Wednesday, January 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri tries to buy votes, the US Congress holds a hearing on sexual assault in the military, and more.
The woman with the long red hair and glasses spoke haltingly, "I didn't realize why I was acting the way I was and neither did he. It ruined our marriage." The woman is Laura Watterson and she was offering testimony to a US House Armed Services Committee hearing this morning. Sexually assaulted in 2001 and suffering from PTSD and MST (Military Sexual Trauma), she sought help and attempted to utilize policies already in place only to confront a system that ignored the policies, didn't care about her sexual assault and devoted 'help' time to silencing her. As much as the sexual assault traumatized her, the military 'response' was equally traumatizing. "I began therapy at the VA because I lost everything as a result," she explained. She had followed the rules ("I reported it as I was supposed to"), she was told by her supervisor and his supervisor "that it would be taken care of and I trusted that." But she was betrayed and there was more interest in silencing her than in holding the assailant accountable.
Laura Watterson: Part of my wellness is testifying today, forcing me to get out and do things that are challenging because they are more important. I'll leave here today but hopefully my message will not leave. If I had a caring SARC representative, I believe that I would not have ended up in the mess that I have ended up in.
The subcommittee was the Military Personnel Subcommittee and the hearing was entitled Sexual Assault in the Military: Victim Support and Advocacy. US House Rep Susan Davis is the chair of the committee. In her opening remarks, she noted, "Sexual assault is a complex problem where most, if not all, aspects are interrelated. Such a topic does not lend itself to a single hearing. As a result, we have chosen to hold multiple hearings on discrete topics so that members and witnesses can have in-depth discussions about various issues to build towards a comprehensive understanding of the problem. This will guide our deliberations on what can and should be done next. Today we will be focusing on victim advocacy and support. Our next hearing will look at current and planned Department of Defense programs to prevent sexual assault. I would like to say that we are encouraged by the level of commitment, resources, and expertise that the services are applying to prevention programs to educate service members and change cultural norms. Finally, we will hold a hearing to examine how sexual assaults are prosecuted by the military."
That maps out some of the subcommittee's tasks for the year. As part of that exploration, Davis had a question after all the witnesses had offered testimony. Along with Laura Watterson, witnesses on the first panel included the Air Forces' Capt Daniel Katka (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator), the Army's Sgt 1st Class Michael Horwatch (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator/Victim Advocate) and the Navy's Chief Petty Officer Tonya D. McKennie (Victims Advocate).
US Rep Susan Davis: Ms. Watterson, clearly the system did not keep you safe and I know you don't believe it keeps other members of the military safe today either. But the time that we are talking about, it was prior to some new policies that were put in place and, with the work that you've done and your advocacy, I wonder if you could speak to a few instances where you think perhaps the system would have served you better and in those cases when you don't think anything that has been done really would have made a difference. I think you alluded to some of that in your testimony but if you could go back and talk to us a little bit about that, that would be very helpful.
Laura Watterson: Well one big thing is the confidentiality so that the victims do feel safe and be able to tell them that, you know, I have insomnia, I'm throwing up all the time, I'm drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels at night, you know, all that kind of stuff. They need to feel safe that they can tell someone about that so that they can go get treatment and in my experience with working with active duty and also working with veterans recently there is a big problem with many many many bases and commanders who have tried to brush off what the mandates and the law are that have already been put in place. There's one commander in, for example, who treated me like I was an absolute idiot. He was completely cocky about the whole thing and I read off the mandates about this is what you're supposed to be doing for your troop and you're not doing it all. For example, I had one that was a male victim of MST [Military Sexual Trauma] and they were not protecting him as well. They were allowing people to walk by him and call him "f*g." They were allowing people to beat him up because they were saying that he was a f*g. He was being administered psychiatric drugs by his peers and not a medical professional, it was his peers and he was still in training he was -- it wasn't basic training but he hadn't gotten the training for his job, that's where he was. And it was it was disgusting and it has been I had to, I've had to call the IG and I asked these troops and things, "Have you talked to your IG yet?" "What's an IG?" Well have you talked to your SARC [Sexual Assault Response Coordinators] yet? "I don't think so." And a lot of the SARCs, they have the initial meet and how are you doing and then that's it. They don't call to check up and see how you're doing or let's make sure you get into the hospital and make sure your meds are correct -- basic -- [. . .] to take car of them, to make them feel like they have someone because most of them their families are very far away and especially in training they probably don't have any friends either. But that is a large thing. The SARC needs to be able to have enough power to fight the commander when the commanders are ignoring and basically mocking the system that is supposedly been put in place. That is a huge, huge problem.
