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Prosecuting U.S. Troops Under Iraqi Law .. ?

By       Message John Bruhns       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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The United States and the Iraqi government are currently engaged in serious deliberations to outline the provisions of the Status Of Forces Agreement between the two countries. Under the tentative agreement, U.S. troops will relocate from Iraqi cities to outside bases and completely withdrawal from Iraq by December 31, 2011.

The government of Iraq will also have "limited jurisdiction" to prosecute U.S. military personnel and contractors who commit crimes on Iraqi soil. This is all provided the deal is ratified before the present U.N. mandate ( Resolution 1790) expires at the end of the year. Progress? Maybe. However, there are too many ambiguities and unanswered questions that need to be addressed before we finalize a deal that will subject our troops to the Iraqi criminal justice system.

In order to justifiably prosecute U.S. soldiers in Iraqi courts there are stipulations to be reviewed and criteria to be met. For example, our troops would have to commit crimes outside of U.S. bases, when they're not on duty, or on an unauthorized mission.

Going by this rationale, one can assume that if you're within the confines of a U.S. military base located in Iraq, you're on domestic soil. So if an American serviceperson or contractor commits a crime at that location they'll be prosecuted by the United States. Short of stealing from the PX, it's hard to imagine what types of crimes our troops or civilian personnel would commit - murder or assault?

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Prosecution for criminal activity on military bases overseas by the U.S. government is automatic and an established precedent - it has always been that way. So why is this concept being factored into the Status Of Forces Agreement in Iraq? It's not as if we are ever going to allow something as senseless as the Iraqis arresting and prosecuting us for crimes we commit against each other.

It is almost impossible for our troops not leave U.S. bases in Iraq. It is a certainty they will be called upon almost daily by the Iraqi government to assist the Iraqi army on security missions. They will also need to run logistical convoys for supplies to and from Kuwait and U.S. airfields inside of Iraq. Therefore, it is inevitable that our troops will continue to be attacked, hit with improvised explosive devices, and engage in combat operations. Suffice it so say this will produce a significant level of unintended collateral damage -- innocent Iraqis killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I was in Iraq I was on duty 24/7. So for the life of me I can't envision a scenario where U.S. troops would be committing crimes against Iraqis while they're off duty. When in a combat zone it could hit the fan blades at any given moment. Our troops are on a constant state of alert and need to be "Ocsar Mike" or "REDCON-1" within moments of a commanding officers' orders.

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It is highly probable that any potential crimes committed by U.S. troops or contractors would occur outside of U.S. bases and while on duty. Having established that, would our troops still be subjected to Iraqi prosecution? Or would they be exempt because it's an authorized mission?

So the real questions are: What defines an authorized mission? Would we have to get approval from the Iraqis prior to leaving our bases? That would turn most FOBS in Iraq into Fort Apache. Our troops would be confined to bases receiving incoming fire while pulling security hoping for the mortars to stop falling. There is no way for our military to operate in Iraq if every single troop movement requires prior coordination with the Iraqi government and security forces. How do you conduct a QRF, close air support mission, or all those other things that can't be predicted, if you need prior authorization from the Iraqis.

The last time I checked the mission is still disguised with the title Operation Iraqi Freedom. If a policy is implemented that turns our troops over to Iraqi tribunals and jails for prosecution, the mission is officially over. So for all those who will accept nothing short of "victory" in Iraq here's a request: please get on the same page as the rest of us or at least have your head examined.

Sending others into an immoral situation and expecting them to behave morally is absurd. If our troops are going to be hung out to dry in foreign courts, those who put them on foreign soil should be held accountable in some capacity as well. The truth is the American people will never tolerate our troops being tried in Iraqi courts no matter how heinous the crime. For our government to even entertain this nonsense in order to placate the Iraqis into allowing us to have a permanent presence on their land is just another speed bump prolonging the inevitable - an end to the occupation.

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John Bruhns is an Iraq war veteran. He writes on politics and Mideast conflict.

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