Skeptics often ask whether Muslims are capable of democratic self-government. Most often the implied supposition is that they could not possibly be. But two current political struggles suggest that Muslims, like any people, are capable of standing up for democracy. Pakistan has been ruled, since a military coup in 1999, by General Pervez Musharraf. The nations lawyers are now resisting the generals suspension this spring of Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, for what they regard as trumped-up charges of abuse of power and nepotism. Their resistance has become a mass movement. As Chaudrys defenders see it, he is being railroaded for investigating Pakistans notorious intelligence services and for being a potential obstacle to Musharrafs running for a third term despite an agreement to stand aside to let normal democratic elections return government to civilian leadership.
In Turkey, a secular state with a majority Muslim government, the parliament has approved a constitutional amendment permitting direct election of the president. The crisis is a two-sided one. On the one hand, indirect election of the president has until now guaranteed the election of a secularist to the countrys highest office, who in turn has preserved the secularism of the state. On the other, the majority Islamic party, whose candidate is likely to win a popular election, is a moderate one that has so far moved Turkey on a centrist, Western-oriented path.
These developments in Pakistan and Turkey demonstrate that the desire for limited, democratic government lives in the Muslim world. What remains to be seen is whether the military in both countries will permit these movements to grow or will block their forward movement.
A LOST GENERATION
Children in war-torn countries receive less education aid from wealthy nations than do children in stable middle-income countries. A recent report by Save the Children, Last in Line, Last in School, asserts that most donor countries prioritize their educational assistance in a manner that shortchanges poor nations embroiled in conflict. Only 18 percent of donor education aid goes to the latter, while almost 50 percent goes to middle-income nationsin part because donors like to see a return for their funding. But even in the midst of conflict, education can go forward. A spokesperson for Save the Children told America that the key lies in finding safe spaces, which can be in refugee camps, in someones house or even under a tree. In fact, one of the Save the Childrens signature activities is to set up tents that can be used for schooling. A school, she added, does not have to be a buildinga view shared by other human rights groups in conflict areas.
When conflicts erupt, teachers are often forced into armed groups or simply flee. Children themselves may become targets for recruitment as child soldiers or be exploited as cheap labor. The result, says the study, is a lost generation of children who are unprepared...to help rebuild their countries when conflicts eventually end. Education, it emphasizes, is a key to the kind of political development that can help stave off warfare and advance economic development.
From his ranch in Crawford, Tex., President George W. Bush dismissed reports that Congress would move to a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales as the kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in the way Washington operates. In contrast, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, predicted that a significant number of Republicans would join a vote expressing their lack of confidence in the embattled attorney general. In several appearances before the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Gonzales has given conflicting testimony about possible political bias in the decision to fire several U.S. attorneys.
But the testimony most damaging to the attorney general did not directly address the resignations in question. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 15, 2007, described a confrontation in March 2004 with Mr. Gonzales, then White House counsel, in the hospital room where former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in intensive care with a severe case of pancreatitis. When the Justice Department refused to authorize the renewal of a program of secret surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, Mr. Gonzales hoped to have Mr. Ashcroft overrule his deputy from his hospital bed. With a show of strength that surprised Mr. Comey, Mr. Ashcroft confirmed his personal support of the position taken by the Justice Department and reminded Mr. Gonzales that Mr. Comey was attorney general while Mr. Ashcroft was hospitalized.
Former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, a strong supporter of President Bush in the war on terror, after reviewing Mr. Comeys testimony, declared Mr. Gonzales to be a villain who should resign. Hizzoner suggested that James Comey be the Republican candidate for president in 2008.