Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Iraqi constitution

Ok, this may be boring, but it's important so listen up (or read-up)!

Much has been said about the Iraqi constitution. It has taken too long to set up, or it isn't approved by all the people or it's taken too long to get approval or whatever. One caller to a nationally syndicated talk radio program asked the host "Would you want to live under that constitution?"

I don't know much about the proposed-maybe-ratified Iraqi constitution. But I did a little research on the US Constitution. That document revered by both the left and the right and most of us in between. I went into it open minded with questions like, how long did it take to write, how long did it take to pass, what oppositions were there to it? Most of my research is from en.wikipedia.org as it seems to have good information and is easy to read. I went off on a few wild goose chases looking for presidents and vice presidents (did you know that there have been several times when there was NO vice president?). But here's a summary of what I found.

Most people know that on July 4, 1776, the US officially declared it's independence from Britain. Over a year later, on November 17, 1777 the Articles of Confederation (the equivalent of a constitution) were submitted. These articles took 16 months to be drafted. How long did it take the Iraqis to draft a constitution?

The Articles of Confederation had to be approved by all 13 states. This process took another 3 years, 3+1/2 months. How long did it take the Iraqis to approve their constitution? The Articles as ratified, were almost useless. They provided a weak central governement and no ability for the new government to raise the funds necessary to keep it going. There was no executive or judiciary authority and even small changes could not be enacted. Each state had to approve changes in order for them to be in effect.

Before the Articles of Confederatoin was six years old, congress realized it's limitations and commissioners met to discuss adjustments. However, they took the radical approach of rewriting the entire constitution. Meetings were held in secret (what about the press?) and from the time originally commissioned to make adjustments to the articles, it took about a year for these people to write the new constitution. During the draft, one of the 13 states did not even send representatives (didn't the Iraqis have this problem?) The result was a new fundamental government design and it took an additional year and a half for ratification.

The secret committee (their names were published, but they met in secret) even went as far as only requiring 9 of the 13 states to ratify the constitution in order for it to be in effect. It was eventually approved by all 13, but even still it had holes in it. The succession process from Vice President to President (in case of presidential removal from office, death or otherwise) was so cloudy that the first time it was used, Congress (not the Supreme Court0 had to step in to interpret the rules. The original Constitution was so flawed, it required 10 amendments before even the authors approved it.

Over the years, battles for the Constitution have been waged. It has been amended 18 times, with the first time creating the original 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. One of these amendments even repealed a previous amendment.

A still ongoing battle is over state rights. In order to try to maintain state rights, SC declared it's independence and began the Civil War. The specific state right desired by SC was to allow slavery, an argument that had been upheld by the Supreme Court. Battles over state rights still go on today. Roe vs Wade comes to mind, in which some states desire to restrict or prevent abortion. In recent history, Florida election rights come into mind.

Isn't part of Iraq's issue with their constituion a battle over state rights? What power would Kurdish states have over Sunni states and Shiite states? How strong would the central government be?

My conclusion is that the Iraqis are not having any more problems that we, the US, had. In fact, they may be having less problems. Time will tell how solid the constitution is for the Iraqi people. But we should let them have a chance. And the only way they will get a chance is if we help them. Our armed forces are doing a great job training the Iraqis to take care of themselves. But they will be needed for a long time. What better task can we ask of them than to help a county regain it's independence from a tyranical leader and begin to govern itself?

I'm not a fan of us spreading our democracy all over the place. If a country wants demorcracy, they should get it themselves. It's not our job to save the world. However, in Iraq there was a dictator who was allowed to reign for too many years. He reigned by killing those opposed to him. To simply "take him out" would have created a bigger problem than existed when he was in power. The only choice we had was to take him out and help establish a new government or keep our tail between our legs and wring our hands over the issue.

Lastly, to answer the question "would you want to live under that constitution?" The only thing I know about the constitution is that it establishes a central religion, Islam. Based on that alone, I can answer no. I would not want the central government establishing ANY central religion, much less a pagan one. However, if this is what the Iraqis desire, then they have a new constitution. And if it's not what they desire, they can amend the constition. We amended ours!

1 comment:

Super Reporter said...

Wikipedia is awesome. Nothing wrong with researching there.