Thursday, April 10, 2008

Randi Rhodes and Air America Radio part ways

Randi Rhodes has left the building. The Air America Radio building. It is all over online. She refused to apologize for the vulgarities and slurs at a former First Lady and a former vice presidential candidate.

They have parted ways. The real story is that it was mutual and that she was told it was over without an apology. If she had been insulting Republicans (other than the First Family) in that manner, she probably would have gotten away with it, but Air America Radio exists to promote Democrats and she really crossed a line that they could not afford because they are struggling.

We did a brief roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review last weekend and Ava and C.I. said they were not typing it. Which no one blamed them for, they had to take notes through the whole thing and were tired Saturday night when the writing session started. But they are the quickest typists and, without them, it meant the writing edition would go on even longer if the transcript was typed up by someone else. But one of the audio pieces was used for Hilda's Mix audio newsletter and I asked that we use that one.

I had written about Ms. Rhodes awhile back. C.I. called me and said, "Ruth, your site is your site. I am not telling you what to write or what not to write. But she has problems, she is for Obama and before it blows up in your face, I thought I would give you a heads up. Do what you want but I just want to warn you." I said, "I will not mention her again." C.I. said, no, listen to the show tomorrow and see if you detect some of this. If so, find something else. So I listened and she was slanting the coverage. And she was losing her temper (as she had been doing at the AAR studio). I thought, "Oh, she is a powder keg." But I never expected anything like that to happen. The "drama" of her fall, I am wording that politely, is something that should have tipped me off but I missed that as well.

So she is gone and some are crying "Free speech!" No one is putting her in jail. No one is burning her CDs. She could have apologized and kept her job but she did not want to apologize. The network cannot afford her if she will not apologize. They are struggling and have been struggling.

What concerned some investors especially was that Senator Hillary Clinton may win the nomination. She and Senator Barack Obama are in a dead-heat currently. It could go either way. If Senator Clinton got the nomination, this was the concern, would Ms. Rhodes be willing to get on board or would she use her four hours a day to smear Senator Clinton regularly.

Air America Radio exists to be a cheerleader. Everyone still working there knows that. Ms. Rhodes remarks compromised the network. Her inability to apologize made her more of a liability. That is why she was let go. I do not know that "free speech" is really a concern for cheerleaders and, until recently, Ms. Rhodes has been happy to cheerlead. She offered excuses for months after the 2006 elections on how Congress could not afford to impeach. It was not unlike when, prior to Cindy Sheehan's emergence, she offered excuses for why Congress could not end the war. With both, she would argue with callers and tell them they were wrong. She was happy to be a cheerleader then. That is what she was brought on the network for. She violated her role and she lost her spot. I am not sure that qualifies as a free speech issue. I believe it falls under job performance. It is as though she stood in front of the bleachers smearing two people on the home team and the school got concerned about her rationality if not her sanity. She was removed from the squad. I really do not see it as a free speech issue.

This is Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Commander-in-Chief on Day One" for today:

