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Tilting at Windmills

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June 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

LONG-TERM BASES....The Washington Post reports that the Iraqi government — not the faction that hates us, but the faction that supposedly likes us — is pretty unhappy about the status-of-forces treaty the Bush administration is trying to negotiate with them:

"The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.' "

....In Iraq, the willingness to consider calling for the departure of American troops represents a major shift for members of the U.S.-backed government. Maliki this week visited Iran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, urged him to reject any long-term security arrangements with the United States.

I guess my honest opinion is that this is probably negotiating bluster more than anything else. Maliki, in fact, does need us in Iraq, and he knows that we know it. Still, as recently as last year Maliki wouldn't even have offered up bluster, so things really have changed since then. And the biggest change is this: public opinion in Iraq, stoked largely by the Sadrists, is now so opposed to a long-term American presence that Maliki feels like he has to win some significant concessions on this score merely to keep from being tossed out of power. Needless to say, this bodes poorly for our long-term chances in Iraq.

Kevin Drum 1:23 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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I wonbder what would happen if (under a Republican White House) the Iraqis tried to insist that we leave Iraq.

Maybe we'd just insist that we stay, and offer up U.S. and Iraqi security as the rational. After all, there are oil fields there, and why develop alternative energy or nuclear power plants when you can stupidly try to make the last few drops of oil last forever.

Posted by: Swan on June 11, 2008 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Needless to say, this bodes poorly for our long-term chances in Iraq.

Aw, rats.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 11, 2008 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's quite surprising that this issue does not generate discussions on the larger, more significant, question of whether it is at all advisable for us to be there with our armed forces for the foreseeable future. This is neither a technical question nor a political one, but, obviously, one whose answer defines us an imperial power or not.

Posted by: gregor on June 11, 2008 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

Stop plagiarizing me, Gregor!

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 11, 2008 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry Squeaky. Didn't understand the Ratenglish.

Posted by: gregor on June 11, 2008 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

On the contrary, it bodes very well. It means that it will not be difficult for President Obama to negotiate a smooth, well-planned drawdown of US troops from Iraq, since it's what all sides want.

Posted by: Joe Buck on June 11, 2008 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Cool, gregor. Your last name wouldn't be samsa, would it? I loves me some insect.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 11, 2008 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Maliki is probably not all powerful in Iraq, so he's probably also negotiating a way to keep himself and his clan alive in the event that he gets the boot.

Posted by: Boronx on June 11, 2008 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Who needs us to stay in Iraq? Are we not the oily rag in that conflagration?

Out. Out. Out. Allow them to sort the mess we have created without our physical presence. If we funnel money to them for actual rebuilding (as opposed to pocket-lining by our contractors) via international agencies, I think they will have a far better chance of coming to a fruitful self-determination than they ever will if we continue our horrifying occupation.

Posted by: Monoglot on June 11, 2008 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

"Needless to say, this bodes poorly for our long-term chances in Iraq."

"Our" chances for what - to stay? For a more peaceful Iraq? (Are those things positively or negatively related?)...

Posted by: flubber on June 11, 2008 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

One important thing: this isn't a treaty in any meaningful sense of the word. Treaties are agreements between two nations, ratified by the appropriate bodies in each. Bush is clearly not going to try to get it through Congress, and if Maliki's got any remaining brain cells, he's not going to try to get it approved by the Iraqi parliament.

So it's just a personal agreement between two heads of state - assuming Maliki actually signs on to it. He's clearly worried about the reaction if he even puts his own signature on this farce.

Has the Bush Administration denied any of the specifics of this deal, by the way? It seems there's some hay to be made here about this deal which is almost a self-parody of imperialism in action. Anyone know whether McCain supports it?

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on June 11, 2008 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Needless to say, this bodes poorly for our long-term chances in Iraq."

I disagree. Since we don't actually want to be there forever (at least most of us), the best outcome is for there to be a stable democratic government in place that the people generally support. So Maliki is pandering a bit to his people - this is what politicians do.

BTW, there were 19 US military deaths last month. Last May (the peak for the last 3 years), it was 126. Things are a LOT better.

Posted by: Tom on June 11, 2008 at 6:47 AM | PERMALINK

The government was always vulnerable to being tossed out if and when groups who boycotted previous elections actually participated. Much of this recent activity might be in preparation for promised regional elections.

Posted by: jhm on June 11, 2008 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

A perfect opportunity to declare victory, and get out.

Posted by: TomH on June 11, 2008 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

I guess my honest opinion is that this is probably negotiating bluster more than anything else. Maliki, in fact, does need us in Iraq, and he knows that we know it.

Yeah, but Bush also needs a SoF agreement since the legal mandate for the occupation of Iraq runs out at the end of the year. The Bush / Cheney administration clearly hopes to commit the US to a long term occupation of Iraq, but without a legal fig leaf, it'd be a lot easier for his Democratic successor to implement the American people's desire to withdraw.

Posted by: Gregory on June 11, 2008 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

Maliki, in fact, does need us in Iraq, and he knows that we know it.

No, he actually doesn't. He could just decamp to Switzerland with the 10% "finders fee" of the missing $10B in cash delivered by GWB to Iraq and live the good life.

Right now, Maliki is probably asking himself "Rich dude in Switzerland vs. assassination target in shithole Iraq? Decisions, decisions."

The only problem is how to get that much cash stuffed into suitcases and through customs. I'm sure BushCo will help in exchange for a quick signature on a SoF document, though.


Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on June 11, 2008 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

WHY does Maliki need us in Iraq? Other than to save his treasonous, colonial ass-kissing skin? Come on, Kevin. You are tacitly supporting the illegal occupation of a sovereign nation with your wishy-washy positions. This is utterly unAmerican.

We are in Iraq on the basis of a pack of lies. We need to withdraw our troops immediately, regardless of what the consequences are. We shouldn't be there in the first place and to stay is immoral. If the whole thing turns to shit, and it pretty much is shit right now, it isn't the fault of liberal Democrats. It is the fault of the lying asshole neoconservative Republicans who put us in this position in the first place.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 11, 2008 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

Duh, Tom. Do you think that may have been irony! All President Obama would need to do is issue a presidential order. Oil and war profiteering are the only reason that our men are dying in Iraq.

Posted by: Captain Dan on June 11, 2008 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Impeach George W! This whole war in Iraq is the biggest pile of horse s... I have ever experienced in my 66 years as a citizen of the U.S. No need to sacrifice another American soldier's life to protect corporate America.

Posted by: Gordon on June 11, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

It sounds like good news to me as far as actual governance goes. But this was never about actual governance. I have no doubt that Bush is uninterested in the long term, other than being able to later claim that he left a stable, successful occupation. Then, whatever happens will be Obama's fault.

Posted by: Eric on June 11, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Maliki cannot survive if he supported US bases in Iraq.

Posted by: lilybart on June 11, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Bush is trying to get us a SOFA that we will sit on for a very long time. KD is just trying to appear squeeky clean to not directly opposing US policy. Kevin, grow some Cahones, we shouldn't be there, and the Iraqis standing up for their rights is a good sign, and a good opportunity for us to put an end end our imperialist ambitions. Just come right out and say it.

Posted by: bigTom on June 11, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

What nation would object to 52 permanent bases for a foreign occupier, immunity from prosecution for all of the occupying soldiers and contractors, contol of the sky below 15,000 feet by the occupier, etc., etc.?

What's the problem?

Posted by: Neal on June 11, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

IMPEACH! 1-202-225-0100---I called today, now its YOUR turn.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on June 11, 2008 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Public opinion in Iraq is not stoked by the Sadrists. Rejection of foreign occupation is a natural expression of patriotism that runs across the political spectrum in that- and every other- country. Why oh why can’t certain Americans understand that their presence in other people’s countries is fundamentally illegitimate no matter how well meaning. The war in Iraq is also illegitimate for Americans. It was sold with a pack of lies that shamelessly drew a connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the attacks of 9/11. Americans were tricked into going to war. It remains a private war to fulfill Dick Cheney's imperial vision of Middle East transformation. It was the first step in a program to weaken and overthrow the "contained" regimes of the region that threaten, in the neocon view of the world, the stability of oil and Israel. It is the brutal stability project that still attracts establishment "moderates" albeit under the banner of the benevolent protection of liberal imperialism.

What the imperial Americans need is cover. Just like the British before them they need a document signed by some locals that gives them the concessions they want. It doesn’t matter if it reflects broad public opinion or even a political consensus in the occupied country. They need a piece of paper to give their coercion legitimacy. Like slavery foreign occupation and the capitulation of sovereignty is fundamentally immoral. I know the unenlightened foreign peoples of the world and their resources need Dick Cheney's protection, but it is illegitimate.

Posted by: bellumregio on June 11, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "Needless to say, this bodes poorly for our long-term chances in Iraq."

What do you mean "our" ?

The more accurate statement would be "this bodes poorly for the Cheney/Bush cartel's chances of establishing a subservient puppet government in Iraq that will pass the Iraq Hydrocarbon Law to hand over the profits from Iraq's oil to US-based transnational oil corporations, and that will acquiesce to a large permanent US military occupation to enforce US corporate control of the oil."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 11, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

You don't win friends by invading a country, destabilizing it, and killing and maiming lots of its citizens. They'll suck up as long as our military is the power there, but sing a different turn when we leave.

Long term colonization is also a dead end, as history has shown.

PC aside (and PC is nothing but wishful thinking and fantasy), universal human values are Islam and corruption in that part of the world. Corruption and democracy are antithetical, and Iraq is a nation of Antoin "Tony" Rezkos. See how influential one Tony Rezko has been to the governor of Illinois and one potential president and you can imagine the difficulty of making a democracy out of a corrupt morass like Iraq. Corruption floats to the top.

So long term Iraq needs a strongman like Tito, Saddam, or Putin to put a lid on ethnic conflict and corruption, or a permanent military occupation as in the Balkans. In Balkanized or Lebanized nations, sometimes a strong foreign influence can stabilize matters, as the Syrian intervention in the Lebanese civil war. Perhaps Iran will be able to stabilize Iraq in the future.

Posted by: Luther on June 11, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

The next 6 months in Iraq will be................A shame you don't have children or grandchildren Kevin,because you could leave them the legacy of reporting on Iraq for the next 100+ years.You too could be in your deathbed saying "How goes the Empire?".

Posted by: R.L. on June 11, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Looks like Obama is preparing to lead Congressional Democrats to side with the Iraqi government against Bush.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 11, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Deep thought:

If what we wanted was Iraq's oil, we didn't have to invade.

Instead, we could have just drilled wells straight through the earth to Iraq's deposits, and sucked the oil out from the other side!

The Iraqis wouldn't know what hit them.

Posted by: lampwick on June 11, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

To Tom on June 11, 2008 at 6:47 AM

19 deaths are still 19 too many lives lost for an illegal and immoral war.

Posted by: Mazurka on June 11, 2008 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

The only Americans interested in even a short-term military presence in Iraq are Dick Cheney and a few of his discredited (and amazingly unindicted) neocon cronies. Cheney will be out of office soon, along with his crusade.

Internal control of Iraq will be based on religious and tribal strengths. Al queda in Iraq are everyone's enemy, and are in steep decline.

The presumed bloodbath may be mild, considering the most violent upheaval has already transpired. Countless Iraqis have either died or fled. At any rate, there's likely to be a violent "sorting out" regardless of our date of departure.

Control of Iraq's oil may be a sinister neocon goal, but it isn't a realistic one. We've been there for five years and neither the Americans nor Iraqis control their oil. Oil can never be efficiently produced and pumped until every foot of the pipeline his heavily protected from the smallest band of saboteurs.

The ugly fact is that removing Saddam, odious and deadly as he was, destabilized a country whose society was one of the most liberal in the region. Trying to turn Iraq into a New England township is a notion only Wolfie, Perle and "the stupidest fucking son of a bitch on the planet" really believed. Like many societies, the Iraqis approve of the idea of democratic elections, but only if their particular side/tribe/party/sect wins.

When Cheney is gone, the US military will go -- soon followed by Maliki, I'd guess.

Posted by: alibubba on June 11, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

"...not the faction that hates us, but the faction that supposedly likes us...."

That would also be the faction that recently agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding concerning mutual defense with IRAN, according to yesterday's Boston Globe.

So we're supposed to be establishing about 60 bases to protect Iraq from Iran although Iraq already has a mutual defense agreement with Iran, which seems to pretty well take care of the problem. Who, exactly, are we protecting Iraq from, then? Ourselves? The Duchy of Grand Fenwick? Hopefully, Obama, when elected, will just trashcan this whole thing and we can get our people out of harm's way and get the war crimes trials underway.

Posted by: RAM on June 11, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Americans should demand their leaders explain to them why it is necessary to establish a long term military presence in Iraq with over 50 bases. There are no armies, air forces or navies threatening the sovereignty of Iraq, other than those of the United States, so there must be some other reason than national security that motivates W. Bush to make Iraq a US armed camp.

Malichi may require a US military presence to prop up his puppet regime, but the Iraqi people will not benefit from it.

Posted by: Brojo on June 11, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK
And the biggest change is this: public opinion in Iraq, stoked largely by the Sadrists, is now so opposed to a long-term American presence that Maliki feels like he has to win some significant concessions on this score merely to keep from being tossed out of power.

This is not a change. Every report on public opinion in Iraq during the occupation has shown overwhelming opposition to long-term US presence, though at some times there has been support for short-term US presence as the least-bad alternative given the destabilization already caused by the invasion.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 11, 2008 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.' "

Colonization? That's just plain crazy talk. Anyway, who'd be left to guard the pool during adult lap swim?

Posted by: junebug on June 11, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

...Trying to turn Iraq into a New England township is a notion only Wolfie, Perle and "the stupidest fucking son of a bitch on the planet" really believed. ...

Cheney? Rummy? Addington? Bolton? Who can sort this out? The list goes on and on.

Or maybe it should go to all the people that voted to give Bush a second term.

Posted by: MLuther on June 11, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

MLuther:

True. Or maybe the congress who took impeachment "off the table," effectively pardoning the man most responsible by not even bothering to indict him, much less try and convict him.

Posted by: alibubba on June 11, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

And the biggest change is this: public opinion in Iraq, stoked largely by the Sadrists, is now so opposed to a long-term American presence

Kevin a lot of them are living in utter squalor and a trip to the bazaar for groceries can result in instantaneous death. They don't need Sadr to tell them they're not better off than they were 6 years ago.

Posted by: markg8 on June 11, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin a lot of them are living in utter squalor and a trip to the bazaar for groceries can result in instantaneous death. Posted by: markg8 on June 11, 2008 at 2:18 PM

And how many of them within sight of that 58 million dollar diplomatic compound with pool and tennis courts for the safe and long-term presence of US personnel in Iraq.

We brought "diplomacy" to a population our occupation lessened by a documented 800,000 in Iraqi civilian deaths, and another 2 million in displaced Iraqi citizenry.

Now, Bush is trash-hauling Air Farce One around the globe on US tax-payer bought AV-gas to round up support to do the same thing to Iranian citizens.

Please, I need more Bush kool-aide, the scales on my eyes keep slipping off.

Posted by: Zit on June 11, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

OBAMA WON'T LEAVE IRAQ, the Dems want that 150+ a barrel oil too. PLUS all those 50+ temporary bases are ALREADY there, so??? AND its a MONEY PIT that one could disappear almost ANY AMOUNT of YOUR TAX DOLLARS, no problem, its already justified.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on June 11, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Maliki, in fact, does need us in Iraq

Not if he is drawing up terms with Iran.

I guess the surge is NOT working by those that know the facts on ground in Iraq.

Posted by: Me-again on June 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

continued presence of U.S. troops was "the main obstacle on the way to progress and prosperity in Iraq.

And now Bush/Cheney want to punish Iran (and Iraq). Jeebus.

Posted by: Me-again on June 11, 2008 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

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