Feature

Iraq’s constitution

Is it a step forward?

For this, we fought a war? said Robert Scheer in the Los Angeles Times. Iraqi leaders have now finalized their constitution, which was supposed to be the blueprint for a secular democracy worthy of the 2,000 lives and $300 billion the United States has lost in this war of choice. Instead, Iraq now stands poised to become a 'œrepressive' theocracy combining the 'œinstability of Lebanon with the religious fanaticism of Iran.' The new constitution, which Iraqis will vote on in October, proclaims Islam to be Iraq's 'œofficial religion' and 'œa basic source of legislation.' It assigns Islamic clerics a crucial role in civil matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, thus guaranteeing second-class status to women. And with the Sunnis feeling shafted by the division of power with Shiites and Kurds, all signs point to a prolonged, Sunni-led insurgency. 'œWhat an absurd outcome for a war designed to create a compliant, unified, and stable client state.'

'œHere's a radical thought,' said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. 'œHow about letting Iraqis debate and vote' on the constitution before we 'œsummarily denounce it as a failure?' By Middle East standards, in fact, the charter is 'œa great achievement.' Despite its Islamic framework, it 'œpromises to protect human rights, including free speech and the right to worship.' It even applies 'œthe very American principle of federalism,' giving the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds strong say in their own governance. In the end, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, Iraq may well fracture into three 'œde facto self-governing entities,' united by 'œthe shell' of a largely fictional central government. 'œSo what?' Iraq did not exist until it was created by the British, and it would be no tragedy to let each faction rule itself.

Let's not pretend that Sunni alienation doesn't matter, said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. If two-thirds of the voters in three of the 18 provinces vote 'œno' on the constitution, it's dead. That would bring us back to 'œsquare one,' with elections for a new government and the writing of a new constitution—pushing any U.S. withdrawal further into the future. Even if the constitution is approved, said The New York Times in an editorial, it's hard to envision a scenario that gets our troops home. Keeping a 'œloose federation of semi-autonomous regions' from spinning into chaos will take an incredible amount of political will, backed by military might. 'œThere is no point pretending that this is Philadelphia in 1787. It is Baghdad in 2005.'

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