US House Rep Susan Davis: Thank you. I'd like to actually turn to our folks here and see. Could you respond and help us with that as well because I think there is a big question of whether the SARC comes to a commander and says "Listen we've got a problem here" and nothing happens, what kind of authority do you have to follow up?
Capt Daniel Katka: Yes, ma'am. We report directly at my base we report directly -- and in the Air Force -- to the Vice Wing Commander, essentially the second on the base, which helps tremendously, by the way. So we are able to kind of go and interact with commanders. Of course not to tell them what they must do but recommend highly -- with the vice -- [with] their understanding that the vice wing commander is who we report to. So it helps us tremendously in advocating for the survivor and whatever his or her needs are.
Sgt 1st Class Michael Horwath: We're very similar, ma'am. We do a monthly sexual assault review board and we report everything involved in the program to the senior movement commander at whatever institution we are happen to be on for me that happens to be the division commander and it is reported up from there. [. . .]
US Rep Susan Davis: And quickly Chief McKennie, I'm out of time.
Chief Petty Officer Tonya McKennie: Well the Navy, where I'm affialited in San Diego, all our SARCs are civilian personnel so they are not normally subject to military intimidation.
They have free reign and a lot of leeaway in being able to deal with any commanding officers or military personnel. So in my experience, we do not have that problem.
Under questioning from US House Rep Loretta Sanchez, Katka defended the use of volunteers for Victims Advocates in the Air Force. As opposed to making it a paid position. He insisted it keeps the position filled with dedicated people. What clever little spin. Equally true is that a paid position is taken more seriously by everyone in the environment. Equally true is that an all volunteer force is addressing a serious and deeply embedded cultural crime (Sanchez noted at least 600 assaults had taken place in Iraq) with limited resources and those resources include limited training. Equally true is that when you refuse to create a paid position, when you refuse to create a real training program for those who do the job, the bulk of the volunteers are constantly treading water just to keep up and that undercuts any advancements that might be made. Of course, that could be the entire point of making the positions volunteer and not permanent, paid positions.
But don't worry, Kafta likes calling around looking for volunteers. So it's an unpaid position and it's one Katka is qualified to staff how?
Sorry to break it to Katka but he doesn't seem trained to staff and until the Air Force moves beyond the attitude that Victims Advocates are as 'disposable' as candy stripers, don't expect to see any improvement. Sanchez asked him, "Do you see that the volunteers, because this is based on volunteers, do you see that it's most women stepping forward to volunteer?"
"Yes," replied Katka, noting that as many 70s VAs are on his base and "we have about 15 that are men." "There is a challenge," Katka says, "I'll admit to you." Asked for how to make it better, Katka said he'd try but somehow never got around to doing that. Unless he thought his continuity binder -- his notebook -- was somehow the road to improvement.
Asked near the end to offer her evaluation of whether or not she saw any improvement, Laura Watterson replied:
To be honest, no. I've seen a lot of new mandates and a lot of new whatever but the fact is that the majoirty of what I've seen and dealt with and heard from other survivors is that nothing has changed. They are still using the McDowell check list to basically they can turn it around and make it look like the person is lying. And so someone who comes forward and wants to report it could be charged with conduct unbecoming, filing false charges and -- if either the victim or the rapist/assaulter is married -- they can be charged with adultry. That is a big reason why people do not come forward and other women will see what happens to one woman -- bascially getting their life torn apart because they went forward and asked for help. They get stalked by the friends of the perpretator, it's -- I don't see any change.
2008 demonstrated that nothing has been done. Maria Lauterbach was a Marine. She came forward to charge Cesar Armando Lauren with rape. The military did not take it seriously and they did not take Maria seriously. Maria was forced to continue to work with Cesar, her rapist, and his friends. She was not protected. She was not given help. She was pregnant from the rape. Possibly encouraged by the lack of response from the Marine command, Cesar took it further. He murdered Maria. He dug a hole in his back yard, shoved her corpse into the hole and attempted to burn her corpse.