Ready to be Commander-in-Chief: Yesterday, Hillary hosted a "Solutions for a Strong Military" town hall in Aliquippa, PA...Standing alongside retired Generals and Admirals, and local PA vets, Hillary discussed her "agenda to improve veterans services." Read more.
Calling on President Bush: At yesterday’s event, Clinton also "demanded that President Bush disclose his 'endgame' in Iraq...She also asked Bush to pledge in a speech today on Iraqi policy that he would allow Congress to 'review and vote on' any long-term security pact the administration negotiates with the Iraqi government."
Read more and more.
Setting the Record Straight: In a new 60-second radio ad, the Clinton campaign aims to set the record straight on Sen. Obama’s energy record. A misleading television ad claims Sen. Obama doesn’t take money from oil companies when in fact "Obama has accepted more than $213,000 from individuals who work for companies in the oil and gas industry and their spouses." Read the
fact check. Listen here.
New Endorsement: Former Pittsburgh Mayor and superdelegate, Sophie Masloff, endorsed Hillary today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Read more.
Strong in Puerto Rico: A new Puerto Rico poll conducted by Research & Research shows Hillary with a 13-point lead over Sen. Obama.
Results here.
Partner in Democracy: Yesterday, as "part of a whirlwind tour of eastern Pennsylvania…[former Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright told a group of about 75 people gathered in a classroom... 'We had a partnership. [Hillary] was able to deliver a tough message to leaders and then go out to the countryside and meet with women's groups and show her human side."
Read more.
Smart, Tough, and Committed: In a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, a supporter says of Hillary: "She still believes that ideas matter. She is intellectually brainy and emotionally brawny. She has the kind of remarkable endurance that makes it possible for her to press on, despite the klieg lights of controversy and criticism almost always trained in her direction. These are critical attributes for a world leader, and a U.S. president."
Read more.
Rocket Man Lends Star Power: Sir Elton John performed at a Hillary event at Radio City Music Hall in New York, raising more that $2.5 million for her campaign.
Read more.
Today in PA: Hillary attends the Beaver County Democratic Dinner in Hopewell Township, and gives remarks at the Allegheny County Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Pittsburgh.
On Tap: Hillary will campaign in the Philadelphia area on Friday and in Indiana on Saturday.
In Case You Missed It: The McCain campaign is renewing criticisms of Sen. Barack Obama for "deriding the public financing system for presidential[ing] it the latest signal that the Democratic candidate may abandon a promise to participate in the system, should he become the Democratic nominee."
Read more.

And this is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, April 10, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, what happens in Iraq come December 31st, Senate hearings, and more.

Starting with war resistance. War resistance includes resisting moves to put the draft back in place in the US so consider The Huffington Post no friend to war resisters since they insist upon running the crazy scribbles of a Bambi groupie named Frank Schaeffer who argues "progressives" (I guess that's to include the Closet Political Types and not just liberals) must support the draft and that the lack of a draft is why the illegal war drags on and that's due to an elevation of the military. What? Joe Lieberman tossed the 2000 election on NBC's Meet the Press when he waived all voting rules and regulations for those serving in the military who voted in Florida. That had nothing to do with the Iraq War. There is a glorification of the military (though not of individuals actually serving in the ranks who are ignored repeatedly in the press), there always has been. It helps sell wars. It's how corporations work. Maybe Right Wing Daddy hit Frankie too hard one day but the last thing the US needs is a draft. Wouldn't that argument, though, come from someone safely out of the age of a draft? Yeah, it would.

The lack of a draft isn't why the illegal war has dragged on. Were there a draft in place and able to immediately implement a draft lottery on March 1, 2003, it still wouldn't have made a difference in the illegal war going on currently. The Bully Boy believes in outsourcing. He believes in corporate welfare. The mercenaries (such as Blackwater) in Iraq currently would still be there even if there was a draft because the whole point -- something many generals objected to in real time (but Frankie forgets that) -- was to do the war on the cheap and to put as few boots on the ground as possible. So a draft is nonsense, it wouldn't have made a difference. Bully Boy wouldn't have activated it. I'm really sick of all the closeted types hiding behind the label "progressive" but the reality is there is nothing in it for the left in calling for a draft. That is so offensive and it would have to come from an idiot raised by a right-wing radical. There are no standards at The Huffington Post. We've seen that over and over. We've seen mentally disabled children MADE FUN of by those posting articles (not comments, articles) at The Huffington Post. There are NO standards. Crazy Frankie loves Bambi Obama and that's good enough for Arianna. We're not linking to that crap site. When they thought it was okay to make fun of mentally disabled children, they crossed a serious line. We're done with them. And we're obviously not missing anything since Fundamentalist Frankie is a featured writer there. (You'll note, Frankie's not a Democrat. If they had to depend upon actual Democrats to voice support for Barack, you'd hear nothing but crickets chirping.) The US doesn't need a draft and the left needs to loudly call that nonsense out.

