Some continued supporters of the war in Iraq are thrilled that Americans are in Iraq because they think America is fighting for democracy. But these fans of democracy lose sight of the fact that democracy is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Democracy does not automatically and reliably produce the sorts of outcomes that most Westerners envision when they think of a democratic society. Classically liberal support for the rights of others - including respect for the right to freedom of speech even by those critical of a government or critical of majority beliefs - is not always a feature of democracy everywhere in the world. The reason is simple: Lots of people do not believe in some of the rights that are recognized in the West and some reject the idea of rights altogether. Take Iraq for instance. The harder core Islamist Shiites in Iraq want a more Islamic constitution now that they appear to be headed to electoral victory.
NAJAF, Iraq, Feb. 4 - With religious Shiite parties poised to take power in the new constitutional assembly, leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new constitution.
Exactly how Islamic to make the document is the subject of debate.
At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law.
Equal rights for women? Not where claims of rights clash with interpretations of the Koran. One irony here is that the Koranic requirement that women get one third of inheritances was a step toward sexual equality when it was first implemented. But the codification of that rule into religious doctrine now is an impediment to equality before the law.
In educational, political and social terms, the gulf is enormous. A tiny proportion of people in the south can be described as muthaqaf, or cultured and educated, compared to those in the north.
In the south, 60 per cent have not progressed beyond primary education, a difference compounded by the religiosity of the largely Shia south.
News flash: poorly educated believers in an oppressive religion are not enlightened voters.
The two most powerful parties in the coalition are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Dawa, religiously based parties supported by Iran, with whom they were allied during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
SCIRI, in particular, was long seen as being partially controlled by Tehran and the Badr Brigade, its militia, fought for Iran against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
This is what American boys are dying for: a democratically elected Shia religious state run by people who are fond of the Ayatollahs of Iran. This is the very same Iran that the neocons want to attack next.
Adam Lawson of the Modern Tribalist (cool blog name btw) points to an article by Thanassis Cambanis of the Boston Globe who claims that the constitutional debate in Iraq on the place of religion in government will be between moderate Islamists and hard-core Islamists with the secularists scarcely to be heard.
The clerics of Najaf who orchestrated the Shi'ite political party coalition say they expect a constitutional debate between hard-core Islamists, who want Koranic law to be the constitution's primary source, and moderate Islamists, who want a milder form of religious law. This debate, they say, will dwarf any challenge from secular parties.
Neato, huh? We are helping to give birth to an Islamic state and we are paying for this outcome with blood and money. The US invasion of Iraq was one of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives.
Already many branches of government ministries and the Army have become "balkanised" by Shi’ite political groups such as the Dawa Party, making it difficult for non-members to get jobs. And after 30 years of systematic discrimination by Saddam in favour of his fellow Sunnis, nobody is optimistic that anti-discrimination laws will be listened to much.
Secular Iraqis also suspect the Shi’ite religious parties have a much longer-term game in mind, one in which curbs on the rights of women, and religious tinkering in government will only begin after the watchful US presence ends.
"The Shi’ite Islamists are not stupid people," said Dr Ghanem Saleh, a senior figure in the Omar Party, a new political grouping made up partly of exiles from the Saddam-era Iraqi opposition movement in Britain. "They will establish rule step by step, just as they did in Iran. Right now they are happy to accept secular figures in government, but they are gradually preparing the country for an Islamic state."
Kurdish Muslims are complaining that Iraqi government Arabs prevented the Kurds from getting enough ballots to vote while at the same time Christians in the Iraqi north living under Kurdish Muslim domination complain that the Kurdish Muslims prevented the Christians from getting enough ballots.
The Kurdish deputy governor of Mosul, Khasro Goran, said Kurdish parties also would lodge a complaint with the election commission about the alleged irregularities in the north.
"This affects 200,000 people," he said. Without giving details, Goran alleged that election officials had deliberately tried to suppress the Kurdish vote in the north, an ethnic tinderbox.
