Slowly and painfully, Iraq moves toward reconciliation

Rick Moran
The news from Iraq continues to be positive as the parliament has passed three vital pieces of legislation that will assist in political reconciliation.

After months of inaction and some balking by the Kurds, a provincial powers arrangement has been reached along with a date set for elections as well as a sweeping amnesty measure that would affect most of the prisoners held in custody:

More than any previous legislation, the new initiatives have the potential to spur reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites and set the country on the road to a more representative government, starting with new provincial elections.

The voting itself was a significant step forward for the Parliament, where even basic quorums have been rare. In a classic legislative compromise, the three measures, each of which was a burning issue for at least one faction, were packaged together for a single vote to encourage agreement across sectarian lines.

“Today we have a wedding party for the Iraqi Parliament,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker, who is a Sunni. “We have proved that Iraqis are one bloc and Parliament is able to find solutions that represent all Iraqis.”

But the parliamentary success was clouded because many of the most contentious details were simply postponed, raising the possibility that the accord could again break into rancorous factional disputes in future debates on the same issues.
Yes the devil is in the details. And yes, like the oil revenue sharing legislation, this bill could languish for months before final passage. But something fundamental is changing in Iraq; the legislators are learning about democracy. Not by being instructed by the United States but the only way the lessons stick - by practicing it.

It is tempting to say that this is a turning point for the parliament. But this is a body whose performance can be described as uneven at best. This much can be said, however; they are facing the difficult issues and doing their best to resolve them.

They may not be acting as quickly as the New York Times would like:

All these steps are essential for national conciliation. As always in Iraq, it is best to read the fine print. Final details of the legislation aren’t known. The country’s three-member presidency council must still sign off. And then the laws have to be implemented.

One month after Parliament approved a law intended to open government jobs to former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, American officials insist it will ensure that more former Baathists will be hired than barred. That will take a lot more good will and follow-through than Iraq’s central government has so far shown.

The Bush administration — which has displayed only intermittent interest in Iraq’s political stalemates — will have to press a lot harder to make sure that all these new laws are translated into action.
For a nation in the midst of sectarian conflict and under attack by ruthless terorrists, the Times is pretty hard on the Iraqis for not adhering to what they consider "a timely" timetable. And it is ridiculous to suppose that the US could hurry the process along.

This is a country that has never, ever had anything remotely resemblling a democracy in their long, bloody history. Since the essence of democracy is compromise, the monumental effort put forth by all parties to bury sectarian differences and come to some kind of agreement - however imperfect - is a testament to the efficacy of empowering people to run their own affairs.

None of this is acknowledged or even hinted at in the Times snarky, juvenile editorial that denigrates the efforts of people who are slowly beginnning to understand how truly hard democracy is to achieve.

There are times I really wish the New York Times would just shut up.
The news from Iraq continues to be positive as the parliament has passed three vital pieces of legislation that will assist in political reconciliation.

After months of inaction and some balking by the Kurds, a provincial powers arrangement has been reached along with a date set for elections as well as a sweeping amnesty measure that would affect most of the prisoners held in custody:

More than any previous legislation, the new initiatives have the potential to spur reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites and set the country on the road to a more representative government, starting with new provincial elections.

The voting itself was a significant step forward for the Parliament, where even basic quorums have been rare. In a classic legislative compromise, the three measures, each of which was a burning issue for at least one faction, were packaged together for a single vote to encourage agreement across sectarian lines.

“Today we have a wedding party for the Iraqi Parliament,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker, who is a Sunni. “We have proved that Iraqis are one bloc and Parliament is able to find solutions that represent all Iraqis.”

But the parliamentary success was clouded because many of the most contentious details were simply postponed, raising the possibility that the accord could again break into rancorous factional disputes in future debates on the same issues.
Yes the devil is in the details. And yes, like the oil revenue sharing legislation, this bill could languish for months before final passage. But something fundamental is changing in Iraq; the legislators are learning about democracy. Not by being instructed by the United States but the only way the lessons stick - by practicing it.

It is tempting to say that this is a turning point for the parliament. But this is a body whose performance can be described as uneven at best. This much can be said, however; they are facing the difficult issues and doing their best to resolve them.

They may not be acting as quickly as the New York Times would like:

All these steps are essential for national conciliation. As always in Iraq, it is best to read the fine print. Final details of the legislation aren’t known. The country’s three-member presidency council must still sign off. And then the laws have to be implemented.

One month after Parliament approved a law intended to open government jobs to former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, American officials insist it will ensure that more former Baathists will be hired than barred. That will take a lot more good will and follow-through than Iraq’s central government has so far shown.

The Bush administration — which has displayed only intermittent interest in Iraq’s political stalemates — will have to press a lot harder to make sure that all these new laws are translated into action.
For a nation in the midst of sectarian conflict and under attack by ruthless terorrists, the Times is pretty hard on the Iraqis for not adhering to what they consider "a timely" timetable. And it is ridiculous to suppose that the US could hurry the process along.

This is a country that has never, ever had anything remotely resemblling a democracy in their long, bloody history. Since the essence of democracy is compromise, the monumental effort put forth by all parties to bury sectarian differences and come to some kind of agreement - however imperfect - is a testament to the efficacy of empowering people to run their own affairs.

None of this is acknowledged or even hinted at in the Times snarky, juvenile editorial that denigrates the efforts of people who are slowly beginnning to understand how truly hard democracy is to achieve.

There are times I really wish the New York Times would just shut up.