Friday, October 17, 2008

The treaty

The draft is to be presented today to Iraq's political and national security council, which is made up of top government officials and the leaders of major political groups. If it survives challenges there and among other government ministers, it will move to the Council of Representatives, or parliament, where Maliki has pledged to put it to an up-or-down vote.
Far less controversial matters have taken months to move through the Iraqi legislative process, if they moved at all.
Some Iraqi political and religious leaders are already on record opposing other, previously agreed upon portions of the draft, including a 2011 withdrawal date for U.S. troops. The Bush administration has said that such dates are "aspirational," depending on ground conditions. Maliki has described them as firm, and political opponents such as Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have demanded an immediate U.S. withdrawal.
None of the actual draft wording has yet been made public or unveiled to Congress, where additional objections have been voiced. In a statement Wednesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said he could not conceive of any surrender of jurisdiction over U.S. troops, no matter how limited, to the Iraqi legal system.

The above is from Karen DeYoung's "Gates, Rice Brief Lawmakers On Draft Accord With Iraq" (Washington Post) [a perfect example of a journalist who is not some glorified general studies major]. We're back to the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement which the State Dept has done a huge push on in the last four weeks (a push in Iraq) and have been assisted by the return of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Carl Levin's statement is mentioned in the above excerpt so let's note it in full:

"I have not yet seen the proposed Strategic Framework Agreement nor the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq. The Administration committed to provide the text of these agreements to Congress before they are finalized, and I look forward to reviewing the text. I am skeptical of any agreement that would subject U.S. servicemen and women to the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts in the middle of a chaotic war and in the absence of a judicial system that has been proven to be fair and protective of the rights of individuals."

That may actually be the SOFA's undoing (if it comes undone). The Senate -- both sides of the aisle -- have already objected to any effort to circumvent them and violate the Constitution. Levin choosing to emphasize that issue is touching on one that has a good chance of inflaming conservatives around the US and leading them to object to the SOFA as well.

"The President may have the power to initiate these talks, but it is a mistake for him to do so," Senator Joe Biden objected in April. The situation in Iraq can hardly be described as normal, and the government in Baghdad is far from established or reliable, even in the eyes of the Iraqi people. This is a shaky edifice for building a long-term relationship. Instead, the President should devote his energies to working with Iraq and its neighbors on a diplomatic surge – to help develop a lasting political settlement that will provide the foundation for a stable Iraq, and he should defer discussion of such long-term agreements to his successor. But if the President persists on this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving these agreements." (We'll note Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, in full from April near the end of this entry.)

Others on the record objecting include Senator Jim Webb and last month his office released the following:

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced legislation calling for the United States to seek an extension of the United Nations Security Council mandate of the Multi-National Force in Iraq and providing that any new security agreement negotiated between the United States and the Government of Iraq would not remain in effect unless approved by Congress within 180 days of entry. These provisions underscore the importance of constitutional oversight in reaching long-term security negotiations with Iraq.
Noting that the legal authority for the United States to be operating in Iraq will expire December 31, 2008, and that Congress will be adjourned at that time, Webb warned that the Bush administration was on the verge of "a constitutional coup d'etat, a further expansion of the powers of the presidency," by agreeing to a long-term relationship without the consent of Congress.
"We are now faced with the reality that the United Nations mandate will expire at a time when we have hundreds of thousands of Americans on the ground in that country," said Webb. "Many of my colleagues and I started warning last November that the intention of this administration was to proceed purely with an executive agreement, to drag this out until the Congress was going to go out of session, then to present the executive agreement essentially as a fait accompli."
Webb stressed the necessity of constitutional balance and oversight when negotiating long-term relationships with nations. Instead, the Bush administration has claimed repeatedly that it has the right to negotiate and enter into an agreement that will set the future course of the United States' relationship with Iraq without the agreement or even the ratification of the Congress.
"The largest question, really, is what entity of the federal government has the authority to enter the United States into a long-term relationship with another government?" asked Webb on the Senate floor. "I would submit that the conditions under which we will continue to operate in Iraq—militarily, diplomatically, economically, and even culturally—are not the sole business of any administration.
"This administration's approach seeks to affirm in many minds that the President -- any President -- no longer needs the approval of Congress to enter into long-term relations with another country. In effect, that is committing us to obligations that involve our national security, our economic well-being, our diplomatic posture around the world, without the direct involvement of the United States Congress."
Webb concluded: "This is not what the Constitution intended. It’s not in the best interest of the country. And this amendment which I introduce today is designed to prevent this sort of an imbalance from occurring at the same time that it recognizes the realities of the timelines that are now involved with respect to the loss of international authority for our presence in Iraq at the end of this year."
Senator Webb’s amendment was filed today as #5499 to the fiscal year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.

