Thursday, November 20, 2008

Same press that sold the illegal war sells the treaty

Passage of the US-Iraq security pact under the terms both countries' leaders have advocated could violate the constitutions of both countries, specialists told a congressional subcommittee yesterday.
[. . .]
Jarrar told the House subcommittee a simple-majority approval of the pact could provoke unrest and violence in Iraq.
"Most of the groups who are opposing it in the parliament, have been saying, 'If you wanted to go through some loopholes - not send it to Parliament or pass it through a simple majority - we will quit this political process as a whole, and we will go back to armed resistance,' " he said.
Delahunt said US and Iraqi officials should begin working on a six-month to one-year extension of the UN mandate instead of pushing the security agreement through the Iraqi parliament before it recesses next week.

The above is from Jenny Paul's "US-Iraq security pact may be in violation, Congress is told" (Boston Globe) and what other newspaper filed on this? That's an important hearing and only the Boston Globe is going to file?

Paul's got a fairly in-depth article and we're going with Raed Jarrar for the excerpt because time ran out while dictating yesterday's snapshot leading him to receive less space in it than I intended.

You want to see garbage? Go over to McClatchy and read the crap with Nancy A. Youssef's byline attached. They can't cover the hearing but they can assemble statements made at various press briefings (by the administration)? It's embarrassing and it's pathetic.

The treaty has certainly been praised and endorsed by one editorial board after another so the rules of journalism dictate that a Congressional hearing on the treaty -- especially one that finds it not so wonderful -- gets press play.

Ross Colvin covers it for the wire service Reuters:

Delahunt, who has urged President George W. Bush to renew the U.N. mandate rather than sign a bilateral agreement with Iraq, held the eighth in a series of hearings on the Status of Forces Agreement.
He said the Bush administration had turned down an invitation to attend the open hearing, saying it was a "sensitive time." Experts testifying before his subcommittee were forced to rely on an unofficial English translation of the security deal.
"Even now the National Security Council has requested that we do not show this document to our witnesses or release it to the public. Now that's incredible -- meantime the Iraqi government has posted this document on its media website," Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, said.
He was referring to the Iraqi government-funded al-Sabah newspaper, whose Arabic version of the deal is also the source of the only known unofficial English translation, by the anti-war American Friends Service Committee.

Yesterday's hearing mattered in many ways. It should have been reported by all major outlets.

One issue raised was how allowing this to go through on the US-end would set a precedent that was very dangerous, it would forever alter what sort of agreements a president could enter into unilaterally. From yesterday's snapshot:

Rep Lynn Woolsey: What is the legal standing? Will an agreement/treaty be -- have standing if it does not come before the House of Representatives of the Congress in general?

Oona Hathaway: Well this is a complicated question as you might imagine. In my view it would be unconstitutional because it would extend beyond the president's power to conclude an agreement under his own independent powers and for all the reasons we've discussed it clearly goes beyond those limits. The question is: How would you challenge it? How would you demonstrate that? One possibility, obviously, is a resolution in Congress, another is a challenge in the courts -- that's unlikely to succeed. So the likely result would be that we would be operating under an unconstitutional agreement and what worries me is not only that -- although that is quite worrisome in and of itself -- but the precedent that that sets. So we then set a precedent that the president can enter into an agreement to commit US troops without having to get the assent of Congress. And, moreover, that the limits that we all thought applied to Sole Executive Agreements, the limits that had been observed by presidents for a generation on agreements that are entered into by presidents on their own no longer apply. All bets are off. So could President Obama enter Kyoto on his own? Could he enter the Law of the Sea Treaty on his own? If we don't know what the limits are, it creates real questions about where those -- where the Constitutional limits are? If they're not going to be observed then that creates problems not just in this instance but in every future case as well.

That alone should have been pursued by the press.

We also learned that there are two versions promising two different things. The Iraqis have the Arabic version and the English version differs from it -- although the Iraqis appear unaware of that.

We learned that is pushed through without Congressional approval (via voting for it), it would be illegal domestically.

We learned a great deal -- so much more than the news outlets have bothered to tell in their weeks and weeks of coverage. But we learned that only if we were present at the hearing or read Jenny Paul or Ross Colvin's reports. That's appalling.

The subcommittee had a memo they put out before the hearing and it's in PDF format. A friend on the committee asked if we could note that. I hadn't seen it and it's too long to go into this entry but it is posted here (at this site) in non PDF format so those who don't click on PDF links are able to read it in full. You can find it in PDF format at the ccommittee's website. There is enough information in that memo to result in multiple editorials and reports.

Two outlets report on the treaty from Iraq and the objections yesterday when it was read in Parliament. From Campbell Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy's "Brawl Halts Session of Iraqi Parliament" (New York Times):

As soon as the session began, politicians in opposition to the pact stood up in the hall and volubly argued that the ratification process was unconstitutional because a law governing the passage of international agreements had not been approved. Supporters say such a law is unnecessary because Parliament has already ratified numerous agreements without one.
For the next two hours, the Parliament speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, lashed out at the objectors and refused their demands to change the Parliament agenda. He then invited Hassan al-Sneid, a Shiite lawmaker, to begin the second public reading of the agreement, a matter of parliamentary procedure.
As Mr. Sneid began reading, witnesses said, Sadrists and other opponents of the agreement continued to trade shouts with lawmakers who supported it. Then, Ahmed Masu'udi, a Sadrist lawmaker, approached the dais. Mr. Masu'udi said later in an interview that he was simply trying to reach Mr. Mashhadani to persuade him to stop the reading; several other witnesses said Mr. Masu'udi tried to attack Mr. Sneid. The security guards rushed toward Mr. Masu'udi, who said that they grabbed him and struggled to push him away. At that point, witnesses said, the hall was filled with shouting, lawmakers rushed toward the front and the session ended in chaos.
Legislators poured out of the hall and into the cafeteria. There, shouting and accusations continued among the lawmakers, quickly attracting a company of security guards, who surrounded the cafeteria and tried to keep away the journalists and other onlookers who had gathered.

As Raed Jarrar noted in the hearing yesterday, the Parliament starts a month long break in ten days. This is from Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman's "Iraqi session on U.S. pact ends in shouting match" (Los Angeles Times):

Lawmakers from three other political blocs joined the Sadr loyalists in condemning what they called bullying by bodyguards inside parliament, and they pledged to boycott further sessions.
The groups don't have enough combined seats to prevent a quorum in the 275-seat legislature, assuming enough lawmakers showed up, but their action will deny Prime Minister Nouri Maliki the broad-based backing he needs to avoid deepening rifts that have hobbled efforts at reconciliation.
Maliki also faces provincial and national elections next year and cannot afford to be seen as backing a plan overly favorable to the Americans, as foes have described it.

The treaty's been sold by the same outlets that sold the illegal war. It would be great if our so-called 'independent' press could take a moment or two to actually cover something that matters. (Hint, fan club bulletins of Barack do not matter.)

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