· by RAY FLEMING THE farce that the drafting of Iraq's constitution has become seems destined to run for a few more days. We are now seeing in close-up the futility of President Bush's belief that an instant democracy can be created in a country which has absolutely no experience of the compromises that are necessary for democracy to work and in which the ruling classes are interested only in accruing power for their own communities rather than developing a national view. Whether or not some kind of patchedup document can be produced and approved by Iraq's national assembly before the end of this week hardly matters since everyone will know that the draft constitution cannot be other than fatally flawed. There is therefore an argument for thinking that a complete breakdown in the process would be preferable so that a new assembly would have to be elected, this time with Sunni participation, and the whole constitutional process restarted, but with a much longer time-scale for negotiation than the tight US-imposed time table under which the current procedure is taking place. The White House wants results and wants them quickly so that it can as soon as possible reach a point at which it can again declare “mission accomplished”, and quit. For instance it seems ready to acquiesce to the Shia insistence on the imposition of Islamic law. However, saner counsels in Washington are increasingly being heard to say that if anything like the present draft constitution were to be brought into existence the threat to stability in Iraq would be increased and America's commitment to remain extended to at least four more years, possibly longer. Yesterday The New York Times ran a leading article on Iraq whose concluding paragraph is worth quoting: “Americans continue dying in Iraq, but their mission creeps steadily downward. The nonexistent weapons of mass destruction dropped out of the picture long ago. Now the United States seems ready to walk away from its fine words about helping the Iraqis create a beacon of freedom, harmony and democracy for the Middle East. All that remains to be seen is whether the White House has been so desperate for an excuse to declare victory that it will settle for an Iranian-style theocracy.”

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