Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Press pulse

Starting with the treaty masquearding as a Status Of Forces Agreement.  Chris Floyd (Baltimore Chronicle) steps up to talk realities:
The American media is by and large swallowing the propaganda line that the Iraqi cabinet's acquiescense to a "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the U.S. occupation force means that the Iraq War will be over in in 2011.  This will further cement the conventional wisdom that the suppurating war crime in Iraq is now behind us, and the topic will be moved even further off the radar of public scrutiny.    
But as usual, there is a wide, yawning abyss between the packaged, freeze-dried pabulum for public consumption and thhe gritty, blood-flecked truth on the ground.  As Jason Ditz reports at Antiwar.com, the so-called "deadline" in 2011 for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces remains, as ever, an "aspiration," not an iron-clad guarantee.  The pace and size of the bruited "withdrawal" will remain, as ever, "conditions-based," says Pentagon and White House officials -- a position long echoed by the "anti-war" president-elect.  And as we all know, "conditions" in a war zone are always subject to radical, unexpected change.
And Campbell Robertson and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) deserve credit for this bit of reporting today on the treaty, "The concessions included establishing deadlines for withdrawing combat forces from Iraqi cities by naext June and from the county by the end of 2011, though officials said the text of the agreement included language that made those dates less rigid deadlines."  While they note US Rep Bill Delahunt, they fail to note the most important detail from the press release his office issued last week:
Next week's hearing will examine the possibility that any bilateral agreement reached between the Bush Administration and the government of Iraq may effectively tie the hands of the next Administration as a result of a clause in Article 31 in a draft of the accord that would prohibit the United States from cancelling it for one year.
The hearing is tomorrow and starts at ten a.m. The most important part is "a clause in Article 31 in a draft of the accord that would prohibit the United States from cancelling it [the "bilateral agreement"] for one year."  So the treaty's not all that binding.  Binding contracts do not allow either party to cancel in one year, 'binding contracts' trumpeted for what they will 'do' three years from now (2011) do not allow either party the option to cancel out starting in 2009.  Reuters reports that Ali Larijani, Iran's Speaker of Parliament, is decrying the treaty for "strengthening comprehensive U.S. hegemony in Iraq" while Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani released a statement today which includes: "The representatives of the Iraqi people in parliament must take on a big responsibility in this case and each must be up to this historic responsibility before God and the people."
The Washington Post asserts a 'change' in Barack Obama's stance on the treaty.  First let's review the public stance this year.
During the election, the Obama-Biden campaign website revealed their stance on the so-called SOFA in "Plan for Ending the War in Iraq:"

The Status-of-Forces-Agreement

Obama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval--yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

Post election,  Change.gov was set up as the official website for the Barack-Biden transition and if you pull up "The Obama-Biden Plan," you will find:

The Status-of-Forces Agreement
Obama and Biden believe it is vital that a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be reached so our troops have the legal protections and immunities they need. Any SOFA should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home.

That has been the official position, that Congressional approval was required and Congressional review.  However, Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) reports, "And the Obama transition team is signling that it wants Congress to review the pact, though not necessarily approve it."  That would be a huge shift from where Barack once stood.  It would also make Joe Biden look like a flat-out liar.  Or are we all supposed to forget the April 10th Senate Foreign Reltations committee he chaired where he told the State Dept's David Satterfield and the Defense Dept's Mary Beth Long that regarding their claim that the so-called SOFA didn't need Senator approval, "I respectfully suggest that you don't have a Constitutional leg to stand on."  And are we supposed to forget Senator Russ Feingold informing Satterfield, "I would suggest your difficulties are with the nature of our Constitution."  Or that Senators Norm Coleman and Johnny Isakson also called out the so-called SOFA (both senators are Republicans -- there was bi-partisan objection to the Senate's Constitutional role of approving any treaty being circumvented).  Back on the Democratic side, Senator Robert Menendez pointed out this bi-partisan objection, "Many of us on both sides of the aisle believe that such an agreement needs to come before Congress."   Senator Jim Webb made his position clear, "I would argue it's a document that needs Senate consent."
On both sides of the aisle, senators stood up for the Constitution (and let's not forget that they stood up in the House as well including US House Rep Susan Davis) and now this is going to be tossed aside or Barack Obama thinks it is?  That's what the Post reported this morning.  (Friends on the transition team told me this morning and this afternoon that the position has not changed and Senate approval remains the stance.  Whether that's true or not, I don't know.)  
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte spoke in Ireland yesterday where he strung together the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, "2001" and "extremism."  When the current administration leaves office will they take the direct and indirect fale-linkage of Iraq to 9-11 with him?  You'd think so but you'd also have thought that all that lip flapping in April meant something, that a Constituional scholar like Barack wouldn't be eager to spit on the Constitution before he's even sworn in; however, the Post feels their information on this is solid and Team Barack will not fight for or advocate Senate approval.  If true, he'll go into office a damn liar and never overcome it while Democrats in the Senate will be damned in the same manner.  (Russ Feingold being Russ would most likely speak out to some degree if the Senate was circumvented.  Would the rest?)  For eight years, Democrats and their media surrogates have tossed around phrases like "rule of law" and if they think they can drop them just because "their guy" got into the White House they better expect to see huge losses in both houses of Congress come November 2010.  And you can pair this potential move by Barack with Tom Burghardt's "Obama's Intelligence Agenda: More of the Same from the 'Change Administration'" (Dissident Voice):

While expectations may be high that the incoming Obama administration will reverse many of the worst features of the Bush regime–from warrantless wiretapping, illegal detention, torture, "targeted assassinations" and preemptive war–now that the cheering has stopped, expect more of the same. 
According to The Wall Street Journal, "President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party." 
With hyperbolic "change" rhetoric in the air, Obama is relying on a gaggle of former intelligence insiders, warmed-over Clinton administration officials and "moderate" Republicans, many of whom helped Bush craft his administration's illegal policies. 
With U.S. street cred at an all-time low, due in no small measure to Washington's hubristic fantasies that it really is an empire and not a rapidly decaying failed state, ruling elites have literally banked on Obama to deliver the goods. 
During his run for the White House, the Illinois senator may have mildly criticized some of the administration's so-called "counterterrorism" policies including the Bushist penchant for secrecy, the disappearance of "terrorist" suspects, driftnet surveillance of American citizens and legal residents, CIA "black site" gulags and the crushing of domestic dissent. 
But in the few scant days since the November 4 general election, the contours of what Democratic party corporatist grifters will roll-out come January 20 are taking shape. Citing Obama's carefully-crafted public relations blitz on the campaign trail opposing illegal spying, the Journal reports: 
Yet he ... voted for a White House-backed law to expand eavesdropping powers for the National Security Agency. Mr. Obama said he opposed providing legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided warrantless surveillance, but ultimately voted for the bill, which included an immunity provision.   
The new president could take a similar approach to revising the rules for CIA interrogations, said one current government official familiar with the transition. Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight. (Siobhan Gorman, "Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact," The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008) 

The "current government official" cited by the Journal fails to specify precisely what it means to "keep the road open" when it comes to torturing prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Conventions.


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