Sunday, December 14, 2008

Editorial: The treaty's not that confusing

We warned you.

Both about the fact that the Cockburn family was flat-out nuts and that the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement wasn't the beauty it was being sold as.

Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn showed up last week to beat off to his own revenge fantasy he entitled "It's All Spelled Out in Unpublicized Agreement: Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq" (CounterPunch):

On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out attacks on other countries from Iraq.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional.

Categorical and unconditional? Cockburn, you studied contract law where? Poor Cockburn, he made a fool of himself Thursday. And was called out in that day's snapshot, "I Hate The War," etc. Cockburn went nutso Thursday morning and couldn't have known that by late afternoon,
David Morgan and Anthony Boadle (Reuters) would be reporting, "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments."

Slap upside Cockburn's head. After the laughter and applause dies down, grasp that the treaty has been addressed here multiple times (and even more at The Common Ills). There's really no excuse for journalists not to grasp it and Cockburn -- allegedly -- is a journalist.

Along with al-Dabbagh's statement, more bad news was in store for Crazy Ass Patrick who called the treaty "categorical and unconditional" and included in his litany the 'fact' that "150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. " We'll come back to 2011 but let's focus on that June 30, 2008 'fact' first. Saturday, Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) reported:

The top American commander in Iraq said that U.S. forces will remain in dozens of small bases inside Iraq's cities despite language in a recently-signed security pact which appears to require an American withdrawal from Iraqi urban areas by next summer.
Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters here that the U.S. troops assigned to "joint security stations" inside Iraqi cities like Baghdad would remain in the outposts indefinitely. The bases, which are a key part of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, house thousands of American personnel across the country. There are well over a dozen such outposts in Baghdad alone.Gen. Odierno, who assumed command in September, explained that the withdrawal provision in the security pact applied only to combat personnel. The U.S. forces assigned to the joint security stations mentor and fight alongside Iraqi troops, so American commanders classify them as training personnel and don't consider them to be covered by the withdrawal language, he said.

B-b-but, Crazy Ass Cockburn said it was 'facts,' he said so while the foam around his mouth was still damp!

Crazy Ass doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. The US has a long history of treaties and the history is one of other parties thinking they got a good deal, a fair deal or even a better deal. Reality is that the US always ensures no one comes out ahead of them in any treaty. Ask the Native Americans, ask the people of Panama, ask anyone who has ever signed a treaty with the US how that worked out?

Too old to bust a move but hoping he could still bust a nut, Patrick Cockburn set reality aside so that he was, as the Pointer Sisters once put it, "seeing what you wanted to see." And that, to him, was more important than history or, for that matter, what the treaty actually states.

It is a one-year agreement that can run through 2010 and 2011. Or, as worded in the contract, it can be cancelled by either party (it does not require that both agree to the cancellation) at any time -- they just have to give a year's notice. The US or Iraq could serve notice in 2009 or 2010 that they wanted to cancel the contract. In which case, the 'great departure' that is 'promised' for the end of 2011 no longer applies even as an 'aspiration.'

"Aspirational." The term Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, used to describe the alleged 'promises' in the treaty after Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet had signed off on it. Did people think Perino was confused? Did they think she didn't grasp the meaning of "aspirational"? If so, jokes on the idiots like Cockburn, not Perino. She knew what she was stating and she stated it correctly. Independent journalist Chris Floyd could hear her and grasp what she was stating. It was only the likes of Crazy Cockburns that couldn't see the obvious.

Patrick Cockburn isn't just Crazy Ass, he's Crazy Ass Insane. He writes, "On the same day that it was finally passed by the Iraqi parliament international attention was wholly focused on the murderous terrorist attack in Mumbai." In the US, that date of passage was Thanksgiving Day. A national holiday. That explains, for the US, some of the lack of clarity regarding the treaty. Equally true is that a lot of people spun reality (like Cockburn attempted to last week) and that only made it all the more confusing.

Here's Patrick jerking so furiously that we're beginning to understand where the family name comes from, "The White House was so keen to limit understanding of what it had agreed in Iraq that it did not even to publish a copy of the SOFA in English." Uh-no, that's neither correct nor truthful. The White House stated they would publish the agreement after the Iraqi Parliament voted (and it as reported this was to avoid hurting the treaty's chances to pass).

