Constitutional Infirmities

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In yesterday's Washington Times, Bruce Fein shreds the proposed Iraqi constitution, calling it "a joke" that "betrays a political amateurism and immaturity destined to shipwreck unity and democracy in Iraq." In addition to familiar complaints about the risk of national fragmentation and the conflict between the constitution's Islamic law provisions and its guarantees of individual rights, he notes that the document includes "social welfare rights more akin to a child's Christmas list than enforceable law."

Addendum: An English translation of the draft constitution is available here.

NEXT: The Librarian's Tale

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  1. this is sad if true.

    Anyone have a link to a an english translation of the iraqi constitution?

  2. Good to see all those lives were spent on a worthy cause.

  3. Sometimes I think the people who really believed in this mission, and who were motivated to do so by the desire to liberate the Iraqi people, have the most to complain about.

    At least us Iraq doves haven't been stabbed in the back.

  4. Huh, they're not like us.
    Who knew?

  5. Sometimes I think the people who really believed in this mission, and who were motivated to do so by the desire to liberate the Iraqi people, have the most to complain about.

    But very few of them (at least on this board) actually complain; instead, when you point out that things are going badly they scream "I suppose you want to see Saddam come back, huh?" or "You're just saying that because you hate Bush" or else they insist that the current state of affairs in Iraq was the intended goal all along.

  6. Jennifer, that's not true. There certainly are plenty of the idiots you refer to, but I see older but wiser erstwhile hawks venting on this board every day.

  7. the truth, i suspect, is that most iraqi politicians know what we should know -- hell will freeze over before this constitution gets ratified. four or five of the provinces of iraq will vote 80% against the constitution because they are sunni-dominated -- and only three need reject it to keep it from becoming law, beginning this whole sad process all over again.

    the entire affair is only occuring because the american power behind the throne demands it to happen, even if only as political pretext to another military slaughter of the sunnis.

  8. Joe--

    If so, I've been reading the wrong threads. (Which is entirely possible, as I don't read them all.)

  9. Can we just go ahead and skip the next year or so and hand Iraq over to some Ayatollahs now? With their friends in Iran they might be able to restore some semblance of order and get the oil flowing.

  10. Sunni failure to sign on was the end of any hopes I had. I still don't know what the alternative is. That's where this hawk sits. Sigh.

  11. sometimes i think the only way we'll stabilize iraq is to say to hell with it, start our own religion and convert everyone. preferably one that focuses on never, ever harming anyone under any conditions, and making oil sacrifices to the wise gods from across the sea.

  12. sometimes i think the only way we'll stabilize iraq is to say to hell with it, start our own religion and convert everyone. preferably one that focuses on never, ever harming anyone under any conditions, and making oil sacrifices to the wise gods from across the sea.

  13. Jason, wanting to liberal people from tyranny and spread freedom and self determination is as noble a foreign policy vision as any that has ever been put into words.

    It's the foreign policy version of ending poverty.

    I don't want to give up on ending poverty, and I regret how unwilling I was to give those who criticized the War on Poverty a fair hearing.

  14. Have you ever thought what our constitution would look like if we were to write it today? No doubt it would be way too long and include just such a wishlist of "gimmes." And let us also not forget that our first constitution (the Articles of Confederation) was a failure, but that did not doom the nation.

    The Iraqis have doggedly kept at the hard task of putting their country on a new footing, disappointing many of the doom-sayers. (Remember all those who said they would never manage to hold the constitutional convention election?) The Iraqis may yet succeed ultimately.

  15. It doesn't seem so bad to me, apart from the possible conflict between the central principals of Islam, democracy, and individual rights. We'll have to wait and see how those conflicts get resolved in practice once the document gets adopted.

    Some of the social entitlements are a bit over the top, but Iraq probably can pay for them without high taxes once their oil industry is back on its feet.

    I like the federalism aspects that give more power to the regional authorities. That's better than having regional powers fight for control of the central government then use their power to shaft the others.

  16. Sunni failure to sign on was the end of any hopes I had.

    Sunni failure to sign on? Don't you mean their refusal to sign on their death warrant?

  17. Aw, crap, that should read "liberate people from tyranny," not "liberal."

    I suppose it's just luck that I didn't sing the praises of liberating people from trannnies.

  18. "Sunni failure to sign on? Don't you mean their refusal to sign on their death warrant?"

    I keep hearing this argument. It doesn't make any sense to me. Choosing to participate within a framework of nonviolence isn't signing ones own death warrant. Convincing the other 2/3 of the population that you will never give up politics by violence until you have 100% of everything you want seems more like a death warrant to me.

  19. Dan--

    No doubt a modern American Constitution would have a lot of BS, but I don't know if it would say "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."

    Or Christianity, for that matter.

  20. start our own religion and convert everyone.

    that's been tried many times in history, mr zach, but no one will sign on and in the end will be only another reason to use violent repression against dissent.

  21. Choosing to participate within a framework of nonviolence isn't signing ones own death warrant. Convincing the other 2/3 of the population that you will never give up politics by violence until you have 100% of everything you want seems more like a death warrant to me.

    but that's far from what they're doing, mr ligon. in many ways, the sunnis are fighting to save themselves. the autonomy of the kurd and shia regions leaves iraq a de facto fractured nation, will impoverish them from oil revenues and leave them a poor stepchild to an iranian-backed oil-rich shia neighbor to the south with potential territorial aspirations against them. that isn't much of a future.

    as i understand it, the sunnis are actually the champions of an integrated national iraq, and also limiting the islamist component of the document. the sunnis have the ideas that agree best with our own, in fact, which is unsurprising as they have been the pro-western intelligensia of that nation for the better part of a century. more from the financial times here. whatever the idiots in the bush admin want, i think a sensible american has to want the sunnis to play a very large role in iraq's future.

