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Column: Bush Not Done With Iraq Policy Yet

This story was written by Giles Howard, The Pitt News

Weve ignored a lot as a nation over the past year as we focused on the tantalizing soap opera that was our presidential election instead of national and world events as a whole.

But even though we as a people were engrossed in the daily controversies of campaign life doesnt mean that things werent happening both at home and abroad to which we should have been paying attention. Just because we no longer think about President Bush or see him on television doesnt mean that he and his administration are no longer making decisions that could and often do have disastrous consequences for our nation and the rest of the world.

For instance, while the presidential candidates have been talking about Iraq, Bushs government has been taking action there. The latest Bush initiative is to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government.

Such an agreement is necessary to maintain the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq legally. The U.N. resolution that, since 2003, has provided the legal basis for military operations in Iraq expires on Dec. 31, and thus the American government needs to negotiate a deal to allow our military to stay there past that deadline.

Without this agreement or a new U.N. resolution, U.S. forces will essentially be forced to cease combat operations in Iraq. This wouldnt be a problem if the negotiations over the agreement were going well, but in keeping with the administrations dismal foreign policy record, they arent.

A major sticking point is that the government of Iraq wants to be able to prosecute U.S. military personnel in Iraqi courts. It also wants to stop the U.S. military from staging cross-border raids from Iraqi territory, along with the ability to open and read U.S. mail. And it wants to call the final document Agreement on Complete U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq.

The Iraqis have even been so bold as to demand that the revisions in the Arabic version match those in the English one.

To me it sounds as though the Iraqi government is attempting to assert its sovereignty and safeguard its interests as a functioning nation-state.

Even though these sound like sensible demands for an independent nation to make toward an occupying army that, at least were told, is there to help them, the Bush administration says that the demands cross red lines.

Rather than continue to negotiate with the Iraqi government, the Washington Times reported that the Bush administration is considering approaching the U.N. Security Council for an extension of the current resolution authorizing the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

If the Bush administration chooses to do this and bypass the Iraqi government, it will reveal the American rhetoric of the past five years about spreading freedom and democracy and supporting the formation of a sovereign Iraqi nation as empty and meaningless.

By making the demands listed above, the Iraqi government demonstrated that it finally has the best interest of its citizens at heart. It proves that Iraqs government will no longer function as a puppet of the United States government and that it is ready to take an active role in the Middle East as a sovereign nation.

We should respect these demands as a sign that Iraq is coming into its own as a nation, and until we withdraw our troops at a deadline of the Iraqis choosing, we should abide by their laws.

Ignoring the laws of Iraq and turning it into a staging ground for cross-border raids against Iran and Syria is not the way you treat an ally; its the way you treat a colonial possession. The Iraqi government knows that it has not been treated as an equal over the past five years. Iraqis recognize that their sovereignty has not been respected and hat their wishes have been consistently ignored.

If Bush wishes to salvage any part of his Iraq policy before he leaves office in three months, he must renegotiate the agreement with the Iraqi government rather than go over their heads to the U.N. Security Council.

What he does now will affect how easy it is to extricate ourselves from Iraq in the coming years and what sort of relationship the Iraqis will have with us once were gone.

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