Maria was missing for weeks and weeks. Her mother was attempting to get the Marines to do something, anything. She had to go to the Onslow County police to get any kind of help. While the Marines drug their feet for weeks as Maria was missing, Ed Brown's sheriff's dept, once on the case, was quickly able to narrow the suspects down to Cesar and quickly find Maria's corpse. Though Brown had conveyed to the Marines that Cesar was the chief suspect (conveyed it prior to the discovery of Maria's corpse), the Marines refused to place any conditions on Cesar such as refusing to allow him to leave the base. Cesar was able to slip away hours before Maria's corpse was uncovered and he made it to Mexico where he remains at present, still awaiting extradition. (Cesar has not been convicted of the crimes. One coming forward after he escaped was Cesar's wife who revealed Cesar told her he killed Maria.)
Maria's mother knew something was wrong right away. Her daughter was pregnant and due to give birth shortly. There was no reason for her to go missing. And if she truly was missing (and alive), she needed help right away due to her pregnancy. But the Marine command didn't care. They didn't believe Maria. And, besides, everybody liked Cesar, he was such a 'man'.
If you're wondering where the Marine command's public apology for their handling of the case is, keep wondering because there has yet to be accountability. Maria Lauterbach's mother, Mary Lauterbach, was present for today's hearings. Jessica Wehrman (Dayton Daily News) reports:
The Inspector General of the Defense Department has been asked to postpone an investigation into how the military handled the rape investigation of Vandalia Marine Maria Lauterbach until the man accused of raping and murdering her has been extradited and tried for her murder.
The decision was crushing for Mary Lauterbach, Maria's mother, who said she believes it will mean that many of those involved in Maria's rape investigation will never be held accountable. She said at least one of the people involved in the handling of Maria's case plans to retire within the year.
Maria Lauterbach, 20, and the body of her unborn son were found buried in Cesar Laurean's backyard on Jan. 11, 2008. Laurean fled to Mexico and has been charged in Lauterbach's murder. He is currently fighting extradition charges, and last November received permission to have his wife, Christina, visit him in Mexico.
We've only noted two of the panels for this morning's hearing and we could go into even more depth on those two and may if there's not other coverage on it to highlight tomorrow. Thus far, Talk Radio Network has filed a four paragraph report which opens with this:
"Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq," Congresswoman Jane Harman (CA) reported to the congressional committee for Military Sexual Assault Victim Support and Response. The committee met Wednesday with military personnel to discuss how the Department of Defense can improve victim support and advocacy. Beginning the hearing was former marine Laura Waterson. Ms. Waterson was sexually assaulted by an officer in her unit in early 2001. Her testimony shed light on the meager and often time insulting support provided to her by the military following her report that she was sexually abused. Through out her often weepy eyed testimony Waterson described the extremely painful aftermath of her assault that ultimately to "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the end of her marriage, and extreme irrational behavior."
If you wonder why these sexual assaults happen, they happen because people don't take it seriously. They happen because when Congress devotes a full morning to the topic, the press apparently can't be bothered (the press was out for the hearing, they just haven't gotten any reports out yet) with the topic. They happen because the issue isn't take seriously. Barack going to jawbone with Republicans yesterday was treated as the most pressing and important news of the day. US House Rep Jane Harman declares, "Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq" -- and how many will treat it as news?
Okay, Stars & Stripes has just filed. (Hopefully the first of many.) Leo Shane III reports:
When Laura Watterson told her commanders that a fellow airman had raped her, she expected the Air Force to investigate and punish the offender.
Instead, she said, he was promoted to be her supervisor and she was told to "get over it."
"They said in basic that I'd be taken care of [in the Air Force] and I trusted that," she told a House committee on Wednesday. "I thought I had joined a band of brothers as a sister. I became an outcast."
Watterson's testimony was part of the first of a series of hearings scheduled by the House Armed Services Committee on the military's sexual assault response.
Turning to Iraq, Peter Graff and Aseel Kami (Reuters) report that voting in Iraq's provincial elections (fourteen of the eighteen provinces are holding elections) officially begins Saturday but early voting has started for "soldiers, police, prisoners and displaced people". In an alleged 'analysis' of the upcoming vote, Leila Fadel (and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting?) offers this at McClatchy: "Men who once fought against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the American military are now among about 14,500 candidates who are competing for seats in the provincial assemblies. Even some who have no trust in the current government have put away their weapons and are trying their hands at democracy. If their votes don't produce the changes they seek, they say, they'll have no choice but to pick up their weapons again." Leila is, of course, a woman and McClatchy's Iraq branch is largely staffed with women. So it's cute that the only gender Fadel deems of interest is males. Strange because others have found a way to provide reports on female candidates and on female voters. Maybe the Institute for War and Peace Reporting overruled Leila? Or maybe she doesn't care? Regardless, it's very telling that an alleged analysis of an upcoming vote -- in a country where there are more women than men (Iraq has a huge number of widows) -- decides to ignore them.
Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) explain that due to the Shi'ite pilgrimage in honor of Imam Hussein, it is feared some Shi'ites may miss out out on voting in the provincial elections. The provincial elections will be held in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces, whether you are a pilgrim or an internally displaced Iraqi, you can only vote in your own province. Independent candidate Hakim al-Mayahi declares Shi'ites potentially voting in smaller numbers will make it more difficult for independent candidates to be elected. While it is true that the small number participating in polling have indicated a preference for non-sectarian candidaes, this is not an overwhelming presence and it doesn't necessarily mean a damn thing.
What's being predicted is that candidates not alligned with extremists (Sunni or Shia) will fare better in this election cycle than they did in 2005. That may end up being the case but it may not and nothing is known at this point.
To stick with the polling response -- and the sample size has not been encouraging (we're talking about real polling, not the random interviews that the Los Angeles Times did for a story this week -- and LAT didn't present that as a poll). But the segment that is saying, "I'm tired of the bickering between Shi'ites and Sunnis" or "a pox on both of them" may end up being not all that different from US citizens polled who state "I'm tired of ___" and then go on to vote the exact same way because while they're tired of Congress they generally make an exception for their own member of Congress.
When you take the comments being made about some rejecting the religious extremists and put them in that light, it should cause a number of people to stop suggesting that indications (at best, indications) are facts of the final tally discovered before the election took place.
So with all that in mind, if a Shi'ite pilgrimage is taking place and it may result in many Shia not being able to participate in voting, the most likely candidates to suffer would be Shia candidates. Not independents. And that likelihood is why, as the article explains, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is asking that people vote before leaving on their pilgrimage.
Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) examine the Communist Party and note there are 27 candidates running in Baghdad (there are 57 slots open on the provincial council) and that the Communist Party "won two seats on the council" in the 2005 elections, while Parliament has 275 seats with two of those held by Communists. Abdul Munim Jabber Hadi is quoted stating, "In the past five years, the people have begun to understand that these political parties failed to achieve what people were hoping for." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) focuses on Nineveh Province, which has been a source of tension for some time and which has the city that's emerged in 2008 as the most violent in Iraq: Mosul. He notes the power struggles going on and how the boycott of the 2005 elections by Sunni Arabs led to over-representation on the council by Kurds ("The Kurds currently hold 31 of the 37 seats on the provincial counil, the equivalent of an American state legislature"). Londono explains, "Taking the reins of Nineveh's government would allow Arabs to appoint a governor and use their political power to roll back Kurdish expansion, which is being bitterly contested in villages across the 300-mile swath of disputed territories, as well as in Baghdad and in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Arab, and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, have exchanged heated accusations in recent weeks, underscoring the intensity of a conflict that U.S. officials and Iraq experts have come to view as Iraq's most potentially destabilizing."
Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation. al-Maliki, who is not running for office, is attempting to make the 2009 election all about him. He's attempting to buy votes for his political party and promising the sun, stars and sky. He will, of course, fail to deliver. (As is his pattern.) Monday's snapshot included: "Waleed Ibrahim and Michael Christie (Reuters) report that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, declared that US [combat only] forces will be pulled quickly. They report he made this announcement to 'a crowd of supporters in the southern Iraqi city of Babel during a campaign rally ahead of Jan. 31 provincial elecitons' -- translation, a campaign promise by al-Maliki -- eager to pump up the number of seats held by his Dawa Party. And of course, if Barack had decided on that, he would let Nouri break the news, right? No need to inform the Pentagon or Joint Chiefs first. Just tell Nouri and let him tell the world." Yesterday's snapshot included this, "Monte Morin (Los Angeles Times) reports that Nouri al-Malik (of all people) has warned that no one should 'corrupt the elections by buying votes'." The puppet of the occupation is attempting to make the provincial elections all about him and he is attempting to buy votes. Today Campbell Robertson (New York Times) explains al-Maliki's latest spin: free land or cheap land for Iraqi journalists! Robertson explained the bribe came with another "admonition to journalists to focus on stories of progress and reconstruction".
