While lately the news has mostly been about nothing and maybe some trivia about the boring establishment types Obama has picked for his cabinet, Bush has quietly been finishing up losing the war in Iraq.
Ironically, he is losing the real agenda, installing a regime obedient to the US and international oil companies, because he succeeded at what he thought was a purely propaganda goal, establishing a democracy.
The cabinet of the Iraqi government has been sufficiently compliant to Bush's wishes, approving a hydrocarbon law that would have given 88% of Iraq's oil income to international oil companies and leaving just 12% for Iraqis. However, the parliament as a whole refused to approve it even after they were offered millions in bribes each by the oil companies.
As a consequence of that law not passing, when Iraqi opened up bidding on some oil concessions recently they set the floor for bids at 49% royalties for Iraqis, which means they will likely get significantly more than that, and closer to what their neighbors with easily accessible oil like theirs get. The closer Iraq's royalties get to their neighbors, the more it looks like oil companies could have gotten to the same place in Iraq without us spending three-quarters of a trillion dollars invading and occupying Iraq, killing a million Iraqis, and wasting the lives of thousands of our troops who thought they enlisted to protect their country not expand oil company profit margins.
Now the cabinet has negotiated a withdrawal treaty with Bush that would pull US troops out of Iraqi cities by this summer, and out of Iraq altogether by 2011. It is unclear whether the Iraqi parliament will pass it since there is tremendous public pressure on them to end the occupation as soon as possible. If this agreement does not pass, a UN resolution allowing US forces to stay in Iraq will expire December 31, making the mere presence of our troops there a war crime, and requiring a quick withdrawal.
Even if the treaty is passed, it will be a crushing defeat for Bush. It allows no permanent bases in Iraq, Iraq may not be used as a base to invade neighboring countries, and US forces may no longer kick in doors in the middle of the night and take Iraqis prisoner indefinitely. Best of all, Bush's Blackwater and other mercenary army will no longer be immune from Iraqi law, which destroys the only argument for continuing to use them since they cost far more than regular US military and are far more hated by Iraqis because they commit atrocities with impunity.
Either way, the Iraqis win, Bush loses, and the Iraqi parliament will have done for America what our own elected representatives have refused to do in spite of overwhelming public support: end the war in Iraq.
This is no sop. It is a vote to end the occupation of Iraq
The total defeat of the US plan to install a supine ally in the Middle East is likely to be confirmed today in Baghdad
guardian.co.uk, Thursday November 27 2008 00.01 GMT
The agreement stipulates that "all US forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31 2011". More remarkably, all combat troops will leave Iraqi towns and villages and go back to base by the end of June next year. Pause for a moment and take that in. Six years and three months after the invasion, Iraqi streets will be a US-free zone again.
Iraq will have a veto over all US military operations. A clause added at the last minute after pressure from Iran says that Iraqi land, sea and air may not be used as a launch pad or transit point for attacks on other countries. The Iraqi government eagerly took up the point after US helicopters flew into Syria and attacked a compound there last month, claiming it was a base from which foreign fighters entered Iraq. Iraq joined Syria in protesting against the raid.
Under the withdrawal agreement, no Iraqi can be arrested by US forces except with permission from Iraqi authorities, and every Iraqi who is arrested in these circumstances must be handed to Iraqi forces within 24 hours. The tens of thousands of detainees in US custody must either be released or turned over to the Iraqis immediately. US troops may not enter or search any Iraqi house without an Iraqi judge's warrant, except if they are conducting a joint combat operation with the Iraqi military.
US contractors - the armed mercenaries in their SUVs whom Iraqis hate even more than the American military - will lose their immunity and be subject to Iraqi law, a development that is already prompting many security firms to start pulling out. US troops who rape Iraqi women or commit any other crime while off duty and off base will have to stand trial in Iraqi courts.
The deal gives Iraq's national resistance almost everything it fought for. How did Nouri al-Maliki's government achieve it? The main reason is that Iraqi nationalism and the occupation's unpopularity have become overwhelming. Opinion polls have long shown that a majority of Iraqis wanted the occupation to end. They found it humiliating and oppressive. Al-Qaida's infiltration, and the sectarian conflict which its supporters and recruits successfully provoked in 2006 and 2007, distracted many Iraqis for a time. Some saw the US as the lesser enemy. But al-Qaida's power has waned thanks to the Awakening movement of Sunni tribal leaders; and the primary issue, the US intervention, has returned to centre stage. Nationalist sentiment, articulated from the first weeks of the occupation by Sunni insurgents (many of whom later joined the Awakening movement) as well as Moqtada al-Sadr's Shia militia, has spread through the country's ruling elite. This summer Prime Minister Maliki began to realise that he had more to gain by posing as the man who achieved a US withdrawal than by trying to block it. It is a triumph for Iraq.
From the American point of view, the main thing the pact does is to allow the US to withdraw with dignity. No hasty Vietnam-style humiliation, but an orderly retreat from an adventure which was illegal, unnecessary, and a disaster from the moment of conception. Like most Iraqis, I am content with that. American neoconservatives will declare victory, as Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the "surge", did this week. But the fact is that Bush and his ideologues wanted to make Iraq a protectorate and stay indefinitely so as to intimidate Iran and Syria. Now they have been forced to give up, and a newly confident Tehran has been helping its neighbouring Shia-led government in Baghdad to show them the door.