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Iraq's constitutional referendum
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


October 13, 2005
Thursday PM

Braving all-too-credible threats of violence, Iraqis go to the polls Saturday to vote on a new constitution. The ballot will not be a definitive step toward American withdrawal, as the Bush administration hopes, but more likely one more step in a long process.

To draw Sunnis into the process, the majority Shiites and their Kurdish allies made the constitution easier to amend once parliamentary elections are held in December. Fine tuning the mechanism under which Iraq's ethnic and tribal groups are to coexist will take time, and this constitution should be considered a work in progress.

The stakes in Iraq are probably higher now than they were when we thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

A captured letter from al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al Zawahiri, to the al-Qaeda commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, chillingly laid out why. The goal of the jihadists is to force the United States from Iraq so they can create an expansionist, fundamentalist Islamic state that will then overthrow neighboring secular Arab states to recreate the mythical "caliphate," an Islamic empire capable of ousting the United States from the Mideast and destroying Israel.

This wouldn't be such a pipe dream if something like it hadn't already been done in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Al Zawahiri told his man in Iraq that bombing mosques and beheading hostages was starting to give the movement a bad name, and there is ample evidence that the Iraqis are becoming weary of the foreign jihadists.

Bush administration strategy is to use a mixture of force and persuasion to convince the Sunnis to stop their insurgency while aggressively pursuing the foreigners in their midst while meanwhile training the Iraqis to assume those duties. The confusion in the administration over the actual number of combat-ready Iraqi battalions indicates that process, too, is going slower than we would like.

The president gave a hint that he realizes U.S. involvement is not close to an end. In a video conference Thursday with U.S. troops, Bush repeated his battle cry, "We're never going to back down, we're never going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory." Then he added, "Thank you for all your work. When you get back to the United States, if I'm hanging around, come by and say hello."

That suggests that the job of finishing up what he started in Iraq may well be the task of his successor.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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