Old ghost in the Iraqi vote

mosqBagd2I don’t know about you, but every now and then I get two emails and, because I read them back to back, they become connected. This happened today, when I reached Jackson, Tenn., to visit Union University. I thinned out the deluge of email from the previous day or so and then started reading.

The Iraqi vote, of course, is one of the biggest stories out there today. I read the main Washington Post piece and, to my way of thinking, there was something missing. If the White House is going to be excited about this election and its impact on something that can be called a “democracy,” then I want to know about the impact of this vote on issues such as free speech, women’s rights, religious liberty and other related topics.

It may not be fair to read this story and let it stand alone, without taking into account other Post stories from the recent past. Still, read it and tell me what you think. Early on, we are told:

The strong overall turnout in the west, however, raised the possibility that the disempowered Sunni minority could defeat the draft charter, which endorses a loose federal system with a weak, religiously influenced central government. Many Sunnis fear the draft would bring the breakup of Iraq into ethnic and religious substates, and make permanent their loss of power to the Shiite Muslim majority after the toppling of Hussein. …

In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Bush said that the referendum dealt “a severe blow to the terrorists” while sending a message to the world. “Iraqis will decide the future of their country through peaceful elections, not violent insurgency.” Bush said the referendum was “a critical step forward in Iraq’s march toward democracy.”

The religion element is there, but quickly vanishes. We learn valuable information about the strong turnout, the threat of violence, the potential political impact of the votes and other topics. But if religion is at the heart of these issues, what happened to that information? How will the vote and this new constitution affect basic human rights?

At that point, I opened another email. Click here to read a fresh Freedom House release on the vote. Then read the Post report again.

I don’t know about you, but I want the excellent reporters at the Post to answer some of the questions raised by the Freedom House activists.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    I don’t know if it addresses the issues in the FH’s release fully, but the networks have been summarizing the constitution and its provisions, if somewhat briefly.

    Of course, more coverage is always good.

  • Stephen A.

    I was asked by tmatt where the summaries might be found on the Internet, and it’s not so easy to find them online.

    I saw graphics flashed up on CNN and Fox News and bullet points appeared as commentators outlined the provisions of the constitution during news
    stories, but (and I hate to do this, given past postings!) a very good online analysis is this link on NPR:


    Some, probably most, news outlets online and in print published the entire document, which is enlightening itself:

    The balance between “official religion” and “religious freedom” is probably the key issue here, and it was gingerly handled, as you can see.

  • http://www.renewal-1.com Dale R. Evans

    Digging into the religious issue in Irag exposes much that is uncomfortable. Why does the mainstream media appear to be so cooperative with the Administration? President Clinton once said, “American would rather win than be right.” Bush knows that. The mainstream media knows it. Anybody dependent on public approval for power or wealth knows it.
    Grass roots America will punish those who portray America as a loser. Looking too deeply into the religious issues in Irag would do just that. Therefore as little as possible will be said about it.

  • Stephen A.

    “Why does the mainstream media appear to be so cooperative with the Administration?”

    Please tell me what planet you’ve been living on for the last four and a half years.

    Bush has been torn to bits by the media, sometimes deservedly, but often because they start from a position assuming he’s lying to them, and us.

    A case can be made that it’s the media’s role to be critical, but I see no evidence to make a case that the MSM as a whole or even “mostly” are giving Bush a pass in any aspect of his job. That could be why his approval ratings are down to 39% (That, and he both doesn’t have a clear agenda and doesn’t know how to articulate one.)

    As to your point about losing, there is a faction (religious as well as political) who desperately wants to see America “punished” for “past wrongs” even when it makes no logical sense. But the media is actually building them up and supporting that view, so that, too, works against your premise.