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Monday, July 14, 2008

Next Year, Pal -- Maybe

We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say leave, we would leave.
-George W. Bush, May 24, 2007

Yeah, it turns out that was a lie. Big shocker there, huh? Negotiations for a long term security deal between the US and Iraq broke down yesterday, with the Bush administration punting. There will be no security agreement, not this year, and Bush's responsibility for Iraq has been sloughed off on the next president.

Washington Post:

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.

In place of the formal status-of-forces agreement negotiators had hoped to complete by July 31, the two governments are now working on a "bridge" document, more limited in both time and scope, that would allow basic U.S. military operations to continue beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of the year.

The failure of months of negotiations over the more detailed accord -- blamed on both the Iraqi refusal to accept U.S. terms and the complexity of the task -- deals a blow to the Bush administration's plans to leave in place a formal military architecture in Iraq that could last for years.

See that? It's all Iraq's fault. Never mind that the US terms were insane -- blanket legal immunity for US forces and contractors (including the almost universally despised Blackwater), unchecked access to anything within the borders of Iraq, the power to police and arrest -- independent of Iraqi law -- and an open-ended commitment (i.e., John McCain's "100 years").

For their part, Iraq didn't want any of this. Mostly because it was all insane -- it was the US governing Iraq while the Iraqi government pretended to. In fact, the Iraqi government wanted the Bush administration to commit to a timetable for withdrawal. Bush had thrown up so many firewalls against that idea at home that there was no way he could accept it from Iraqis without significant domestic political damage; not only for himself, but for the party that repeated his every word as if it were divinely inspired. By the lunatic reasoning the Republicans and neocons had constructed, the Iraqis were asking them to "cut and run."

-Continued after the jump-

Given the choice between keeping his word or accepting a timetable, Bush fled the table screaming. If anyone out there still needs proof that Bush's word isn't worth jack, there ya go. Iraq has asked us to leave and, rather than respect the wishes of this so-called "sovereign nation," Bush shut down negotiations and refuses to return to the table -- ever.

Of course, I called this last week, with a post I called "Not This Year, Buddy." Bush isn't going to leave Iraq. We could lose every man but one and Bush would insist he had to stay. "Losing" Iraq is what some other president will do. Bush hopes that the historical blame will fall on some other executive's shoulders, rather than where it belongs -- with the current executive. If the disaster of Iraq and our inevitable departure from that nation is seen as Bush's fault, the neocon ideology of gunboat diplomacy, global policing, and American supremacy (and I mean that in the same way that "white supremacy" is meant) is dead for good, having been proven wrong on pretty much every single point, dash, and ampersand. The reign of the neoconservatives will resemble that of the McCarthyites -- short, stupid, and thoroughly discredited.

So the negotiations have been put off until the next chump -- I mean, president -- takes office. If it's McCain, he'll be able to blame everything on what will most likely be an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. If it's Obama, he'll be the president who "lost" Iraq. Either way, it's going to be the Democrats' fault.

A new problem for this strategy of blame-shifting is popping up -- the Pentagon will publish a report recommending a "16-month timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq." The withdrawal would leave a token force of 50,000, "with platoon-size U.S. detachments backing the Iraqis from small outposts, with air support." Forward operating bases would be mostly abandoned. The military is about to recommend "cutting and running."

Reality, it appears once again, has a liberal bias. Iraq wants us to leave Iraq, the American people want us to leave Iraq, and now even the military wants us to leave Iraq. The excuses for staying are becoming a pretty rare species. Luckily for Bush, he's closed that door on withdrawal, by putting off renewed negotiations until next year. If that means going back on his word, so what?

It's much more important that someone else take the blame for the debacle in Iraq. If a whole bunch of people have to die in order to keep this thing rolling for a few months more, so what? There's a lunatic ideology to defend, a vision of an American world in a New American Century. We won the cold war, we get the world -- that's the way the reasoning works.

Nothing is more important than that vision -- not Bush's word, not Iraqi sovereignty, not the lives of Iraqis and their occupiers, not even the opinion of the military. The only thing that's important is that the neocons are proven right. If that turns out to be impossible to do, then they must not be proven wrong.

So, when Iraq asked him to leave, he didn't. Bush turned his back on everything he'd previously said about Iraqi sovereignty. He walked away from the negotiating table and unilaterally decided the war would go on as scheduled -- until he's safely out of office.


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