"A constitutional coup d'etat" -- yes, it is a very serious issue and it's one that needs some serious attention. Click here for Webb's Senate floor statement. March 19th (fifth anniversary of the start of the illegal war), US House Rep Rosa DeLauro issued a statement that concluded with:

The President and his Administration must not be allowed to make security commitments to Iraq that will tie the hands of the next president. That is why, I have introduced legislation that enforces the Constitutional requirement that the Bush Administration must seek Congressional approval before finalizing any future and lasting agreements with Iraq . I believe we should extend into 2009 the United Nations mandate authorizing our combat troops to operate in Iraq, so that a new Administration and a new Congress can carry out the wishes of the American people in mapping out and carrying out our future course in that country.
Our nation's future presence in Iraq is one of the most important issues facing our country and the Congress must play a role.

Meanwhile the BBC's Jim Muir reports: "Rejection of any agreement with the Americans is spearheaded by the group led by the militant Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has strong grassroots support and also 30 seats in parliament. The Sadrists have called for a mass demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday to denounce the accord. At least one other big Shia faction is believed to have reservations about the agreement, and some Sunnis have also voiced dissent." Also noting the anticipated Shi'ite split is the Minneapolis Star Tribune which adds, "Although passage would require only a majority of the 275-member parliament, Al-Maliki will submit the draft only if he is convinced it will receive two-thirds support. To reach two-thirds, the draft would need the 30 votes from the Supreme Council."

Here's Biden's April opening statement:

