[TODAY]Iraq constitution only a startUnder Saddam Hussein’s prolonged dictatorship, Iraq became impoverished, and the country’s social and state organizations were crippled by the U.S. military strikes. In the long journey to rebuild the war-torn country, a milestone has been reached: An interim constitution has been agreed upon by the Iraqi Governing Council.
With the interim constitution, Iraq has made the first solid step toward democratization. The interim government will be organized and take in charge by June, and a direct election will be held at the end of 2004 or in early 2005 to form a legislative body that would draft a permanent constitution by Aug. 15, 2005.
A national referendum would be held to approve the constitutional draft by Oct. 15, and national assembly members would be elected by Dec. 15. By the end of 2005, a new Iraqi government run by Iraqis is to be in place.
The interim constitution is the beginning of the democratization process of Iraq. The American-led military administration has put serious pressure on the Iraqi Governing Council to draft an interim constitution with ample emphasis on liberal democracy. The Americans think that, if the interim constitution is filled with democratic ideas, the birth of new Iraq founded on a framework of democracy will be possible, even if the democratic ideals were diluted later in the final version.
As a result, the Bush administration pushed the kind of temporary constitution that the Financial Times of London called “the first political victory in Iraq” for the U.S. side.
The interim constitution guarantees freedom of speech, assembly and association. A quarter of the 275-seat national assembly would be allotted to women, and the constitution grants the Kurds autonomy in their stronghold in northern Iraq.
The military would be under civilian control, and ethnic and gender discrimination would be abolished. Many basic individual freedoms that had been taken away by the authoritarian rule of Saddam would be returned to the citizens of Iraq. According to the New York Times, the interim Iraqi constitution would be “the most progressive such document in the Arab world.”
Bargaining on the status of Islam was the hardest and most sensitive part. The occupying authority wished to make an entirely secular nation out of Iraq. The Iraqis withdrew their demand to make Islam “the primary source” of legislation and had to satisfy themselves with a compromise that the religion would be “a source” of legislation. In return, the occupying forces agreed to include a clause prohibiting any legislation “against” the Islamic code.
But the interim constitution does not guarantee that the democratization of Iraq will be smooth and easy. When the constitutional assembly writes a permanent basic law, we cannot be sure how much the spirit of the interim constitution will be respected and how many basic human rights granted by the interim constitution will remain.
The Kurds earned autonomy after collaborating in the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq. But the Arab majority and the minority Turkmen tribes are not welcoming Kurdish self-government, and such tension might be a tinderbox for a civil war. The temporary constitution did not even touch on the issue of Kirkuk, the oil-rich region in northern Iraq where three ethnic groups are fighting for dominion.
The ambitions of the United States are also a nuisance. The neoconservatives in the Bush Administration want to promote democratic reform in all major Middle Eastern nations when they are done with Iraq, so that they could guarantee the permanent security of Israel.
Their ultimate goal would be building a “Middle Eastern Condominium,” where Washington is the major shareholder and Israel a minor shareholder. That is why Vice President Dick Cheney urged the allied nations to provide help and assistance for the U.S. effort for Middle Eastern reform at the Davos forum.
Naturally, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not happy with the idea. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt insisted that Arab nations would reform according to the interests, values and characteristics of each country. As the democratization of Iraq gains momentum following the approval of the interim constitution, increased insurgency and terrorism are threatening the security of Iraq. The added security threat is related to the democratic reform pushed by the United States. If Washington continues to stick to its ambition of managing the Middle East with a special care for Israel, the anti-U.S. campaign and terror attacks will only grow more radical.
Having sent 3,600 troops to Iraq as a part of the rebuilding effort, Korea’s interests are also linked to the situation in Iraq. Arab and Islamic terrorists oppose the totalitarian, authoritarian political regimes in the Middle East, but they also have contempt for American-style democracy and capitalism.
If Washington ignores the sentiment contradictory to its ideology and pushes the post-war damage control of Iraq beyond the point of social stability and democracy, it might lose the war trophy of the interim constitution as well.
When U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proposed a grand blueprint to liberate mankind by advocating democracy all over the world after World War I, the renowned journalist Walter Lippmann warned that the United States would never escape the swamp of the new crusade. William Pfaff, a modern-day columnist, said that lack of self-control is the biggest weakness of the foreign policy of the United States.
The cutting comments of Mr. Lippmann and Mr. Pfaff may have been pointing to the Bush Administration for its Middle Eastern and Iraqi policy today.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie