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Iraq's Provisional Constitution

Added March 11, 2004

Iraq's provisional constitution is set to go into effect on June 30, 2004.  There's already an excess of coverage and discussion on the news and on the net, and lawyers and "experts" are busy publicly dissecting the intent, direction, limitations, and scope of its various articles. The full text of the constitution can be found here and it's something that all those interested in the future of Iraq should take the time to read.

The constitution is a 'system of fundamental laws and principles that prescribes the nature, functions, and limits of a government' - as such it is a crucial, critical  document that sets the tone and the limits of future governance. There is to be an annex to the constitution that will be added on to the existing text before the June 30th implementation date - which highlights the fact that there are still issues to be resolved and continuing active disagreements and concerns among the drafters and ratifiers of the constitution. Beginnings are pivotal moments and one can only hope that Iraq enters into it's new phase with a solid, agreed upon foundation that puts to rest the apprehensions of those who fear inequality, disenfranchisement, or the inability to script their own future.

Once the document enters into force, various factions and groups will interpret and stretch and test the limits of the constitutional framework. Loopholes, partisan legal interpretations, and leveraging of influence are a common part of any system and various special interest groups will continue to seek to subvert or use any given system for their own ends. No document can legislate for all such circumstances - nor should any document be so rigid as to not allow for a legitimate flexibility in interpretation and execution - it's striking the right balance that's difficult. A constitution has a "spirit" and intention as well as a hard legal reality. The implementation, realization, and preservation of the vision behind the legal clauses is a task carried out and overseen by human beings - and its effectiveness is tied to the ethics, character, intentions, and aims of the people in positions of power within the governing system. (Saddam's Iraq had many "pretty" and noble sounding clauses ensconced in it's constitution - but as the brutality of the past decades have shown, words (spirit) and reality can be two entirely different worlds). Constitutions place theoretical legal limits on abuse, but influential people determined to "work" the system can nevertheless do tremendous and lasting damage.

When a people accept a constitution they are accepting and embracing the vision of its intention and spirit - its principles. Perfection is not expected, but sincerity toward the principles is. The sincerity and effort of those in authority (and the restraint of those acting as power brokers behind the scenes) is key if there is to be an effective emergence of the "character", however imperfect, contained within the charter.

Transition periods such as the one Iraq is going through are precarious and hazardous moments, precisely because so much is at stake for so many parties - so many varied interests, so many ambitions, are in play both inside and outside Iraq. Fear and desire run at a fever pitch in such times. Inshallah Iraqi's will find their own stable balance point in the midst of their many difficulties.

"The best of affairs is the middlemost."

- Irshaad Hussain

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