Spencer Ackerman has written an important and informative piece for the Washington Independent about how the Bush administration is attempting to lay the groundwork for a permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq before they leave office.
If you don’t know the background, here’s what’s been happening up to now:
U.S. troops currently operate in Iraq under a UN Security Council mandate. The mandate has been renewed annually since 2004. It gives coalition troops the legal authority to use force there.
A majority of the Iraqi parliament wants the US to leave Iraq, and for several years has been trying to prevent the mandate from being renewed unless it includes a specific timeframe for us to depart.
The executive branch of the Iraqi government (ie, Prime Minister Maliki and friends) wants the US to stay indefinitely. That’s because we want to stay, and Maliki is our puppet. Maliki therefore successfully got the UN to renew the mandate at the end of 2007, even though the Iraqi parliament opposed it and, under the Iraqi constitution, must approve all treaties. Maliki is exactly like Bush in this way; the legislative branch tries to assert its constitutional rights, and Maliki tells them: fuck you.
The mandate is now set to expire again at the end of this year. It would be near-impossible for Maliki and Bush to get another year’s extension, because the Iraqi parliament has now gotten its act together. And even if it could be extended, it’s undesirable from the administration’s perspective, because it doesn’t tie the hands of the next president.
Thus, Bush is attempting to create a bilateral “agreement” with Iraq via Maliki. It won’t be called a treaty, because as noted that would require the Iraqi parliament to approve it; even worse, under the US constitution, it would require the two-thirds approval of the US Senate.
So what the administration tried to do was quietly institute this accord between itself and Maliki (essentially between itself and itself), and write it so it was a treaty in all but name, giving the US the right to “protect” the Iraqi government from foreign and domestic threats.
However, Congress has actually been doing its job and pushing back on thisâ€”holding hearings, asking questionsâ€”and the administration has been somewhat stymied. That’s where Ackerman picks up the story.