Politicians Urge Grassroots Citizens to Arm
Themselves against Terrorist Savagery
Amidst unrelenting and harrowing terrorist carnage,
prominent Iraqi politicians are resorting to an idea
prominent in the minds of America's own Founding Fathers,
and explicitly enshrined in our Constitution - the right of
individual citizens to keep and bear arms for their own
These politicians' pleas that civilians arm themselves
reflected their growing recognition and frustration that
Iraqi police and American troops simply cannot be
omnipresent to prevent terrorist butchery.
Even more fundamentally, however, their pleas recognize
the basic fact that free citizens, whether in Iraq, America
or any other society, possess a pre-existing right of
Day after day, even as the American military surge
cleanses anarchic areas that it has reached, new corpses of
tortured and mutilated men, women and even children are
found scattered across Baghdad and other violent areas. In
fact, the al Qaeda savagery has become so horrific that it
has undermined its own cause, creating a grassroots disgust
and consequent armed revolt.
This unsurprising recognition of reality spans both
Shi'ite and Sunni factions, each beset by gory kidnappings
and violence. For example, Shi'ite Turkman politician Abbas
al-Bayati announced this week that the Iraqi government,
unable to provide enough security forces, should help
citizens "arm themselves" for their own protection.
His sentiment was echoed by Taraq al-Hashemi, Iraq's
Sunni Vice President, who stated that "people have a right
to expect from the government and security agencies
protection for their lives, land, honor and property." He
continued, however, "but in the case of [the government's]
inability, the people have no choice but to take up for
their own defense." He proceeded to add that the government
itself should provide local communities with money, weapons
and training for this self-protection.
As reported by the Associated Press, the concept of
citizens organizing to arm themselves against predatory
kidnapping, torture and murder has gained increasing support
after Sunni tribes in Anbar Province recently drove al Qaeda
terrorist elements from their towns and villages. Based
upon this success, Lieutenant General Ali Gheidan stated
that the Iraqi army seeks to raise volunteer forces in
Diyala Province, where American and Iraqi troops have
expelled al Qaeda terrorists from its capital city Baqouba.
According to the AP, he reported that 3,800 citizen
volunteers had already been recruited.
American officials concurred, saying that they hope to
repeat what they labeled the "Anbar Model" in other parts of
Iraq. For some time, American commanders have questioned
whether regular Iraqi army and police could prevent
terrorists from returning once American troops had
departed. Thus the realization that armed Iraqi citizens
constitute the best long-term answer against elusive
This sentiment, of course, would be quite familiar to our
own Founding Fathers, who recognized the pre-existing right
to keep and bear arms against lawlessness and tyranny,
whether individualized or governmental. Like many Iraqis
today, most Americans at the time lived in remote areas or
otherwise lacked a sufficient professional police force.
Accordingly, the framers of our Constitution specifically
included the Second Amendment as a declaration of the
fundamental right to protect one's safety and liberty.
Indeed, English common-law commentator William Blackstone
observed even earlier that that individual citizens' right
to keep and bear arms was auxiliary to the natural right of
self-preservation. In turn, that right to self-preservation
meant the right to defend oneself against attacks by both
individual criminals and a tyrannical government.
One needn't recall the Founding Fathers, however, for
illustrations of the Second Amendment's value in American
history. More recent American experience also reflects the
wisdom of the Iraqi politicians' pronouncements.
In the 1992 Los Angeles riots, for instance, Korean
shopowners were targeted for looting and murder based solely
upon their ethnicity, just as Iraqi Shi'ites or Sunnis are
targeted for theirs. Americans everywhere will recall that
these Korean immigrants were able to protect their lives and
precious property in the absence of police protection only
because they armed themselves and stood atop their rooftops
against the rioters.
The Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943 against Nazi
oppressors serves as yet another example of oppressed
citizens taking up arms to defend themselves against
Simply put, the lesson that citizens possess a
pre-existing right to arm themselves for protection against
individual terror and governmental tyranny is repeated again
and again throughout history. Whether in colonial America,
1943 Warsaw or 2007 Iraq, law-abiding citizens must remain
vigilant in protecting this right. Where they fail to do
so, terror and tyranny often follow.