Dr. Larry Egbert and I were lobbying in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, April 10 on behalf of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. We urged aides to get Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski to work to prevent the Bush administration from attacking Iran , building new nuclear weapons and signing a deal with India to provide the country with nuclear technology. Mark Clack in Cardin’s office was more receptive to our entreaties than Carolyn Chuhta in Mikulski’s office. Chuhta had to check with the senator before responding.
Clack also told us about a hearing that day, where Bush administration officials were unresponsive when senators confronted them that it is necessary to get Congressional approval, as outlined in the Constitution, before signing any agreements with Iraq. See below for the news reports of the exchange of views.
t r u t h o u t | 04.11
US, Iraq Negotiating Security Agreements
By Karen DeYoung
The Washington Post
Friday 11 April 2008
The Bush administration is negotiating two accords with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to replace the U.N. mandate for a multinational military presence there that expires at the end of this year.
The first is a "status of forces agreement," or SOFA, defining and protecting the legal status of U.S. military personnel and property in Iraq . Negotiated and signed under executive authority, it is a binding commitment but does not require congressional approval.
Among aspects unique to the proposed SOFA, Senate Democrats said, are that it would allow U.S. forces to unilaterally initiate military operations and to detain Iraqis, and would immunize civilian U.S. contractors from prosecution in Iraq .
The second agreement is a long-term "strategic framework" the administration has said will establish "cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and security fields." A "statement of principles" that Bush and Maliki signed in December said the framework, which they plan to sign by July 31 to take effect Jan. 1, included "security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace."
Congressional Democrats have said that the agreement, as outlined by the administration, constitutes a defense treaty commitment requiring Senate ratification. The administration has said it is "nonbinding," will not include language on specific troop numbers or authorize permanent bases, and does not commit the United States to defend Iraq . It also asserts that the agreement is within Bush's executive authority.
In a meeting yesterday with Washington Post editors and reporters, U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker described the framework as a "political document" and said Congress will be kept fully briefed on the negotiations. "We're hopeful that as it moves along, it will become apparent that both hands are above the table on this," Crocker said.
David M. Satterfield, the State Department's lead official on Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the agreement would not limit the options of a future U.S. administration, because either side could cancel it at any time.
Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) questioned whether the United States should be negotiating agreements it may not keep. "Big nations can't make assurances, whether legally binding or not, without having consequences when they don't fulfill that obligation," Biden said.
Senators Warn Bush About Iraq Security Agreements
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
Friday 11 April 2008
The lawmakers, who want a say in the matter, worry that the proposed deals could put limits on the next president.
Washington - Senators warned Thursday that Congress would not allow the Bush administration to complete pending security agreements with Iraq without lawmakers' approval, because of concerns that the pacts would tie the hands of the next president.
The administration is negotiating two agreements with Iraq - over long-term security strategy and over rules for activities of the U.S. military. Administration officials have said they intend to keep Congress informed about the deals but will not seek explicit approval from lawmakers.
At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members said the agreements would be viewed by Iraq as lasting commitments. They said the dispute could lead to a major collision between the White House and Congress before the November election.
Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy.
He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that "if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving" the agreements. "This is folly!" Biden said.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined in the criticism. "Do you understand what you're up against?" he asked Satterfield. Voinovich said congressional unhappiness had reached the point where "you're not going to get this done."
Satterfield said Iraqi officials were eager to end the United Nations agreement that authorized the U.S. presence in Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi government.
But senators suggested that the administration explore whether Iraqi officials would agree to extend the U.N. mandate for three months so the incoming U.S. administration could examine the agreements.
The administration argued that the government had reached security agreements with more than 80 countries without Senate approval. They said the Iraq agreements would not set troop levels or establish permanent bases.
What Basis for "Permanent" Bases?
The Washington Post
Friday 11 April 2008
The Bush administration has assured Congress that it does not seek to establish "permanent" U.S. military bases in Iraq . But an exchange yesterday among Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), State Department Iraq coordinator David Satterfield and Assistant Defense Secretary Mary Beth Long at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing suggests that permanence lies in the mind of the beholder:
Webb: What is a permanent base?
Satterfield: Senator, the administration has made quite clear that we are not seeking permanent bases in Iraq . . . .
Webb: Right. But what is a permanent base? Are our bases in Japan permanent bases?
Long: I have looked into this. As far as the department is concerned, we don't have a worldwide or even a department-wide definition of permanent bases. I believe those are, by and large, determined on a case-by-case basis. . . .
Webb: Well, I understand that. But basically my point is it's sort of a dead word. It doesn't really mean anything.
Long: Yes, Senator, you're completely right. It doesn't. . . .
Webb: We've had bases in Korea since 1953, anyway, and I would be hard-pressed to say they're permanent. How long is permanent? We have bases in Japan under a security agreement, but we are relocating a lot of those to Guam , so I wouldn't say that they are permanent. So to say that these won't be permanent bases really doesn't go to the question of what they will be. It goes to the question of what they won't be. And what we're saying they won't be is a dead word.
Long: Senator, you're exactly right. I think most lawyers . . . would say that the word "permanent" probably refers more to the state of mind contemplated by the use of the term.
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