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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