One Iraqi's View of the Constitution

It's the details that matter in Baghdad Burning as often as the opinions expressed.

You can almost taste the messy tooki fruit, and picture the old swing, the fence and the frustrating neighbor behind it.

The author of the blog goes by Riverbend, and her work is full of gems -- some uplifting, others disturbing -- about life in today's Iraq from the perspective of a 20-something Iraqi woman living in the capital. (Here's a bit about her and her blog, and about the spoof blog that once tried to take her on.) Her discussion of the proposed constitution, like her writing over the last two years, is nuanced and compelling.

It seems, for example, that Iraqis share with Americans the widespread attitude that one little vote doesn't really matter. Riverbend relates her neighbor's reaction when encouraged to read the text of the proposed constitution -- she used it to sweep away the tooki fruit, then handed it back, stained and unread.

Riverbend claims that Iraqi forces are threatening Sunnis in an effort to keep them away from the polls. And those on all sides who are planning to vote, Riverbend says, have already made up their minds "based not on personal convictions, but on the fatwas and urgings of both Sunni and Shia clerics." And as for women's rights? They "aren't a primary concern for anyone, anymore," she writes. "People actually laugh when someone brings up the topic. 'Let's keep Iraq united first'," they say.

Most troubling was her last line:

Rights and freedoms have become minor concerns compared to the possibility of civil war, the reality of ethnic displacement and cleansing, and the daily certainty of bloodshed and death.

Think about that. The rights and freedoms that American leaders say we went into Iraq to establish (putting aside those phantom weapons of mass destruction that were the original rationale for invading) pale in comparison to the very real threat of violence that Iraqis face every day. Riverbend's picture is of a people living in fear -- or, where they've gotten past their fear, convinced that their fate is entirely out of their hands.

By Emily Messner |  October 14, 2005; 9:25 AM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: This Week's Debate: Iraq's Constitution | Next: Maureen Dowd: Champion of Women's Rights?

Comments

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It's interesting that you choose to quote from Riverbend's blog for your article. Could it be that it conforms more fully with your views of the Iraq constitution? You could have quoted the Iraq the Model blog, iraqthemodel.blogspot.com, but since that blog is more positive, I guess you chose to go with the negative one. Interestingly, Iraq the Model has been updated since the latest revisions, something that has not occured on Baghdad Burning (as of my post).

"What happened today is a historic event that will isolate the enemies of Iraq and freedom and will pave the way for a clear future for Iraq after important Sunni groups decided to actively join the political process in Iraq.

There's a visible feeling of relief on the streets and I think the constitution is on the way to be ratified...the process has come out of the emergency room and recovery will follow."

Posted by: Jason | October 14, 2005 12:56 PM

I must disagree with Jason. Emily could talk about Iraq the Model in another post, but this one is about one Iraqi woman's view; it deserved to be highlighted on its own. Regardless of how any of us might feel about the situation in Iraq or the draft constitution, Baghdad Burning is beautiful writing---clearly not just propaganda, but one woman's genuine experiences in the new Iraq. It adds a lot to the debate.

Posted by: Anna | October 14, 2005 01:10 PM

It is so easy for us sitting in a nice, cozy western country with a nice, established constitution, a functional government and *generally* safe streets. We must naturally assume that's what everyone wants.

Well, many people around the world, I am sure, would like the comparatively carefree western lifestyle. But when you start with very little, you can't have everything at once. And so, in Iraq, people have priorities. Most Iraqis would rate as their top priorities personal security and an economy stable enough that they can make a living - you know, feed the kids and all.

A constitution sounds nice, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Is a constitution going to stop the violence? No. Is the constitution going to create jobs and economic prosperity? Not directly and definitely not right away. I can understand, therefore, why Riverbend's neighbor would use the proposed constitution to sweep up fruit. If I was in those shoes, the constitution would be pretty meaningless to me as well.

When the US Constitution was written, it was ratified in an environment of far more stability than we're seeing in Iraq, and by a comparatively homogenous society. The 13 colonies were full of white Anglo-Saxon Christians, who were pretty much interested in coming together. In Iraq, you've got the Shia and Sunnis who aren't big fans of each other, and the Kurds who would prefer their own country altogether, coupled with large scale killings left, right and center, plus an occupying military force to boot. Reestablishing civil society and rule of law is not as simple as waving a wand and thinking happy thoughts. Optimism is not going to guard against civil war.

And Jason, I don't think the original post was intended to necessarily be partisan. It was to highlight an interesting blog. If this post had been about the "Iraq Constitution Happy Happy Joy Joy Blog" (and I challenge someone to create such a blog) then there would have been the same comments as your's, just from the other side. Chill, dude - not everyone is a partisan hack.

Derek.

Posted by: Derek | October 14, 2005 02:37 PM

I think it was in this blog that I read about some professor busted for leaving comments in his own blog by fake students that he fabricated saying how he was the best professor they ever had and whatnot. What an idiot. Anyway, I've been trying to find the discussion so I can show a friend that story, but I haven't been able to find it. Does anyone remember this at all? Sorry if I read it somewhere else and no one has any idea what I'm talking about.

Thanks!

Posted by: anon. | October 14, 2005 03:04 PM

Since "Baghdad Burning" doesn't allow comments, I bet "tooki" fruit are like mulberries here. I just needed to say that so to somebody.

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