Monday, January 28, 2008

When Is A Treaty Not A Treaty?

When is a treaty not a treaty? When the Bush administration says it isn’t. In an effort to once again prevent debate on Iraq and our ultimate objectives there the Bush administration has begun negotiations with the “Iraqi government” on replacing the soon to expire UN mandate with another agreement setting the terms for US involvement in Iraq. This agreement being negotiated is referred to as a military to military relationship agreement. This agreement will set the ground-rules and the parameters by which the US military can operate in Iraq. While there are many reasons that this agreement should be brought before the American people for debate I would like to discuss three.

This emerging American negotiating position faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its fragmented Parliament, weak central government and deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state, according to these officials.

American officials are keenly aware that any agreement must be approved by Iraq’s fractured Council of Representatives, where Sunni and Shiite factions feud and even Shiite blocs loyal to competing leaders cannot agree.[1]

The first reason is the state of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is in disarray which makes any negotiations tricky at best. How can we expect a government that is unable to resolve its own internal struggles through compromise to be able to negotiate in good faith? The current government does not have the standing or the mandate to negotiate with anyone concerning anything. Hoping to seize on this vulnerable state the Bush administration is trying to lock not only the US, but also the Iraqis into an agreement that is one-sided and heavily tilted towards the US. The administration says they don’t want a permanent presence in Iraq, but based on the spending for the new embassy and bases which is over 1.5 billion dollars, it is hard to accept that line. It is precisely this type of heavy-handed negotiations that have endeared the US presence around the world. How many embassies must be attacked and countries overthrown before we get a clue? These negotiations only underscore the lack of sovereignty of the Iraqi government and further humiliate the Iraqi people.

However, the American quest for protections for civilian contractors is expected to be particularly vexing, because in no other country are contractors working with the American military granted protection from local laws. Some American officials want contractors to have full immunity from Iraqi law, while others envision less sweeping protections. These officials said the negotiations with the Iraqis, expected to begin next month, would also determine whether the American authority to conduct combat operations in the future would be unilateral, as it is now, or whether it would require consultation with the Iraqis or even Iraqi approval.[2]

The second reason is the immunity clause being forced upon the Iraqis. The US is trying to include in the agreement full immunity for civilian contractors in Iraq, which would be unprecedented in these types of agreements. This immunity would give the private security forces a license to kill in the literal sense, not only would they be shielded from Iraqi justice but as we are learning with the Blackwater case US justice as well. This would give the US government a private army that could be used for missions that would not be desirable for the regular military to undertake, all the while providing cover for US officials for any mission that went badly. It was a rouge band of private contractors that committed those atrocities. Sound familiar?

Representative Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that what the administration was negotiating amounted to a treaty and should be subjected to Congressional oversight and ultimately ratification.

“Where have we ever had an agreement to defend a foreign country from external attack and internal attack that was not a treaty?” he said Wednesday at a hearing of a foreign affairs subcommittee held to review the matter. “This could very well implicate our military forces in a full-blown civil war in Iraq. If a commitment of this magnitude does not rise to the level of a treaty, then it is difficult to imagine what could.”[3]

Finally, there is the small matter of oversight and debate. George Bush has succeeded in preventing any real debate on Iraq for almost 5 years. By using fear, hate, and false patriotism he has quashed any meaningful debate concerning not only the run-up to the war, but his policies since the invasion. Because we first had a Republican controlled and now a weak-kneed Democratic controlled Congress, the American public has been left out of the debate concerning Iraq. At one point the mid-term elections were supposed to have registered the American people’s concern and disenchantment with the war. Those concerns and that disenchantment have been brushed aside not only by the Bush administration, the MSM, but also the Democratic Congress. Many of those Congresspersons campaigned and won on ending the war platforms.

The Bush administration should not be allowed to commit this country to an open ended security agreement with Iraq. It is bad enough he got us there with lies and secrecy and now he wants to use the same tactics to keep us there for who knows how long. If it quacks like a duck?

[2] Ibid.

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