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How new Iraqi constitution compares to old one

Published Aug 20, 2005 8:49 AM

As the old saying goes, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The spinmasters who try to invent a decent rationale for all the destruction and pain caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq are searching for flattering words to describe the content of the new constitution—a document that still has not been finalized, despite the expiration of a U.S.-set Aug. 15 deadline. The various factions seeking to be U.S. imperialism’s favored partners in the plunder of the country are still slugging it out over how much power each group will have in the state structure.

The word “democracy,” of course, appears in the media again and again. “Rights for women” were once touted as a goal of the occupation regime, but they have quietly faded away. One thing is for sure, however: the right of foreign oil companies to fatten off Iraq’s copious natural resources will be in the constitution in the tightest lawyerly language possible.

What will be missing from this document are the social guarantees that once existed in Iraq—before two U.S. wars and the present occupation tore down the economy of this oil-rich country and imploded its infrastructure.

The last Iraqi constitution was enacted in 1970. Its economic and social provisions were the product of the 1958 anti-colonial revolution that had kicked out the British colonialists. Article 13 stated very clearly: “National resources and basic means of production are owned by the People.” This is the article that laid the basis for Anglo-U.S. imperialism’s undying hatred of the Iraqi state. It made it unconstitutional for any foreign oil company—whether ExxonMobil or British Petroleum—to own any part of Iraq’s vast oil and gas resources.

Another article of the 1970 constitution, Article 19 on Equality, contained two sections: “(a) Citizens are equal before the law, without discrimination because of sex, blood, language, social origin, or religion. (b) Equal opportunities are guaranteed to all citizens, according to the law.”

This is the article under which women were to achieve tremendous progress in education and employment in Iraq. Was the constitution really carried out, or was it just an empty document?

There are many, many sources to show that Iraqi women under the previous regime advanced the furthest of any country in the Middle East. But perhaps the source that would appear most credible to people in the United States is “A Country Study: Iraq,” issued in 1990. This book, according to its foreword, is “one in a continuing series of books prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under the Country Studies/ Area Handbook Program sponsored by the Department of the Army.” (http:// lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iqtoc.html)

The U.S. government commissions the preparation of this series of books, which cover virtually every country in the world. Known as the Country Studies, their purpose is to provide U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence officers with relatively accurate information about the areas to which they are sent. If U.S. spies, generals and ambassadors had to rely on the disinformation about these countries that is conveyed by presidential statements and the mass media, they would be ill-prepared for their jobs.

Here’s what this book had to say about Iraqi education: “Between 1976 and 1986, the number of primary-school students increased 30 percent; female students increased 45 percent, from 35 to 44 percent of the total. The number of primary-school teachers increased 40 percent over this period. At the secondary level, the number of students increased by 46 percent, and the number of female students increased by 55 percent, from 29 to 36 percent of the total. Baghdad, which had about 29 percent of the population, had 26 percent of the primary students, 27 percent of the female primary students, and 32 percent of the secondary students.”

On how education was developed throughout the country, the book says that “The Baath regime also seemed to have made progress since the late 1960s in reducing regional disparities, although they were far from eliminated ... . Accordingly, in the mid-1980s the government made plans to expand Salah ad Din University in Irbil in the north and to establish Ar Rashid University outside Baghdad. The latter was not yet in existence in early 1988 but both were designed ultimately to accommodate 50,000 students. In addition, at the end of December 1987, the government announ ced plans to create four more universities: one in Tikrit in the central area, one each at Al Kufah and Al Qadisiyah in the south, and one at Al Anbar in the west.”

The whole system of education was provided by the government, free of charge. Medical care was also the best in the Middle East. That’s what oil wealth can do for a country when its natural resources are not in the hands of foreign capital. How ever, what was recognized as a right in the old constitution will not be in the new, “democratic” one.

The Country Studies book observes that in the 1980s, as a result of Iraq’s war with Iran—a war encouraged by Washington because of U.S. imperialism’s fear and hatred of the Iranian Revolution—the shortage of men led to an acceleration of women moving into positions of authority in Iraqi society.

“In the mid-1980s, observers reported that in many ministries the overwhelming proportion of employees were women. Foreign contractors have encountered women supervisors on huge construction projects, women doctors in the hospitals, and even women performing law enforcement roles. This emancipation—extraordinary for an Arab country—was sanctioned by the government, which expended a significant amount of propaganda publicizing the role of women in helping to win the war.”

Will the U.S. Army generals of today admit to any of what their own researchers said about Iraq in 1990? Not likely, since the Pentagon has to portray everything about Iraq under Saddam Hussein as “evil” in order to justify its criminal attack on the country.

All these accomplishments of Iraq were destroyed by the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation that began in March 2003. The infrastructure had already been deeply compromised, of course, by the first Gulf War in 1990 and the years of economic sanctions that followed.

The U.S. has so demonized Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, that it is considered subversive here even to mention the social progress that was made during those days. Hussein was a bourgeois nationalist leader in a country trying to emerge from foreign domination. He was no more bloody than the leaders in the United States who presided over its early years of slavery, the extermination of much of the Indigenous population, and the wars of expansion against Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines. However, the crimes of U.S. presidents during that period are excused in our history books by the rapid industrial development of the country.

The development of the Iraqi nation after the 1958 revolution is also a fact, and the intervention of the Western imperialists has dealt a criminal blow to the aspirations of the Iraqi people. It is no surprise, therefore, that most of them support the resistance that is dealing hammer blows to the occupation forces.