58 permanent U.S. bases in Iraq?

On Dec. 31, the United Nations mandate authorizing American and other foreign troops to operate in Iraq expires. The two sides have been working frantically toward such an agreement -- the Bush administration more frantically than Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Two questions: Given that the occupation of Iraq is costing taxpayers $12 billion a month (and rising), why isn't the administration involving Congress? And why is the administration intent on securing a long-term agreement now, denying the next president the chance to set his own agenda in Iraq rather than be bound to Bush's?

The Bush administration's version of the agreement would have U.S. forces stationed in 58 permanent bases around Iraq. There would be no pullout timetable. And American forces as well as contractors working with them, such as private-security guards and mercenaries, would be granted immunity from Iraqi laws.

Al-Maliki wants neither a permanent military presence nor full immunity. He wants a more temporary agreement.

The Iraqi prime minister cannot sign a status-of-force agreement with the United States without his parliament's approval. Bush should not sign the agreement without congressional approval.

[Excerpt of an Editorial in Daytona Beach News]

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