Thursday, May 28, 2009

American treaties with the natives

Last year, the US signed a 'Status of Forces Agreement' (or SOFA) with Iraq. This agreement mandated two things that should happen within the next two months. One is the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009. The other was a referendum vote by the Iraqi people on whether US troops would be allowed to stay until the end of 2011. This vote is supposed to be held by the end of July 2009, and if the Iraqi voters reject the idea of US troops staying until the end of 2011, they are instead supposed to withdraw over the next year, or by end of June 2010.

I knew these deadlines were coming up, and I was feeling I was hearing remarkably little about US forces withdrawing from Iraqi cities in the next 30 days or so. And also, I was hearing remarkably little about this big nationwide referendum that is supposed to be held within the next 60 days. So, I started digging around with Google a bit.

To meet June deadline, US and Iraqis redraw city borders
by Jane Arraf on Christian Science Monitor.

On a map of Baghdad, the US Army's Forward Operating Base Falcon is clearly within city limits.

Except that Iraqi and American military officials have decided it's not. As the June 30 deadline for US soldiers to be out of Iraqi cities approaches, there are no plans to relocate the roughly 3,000 American troops who help maintain security in south Baghdad along what were the fault lines in the sectarian war.

"We and the Iraqis decided it wasn't in the city," says a US military official. The base on the southern outskirts of Baghdad's Rasheed district is an example of the fluidity of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) agreed to late last year, which orders all US combat forces out of Iraqi cities, towns, and villages by June 30.

"We consider the security agreement a living document," says a senior US commander.

Remember that quote the next time you hear anyone talk about 'democracy' in Iraq. Unlike in America, where the agreement was signed by imperial fiat by President Bush, the Iraqi parliament was supposed to ok the agreement. This was the cause of much debate at that time. The details of the agreement were hammered out to get the approval of the Iraqi parliament.

Now, the US military regards this document as 'a living document' that can be changed at will. Without the approval of the Iraqi parliament, of course.

The picture with this article is a map of Baghdad from google maps. The Camp Falcon mentioned at this story is at the Al Rasheed airport, which is visible on the map. Find where highways "6" and "7" turn off to the southeast, then look just above them and you'll see the runways of the airport. This is the area that has now been declared to be 'outside' the city. Yeah, right. The map comes from here.

The key bit is that this base is referred to as responsible for the security in that part of Baghdad. Now, the 'spirit' of the agreement was to get US troops out of Iraqi cities to reduce violence. Not only are these troops remaining in what's obviously Baghdad, but there is no mention of their role changing. Ie, they'll still be out on the streets of Baghdad with their machine guns and other high-tech weaponry. In other words, no change at all.

Yet another example of Obama continuing the policies of Bush completely unchanged. Or, if you believe Bush and McCain might have honored this agreement negotiated by Bush, then Obama is worse than Bush. Since I believe Bush knew he was lying when he signed the agreement, I just put it under the category of 'no change'.

OF course, the key part of this agreement from the American point of view is that it provides the legal right for US troops to remain in Iraq. You can bet that that part of the deal is not considered a 'living document' subject to change. Only the parts where the US had to meet Iraqi desires to get their signature are subject to change.

These collide in the part of the agreement that says Iraq should have a referendum by the end of July 2009 on whether the US should leave a year from now, instead of the end of 2011 date that is currently in the document. Apparently the requirement for the referendum is indeed a part of the document that is 'living' and therefore changing. This means that what the US wanted, legal authority to stay in Iraq until the end of 2011, is not changing at all. From the same CSM article linked above ....

The Iraqi parliament voted to approve the SOFA late last year only after linking it to a referendum this summer which would allow Iraqis to vote on whether US troops should leave sooner than the end of 2011.

With Maliki's public insistence that there will be no extension for US forces, plans for the promised referendum appear to have quietly disappeared.

"We promise a lot of things we don't deliver," says one Iraqi member of parliament when asked about the poll.

When the Iraqi parliament insisted on this referendum, they probably felt that it was very likely that the Iraqi voters in a fair vote would massively reject the presence of US troops until 2011, and instead would insist on the mid-2010 withdrawal date. Every poll I've ever seen of Iraqis says a huge majority would vote for us to leave sooner rather than later. Of course, US imperial plans couldn't allow for this pesky notion of democracy in Iraq to cause a withdrawal sooner than the end of 2011.

Of course, the notion of democracy in the US on this issue was thwarted as well in the last election. While vast majorities of American voters want the US to withdrawal from Iraq, this was thwarted by only giving them the option of voting for lying Democrats who promised a withdrawal. Of course, once elected, the Democrats have no intention of any quick withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, they are busy making sure that the Pentagon has all the money they want to keep killing people in Iraq.

I suspect any descendants of American Indians who are following this sense a very familiar feeling about the worth of treaties with the US government.

Maybe 'anti-war' voters in the US will learn the same lesson about promises from Democrats.

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