They also need to pay attention to Canada. War resisters in Canada are attempting to be granted safe harbor. The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Hearings went on today regarding Iraq and we'll note them after the reported violence in Iraq but first we'll note that, yesterday, the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations held a meeting presided over by Senator Bill Nelson. Among those testifying was Mary Beth Kineston who noted at the start:

I hold a commercial truck driver's license and my husband John and I joined KBR on January 19, 2004 in order to go to Iraq and work for KBR at Camp Anaconda in what appeared to be an exciting and well paying truck driving job. I would earn compensation at the rate of about $84,000.00 per year tax free when employed at KBR. When I was hired I expected that KBR would protect my physical safety while working as far as it was able and I did not expect any special treatment merely because I was a female. I am a hard worker and a loyal employee and can deal with my share of hardships as evidenced by the fact I voluntarily agreed to work for KBR at a forward combat basein a war zone in Iraq as a condition of my employment. It is undisputed I was qualified for KBR employment as a truck driver at all times relevant. However, that being said, I was not expecting to trade my self respect or right to be free from sexual assault as a condition of continued KBR employment and I did not view myself as selling my human dignity as a female employee when I accepted KBR paychecks. I also expected that when I made a complaint about such activity, it would be thoroughly investigated in good faith, that is, with an intent to resolve the problem immediately, and that I would be protected from the perpetrator in the mean time. I also expected that if the laws were broken by KBR relative to gender discrimination or if I were a victim of a crime I would have an adequate legal remedy for the offense. I expected that given KBR had a sexual harassment policy and given KBR was obligated to abide by federal civil rights laws regarding gender discrimination it would protect me in the event I was a target of any sexual misconduct by co-workers. I can assure this Committee that none of my expectations about KBR were fulfilled.

Along with illegal sexual harassment, being denied access to restrooms, food and water, Kineston was raped and sexually assaulted after. She noted, "The perpetrators in my case have not spent a day in jail although they committed crimes on what amounts to in effect U.S. soil and committed acts that in this country would enver be tolerated."

"The bottom line,"
Senator Nelson stated, "is that American women working in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be assaulted while their assailants continue to go free. Either the U.S. government has the authority to prosecute contractors for sexual assault and is failing to do so, or it doesn't have the authority or resources it needs and hasn't come to Congress. Either way, it is a travesty." Lesley Clark (Miami Herald) reports: "An attorney with the Defense Department told Nelson the Pentagon is ramping up efforts to stamp out sexual harassment among government contractors." That would be Assoc Dept General Counsel for Military Justice and Personnel Policy at the Dept of Defense Robert Reed who declared, "The Department of Defense has engaged in a concerted effort to combat sexual assaults within our stateside and overseas military communities. Beginning in early 2005, over a dozen policy memorandums were issued that addressed sexual assault issues and care for victims of sexual assalt. The Department established a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to further these policy issues and, by June 2006, issued a DoD directive and DoD Instruction on the Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Program. The Program includes a netowrk of Sexual Assault and Response Coordinators and Sexual Assalut Victim Advocates who assist victims of sexual assault." That's blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Memos? They issued memos? Well that certainly is cover-your-own-ass-we've-got-documentation. But it's not addressing the situation and they have refused to address the situation. The programs are underfunded. The victims are discouraged from them. The 'justice' is non-existant. Kim Wendel (WKYC) notes that Dawn Leamon testified of how "she was sodomized and forced to have oral sex with a soldier and a co-worker after she drank a cocktail that made her feel strange." Maddy Sauer (ABC News) reports that when Leamon reported the sexual assaults, she was encouraged not to report it ("You know what will happen if you do") by KBR, she was "then assigned full-time security guards to her which gave her no privacy to talk about the incident, and her movements around camp were restricted, yet her attackers' movements were unrestricted." If it sounds familiar, you may be thinking back to December when Brian Ross, Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood were reporting on 22-year-old Jamie Leigh Jones who went to Iraq to work but ended up getting gang-raped by employees for Halliburton/KBR. The rape was folloed by KBR holding Jones in a pod and denying her food, water and contact with the outside world. A sympathetic co-worker passed her a cell phone allowing her to phone her father, "I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave." As US Senator Hillary Clinton [PDF format warning] noted then:

