Iraq Update: Voters Approve Constitution Suicide bombers struck two Baghdad hotels popular with foreigners on Monday, killing at least six people. Noah Adams speaks with New York Times reporter Ed Wong about the blasts, the reported approval of Iraq's constitution, and the death toll among U.S. forces, which is approaching a grim milestone of 2,000 dead.
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Iraq Update: Voters Approve Constitution

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Iraq Update: Voters Approve Constitution

Iraq Update: Voters Approve Constitution

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams.

Coming up, taking a closer look at the White House's nominee to head the Federal Reserve.

But first, in Iraq, it's official: The Iraqi Electoral Commission today has confirmed that more than 75 percent of voters approved a new constitution. That was in nationwide balloting earlier this month. And this puts in place a legal framework for government elections in December. Joining me now from Baghdad is New York Times reporter Edward Wong.

Welcome, Mr. Wong.

Mr. EDWARD WONG (The New York Times): Hi. How are you doing, Noah?

ADAMS: It was predicted, Mr. Wong, that Shia and Kurd voters would vote to approve and the Sunnis would vote to reject. Any surprises in the way it all worked out?

Mr. WONG: The vote did break down along those lines. What we're seeing from the returns from the provinces are that Shia and Kurdish-dominated provinces overwhelmingly supported the constitution, while the ones that have large Sunni populations rejected the constitution or only barely passed it. What is surprising is the fact that the constitution was actually almost defeated. As you were pointing out, more than 75 percent of the voters approved the constitution, but almost three provinces rejected it. Two provinces rejected the constitution by wide margins. And the province of Nineveh rejected the constitution by 55 percent, but not by the two-thirds that would have been needed in that province to scrap the entire constitution.

There's an almost arcane bylaw in the electoral law that says if two-thirds of voters in three provinces reject the constitution, then the entire constitution is rejected. And so if Nineveh had met that two-thirds threshold--it was only 11 points away from that--then the entire document would have been scrapped.

ADAMS: On another matter, you have just returned, I understand, from the blast scene yesterday in the center of Baghdad. This was the Palestine Hotel, the Sheraton Hotel, were affected. What was it like there? What did you see?

Mr. WONG: Over there you see lots of debris. You see a large crater right near the area where the cement mixer loaded with explosives reached the blast wall. And it appeared from where that crater is and the scatter pattern of the debris that the cement mixer was trying to ram into the Sheraton Hotel and possibly even bring down the hotel. It's unclear whether that would have happened, but with that amount of explosives, that seems to have been the intent of the bomber who was driving that truck.

ADAMS: Hmm. The US military today is announcing that two more American soldiers confirmed dead. This threshold of 2,000 has been getting a lot of attention here in this country. What are people saying? What are the soldiers saying about it in Iraq?

Mr. WONG: The colonel who ...(unintelligible) e-mails sent that e-mail actually earlier today, pointing out that this is an artificial number and that, you know, it would be unseemly to highlight this death above any other deaths. I don't believe that hitting 2,000 deaths will necessarily have a huge impact on the morale or on the mentality of the soldiers here. But I think in terms of the psychological impact, it will be more important to see how that plays out in the US.

ADAMS: Edward Wong, a reporter for The New York Times. He joined us by telephone from Baghdad.

Thank you, Mr. Wong.

Mr. WONG: Thanks a lot, Noah.

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