It Depends On Interpretation: Iraq Pact

This story and this topic has been slowly getting traction in the media, it seems, or I am just now catching up with it. Of course, knowing little or nothing about international diplomacy or international law, I have little to say about it, however, this particular article was pretty interesting – McLatchy reports:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes.

So Iraqi parliament is voting on the Arabic version of the agreement, but US is going to be bound by the English translation? Which one is the original version? How does one attempt to “suppress public dispute” when it is a matter of public interest and a vote by a publicly elected body of government? Did we not bring “democracy and freedom” to Iraq? I know, I know, I am naive, but I had a chance to watch a decent BBC documentary called The Power of Nightmares (watch it below) this weekend. I don’t think it is as good as it could have been but it does have an interesting discussion of neo-conservatives and their views, one of which is to use American power to bring “democracy and freedom” to the Middle East. Most commentators believe that it is just a cover ideology, but the documentary seemed at least partially convincing that this is what Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and others genuinely wanted.

The White House National Security Council said it had held up the translation’s release until the Iraqi parliament votes. “We plan to release it soon,” said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. “We are waiting for the Iraqi political process to move further down the road.”

A U.S. official, however, said the aim was also to head off any debate in the U.S. media. The administration fears that any discussion “may inadvertently throw this thing of the rails,” said the official, who couldn’t be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.

So not only are the Iraqis excluded from the debate, but apparently also the US media. Now this I do understand, it’s a sort of “we are the vanguard and we know better what’s good for the people” mentality of the neo-conservatives that appears to be very similar to Lenin’s ideological position that the masses cannot, by themselves, come to realize the need for revolution. But, again, Lenin then goes on a long campaign of educating the masses and explaining to them why organizing into trade unions is only a small step on the way to the future change… I mean how can an ideology that purports to promote “democracy and freedom” do so in such an undemocratic way? I’m sure there will be large books written about Bush administration in the next decade, but I would like to read just one short volume about its impact on democratic ideals that were always associated with the US even if everyone sort of knew that it was not to be taken literally. What do Americans stand for now? A quick look at the international media shows that most blame US for the financial crisis (greed and lack of regulation), instability in Iraq and trouble with Iran, anti-internationalism (does American public even care that their soldiers will be in Iraq illegally if no agreement is reached by 12/31?), fear-mongering (terrorists are out to get us) and so on. Will Obama administration be able to turn things around quickly enough? Is the present emphasis on the financial crisis an indication that Obama will be just another executive officer in charge? And the question that has bothered me the most in the last months – How it is possible that in a democratic system of checks-and-balances, a system designed to spread the power so that no one brach can abuse it, in just two presidential terms the country goes from economic prosperity and relevant international respect to economic misery and general backwardness vis-a-vis some of the most fundamental principles of international law like human rights, torture, detention and so on? Instead of the talk of “redistributing the wealth” should we not be concerned more with “redistributing the power”?

The Power of Nightmares (BBC)

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

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