You're never too big to learn something. You can be the U.S. of A., defender of apple pie and motherhood and the biggest and sharpest superpower on the block, and you can still pick up a few pointers from the small fry.

Kuwait, for instance. Those fun-loving Kuwaitis have been busy cleaning up the mess the Iraqis left behind, and what an instructive job they've been doing of it!Not just the gold faucets, of course. Everybody understood that when a country's been invaded and occupied, looted and pillaged and all the rest, the first thing you want to do when you get back home is put the gold faucets back on the royal sinks.

The second thing you want to do is get even.

Which is why the Kuwaiti government has already accused 300 or so people of collaborating with the Iraqis during the recent unpleasantness. They've started putting some of them on trial. They've also finished putting some of them on trial, which is the sort of thing you can do when you don't get hung up on presenting evidence and hearing from witnesses and such.

Luckily, the Kuwaiti judges haven't let those little shortcuts - or, for that matter, clever arguments from defense attorneys - stand in the way of reaching verdicts or handing down sentences. Actually, according to Western reporters, there haven't been many clever arguments by defense attorneys, mostly because the attorneys were only given their cases minutes before the trials started and were never told what their instant clients were accused of.

There was one sentence you might have heard about: a man who got 15 years in prison for wearing a T-shirt with Saddam Hussein's picture on it. At least, that's the only crime that was ever mentioned in court. Over at the State Department, the official spokeswoman was pleased that the trials were "open," though she did say she thought 15 years for a T-shirt offense was "a little steep."

Wrong. It's not "a little steep." It's "a little lesson" - something we can learn from the Kuwaitis, another way to improve Life in These United States. In fact, nearly everything the Kuwaitis have been doing lately has something to teach us.

You think about our judicial system, for instance, and what do you think of first? Delay, right? Everything takes forever. Cases never come to trial, and when they do, the trials take forever. Not in Kuwait: They can whip through 20-odd defendants in 55 minutes or so.

What else do you think of? Money, right? Everything takes forever and your lawyer is charging by the hour. By the time you're finished, you're finished. Not in Kuwait: How much can a lawyer charge for three minutes of work?

Do it the way the Kuwaitis do it, and you save time and money. But it's not just their procedural innovations we ought to be considering; it's the big picture, too. The Kuwaitis - it's so obvious, isn't it? - are committed to getting rid of visual clutter, the bane of so many civilized societies. If that means getting Saddam Hussein T-shirts off the streets, so be it.

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