"Last November, the President of the United States and Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq signed a 'Declaration of Principles,' which set out a framework for our countries to negotiate, by the end of July of this year, agreements governing cooperation in political, economic and security spheres. Among other things, the Declaration contemplates 'providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq' and supporting Iraq 'in its efforts to combat all terrorist groups,' including Al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and 'all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation.' In other words, all the folks fighting in Iraq and killing each other.
"This sends up not just one, but many red flags with me and many other Americans. We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?
"We will hear today about the two agreements that the Administration is negotiating with Iraq which were anticipated in the November Declaration. On Tuesday, Ambassador Crocker told us that these agreements would set forth the 'vision' -- his phrase -- of our bilateral relationship with Iraq.
"One agreement is a 'strategic framework agreement' that will include the economic, political and security issues outlined in the Declaration of Principles. The document might be better titled ‘What the United States will do for Iraq,’ because it consists mostly of a series of promises that flow in one direction -- promises by the United States to a sectarian government that has thus far failed to reach the political compromises necessary to have a stable country.
"We're told that the reason why we’re not continuing under the UN umbrella is because the Iraqis say they have a sovereign country. But they don't want a Status of Forces Agreement because that flows two ways. The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is.
"The second agreement is what Administration officials call a 'standard' Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces – for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy.
"In February, Secretaries Rice and Gates made clear that despite the unambiguous reference to 'security commitments' in the Declaration, these agreements would not include a legally binding security commitment to defend Iraq if attacked or to support the government against other militia groups. I welcome that clarification.
"But it obscures a critical point: the likelihood that the United States will promise some response if Iraq is threatened or attacked. Often called a security assurance or security arrangement -- it will likely create a perception in Iraq that the United States will come to Iraq’s rescue if it is threatened or attacked. The next president may not want to do that. The next president may not have a piece of that 'vision.'
"It also ignores the rather startling pledge in the Declaration to support the Iraqi government in its battle with 'all other outlaw groups' -- I assume that means any group at odds with the prime minister as the government -- a potentially expansive commitment to take sides in Iraq's civil war.
"A key question before this Committee is whether either agreement should be approved by Congress, either as a treaty approved by two-thirds of the Senate or as a congressional-executive agreement approved by both houses of Congress.
"It is a fact that security arrangements with several countries have been made without explicit congressional or Senate approval. But not all security arrangements are created equal. Our present military commitment in Iraq and the context in which this arrangement would be concluded are important factors in evaluating whether Congressional approval is required. Moreover, past practice is not a reason to bypass the Congress, nor can it answer the question of the President's authority, as the Supreme Court reminded us when it struck down dozens of statutes providing for the legislative veto in the landmark case of INS v. Chadha.
"This Committee has long been concerned with the unilateral efforts of the Executive Branch to bind the nation. In 1967, the Committee held a series of hearings that led to Senate approval of the National Commitments Resolution, which states that a national commitment by the United States can only result 'from affirmative action taken by the executive and legislative branches of the United States by means of a treaty, statute, or concurrent resolution of both Houses of Congress specifically providing for such commitment.'
"In its report on the resolution, the Committee expressed concern that ‘some foreign engagements, such as our bases agreement with Spain, form a kind of quasi-commitment, unspecified as to their exact import but, like buds in springtime, ready under the right climatic conditions, to burst into full bloom... [i]n practice the very fact of our physical presence in Spain constitutes a quasi-commitment to the defense of the Franco regime, possibly even against internal disruptions.’
"In 1970, a special subcommittee of this Committee engaged in a study of security agreements and commitments abroad. It described a practice of 'creeping commitment,' and observed that 'Overseas bases, the presence of elements of United States armed forces, joint planning, joint exercises, or extensive military assistance programs represent to host governments more valid assurances of United States commitment than any treaty or executive agreement.'
"The Constitution gives Congress the power to authorize the use of force, the power to raise and support the military, and the power of the purse; and it gives the Senate the power to approve treaties. The President, as Commander-in-Chief and chief diplomat, can direct forces in war, once authorized, and negotiate and sign treaties. This division of power was intentional, and among other things was designed to prevent one person from making national commitments that could result in taking the country to war.
"I have often stated that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. Five years ago, President Bush went to war in Iraq without gaining that consent. He did so by overstating the intelligence, and by understating the difficulty, cost and duration of the mission.
"With just nine months left on his term, the President is on a course to commit the nation to a new phase of a long war in Iraq, and thereby bind -- at least politically and perceptively -- his successors to what I believe is a failed policy. Once again, he appears poised to do so without the informed consent of the American people -- by rushing to conclude long-term agreements with Iraq without adequate public debate, and without a voice for the people’s representatives in Congress.
"Instead of giving us a strategy to end the war without leaving chaos behind, in my perspective, the President has made it clear he intends to pass on the problem to his successor, and, by these agreements, to make it harder for his successor to change course.
"The President may have the power to initiate these talks, but it is a mistake for him to do so. The situation in Iraq can hardly be described as normal, and the government in Baghdad is far from established or reliable, even in the eyes of the Iraqi people. This is a shaky edifice for building a long-term relationship.
"Instead, the President should devote his energies to working with Iraq and its neighbors on a diplomatic surge -- to help develop a lasting political settlement that will provide the foundation for a stable Iraq, and he should defer discussion of such long-term agreements to his successor. But if the President persists on this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving these agreements.
"I believe that the president would be better off himself, for the Iraqi people, and for the American people, if he negotiated a straightforward Status of Forces Agreement."

