What do you say when 1,872 Americans have died in order to depose a dictator only to replace him with what's shaping up to be an Islamic republic where clerics get the final say on the rights of women? If you're George W. Bush, you simply say it isn't so.
The Iraqis still have a long way to go before they've adopted a new constitution. But if the draft that has been presented to the Iraqi National Assembly is adopted and approved by the Iraqi people, what they'll be left with is a lot less than the freedom-filled democracy the president has so often envisioned. The draft provides that Islam is the official religion of Iraq and prohibits the adoption of any laws that conflict with Islam's teachings, and it leaves open the possibility that issues regarding marriage, divorce and inheritance will be decided by clerics rather than judges. Howard Dean predicted the other day that Iraqi women may well end up worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein, and some experts suggest that he may be right.
The president's response? Simply deny that the issue exists. Speaking to reporters traveling with him in Idaho today, Bush said that "the fact that Iraq will have a democratic constitution that honors women's rights, the rights of minorities, is going to be an important change in the broader Middle East." Pressed to explain how a constitution "rooted in Islam" will end up "honoring the rights of women," Bush said he knew it would work out that way because Condoleezza Rice had told him.
"I talked to Condi, and there is not -- as I understand it, the way the constitution is written is that women have got rights, inherent rights recognized in the constitution, and that the constitution talks about not 'the religion,' but 'a religion,'" the president said. "Twenty-five percent of the assembly is going to be women, which is a -- is embedded in the constitution."