Democracy 'Messy' but Progress Being Made in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2004 Coalition officials realize that democracy "is messy" and are not discouraged that the Iraqi Governing Council did not sign the Transitional Administrative Law March 5, said officials in Baghdad today.
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the process for adopting the law, which will serve as the Iraqi constitution after the coalition returns sovereignty June 30, "is on track." The council unanimously had agreed to the law earlier in the week.
Senor said the Iraqi Governing Council intends eventually to sign the document. He called it a healthy process that democracies around the world engage in. The signing ceremony was set, when a Shiia group objected to one item in the law. Governing council members are working out the differences among themselves.
Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer III is in "strictly observer status" at the discussions, Senor said. "It's a technical detail, ... but it does have important substantive implications regarding minority rights," he said. "These sorts of last-minute negotiations occur all the time whether in the House of Commons or the United States Congress. The important thing is the Iraqi Governing Council is working together, working to solve these problems.
"Anytime Iraqis are sitting around a table debating democratic principles as importance as minority rights, it is a good thing," Senor said.
"It reminds us of how far we have come. In March 2003, if you had predicted that Iraqi leaders would have to delay by a few days a signing ceremony for an Iraqi democratic constitution because they wanted to refine protections for the rights of minorities, people would not have believed you."
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, briefed on military operations around Iraq. He said that the military conditions in Iraq remained stable. He said that over the past week there have been an average of 22 attacks on coalition military targets, just over three attacks daily against Iraqi forces and three attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.
The coalition forces which include more than 200,000 members of the Iraqi security forces continue offensive operations to kill or capture enemy forces, Kimmitt reported, to gather intelligence about enemy forces and "to ensure the people of Iraq of our continued determination to establish a safe and secure environment."
Coalition forces continue to investigate the bombings in Baghdad and Karbala that killed 200 Shiia pilgrims and wounded more than 500. Iraqi police turned over two people from Najaf that may have information on the attacks, Kimmitt said.
He gave a snapshot of coalition efforts in Iraq: In past 24 hours coalition forces conducted 1,523 patrols, 25 operations, 16 raids and captured 79 anti-coalition suspects. In the north, coalition forces moved against the Abu Doha cell of the former regime's paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen. They captured 34 members, including the cell leader, March 3.
Coalition forces also captured "targets" in the north central region, around Baghdad and in the west. Coalition soldiers were wounded in an attack in the south, Kimmitt said.
Reporters asked Kimmitt if the coalition would maintain six bases in Iraq after sovereignty returns. "We will have quite a few more than six bases in Iraq following return of sovereignty," he said.
He noted that even after June 30, U.S. and coalition forces will remain involved with security responsibilities. "We don't have any long-term permanent basing decisions here in Iraq," Kimmitt said. "We will certainly need bases in Iraq in the near term and medium term to provide a safe and stable and secure environment for the people of Iraq."