Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

[Image: Aerial photograph of the Castleshaw Roman fort which lies on the old Roman Road from Manchester to York.]

I had to get in my Pale Rider Way Way back Time Machine to go get this for you, so please read it:

ONE of the most effective ways of breeding enmity among friendly nations is to station the troops of one country on the soil of another in peacetime. The problem is compounded when the foreign troops claim extraterritorial privileges and hold themselves not subject to local law. In the overall grand strategy of the cold war, the U.S. has sought to devise a new and workable solution to the old problems: a worldwide network of "status-of-forces agreements" designed to cover the bulk of 700,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen stationed in 49 friendly countries.

The status-of-forces agreements, in spite of the ruckus over Specialist Third Class Girard in Japan, are working out amazingly well. Status-of-forces agreements have contributed in six years of steady growth toward easing the tensions between allies, and have added up to a remarkable good-sense show of international justice from which the U.S. and its allies alike have benefited. One Girard case provides an uproar in the U.S. and Japan, for example, but 5,544 other U.S.-Japanese cases that came up last year worked out smoothly. Over a longer term, fewer than half a dozen out of 10,000 arrests of Americans in France since 1953 have caused the U.S. any concern.

Off Duty, Off Base. Since 1951, the U.S. has negotiated more than 40 status-of-forces agreements covering most of the world sectors where the U.S. force-in-being is deployed. The basic agreement is the NATO status-of-forces treaty signed in London in 1951 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1953. This NATO treaty grants the U.S. primary jurisdiction over G.I.s in a NATO country who get in trouble while on duty, or who commit offenses against other U.S. citizens. The treaty generally grants the "host" NATO country primary legal jurisdiction when G.I.s commit off-duty, off-base offenses that can range from running red lights to rape.

Now, how many blogs will link to an article from 1957 as if it were yesterday and locate for you a very, very relevant little nugget of information?

The key provision--ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1953--means that when the United States decides to station troops on foreign soil, a SOFA must be ratified by the United States Senate.

Is the SOFA being negotiated between Iraq and the United States going to be ratified by the Senate? No. They're not. Surprised?

Gary Hart:

To seal the deal, with the expectation of binding future presidential successors, Mr. Bush and Iraq president Nouri al-Maliki are in the process of negotiating a "status of forces agreement" that would commit the U.S. military to combat any internal or external factions the Iraqi government deemed a threat. This represents a one-directional security treaty cloaked in the form of an agreement not subject to Senate ratification. And it guarantees U.S. involvement in age-old Iraqi sectarian conflict for decades to come.

And so by showing a picture of an old Roman fort from when they garrisoned England, a Time Magazine article from way, way back when, and a little current events, we come to the end of our history lesson for today.

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