Standoff in Iraq Is NOT Just About Oil or Unwanted US Presence,

June 21, 2008


The decisive battle of the Iraq war is shaping up – not in the streets of Baghdad but in the halls of government where the future of America’s role across the region is on the line.

American and Iraqi officials have expressed new resolve to hammer out far-reaching deals that would allow U.S. forces to remain on bases across Iraq once the U.N. mandate expires at year’s end.

The stakes in the talks are enormous.

The outcome will shape not just Iraq for years to come – but, more important, America’s strategic position all across the oil-rich Persian Gulf at a time when Iran’s influence is growing. The U.S. maintains substantial air and naval forces elsewhere in the Gulf but few ground troops except in Iraq.

A pact also would assure Arab allies that Iraq would not fall under domination by Iran, which is pressuring the Iraqis to refuse any deal that keeps U.S. soldiers here.

But critics in the United States fear it will tie the hands of the next president when millions of Americans are anxious to bring troops home. Many Iraqis, in turn, worry the deal will allow American domination of their country for decades.

With so much in the balance, the Iraqi government said Wednesday that both Washington and Baghdad recognize the need to finish the talks by July’s end “to avoid any legal vacuum that may arise.”

That came only days after it seemed the deal was dead. But Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the prospects for an accord had brightened because of new U.S. flexibility after meetings in Washington.

The White House said President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki discussed the talks Thursday via secured video teleconference and affirmed their commitment to completing the deal.

Nevertheless, the two sides remain far apart on core issues, including the number of bases where the United States will have a presence, and U.S. demands for immunity from Iraqi law for American soldiers and contractors.

Other obstacles include U.S. authority to detain suspects, fight battles without Iraqi permission and control of the country’s airspace.

Iraq’s parliament must sign off on the deal by year’s end – and approval is by no means certain.

Opposition to the initial U.S. demands brought together rival Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders who all complain the deal would leave real power in American hands.

The oil minister, who is close to the country’s powerful Shiite clerical leadership, told the British newspaper The Guardian this week that Iraq will demand the right to veto any U.S. military operation.

But American commanders believe they need such sweeping powers to protect U.S. soldiers in a combat zone.

Publicly, U.S. officials have expressed confidence they can find language that will satisfy the Iraqis on all major issues. But the negotiations are taking place against the backdrop of war and intense power struggles among rival ethnic groups in Iraq – each with its own agenda.

The U.S. operates scores of bases throughout the country, including the sprawling Camp Victory headquarters in Baghdad, Asad air base in western Iraq and the giant air facility at Balad, a 16-square-mile installation about 60 miles north of the capital that houses tens of thousands of American troops, contractors and U.S. government civilians.

It’s still unclear how many of the facilities Washington would want to keep.

If all else fails, the two sides could go back to the U.N. Security Council and seek an extension of the mandate allowing troops in Iraq.

But that could prove politically embarrassing – and difficult – in the waning days of the Bush administration or the early days of the new U.S. presidency.

The current standoff has its roots in events last August when leaders of Iraq’s rival factions – facing enormous U.S. pressure to resolve their differences – signed a declaration of unity.

It included a statement that Iraq’s government wanted a long-term security relationship with the United States apart from U.N. mandates, which Iraq has long wanted to end.

A few months later, Bush and al-Maliki signed a statement of principles to negotiate two agreements – a broad security framework and a second deal spelling out the rules for the U.S. military presence.

Talks began in March but Iraqi officials were outraged over the initial U.S. demands – especially immunity for U.S. soldiers and security contractors.

The American draft also included no firm commitment to defend Iraq from foreign invasion – which would require U.S. Senate approval – nor a timetable for the departure of American troops, according to Iraqi officials. U.S. officials have released few details.

After Iraqi negotiators briefed lawmakers last month, politicians from all walks paraded in front of microphones to denounce the U.S. proposals.

Some commentators likened the U.S. position to the Iraqi-British treaty of 1930, which gave Britain virtual control of the country and is widely seen here as a humiliation.

Shiite lawmaker Haidar al-Abadi, speaking for al-Maliki’s party, said June 4 that “negotiations are at a standstill, and the Iraqi side is studying its options.” A week later al-Maliki himself said talks had reached a “dead-end.”

