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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Iraq's constitution and the New York Times wisdom

On Monday night, the Iraqi constitutional committee submitted a draft constitution to the national assembly despite vocal Arab Sunni opposition to some of its provisions. The parliament will vote and most likely pass the draft later this week. Optimistic observers think Arab Sunnis could still be convinced to accept a constitution that defines the country as Islamic rather than Arab, and a federal system that distributes oil revenues according to population size in each province. The US reportedly put great pressure on the Shia and the Kurds to reach a quick compromise and meet the extended deadline. The Arab Sunnis, thought to "form the backbone of the insurgency" as it is popular to say these days, refused to stick to the deadline and apparently wanted more time to bargain (nevermind that poor and helpless Iraqi citizens continue to get blown up by an idiot and truly terrorist insurgency and screwed by a corrupt government of illiterate brutes).

But oh wait. Displeased with the hastiness in submitting the draft, the New York Times today lashed out at the Bush administration for letting "an arbitrary deadline trump its responsibility to promote inclusiveness, women's rights and the rule of law. "

The editorial tries to make a few good points. One of them is

The draft got to the assembly ahead of this latest deadline, a week later than Washington wanted, only by sidelining until almost the last moment the Sunni Arabs who had so painstakingly been added to the drafting group earlier this year. Since the Bush administration has promoted the constitution as a way to drain support from Sunni insurgents, this exclusionary move was reckless and indefensible.

It continues:

The Sunnis overwhelmingly favor a strong central government. With them out of the negotiations, the theocratically inclined Shiites and the separatist-minded Kurds found it easy to cut a deal that favored their narrow interests at national expense. The draft would reportedly allow the Kurds to reinforce their autonomy under a weak federal government. The religious Shiites pushed to enshrine Islam in the constitution and the legal system, all the way up through the Supreme court.

Now, I am no fan of theocratic regimes, but what is it exactly that ticks the New York Times? Using terms like "narrow interests", "Separatist-minded Kurds," and "religious shiites" is a very stupid and reductionist way of looking at the situation. Sure, blame it on the Iran-loving Shia whom the Times think want another Iran in Iraq. And may the world collapse if Islam is mentioned as one source of legislation.

The problem is NOT THERE.

The problem is that the New York Times editorial section editor is not aware of Iraq's history with centralised government and autocratic centres of power. He/she also cannot complain about what direction the constitution takes, especially when this very paper is responsible for advocating regime change in Iraq. If the majority of people in Iraq reach a consensus that secular minded people like us hate, then too bad for us. The problem is that, like the US administration, which I actually believe is, for the first time, is right in urging those leaders to get it over with and reach a compromise-- the problem is that people like the writer of that editorial and another related breed of Middle East "experts" think that Iraqis can live and breath American demoracy at the first sight of a tank. They pretend to know what is good for them, and this in their minds excludes a document that mentions that wretched religion... Islam!

Whoever wrote that editorial should read the Iraqi press. People couldn't care less about some definition in a constitution that is bound to become symbolic anyway, as it is in many, many countries, including this one. Iraqis care about their economy, security, and electricity supply. And unlike the editors at the Times, they do want to get it over with quickly, that dull constitution business.

So please, Mr or Ms New York Times editor, with your infinite wisdom and nationbuilding expertise, do tell us what kind of constitution works best for Iraq, that nation that was glued together by force and that is disintegrating thanks to that same force that I shall not name. And while you're at it, set a time limit for it all. But kindly be mindful that Iraqis are expiring fast.

Americans continue dying in Iraq, but their mission creeps steadily downward. The nonexistent weapons of mass destruction dropped out of the picture long ago. Now the United States seems ready to walk away from its fine words about helping the Iraqis create a beacon of freedom, harmony and democracy for the Middle East. All that remains to be seen is whether the White House has become so desperate for an excuse to declare victory that it will settle for an Iranian-style Shiite theocracy.

Did I hear nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? Where is Judith Miller when you need her? Oh right, she is in jail.

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