The Wrong Partnership for Iraq
By Bill Delahunt and Rosa DeLauro
Tuesday, July 8, 2008; Page A15
The June 15 editorial " A Partnership With Iraq" criticized Democrats in Congress for opposing the proposed long-term military agreement between the United States and Iraq that would replace the U.N. mandate under which U.S. forces are fighting. The editorial called the agreement a way of "countering Iran's attempt to dominate the Middle East." We have examined this issue for many months and believe that The Post's position is badly misguided.
First, the editorial failed to recognize congressional obligations, imposed by the Constitution, on governing the use of our armed forces. The Post argued that barring a "formal commitment to defend Iraq from external aggression," congressional approval of the agreement is not required. Yet constitutional scholars testifying before the oversight subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have stated that "the authority to fight" that the administration seeks from Iraq does indeed require congressional approval. Requiring international legal approval of combat is what makes this agreement anything but what the administration incorrectly calls it: a "status of forces agreement."
The U.N. mandate provides the last legal thread of domestic U.S. authority for combat because "enforcing relevant U.N. resolutions" was one of the two activities cited by the 2002 vote in Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq (the other being to dispose of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein). If the U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31, so does domestic authority for our troops to fight, along with their immunity from Iraqi prosecution. This is precisely the "legal vacuum" that constitutional scholars Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway detailed in an April 5 op-ed, " The War's Expiration Date," on washingtonpost.com.
We have proposed an alternative that would serve our interests and those of the Iraqis far better: extending the U.N. mandate in Iraq for six months, as has been done before, so that the new president and Congress can work with Iraq's leaders to determine the next agreement.