Dramatic Irony

It now seems likely that Iraqi voters have ratified a new federal Constitution. No doubt things are turning a corner, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, etc. We can be certain that this carefully crafted compromise will augur well for democracy and human rights in Iraq, and will certainly avert sectional strife and bloody civil war.

… because, hey, that’s worked out so well in the past. Right?

Further reading

Postscript, added 2005-10-18

to the barricades 2005-10-18 wonders whether the vote was fraudulent:

It seems apparent that something highly unusual, possibly fraud, has occured with regard to the recent referendum. First off, with regard to the Sunni provinces, who not only showed up in large numbers (153% more than in January) but according to results, the majority voted in favor of the consitution which is against all predictions and indicating factor

For myself, I wonder why an “honest” election would make the imposition of a statist Constitution on those who do not consent to it any more legitimate. Since when did anarchists start believing in government elections?


Help me get rid of these Google ads with a gift of $10.00 towards this month’s operating expenses for radgeek.com. See Donate for details.

2 replies to Dramatic Irony Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. labyrus

    Since when is “legitimacy” a binary, yes-or-no quality?

    While no state is really legitimate by any objective standard, some states are certainly moreso than others. An Iraqi constitution ratified by non-fraudulent elections, which guaranteed the right to organise and women’s rights would be more legitimate (reflecting more the actual desires of Iraqis) than the one which did pass.

    Realistically, the solution for Iraq right now isn’t an anarchist revolution in which Iraq overthrows the state. Even if there was any movement towards anarchism at all in Iraq, such a movement would be quickly and decisively toppled by the US military before it had any chance of success. The truth is, in the short term at least, there is no non-statist option for Iraq. Attacking someone for evaluating which brand of statism is less destructive seems pointless.

  2. Rad Geek


    An Iraqi constitution ratified by non-fraudulent elections, which guaranteed the right to organise and women’s rights would be more legitimate (reflecting more the actual desires of Iraqis) than the one which did pass.

    A few points.

    1. I do not think that reflecting more the actual desires of the Iraqis is a criterion or even a good test for the legitimacy of a constitution. (If it turns out the majority of Iraqis want a constitution that reduces women to chattel slavery, would that make it legitimate? Does the fact that the majority of people desire anything, just by itself, license them to impose that desire on the rest of the population?)

    2. I think it’s also a mistake to identify legitimacy of political institutions with their non-destructiveness. Non-destructiveness comes in degrees and is purely a matter of empirical consequences; legitimacy is a matter of whether or not you are operating within your rightful sphere of authority, whatever the consequences may be (anarchists believe that no state is legitimate because they believe that nobody has the rightful authority to rule; some are less egregiously illegitimate than others, because they do not go as far beyond their rightful sphere of authority as others, but that does not mean that they are more legitimate, any more than a less egregious lie is more true than a wild one). The distinction between legitimacy and destructiveness is connected with another point:

    3. If your issue is with the legitimacy of the constitution, then having a fair vote on it won’t help one bit. Anarchists should know better than to concede this point, since they have spent a good century debunking the myth of democratic rulers.

      If, on the other hand, you want to claim that the actual constitution which is in the process of being imposed (by hook or by crook) on the Iraqi people is more destructive than possible alternatives, I’d be quite inclined to agree with you. But I haven’t got any idea what a rigged or unrigged election has to do with that. Maybe as a purely strategic matter, worse constitutions would be more likely to be voted down in a fair vote. Or maybe not. But the act of counting the votes this way or that isn’t itself destructive, so why waste any energy on moral indignation over stolen votes when your actual objections are to the provisions of the constitution, not the process by which it is being adopted?