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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: A New Beginning for Iraq

Friday, October 28, 2005

A New Beginning for Iraq

This week’s host of Carnival of Liberty XVII, Eric Cowperthwaite, opened his carnival with a few words about the historical significance of this week in history; the First Continental Congress was adjourning at the end of this week in 1774. In the next two congresses that followed, it became abundantly clear to many of the representatives from each of the colonies that the time had come to sever ties with Great Britain. Two years later, the colonies took action and did just that by ratifying The Declaration of Independence. As they say, the rest is history.

Ironically, in that same week 231 years later, the Iraqis ratified their constitution with an incredible 78.59% of the vote. This news got very little attention in the MSM as the MSM was more concerned with the American soldier death toll nearing 2,000. What little I have heard in the news about the Iraq Constitution was mostly negative.

I took some time and read much of the over 10,000 words of text of the Iraqi Constitution (the U.S. Constitution is just over 4,600 words without the amendments). Though it is far from perfect, this document recognizes the fundamental rights of Life, Liberty, and Property of all Iraq’s citizens (at least to some degree). Though the Iraq Constitution is not a secular document as the U.S. Constitution is, it at least recognizes the right of citizens to practice their religion (or practice no religion at all) without fear of punishment by the government.

Here are a couple of highlights I would like to share:

From Chapter 1 Article 7
The state will be committing to fighting terrorism in all its forms and will work to prevent its territory from being a base or corridor or an arena for its (terrorism's) activities.

We’ll take any help we can get fighting terrorism won’t we?

From Chapter 2 Article 15

Every individual has the right to life and security and freedom and cannot be deprived of these rights or have them restricted except in accordance to the law and based on a ruling by the appropriate judicial body.
This is certainly a step forward. In Saddam’s Baathist Regime his henchmen could deprive citizens of these rights at their discretion; there was no law that the regime had to abide by.

From Chapter 2 Article 19

“Punishment is for individuals.”

What a novel idea! This may seem like a no-brainer to us but in the Middle East, punishing entire families for the crimes of one individual family member is all too common.

From Chapter 2 Article 20

Citizens, male and female, have the right to participate in public matters and enjoy political rights, including the right to vote and run as candidates.

This was a welcome surprise. Everything I heard prior to reading the Iraqi Constitution suggested that women would have fewer rights than they did during Saddam’s Regime. Maybe this complaint is based on the fact that Islamic law is part of the new constitution. I’m not certain how Islam and individual liberty are compatible but there are many other provisions in the document that spells out the rights of individuals in general and women in particular.

From Chapter 2 Article 23

1st - Private property is protected and the owner has the right to use it, exploit it and benefit from it within the boundaries of the law.

2nd - Property may not be taken away except for the public interest in exchange for fair compensation. This shall be regulated by law.

Don’t let the U.S. Supreme Court get a hold of that one. Too bad the drafters of this constitution did not learn the lessons from Kelo vs. New London. The language should be a little more specific. I would suggest taking a look at Stephen Maklin’s Open Source Amendment Petition for a better example of protecting property rights for citizens. It is at least a good starting place.

And finally

From Chapter 2 Article 41

“Every individual has freedom of thought and conscience.”

This theme is repeated throughout the document. This is great news for those who prefer to think for themselves.

Certainly, President Bush made some mistakes in making his case for war with Iraq and has made a number of strategic errors conducting this war. If the president should be blamed for the deaths of over 2,000 soldiers and injuring many more, he also deserves credit for giving Iraq a chance to write a constitution by her people. Make no mistake about it, if not for George W. Bush there would be no Iraqi Constitution and Saddam Hussein would still be a threat in the region and indeed the world. This is not even arguable.

An Opposing View:

I found this article by Onkar Ghate titled "Proposed Iraqi Constitution Will Not Bring Freedom to Iraq or Security to America" on the Captialism Magizine website. Ghate reaches the opposite conclusion than I did in my post but his reasoning is solid. Ghate makes some valid points in his article; many of the concerns he has about Iraq's constitution I share. As I said, the Iraq Constitution is far from perfect. At the end of the day, however, the Iraq Constitution does subscribe to 'the rule of law' rather than the 'rule of men' and will probably give Iraq's citizens the closest thing to a free country than they have ever had. I am also optimistic that the Iraq Constitution will bring a measure of freedom to Iraq and security to America. Who is right? Only time will tell.


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