Sunday, August 21, 2005

Let the Iraqis Write Their Constitution on Their Timetable, not Bush's

The Bush administration wants Iraqis to accomplish in a few months what it took the fledgling United States over a decade to do. And the framers of the U.S. Constitution did not have a powerful foreign country breathing down their necks, pressuring and bullying them to come up with something, anything, by a date determined more by the foreign country's domestic politics than by the needs and realities of Iraqi society.

Here are some interesting comments by Sunni and Kurdish members of the Iraqi committee that is working on the constitution.

The question of Islamic law drew strong public protests from Kurds.

The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women's rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women's groups.

Khalilzad supported those provisions and urged other groups to accept them, according to Kurds involved in the talks.

"Really, we are disappointed with that. It seems like the Americans want to have a constitution at any cost," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitutional committee. "These things are not good -- giving the constitution an Islamic face.

"It is not good to have a constitution that would limit the liberties of people, the human rights, the freedoms," Othman said.

Other delegates also complained about pressure from Khalilzad.

"His main interest is to push the constitution on time, no matter what the constitution has in it,'' said Salih Mutlak, a Sunni delegate who has been outspoken against some compromise proposals.

"No country in the world can draft their constitution in three months. They themselves took 10 years," Mutlak said, referring to the United States. "Why do they wish to impose a silly constitution on us?"

Neither the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, nor Bush administration officials, would comment on Sunni and Kurdish outrage at U.S. support for an Iraqi constitution that gives veto power to Islamic law.

That in itself says volumes.

No comments: