Friday, September 19, 2008

Still No Agreement

Last June negotiations with Iraq over extending the "agreement that would legally extend the U.S. imperial occupation of Iraq" (as Truthdig puts it so nicely) had hit a major speed bump over the lack of any "clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq" in the words of the Dreyfuss Blog for The Nation. At that time progress with the White House was going so badly that the Iraqi parliament decided to communicate with the Congress directly through a hand-delivered letter; and, as we know, the White House eventually managed to get over the speed bump, perhaps by virtue of having the upper hand in linguistic legerdemain. At that time many of us probably figured that the renewal of our agreement with Iraq was a done deal; but, as Truthdig informed us this morning, that was not the case. As Steven Lee Meyers and Sam Dagher reported for The New York Times, at least one obstacle remains:

The major remaining point of contention involves immunity, with the United States maintaining that American troops and military contractors should have the same protections they have in other countries where they are based and Iraq insisting that they be subject to the country’s criminal justice system for any crime committed outside of a military operation, the officials said.

Given that the Bush Administration is still hanging tough on refusing to recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court, this should not surprise anyone.

When we take these two obstacles together we have a narrative about how, as a matter of policy, the current Executive Branch has no respect for any authority other than its own. Indeed, "recognize" may be the mot juste, since it appears that the way in which the Executive Branch deals with any attempted manifestation of authority, whether in the other branches of our Government or in another country, is to let it, in the words of Pierre Bourdieu, "pass unnoticed." Thus, whatever Iraq may be doing by way of developing its own a legislative branch composed of duly elected representatives and a responsible judiciary system, the Bush Administration is determined to cloak itself with immunity to anything these arms of government may do that is unpleasant (or worse).

There is obviously a limit to how long the Iraqi government can hang tough on its responsibilities to its population. There is nothing to prevent Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki from informing the United States that there is no further need for an agreement and that it is now time for all Americans in Iraq to leave. My guess is that the White House has any number of representatives willing to state officially to the Prime Minister, "Who's gonna make us leave? You and what army?" I for one would prefer to defer thinking about the consequences, if that is the move our Government chooses to make!

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