The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a advocacy group partly funded with U.S. government money, has sent out a press release in support of rights for Iraqi women. Basically it is raising the alarm that the provisional constitution about to be adopted declares that the source of Iraqi law is Islam, and that women are not guaranteed rights equal to men’s.
I have several problems with this. The first is the Foundation, which, in accepting State Department and USAID money, blurs its identity. Is it a private foundation or is it an arm of the government? If it is the government, then it is using taxpayer money to lobby itself. This problem is one reason why government should not fund advocacy groups.
This leads to the second problem, which is whether Americans have any business telling Iraqis what to put in their constitution—particularly if it is not a private foundation speaking, but the U.S. government.
The press release says a delegation of Iraqi women will be having a press conference to demand rights in Iraq’s new constitution. And where is the press conference? In Baghdad? No, it is in Washington, D.C. The Iraqi women are lobbying the occupying power.
What shall the occupying power do? Insist on women’s rights? It is what Americans believe (though, except for voting rights, we do not have an explicit guarantee of gender equality in our own Constitution.) We may cheer if the Iraqis propose an Equal Rights Amendment for their constitution, but to make that choice for them would be to exercise the prerogatives of a conqueror. And, if we do this, do we also insist on Iraqi freedom of the press? Iraqi freedom from arbitrary arrest? Iraqi freedom to bear arms? Separation of Mosque and State? Does conquest give us the right to do this?
I'm aware that the United States basically wrote the Japanese Constitution after World War II, including the famous article that forbids any offensive military capability. But offensive forces have to do with the security of other nations, and those nations had reason to be afraid of Japan. The civil rights of women in Iraq does not concern the national security of the United States, or even Kuwait.
Reply to Bruce.