Date: Mon 08 Sep 2003 - 19:11:29 GMT
Iraq's Path to Sovereignty
By L. Paul Bremer III
Monday, September 8, 2003; Page A21
Five months ago today the brave men and women of our armed
forces were completing the liberation of Iraq's 25 million citizens.
It was a tremendous military triumph. Gone are Saddam Hussein's
torture chambers. Gone are his mass killings and rape rooms. And
gone is his threat to America and the international community.
The liberation was a great and noble deed.
It is fair to ask: What is next?
No thoughtful person would suggest that the coalition should
govern Iraq for long. Although Iraqis have freedoms they have
never had before, freedom is not sovereignty and occupation is
unpopular with occupier and occupied alike. We believe Iraqis
should be given responsibility for their own security, economic
development and political system as soon as possible.
So, then, how can we get Iraqis back in charge of Iraq?
Elections are the obvious solution to restoring sovereignty to the
Iraqi people. But at the present elections are simply not possible.
There are no election rolls, no election law, no political parties
law and no electoral districts.
The current constitution is a Hussein-dictated formula for tyranny.
When Hussein loaded two trucks with money and fled the
advancing coalition forces, he left behind a vacuum. Electing a
government without a permanent constitution defining and
limiting government powers invites confusion and eventual abuse.
So, to hold elections Iraq needs a new constitution and it must be
written by Iraqis. It must reflect their culture and beliefs. Writing
a constitution, as all Americans know, is a solemn and important
undertaking. It cannot be done in days or weeks.
Nonetheless, the path to full Iraqi sovereignty is clear. The
journey has begun and three of the seven steps on this path have
already been taken.
The first step came two months ago with the creation of a 25-
member Governing Council broadly representative of Iraqi
society. These brave men and women have come forward
willingly to help build the new Iraq.
The second step took place last month when the Governing
Council named a preparatory committee to devise a way to write a
The third and most important was putting day-to-day operation of
Iraqi government in the hands of Iraqis. Last week the Governing
Council named 25 ministers. Now every Iraqi ministry is run by
an Iraqi appointed by Iraqis. These ministers, who serve at the
pleasure of the Governing Council, conduct the business of
government. They set policy.
Even today, they are preparing the 2004 budget and must operate
their ministries according to those budgets. The coalition wants
them to exercise real power and will thrust authority at them.
Writing Iraq's new constitution is the fourth step. It begins after
the preparatory committee recommends a process for writing a
constitution to the Governing Council later this month.
Step five, popular ratification of the constitution, is indispensable.
Once written, the constitution will be widely circulated, discussed
and debated among the Iraqi people. All adult Iraqis will have the
opportunity to vote for or against it. For the first time in history,
Iraq will have a permanent constitution written by and approved
by the Iraqi people.
The sixth step, election of a government, follows naturally.
Shortly after the constitution is ratified by popular vote there will
be an election to fill the elective offices specified in the
The officials in charge of that government will be chosen through
universal adult suffrage in an open election.
When that government is elected, Iraq will have a government
designed and selected by Iraqis. It will be unique in Iraq's history
and will send a powerful message about democracy to other
countries in the region.
The seventh step, dissolving the coalition authority, will follow
naturally on the heels of elections. Once Iraq has a freely elected
government, the coalition authority will happily yield the
remainder of its authority to that sovereign Iraqi government.
The process is straightforward and realistic. No doubt there will
be bumps on the path, especially as terrorists have decided to
make Iraq a key battlefield in the global war on terrorism. But the
Iraqi people, with the full support of the administration and its
coalition partners, are on the way to exercising full political
Iraq faces many problems, including decades of under-investment
in everything from the oil industry to the sewer system. Security
issues are a matter of grave concern. There are other problems as
well, but knowing how to turn Iraq into a sovereign state is not
one of them.
Last night the president called upon Americans to continue to
support the Iraqis in their progress. I am confident that the
American people will rise to this challenge as they always do.
The writer is the coalition's chief administrator in Iraq.
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