I've been reading the Italian press on the Iraqi constitution, and some of the smarter commentators point out some things I think we've missed. First, there is hardly a country in the region without some language acknowledging Sharia as either "the" or "a major" basis for national legislation. But Iran, for example, says that Allah is the sole source of authority, while the Iraqi constitution says that the people are the only legitimate source of authority. This in itself is a revolutionary event. Big celebrations were under way among Kurds and Shi'ites, when the 3-day holiday was announced. These celebrations included lots of women, happy with the Bill of Rights that guaranteed freedom of religious choice, freedom for minorities, etc. The new constitution makes Iraq a Federal Republic, NOT an "Arab Republic," which is again revolutionary. And the federal nature of the new republic is revolutionary for the whole region. My favorite newspaper, il Foglio, comments: "All the neighboring countries (Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia) and also more distant ones (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria) have trouble facing the spread of a democratic Iraq, of a Constitution born from true multiparty elections, and now a new innovation has been added: the...decentralization of power."
So, while I'm still waiting for the final text, I'm feeling a lot better. I think Constitutions matter a lot. In the modern world where judges and lawyers rule, the written law is enormously important.
The text of the Constitution is here.
And, Rick Brookheiser (also at The Corner) has this note:
The first American constitution (the Articles of Confederation) took over a year to write (July 1776-November 1777), over three years to ratify (the 13th state, Maryland, did not sign on until March 1781), and about five and half years before roughly half the country realized it had to be junked. We had some harder problems than Iraq has--thirteen prickly sovereignties, a war against the world's greatest superpower--but we also had great advantages--more than a century of experience of home rule in some places. Some of our circumstances were comparable (e.g., one third of the country disaffected in the early stages).
Update: From Powerline's Paul Mirengoff:
...the draft constitution appears to follow the Afghanistan constitution on issues of religion and personal rights. Like that document, the draft provides that no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, but also contains strong human rights protections. (In Afghanistan these protections are facilitating the emergence of a peaceful and vibrant democracy; whether the same words would yield the same result in Iraq remains to be seen, but not because the words are defective).The Iraqi draft states that "no law shall be enacted that contradicts [Islam’s] established provisions, the principles of democracy, [or] the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution." This, I understand, is actually a better formulation than Afghanistan’s model. Moreover, when it comes to stipulating the basic freedoms, the same provision apparently protects "all the religious rights of all individuals in the freedom of belief and religious practice." And Islam is declared to be "a" – not "the"– source of legislation. I don't see how, from a secularist standpoint, one could expect better language in a country like Iraq.
Sounds good to me!