October 15, 2005

Heritage Foundation Pipedreams

The most prominent item on the Heritage Foundation website front page is on the left, headlined "Iraq: A New Dynamic?," a short piece introducing two longer essays, one by Kim R. Holmes, optimistically entitled "Al-Queda Agonistes", and the other by James A. Phillips on what he calls the Iraqi "malleable constitution." These are two of the Heritage Foundations top Middle East experts.

Holmes' hopeful message is based on the newly discovered letter from Al-Queda second-in-command Al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi, Al-Queda's main man in Iraq. There is never a question as to its authenticity, just wonderful conclusions we can all make from its negative content. Al-Queda is in trouble. George Bush is winning. Iraq democracy is overcoming. And the terrorists are out of money and on the run. Has Holmes translated the alleged Zawahiri letter to Zarqawi and discovered its linguistic inconsistencies? If not, how can he possibly vouch for its authenticity and use it to forward his arguments? We don't even know if Holmes speaks Arabic.

As part of his argument that Al-Queda is finished in Iraq, Holmes states: "If a constitution respectful of Islam can embrace not only the freedom of all Islamic groups but also of all people, then the dark dreams of jihadist terrorists will never be realized."

I wonder if Holmes has ever read any of the other Arab states' constitutions? The Syrian constitution says, among other things, "Freedom is a sacred right and popular democracy is the ideal formulation which insures for the citizen the exercise of his freedom..." It also says "(1) The governmental system of the Syrian Arab region is a republican system. (2) Sovereignty is vested in the people, who exercise it in accordance with this Constitution," and "Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation." How has this language provided for real democracy, for relief from religious dogma, or for women's rights among Syrians? Holmes might want to study the constitutions of other Arab countries also. His easy conclusions about the Iraqi constitution are suspect, at the very least.

Phillips' piece addresses the vote on the Iraqi constitution and the changes made to it in an attempt to entice more Sunnis to support it. Phillips writes paragraphs filled with ifs, ands or buts. He throws in alot of words such as "likely," "unclear," and "may," never really certain that all the pieces of his pipedream puzzle will actually fall into place. At one point, he says: "A successful vote is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the intensity of insurgent violence." And he never addresses those aspects of the Iraqi constitution that place democracy, religious tolerance, and women's rights in great jeopardy. To wit, Article 2:

Article (2): 1st - 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.
(b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.
(c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution.
2nd - This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and the full religious rights for all individuals and the freedom of creed and religious practices.

If learned white men (scholars all, no doubt) sitting in Washington DC, believe that the first line of this article means anything other than what it says, they have a rude surprise in store for them. Iraq will be ruled by religious leaders regardless of which Brooks Brothers-suited men ostensibly lead the Iraqi government.

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