US to Have Troops in Iraq for 50 Years?

January 28th, 2008 - by admin

David Morrison / Labour & Trade Union Review – 2008-01-28 22:27:06

(January 21, 2008) — On 26 November 2007, President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki put their names to a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America” [1]. The declaration states:

“… the Governments of Iraq and the United States are committed to developing a long-term relationship of cooperation and friendship as two fully sovereign and independent states with common interests.

“… bilateral negotiations between the Republic of Iraq and the United States shall begin as soon as possible, with the aim to achieve, before July 31, 2008, agreements between the two governments with respect to the political, cultural, economic, and security spheres.”

So, by 31 July 2008, the Bush administration expects to have imposed a bilateral “agreement” on Iraq allowing US troops to be based there indefinitely. South Korea is frequently mentioned as the example to be followed, and the US has had troops there for over 50 years. And it is by no means certain that a Democratic administration (if one is returned in a year’s time, which is by no means certain) will have a markedly different intention.

The only thing that will prevent this intention being realised in practice is large numbers of US troops going home in body bags. That was what raised public support in the US for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and led to the Democrats winning control of both Houses of Congress in November 2006. If US casualties decline to insignificance in Iraq, then pressure for withdrawal will disappear.

At present US troops in Iraq are formally part of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force – Iraq), which, since October 2003, has been properly authorised by the Security Council to use armed force to put down opposition to the occupation. When the US concludes this bilateral “agreement” with Iraq, US troops in Iraq will operate under it and the MNF-I mandate from the Security Council will no longer be necessary.

Not that any of this will alter how Iraq is governed – it will continue be governed from Washington.

Joint Statement
The Bush-Maliki Declaration of Principles of 26 November 2007 had its origin in a joint statement by five Iraqi political leaders – Prime Minister Maliki, President Talabani, Vice President Hashimi, Vice President Abd al-Mahdi, President Barzani (of Kurdistan) – which saw the light of day at a rare joint press conference on 26 August 2007.

This event was the product of intense pressure on them by Washington to demonstrate to the US Congress that “national reconciliation” was taking place in Baghdad. General Patraeus, the US military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to Iraq, were due to report to the US Congress a couple of weeks later on the situation in Iraq following the “surge” in US ground troops.

The joint statement declared that “they had reached a consensus on a number of issues – including releasing detainees held without charge, easing a ban on former Saddam Hussein supporters from government posts, regulating the oil industry, and organizing provincial elections” (see RFE/RL report of 28 August 2007 [2]).

More significantly, the statement also contained the following:

“… the leaders affirmed the necessity of reaching a long term relationship with the American side … that is built on common interests and covers the various areas between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America. This goal should be realized in the near future.” (see White House Fact Sheet on the Declaration of Principles [3])

The statement pleased President Bush so much that he rang each of the five up from Air Force One to congratulate them. The joint statement was the most significant piece of evidence of “national reconciliation” cited by Ambassador Crocker in his report to Congress on 10 September 2007:

“I do believe that Iraq’s leaders have the will to tackle the country’s pressing problems… . After weeks of preparatory work and many days of intensive meetings, Iraq’s five most prominent national leaders from the three major communities issued a communiqué on August 26 that noted agreement on draft legislation dealing with de-ba’athification and provincial powers. This agreement by no means solves all of Iraq’s problems. But the commitment of its leaders to work together on hard issues is encouraging.

“Perhaps most significantly, these five Iraqi leaders together decided to publicly express their joint desire to develop a long term relationship with the United States.” [4]

General Lute Speaks
General Douglas Lute, the Assistant to the President for Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke to the press about the Declaration on 26 November 2007. He introduced it as follows:

“Today’s declaration outlines the main parts of what we expect that emerging agreement to contain. There should be a political-diplomatic segment, there will be a segment dealing with economic affairs, and then a security segment.” [5]

According to the Declaration of Principles, the security segment is to be concerned with:

“1. Providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq [by the US/UK?] that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace.

“2. Supporting the Republic of Iraq in its efforts to combat all terrorist groups, at the forefront of which is Al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation, and destroy their logistical networks and their sources of finance, and defeat and uproot them from Iraq. This support will be provided consistent with mechanisms and arrangements to be established in the bilateral cooperation agreements mentioned herein.

“3. Supporting the Republic of Iraq in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces to enable them to protect Iraq and all its peoples, and completing the building of its administrative systems, in accordance with the request of the Iraqi government.” [1]

A White House Fact Sheet accompanying the declaration set it in context as follows:

“The declaration sets the U.S. and Iraq on a path toward negotiating agreements that are common throughout the world. The U.S. has security relationships with over 100 countries around the world, including recent agreements with nations such as Afghanistan and former Soviet bloc countries.” [3]

Asked how large the US military presence in Iraq would be, General Lute replied:

“So shape and size of any long-term, or longer than 2008, U.S. presence in Iraq will be a key matter for negotiation between the two parties, Iraq and the United States. So it’s too soon to tell what shape and size that commitment will take.”

Asked about “permanent bases”, he replied:

“Likewise. That’s another dimension of continuing U.S. support to the government of Iraq, and will certainly be a key item for negotiation next year.”

UN Mandate to be Terminated
Currently, US and other foreign troops operate in Iraq under a UN Security Council mandate as the MNF-I (Multi-National Force – Iraq). This mandate was first given in the Chapter VII resolution 1511, passed by the Security Council on 16 October 2003, seven months after the US/UK invasion of Iraq. Paragraph 13 of the resolution states:

“[The Security Council] Determines that the provision of security and stability is essential to the successful completion of the political process as outlined in paragraph 7 above and to the ability of the United Nations to contribute effectively to that process and the implementation of resolution 1483 (2003), and authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq” [6]

By this resolution, the Security Council established a multinational force under US command and authorised it “to take all necessary measures”, ie use force, to put down resistance to the US/UK occupation of Iraq. The Council did so unanimously, France, Russia and China voting for the resolution, even though in March 2003 they refused to authorise the US/UK invasion of Iraq that led to the occupation. From 16 October 2003 onwards, every death and injury inflicted by the occupation forces has been done with the authority of the UN Security Council.

This initial MNF-I mandate in resolution 1511 was for a year. It has subsequently been renewed, ostensibly at the request of the Iraqi Government, by resolutions 1546 (8 June 2004), 1637 (8 November 2005), 1723 (28 November 2006) and most recently by resolution 1790 passed on 18 December 2007 [7]. The latter extends the mandate to 31 December 2008, but it may be ended at any time at the request of the Iraqi Government.

The letter from Prime Minister Maliki formally requesting the latest extension of the MNF-I mandate (which is appended to resolution 1790) states:

“The Government of Iraq considers this to be its final request to the Security Council for the extension of the mandate of MNF-I and expects, in future, that the Security Council will be able to deal with the situation in Iraq without the need for action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations;” [7]

So, the plan is that, by the end of 2008, the mandate of the MNF-I will be terminated and US forces remaining in Iraq will operate under a bilateral US-Iraq “agreement”, which is scheduled to be in place by 31 July 2008.

Iraq No Longer a Threat
When the MNF-I mandate has been terminated, for the first time since 6 August 1990, Iraq will no longer be a threat to international peace and security, in the opinion of the Security Council, and therefore a suitable case for Chapter VII resolution. On that day, the Security Council passed its first Chapter VII resolution against Iraq, imposing economic sanctions on Iraq with the objective of forcing it to withdraw its forces from Kuwait.

(A phrase about maintaining or restoring international peace and security is present in every Chapter VII resolution. It is derived from Article 39 of the UN Charter, the first Article of Chapter VII, in which the Security Council, having determined “the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression”, is given authority to take measures to “maintain or restore international peace and security”.)

A long series of Chapter VII resolutions have been passed against Iraq in the intervening years. After 661, there was 678, on 29 November 1990, which authorised military action to compel Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait and, after the war, a series of disarmament resolutions, beginning with 687 passed on 3 April 1991 and ending with 1441 passed on 8 November 2002, all of which maintained the economic sanctions imposed by 661. The economic sanctions were finally lifted by 1483, passed 22 May 2003 after the US/UK invasion – they had to be lifted to enable the occupiers to sell Iraqi oil.

Since then, as we have seen, there have been a series of Chapter VII resolutions authorising the US-led MNF-I to put down resistance to occupation, justified on the grounds that “the situation in Iraq constitutes a threat to international peace and security”. Now, apparently, the threat to international peace and security has passed, since the US wants to dispense with Chapter VII resolutions altogether.

Double Standards
It is worth noting that the Security Council didn’t declare Iraq to be a “threat to international peace and security”, when it attacked Iran in September 1980. In fact, the Security Council never condemned Iraq for invading Iran, let alone pass Chapter VII resolutions imposing sanctions with the objective of making it withdraw. It didn’t do so because the US approved of Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980.

It is also worth noting that the Security Council has never declared Israel to be a “threat to international peace and security” despite its many attacks on its neighbours and its 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, let alone pass Chapter VII resolutions imposing sanctions with the objective of making it withdraw.

What about Non-US Foreign Troops?
The Declaration of Principles is silent on whether the US-Iraq bilateral “agreement” will provide for the continued presence of non-US foreign troops in Iraq. However, General Lute told the press:

“What we expect this to do is set a bilateral mandate for the continued presence and missions performed by U.S. troops, and other coalition troops, as well, outside of the U.N. Security Council mandate. So what U.S. troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them – all these things are on the negotiating table.” [5]

25 states, apart from the US, still have troops in Iraq, but many of their contributions are small and the total number is getting smaller all the time – it is now about 10,300 (see the US State Department’s Weekly Status Report for 9 January 2008 [8], page 25). Slovakia and Slovenia have recently withdrawn their small contingents.

An extra 2,000 British troops are expected to leave soon, reducing their total to 2,500, and, after recent elections changed the governments in Australia and Poland, their troops may be withdrawn. They have about 1,000 each, so it is possible that by the time the US-Iraq “agreement” comes into operation, the total number of non-US foreign troops may have decreased by about 40%.

Most of the non-US contributions to the MNF-I have been of little military value to the US. But every state’s contingent, no matter how small, is politically useful, since it demonstrates the state’s support for the US mission in Iraq. The US likes to boast about the number of states it has persuaded to join its “coalition of the willing” in Iraq, but understandably it is reticent about the size of each contingent and what military tasks each contingent is performing on the ground in Iraq.

The termination of the Security Council mandate for the MNF-I could be an excuse for more states to pull out their contingents. British forces have been taking casualties to no purpose in Iraq for the past few years, but it has been politically impossible to withdraw them without giving the appearance of deserting the US in its hour of need. Perhaps, with the termination of the Security Council mandate, a way could be found to get around that difficulty.

Do Iraqis Want an “Enduring Relationship”?
It is worth emphasising that this request for “an enduring relationship” with the US, and its accompanying presence of US troops, has not been endorsed by the Iraqi Parliament.

Ironically, on 19 December 2007, a few weeks after the Declaration of Principles was signed, an article by Karen DeYoung was published in The Washington Post entitled All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows. It began:

“Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of ‘occupying forces’ as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.” [9]

According to a report of the focus groups findings prepared for the US military (quoted by Karen DeYoung), most focus groups described the negative elements of life in Iraq beginning with the US occupation in March 2003. Few mentioned Saddam Hussein as a cause of their problems, which the report described as an important finding implying that “the current strife in Iraq seems to have totally eclipsed any agonies or grievances many Iraqis would have incurred from the past regime, which lasted for nearly four decades – as opposed to the current conflict, which has lasted for five years”.

Karen DeYoung also points out recent surveys of public opinion in Iraq “showed the same widespread Iraqi belief voiced by the military’s focus groups: that a US departure will make things better”. For example, a survey conducted in September 2007 for several news media outlets, including the BBC, by D3 Systems, a US polling organisation, found that 69% believed that “the presence of US forces in Iraq is making security in our country” worse and only 21% believed it was making it better (see [10], Question 28).

So, it isn’t obvious that the Iraqi people want “an enduring relationship with America” and American troops in their country for the next 50 years. But, when you have 200,000 or more armed Americans in your country, it’s difficult to avoid having an enduring relationship with America, if America wants one.

US Presidential Election
Will these plans for a long term presence of US troops in Iraq be affected by the outcome of November’s US presidential election? Certainly not if there is a Republican president – and that is more likely, now that optimism has broken out in the US about Iraq, and fewer US troops are being killed. Although 2007 was the deadliest year for the US with a total of 901 killed, the death rate in the last three months of the year was about one a day on average, compared with about three a day in the first nine months.

John McCain, now the likely Republican candidate, has been happily talking during the campaign about US troops being in Iraq for 100 years. Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press on 6 January 2007 to confirm that he would tell the American people that he would “be all right with having US troops in Iraq for the next 100 years”, he replied:

“Most importantly, so would the American people if Americans aren’t dying. We have a base in, in the neighboring country of Kuwait, very large base. We have a base in Turkey. We have a base in Japan, Germany. We’ve had bases there. It’s not American presence that bothers the American people, it’s American casualties. And if Americans are safe wherever they are in the world, Americans – the American people don’t mind that.” [11]

McCain is right: it was American casualties that generated the public demand to bring the troops home. Without American casualties, the demand will decrease. The lesson to be learned from McCain is: kill Americans if you don’t want them to stay in your country for 50 or 100 years.

McCain put himself out on a limb at the beginning of 2007 by being one of the few senior Republicans who wholeheartedly supported the “surge” – the 30,000 increase in US ground troops in Iraq. Today, in his campaign to be the Republican candidate, he trumpets the “surge” as a great success, because of the fall in the US and Iraqi death rate, and trumpets his support for the “surge” as evidence of his fitness for the presidency. (In reality, the fall in the death rate has had little to do with the “surge”.)

Democrats for Withdrawing Troops?
Generally speaking, Democrats have followed public opinion on the war, and have adjusted policy to reflect the growing public demand to bring the troops home. In October 2002, Hillary Clinton voted to grant President Bush the power to take military action against Iraq and she was generally supportive of the President’s conduct of the war until the latter part of 2006, when she decided to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency – and decided she couldn’t win the nomination unless her platform included ending the war and bringing troops home.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, made a remarkably prophetic speech in October 2002 opposing military action against Iraq. Listen to this:

“But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.” [12]

However, since then, he has been far from consistent in his opposition to the war. When he was running for election to the Senate in November 2004, he claimed that he didn’t know how he would have voted, had he been in the Senate in October 2002, despite his clear opposition to attacking Iraq in October 2002.

Today, both say they will bring troops home unconditionally early in their presidency (see [13] and [14]). Obama says he will “have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months” and he will “make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq”. However, in a Democratic presidential debate on 26 September 2007, both refused to pledge that there will be no US troops in Iraq at the end of their first term [15].

On American “Heroic Sacrifices”
The Declaration of Principles asserts the following about the enduring US-Iraq relationship, the consummation of which the Declaration foreshadows:

“This relationship will serve the interest of coming generations based on the heroic sacrifices made by the Iraqi people and the American people for the sake of a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal, and unified Iraq.”

The “heroic sacrifices” by the American people (amounting to 3,929 military personnel killed and 28,992 wounded at the time writing [16]) were self-inflicted and have been carefully counted. The US invasion of Iraq was a war of choice, justified to the American people on the grounds that Iraq was a threat to US national security, because of its possession of “weapons of mass destruction” — a ludicrous proposition — plus broad hints that Saddam Hussein had some responsibility for 9/11, when in reality he was an enemy of al-Qaeda. The US could have chosen to stay at home and thereby avoid making “heroic sacrifices”.

The Iraqi people couldn’t avoid making “heroic sacrifices”. At least a hundred thousand of them, and perhaps many more, have been killed, as a result of the US/UK invasion and the destruction Iraqi state. Many more have been injured. About 2 million Iraqis are refugees in Syria and Jordan, and another 2 million are displaced internally: in all, about 1 in 7 of the population is displaced [17]. All this, thanks to the “heroic sacrifices” of the American people.

We will ever know how many Iraqis have been killed, because, in the famous words of General Tommy Franks, the US commander of the invading forces: “We don’t do body counts”. If the bodies are Iraqi, he should have added for accuracy.

The estimates of Iraqi deaths that exist have, until recently, been put together by organisations other than the occupying powers. From the outset, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) organisation has compiled a count of Iraqi civilians killed from media reports of incidents. This count is inevitably an underestimate since not all incidents in which civilian die are reported in the media.

As of 1 January 2008, the IBC estimate ranged from 81,174 to 88,585 [18]. The IBC range for 2007 is 22,586 to 24,159, slightly down on that for 2006, which is 25,699 to 27,519. In addition, the IBC figures show a marked downward trend in deaths in the last four months of 2007, on average about 1,000 civilians a month being killed, compared with well over 2,000 per month in the previous nine months.

So, the “progress” in Iraq that John McCain and others in American are trumpeting today is that only 1,000 Iraqi civilians are dying a month now, compared with 2,000+ per month up to August 2007.

If only the US had stayed at home and abstained from making “heroic sacrifices”, none of this would be happening and at least a hundred thousand Iraqis that are now dead would be alive.