After the constitutional convention had met and ratified America's founding document, the story goes that a woman asked Benjamin Franklin (search) what kind of government they had given us.

"A democracy, madam, if you can keep it," Franklin is said to have replied.

In less than a week, the United States, Britain and their coalition partners will deliver something to the Iraqi people. It isn't a democracy. Not yet. It may never be. But our intention is to give them something better than what they suffered under for three decades — Saddam Hussein (search), one of the most notorious and evil dictators of all time.

As President Bush has pointed out, democracy is not the gift of men to other men. It is endowed by our creator and is the right of all men and women. But democracy, like a library book, must be renewed if its benefits are to be enjoyed.

Iraq has not known democracy. No nation in the Middle East has, except for Israel, and Israel is constantly hit upon as if it is illegitimate and its neighbors are pillars of the democratic process.

This transition is going to be difficult, as President Bush constantly reminds us. Terrorists have threatened to assassinate the interim prime minister, but I like his style. He has pledged to root out the terrorists and possibly declare martial law in some regions of the country.

Iraqis fighting outlaw Iraqis will look better than Americans doing it. After all it is their country. If they can keep it.

And that's Column One for this week.

To check out more Column One features,   click here.

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Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.