American Forces Press Service
Jan. 30, 2009 - In anticipation of tomorrow's nationwide provincial elections, Iraq's Center for Military Values, Principles and Leadership Development hosted a conference here Jan. 27 for senior military leaders on the role of the military in a democracy. The center's staff develops ethics-training doctrine for the Iraqi army and provides ethics training for the country's soldiers.
The seminar covered the Iraqi government's constitutional structure and the lawful functions of the armed forces. Like the United States, Iraq has three branches of federal government: executive, legislative and judicial. Each provides checks and balances to the power of the others. Iraq also has a provincial and local government, and representatives from each will be chosen in tomorrow's election.
Iraqi Staff Brig. Gen. Jehad, the center's deputy director, opened the conference with a video of the most recent election.
"This is a video of your people, the people of Iraq," he told the group. "They are going to polling stations to vote for their representatives in the past general election. Democracy is the rule of the people. The people are ruling themselves when they choose representatives."
Jehad stressed the importance of the Iraqi army helping every citizen vote and not interfering with the voting process.
"We should not put pressure on the citizen when he comes to vote," he said. "We should be impartial. He will choose the representative who convinces him. The army will be impartial."
Iraqi security forces from the Defense and Interior ministries had the opportunity to vote early Jan. 28 because they'll be busy tomorrow providing for security for the election.
"You have the right to vote," Jehad told the officers in attendance. "You cannot be nominated or elected to provincial council, but you can vote."
During a question-and-answer session, some asked whether soldiers could, or should, be forced to vote. The answer was a resounding 'No.'
"If someone wants to not vote, this is his freedom," said Lt. Gen. Hussain, deputy chief of staff for training for the Iraqi Joint Headquarters. "If you go and give a blank paper, this is your business. It is good to go and use your rights legally, but you have the right to go or not go. You are a free person."
Hussain reminded the group that although they've been focusing on the election, their daily work for five years has been serving democracy. "Every one of us should review for himself what duties he has done to serve democracy," he said.
(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)