Today we are assured with confidence that Arabs, consumed by tribe or religion or whatever, don't really care about freedom either. On Jan. 30 millions of Iraqis said otherwise. They really do care about the right to speak freely and to vote secretly, the ordinary elements of democratic citizenship.So wrote conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer on Feb. 4. I wonder what he’ll say about this news from over the weekend?
Iraq's Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and another top cleric today staked out a radical demand that Islam be the sole source of legislation in the country's new constitution.
None of which is to deny or downplay the prudence of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime or the significance of Iraq's first multiparty elections in half a century. But it does seem worth remembering that democracy, when wrenched from the principle of limited government, can be just as tyrannical as any dictatorship. As Burke observed more than two centuries ago:
Of this I am certain, that in a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority, whenever strong divisions prevail in that kind of polity, as they often must; and that oppression of the minority will extend to far greater numbers, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single sceptre.
In such a popular persecution, individual sufferers are in a much more deplorable condition than in any other. Under a cruel prince they have the balmy compassion of mankind to assuage the smart of their wounds; they have the plaudits of the people to animate their generous constancy under their sufferings: but those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes, are deprived of all external consolation. They seem deserted by mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of their whole species.