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Thursday, June 24, 2004

"Quick, Implement Immunity Plan B"

Well that didn't take long. In my previous post I mused if there might be a memo on the immunity issue and the first thing I read this morning is, lo and behold, we have implemented a full blown policy.

U.S. Immunity in Iraq Will Go Beyond June 30
The Bush administration has decided to take the unusual step of bestowing on its own troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after the occupation ends and political power is transferred to an interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.

The administration plans to accomplish that step -- which would bypass the most contentious remaining issue before the transfer of power -- by extending an order that has been in place during the year-long occupation of Iraq. Order 17 gives all foreign personnel in the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority immunity from "local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states."

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.

The United States would draw legal authority from Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law and the recent U.N. resolution recognizing the new government and approving a multinational force, but some U.S. officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity, U.S. officials said.

I do believe this might be the first time the Administration had a contingency plan in place where Iraq is concerned. It has been said that self-preservation focuses the mind.

However I think they've fatally weakened the argument of Full Sovereignty and sown the seeds for future grief.

The issue of immunity for U.S. troops is among the most contentious in the Islamic world, where it has galvanized public opinion against the United States in the past. A similar grant of immunity to U.S. troops in Iran during the Johnson administration in the 1960s led to the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who used the issue to charge that the shah had sold out the Iranian people.

"Our honor has been trampled underfoot; the dignity of Iran has been destroyed," Khomeini said in a famous 1964 speech that led to his detention and then expulsion from Iran. The measure "reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than that of an American dog."

Ironically, Khomeini went into exile in Iraq, where he spent 12 years in Najaf -- the Shiite holy city that is now home to Sistani and his followers and where Iraqis still remember the flap that led the shah to deport a cleric who later led Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution