Monday, August 22, 2005

Iraqi Constitution - Big Mistake?

There is disturbing news coming out of Baghdad as negotiators are trying to hammer out a draft Constitution by the deadline of midnight tonight local time (430pm EDT). According to radio reports and the WaPo:

The draft also stipulates that Iraq is an Islamic state and that no law can contradict the principles of Islam, Shiite and Kurdish negotiators said. Opponents have charged that last provision would subject Iraqis to religious edicts by individual clerics.

The Shiite and Kurdish negotiators also said draft calls for the presence of Islamic clerics on the court that would interpret the constitution. Family matters such as divorce, marriage or inheritance would be decided either by religious law or civil law as an individual chooses -- a condition that opponents say would likely lead to women being forced into unfavorable rulings for them by opponents demanding judgments under Islamic law.

If this is true this could be a disastrous misstep for the Bush administration and significantly impair our efforts to create a democratic, secular and pro-Western country in the heart of the Middle East.

It appears that the Bush administration, which has doggedly worked within timelines that it has set, e.g., the handover of sovereignty and the national elections , may have followed its heretofore formula too faithfully this time:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad kept up days of pressure on negotiators to complete the constitution, giving his sanction to the provisions on Islamic law, negotiators said.

Washington has been pushing hard to stick to a timeline on government-building that would allow for a significant troop withdrawal as soon as early next spring.

In its effort to stay within the timeline and the belief that any delays would only encourage the terrorists the US may have compromised too much. We have NO BUSINESS in encouraging the formation of an Islamic Republic where Islam the primary or main source of legislation. Clerics certainly should not be serving on the equivalent of a Supreme Court. Better I think to force them back to the negotiating table and eat more delays or perhaps even another election.

The thoughtful Andrew McCarthy at NRO had this to say:

For what it’s worth, this is where I get off the bus. The principal mission of the so-called “war on terror” – which is actually a war on militant Islam – is to destroy the capacity of the international network of jihadists to project power in a way that threatens American national security. That is the mission that the American people continue to support.

As those who follow these pages may know, I have been despairing for a long time over the fact that the principal mission has been subordinated by what I’ve called the “democracy diversion” – the administration’s theory that the (highly dubious) prospect of democratizing Iraq and the Islamic world will quell the Islamists...

Now, if several reports this weekend are accurate, we see the shocking ultimate destination of the democracy diversion. In the desperation to complete an Iraqi constitution – which can be spun as a major step of progress on the march toward democratic nirvana – the United States of America is pressuring competing factions to accept the supremacy of Islam and the fundamental principle no law may contradict Islamic principles.
But even if I suspended disbelief for a moment and agreed that the democracy project is a worthy casus belli, I am as certain as I am that I am breathing that the American people would not put their brave young men and women in harm’s way for the purpose of establishing an Islamic government. Anyplace.

It is not our place to fix what ails Islam. But it is utter recklessness to avert our eyes from the fact that militant Islam thrives wherever Islam reigns. That is a fact. When and where militant Islam thrives, America and the West are endangered. That is also a fact. How can we possibly be urging people who wisely don’t want it to accept the government-institutionalized supremacy of Islam?

Indeed the Sunnis can stil block the Constitution if two thirds of the voters in any three provinces vote against it. I'd hate to leave the future of Iraq in the hands of the Sunnis, many of whom have supported the terrorists and hope they do the right thing.

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