Words have meaning or maybe they don’t

Iraqis seem to have a better appreciation for the English language than American policy makers, so when it’s said ‘the two countries have agreed that timetables should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country’, all that’s left for the Iraqis is to set a date.  Not so say the Americans.  Look at the hedging and dodging:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States and Iraq have agreed to a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country.

Appearing with her Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari (HOH’-shayr zuh-BAH’-ree), Rice acknowledged at their joint news conference Thursday that the two parties have not yet finalized the deal. She said it close [sic] at hand, however.

Rice called her talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “very good and fruitful” and said an agreement is near that would “solidify the significant gains” in security in Iraq over the last year.

Meanwhile the Iraqi prime minister is on record saying there is a fixed date.

The US has agreed to withdraw all troops from Iraq by 2011, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said yesterday…”There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” said Mr Maliki yesterday, speaking at a gathering of tribal leaders in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The US has hung its acceptance of any agreement on the word “aspirational” which has now appeared in several stories which talk about the agreement.  What the Iraqis don’t understand is that “aspirational” means conditions which have to be negotiated, such as immunity for American troops or mercenaries from prosecution for crimes committed in Iraq, the number of military bases and their location allowed in Iraq, etc before any agreement can be cemented.  That reality is something the Iraqis probably hadn’t counted on.  Surprise! The Bush administration has never really wanted to be tied down to a date for withdrawing troops because they don’t want to leave for years to come.  Being an occupier means they can “negotiate” this point much more from a position of strength.  After all, what’s Iraq going to do, kick the US out?

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