Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunni buy-in

BBC headline: “Underground Chinese Bishop Dies.” Well that’s convenient.

Sunday Telegraph headline that I just can’t tell if they realized how tasteless it was: “British Diplomat Extends Helping Hand to Europe’s Last Leper Colony.” In Romania, if you were wondering.

The WaPo has a story sub-headlined “Iraqi Draft Fails To Win Support of All Sunni Delegates.” Which under-states it just a bit, since the article fails to name a single Sunni supporter. Yesterday Chalabi, no, it was an aide to Chalabi, was asked to name one; he cited the speaker of the National Assembly, who denied it. (The LAT, however, quotes the defense minister, who it describes as a “secular Sunni Arab,” whatever that means, attacking the Sunnis on the constitutional committee because one is a truck driver and the other, he says, was an intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein.) US Ambassador Khalilzad is quoted twice by the WaPo on the need for a “Sunni buy-in,” a phrase not exactly redolent of Jeffersonian idealism. The document that will be rammed through the Nat. Assembly later today is not really a constitution, since it leaves fundamental questions, like the mechanisms of federalism, to be decided later by a simple majority of the parliament. The reason you have a separate body write a constitution is that 1) a body such as the next parliament shouldn’t decide on its own powers, 2) voters shouldn’t have to vote for people whose powers have not yet been determined.

And over in Afghanistan, things aren’t going so well either, but there aren’t enough American casualties for anybody to be asking whether there’s an exit strategy there. Well ok, they may be asking that in Afghanistan, but here, not so much. The WaPo notes about next month’s elections, “candidates who are suspected of involvement in atrocities can only be barred from running if they were convicted of an offense. But there have been no war crimes trials to date, and many former militia commanders were given posts in the transitional post-Taliban government in an attempt to win their support for democracy.” All this time there has been only one branch of government in Afghanistan, the executive, and Karzai has imposed an electoral system for the parliamentary elections which I’ve never heard of before, in which voters have only one vote in multi-seat constituencies. This will produce a fractious, disorganized and unrepresentative parliament too weak to challenge Karzai, whose power would therefore continue to be that of a dictator, if it operated beyond a few square blocs of Kabul.

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