Thursday, November 20, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, November 20, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Congress explores the treaty Wednesday and the press plays dumb on Thursday, and more.
An important Congressional hearing took place yesterday.  The same press that sold the illegal war worked overtime to ignore the hearing.  Let's start with the new romantic drama/comedy hour, The Unnamed Source Whisperer.  Yes, there's Nancy A. Youssef embarrassing the hell out of herself.  Not McClatchy -- it has embarrassed itself for some time now.  So The Unnamed Source Whisperer Youssef can hog all the shame.  Wallow in it, Nancy, it's all yours.  She offers a 'backstory' on the treaty with about as much grounding in truth as a seventies Rolling Stone profile of Linda Ronstadt (those pieces pissed off Linda for good reason).  About as much truth and about as much 'news'.  The 18th of November, Youssef's colleague Leila Fadel made a fool out of herself as well.  Her opening sentence underscored she knew how to clear a room: "The status of forces of agreement between the United States and Iraq is now called the withdrawal agreement, and that's exactly what it is: an ultimate end to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq."  Is that what it is exactly, Leila? 
Is that what passes for reporting at the increasing crap-fest known as McClatchy?  That sentence sounds a lot like an editorial or a column or a blog post.  It does not sound like reporting.  And it's not factual.  It wasn't when Fadel wrote it and it certainly IS NOT FACTUAL after yesterday's Congressional hearing when it was learned that the English version and the Arabic version are not on the same page and the Arabic version gives the impression that more is promised.  So where's the corrective?  Probably never coming. Fadel's 'reporting' was asinine upon delivery.  But it got waived through.
From American Friends Service Committee's translation of the Arabic version (which, remember, is different than the English version that the White House refuses to publicly release -- and this morning the State Dept's Sean McCormick referred questions of its release to the American people back to the White House, FYI):
Article Thirty
Contract Validity
1 - This agreement is valid for three years unless it is terminated earlier by either parties in accordance with paragraph 3 of this article.
[. . .]
3 - Cancellation of this agreement requires a written notice provided one year in advance. 
That third section, does no one understand contract law?  What you have is a one-year agreement with two options for renewal (it's automatically renewed if no one cancels).  It's a one-year contract.  Were a performer to sign it, he or she would be signing a one year contract with two pick-up options.  This isn't a three-year contract at all.  And since either side can cancel it at any point with only a year's heads up, what it says will happen in 2011 really doesn't matter. All that really matters is what it says for 2009 because that's the only period that both sides are bound to.  This isn't some deep, obscure psuedo-science.  It's basic contract law.  It is a one-year contract covering only 2009.  After 2009, it can be renewed for 2010 just by not announcing an intent to depart from the contract and, if it is renewed, it can run through 2011 in the same manner.  But this is not a three-year contract.  [Community members, if this is at all complicated or confusing, e-mail and we'll go over it tonight and use a concrete example I almost included here yesterday and today but thought it would make it too 'chatty.'  It will explain a one-year contract and options for renewal.] 
While we're on Article 30, the second clause wasn't raised in Congress yesterday but should have been: "This agreement cannot be modified without an official written approval of both sides and in accordance to constitutional procedures in both countries."  That clause appears to argue that an alteration in this treaty (that they work so hard to avoid calling a treaty) would have to go through both country's legislative bodies.  The US Constitution makes no mention of the 'powers' the White House is attempting to self-create; however, it does explain Congressional approval of treaties. 
If you really want to despair over how wretched today's media is, take a moment to grasp that the US government propaganda channel Voice Of America did a better job of reporting on the hearing than did the New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, CBS News, ABC, the Los Angeles Times, et al.  That's in part because VOA's Dan Robinson actually reported on it -- that alone put him far ahead the rest of the losers. Here's Robinson (text and audio):
However, many U.S. lawmakers have been angry with what they view as a secretive process in which the Bush administration undertook very little if any consultation with Congress.  
These feelings were evident in a public hearing of a House foreign affairs subcommittee, where Democratic Representative William Delahunt voiced his frustration.  
"There has been no meaningful consultation with Congress during the negotiation of this agreement and the American people for all intents and purposes have been completely left out." 
Delahunt referred to a request from the National Security Council that the text of the agreement not be released publicly, and be withheld from witnesses at the hearing.  
Oona Hathaway, Professor Law at the University of California at Berkeley calls the lack of consultation with Congress unprecedented, asserting that aspects of the accord exceed the independent constitutional powers of the president. 
Among troublesome provisions she points to is one involving a joint U.S.-Iraqi coordinating committee that she suggests would require U.S. commanders to seek permission to engage in military activities other than self-defense.   
"The provisions granting authority to U.S. troops to engage in military operations, the grant of power over our military operations to this joint committee, and the specification of timetables for withdrawal of military forces," Hathaway said.   "These are unprecedented in a standard SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] have never been part of a standard SOFA, and extend in my view far beyond what the president can do without obtaining congressional approval."  
The best report filed is by Jenny Paul with the Boston Globe and she's the only one with a major daily to file on the hearing.   Raed Jarrar testimony is noted by Paul:
Jarrar told the House subcommittee a simple-majority approval of the pact could proke 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. 
