In true Bush form, the administration has decided it is not going to let our elected officials actually see the draft security Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that lays out the conditions under which some 140,000 U.S troops and tens of thousands of American contractors can operate in Iraq beginning Jan.1. The agreement — contrary to the rosy picture offered by the press earlier this week — is still a source of grave tension in Iraq, evidenced by the brawl that shut down parliament yesterday.
Coming out of an election stupor in which many Americans were erroneously convinced that The Surge had transformed Iraq into a kind of benign third world landscape awash in wreckage but nonetheless “moving forward,” a lot of people won’t know or perhaps care, about the SOFA. They hardly know that, according to reports of journalists who have had the documents translated, that the Iraqis distrust us so much they are insisting we start getting out by June 2009, completely out by 2011 — including any “residual force” Obama was imagining during the campaign. They want limited jurisdiction to prosecute our troops and contractors for crimes and demand that our military ask permission before they arrest anyone or launch operations. Under no circumstances would the U.S allowed be to use Iraqi soil to launch attacks on another country, and permanent bases are out (somewhere, Richard Pearle is weeping).
Meanwhile, the Bush Administration continues the paternalistic approach. Elected officials charged with their constituents’ best interest have been kept entirely out of the loop. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — who Obama is apparently considering to keep on through next year — and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have been on the Hill “briefing” lawmakers in closed door sessions. Massachusetts Rep. Wiliam Delahunt told Voice of America News, “There has been no meaningful consultation with Congress during the negotiations of this agreement and the American people for all intents and purposes have been completely left out.”
Congress has been complaining about this for over a year. The Bush Administration just responds in typical fashion — by ignoring them. And by lobbing gems such as these:
The Pentagon’s spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said that American commanders were satisfied with the conditions set in the agreement, including deadlines for withdrawal and constraints on operations.
“I’m not going to get into this — the specifics of this — other than to say that how this agreement is implemented will be worked out between our commanders on the ground and the Iraqi leadership,” he said. “And both seem to be very confident that it provides the framework for them to continue to do all that still needs to be done.”
So just get back to your shopping, leave the big stuff to us. Pathetically, there is a much more open and vigorous debate going on in the Iraqi parliament about the fate of our forces. Perhaps after Jan. 20, when Congress can finally get out from the kids’ table, they can get back to doing the peoples’ business.