Today’s Must Read

February 4, 2008 8:40 a.m.

At the very least, if the Bush Administration expires and we are still at war only in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can count ourselves lucky.

The New York Times reports on the latest treasure unearthed by Wikileaks, a 2005 27-page document showing the U.S. military’s Rules of Engagement in Iraq. Most worrying of all, the rules allowed for cross-border raids into Iran or Syria:

In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush.

But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein’s government or terrorists….

It stated that the American commander engaged in the pursuit, however, should consult with top commanders in Baghdad, “time permitting.”

The Times notes that it’s unknown whether this ever happened or whether the rules are any different now. Hold your breath.

But there are other interesting aspects to the document. Certainly the preoccupation with former members of Saddam Hussein’s government, rather than foreign terrorists, was not reflected in the administration’s rhetoric at the time.

And then there’s this:

Apparently in a carryover from the intelligence failures of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, the document says the United States Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, gave American commanders in Iraq the authority to attack mobile “W.M.D. labs”; such labs for making germ weapons were later determined not to exist.

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