Iraqis to Have Veto over Coalition Forces

by on May 25th, 2004

Anyone who has studied politics for more than a week knows about the law of unintended consequences – that is, in taking any action, a political leader creates results that he never meant to achieve. So it is with a sovereign Iraq. It appears that US and other coalition troops will provide security for Iraq, as and how the Iraqi government feels it is appropriate. As Prime Minister Tony Blair put it, “If there’s a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Falluja in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government, and the final political control remains with the Iraqi government.”

In other words, American and other coalition forces will have their ability to act in Iraq circumscribed by the desires of the Iraqi government. It’s going to be hard to “smoke out” the “evil-doers” when American troops are told they can’t do certain things – by an unelected government of Iraq. However, that is what transferring sovereignty means – transferring supreme authority within a territory. Which, I suppose, would give the Iraqi judiciary the power to try those American troops who allegedly abused prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. Or who shoot at people at a wedding party.

The situation is unprecedented. In those places where US troops have been tried in local courts, like Japan and Germany, there was at least a democratic government behind the judiciary. As awful as the “six morons who lost the war” are, would anyone feel comfortable handing them over to an Iraqi court on July 1? Maybe, since their alleged crimes occurred before the hand over, they won’t face Iraqi justice (oxmoron?).

This silliness is the direct result of the Bush administration playing the entire occupation by ear. The June 30 hand-over was dictated not by events in Iraq but by the American electoral calendar. Mr. Bush, quite rightly, decided that he had a better shot at four more years if he could tell the voters that Iraq was not run by his people on election day.

So sovereignty will transfer to Iraqis – just as soon as someone can be found who will take the job. Then, the US will leave its troops there, under American command, to provide security within the dictates of the Iraqi Minister of Defense (whoever he may be).

Meanwhile, security efforts will increase and as Prime Minister Blair said “Iraqi-ization” will put more and more of the burden on Iraqi shoulders. More youthful readers are encouraged to look up “Vietnamization” and consider whether there is any chance of success employing methods in Iraq that failed Vietnam in the 1970s. At least during Vietnam, the politicians who wrecked the war effort were ours. This time, they’ll be Iraqis.

Also, Mr. Bush said we need to build international support for this effort – about 14 months too late. Back at the White House, someone appears to have found the phone number for the UN Security Council. The Bush administration wants UN recognition of the interim Iraqi government. No one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue cared about the UN a year ago.

OK, that was then, and this is now. What do we do? The right way to do this (security, elections, and then transfer of sovereignty) is not on the table thanks to Mr. Bush. So, we must make do with the five steps as laid out last night. I might add a sixth step in deference to Mr. Bush’s religious bent – prayer. If last night’s speech laid out his “clear strategy,” then, we are going to need all the help we can get.

Jeff Myhre