Media Forget History of American Constitution When Reporting on Iraq's

October 12th, 2005 2:26 PM

For two days, all parts of the American press have been reporting a "constitutional compromise" which has "gained the support of a main Sunni political party." With this compromise, it is expected that upwards of half the Sunnis (a 20% minority in Iraq) will support its new Constitution, and it will be ratified in the vote on Saturday.

All well and good. But hasn't anyone in the press recalled certain adventures of James Madison? (He was in all the papers.) We in the United States have been through exactly the same process. But NO ONE in the American press has, so far, remembered and mentioned that fact.

There was a bitter fight between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists in Philadelphia in 1787, whether we would have a new Constitution. And if so, what would be the powers of the new federal government. When the Constitution was submitted to Congress for its review, and afterwards to the states for their ratification, that same fight spilled out to the state capitols.

The Constitution missed defeat by only 10 votes in Virginia, by only 3 votes in New York. Ratification delegates in those two states, and in a majority of the other states, demanded the immediate promulgation of a Bill of Rights as the price of accepting the Constitution. Any member of the press who has a marginally competent education in the history of the United States should know this.

More than 200 state demands for amendments were placed in the hands of James Madison, a newly elected Congressman from Virginia. He distilled them into 17 amendments which passed the House. Twelve of those passed the Senate, and 11 were ultimately adopted as the Bill of Rights. (The 27th Amendment, ratified in 1992, was part of Madison's work.)

Why is this relevant today? The compromise struck in Iraq to assure ratification of its new Constitution is EXACTLY what happened in the United States between 1787 and 1789. It makes more sense to American readers to explain foreign events as a compare and contrast with events here. But that counts on somebody (Anybody? Anybody? in Ben Stein's voice) in the American press to know our own history and recognize the parallels.

Anyone interested in the Bill of Rights as the price paid for ratification of the US Constitution can read about it in the Introduction to Robert Yates' Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention to Form the US Constitution, facsimile reprint, Birmingham Public Library, 1987. And anyone who reads that Introduction will understand more about current events in Iraq than the entire American press.