Patto also said that while other Assyrian-populated towns had ballot boxes, there was an inadequate supply of ballots. She estimated voting irregularities prevented 50,000 Assyrians from voting.
In another recent ethnic incident, a Christian demonstrator was so severely beaten up by Kurdish political party workers, he is still in the hospital, Isho said. Christians protested Monday near the northern city of Mosul, complaining that an estimated 150,000 did not get a chance to vote because ballot boxes never arrived.
Infuriated Assyrians filled the streets of Baghdeda- the largest Assyrian town in the Nineveh Plain-and demonstrated against the KDP's overt disenfranchisement of Assyrians.
According to Iraq sources, the ballot boxes had been stored in Arbil, the stronghold of the KDP. The resulting unavailability of ballot boxes affected up to 100,000 Assyrian voters and tens of thousands of Yezidis, Shabak, and Turkman voters. The outright denial of voting rights to Assyrians and other non-Kurdish minorities culminates several months of intimidation, beatings, beheadings, burnings, and mutilations of Assyrian Christians in the Nineveh Plain.
Mind you, this is what these groups are willing to do with about 150,000 US soldiers in the country. Imagine what they will do once American soldiers leave.
In northern Iraq, protests have repeatedly broken out over the last few days in several cities, where officials claim that hundreds of thousands of citizens, many of them Kurdish Christians, were not able to vote because balloting materials arrived inexplicably late.
While reading articles to write this post I came across a number of reports of voters voting the way they did because they felt obliged to follow the spiritual leader of their religious sect. Others dutifully followed the instructions of polling place workers to vote for the list that the poll workers favored.
At the Al-Khazrajiya school in the city's old quarter, Najat Ridha, 48, was ushered into a classroom and handed two ballots, one for the national assembly and another for the local provincial council.
An election worker suggested she vote for list 285 headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and a local list headed by governor Duraid Kashmula.
She ticked the boxes obligingly and walked out - just as Zahra Ibrahim, 60, did before her.
"I really just did what they asked me to do," she said as the Iraqi national anthem crackled on a loudspeaker in the background.
For one thing, the assembly will need to elect a new president and prime minister by a two-thirds majority. Since no single group is likely to win two-thirds of the seats, several competing groups are predicted to strike alliances in order to form a government.
In the next round of negotiations to create a permanent (okay, not permanent, but pretend permanent) Iraqi constitution expect to see the Shiites try to remove the super-majority requirement for selecting the Iraqi president and prime minister.
William Norman Grigg argues that Democracy Isn't Liberty.
In a democracy, voting is, at best, an exercise in participatory plunder. At worst, it is a means of empowering a majority to oppress or even liquidate the minority. In a constitutional republic, by way of contrast, the voting franchise serves a fundamentally defensive purpose. It is a means not only of choosing representative leaders, but also of removing them should they prove a threat to individual rights and property. While the vote is a crucial mechanism of accountability, it will avail little for the cause of liberty in the absence of a written constitution that limits the powers that government can exercise.
As James Madison noted in The Federalist Papers, in a quote all genuine conservatives should recall, "democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
The Rwandan genocide, perpetrated by that African nation’s Hutu majority against its Tutsi minority, could be considered a particularly vigorous exercise of the type of democracy Madison alluded to. The Yugoslavian civil wars of the 1990s were, in large measure, prompted by fears of similar majoritarian massacres. Given the horrible fate historically suffered by ethnic minorities in the region, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims all sought to create ethnic states where they would be in the majority.
There are many obstacles to creation of sustainable liberal democracy in Iraq which the US occupation either can not or will not address. Also, most US interventions in other countries did not create sustainable democracies. How long will not-exactly-liberal democracy be sustained in Iraq? How long will it take for the elections to become so manipulated that the democratic process in Iraq becomes a charade?
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 February 05 07:51 PM Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights|