With the clock ticking on our "commitments" in Iraq -- the international mandate expires in less than a year -- the Bush administration is left in an interesting position. It could create a plan for a troop withdrawal; instead, the plan being negotiated with the Iraqi government focuses on reasons to stay there, something The New York Times reports is seen by Democrats as a plan that would "bind the next president by locking in Mr. Bush's policies and a long-term military presence."
And we're starting to learn about the byzantine tactic being employed to get this done. Senior administration officials will say they're not interested in permanent bases in Iraq. They use terms like "long-term" and "enduring" (U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said as much on Thursday). It's all a matter of slyly edited statements, woven to obscure their true meaning and aim: What's being crafted is a treaty. Iraqi leaders seem to know this, and describe what's being negotiated (formally named "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America") as a "long-term treaty."
The reason that distinction is important is this: A treaty requires Senate ratification.
Supporting Iraq "in defending its democratic system against internal and external threats" is the first principle of the declaration. But according to Michael Rubin (an expert on the domestic policies of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and more), who testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, "Any langauge...which would commit U.S. forces to defend Iraq in the face of an external threat would transform the agreement into a treaty subject to Senate ratification."
Imagine what this will mean for the next administration: A pre-packaged deal, leaving our military stuck in Iraq for decades to come, to guard against "external threats" -- which external threats are they talking about? Could it be that the Bush administration is positioning itself for an attack on Iran? Or perhaps we're to offer our troops as support for an Israeli attack on Iran? It's not farfetched. The president has surely done his best yet to establish Iran as a real military threat, despite the lack of a shred of credible evidence.
Consider that he and his allies uttered no fewer than 935 false statements (when can we start calling them lies, by the way?). Falsehoods got us into Iraq; let's not allow them to keep us there.
© 2008 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer