It does not diminish the Herculean effort in Iraq, the sacrifice of young men and women fighting for the freedom of others that they enjoy or the political price being paid by the Bush administration to question whether the interim constitution signed in Baghdad on Monday (March 8) will end the post-war fighting and establish respect for the human rights of all.
On Jan. 23, 1973, President Richard Nixon announced "peace with honor" had been achieved following a costly war launched for the express purpose of preventing a Communist takeover of South Vietnam by the North. Nixon said the agreement between the United States and North Vietnam would ensure a "stable peace," guaranteeing the right of the people "to determine their own future, without outside interference."
Less than two years later, Vietnam was unified and Communist.
North Vietnam was happy to sign any agreement that would get the United States out of Vietnam, knowing it would never abide by its provisions and no mechanism existed for holding the Communists accountable.
Perhaps the most problematic item in the interim Iraq constitution is the clause "guaranteeing" religious freedom. That's because the document also places Islamic law, as interpreted by whoever ends up in charge, as the supreme law of the land. There is no evidence of religious tolerance anywhere in the world where Islamic Sharia law predominates. Sharia law is the most fundamental of the fundamentalist Islamic doctrines.
The Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD) in Washington says Sharia law discriminates against women and Iraq's small (estimated at 2 percent) Christian population. In a statement, IRD says that if a Christian man converts to Islam, he could divorce his Christian wife and she might lose custody of her children, who would be officially decreed Muslim. Anyone converting to another faith from Islam is considered an apostate and, under some circumstances and interpretations of the Koran, could be executed.
That a single Ayatollah - Sayyid Ali Hussaini Sistani - could delay the signing of the document and many of his followers still express reservations about the size and role of the Kurdish population in a future government signals that the interim constitution may have less cohesive power than American officials think.