Constitution Born By Caesarian Section

Constitution born by Caesarian Section

So they had the ceremony, and the drafting committee (minus Sunni Arab members) presented the final draft of the permanent Iraqi constitution to parliament on Sunday. But parliament did not vote on it. The Sunni Arabs did not attend. Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities toward the constitution and put it in the lap of the October 15 national referendum. Al-Hayat aptly said that the Iraqi constitution has been delivered by caesarian section. It was plucked from the womb of the drafting committee before the latter could give birth to it naturally. Sunni negotiator Salih Mutlak called it “a minefield.”

Al-Hayat: Another member of the drafting committee, Sunni politician Abd al-Nasir al-Janabi, called for international intervention to prevent its being passed into law. He particularly asked for the Arab League and the United Nations to intervene. The Sunni Arab delegates noted that they were promised that the constitution drafting process would be based on consensus, and that this pledge had been the precondition for their involvement in it last June. On Sunday the Shiites and the Kurds reneged dramatically on that promise. Husain al-Falluji said that this constitution contains the seeds of Iraq’s bloody partition, something, he said, that would “serve American interests.”

US Ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad got carried away and called the Iraqi constitution the best in the Muslim world. Well, we could exclude Turkey’s constitution because it is just a slightly reworked version of the Swiss, and so not very indigenous to the Muslim world. But what about, say, Indonesia? He should look at these powerpoint slides on the Indonesian constitution. The latter also guarantees civil liberties and equality before the law, but the Indonesian government, unlike Khalilzad, resisted demands by adherents of political Islam that Islamic law be recognized in it. The new Iraqi constitution contains a provision that no legislation may be passed that contradicts Islamic law. That provision makes the Iraqi constitution read as self-contradictory (since it also celebrates human rights and democracy), and puts it in contrast with that of Indonesia, which contains no such provision. Since 1998 democracy has flourished in Indonesia.

So why must an indigenous achievement such as the 1998-2002 amendments to the Indonesian Constitution be devalued in favor of a deeply flawed and fatally self-contradictory constitution produced in Iraq under twin Iranian and American auspices? Does everything have to be about George Bush?

Why isn’t the Indonesian constitution the most progressive in the Muslim world?

Jim Carroll of the Christian Science monitor points out that the Sadr Movement of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rejects the provisions for federalism in the new constitution, as do the Sunni Arabs. He writes:

‘ “It’s not the time for federalism under occupation. It will draw a lot of troubles,” says Abbas Rubaie, the political director of the Sadr movement. This stance puts them at odds with the ruling Islamist Shiite parties like the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq . . . ‘

Al-Zaman also reports that Shaikh Hasan al-Zarkani, an aide of al-Sadr, said on Voice of Beirut radio that the constitution’s provisions for federalism, since they were enacted under conditions of foreign occupation, would lead to the partition of the country. Therefore, he said, the Sadr Movement rejects the constitution.

The reemergence of Muqada al-Sadr as a force to reckon with is explored by Salih al-Qaisi and Oliver Poole of the Telegraph. They note that, Hizbullah-style, he has concentrated on having his organization provide aid to the people, especially Shiite refugees from the north who come down to Najaf. They say he has denounced federalism as “an Iranian plot” to divide up Iraq (i.e. he is saying that The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an agent of Iran in the breakup of Iraq for Iranian purposes.)

The Associated Press discusses the last-minute changes in the draft of the Iraqi constitution, which were aimed at mollifying the Sunnis Arabs (they failed.) The Sunni Arab clans that opposed Saddam and were punished were mentioned alongside his Shiite and Kurdish victims. “The Saddamist Baath” is condemned but not “the Baath Party“. The issue of provincial confederations other than Kurdistan is postponed, and will be dealt with by a statute passed by a simple majority of parliament. (Since Shiites will probably be able to get a simple majority all on their own, this clause postpones a Shiite issue until a Shiite majority can accomplish its will. The Sunni Arabs, being no fools, had wanted a 2/3s majority required on any law authorizing further provincial confederacies.

Reuters reminds us that the guerrilla war continued apace on Sunday, with a major carbombing in Mosul and shootings elsewhere in the country.

Luciana Bohne takes umbrage at the assertion by Mark Reuel Gerecht that women’s rights are not crucial to the evolution of democracy. She wonders if ex-CIA white guys’ rights are critical to democracy, either, especially in other peoples’ countries. (The only thing I would correct is that the new Iraqi constitution does not abolish secular personal status laws for women. It gives every Iraqi the choice of whether to be under civil law in this regard or religious law. The Iraqi parliament has not yet enacted the civil personal status law, but the old one was not so bad for women.)

Basra’s academics face a wave of assassination in the southern city of Basra, probably at the hands of Shiite religious militias. You wonder if David Horowitz is happy that more “balance” is being achieved in Iraq history departments, what with the rubbing out of those secular liberal humanist professors.

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