President Bush’s Remarks on the Iraqi Elections

Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period,” The Coalition Provisional Authority,, 8 March 2004.

President Congratulates Iraqis on Election,” by George W. Bush, The White House,, 30 January 2005.

I’ve blogged President George Bush’s speeches before, so here I go again…

Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.

In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government.

This is a good sign. The election is important, and Bush seems to be signalling this.

The people of Iraq have voted. Their opponents are thugs and assassins.

A clearer signal to that branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iraqi Islamic Party, could scarcely be made in diplomatic language.

On cable news, all the talking heads are “praising” “wise” Shia leads for promising to include sunnis in writing the Constitution. If this means we are forcing our democratic allies to appease tribalist murderers, it will be a disaster. But seemingly, Bush promises that this isn’t so. Bush seems to recognize the tribal nature of the on-going civil war. That while Sunni rights should be protected, the tribes and parties that worked against the election are the enemy.

This does not mean they will be dissolve, or banned, or persecuted. But like the Serbs in Yugoslavia, the Sunni Arabs are on the road to losing forever. There is no reason why a minority group composing a fifth of the population should have any special rights of privileges. Bush understand this.

Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens. We also mourn the American and British military personnel who lost their lives today. Their sacrifices were made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all.

Americans are best on the offensive when we see ourselves as the defense. We proudly remember the Revolution, Civil War, and Second World War as defensive wars, even though both involved spread our ideals to places where they were resisted. The Second Battle of Iraq in Global War on Terrorism is the same way. We are over there so our enemies do not come over here. President Bush is selling more secure future as a future worth creating — good.

The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups. One news account told of a voter who had lost a leg in a terror attack last year, and went to the polls today, despite threats of violence. He said, “I would have crawled here if I had to. I don’t want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace.”

Bush rhetorically combines images from the Revolution and Civil Rights struggle. Both are appropriate. Building a better world is a revolutionary undertaking. Being “ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.” We have seen antidemocratic terrorist cliques in our land, and we have conquered them.

Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country’s destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace. In this process, Iraqis have had many friends at their side. The European Union and the United Nations gave important assistance in the election process. The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless, and their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day. The people of the United States have been patient and resolute, even in difficult days.

“Diplomats” stands out. Soldiers are dying daily, and Bush mentions diplomats? This seems to be intra-Washington signalling to the State Department. Is Bush saying that Rice at State will be less bloodthirsty than Goss at CIA? Or that progress demands political careers die?

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security.

Israel is still under the Basic Law, never ratifying a constitution. Other states survive without one, most notably Britain.

Interestingly, Iraq’s Basic Law specifically plans for a failed Constitution ratification (in the now likely scenario, vetoed by three IIP-dominated provinces) or failed Constitutional Convention

Article 2.

(A) The term “transitional period” shall refer to the period beginning on 30 June 2004 and lasting until the formation of an elected Iraqi government pursuant to a permanent constitution as set forth in this Law, which in any case shall be no later than 31 December 2005, unless the provisions of Article 61 are applied.

Article 61.

(A) The National Assembly shall write the draft of the permanent constitution by no later than 15 August 2005.

(B) The draft permanent constitution shall be presented to the Iraqi people for approval in a general referendum to be held no later than 15 October 2005. In the period leading up to the referendum, the draft constitution shall be published and widely distributed to encourage a public debate about it among the people.

(C) The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.

(D) If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005.

(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December 2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft permanent constitution.

(F) If necessary, the president of the National Assembly, with the agreement of a majority of the members’ votes, may certify to the Presidency Council no later than 1 August 2005 that there is a need for additional time to complete the writing of the draft constitution. The Presidency Council shall then extend the deadline for writing the draft constitution for only six months. This deadline may not be extended again.

(G) If the National Assembly does not complete writing the draft permanent constitution by 15 August 2005 and does not request extension of the deadline in Article 61(F) above, the provisions of Article 61(E), above, shall be applied.

In this context, it’s interesting to note some other wrinkles of the Basic Law

Article 3.

(A) This Law is the Supreme Law of the land and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception. No amendment to this Law may be made except by a three-fourths majority of the members of the National Assembly and the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. Likewise, no amendment may be made that could abridge in any way the rights of the Iraqi people cited in Chapter Two; extend the transitional period beyond the timeframe cited in this Law; delay the holding of elections to a new assembly; reduce the powers of the regions or governorates; or affect Islam, or any other religions or sects and their rites.

In other words, a super-majority in the TNA could write its own Constitution without ratification. The would just amend the Basic Law to be what they want, and rename it “the Constitution.” This is how the SCAP Constitution of Japan was technically ratified — as an amendment to the Meiji Constitution.

Allawi has been declaring Martial Law on and off again. The Basic Law implicitly allows this

Article 14.

The individual has the right to security, education, health care, and social security. The Iraqi State and its governmental units, including the federal government, the regions, governorates, municipalities, and local administrations, within the limits of their resources and with due regard to other vital needs, shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities to the people.

So by precedent, Iraq is not interpreting the Basic Law too literally.

Basically, it is very clear to the TNA that the need for a Constitution is theoretical. Bush is encouraging them to try hard to follow the constitutional timeline. But everyone knows it’s optional.

There’s more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they’re equal to the challenge. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.

Thank you very much.

Thank you Mr. President, for freeing Iraq and being our first leader in the Global War on Terrorism.

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