The U.S. Has a Funny Way of Defining “Sovereignty”

Correction: on I linked to an article that claimed that the Secretary of Defense had responded to the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal by banning the use of cell phone cameras and other digital cameras at U.S. Installations in Iraq. It now appears that this news was inaccurate.

More words of wisdom from Under the Same Sun:

You know you’re “fully” sovereign when the U.S. and the U.K. bicker amongst themselves on whether or not you’ll have any bit of say over military operations carried out against your own citizens, on your own soil, by foreign occupation troops that are not subject to your laws. The icing on your sovereignty comes when you’re told these unlimited extraterritorial powers are granted to the occupation troops, the departure of which you are not allowed to demand, because they are, well, acting in self-defense.

Learn more about this “full sovereignty” from the folks at the Wall Street Journal:

Haider al-Abadi runs Iraq’s Ministry of Communications, but he no longer calls the shots there. Instead, the authority to license Iraq’s television stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cellphone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners’ five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume sovereignty on .…

In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important new security-adviser position, which will be in charge of training and organizing Iraq’s new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight. Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover.

In many cases, these U.S. and Iraqi proxies will serve multiyear terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens. The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval, say U.S. officials and others familiar with the plan.

Imagine for a moment what someone in Iraq is going to think an American means by words like “freedom” or “democracy” once she knows what Americans mean when they say “full sovereignty.”

Here’s a good excerpt from the U.N. Security Council resolution that the U.S. is pushing. Far from granting any sort of sovereignty to the people of Iraq, it puts the U.N. stamp of approval on potentially endless U.S. occupation:

What do you think the sort of White House lawyers who were able to find loopholes in the International Convention Against Torture are going to do with that? There’s not much that the Dubya Squad couldn’t justify by saying it needed to “to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism” or to make sure that “the Iraqi people” can “benefit from reconstruction and rehabilitation [-related program] activities.”

Empire Notes points out that under the U.N. resolution on the Iraq occupation that is currently in force, the presence of occupying troops is authorized by the Security Council, but that this authorization ends with the democratic election of an Iraqi representative government:

Further extension of the presence of those occupying forces would require passage of another Security Council resolution. If the draft resolution passes in the form it’s in now, this gets turned on its head. The mandate for continuing the occupation is indefinite, subject to review in the Security Council. All the United States has to do to maintain legal authority to keep its forces there is to veto any proposed Security Council resolution calling on it to withdraw.

Basically, this resolution would transfer legal authority to continue the occupation from the Security Council to the United States. In the future, if the United States decides to scale back its presence and just leave garrisons on several military bases, it will have leverage to exact any kind of “status of forces” agreement it wants. It will be able to tell any future Iraqi government that its forces have the perpetual right to occupy the country and don’t need the permission of the government.