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Joe Lieberman, Are You Really Going to Make Me Capitalize The First Three Letters Of Your Last Name?

At this point, the only words to describe Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) when it comes to Iraq are "pathological" and "liar." My colleague Matt DeLong passes me the text of Lieberman’s Iraq conference call, and — sure as the sun rises in the east and Doritos contain just the appropriate amount of deliciousness — it turns out Lieberman doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the permanent-occupation deal. F’rinstance.

I was in a closed briefing on the status of the negotiations with the Iraqis. Without disclosing anything specific, I can tell you generally, and this has been my understanding as I’ve talked more directly with people in the Iraqi government that though there are some opponents of the potential agreement, the leadership of each of the three major communities in Iraq is very committed to negotiating the agreement successfully and negotiating the agreement as quickly as possible.

I love how he cloaks his nonsense in the framework of a "closed briefing" that you can’t question. ("If you only knew what I know…") The "leadership of the three major communities" back the deal? Hey Joe: who’s the leader of the fractious-and-diffuse-to-say-the-least Sunnis? Chances are he’s using Maliki as the Shiite leader while ignoring how every Shiite leader who isn’t Maliki is against the deal. As are practically all Sunnis and most parliamentarians. I’m feeling charitable, so let’s spot Joe the Kurds.

The second thing I’d say is that the very fact that we’re at a point where the Iraqi leadership wants to negotiate this agreement is a sign of our success in Iraq, which is that Iraq now has a sovereign, independent self government. Some of these negotiations may not be easy because we have two governments — Iraq and the U.S. – negotiating. My impression is that they are making a lot of progress. I think the hope stated by Sec. Gates publicly has been that this agreement could be reached by the end of July. My impression is that is still a goal that is achievable.

So sovereign that we’re forcing them to hand over nearly 60 military bases for permanent occupation! Unbelievable. We’re not negotiating with the Iraqis. We’re negotiating with Maliki, against the wishes of the Iraqis. And, according to Patrick Cockburn what we’re doing is less negotiation than outright extortion. Success!

I think most important is that there be continuing consultation between Congress and the administration, as there was yesterday. I gather Sen. Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Warner (R-Va.) requested a briefing and the administration immediately sent over essentially the top three people involved in the negotiations from here.

Not that Lieberman wants Congress to have actual, you know, binding influence over what a lame-duck administration consigns America to safeguarding. The weaselry of what Lieberman is doing here is extraordinary — applauding the appearance of executive-legislative cooperation over its actual substance. Indeed, he proceeded to apologize for the administration stiff-arming Congress:

The Status of Forces agreement is more of a legalistic document to provide legal protection for our troops, for instance; to allocate legal responsibility with regard to troops and private contractors, as pertain to the U.S. government and the Iraqi government. The strategic framework is a bit broader. Generally speaking, the rule has been unless either of these agreements includes a specific, and I would say, automatic commitment to come to the defense of the other country if there’s an attack on it, such as we have with our NATO allies and Japan, then these agreements have not been submitted to the Senate. If the commitment, as it was in the case of the Afghan strategic agreement of a couple years ago, that we are committed to protect the security of Afghanistan or deter attacks on its integrity but without a specific commitment to automatically come to its defense, then these don’t have to be submitted to the senate, because they’re not treaties in that sense. I think that makes sense.

Why doesn’t Lieberman abandon all euphemism and say what his position actually means? "Yes," he would then say, "I think it’s in the national interest to shove a permanent-occupation down the throats of the Iraqis, bearing the imprimatur of their U.S.-dependent prime minister as cover, and to do this all before the clock runs out on the least-popular administration in half a century, in spite of the express wishes of the American people. The Senate should be stopped from exercising influence by any means necessary — we can come up with a legalistic justification for why this treaty isn’t, technically, a treaty — because there’s no way in hell the Senate would approve. And why should we do this? Hey, look, Barack Obama wants to negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad!"

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