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Last Days as Emperor

The Bush administration is pressuring the Iraqi government to sign an agreement in which they will be trampled forever by American troops.

    A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November. … Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq.

The deal would give American forces the right to detain Iraqis at will, while Americans including private contractors would not be accountable for their actions under Iraqi law. How logical is that? Logical from the point of view of an occupying power dictating its own terms.

    American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The Iraqi prime minister knows this deal will be hugely unpopular with the Iraqi people, but he depends on American backing to stay in power, so he is willing to sign it.

    Mr. Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called “strategic alliance” without modifications, by the end of next month. … Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without U.S. backing.

Like all good things, the deal is being pushed in secret by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

    The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it through.

The agreement is, in effect, a treaty between two nations, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate according to the Constitution. But it is being presented as something less than that, so that Bush can sign it on his sole authority without a Senate vote.

    President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the U.S. presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw U.S. troops if he is elected president in November.

The final irony is that none of this is being reported in the American press, but by Patrick Cockburn in Britain’s Independent.

UPDATE: Helena Cobban has a piece today in which she discusses the secret accord, or Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). She had the opportunity to ask Sheikh Khalaf al-Ulayyan, an Iraqi parliamentarian visiting the U.S., what he thought of it and he had this to say.

    We learned about the text being proposed by the U.S. only through the media, and we’ve seen that it’s very unfair for the Iraqi people. Whoever sees it will see that Iraq would become not just under U.S. occupation but as if it were part of the U.S.! It allows the U.S. to use Iraqi territory and U.S. military bases in Iraq for a very long time, and to use them to attack any country around the world from there. And it gives the U.S. troops and civilians complete immunity from prosecution in the Iraqi court system. The U.S. could do anything it wanted in Iraq without being accountable to anyone!
    Clearly, for anyone, it would be impossible to enter into an agreement with another party while being threatened by the other person’s weapons. Therefore the SOFA can’t be concluded as long as there are foreign troops on Iraq’s territory.

I hope parliamentarians like Sheikh al-Ulayyan will stand firm, and give President Bush a lesson in how things work in a democracy.


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