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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


U.S. foreign policy: the old "I had my fingers crossed" ploy

The Iraqi parliament just delayed a vote on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). But do they even know what they're voting on? Well, they might know what it says in Arabic, but do they know how the occupiers back in Washington are reading the agreement? Apparently not:
The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. [Ed. note: it has nothing to do with keeping the truth from Americans.]

"There are a number of areas in here where they have agreement on the same wording but different understandings about what the words mean," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It's not that, even if the language were published in English, and included ironclad, penalty-laden clauses, that there is any reason to believe the U.S. will feel bound to honor it anyway. The demands of "national security" trump any treaty, any international law, and can always be invoked at any moment to justify any action - the invasion of a country which wasn't threatening the U.S., the bombing of a country which is pursuing it's legal rights to nuclear power under the NPT, whatever. But pretending the agreement says one thing, and then revealing after (or should we say "if") it's ratified that you take it to mean another, makes those future actions so much easier to justify.

We should start a poll or a contest to guess the number of troops plus mercenaries still in Iraq at the end of Obama's first term, as well as the number in Afghanistan. For sure the first number will be far from zero.

Rachel Maddow, bless her heart, was actually asking the question last night or the night before which I hadn't yet heard on corporate television - what is the exit strategy for Afghanistan? She hasn't yet gotten around (nor is she likely to) to talking about the violation of international law and the nature of imperialism which put U.S. troops there in the first place, but it's a start.

Update: The agreement surfaces (PDF). Whether this is the version the Iraqi parliament is actually debating I couldn't say. But don't you wish we could get the U.S. military to respect this provision inside the United States itself?

Both Parties shall implement this Agreement in a manner consistent with protecting the natural environment and human health and safety. The United States reaffirms its commitment to respecting applicable Iraqi environmental laws, regulations, and standards.
Of course, really protecting the natural environment would involve not polluting the countryside with depleted uranium, not driving tanks or Hummers and flying planes and burning gasoline and polluting the atmosphere, and protecting "human health and safety" would mean ceasing all military operations immediately. Somehow I have the idea that's not what's intended. ;-)

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