  22. joe:

    There are two reasons I'm not exactly in the same place as many libertarians on this issue:

    1) I don't buy the parity between wars on poverty or drugs and the action in Iraq or even a war on terrorists. I agree that the war on terror is not a smart way to market the idea. If the war on poverty meant policies that will cause mad economic growth, I would support such a war. A war on drugs is immoral as well as ineffectual because there is nothing wrong with drugs as a choice.

    2) I think that there is a regional political problem, a credibility of deterrence problem, and an efficacy of law enforcement problem that add up to something very significant and dangerous if left alone. Broadly, I think that doves do not perceive the danger to be as severe as I think it is.

  23. The quick and dirty solution to Iraq:

    1) Setup four regional oil corporations.
    2) Distribute shares of each corporation equally across all Iraqis. There is no association between where someone lives and which company they are granted shares of.
    3) Reserve some shares for Iraqis to be born over a 10 year period.
    4) Most profits must be distributed via dividends, as with REITs.
    5) Shares cannot be sold for 10 years, to prevent any short term consolidation of power.

    Of course, there are a myriad of technical issues, such as setting up brokerage accounts for all Iraqis, setting up a regulatory bodies to prevent securities fraud, etc. But once the revenue stream is removed from the direct control of the government, few people will care how the government is structured.

  24. The quick and dirty solution to Iraq:

    1) Setup four regional oil corporations.
    2) Distribute shares of each corporation equally across all Iraqis. There is no association between where someone lives and which company they are granted shares of.
    3) Reserve some shares for Iraqis to be born over a 10 year period.
    4) Most profits must be distributed via dividends, as with REITs.
    5) Shares cannot be sold for 10 years, to prevent any short term consolidation of power.

    Of course, there are a myriad of technical issues, such as setting up brokerage accounts for all Iraqis, setting up a regulatory bodies to prevent securities fraud, etc. But once the revenue stream is removed from the direct control of the government, few people will care how the government is structured.

  25. MP-

    That idea is worth considering.

  26. I'm more sorry than ever that I thought this was a good idea. Central planning of political systems apparantly works as well as central planning of anything else.

  27. It's a great plan MP, but I suspect the only way it could be imposed is if Iraq falls under the control of a ruthless free market dictator. Some sort of Pinochetian Saddam. It isn't going to happen under "democracy". The social welfare aspects of the Constitution are troubling, but in truth, most of the world is just as bad.

  28. so i take it no one here has actually read the iraqi constitution....call me a skeptic but i will pass judgement when i actually see the text. I will not just take one columnists opinion on it.

    so again does anyone have a link to an english translation of the iraqi constitution?

  29. "(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. "

    So which is it ? This reminds of the Bank Robbery scene in Raising Arizona. 'So, do you want us to lie down or stay still ?', or something like that.

  30. looky looky i found a copy...yeah i have begun to read it...and it is not as dire as Mr fein proclaims it to be...lots of stuff on individual freedom...look like a bit of a mess for the courts..but don't we have that same problem here in the US...anyway read the actual text before passing judgement.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/24_08_05_constit.pdf

  31. Joshua--

    There's a link at the top of this thread.

  32. "1st -- Work is a right for all Iraqis in a way that guarantees them a good life."

    This is thoroughly meaningless - the perfect blank slate for the next strongman to define as he wishes.

  33. "It's a great plan MP, but I suspect the only way it could be imposed is if Iraq falls under the control of a ruthless free market dictator. Some sort of Pinochetian Saddam."

    Y'know... Pinochet's not busy right now...

  34. Fein's analysis is right on. The Iraqi Constitution sounds like it was written by the Disney Channel. It bans private ownership of guns, and every right it mentions it reserves the right to revoke it "in accordance with law".

  35. Dogzilla where in the Iraqi constitution is private ownership of guns prohibited? I read through it and I couldn't find that clause.

    "Work is a right for all Iraqis in a way that guarantees them a good life."

    If this constitution gets approved it will be amusing to see if a bunch of people sue the goverment on grounds that they have a low-paying, unfulfiling job at Burger King (or some Iraqi equivalent) and their lives aren't that good.

    "My girlfriend dumped me and my job sucks. I have a constitutional right to have the government make it better."

  36. Article 17

    "7th -- Court sessions will be open unless the court decides to make them secret.

    8th -- Punishment is for individuals."

  37. "1st -- The judiciary is independent, with no power above it other than the law.

    Note that this practically negates law, separating law from its creator. Man!

    Oh well, jn this case we have the same confusion at home in the US.

  38. All things considered I think it would be a good thing if this constitution is adopted. It provides important protections of individual rights; and if it is rejected and a new one is drawn up I doubt the new one would be much better.

    If there is a new constitutional convention I would hope one of the delegates reads MP's suggestion and they put something like that in.

    gaius

    Could you explain how this constitution would enable southern shia to "impoverish (the sunnis) from oil revenues"?

    And do you really think it is plausible that the shia will have "territorial aspirations against them"? Wouldn't that be kind of like New York having territorial aspirations against New Jersey? Would they form their own army, conquer the sunnis, and then say: "Ha! Now your part of our country bitch!" ?

  39. Dogzilla

    "It bans private ownership of guns, and every right it mentions it reserves the right to revoke it "in accordance with law"."

    yeah in the US we have the same thing dumb ass...its called "due prossess"...guess what if you are put in jail becosue you broke the law you loose your rights but that can only happen through "due prossess"...don't you think it would be kind of stupid if people couldn't be punished for braking the law becouse doing so would infringe on thier constitutional rights?

    anyway there are some things in the constitution that seem sort of nanny state like but on the whole it isn't so bad...hell our original constitution allowed slavary...

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