U.S. Senate has right to review Iraq agreement

Editorial

Almost beneath the radar, with Congress in recess, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki have signed an agreement for a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq that commits at least 50,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely.

And these troops will not simply be called on in rare emergencies, but are charged with, in the words of the “Declaration of Principles”:

“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.”

U.S. forces will also actively train and equip Iraqi security forces, apparently indefinitely.

So the U.S. will continue to spend blood and treasure to provide internal security for the ephemeral Iraqi government. This is not the kind of arrangement you would expect between two genuinely sovereign nations, but more like an arrangement between a colonial power and a protectorate, back in the days when empire-builders called empire what it was.

Considering the destabilizing impact of the U.S. invasion of Iraq — strengthening Iran, unleashing ancient Shia-Sunni sectarian hostility, providing a target and opportunities to gain experience for foreign fighters — this is a mission fraught with danger for U.S. troops.

The agreement also has an economic component, including open-ended economic aid to Iraq and preferential treatment for U.S. investments in Iraq. This is more like crony capitalism than the kind of open free-market regime the United States pretends to extol and practice.

Under the Iraqi constitution the Iraqi parliament would have to ratify this deal, which might not be a sure thing. Already both Sunni and Shia Iraqi politicians have expressed opposition to a plan that would involve “U.S. interference for years to come.”

Ironically, however, there is no intention to submit the agreement to the U.S. Senate for approval. Yet it is in fact a treaty — committing U.S. troops and money — and the constitution requires the Senate to ratify treaties. Thus do dreams of empire undermine our constitutional order.

The U.S. Senate should demand this deal be called what it is — a treaty — and exercise its authority to scrutinize it and accept or reject it.