Thursday, November 27, 2008

Iraqi Pact A Step Forward

A Lose-Win For Bush: A security pack ratified by the Iraqi Parliament Thursday finally allows the United States to legally withdraw its troops in a responsible time frame. It won't appease the liberal wing of the Democrat Party whose support for Barack Obama opposing the Iraq war catapulted him to prominence in the early stages of the presidential primaries. But is does lend credence for Obama's expected choice to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates who supported the compromised agreement on board for a year as a means of continuity. It also reflects a partial defeat for President Bush who opposed time tables for withdrawal and, to use his own words, because events on the ground changed. The pact consists of two documents: a Status of Forces Agreement defining the rules under which American forces will operate, and a wider Strategic Framework Agreement outlining a broad bilateral view looking toward the future. A New York Times dispatch from Baghdad outlines the bitterly contested pact:

  • The new agreement comes into force when the United Nations’ mandate that currently governs the American troops expires on Dec 31. The new pact says all American combat forces should withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 next year and all American troops should be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
  • The pact gives Iraq considerable say in what operations American troops can undertake in the country, and sets limits on the Americans’ ability to search homes and buildings, and hold suspects that they detain.
  • The agreement also allows some foreign contractors to be tried under Iraqi law if they commit a crime, a clause aimed particularly at curbing the behavior of Western security contractors such as Blackwater.
  • American troops will remain subject to American military law if they are on duty and on their bases, but could be prosecuted under Iraqi law if they commit heinous offenses while off duty and outside their bases.
  • The Iraqi Supreme Council consisting of a Sh'ite, Sunni and Kurd is expected to certify the agreement in the next several weeks. One of the compromises approved by 140 of Parliament's 275 members was a referendum vote next July. If the people vote it down, all U.S. troops would be withdrawn in 2010.
  • However, the Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki government can negotiate a later, separate, agreement with the Americans allowing them to stay longer if it believes Iraq is not yet stable enough.

Let's Move On: The so-called preemptive invasion of Iraq was a colossal blunder by the neocons who held favor with the Bush administration in 2002. The strike was justified by fabricated intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear warhead capabilities.
Management of the occupation was bungled by U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers were killed and 30,000 wounded.
Americans should allow this sorry chapter in U.S. geopolitics to drift away into the sunset. It almost has as our attention is now directed at ourselves struggling to cope in a recession economy. Our military is commended for its bravery and fighting a cause with one hand tied behind its back. There is no sense in arguing the past. The Iraq war was not won. It was a diplomatic settlement as so many wars end.

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