Will We Ever Leave Iraq?
By Jerome Grossman
Before the United States invaded Iraq, it sought the approval of the Security Council of the United Nations. Secretary of State Colin Powell, supported by George Tenet, Director of the CIA, presented the US case against the government of Saddam Hussein in great detail. However, in a formal vote, the Security Council refused to authorize the attack.
In violation of its obligations under the UN charter, the Bush administration went ahead with the invasion. Within a few weeks, the American forces were in complete control of Iraq and the Saddam government had disappeared.
Then, in a remarkable display of imperial chutzpah, the US government applied to the United Nations for the authority to administer the affairs of the conquered nation. On May 22, 2003, the Security Council adopted resolution 1483 granting the US and its allies a broad mandate to run the country. In the name of humanitarian relief and the reconstruction of Iraq, the United Nations gave to the US the authority it had refused three months earlier; an acceptance of the military victory and a submission to the power of the US.
This mandate expires on December 31. As a legal substitute, conditions for US presence in Iraq will be authorized by the elected Iraqi government, supported militarily and financially by the US government. The two parties have been negotiating a status of forces agreement similar to other agreements the US has signed in connection with the 737 military bases it has in 130 countries.
However, the Iraqi puppet government has resisted the terms demanded by the conquerors who installed them. The US is demanding 58 military bases, the right to remain in the country indefinitely, the power to determine whether a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq, control over Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet, immunity from prosecution for US troops and private military contractors, and the right to continue to carry out military operations.
One senior Shiite politician close to Prime Minister Nouri-Al-Maliki said, “The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq.” The supreme Shiite religious figures Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq have urged Maliki to reject US terms. Many Iraqi officials are questioning the need for US troop presence under these terms.
The political system is working in Iraq. The negotiations are being discussed openly by the executive and legislative branches. The legislature demanded and obtained the right to approve or reject. But in the United States, discussion and challenges are muted. From the Senate has come a weak call for the agreement to be considered a treaty to be ratified by a two thirds vote: however, the Bush administration wants to treat it as an Executive Agreement not subject to Senate ratification. The presidential candidates spar on Iraq policy but do not analyze and discuss the proposed agreement. The American public, strongly against the war, has not reacted to these negotiations.
If we will leave Iraq soon, why do we need any agreement? Fifty-eight military bases are expensive to build and maintain. Do they imply permanent military presence? Control of airspace indicates control of Iraqi military operations. Immunity for US troops may be an arguable demand but to spread this immunity to civilian contractors significantly diminishes Iraqi sovereignty.
If the parties fail to reach agreement, the US will surely continue to operate without legal sanction whether or not the Iraqis like it. The entire operation was illicit from the start: violation of the U.S. Constitution by going to war without a declaration by Congress, violation of the UN Charter provision against cross-border invasion without approval of the Security Council, falsification of intelligence, falsification of conspiracy between Saddam and Al Qaeda, lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq etc..
But the most important question is whether the proposed agreement is an indication that Iraq will become another one of the string of US bases around the world enforcing our unique superpower status and locating US military power at the heart of the largest concentration of oil on the Earth. Can we afford to continue this expense in lives and treasure indefinitely or even for the next decade? We made a mistake in our illegal invasion of Iraq. We should not compound the error with a permanent occupation.