Nouri tried to get reporters -- foreign and domestic -- to sign a contract and if they violated his 'feel-good-news' edict, they would be fined. Not only did he do that, he tried to pass it off as UNAMI's wishes. Those were never the wishes of UNAMI. He pushed that on a Friday (Kim Gamel of AP was the first to cover the contract) and it had fallen apart by the following Sunday (including the cover story that UNAMI wanted the contract). That is only one example in his long, long history of attacks on the press. A more recent example would of course be Muntadhar al-Zeidi -- the Iraqi journalist who was beaten and tortured for tossing two shoes. Muntadhar remains in prison and never doubt that's where al-Maliki would like to put all the press. The contract's only a surprise to those who weren't paying attention in July of 2006 when al-Maliki launched his first attack on the press or who didn't notice how much more violent al-Maliki's thugs were. It's when al-Maliki takes over that there's no pretense about physically going after journalists. Whether it's the photographer they insisted was an insurgent or aiming a gun at two reporters for the New York Times and pulling the trigger (the chamber was empty, it was a 'joke'). al-Maliki has fostered disrespect and loathing for the press because that's how he feels and those feelings festered when he was living in Syria and Iran where his rages against the press were fairly well known. Though largely confined to the press in Syria and Iran, he was also known to pop off about the press in the country he'd fled (Iraq) and how if he could control the press, he'd be as powerful as Saddam. Since being installed as the puppet, al-Maliki has attempted to do just that.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded and a second Mosul roadside bombing that injured three people.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Maiyadah Al Baiati ("member of the Islamic party") was shot dead in Baghdad and 1 police officer was shot dead in Salahuddin Province and another was wounded.
In diplomatic news, the Associated Press explains, "Iraqi museums and sites suffered extensive damage and looting in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The National Museum of Baghdad, a treasure trove of artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrians and Islamic periods, fell victim to bands of armed thieves. Up to 7,000 pieces are still missing." yesterday's snapshot included:
Yesterday, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was in Athens, where he met with Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis (see photo below from Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and prepared for a day of talks on Tuesday to include meeting with the country's Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis as well as Dimitris Sioufas, the President of the country's Parliament. Renee Maltezou (Reuters) reports Greece has offered both "financial aid and expertise" to attempt to repair the damange done by the plundering of Iraqi antiquities at the start of the illegal war. Athens News Agency explains, "The establishment of a Greek Economic and Commercial Affairs Office in Iraq was decided on Tuesday during a meeting in Athens between foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, as well as Greece's assistance in the protection of Iraq's cultural heritage and erecting a statue of Alexander the Great in Gaugamela."
At the briefing following their meeting, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis declared, "It is with great pleasure that I once again welcome Iraqi Foreign Minister Mr. Hoshyar Zebari to Athens. I am happy that we have the opportunity to host him in Greece once again. And this, of course, underscores and confirms the traditional relations of mutual trust and friendship between the Greek and Iraqi peoples. We had a very substantial discussion on a series of issues of bilateral and broader interest, as well as on developments in the Middle East, of course. Greece has supported Iraq with all its power on a political and economic level so as to stabilize the democracy and the country which has experienced such difficult times in recent years. As you know, we will be opening an trade office in Arbil. We jointly observed that our economic cooperation must be strengthened. At the same time, we agreed that we will intensify our cooperation in the cultural sector. As you know, Iraq's cultural heritage was hard hit by the destruction of ancient sites and artifacts, and Greece, with its particular sensitivity to this issue, will help with know how and financing to rebuild the museums of Iraq. My friend the Minister and I also agreed on the raising of a monument to Alexander the Great in Gavgamila, symbolizing precisely the interaction of cultures in this critical region. In closing, I think it is obvious, but I want to stress this, that Greece is firmly in favour of the unity, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq, and, of course, actively supports its efforts to win a future of stability and development." In other diplomatic news, Iraq has appointed their first ambassador to Syria in approximately thirty years. Waleed Ibrahim, Missy Ryan and Louise Ireland (Reuters) report Alaa al-Jawadi has been named to the post. It probably goes without saying but we'll say it: al-Jawadi is a man. Even their ambassadors to Western countries are males. It's becoming a real issue that goes beyond mispelling Dora Bakoyannis' last name but also referring to her as "Mrs." when the her own Foreign Ministry refers to her as "Ms."
In the US, Barack Obama has yet again tossed women under the bus. An economic 'stimulus' that is little more than dusted off FDR (we don't have the same work force we had in the 1930s, nor do we have the same jobs) and largely excludes women, just got a lot more anti-woman. Around the net, NOW, NARAL and assorted 'leaders' are being called out for their silence -- and they should be called out. A friend at Feminist Majority Foundation notes this from their Feminist Wire Daily:
A provision in the proposed economic stimulus package that would expand family planning coverage under Medicaid has drawn harsh criticism from Republicans and may be removed from the proposed stimulus package as early as today. President Barack Obama has reportedly told congressional Democrats to remove the provision and may offer this move as a concession to congressional Republicans in meetings today.
The current version of the stimulus package (see PDF) would no longer require states to obtain federal permission to offer family planning services and contraceptives under Medicaid.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defended the inclusion of the family planning provision this weekend (see video) and said that, ultimately, "the family planning services reduce cost." Democrats argue that the provision is an investment that would save money long term and that it could create health care jobs and bolster state progams, according to .
You'll note that FWD does not attempt to blame any Republican in the minority, they note who is responsible for removing the funding: Barack. I have no problem giving Feminist Majority Foundation -- which owns and operates Ms. magazine and FWD -- credit when they earn it. While it's easy to read the above and say, "Well they just did their job," that alone would be enough. But if you've missed some of the calling out -- rightful calling out -- of the silence and the minimizations and the excuses, you're aware it would have been very easy for Feminist Majority Foundation to have run with the pack and stayed silent, declared it no-big-deal or invented a Republican to blame the whole thing on. They didn't. Credit when it's earned, Feminist Majority Foundation did call this one right and they did so publicly.
Lastly, the American Freedom Campaign explains:
While we may have a new president dedicated to reversing some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration, there is at least one unconstitutional executive power President Obama is trying to protect. Congress must take action to ensure that the power to sign international agreements related to military activities does not rest solely in the hands of the executive branch.
Please take two minutes to tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor a resolution declaring the recently signed U.S.-Iraq agreement merely advisory in nature unless it is submitted to Congress for approval. Just use the following link to take action:
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of this issue. As things currently stand, the Bush administration deemed the U.S.-Iraq agreement a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a type of agreement that has always been used to establish basic legal standards related to the presence of the U.S. military in another nation. SOFAs do not require congressional approval. But the U.S.-Iraq agreement goes well beyond the traditional boundaries of a SOFA, dictating how long the U.S. military will stay in Iraq (up to three years at a possible cost of $10 billion per month) and even giving Iraq a measure of control over U.S. troops.
As the Obama administration seems satisfied with the current agreement, it may be tempting for members of Congress to leave well enough alone and move on to other matters. Part of the feeling, especially among Democrats, may be that the agreement is the best we are going to get at this point so there is no need to reopen the debate. But this misses the entire point.
If nothing is done today, then President Romney, President Palin, or - god forbid - President Cheney may sign a far-reaching "SOFA" of their own with Iran in 2014 or 2018. That may seem far off in the distance now, but in the span of this nation's history, nine years is nothing. This agreement, if Congress is not included in the process, will set a strong precedent for future presidents to cite. They will be able to say that congressional approval is not required for these kinds of agreements and will point to 2009 as their justification.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 72) expressing the sense of the House that the U.S.-Iraq agreement will be considered merely advisory in nature absent congressional approval. Such action is needed to force President Obama to seek approval from Congress. Please click on the following link to urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor this critically important piece of legislation:
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
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