As I hope you are all aware, recent news accounts indicate that Ms. Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Baghdad, alleges she was gang-raped by her fellow employees and then held under guard against her will in a shipping container in order to prevent her from reporting the horrific crime. She states that she was denied food and water during her detention and told that she would be fired if she left Iraq to seek medical attention. More than two years later, news reports state that no U.S. government agency or department has undertaken a proper investigation of the incident. These claims must be taken seriously and the U.S. government must act immediately to investigate Ms. Jones' claims. These allegations implicate all three of your departments. If one of your departments has already launched a private investigation, I urge you to disclose your findings without delay. If no investigation has been started, I urge you to decide the proper course for an inquiry into these claims and to commence your investigation with the utmost urgency.

In Iraq,
Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Since March 25, when clashes with the Mahdi Army started in Basra, Baghdad, and other parts of southern Iraq, at least 142 people have been killed and 800 wounded in Sadr City alone, according to Qassim al-Suwaidi, the hospital's director [Iman Ali Hospital]. Nearly one-third of the victims have been women and children, he says. On Thursday, US air strikes continued to hit buildings in Sadr City and at least 15 people were killed in the district, the Mahdi Army's main Baghdad stronghold. The US military says it is targeting 'criminals'." Targeting 'criminals'? You heard the same excuse from the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki during the assault on Basra. A McClatchy Newspapers Iraqi correspondent visits the area and writes (at Inside Iraq):

When I passed the small bridge towards the new bus station, I noticed that I couldn't hear the shouting of the drivers. I kept walking for about five minutes and I reached the area I couldn't find the buses. I asked a young man and he told me that they were ordered by the American and the Iraqi forces not to stop in the place and more. I saw few American military vehicles. The street was empty. The Youngman told me "if you plan to walk, go through the bystreets because the American snipers may shoot you."

[. . .]

I know there is an ongoing fight between the American and the Iraqi forces from one side and the gunmen from Sadr City on the other side but I also know very well that there are thousands of families sponsors need to leave Sadr City to work in other places. Their life and their families needs depend on their daily wages they get. No daily wages may mean no lunch or no dinner for these families. People in Sadr City now suffer from the lack of food substances. Everybody knows that empty stomachs are always angry and dangerous. I believe that the military commanders who decided to impose the blockade on Sadr City know very well that women, old men, infants and children of Sadr City don't fight them. What is going on now in Sadr City is seems like mass punishment. It's not fair to punish the innocent and treat them as insurgents because they are not.

