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The Iraqi Constitution

President Bush gushed with excitement over the new Iraqi constitution, hailing it as an “inspiration to all those who share the universal values of freedom, democracy and the rule of the law.” But even a casual perusal of the document reveals it’s nothing of the sort. Rather than a free-market liberal democracy, the Iraqi constitution lays the foundation for a petrostate dominated by Islamic clerics.

Right off the bat, big red flags went up when I read Article 2,

1. Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:

(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.
(b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.
(c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution.

For one, I'm disappointed they specified an official state religion -- US Christian leaders are also pretty pissed at President Bush for allowing it,

"I keep saying that the American people are not going to support a regime where rape victims are either stoned for adultery or forced to marry their rapists, where political dissidents are imprisoned for blasphemy, and where the court testimony of religious minorities is worth half of a Muslim male," Ms. Shea [director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom] told The New York Sun. "The American public is not going to sacrifice for such a regime, nor will it do justice for the promises and vision articulated eloquently by President Bush that Iraq be a new democratic model for the region."

But even more disturbing, look at a, b, and c. How does a judge on the Iraqi Supreme Court (who is most likely an Islamic cleric, since he must be an expert on Shariah law), untangle that rat's nest of contradictions? Which subsection gets precedence when the principles of democracy, or rights and basic freedoms, conflict with the rules of Islam? No matter what choice is made, that cleric will be legislating from the bench (and subsequently violating democratic principles).

Section Three, dealing with the judiciary, spells out how this works. Iraq will have a Supreme Judiciary Council to administer the justice system, but they'll also have an independent Supreme Federal Court made up of experts in Islamic Shariah law (clerics, of course), who have the power to interpret the constitution and strike down any article, law, or ruling they deem un-Islamic. I'm pretty sure that's the same system Iran has.

Oh, and I've mentioned this before, but was met with disbelief: all Islamic states have morality police. Article 17 provides the basis for Iraq's official morality enforcers, "Each person has the right to personal privacy as long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality."

Al-Sadr's militia has been beating the crap out of musicians, couples holding hands, and men and women at co-ed picnics for months, this will make it official ...which may be a good thing, because if one of the enforcers beats a kid to death for flying a kite, it's more likely he'll face an official reprimand for excessive use of force. :/

Article 36: The state guarantees, as long as it does not violate public order and morality:

(a) the freedom of expressing opinion by all means [as long as it does not violate Islamic morality].
(b) the freedom of press, publishing, media and distribution [as long as it does not violate Islamic morality].
(c) freedom of assembly and peaceful protest will be organized by law [as long as it does not violate Islamic morality].

The morality police are going to be busy.

But these are all cultural things. The sections that retard Iraq's growth as a nation are those that deal with its absolute reliance on oil wealth. The Iraqi constitution gives the central government complete control over Iraq's oil industry, and doles out revenues to the people in the form of stipends and guaranteed housing for everyone, free health care, free education at all levels, and even religious endowments. Like Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern petrostates, there is no incentive for most Iraqis to work, to start businesses, or to innovate

Iraqis enshrined the root cause of the region's backwardness in their constitution.

You haven't -- and you won't -- see well-educated Middle Eastern reformers citing Iraq's constitution as a model for progress (unless you count jihadist fronts like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood as reformers). This document will not tip any dominoes for free-market liberal democracy in the region. If anything, the Islamization of Iraq may push those dominoes in the other direction.

For the last (almost) two years, I've said it was a huge mistake for President Bush to hand over the government to the Iraqis before they had a constitution, an honest and fair judiciary, an uncorrupt police force, a strong economy, and most of all, security.

The post-WWII German and Japanese governments turned out the way they did because we maintained control until they had strong, self-sustaining democratic institutions. What do you think would have happened if General MacArthur hadn't had the power (and the conviction) to rip up the first constitution the Japanese handed him, and write one for them? We'll probably find out over the next few years.

Posted by American Pundit at August 30, 2005 11:01 AM