Sir Charles Napier
Even liberal Time Magazine sounds indignant:
When a Christian believer in a nation wholly dependent on U.S. support faces trial and possibly execution simply for embracing the same faith as the President of the United States, you’d think that country would be read the riot act. Instead, Washington’s response to the trial in Afghanistan of Abdul Rahman has been rather muted. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns has emphasized the U.S. commitment to freedom of worship, and urged the Afghan authorities to follow what he said was their own constitution’s commitment to the same principle. But, he added, the U.S. was not going to pressure the Afghan authorities on the matter. “This is a case that is not under the competence of the United States,” he said. “It is under the competence of the Afghan authorities. We hope that the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld, and in our view, if it is upheld, he will be found to be innocent.”
Mr. Bush said he was “deeply troubled.”
I’m troubled when I hear — deeply troubled when I hear that a person who has converted away from Islam may be held to account. That’s not the universal application of the values that I talked about.
So much for that Woodrow Wilson democracy stuff. If the primitive ragheads we liberated want to relapse into medieval barbarism, we need to revise our theories of political development.
Maybe the heathen Afghans, like the once primitive and blue-painted inhabitants of the British Isles, require a few centuries of closer intercourse with civilization under adult supervision, before they are, in fact, ready to assume their rightful place in the community of nations as a self-governing, independent, and democratic state. Democracy, pace Woodrow Wilson, contemporary expectations, and George W. Bush, is a system characteristic of intellectually advanced and comparatively enlightened states. Give some primitive savage the vote, and what he wants to vote for is liable to be precisely the kind of thing that ought to be illegal in the first place.
The United States ought to contact the government of Afghanistan, and quote what Sir Charles Napier, British commander-in-chief in India, told the Hindus regarding the practice of suttee (the burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyres).
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.