate

As the world eagerly watches the Iraqi constitutional referendum, the
Bush administration and its intellectual supporters herald the
occasion as a historic step toward freedom in the Middle East and
security for America. This view betrays an appalling ignorance of the
nature of freedom and the requirements of our national self-interest.

Politically, as America's Founding Fathers understood, to be free is
to possess the ability to exercise one's rights to life, liberty,
property, and the pursuit of happiness. To be free means that no other
men, whatever their number or position, can coercively prevent an
individual from taking the steps rationally required to support his
life. It means no one can force him to accept beliefs or dogmas,
control what he can or cannot say, seize the material wealth he has
produced and earned, or dictate the goals he must live for.

A constitution is valuable only if it strictly delimits the power of
government to that of protecting each individual's rights. History
demonstrates that government is, potentially, the worst violator of
man's rights. A proper constitution declares off-limits any
governmental action that would trespass on an individual's rights, no
matter whether that action is proposed in the name of the king, the
common good, God, or public morality.

The draft Iraqi constitution, however, grants virtually unlimited
power to the state.

As liberals have demanded in America for over a century, private
property will be eviscerated. Although the proposed constitution
nominally protects property rights, it explicitly allows that private
property can be seized by the government "for the public interest." By
contrast, public property "is sacrosanct, and its protection is the
duty of every citizen." (In practice, this means that if the
government takes a citizen's money, business or home, he must stand
aside--and then defend with his life what the government has stolen
from him.) The state will dictate whether an Iraqi can sell land to
foreigners. It will manage the oil. It will provide to its hapless
citizens "free" education and health care, "a correct environmental
atmosphere," and work "that guarantees them a good life."

The government will also, as conservatives have long dreamed for
America, enforce religious morality. "Islam," Article 2 declares, "is
the official religion of the state and is a basic source of
legislation: No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed
rules of Islam." Experts in Islamic law will sit on the Supreme Court.
The state will guarantee protection of motherhood and the "ethical and
religious value" of the family. Citizens will have freedom of speech,
of press, of assembly--so long as no one says or does anything that
violates "public morality," i.e., the dogmas of Islam.

And as if to leave no doubt that the state can exert total control
over the individual's life, Article 45 adds that the government can
restrict or limit "any of the freedoms and liberties stated in the
constitution . . . as long as this restriction or limitation does not
undermine the essence of the right or freedom." Of course, part of the
essence of any right or freedom is that it is inviolable.

We in America had no reason to expect freedom from the drafters of
Iraq's constitution. Like many of our own intellectuals on the left
and the right (some of whom were advisers in Iraq), Iraqi
intellectuals are either tribal or religious collectivists (or both).
Whichever the case, they deny the individual and his rights. The
tribalists deny material independence to the individual and seek to
control his every economic step. The religionists, more numerous and
powerful, deny spiritual independence to the individual and seek to
dictate his every conviction and purpose in life. It is no accident
that the draft constitution is both "keen to advance Iraqi tribes and
clans" and eager to promote Islam. Freedom's intellectual
preconditions do not exist in Iraq.

In the long term, whether Iraq's religious collectivists seize the
machinery of state by a protracted, bloody civil war or by the ballot
box will make no difference to America's security.

Nor did we have any reason to think that our self-defense requires, at
the price of our soldiers' lives, "imposing freedom" on Iraq or the
Middle East. It is true that free nations pose no threat to us. But
neither do semi-barbarous nations when they and their citizens are
demoralized--when they know that taking up arms against us guarantees
their devastation. This is the lesson America's military should have
taught the Islamic totalitarians and their legions of collectivist
supporters and sympathizers in the Middle East after 9/11--indeed,
after Iran's embassy takeover in 1979. But this is not the lesson
conveyed by Operation Iraqi Freedom, which espouses Bush's "calling of
our time": selflessly to bring freedom to those hostile to the idea.

Freedom is an intellectual achievement, which requires disavowal of
collectivism and embrace of individualism. Sadly, no matter what the
referendum's result, this is not what we are witnessing in Iraq.

Onkar Ghate is Dean of the Objectivist Academic Center at the Ayn
Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes the ideas of Ayn
Rand--best-selling author of Atlas Shrugged and The
and originator of the philosophy of Objectivism.

Copyright (c) 2005 Ayn Rand(R) Institute. All rights reserved.

The Ayn Rand Institute, 2121 Alton Pkwy, Ste 250, Irvine, CA 92606


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