Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Sovereignty in Iraq (Sean)

Does anyone on the board think the U.S. should stay in Iraq but refuse to go along with the prime minister's proposal to end immunity for U.S. soldiers?

3 comments:

CLAYTON NALL said...

Perhaps another question is, "At what point does a country qualify as sovereign?" Unassisted, the Iraqi government has been unable to maintain law and order within the country. Only the United States has been able to provide what level of security there is in country, which, admittedly, isn't much.

Getting to the specifics of your question, I can't envision circumstances under which the United States would generally give up all immunity for its military personnel. It's my understanding that nearly all basing agreements give our soldiers immunity, and that it's at the discretion of the US military to decide whether to waive immunity on a case-by-case basis. Considering that Iraq doesn't even have a stable legal system, we certainly can't afford to expose our soldiers to politically motivated prosecution.

Sean said...

"Getting to the specifics of your question, I can't envision circumstances under which the United States would generally give up all immunity for its military personnel" -- Neither can I. The U.S. occupation is occasionally defended on the grounds that the Iraqis want the U.S. troops to stay there, as evidenced by the positions of their elected representatives (although according to a poll conducted by the British military a tiny percentage of the the Iraqi population felt this way six months ago or so; as far as I know, no further polls have been conducted). That line of defense stands in some tension with the view that the moral authority of the Iraqis' preferences does not extend to the terms on which their country is occupied. Of course, there is no tension if you don't think the preferences of Iraqis is relevant for deciding whether we should keep troops in their country.

"Only the United States has been able to provide what level of security there is in country, which, admittedly, isn't much." I'm not as sure of the truth of that counterfactual as you are. What are your reasons for believing in it?

Josh Cherniss said...

I don't imagine that the US would give up immunity for its military personnel, either; and I also have doubts about what the consequences of doing so would be, in any case. But it does seem to me that it is right to end immunity for US soldiers. (Also, isn't it true that US personnel don't have immunity under the ICC? Not that the chances of US soldiers being brought before the ICC, much less convicted, is particularly great; but I believe that it would be legally possible.)
In response to Clayton, I don't know whether nearly all basing agreements give US troops immunity, but when the US granted itself blanket immunity in Iraq (in I believe 2004) it seemed to strike many as an exceptional act -- but perhaps this is just due to the heightened scrutiny of US behaviour in Iraq. Anyway, it does seem that such immunity should be agreed to by the US and the sovereign power of the state in which the US troops are based. So, as Clayton says, the question is -- is the Iraqi government sovereign? If not, are they properly termed 'the Iraqi government'? And who is? The US? In which case, it would seem that the US's involvement in Iraq goes well beyond (while also falling well short) of 'peacekeeping', and certainly doesn't appear to be fostering (or compatible with) democracy.