BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will ask the United Nations to end immunity from local law for U.S. troops, the government said on Monday, as the U.S. military named five soldiers charged in a rape-murder case that has outraged Iraqis.Oh hell. I almost - okay, not really - feel sorry for John Bolton. Does he vote against the resolution? How bad will that look, for the US to veto the resolution calling for US soldiers to obey the law? How much worse would they look in Iraq? (How much worse can they look?)
In an interview a week after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded a review of foreign troops' immunity, Human Rights Minister Wigdan Michael said work on it was now under way and a request could be ready by next month to go to the U.N. Security Council, under whose mandate U.S.-led forces operate in Iraq.
"We're very serious about this," she said, adding a lack of enforcement of U.S. military law in the past had encouraged soldiers to commit crimes against Iraqi civilians.
But there's wider implications here, of course. As I've mentioned before, the US has status of forces agreements with all of its allies, most controversially with Japan and South Korea. If Iraq is allowed to end the immunity for US soldiers - in the middle of a war zone, and without any well-formed justice system in place - then the doors are wide open for all of America's allies to end the immunities for US soldiers on their soil.
Now I don't think for a second the Americans will allow the resolution to pass. But they'll look so bad vetoing it it's just going to make things worse.
One thing to keep in mind is that the whole immunity for white soldiers is a holdover from the colonial days in China and Japan, where Europeans demanded and got immunity from Chinese prosecution because the Chinese didn't do justice in a "civilized" way. The modern argument for it is that American servicewomen shouldn't have to wear the burqa in Saudi Arabia, as they would have to under Saudi law. Ironically, US servicewomen still had to wear the burqa, except under US law (the Pentagon required that any woman off-base had to dress like a Muslim. That policy was eventually reversed.)
Fact is, the military will always find a reason why they shouldn't have to obey domestic laws, and in some cases they may even have a good argument. But it's pretty absurd to argue that Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea don't have well-functioning judicial bodies. In the meantime, immunity simply puts the domestic population at risk of a violent death, rape, or car accident.