Monday, November 26, 2007

A Sweet Deal for Oil Company Execs and Defense Contractors

Nouri al-Maliki and Pres. Bush have negotiated a deal in which the United States will prop up the Shiite national government ad infinitum in exchange for "preferential treatment for American investments" and keeping the U.S. military in Iraq forever. The White House calls this plan for permanent American military and economic control of Iraq a "U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation."

Shaun Mullen calls it a "Shiite-dominated nanny state."

Spencer Ackerman has been turning out posts on this story faster than I can create one sentence, and they are all must-reads:

  • On permanent military bases: "I've never heard of anything so absurd! Why, you -- you -- you conspiracy theorist! How can you be so shrill, so irresponsible, so, so, so... Oh, wait."
  • On euphemistic language:
    A "democratic Iraq" here means the Shiite-led Iraqi government. The current political arrangement will receive U.S. military protection against coups or any other internal subversion. That's something the Iraqi government wants desperately: not only is it massively unpopular, even among Iraqi Shiites, but the increasing U.S.-Sunni security cooperation strikes the Shiite government -- with some justification -- as a recipe for a future coup. [See "American-Backed Killer Militias Strut Across Iraq," in today's Times Online, for more on how justified those fears are. -- Kathy]

    Notice also the timetable. The U.S. and Iraq will negotiate another year-long United Nations mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which will expire (I think) in late December 2008. According to today's declaration, following the forthcoming renewal at the U.N., "we will begin negotiation of a framework that will govern the future of our bilateral relationship." That means that during Bush's last year in office, the administration will work out the terms of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq in order to, at the very least, seriously constrain the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence. Even if Bush doesn't take the audacious step of signing a so-called Status of Forces Agreement -- the basic document for garrisoning U.S. forces on foreign soil -- while he's a lame duck, the simple fact of negotiations will create a diplomatic expectation that his successor will find difficult to reverse.

    The White House is also taking steps to argue that there's nothing unusual about what it intends for Iraq. Here's that fact sheet again:
    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.

    Not stated, of course, is that Iraq would represent a military commitment opposed by most of the American people. Nor that it would represent codifying an unpopular war into an unpopular, indefinite war. Nor even what that commitment would entail. ...

  • On the normalization of the not normal:
    If you're like most Americans and most Iraqis, chances are you think a normal state of affairs between the two nations is not one in which, say, U.S. troops walk the streets of Baghdad. Well, all you've done is prove your unfitness to serve in the Bush administration. Today, the administration has spun the forthcoming permanent U.S. troop presence as amounting to a "normalization" of relations.

Remember when the very mention of "permanent military bases" was considered outre?
Way back in February 2006, Tom Engelhardt noted that the “debate” over permanent U.S. bases in Iraq was practically non-existent. After a search of the LexisNexis database, he explained, “American reporters adhere to a simple rule: The words ‘permanent,’ ‘bases,’ and ‘Iraq’ should never be placed in the same sentence, not even in the same paragraph; in fact, not even in the same news report.”

It wasn’t too big a mystery — talk of permanent bases was considered impolite for the political mainstream. It was a subject best relegated to blogs and talk radio. When congressional Dems started taking the matter seriously, congressional Republicans quickly shut down any policy proposals that might limit a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq.

With that in mind, today’s news is not at all encouraging.
Iraq’s government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday.

The proposal, described to The Associated Press by two senior Iraqi officials familiar with the issue, is one of the first indications that the United States and Iraq are beginning to explore what their relationship might look like once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence.

As Spencer Ackerman explained, “Make no mistake: this is Nouri al-Maliki offering the U.S. a permanent presence in return for guaranteeing the security of his government…. In exchange for a platform for the indefinite projection of American power throughout the Middle East, the Bush Administration probably considers protection for Maliki and his coterie to be a small price to pay.”

So tin foil hats are no longer required gear for talking about permanent military bases in Iraq. After all, when you think about it, PMBs are just common sense:
Iraq and the US will negotiate for long-term military bases in the coming months. Of course, this only makes sense since the forces could help stabilize in case of emergency and this would give the US a strategic base in the troubled region.

But if you are a Bush-style neoconservative, you can still accuse liberals of hampering the "war effort" with conspiracy talk about permanent military bases and oil profits:
The Iraqi government has offered the US a long-term security partnership that envisions a lower profile for American troops, as well as economic advantages for US investors. The agreement would replace the current UN mandate, which Iraq wants extended only to the end of 2008. It might also revive conspiratorial criticisms that have dogged the Iraq effort. ...

The favorable treatment of American investments will restart the meme that the Bush administration invaded Iraq to get oil contracts for American firms at the expense of the French and the Russians. That ignores the obvious point that we could have dropped sanctions and allowed free trade with Saddam Hussein at any time after 1991 if that was our only concern. The French and the Russians begged us to do that from 1999 to 2003. In fact, if oil was our only concern, we never would have kicked Saddam out of Kuwait. We would have shrugged it off as the evolution of Middle East consolidation.

A negotiated security partnership makes sense for both nations. Iraqis now understand that the Americans do not want an imperial outpost in southwest Asia, but a stable democracy able to fight against terrorism and radicalization. The Americans want to see Iraq succeed on its own for a number of sometimes conflicting reasons. Such a partnership would allow a significant drawdown of American combat troops while allowing a substantial core to continue counterterrorism operations and forcebuilding for Iraqi security organizations.

It's fascinating to see how permanent American military occupation becomes "a lower profile for American troops." Not to mention the bizarre transformation of fact -- the U.S. military protecting the Shiite government from internal coups -- into fiction: "...a stable democracy able to fight against terrorism and radicalization." It's precisely because the Iraqi government cannot defend itself against its internal enemies that al-Maliki is so desperate to keep American troops from leaving that he's willing to sell out his country's independence and sovereignty to keep them there. Also, check out the subtle alteration of the oil motive -- from the Bush administration invading Iraq to reap the profits from lucrative oil contracts at the expense of Iraq's right to decide who profits from its own natural resources, to the Bush administration invading Iraq to get oil contracts for American firms "at the expense of the French and the Russians." Obviously, it's still a bit risky to be too honest about who pays the price for American oil companies' greed.

Not necessary to spell it out, anyway. Everybody knows.

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