Wednesday, October 05, 2005

IRAQ'S INTERIM PARLIAMENT reversed a controversial rule change that would have made it almost impossible for the country's Sunni minority to defeat the draft constitution, which heavily favors the Shiite and Kurdish population. The original language in the draft stipulated that, if the constitution was approved (by a simple majority of voters), it could still be defeated if a two-thirds majority in any three provinces voted to do so. This was seen as a compromise measure for the Sunni population, whose minority status would make it difficult to defeat the constitution (which heavily favors the interests of Shiites and Kurds) under a simple majority vote alone.

The international outcry came in response to a change made to that rule by Shiite and Kurdish legislators, who were apparently concerned that the constitution might actually be voted down under the two-thirds majority provision. The change defined "voter" two different ways: the constitution would be passed if a majority of actual voters (those who went to the polls and cast ballots) said yes; but it could only be defeated if a majority of registered voters voted against it. Clearly, given the security problems in Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq, this would have made it impossible to defeat the charter. Not to mention that, as Juan Cole points out, counting every registered voter as an actual vote makes no sense at all.

A result is decided by a majority of actual voters, not of potential voters (if people don't actually cast a ballot, you cannot know how they would have voted).

At the same time that international election monitors were working to persuade Iraq's National Assembly to reverse its voter rule change, the U.S. military launched another major offensive against insurgents.

About 2,500 US troops and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers took part in the operation, named River Gate, the military said in statements. The offensive centered on Haditha, Haqlaniyah, and Barwana, Sunni cities located in the Euphrates River valley in western Anbar province.

Meanwhile, Operation Iron Fist, another assault launched four days ago in the Qaim region of Anbar province near the Iraqi-Syrian border, continued as troops searched for fighters connected to Al Qaeda in Iraq who freely roamed the streets of Sadah and surrounding towns.

Note that language. The men who live in this region are called "fighters...who freely roamed the streets of Sadah." The men who live 10,000 miles away from that region and who are the actual invaders are called "troops search[ing] for fighters connected to Al Qaeda. ..." Wouldn't basic fairness, not to mention accuracy, require the sentence to read, "U.S. troops invaded western Anbar province and freely roamed the streets of Sadah as local insurgents fought back. ..."?

And no, I don't support Al Qaeda any more than I support the U.S. invasion. I just think that the language of journalism should reflect reality.

The same article goes on to describe the purpose of the U.S. offensive, from the Bush administration's point of view:

The military said the offensives are aimed at reclaiming the cities from insurgents and cutting off routes used to smuggle weapons and militants to cities in other parts of Iraq. In announcing the launch of Operation River Gate yesterday, the military said the goal was to deny insurgents the ability to operate in the three river cities and "to free the local citizens from the terrorists' campaign of murder and intimidation of innocent women, children, and men."

The people who actually live in Anbar province, however, don't necessarily see it the same way. This account is from the Deccan Herald, via a link on Informed Comment:

Iraqi Sunnis and secularists are outraged by the US three-pronged offensive in the restive western Anbar province and the decision by Iraq's transitional parliament to amend the election law to make it impossible to defeat the proposed constitution in the October 15th referendum.

On Saturday last, 1,000 US marines launched a major sweep in the Qaim area along the border with Syria in an attempt to interdict infiltrations by foreign fighters.

On Tuesday, US troops backed by Iraqi forces attacked the Haditha and Ramadi areas where the insurgents have been in control for some time. Sunni spokesmen accused the US and the Shia-dominated Iraqi government of conducting operations with the aim of making it physically impossible for Sunnis living in these places to vote in the referendum.

They have a point. It's not irrational that Sunni Arabs in Anbar would feel this way. How can you go to the polls with thousands of American troops swarming all over the place, shooting freely and asking questions later?

To its credit, the Globe reporter (Jackie Spinner) does pass on the feelings of an Iraqi teacher whose home was broken into and searched by the American forces.

Ibrahim Abdul Karim, 50, a teacher and resident of Haditha, said the US forces broke into his house and searched all of the occupants. He said they tested their hands for explosives.

"The Marines did not give us any time to allow the women to put on the hajib [head scarf] and go out with proper clothes," he said. "They broke into the house like Holako," he said, referring to a famous Mongolian barbarian who invaded the Arab homeland and burned Baghdad centuries ago.

No comments: