We're supposed to take it as a given in discussions about Iraq: Whatever you might think about the lies that led to the war or the bad planning that has made it worse or the contradictory messages about when the troops will come home, you've got to acknowledge that Iraqis --- and Iraqi women, in particular -- are better off with Saddam Hussein out of power.
Someone forgot to tell Howard Dean.
Appearing on "Face the Nation" over the weekend, the DNC chairman said that, while the situation could improve, "it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq." Dean called it a "pretty sad commentary" on the Bush administration's "ability to do anything right."
The Republican National Committee responded with a statement in which it said that "Deans wild assertion that Iraqi women would be better off living under Saddam Hussein than democracy is not only counterproductive to meaningful debate, it demeans the hard work of American servicemen and women serving in Iraq." The problem? As we noted earlier today, administration officials are beginning to acknowledge that removing Saddam isn't the same thing as installing a democracy. "We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," a U.S. official familiar with planning for Iraq tells the Washington Post.
Will women be better off under "some form of Islamic republic" than they were under Saddam? That remains to be seen. As the Associated Press is reporting today, a study commissioned by the committee drafting Iraq's constitution found that most Iraqis support full rights for women -- but only if those rights are in keeping with the teaching of Islam. According to Bloomberg, a draft of the Iraqi constitution published last month provided that women would have equal rights with men "in accordance with provisions of the Islamic Sharia,'' which some women's rights groups took as a sign that clerics, not secular judges, would have the final say on rights granted to Iraqi women.
How will it all turn out? It's too soon to know. Aug. 15 is just about over in Iraq, and the National Assembly hasn't agreed on a constitution yet. Even if it does so soon, there may be amendments to consider, and then there's still a vote to come. Maybe the RNC's rosy optimism will be rewarded -- but maybe not. Trying to cast doubts on Dean's "pessimistic outlook," the RNC mocks Dean for saying back in December 2003 that the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made America safer." What the RNC doesn't say: It seems that a majority of Americans now think that Dean was right.