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Richard Klass Headshot

Suspicions Confirmed: An Enduring Quagmire

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The "declaration of principles" signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Malaki is designed to not only keep American military forces in Iraq indefinitely but also to ensnare America into Iraqi domestic politics. In short, it confirms our suspicions that the NeoCon wet dream, the "Project for a New American Century," is alive and well in the Bush White House. Central to that dream was a permanent base for U.S. military forces in Iraq to control U.S. access to the energy resources of the Middle East and Caucuses.

The Bush mal-administration seems determined to sign an enduring quagmire agreement before the end of its term and to do so without consulting Congress or seeking formal approval. It also seems determined to teach the Malaki government how to ignore its Constitution and parliament too. This is not a routine status of forces (SOFA) agreement concerning criminal jurisdiction over U.S. forces and dependents, tax status and other administrative matters. Instead the contemplated agreement keeps significant U.S. military forces in Iraq and furthermore, it commits the U.S. to defending the Iraqi government against internal as well as external threats. In short, U.S. forces would have as much obligation to defending Iraq as the U.S. homeland. In return the agreement would give the U.S. preferred access to the ownership of Iraqi oil resources. I can hear the NeoCons salivating and our British, Australian and other allies wondering why they sacrificed their lives and treasure for U.S. corporate interests.

But, you say, by the fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization Act, the administration is forbidden "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq." And the president did not claim the right to ignore this in his signing statement. Similar language is in the fiscal year 2008 Defense Appropriations Act. Useless. This administration has shown an "Alice Through the Looking Glass" capability to define words to mean exactly what they want them to mean. For example, the current U.S. bases can be turned over to the Iraqi military thus becoming "host nation" bases, as has been done in Spain, Turkey and other places. Permanent stationing? Not a problem. Units can be rotated on temporary duty every few months so no units are there permanently. The point is that this administration is so untrustworthy, dishonorable, capricious and incapable of excepting any restraints on what it alone has decided to do, that boxing them in by a few words is unlikely to be effective. (Hence the irrationality of supporting the Kyl-Lieberman amendment.) What is needed is a broad, multi-pronged attack on this travesty.

The opposition effort should start by trying to derail negotiations and then throwing roadblocks up at every step along the way. Write in law provisions that deny funding for travel, lodgings or salaries for negotiating any Iraq agreement that is not subject to Senate approval. Write into law that any transfer of equipment or property to the Iraqi government worth more than $1 million be subjected to Congressional approval. Write into law that any base turned over to the Iraqi military must have all of its supplies and equipment sent to U.S. bases needing such equipment. Deny funding for the implementation of any agreement not approved by Congress. I am sure more devious minds can think up other measures to put roadblocks in the way of the abhorrent effort to subvert congressional authority. All measures should be attached to the appropriations bill or the supplemental appropriations.

The chances are that the Bush administration will block, ignore or declare any such provisions non -operative in signing statements. But the effort must be made.

There is something the President cannot stop. This should be an issue in the Presidential campaign. Not just the substance, but also the form. Not just the wisdom of a long-term presence in Iraq but the long-term detriment to our democracy of assertions of unbounded executive power. Each presidential candidate should be asked if he/she would feel bound by a Bush administration executive agreement of this consequence if it were done on the authority of the executive alone. This question will reveal more about the candidates, Democrat and Republican, views on Iraq than may be comfortable for those wanting to obscure their positions. The Iraqi government may be hesitant to commit to an agreement with no prospects beyond Jan 20, 2009. And the Iraqi parliament may emulate the U.S. Congress and force a weak and corrupt Malaki government to submit the agreement for approval.