Edge of the West
Elvis In Baghdad
By Ron Scott Smith
Aug 14, 2005 - 7:26:00 PM

The opinions expressed on this page are those of the writer; they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canyon News.

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BADHDAD"I'd like to thank my three sisters, Kathy, Peggy and Barbara, and of course my wife, Jane. And I also want to acknowledge "my daughter Josie" and her nanny and the mailwoman and Irma at the checkout counter down at Vons."

Ok, the nanny, the mailwoman and the clerk weren't actually included in the nominee's acceptance speech, and he did thank his son. But when Federal Appeals Court Judge John G. Roberts took the podium to accept the nod from President Bush for the chance to become America's next justice of the Supreme Court, it did seem he was going a little out of his way to exhibit a bond with the females of the species.

It's not often that you hear guys thank their three sisters for much of anything, not even on Oscar night (which the nominee's speech brought to mind). Maybe it was just a little Tinsel Town flair. Or was he building a foundation for the looming battle over a woman's right to choose that awaits him in the upcoming confirmation process? It will be contentious, as he's the lawyer who wrote a brief that stated: "We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled." That's a fairly unambiguous statement.

Roberts will be confirmed, and so will another arch-conservative in the months to come when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist goes. It will turn the high court into the dream Karl Rove and his neo-con band of brothers have longed for, ever since they began grooming the young governor of Texas to be their point man. America will at long last get what this bunch are certain it has always wanted, a government steeped in fundamentalist religious rule. A government where the president won't have to parade children out in front of press conferences wearing T-shirts stating "This embryo was not discarded," using them as unwitting tools in a sanctimonious battle against evil stem-cell research. Because stem-cell research will likely be gone, along with anything that dares tamper with what they deem to be the sanctity of life, abortion, euthanasia, contraceptive devices, you name it. Of course unprovoked war, the death penalty, poverty, health care and an homeless epidemic are a few of the things they don't associate with the sanctity of life.

Political rule guided by fundamentalist religious principles works splendidly in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, and it's making its way right back into Afghanistan as the Taliban begins to rear its head again. Most noteworthy of all, fundamentalist rule is slowly taking hold in Iraq, whose luck seems to keep getting worse.

First they have to endure decades of tyrannical rule under Saddam Hussein. Next, their proud ancient nation is blown asunder by American military might, for any one of three reasons: to protect ourselves from the danger imposed by weapons of mass destruction; to retaliate for the devastating attacks on our homeland in 2001; to depose the murderous despot and introduce life-enhancing democracy in his wake. Because No. 1 turned out to be a lie and No. 2 is something Bush, Cheney and that bunch denies, No. 3 is the given rationale for the war, by default.

But, Houston or Crawford as it were we have a problem. The very democracy that thousands of Americans and tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died for, appears to be yielding a terrible, unintended result.

They elected the bad guys. "Our swords are thriving for the neck of barbers." So says the chilling note that has been handed out in barbershops and hair salons all over Baghdad. Beauty shops have been bombed and gunmen have fired indiscriminately into barbershops, killing kids who wait for the cut and the evildoers who man the scissors, in an effort to enforce strict Islamic teachings that forbid messing with a man's beard or the dispensing of a western-style haircut. Such "crimes" are punishable by death, say the fundamentalist enforcers, emboldened by the results of their free election. Do you think they would have handed those notes out under Saddam? Saddam had sideburns.

One Baghdad hairstylist was quoted, "They told us no sideburns or we would die," giving Elvis impersonators a very short time in the spotlight before they leave the building. But it's not just the king. "We can't sing in public anymore," said a pop singer from southern Iraq named Hussin Nimma. "We thought with the change of regime, people would be more open to singing, art and poetry. It's ironic."

It's ironic to the most grotesque degree. Our soldiers die in mass numbers to give a country freedom to take away even more freedom of its own citizens, all the while jacking up the hatred for America to boot. The sizable city of Basra in the south is reported to have fallen almost completely under fundamentalist rule, as unmarked cars cruise the streets carrying armed Islamic enforcers. Liquor salesmen are routinely killed, and physicians are beaten for treating women. "This is the democracy," said one shopkeeper there. "But there is no freedom in the streets for women."

Is it far-fetched to imagine an American woman saying something similar one day, while looking nervously up and down a dark alleyway as she exits an appointment with her doctor?

It is far-fetched, isn't it?



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