Friday, April 11, 2008

Who's watching

The US military says it will continue to hold Iraqi news photographer Bilal Hussein while it reviews a government amnesty order.
The Associated Press (AP) man has been held for two years on suspicion of helping Iraqi insurgents.
But Iraqi judges on Wednesday dismissed the accusations and ordered his release under this year's Amnesty Law.
A US military spokesman said Mr Hussein would still be held as a "terrorist" threat pending a review of the order.

Polly notes the above from BBC's "US stalls on Iraq amnesty order." Free Bilal and, as Polly notes, the whole world is watching. Which is a solid point. But how many were watching the hearings? I dread reading this morning's New York Times which has (intentionally) missed everything about hearings. Also true is that apparently a lot in the press -- Real Media and Panhandle -- gets giddy over a general which would explain the extremely low attention paid to yesterday's hearings. There are a few exceptions such as Paul Richter's "Senators Warn Bush about Iraq security agreements" (Los Angeles Times):

The administration is negotiating two agreements with Iraq -- over long-term security strategy and over rules for activities of the U.S. military. Administration officials have said they intend to keep Congress informed about the deals but will not seek explicit approval from lawmakers.At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members said the agreements would be viewed by Iraq as lasting commitments. They said the dispute could lead to a major collision between the White House and Congress before the November election.
Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy. He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that "if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving" the agreements. "This is folly!" Biden said.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined in the criticism. "Do you understand what you're up against?" he asked Satterfield. Voinovich said congressional unhappiness had reached the point where "you're not going to get this done."

The Washington Post highlights some of Senator James Webb's exchange on what's being built in Iraq in "What Basis for 'Permanent' Bases?" The highlights are from yesterday's morning's Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Biden began hearings on Iraq last week but you didn't read or hear much about them and, when you consider what was offered in Congress this week, you really didn't hear (or read) much about this week's hearings.

The Bush administration has repeatedly said it will keep Congress informed but not ask for its approval on either a strategic framework agreement defining long-term ties with Iraq or a separate "status of forces" agreement outlining rules and protections governing U.S. military activity in Iraq.But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden labeled as "folly" the outgoing White House's plans to forge a deal that Iraq might view as a long-term commitment of U.S. troops."If the president persists on this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving these agreements," Biden, a Delaware Democrat, told the State Department's coordinator on Iraq, David Satterfield, at a congressional hearing.Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio warned Satterfield that congressional unhappiness with the administration's plans for a bilateral accord with Iraq was so great that "you're not going to get this done.""This Congress, this Senate, are going to get involved in this issue," Voinovich told Satterfield. "Do you understand what you are up against?"

Dropping back to Tuesday's hearings, Micah highlights this from Fernando Suarez (CBS News):

During today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Hillary Clinton called continuing the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq "irresponsible" and said the Bush strategy in Iraq has "not produced the results that we have been promised time and time again, at such tremendous cost to our national security and to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States military."
Clinton, who sits on the committee with John McCain, took the opportunity under the spotlight to hammer the Bush Administration's handling of the war, including President Bush’s decision to increase the number of American troops in Iraq.
"The purpose of the surge, as described by Bush administration, was to create the space for the Iraqis to engage in reconciliation and to make significant political progress," Clinton said. "However, since Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker last testified in September, even Gen. Petraeus, as recently as three and a half weeks ago, has acknowledged that the Iraqi government has not made sufficient political progress."
Clinton pressed the four-star general, asking Petraeus what it would take for him to recommend to the president to start bringing the troops home. "What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working? And it seems apparent that you have a conditions based analysis, as you set forth in your testimony, but the conditions are unclear, they certainly lack specificity, and the decision points with respect to these conditions are also vague."

The New York Times offers Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker's "Bush Signals No Further Reduction of Troops in Iraq" on the front page of this morning's paper:

Speaking at the White House to a small audience that included Vice President Dick Cheney, the secretaries of State and Defense and representatives of veterans' organizations, he signaled that an American force nearly as large as at any other point in the last five years would remain in Iraq through his presidency. He left any significant changes in policy to the next president.
"Fifteen months ago, Americans were worried about the prospect of failure in Iraq," he said, sounding a triumphant note about his decision last year to send 30,000 additional troops. "Today, thanks to the surge, we’ve renewed and revived the prospect of success."
As was the case during two days of Congressional testimony this week by the American commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Democratic presidential candidates offered assessments that diverged sharply from Mr. Bush's. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said the president "refuses to face the reality that we are confronted by in Iraq."
"It's time for the president to answer the question being asked of him," she said while campaigning in Pittsburgh. "In the wake of the failed objectives that were laid out to be met by the surge, what is the exit strategy in Iraq?"

Not bad . . . for a report in a news weekly.

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