Aides scrambled to clarify that al-Maliki did not mean negotiations were over. But his comments reflected Iraq’s resolve not to accept an agreement short of major Iraqi demands.

“We could not give amnesty to a soldier carrying arms on our soil,” al-Maliki said then.

Such comments reflect each Iraqi faction’s need to publicly defend Iraq’s rights, amid the country’s intense political rivalry.

Some Sunni groups, for example, privately favor a continued American presence as a counterweight to Iran’s influence among Shiites. Yet several leading Sunni politicians signed a letter to Congress insisting on a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal – in part to needle al-Maliki on an nationalistic issue.

Shiite parties, in turn, believe the agreement would shore up American support for al-Maliki ahead of parliamentary elections next year – a goal they seek. But Shiite leaders are also anxious to take over full control of their country.

Meanwhile, recent Iraqi military successes against al-Qaida in Mosul and Shiite extremists in the south have convinced some Shiite politicians they don’t really need America.

“Iraq has another option that it may use,” al-Maliki said recently. “The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the U.N. terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil.”

This story is originally posted at AssociatedPress.com

iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Judge Rules White House Not required To Turn Over Emails

June 16, 2008

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the White House Office of Administration is not required to turn over records about a large collection of possibly missing e-mails. The ruling found the agency does not have “substantial independent authority” so it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The decision means the White House does not have to disclose documents relating to its troubled e-mail system which may have caused millions of White House e-mails to be unaccounted for.

The lawsuit was originally saught by watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had sued under FOIA, which expressed disappointment in the ruling and is appealing the decision.

In January, the White House said it cannot rule out that it may have lost certain e-mails from a period in which the United States decided to go to war with Iraq, White House officials leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame and the Justice Department started a criminal investigation into who leaked the information.

The White House has denied any e-mails have been destroyed.

iNPLACENEWS


Barack Obama First Black President of Harvard Law Review

June 7, 2008

The Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

The Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago’s South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.

”The fact that I’ve been elected shows a lot of progress,” Mr. Obama said today in an interview. ”It’s encouraging.

”But it’s important that stories like mine aren’t used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don’t get a chance,” he said, alluding to poverty or growing up in a drug environment.

What a Law Review Does

Law reviews, which are edited by students, play a double role at law schools, providing a chance for students to improve their legal research and writing, and at the same time offering judges and scholars a forum for new legal arguments. The Harvard Law Review is generally considered the most widely cited of the student law reviews.

On his goals in his new post, Mr. Obama said: ”I personally am interested in pushing a strong minority perspective. I’m fairly opinionated about this. But as president of the law review, I have a limited role as only first among equals.”

Therefore, Mr. Obama said, he would concentrate on making the review a ”forum for debate,” bringing in new writers and pushing for livelier, more accessible writing.

A President’s Future

The president of the law review usually goes on to serve as a clerk for a judge on the Federal Court of Appeals for a year, and then as a clerk for an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Mr. Obama said he planned to spend two or three years in private law practice and then return to Chicago to re-enter community work, either in politics or in local organizing.

Professors and students at the law school reacted cautiously to Mr. Obama’s selection. ”For better or for worse, people will view it as historically significant,” said Prof. Randall Kennedy, who teaches contracts and race relations law. ”But I hope it won’t overwhelm this individual student’s achievement.”

Change in Selection System

Mr. Obama was elected after a meeting of the review’s 80 editors that convened Sunday and lasted until early this morning, a participant said.

Until the 1970’s the editors were picked on the basis of grades, and the president of the Law Review was the student with the highest academic rank. Among these were Elliot L. Richardson, the former Attorney General, and Irwin Griswold, a dean of the Harvard Law School and Solicitor General under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

That system came under attack in the 1970’s and was replaced by a program in which about half the editors are chosen for their grades and the other half are chosen by fellow students after a special writing competition. The new system, disputed when it began, was meant to help insure that minority students became editors of The Law Review.

Harvard, like a number of other top law schools, no longer ranks its law students for any purpose including a guide to recruiters.

Blacks at Harvard: New High

Black enrollment at Harvard Law School, after a dip in the mid-1980’s, has reached a record high this year, said Joyce Curll, the director of admissions. Of the 1,620 students in the three-year school, 12.5 percent this year are blacks, she said, and 14 percent of the first-year class are black. Nationwide enrollment by blacks in undergraduate colleges has dropped in recent years.