Anwar Ali (NYT's Baghdad Bureau) wrote Tuesday, "At the beginning we thought that maybe things would settle down within a few days, and we would again be busy following other usual problems like mortar shells, car boms, suicide bombers and I.E.D.s. In fact most of the people in most of the Shiite neighborhoods like ours are Sadrist, if not Mahdi Army, and they are very many. So we thought that the government would not do anything serious here because the Sadrists are the majority, and we can find them even within the army and the police. . . . In fact I realized that we still want to believe that the security situation is imporving and that those clashes are an illusion, and that the concrete proof of this is that we are still alive no matter what is going on around us." Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports, "The Iraqi capital remains under curfew after another round of bloodshed in which mortar rounds landed in Sadr City, killing seven people, including two children, and injuring 24 others. Further gunfights in the sprawling Shia slum led to six more dying and 15 others being wounded. The area is a centre of support for the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and came after days of clashes between his militia, the Mehdi Army, and Iraqi government forces in which 55 people have been killed and more than 200 injured. The Shia fighters vowed last night that retribution would be taken for the 'unprovoked attack' in Sadr City which they claimed was the responsibility of the US forces." As Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted earlier this week, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker was telling the US Congress this week that the passage of a bill calling for provincial elections was progress (those elections may or may not take place) but "[m]any Sadr loyalists viewed the offensive" currently going on in Iraq "as an attempt by Maliki's Dawa party and the Shiite rivals of the Sadr movement to undercut the much more popular Shiite movement prior to elections in October." Of planned elections, Mariam Karouny (Reuters) explains that, "Major players -- such as the movement of populist Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunni Arab tribal groups -- will be competing for the first time and are expected to make gains at the expense of those now in power. . . . The results will provide early clues on how parties will far in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2009 -- polls that will determine if Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki retains power or another leader takes his place." Citing "an Iraqi Interior Ministry official," UPI reveals that 6 civilians have died in "the past 24 hours from two U.S. air strikes in Sadr City area in Baghdad". Presna Latina reports, "The US warplanes continue targeting civilian areas, claiming that those opposed to the Iraqi government and the foreign occupation, as the Mahdi Army militants loyal to Shia Muslim clergyman Moqtada al Sadr, are hidden there." Iran's Press TV speaks to Salman al-Fraiji who "noted that three million inhabitants of Sadr City are presently under siege. They are prevented from leaving and from reaching food supplies" and quotes him stating, "We will obey the orders of Moqtada al-Sadr but if the violence against the Iraqis continues, if the blood of Iraqis continues to be spilled, the ceasefire will definitely be lifted." AFP cites, "An AFP reporter who toured Sadr City in the afternoon said streets were shaken sporadically by the sound of automatic gunfire while loud explosions were heard from time to time. The main streets were deserted. Residents said the roadways are primed with bombs placed by Shiite militiamen fighting US forces. US Apache helicopters were seen flying high overhead while the sound of warplanes could be heard."

In some of the other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that left eight people wounded, an attempted assassination via bombing in Salahuddin Province on the "Head of the Muncipal Council of Dor" that he survived, a Mosul mortar attack that left eleven people wounded and 2 car bombings in Mosul that claimed 4 lives (three police officers, one civilian) and left twenty-five people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a PUK member was shot dead in Nineveh province today, two children were shot dead in Kirkuk today and 1 representative of the Ministry of Interior was shot dead in Salahudding Province along "with one of his relatives". Reuters notes that the Kirkuk shooting that killed the two boys also wounded their parents.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 33 corpses were discovered in Mahmudiyah.

Today the
US military announced: "A Coalition force Soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle during convoy operations in central Baghdad April 9." ICCC's total is 4032 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 19 of those announced beginning on Sunday.

In Iraqi legal news,
Free Bilal. As Reporters Without Borders notes AP photographer, Pulitzer Prize winner, Bilal Hussein has been found not guilty of charges in the Iraqi courts -- trumped up charges the US has hidden behind to imprison him since April 12, 2006. Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that the court found Bilal "should be 'immediately' released" and yet the US military has not released him. Noah Barkin (Reuters) reports the US military is tating that they will 'review' his status.

Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports: "A secret draft agreement is being drawn up to allow United States forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely, it has been reported. The document, which was written a month ago and is and marked 'secret' and 'sensitive,' is intended to replace the United Nations mandate for coalition troops, including British forces, to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of the year. The draft authorisation would allow for the US to 'conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security'." That sets the stage for this morning's hearing by the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations. Senator Joe Biden is the chair of that committee and it has been addressing Iraq this week and last. McElroy was reporting on the treaty the White House wants to sign with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, the one they're calling a Status of Forces Agreement. As the hearing wound down, Biden informed David Satterfield (US State Department) and Mary Beth Long (US Defense Dept), "I respectfully suggest that you don't have a Constitutional leg to stand on."

But that was the conclusion. The hearing started with Biden noting the Declaration of Principles that Bully Boy and al-Maliki put their names to in November which sent up "many red flags with me and other Americans. We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?

