Unless things change over the next couple of weeks, it appears American men and women in Iraq are fighting to establish a theocracy there.
The constitution that is being drafted and is supposed to be ready by Aug. 15, contains this paragraph as Article 2 in Chapter 1:
"Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation. No law that contradicts its rules can be issued. This constitution preserves the Islamic identity for the majority of Iraqis and respects the rights of other religions."
The prominent position given to the Islamic declaration portends establishment of a state that is hardly what most Americans would have been eager to help establish. Its prominence is similar to that given in the U.S. Constitution to establishing Congress, the presidency and the courts as the branches of government from which all legitimate governance flows.
Suggestions that this is "just a draft" and that this provision might not appear in the final version of the constitution that is submitted to the voters is whistling past the graveyard. While there are issues yet to be worked out, this is not one of them. It is unlikely that the United States or any other supporter of a secular government in Iraq can do anything at this point to amend Article 2.
Action has precedent
This is, after all, not the first time an effort was made to establish Iraq as an Islamic state.
When an interim constitution was being written during the U.S.-run occupation, Shiite politicians, with some Sunni support, sought to have Islam designated the main source of legislation.
L. Paul Bremer, U.S. governor of Iraq, blocked the move, agreeing only that Islam would be considered "a source" -- but not the only one. Obviously, the Iraqi politicians were shrewd enough to see that there was no need to go to battle with Bremer over an interim constitution when they would be able to assure its inclusion in the permanent document.
This is not to be taken lightly, although, as we said, there is nothing the United States can do about it.
Depending on the way in which Islamic law is interpreted by Iraq's law makers, women, of course, face the greatest danger to their rights. Their status in the event of divorce and their ability to inherit property are practical considerations. If the Islamic law used to govern Iraq's civil law takes a more fundamentalist turn, the clothes women can wear, their ability to move about in public and, as in Saudi Arabia, their right to drive a car, could be affected.
Already there are some sections of Iraq in which fundamentalist clerics are exerting their influence, and women are being forced to wear heavy garments and veils.
On an international political level, the shift of Iraq to an Islamic state would work to align it with other Islamic states in the Middle East, most especially Iran, which would not be to the benefit of the United States.
If all that happens, even victory for American forces in Iraq -- in whatever form that victory might take -- would be hollow.