Biden's Iraq-partition amendment wasn't mentioned at all by the netroots watchdogs before it happened, and very little afterwards. Watchdog Laura Rozen, in her early warning on the bill, mentioned only the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, keeping completely silent about the Biden amendment, and the widely-read fop Yglesias, in his very witty "Kyl-Lieberman post-game", didn't mention it either. It was as if the thing didn't happen. I first found about it from the Baghdad newspaper Azzaman on Wednesday morning, and by Wednesday evening the deed was done. Some people say the whole thing was "meaningless".
Let's look at the context. Please recall that there were two Iraqi politicians who had the immense privilege of one-on-one meetings with Bush after the Amman Bush-Maliki meeting last fall (the "Hadley-memo" meeting, if that helps you place the event). They were Tareq al Hashemi, head of the Islamic Party of Iraq (Sunni), and Abdulaziz al-Hakim, head of SCIRI (Shiite). For convenience, lets refer to them as the two leading politicians clearly in Bush's pocket. Now as it happens, two days ago this man Hashemi announced with much fanfare what he called a "National Pact",
touting this as a new departure in national reconciliation, and one of the clauses included recognition of Iraq as a "federal" country. This, as Aswat al-Iraq noted at the time, was the first time ever that a major Sunni party had officially endorsed federalism in any form. (Recall that the fall 2006 disputed parliamentary vote on federalism-procedures was something pushed through by the SCIRI-Dawa-Kurdish bloc, and was bitterly opposed by the Sunni parties. This was, along with the execution of Saddam, one of the major late-06 events that did so much damage to the so-called "political process"). And since then, there have been reports of a very promising meeting between Hashemi and the Ayatollah Sistani on this "National Pact" idea, creating the odor of possible rapprochement between Hashemi's Sunni party, and Hakim's SIIC (one of the major Sistani clients). Thus: Based on a document including the first-ever Sunni-party recognition of "federalism", we have the hint of a rapprochement between the two leading politicians clearly both in Bush's pocket.
And here it is important to understand that these two characters represent, or purport to represent, two of the "big three" slices of the fairy-tale cake that the partition-advocates imagine represents Iraq: "The Sunnis", and "the Shiites". And so what a pleasant surprise to partition-advocates to see that at the same time a character by the name of Joseph Biden has introduced a "sense of the Senate" amendment that advocates just this fairy-tale three-part division. True, it is covered in multiple layers of fine rhetoric, but it is the same division of the spoils: One part for "the Sunnis" (but only that tiny minority that is participating in the Green Zone "political process"), and one for Hakim's SIIC (leaving the status of the Sadrists, Fadhila and all of the other non-SIIC Shiite groups up in the air, or out in the cold).
And here we should refer to the main refutations of the whole Biden dipsy-doodle, one from Reider Visser
, cutting through the Biden rhetoric and showing that the Biden plan is unconstitutional even in terms of the existing Iraqi constitution; another by Toby Dodge
underlining the depth of Biden's ignorance, wilful or otherwise, about the social and political realities in the country he purports to be talking about. And of course, thirdly, there is the Iraqi resistance, somehow overlooked in the Biden proposal. In other words, the Biden proposal which so many Democrats voted for is bogus in many different ways: It is multi-dimensionally bogus.
But meaningless? Consider the nice fit between the stealth passage of the Biden amendment in Washington, and the "National Pact" announced by Hashemi on the same day in Baghdad and already semi-endorsed by Sistani: both of them, when you look at the fine print, aiming for this same three-part division of the spoils between the Bush-allies. It's true that the Hashemi document talks about "all Iraqis", just as the Biden amendment talks about "agreement" of the Iraqis, but first of all Biden is a known character by this time, and as for the Hashemi scheme is concerned, consider this (from Aswat al-Iraq's summary of the document):
The "National Pact" document proposed procedures and methods for arriving at agreement... and referendums would be one such method or agreement by the leaders of the main political formations in direct meetings, or mass meetings ...
and there follows a list of the types of broad-based meetings that have already been convened in the government's already-discredited and highly unsuccessful "national reconciliation" program.
What obviously jumps out at you, is not the mass-meeting boilerplate, but the suggestion that one possibility for national agreement would simply be agreement by the leaders of the main political formations. That would be people like Hashemi, Hakim and Talabani. The fiction of a "national reconciliation" achievable by this kind of a top-level Green-Zone concordat between the "main political formations" (read: the main Bush allies) is just what the Biden proposal is based on too. Naturally, the Green Zone politicians were unhappy about the publicity attached to the Biden event, with even a SIIC politician accusing him of having done damage to the political process (sorry I can't seem to find that link again, I thought it was in an Aswat al-Iraq item this morning). Agreement on three-part partition is one thing, but publicizing America's support for this is something else again.