What does the Iraqi Constitution say and what will it accomplish?

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I can’t read the Iraq Constitution. It’s written in that weird-looking squiggly language that those people over there seem so fond of. Arabic, I think it’s called. Luckily for us (or, more precisely, for me), somebody over at the Associated Press translated it into to good old-fashioned American. Thanks, AP. I owe you a Coke!</
Like all self-respecting national constitutions, Iraq’s draft constitution starts with a preamble. The Iraqi preamble begins, “We the sons of Mesopotamia,” going on to describe Iraq as a land of prophets, poets and scientists, as well as the birthplace of the alphabet, arithmetic and law. Show-offs.</
A little bit down from there, the preamble declares Iraq’s new governing principles. Iraq’s government, the preamble says, will be a “democratic, federal, republican system.” The country will live by the rule of law, peacefully transfer power based on said law, and fairly distribute wealth. The new Iraq, the constitution continues, will “pay attention to women and their rights” and “spread the culture of diversity.” I’m not sure what “spread the culture of diversity” means, exactly. Perhaps Iraqi government radio will forced to play selections from the “Free to Be ... You and Me” soundtrack at regular intervals. Or maybe Iraq is getting Kwanzaa, too.</
Though a bit long (about nine times longer than the U.S. Constitution’s preamble) the Iraqi preamble is actually quite inspiring. I suspect it’s the preamble that President Bush was talking about when he touted it as “a constitution which guarantees minority rights, women’s rights, freedom to worship.”</
The president certainly wouldn’t be saying such nice things about the document if he’d read the rest of it, because once you read past the preamble and get into the nitty-gritty of the thing, the document is a downer. I say that because Iraq’s draft constitution — paid for with the blood of nearly 1,900 dead American soldiers, some 14,000 wounded American soldiers, and who knows how many dead and wounded Iraqis — does not actually guarantee freedom in the sense that you and I understand it and live it. If adopted by the Iraqi people in October’s referendum, this constitution will turn Iraq into an Islamic republic.</
Article 2 of the constitution states that Islam is the basic source of the country’s legislation and, more ominously, that “no law can be passed that contradicts the fixed principles of Islam.”</
Who decides whether a law contradicts the fixed principles of Islam?</
According to Articles 90-92, that will be up to a Supreme Federal Court “made up of a number of judges and experts in Sharia [Islamic law] and law, whose number and manner of selection will be defined by a law that should be passed by two-thirds of the parliament members.”</
In other words, this so-called freedom-of-worship-guaranteeing constitution will in fact create a legal system vetted and interpreted by Shi’ite Muslim clerics (conservative Shi’ites comprise Iraq’s largest voting block, so they’ll pick the most judges). Only a man like President Bush, who recently told reporters that he thinks the Old Testament should be taught in U.S. public school science classes, could look at that and call it freedom of worship.</
As for women’s rights, remember that a legal system run or even influenced by Muslim clerics will severely limit the rights of women seeking divorce, child custody or family inheritance. Islamic law also says that a woman’s legal testimony is only worth half that of a man’s.</
So, if by “guarantees women’s rights” the president meant “guarantees women’s rights as second-class class citizens,” then yes, his statement was correct.</
The most disturbing part of the constitution is its treatment of minority rights. And when I say “constitution” here, I’m not just talking about the document, but also the process by which it was created. The supposed purpose of drafting this constitution was that it was supposed to draw Iraq’s largest minority, Sunni Arabs, away from the insurgency and into a political compromise with Kurds and Shi’ite Arabs. The compromise never happened, though. Unable and unwilling to meet Sunni demands, Shi’ites and Kurds tossed the idea of compromise aside and put together the constitution they wanted.</
The constitution will go to a national referendum Oct. 15. Even if it passes, Iraq’s Sunnis will remain alienated from the current political order. As long as that’s the case, the insurgency will continue.