Despite that vote taking place on Thanksgiving, the treaty was posted, in English, at the White House's site. We know that. We know that because C.I. planned to take Thanksgiving off. Then got alerted the White House had just posted the treaty and, grasping how important it was, quickly pulled together an entry. From that day's snapshot:

"Iraqi lawmakers today approved a pact allowing U.S. forces to stay in the country through 2011 after winning support from skeptics by promising a public referendum on the plan," explain Raheem Salman and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) and they go on to note that "[a]ccording to the agreement" troops out in 2011! Which agreement? The Arabic one the puppet government thinks is final or the English one the White House refuses to release because, as Adam Ashton, Jonathan S. Landay and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes." This was noted last week in a Congressional hearing as well so it's really past time to stop speaking of the agreement singular. Salman and Susman do a better job explaining this:
The pact, while not explicitly stating that an extension can be sought, allows for amendments if both sides agree to them.
U.S. officials have indicated that they interpret that as permitting a possible extension, if security conditions in Iraq are deemed too shaky to leave Iraqi security forces in charge. "There is a provision for extension, by agreement of both sides," one U.S. official said in discussing the pact.
Yeah, it's a one-year agreement. Only 2009 cannot be changed or cancelled. Everything else that the White House says is set-in-stone is actually a conditional option that can be wiped away by either side. Today the White House finally released the agreement in English. We'll jump in at Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective:
1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.
Get it? Paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." Meaning only 2009 is set in stone. It is too late for either party (US or Iraq) to give one year's notice and cancel it in 2009. They can give notice to cancel in 2010 or 2011. The second clause is also worth noting because it weakens the strength of any agreement as well: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agreement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in effect in both countries." That's the aspect that allows for a change and all the 'flowery' respect for Constitutional procedures is hog wash. The Iraqi Parliament needed to have two-thirds of all members (not just members present) to pass the treaty today. They did not have that. According to their Constitution and their laws, that's what was needed. In the US, Congressional approval is needed over all treaties and we know that has not take place. We further know that Barack Obama -- alleged Constitutional scholar -- doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. He show boated and did his little pretty words number while campaigning but despite all his insisting that the treaty would have to come before the Congress -- including becoming one of thirteen co-sponsors on Hillary Clinton's Senate bill insisting upon that -- he shut his corporate mouth and put his tiny tail between his legs to slink off like the disgusting, cowering trash he is. He's not going to stand up for the Constitution 'later.' He couldn't stand up for it right now. An agreement built upon a systematic disrespect for the rule of law does not suddenly develop one. An agreement built upon lies does not suddenly embrace honesty. The treaty is built on lies and they include the lies to the American people. Why is the US pursuing this treaty? The White House keeps talking about these 'recent' gains in Iraq. Today is November 27th of 2008. Recent would, for most of us, go back no further than the end of spring. But Article 25 explains Nouri al-Maliki and Condi Rice notified the United Nations that the Security Council's mandate would be cancelled at the end of this year . . . last year. al-Maliki's letter was dated December 7th, Rice's December 10th. 'Recent' events? The agreement the White House has released may not be the official agreement or the final one. It is the one that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari signed November 17, 2008. The note above their signatures states: "Signed in duplicate in Baghdad on this 17th day of November, 2008, in the English and Arabic languages, each text being equally authentic."
That version is published online by the White House in PDF format (click here). The Bully Boy of the United States released the following statement today: "Earlier today, in another sign of progress, Iraq's Council of Representatives approved two agreements with the United States, a Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement, often called a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. The Strategic Framework Agreement sets the foundation for a long-term bilateral relationship between our two countries, and the Security Agreement addresses our presence, activities, and withdrawal from Iraq. Today's vote affirms the growth of Iraq's democracy and increasing ability to secure itself. We look forward to a swift approval by Iraq's Presidency Council. Two years ago, this day seemed unlikely -- but the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi parliament. The improved conditions on the ground and the parliamentary approval of these two agreements serve as a testament to the Iraqi, Coalition, and American men and women, both military and civilian, who paved the way for this day."

Crazy Ass Cockburn never felt he needed to check anything before submitting his 'report.' He didn't think the White House published an English version of the treaty and 'don't think so' qualified as fact checking to him. Cockburn's 'report'/column is an embarrassment on every level: (1) as a predictor, (2) as a summary and (3) as basic journalism.

Our favorite fact-free moment in Cockburn's column may be when he scribbles that "the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement." He forgets to tell you how many people voted. That's because only 149 MPs voted for the treaty. The Parliament has 275 members -- many of whom elected to skip the vote.

It's really past time that the press -- All Things Media Big and Small -- started reporting reality. It might, for instance, require abandoning the j/o fantasies or leaving them in the bed/bathroom, but reporting was never supposed to start with "Dear Penthouse Forum . . . "


American Freedom Campaign notes:

The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a
resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by
clicking on the following link
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.
Steve Fox

Campaign Director
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund
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