Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spot's got a question for the major

Last week while Spot was gone, Katie had a column about Peter Swanson, Big Trunk's sidekick at the saving and loan, who's going back into the army as a JAG major. Swanson is apparently headed for Iraq:

Soldiers are in the business of defending freedom. But many will tell you that they didn't fully grasp its value until they encountered a foreign land where it's in short supply.

That can't be said of Peter Swanson of Golden Valley, who will ship out to Iraq in a few days. Swanson is a corporate counsel for TCF Bank, where he practices securities and employment law. Soon he'll be stationed at an Iraqi detention facility, deciding about detainees' rights and status.

Katie and the Power Line boys are undoubtedly busting their buttons! But Spot has a question for the major:

By what authority do you think you have the right to adjudicate the status of Iraqi citizens?

The right answer is NONE.

The American Raj Paul Bremer handed sovereignty back to the Iraqis at the end of June in 2004. At that moment, the US and its "coalition partners" were no longer occupiers of Iraq. That's what the administration said, anyway.

When the US was the occupier of Iraq, it had both the authority and the responsibility for law and order in Iraq. And of course a miserable job was done in the early days of the occupation.

But now, we're there without any SOFA, or status of forces agreement. We're just vigilantes, in other words. Oh, the Iraqis want us there, you say? Show me a piece of paper with an authorized signature that says so. That makes the major kind of a Judge Roy Bean with really shiny shoes.

When a sleepy young Iraqi man is dragged out of his house in the wee hours and brought before the major, the first question out of the Iraqi's mouth ought to be: Who put you in charge pal?

There are other implications of the US being in Iraq without a SOFA. American service persons and contractors—think of the Blackwell incident in recent days—are subject to Iraqi law and the Iraqi courts. That is why American persons who are thought to have committed a crime in Iraq are spirited out of the country quickly.

Perhaps the real message here is that "Iraqi sovereignty" is a sham. Iraq has no functioning government capable of maintaining any kind of order in that country. It gives the lie to the notion of "real progress" in Iraq.

[update] There is an article in the Star Tribune on Thursday, September 20th concerning the activities of Blackwell, as well as other security contractors in Iraq, and the perception by Iraqis that they are "above the law." Blackwell, in particular, was cited as "untouchable" because its client was the US State Department. The demand of al-Maliki that Blackwell leave Iraq is likely to go unmet. Although, at least in theory, since they are not diplomatic personnel, they are subject to Iraqi justice. [/update]

[further update and correction] Spot is reminded that Paul Bremer exempted private contractors from Iraqi law when performing their duties. The question arises whether shooting up the place can be within the scope of the contractors' duties. In any event, the Iraqis are in the processing of changing this, now that they have their legal system back. Spot guesses we'll see whether they really do or not! [/further update and correction]

No comments: