Mr. Bush doesn't appear to be worried about the effect the Iraq war will have on his legacy. In fact, he seems downright determined to ensure his Mesopotamia Mistake never makes the transition from current event to historical case study.
Monday, during a videoconference, Mr. Bush and Nuri al-Maliki separately signed a "declaration of principles" that calls for one more year of U.S. occupation of Iraq by U.N. mandate to be followed with a more permanent arrangement under sanction of a bilateral treaty.
Mr. Bush, you'll recall, is the beleaguered president of the United States. His second term ends in January of 2008, and rumor has it that he may actually step down then. If he does, that might well be his first and last constitutional exercise of presidential power.
Nuri al-Maliki is the beleaguered prime minister of Iraq. Just over a week before Maliki signed the declaration, not surprisingly, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) threatened to introduce legislature that would provide an "alternative" to Maliki's government, and he later said that he would be "looking at ways to invest our money into groups that can deliver" if Maliki can't make more political progress by January.
You know Bush was serious about getting this permanent occupation agreement signed because every time he really, really wants Maliki to do something, he has Huckleberry make scare noise about poop-canning the guy.
"War Czar" Lieutenant General Douglas Lute said at a White House briefing on Monday that the declaration of principles was an agreement to hold talks next year to determine what missions U.S. forces in Iraq will pursue, whether or not there will be permanent U.S. bases, and what sorts of immunity will be granted to private security firms like Blackwater. The talks will also explore what kinds of preferential treatment the Iraqi government will give U.S. oil companies like Halliburton. The goal of the talks will be to have all these issues and more resolved by the end of July 2008, comfortably before Bush leaves office and any Democrat can step in and fend off whatever further cluster bombs Bush manages to drop on us.
A Tale of Two Constitutions
Not everybody in Iraq is hats and hooters about this new declaration their boy Maliki just signed on to. As Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar of AlterNet reported on November 7th, Maliki has taken a Bush-like attitude toward his country's constitution. In 2006, Maliki requested an extension of the U.N. occupation mandate without getting approval of his parliament as required by his constitution's article 58, which states that parliament must ratify "international treaties and agreements by a two thirds majority." (Does any of this sound familiar yet?) Maliki argued that the U.N. mandate didn't qualify as an international treaty or agreement. The U.N. Security Council bought Maliki's argument and extended the mandate.
In June of 2007, Iraq's parliament passed a binding resolution that specifically guaranteed them an opportunity to block any further extensions of the U.N. mandate. Maliki did not veto the law. This "principles" deal he just signed on to with Bush will involve yet another end run around his parliament to extend the U.N. mandate, and then another one to establish a two-way treaty with the U.S.
Meanwhile, back at the other constitutional crisis…
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was completely out of sorts about the principle pact. "President Bush's agreement with the Iraqi government confirms his willingness to leave office with a U.S. Army tied down in Iraq and stretched to the breaking point, with no clear exit strategy from Iraq," she said.
Well, that's true. In fact, Bush isn't just out to leave his successor with no exit strategy; he's determined to seal the exit behind him altogether. But what's Pelosi going to do about it? Article II of the U.S. Constitution says that treaties must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, not the House. And what's the Senate going to do about blocking whatever deal Bush makes with Maliki?
Nothing, if the White House gets its way. According to War Czar Lute, the declaration is not a "treaty," per se. It's "a set of principles from which to begin formal negotiations."
Well, yeah, Lute-ster, almost all agreements between nations start out as a set of principles for negotiations. But eventually, when those negotiations reach their conclusion, they generally need to become a treaty. The problem for the Bush gang is that if they subject the agreement to the treaty process, that will play into the ix-nay authority of the Democratically controlled Senate, which would negate the whole purpose behind getting the dope deal cut before a Democrat moves into the White House.
The leaders of the Democratically controlled Senate ought to be yelling, "Bloody hell no, Bush won't enter us into an international agreement without our approval," but Hillary Clinton, presently the Senate's most visible Democratic leader, has let herself get drawn off by a decoy issue.
On Tuesday, she warned Mr. Bush that a pact with Iraq on extending the troop presence there would be "dangerous," and "To be clear, attempts to establish permanent bases in Iraq would damage US interests in Iraq and the broader region, and I will continue to strongly oppose such efforts."
For the love of Mike, Hillary, wake up and smell the airplane glue. We've been hearing news of over a dozen "enduring bases" being built in Iraq since September of 2004. In 2005 and 2006, Congress--the Congress Hillary was a part of at the time--authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for military construction in Iraq.
The permanent bases are already there, Hillary!. You need to jump off that horse and start swimming downstream toward July, because if you wait until then to start asserting the Senate's prerogative to approve or disapprove treaties, you'll get slapped across the forehead with accusations that you, specifically, are trying to obstruct the good work Mr. Bush is doing to secure Iraq so you can make points with the voters on the lunatic left fringe while all those good and true GOP candidates--including and especially old "the troops want a chance to win" John McCain --are foursquare behind our commander in chief at the moment of his decisive victory in Iraq.
The administration's Rovewellian propaganda campaign for July victory in the Iraq treaty battle has already commenced. Uncle Karl himself fired the first salvo the day before Thanksgiving when he told PBS's Charlie Rose that Congress pushed Bush into invading Iraq.
You can't shrug this confrontation off, Democrats, and Atlas isn't going to come along and do it for you.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008. Visit here to listen to Jeff's recent conversation with Karen Kwiatkowski on National Forum.