Senator Joe Biden: We will hear today about the two agreements that the Administration is negotiating with Iraq which were anticipated in the November Declaration. On Tuesday, Ambassador Crocker told us that these agreements would set forth the "vision" -- his phrase -- of our bilateral relationship with Iraq. One agreement is a "strategic framework agreement" that will include the economic, political and security issues outlined in the Declaration of Principles. The document might be better titled "What the United States will do for Iraq," because it consists mostly of a series of promises that flow in one direction -- promises by the United States to a sectarian government that has thus far failed to reach the political compromises necessary to have a stable country. We're told that the reason why we're not continuing under the UN umbrella is because the Iraqis say they have a sovereign country. But they don't want a Status of Forces Agreement because that flows two ways. The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is. The second agreement is what Administration officials call a "standard" Status of Forces Agreement, which will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including their entry into the country and the immunities to be granted to them under Iraqi law. Unlike most SOFAs, however, it would permit U.S. forces -- for the purposes of Iraqi law -- to engage in combat operations and detain insurgents. In other words, to detain people that we think are bad guys. I don't know any of the other nearly 90 Status of Forces Agreements that would allow a U.S. commander to arrest anyone he believes is a bad guy.

Biden spoke of how US Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the committee on Tuesday that this was about setting "forth a vision, to use his words, of our relationship with Iraq" but "one of the problems . . . is the visition this administrations shares for Iraq is not shared by two of the thee" current candidates for president in the Democratic and Republican Parties -- referring to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Biden noted that those appearing before Congress keep stating that the agreements "aren't binding to us but, in Iraq, they think we mean it . . . because otherwise we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion." Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment." He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out."

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained. "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?" No, that thought never occurred to the White House. "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?" The two witnesses didn't appear to have heard that fact before. Feingold repeated and asked, "Are you not concerned at all that the majority of the Iraqi Parliament has called for withdrawal" Satterfield feels the US and the agreement "will enjoy broad popular support" in Iraq. Satterfield kept saying the agreement wasn't binding. And Feingold pointed out, "The agreement will not bind the Congress either, if the Congress were to" pass a law overriding it which seemed to confuse Satterfield requiring that Feingold again point that out and ask him if "Congress passed a clear law overriding the agreement, would the law override the agreement." Satterfield felt the White House "would have to look carefully at it at the time" because "it would propose difficult questions for us."

"I would suggest," Feingold responded, "your difficulties are with the nature of our Constitution. If we pass a law overiding it . . . that's the law." The treaty and the efforts to bypass the Senate's advise & consent role was something that bothered senators on both sides of the aisle. Senators Norm Coleman and Johnny Isakson also addressed it. Republican Isaskson wanted to know if the agreement being pushed could be cancelled "by either at any time". "Yes, sir," Satterfield responded. Isakson noted the "pending elections" and couldn't remember a time when anything like that had happened before, where you'd put forth an agreement like this so close to the end of term. Mary Beth Long wasn't aware of a precedent either. Sentor Coleman was also concerned with the timing.

Senator Robert Menendez pointed out that renewing the UN authorization would mean there was no need for an agreement. "Many of us on both sides of the aisle," Menendez stated, "believe that such an agreement needs to come before Congress." Menendez also felt that things were being offered without any bargaining being made, that "a tremendous leverage opportunity" was being wasted and, in doing so, "undermining a critical opportunity to make the Iraqi government make the hard choices." Senator Jim Webb built upon the legal issues. "In your view," he asked Satterfield, "the international authority after December 31st would come from what document?" Satterfield attempted to bob and weave to duck the issue but Webb pursued the topic forcing Satterfield to finally answer that it would be the executive agreement that would be "binding."

"What you're maintaining," Webb pointed out, "is that an executive agreement can bind us -- let me use a better word -- can authorize a continue military presence in Iraq?" Satterfield hemmed and hawwed but finally agreed leading Webb to stress that if "it's an essential document . . . I would argue it's a document that needs Senate consent."

Webb: What is a premanent base?

Satterfield: Senator the administration has made clear that we're not seeking permanent bases in Iraq.

