8.19.2005

Rumsfeld Confident Iraqi Constitutional Process Will Succeed

Defense secretary says drafters are working seriously on "tough issues"

Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he is confident that Iraqi legislators will present a draft constitution for Iraqi voters to approve later in the year, and he compares that process to the development of the U.S. Constitution since its inception in the late 18th century.

“[M]y impression is they'll get it done,” Rumsfeld said August 15 in an interview on KARN radio in Arkansas.

Issues such as federalism and the role of Islam are “tough issues for them,” but they understand the importance of having a constitution, he said, “and they have serious people working seriously.”

The defense secretary said Iraqi negotiators do not necessarily have to come to agreement on every issue; they could amend the document over time, just as U.S. lawmakers have done with the U.S. Constitution.

“They can get it 99 percent done and leave a few things to work out, or they could conceivably finish it and have it voted on and then, just as the United States has amended our Constitution with the Bill of Rights and then another 17 times,” he said.

Asked about the perception that the U.S. military is struggling in Iraq, Rumsfeld recalled other historic conflicts, such as America's War of Independence and the two World Wars, when the outcome appeared bleak at times but U.S. forces ultimately prevailed.

“[W]e have, in fact, been able to prevail in the last analysis. And I have no doubt in my mind but that that'll be the case in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he said.

In an August 16 interview with WFLA radio in Florida, Rumsfeld said the U.S. military is on the offensive in Iraq.

“They have been out going after the terrorists and the insurgents where they are and capturing and killing large numbers of them every single month. The numbers of people that are being detained and killed have been growing month by month,” he said.

He also said there is “no way in the world the U.S. military can lose a battle or a war to the enemies that we're dealing with in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the global war on terror,” describing the conflict as a “test of wills” being waged partly through the media.

The terror groups “systematically manage the news in a way that is attractive to the media to carry it. And it creates a drumbeat of negative impressions, and that is where the battle is taking place,” he said.

The defense secretary also criticized the media for not reporting more positive news from Iraq.

They are not reporting “the fact that the schools are open, not the fact that the hospitals and clinics are open, not the fact that Iraq's got a stock exchange and that their oil and energy circumstances are proceeding apace, not the fact that tens of thousands of people are lined up to join the Iraqi security forces, not the fact that there's hundreds and hundreds of people running for public office and that there were something like 8 million people who voted in the last election on January 30th,” he said.

The ongoing constitutional debate as well is “just an amazing accomplishment,” he said, in bringing together Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Although they are from different ethnic and religious groups, he said, "they're debating how they can have a piece of paper called a constitution that will hold them together as a country.”

Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State

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