Turning to the US presidential race. Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and Rosa Clemente is her running mate:

McKinney/Clemente Campaign Materials
Thursday, 16 October 2008 22:02
A reminder that Green Party national headquarters in Washington, DC has merchandise available for the historic McKinney-Clemente presidential campaign!

Here's the secure link to the Green Party online store where you may buy online; or you may also phone-in orders to (202) 319-7191.

Secure Shopping link:

This is union-made, sweatshop-free McKinney-Clemente gear!

Go Green! Vote Green! Vote Cynthia McKinney & Rosa Clemente on Tuesday, 4 Nov 2008!

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and his running mate is Matt Gonzalez. Lauren notes this from Team Nader:

Nader v. Obama


Nader v. Obama .

Donate $3 to Nader/Gonzalez now.


Well, on three key issues last night — energy, health insurance, corporate crime — Obama stood with the corporations against the interests of the American people.

Compare Nader to Obama.

Last night, McCain challenged Obama.

Tell me one time you have stood up to the leaders of your party, McCain said.

Obama couldn’t name one time when he stood up to the corporations that control his party.

So, instead he named a couple of times when he stood with the corporations.

And against the interests of the American people.

I voted for tort reform, Obama said.


Brave of you Barack.

You stood with the National Association of Manufacturers against injured people.

I support clean coal technology, Obama said.

Wow Barack, you stood with the polluting coal industry against people who suffer the consequences.

When McCain accused Obama of supporting a single payer, Canadian style national health insurance system, Obama said he didn’t.

And he doesn’t.

Despite the fact that a majority of doctors, nurses and the American people want it.

On national health insurance, Obama stands with the insurance industry and against the American people who are demanding single payer.

Over 5,000 U.S. physicians have signed an open letter calling on the candidates for president and Congress "to stand up for the health of the American people and implement a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance system." (Here’s the ad that ran in the New Yorker magazine.)

Obama says no.

McCain says no.

Nader/Gonzalez says yes.

Yes to single payer.

Yes to solar and no to coal.

Yes to protecting the American people from corporate recklessness and crime, no to tort deform.

So, donate $3 to the candidacy that is not on the debate stage.

But that is right on the issues.


Today, while Obama fronts for his corporate donors, Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez and the Nader Team will be on Wall Street protesting corporate America’s sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior.

Nader/Gonzalez continues to stand with the people.

Against the corporate criminals and their candidates in the two major parties.

Onward to November.

The Nader Team

PS: If you donate $100 more now, we will ship to you our corporate crime package. The package includes two books and a DVD: Gangster Capitalism by Michael Woodiwiss, The Cheating of America by Charles Lewis, Bill Allison and the Center for Public Integrity, and a DVD that we are making of today’s rally on Wall Street. (This offer ends October 24, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.)


John McCain is the GOP presidential nominee and Sarah Palin is his running mate. Becky notes this from the McCain-Palin campaign:

MEDIA ADVISORY: Meghan McCain to Visit Maine

ARLINGTON, VA The McCain-Palin presidential campaign today announced that Meghan McCain will visit Maine Friday, October 17th.

Friday, October 17, 2008


WHO: Meghan McCain

WHAT: Lunch With Supporters

WHEN: Friday, October 17, 2008 at 12:30 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Pat's Pizza
11 Mill St.
Orono, ME 04473


WHO: Meghan McCain

WHAT: Meet and Greet

WHEN: Friday, October 17, 2008 at 1:50 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Bangor Victory Center
543 Broadway
Bangor, ME


WHO: Meghan McCain

WHAT: Meet and Greet

WHEN: Friday, October 17, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Auburn Brew Pub & Restaurant
68 Main Street
Auburn, ME 04210

Meghan McCain is one of John and Cindy McCain's four children. She has her own political website and Julie Bosman (New York Times) did a nice write up of Meghan this week. She is the co-author, with Dan Andreasen, of My Dad, John McCain, a children's picture book and a percentage of the sales goes to the Fallen Heroes Fund.

The e-mail address for this site is