In today's New York Times, the editors write, "Washington helped produce first, in January, a constituent assembly in which Sunni Arabs were drastically underrepresentedâ€¦."
Actually, the Sunnis boycotted the January election, so THEY are responsible for their current numbers in the assembly. Many Sunnis have acknowledged this and have vowed not to make the same mistake in the December election.
They continue: "Washington helped produceâ€¦in August, a constitutional draft that slighted the rights of Sunnis, women and secular Iraqis."
This is quite a statement considering Saddam Hussein would still be in power had the president followed the advice of the Times editorial board. Now, the editors are arguing that the US hasn't imposed its values enough on the Iraqi political process--a process that led two major Sunni parties to support the constitutional referendum on Saturday. As to its content, US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad responded to critics of the constitution. He wrote:
It contains an enlightened synthesis of universal values and Iraqi traditions. It states that no law may be enacted that contradicts 'the established provisions of Islam,' 'the principles of democracy,' and 'the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution'--rights that are far-reaching. This formula requires that Islam be interpreted to be consistent with democracy and human rights.
The draft states that all Iraqis are equal before the law regardless of 'gender, race, ethnicity, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic and social status.' It protects the rights of personal privacy; the sanctity of the home; public trials for criminal defendants; and the freedoms of movement, expression, association and political organization. It states that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. It prohibits extrajudicial punishment, group punishment, property seizures without compensation, and intellectual, political, or religious coercion.
The draft guarantees women the right to participate fully in public life. In fact, it requires that electoral laws ensure that women hold no less than 25 percent of seats in the legislature. It prohibits all 'forms of violence and abuse in the family' and 'tribal traditions that are in contradiction with human rights.' It accords Iraqi citizenship to all children of Iraqi mothers -- a provision that is revolutionary in this region.
The editors also write that the US "commit[ed] American forces to fight the Sunni insurgency on behalf of the ruling Shiite and Kurdish coalitionâ€¦."
Of course, many would say our forces are fighting an enemy of the US, al Qaeda. Its leader in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, seeks to destroy Iraq's democratic development and install a terror state. They are also confronting Baathists who aren't happy about losing their dictatorship. They, along with many Iraqis (see Michael Yon's coverage in Mosul here), are fighting for a decent and democratic government in the heart of the Middle East -- an outcome that Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger argued in December 1998 would enhance American security.
As long as Saddam remains in power and in confrontation with the world, the positive evolution we and so many would like to see in the Middle East is less likely to occur. His Iraq remains a source of potential conflict in the region, a source of inspiration for those who equate violence with power and compromise with surrender, a source of uncertainty for those who would like to see a stable region in which to invest.
Change inside Iraq is necessary not least because it would help free the Middle East from its preoccupation with security and struggle and survival, and make it easier for its people to focus their energies on commerce and cooperation.
For the last eight years, American policy toward Iraq has been based on the tangible threat Saddam poses to our security. That threat is clear. Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance. Year after year, in conflict after conflict, Saddam has proven that he seeks weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, in order to use themâ€¦.