Saddam Hussein has been sentenced by an Iraqi Court. The coverage on this side of the blogosphere has shared in the pleasure of the Iraqis; they are celebrating in the street, feeling justice has been done. Some also put the moment into perspective. For comments & many links, see Austin Bay, Iraq the Model, Gateway Pundit, Pajamas Media and Instapundit.
Perhaps the greater poignancy, though, is how the Iraqis are trying to find their way to the imperfect but relative order we have found in the rule of law. They have begun the difficult task of bringing order from disorder, the rule of law from the rule of blood. And we can reach back into our heritage and help them.
Instead some of us reject that very heritage. That some see this as timed for our elections is a bit discouraging. But worse is Ramsay Clark, once our attorney general. And we may well be concerned for our own future if views such as his prevail.
My students in American lit are reading in that great period of the American Renaissance and I am reminded again and again of the power of the vision that got us through April 1865. The vision that inspired the founders gave strength to those who saw something larger than themselves: elections were held in the midst of a civil war, a president was assassinated, that war ended. Lee’s surrender was treated with respect because Grant, Lee, & Lincoln acknowledged the value of democacy, law, respect for others.
Lincoln’s great fear was that should they lose their way they risked democracy itself: that unique American government, proven too fragile to serve as model, would demonstrate not its strength but its weakness. He (and others of his time as well as those of “fourscore and seven” years before) had a great sense of purpose. This faith has been lost by those like Ramsay Clark, who believe Iraq should not try its own, should not attempt the rule of law. One reason they give is the violence but it is because of the eternal threat of violence that such order should be constructed. A man who should understand doesn’t, diminishing what our ancestors sacrificed to give us.
That we have a history full of our mistakes is without question. If the founders had dealt with slavery, we might have been early rather than late comers to its abolition; slavery would not have destroyed generations of African-American lives nor would 650,000 men have been slaughtered in the Civil War. But we found our way out through the rule of law and a humility before the importance of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”