Diana West

What's up with that? This is the neither the first nor the last time in this agreement that the "laws, customs and traditions" of Iraq are declared "the duty" of Americans in Iraq to "respect." For example, Article 3 also declares: "While conducting military operations ... it is the duty of members of the United States Forces and of the civilian component to respect Iraqi laws, customs, traditions, and conventions" and "it is the duty of the United States to take all necessary measures for this purpose."

Has such a "duty" ever been written into a U.S. treaty with another country? Is it even constitutional? I doubt it. After all, the "duty" of United States Forces anywhere is to the U.S. Constitution alone, not to the laws of another country. Given that Iraq's constitution above all enshrines Sharia (Islamic law), this would also seem to mean that it is now "the duty" of U.S. troops and other Americans in Iraq to "respect" Sharia as well.

This isn't just grotesque, it poses a colossal moral and strategic problem if and when Iraqis deem American actions in Iraq to clash with the strictures of Iraqi law. Combined with the huge concessions our government has made regarding legal jurisdiction over Americans in Iraq, this new American "duty" to Iraq is at least humiliating if not also potentially disastrous.

The jurisdiction article (Article 12) opens by repeating this same troubling stipulation: namely, that it is "the duty of the members of the United States Forces and the civilian component to respect Iraqi laws, customs, traditions and conventions," which, of course, include Sharia. It goes on to place U.S. contractors and their employees wholly under Iraqi legal jurisdiction, and to place "United States Forces" and "the civilian component" under Iraqi legal jurisdiction should they commit "grave premeditated felonies" off base and off duty.

The predicament of U.S. contractors aside, it appears that the U.S. government has surrendered key constitutional rights of our fighting men and women. Now, it's bad enough to read, for example, in Article 5 ("Property Ownership") that the Bush administration has agreed to transfer to the Iraqi government everything "connected to the soil" that the United States has built -- bases, buildings, facilities of all sorts -- for free. Or, even more significantly, in Article 27, Paragraph 3, that "Iraqi land, sea and air shall not be used as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries." After all, U.S. bases in Iraq for just such potential actions against Iran or Syria were once ballyhooed as a strategic rationale for our prolonged presence in Iraq. But what about this new "duty" of American troops to "respect" the laws of Iraq, and even, in some circumstances, to be subject to them?

It all starts New Year's Day.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).