Jarrar got shortchanged (by me) in yesterday's snapshot due to time running out while I was dictating the snapshot.  We focused on Professor Oona A. Hathaway of UC Berkeley's School of Law because she addressed what the treaty wasn't (it's not a SOFA, Leila) and the illegal nature of it boiling it down to three main points. 
1) "The agreement in my view threatens to undermine the Constitutional powers of President-elect Obama as commander-in-chief and it does so in two ways. 
a) So first this agreement gives operational control to a Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee which is made up of Iraqis and Americans and is jointly led by both sides according to the agreement."
b) "The proposed agreement also undermines the Constitutional powers of President-elect Obama as commander in chief by binding him to observe specific timetables that are outlined in the agreement for the withdrawal of  US troops."
2) "The conclusion of this agreement without any Congressional involvement is unprecedented and, in my view, unconstitutional." 
3) "If the administration proceeds as planned the war will likely become illegal under United States law when the UN mandate expires on December 31st."
Somehow that wasn't important enough to get included in any of Nancy and The Unnnamed Source Whisperers' 'reporting' today.
Lazy and bad reporters as well as professional liars posing as reporters are doing TREMENDOUS DAMAGE.  They are selling the treaty as an end to the illegal war when it is no such thing.  And where's Panhandle Media?  Amy Goodman finally got around today to noting Lord Thomas Bingham's speech (see Tuesday's snapshot, and the speech was given Monday).  The Nation?  If they've got a word on it (even one of their useless ones), it's not to be found on their main page.  As usual the alleged 'independent' media can't be counted on to do anything but offer their breathless Barack Fan Club bulletins, every hour on the hour. 

The MSM is repeatedly lying (with very few exceptions) and stating that the treaty means withdrawal.  Might some of our so-called 'independent' media spare a second or two to evaluate that claim?  If the Iraqi Parliament can stall for ten days, the White House will be forced to seriously explore extending the United Nations' Security Council mandate.  As Raed Jarrar explained to Congress yesterday, there is about to be a month-long break. (Gina Chon says the break is scheduled to start "Nov. 25, but that could be delayed"). The UN mandate expires December 31st.  This issue isn't one that 'independent' media can pick up after the fact in January without embarrassing itself.  By January, it will be over.  They either cover it now while it matters or they admit they're not a news media, just a fan service for Barack and start mailing autographed glossies to all who contribute.
Hathaway explained at length to Congress yesterday how the treaty was harmful to the incoming president so you'd think the Barack Boosters would be alarmed if only for that reason and rush to cover the treaty.  There is a tiny of window of opportunity to stop the treaty and 'independent' media's not doing a damn thing.  Not that the 'anti-war' groups are doing a damn thing either.  The laughable United for Peace & Justice AND MONEY is still stroking itself with statements on Barack Obama's election win maintaint that their "consistent work . . . helped lay the foundation for the Obama campaign's success."  Remember that for their movement tombstone four years on down the line. 
American Friends Service Committee may be the only organization aware of the treaty.  And they make their translation the top link on their home page.  Campbell Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) report on Wednesday's Parliament session when the treaty was being read of the second day in a row: "For the next two hours, the Paliament speaker, Mahomoud Mashhadanai, 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 readng of the agreement, a matter of parliamentary procuedure.  As Mr. Sneid began reading, withensses 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. Massu'udi tried to attack Mr. Sneid."  Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) add: "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 quorom 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."  Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) explains, "Cabinet members, including foreign minister and finance minister, were scheduled to speak before parliament to lobby for the deal.  Instead, the session ended abruptly after a shoving match between a lawmaker and security guards." NPR's Ivan Watson (All Things Considered) notes that the TV feed of the session cut away: "The last thing viewers saw Wednesday was a lawmaker from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's faction denouncing the agreement.  Sadr has opposed the security pact almost from the beginning.  As his uspporter addressed parliament, the audio and video feed abruptly dropped out, and seconds later, state TV resumed regular programming with an unrelated news broadcast. Meanwhile, off-camera, uniformed Iraqi guards raced through the parliament building, locking doors and barring lawmakers and journalists from leaving. Rumors quickly spread that a fight had broken out inside the assembly hall."  At the New York Times' blog Baghdad Bureau, Stephen Farrell writes an intro to a collection of past reports by the paper on Iraq and treaties starting with October 12, 1922's "BRITISH CONCLUDE ALLIANCE WITH IRAK" and running through January 21, 1948's "8 DIE, 140 HURT IN IRAQ IN PROTEST OVER PACT" (which is actually an Associated Press report, not a report by the paper) -- all reports can be read in full and are in PDF format.
