Monday, August 22, 2005 at 11:00 AM

The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias & Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Besides the role of Islam, control of oil production will determine the character and viability of Iraq’s governing authority…

This evening at midnight, in Baghdad, the arbitrary 7-day extension the National Assembly granted itself to complete Iraq’s contentious draft constitution expires. And, in order to form a more perfect union, Iraqi Shias and Kurds (who together comprise 80% of the assembly) seem prepared to discard the Sunnis and approve a draft that essentially protects their respective interests: For Shias – homage to religion that would make Islam a main source of legislation (thereby empowering authoritarian clerics) and a proportionate share of Iraq’s oil revenues; and for Kurds – homage to federalism that would ensure demarcated boundaries and virtual self-rule under a governing system that protects them from Shia political and religious hegemony (under Islamic Sharia law).

Of course, such a pyrrhic outcome would only mean that the Iraqi drafters have successfully emulated the framers of the Constitution of the United States. After all, the American founding fathers compromised their political (and moral) principles to approve a draft constitution that not only protected their respective interests but also discarded Blacks and women, counting blacks as only three fifths of a person and denying women the right to vote.

But, just as this compromise led inexorably to a bloody American civil war, so too will running rough shod over Sunnis lead to civil war – if the Iraqi founding fathers do not take whatever time is necessary to vest the respective interests of all major constituent groups in their draft constitution in some equitable fashion.

The Iraqi National Assembly: Voting to bide time or build a nation?

Indeed, the timetable being imposed by the Americans for drafting and ratifying the Iraqi Constitution is not only untenable but also hypocritical. After all, it took the American framers over 6 years to draft their constitution (1781-1787). And, so far, the Iraqis have had only 6 months to contend with even more intractable concerns than the Americans faced (i.e., concerns for which rights are not so self-evident).

By the same token, it’s myopic and foolhardy for the Bush Administration to force the Iraqis to approve a document that holds together like oil and water just to quell political opposition at home. Yet the Americans seem prepared to do just that despite pleas from the Sunni for President Bush to block any draft that does not have their express consent.

Clearly, the words of the prescient and war-wary former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell are coming back to haunt Bush and his armchair generals at the Pentagon. Powell warned them that the pottery barn rule would be in effect if America invaded Iraq: you break it, you own it. His counsel meant that America’s obligation would extend not only to “standing up Iraqi security forces” but also to building government institutions and infrastructure to make Iraq a fully viable country – just as it did for Japan after “breaking it” during World War II.

Therefore, instead of planning to pullout, the Bush Administration should be drawing up plans to deploy more troops to Iraq – for a mission that will likely last 40 years, not the 4 being proffered by the military. After all, when President Clinton deployed U.S. troops in 1995 to enforce peace in Bosnia, he promised they would be home within one year. But almost 10 years later, those troops are still engaged and show no signs of pulling out anytime soon. And, by comparison, the mission of enforcing peace and building democratic institutions in Iraq seems at least four times greater….

Alas, even if the Iraqis gloss over fractious differences to announce agreement on a new draft constitution today (or after another capricious delay), Iraq shall remain a nation divided against itself until those differences are settled – just as America was until a civil war settled the most contentious issues (like slavery and state’s rights under federalism) almost 100 years after the drafting of its constitution.

So, hunker down soldiers. Because many of you will be speaking Arabic before your mission’s done!

Comments

  1. Anonymous August 22, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    i resent you comparing our founding fathers to the iraqis. washington and others gave us the greatest nation is the world. the iraqis will be lucky if they survive a day without our help.

  2. Anonymous August 23, 2005 at 12:46 am

    hey, i just listened to some fox commentators with brit hume babble on for about an hour on this and having read your article beforehand, it was amazing to see how superficial and ignorant they seemed. i actually felt i knew more about the issues from reading your article than they did. thanks.

  3. Anonymous August 23, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    quite an informative article. there is so much more to the events in Iraq than one can gather from the mainstream media. the historical perspective offered is thought provoking as well, though it appears some of your readers clearly take issue. better to stir debate than not have one….

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