Webb continued to explore the meaning of "permanent base" and asked Long, "Are there permanent bases in Japan?" Webb explained, "It's sort of a dead word, it doesn't really mean anything" noting the whole concept of 'permanence' and that "to say that these won't be permanent bases really doesn't go to what they will be. What we're saying won't be -- it's a dead word." He then noted that the Status of Forces Agreement the White House wants is said to "reflect all the major parties of Iraq but at this point it does not reflect all the major parties in the US."

As the hearing wound down, Biden pointed out, "Truth is, when this UN authorization expires in January, no other foreign forces are allowed to be in Iraq unless the Iraqi government" enters into contracts "with those countries" because they "can't piggyback on the agreement" the White House wants to make. He then took up the issue of the 2002 resolution and noted that if the US is creating an agreement "with a government in Iraq, it's not longer a threat ."

"That's an awful hard case to explain to the American people," Biden stressed, pointing to the death toll, the number wounded and how "if that ain't enough then guess what? If the Iraqi Parliament votes for us to go home, guess what? I predict 89% of Republicans, 95% of the Democrats [and --% of the independnets) will say, 'Hey, man, they don't want us? We're out of there."

This afternoon (and it's still going on as I dictate this), the US Senate Armed Services Committee heard from Sec of Defense Robert Gates and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen. Senator Carl Levin is the chair of the committee. As Gates and Mullen completed their opening statements, Levin pointed out to Gates, "There's no way you can paper over the difference between" his view and that of Gen Petraeus over the brief pause in withdrawing the troops added in Iraq for the escalation/surge. Gates agreed that "there certainly is a difference in the way we described it" but felt it was just a misunderstanding and offered the most convulated justification (that included "I talked to the press at the time, I continue to believe . . . while we use different words") tried to say they were on the same page and that "I believe," come September, Petraeus will be on the same page with Gates but Petraeus needs to time to think. He's such a rebel, that Davy Petraeus. In fact, Gates was making like Darlene Love and singing, "He's a Rebel" to Congress. Levin wasn't buying it, "General Petraeus' testimony is very different from what you're saying hearing." Still sounding like a sap (or speaking for the girl groups of the 60s), Gates insisted it wasn't any different, he and Davy were just alike but "one of the benefits" to being Gates "is I'm allowed to hope more than" he does. "I hope that you're doing more than hoping," Levin deadpanned noting that Gates' job was to give a clear assessment to the president.

Senator Bill Nelson stressed the issue of reimbursment and wanted to know about that. He pressed Gates to figure out what "could be reimbursable by the Iraqis so that they don't come at the expense of the American taxpayers borrowing on future generations." Gates noted that "the subject of them reimbursing us . . . has not been broached yet." Nor apparently even considered due to "this focus on reconstruction and military equipment but" cheerily Gates added "based on this hearing, I'm more than happy to take this back to the administration."

As part of the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, today Bully Boy gave a speech. Instead of recounting his nonsense, we'll note
Senator Hillary Clinton's response:

Today, President Bush delivered yet another address on Iraq -- but we've heard enough speeches that are long on promises, short on facts.
And the fact is, there will probably be more troops in Iraq after the surge than before the surge. Iraq has barely moved toward political reconciliation, meeting only a few of the benchmarks set out by the Bush Administration at the start of the surge. And violence has once again spiked in Baghdad and Basra.
On Tuesday, I asked General Petraeus when he came before the Senate Armed Services Committee what conditions would mean we should change course, given that the surge has failed to achieve political reconciliation. He did not answer.
Yesterday I called on President Bush to answer the question General Petraeus did not. But the President refuses to face reality.
I want to commend President Bush for agreeing to cut the length of deployments from 15 to 12 months. But it is deeply unfortunate that the President only made this change when the strain he placed on our forces required it.
Now, once again President Bush is asking Americans for time and patience -- but the American people are saying he's had enough of both.
Our troops have done all that's been asked of them and more. It's time for the President to answer the question being asked of him: in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?
As President, I will do what this president has failed to do: recognize reality and end the war responsibly.

mcclatchy newspapers