AP reports (today) that Hezbollah is calling on Iraq's MPs "to reject" the treaty.  Naharnet Newsdesk notes, "Hizbullah on Thursday called on Iraqi parliament members to reject the security pact with the United States saying, 'It touches on Iraq's future and sovereignty, population unity, it legitimizes U.S. presence in Iraq and ushers dangers."   Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) reports that the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, is "alarmed that the agreement . . . was about to unravel" so he held a press conference: "Hoping, perhaps, to frighten his opponents into their senses, he painted a grim picture of what would happen if the SOFA isn't ratified.  Iraq, he said, would have to ask the United Nations to renew the mandate that allows the U.S. military to occupy the country, and that would mean Iraq's security would remain in American hands.  That, Maliki said,  would leave tens of thousands of Iraqi detainees in U.S.-run prisons, he said -- a not-so-subtle hint to Sunnis and Sadrists, who complain that many of their supporters are unfairly detained.  And U.S. soldiers and contractors would remain immune from Iraqi law, a fact that angers Iraqis of all political stripes.  What's more, the Prime Minister said, the Americans would remain in control of Iraqi airspeace, 'and they will have the right to cancel even my flights'."
Scary puppet!  And lying puppet.  First off, airspace?  As the Iraqi military revealed last month in a press conference, they won't be able to take to the air until 2011 at the earliest.  And the treaty being proposed gives the US control of the airspace.  Prosecuting US soldiers?  They're not allowed to do that in the current treaty anyway.  It walks it to the edge but the US remains in control.  (And they grasped that at one point and were insisting that there be something in writing about who would be the deciding body to adjudicate disputes when the Iraqi and the US couldn't agree whether or not a US soldier should be tried by Iraqi courts.)  The bulk of the other things al-Maliki's raising aren't conditional either and could easily be dealt with by renewing the UN mandate not under Chapter 7 but under Chapter 6 or -- under 6 or 7 -- takcing on amendments (which Hoshyar Zebari has publicly stated he feels would make the US use their Security Council veto to kill the UN mandate).  Ayad Allawi favors extension under Chapter 6.  These and other important points are documented in a memo the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs compiled that's available online in PDF format here or here for non-PDF format.  AP notes that the Parliament is scheduled to vote Monday.  Meanwhile the Kurdish Globe reports Parliament's Kurdistan Coalition spokesperson Firyad Rwandizi is boasting of what the Kurds secured in the treaty, "The American side agreed on adding amendments demanded by the Kurds to be inserted within the agreement.  It commits the American government to defend the federalism system currently in Iraq and to prohibit any attempts to violate federalism by some political sides."  The Globe also highlights Peter Galbraith's November 12th NPR interview where he calls for Iraq to be divided: "We have, in the north Kurdistan, which is, in all regards, an independent country, with its own army and its own government. And now between the Shiites and the Sunnis there are two separate armies -- there's a Shiite army -- it's the Iraqi army, but it's dominated by the Shiites -- and in the Sunni areas there's now the Awakening -- a 100,000-man strong militia. And it is because of the Awakening, and not so much the surge of U.S. troops, that there's been this decline in attacks by al-Qaida."  We?  We have?  We have nothing.  Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people and Galbraith has schilled for the Kurdish government for sometime.  Equally true is that the Kurds are attempting to expand their region in nothern Iraq and that's a continued source of tension and violence so it's not quite as fairy land as Galbraith would prefer to imagine it.
The Kurdish region is where the PKK launches attacks on Turkey from and where Turkey air bombs Iraq.  Yesterday there was a Baghdad meet-up.  Xinhua reports Ali Babacan, Foreign Minister of Turkey has called the meet-up "very important and fruitful."  And they note the ministry's spokesperson Burak Ozugergin declared "that Turkey attached great importance to the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq."  Hurriyet notes that the meet-up led to the US, Turkey and Iraq deciding "to establish a permanent commission in Baghdad . . . to fight the terror organization . . . PKK" which "signals an important shift in Ankara's policy."
 Meanwhile Iraq's Foreign Ministry continues its busy week.  Already having thrown a Baghdad reception for Martin Eshbakher, Switzerland's Ambassador to Iraq, received Sweden's Minister of Trade, Ewa Bjorling and Iran's Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi, the Foreign Ministry notes that today the department's Minister Hoshyar Zebari met in Baghdad with Italy's Foreign minister Franco Frattini and they discussed "the scientific, healty, trade cooperation between both countries, as well as the agreements which both countries want to hold those agreements together" and that Frattini was supposed to follow his meeting by visiting "the Iraqi museum, then he will meet His Excellency the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, and Prime Minister, Nouri Al Maliki, as well as a number of the political characters of the Iraqi government."  ANSA notes that Frattini conveyed Italy's position regarding the need to protect Iraqi Christians in his meeting with al-Maliki who stated, "It's not a concession but a duty for Iraq to defend Christians who were the first to arrive in this country" and that Frattini also received assurances from Zebari that Iraq's Christian population was being protected from attacks.  AGI notes that Frattini also conveyed that "Italy strongly backs . . . the so-called 'Sofa'."
Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing that left three "presidential guards" injured
Reuters notes an armed clash outside Dour that claimed 6 lives and left three more people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a home invasion in Kut that resulted in 5 members of one family being killed.
Reuters notes 5 corpses discovered in Mosul and 1 corpse discovered in Shwan.
Today the US military announced: "CAMP FALLUJAH, IRAQ -- A Multi-National Force -- West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Nov. 19."