Mr. Obama succeeds Peter Yu, a first-generation Chinese-American, as president of The Law Review. After graduation, Mr. Yu plans to serve as a clerk for Chief Judge Patricia Wald on the of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Mr. Yu said Mr. Obama’s election ”was a choice on the merits, but others may read something into it.”

The first female editor of The Harvard Law Review was Susan Estrich, in 1977, who recently resigned as a professor at Harvard Law School to take a similar post at the University of Southern California. Ms. Estrich was campaign manager for Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts in his campaign for the Presidency in 1988.

Found originally @ New York Times

iNPLACENEWS


Barack Obama – Presumptive Nominee

June 4, 2008

Barack Obama makes history as the first African-American to become a major political party nominee for the position of President of the United States. We have come a long way from the back of the bus to the head of the country. Whether or not you choose to vote for Obama in November, we all must respect what he has accomplished. He was the underdog, behind in the polls only a year ago. Hillary Clinton despite her loss has also accomplished so much. The laast woman to come close to her position was Geraldine Ferraro, but I believe Hillary has surpassed even her. This election has been historical, leaving us with something to be proud of after the complete fiasco of the previous two election cycles. I enoucrage people to nevertheless read all the candidates records, listen to their speeches, and judge them individually. My own mother wanted to vote for Hillary because she was a woman. My friends wanted to vote for Obama because he is NOT white. This is far to grave of a situation not to take it very seriously. Vote on the issues. Not on color or sex. In the end, as long as we do not vote in the same of Establishment we have had (not only for the last eight years but truly for the last 16-30 years), we will be fine. Our country can only go up from here, right?

iNPLACENEWS


Impossible Math, Hillary, Give Up Already

June 2, 2008


Most of the 17 Democratic senators who are uncommitted superdelegates will endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president this week, sources told CNN Monday.

The lawmakers will wait until after the South Dakota and Montana primaries Tuesday before announcing their support for Obama, two sources familiar with discussions between Obama supporters and these senators told CNN’s Gloria Borger.

Obama supporters have been “pressing” for these superdelegates to endorse early this week, but according to one source, “the senators don’t want to pound Hillary Clinton, and there is a sense she should be given a grace period.”

A series of meetings on the topic have been facilitated at different times by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Durbin and Daschle are Obama supporters, while Harkin is uncommitted.

Obama is now 46 delegates short of the 2,118 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, while Clinton needs 202. There are 31 pledged delegates up for grabs in the Tuesday contests, and 202 superdelegates have yet to commit to either candidate.

Obama has the support of 331 superdelegates to Clinton’s 292.

Superdelegates are party elected officials and activists who are free to vote for either candidate.

Following Sunday’s Puerto Rico primary, Obama picked up two more superdelegate nods, and Clinton received one.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will remain uncommitted until Clinton officially drops out of the race, sources told CNN’s Candy Crowley, but that isn’t stopping the two party heavyweights from using their clout to bring the primary battle to a hasty end.

Pelosi told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that she is prepared to intervene if the presidential race does not resolve itself by the end of June.

“I will step in,” Pelosi told the paper in an interview. “Because we cannot take this fight to the convention. … It must be over before then.”

A senior Democratic aide in Congress also told CNN on Friday that Pelosi is already calling uncommitted superdelegates and pressuring them to back either Obama or Clinton by the end of this week. Pelosi is collaborating with Reid on the effort.

In an interview with a San Francisco radio station last week, Reid said he spoke to Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. “We all are going to urge our folks next week to make a decision very quickly,” Reid said.

Throughout the process, Dean has been pressing for superdelegates to make up their minds after this week’s contests.

Facing an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates, Clinton is now counting on the remaining superdelegates to push her over the finish line, a proposition her campaign admits is a tall order.

“Is the road steeper than it was several weeks ago?,” Clinton adviser Harold Ickes remarked on CNN’s “Late Edition” on Sunday. “The answer is yes.”

Still, Clinton told reporters after her primary win in Puerto Rico on Sunday that given her support among key demographics in swing states, she has proved she will be a stronger nominee than Obama against John McCain.

“I think it’s only now that we’re finishing these contests that people are going to actually reflect,” Clinton said on her campaign plane Sunday, referring to the uncommitted superdelegates. “Who’s our stronger candidate? And I believe I am, and I’m going to make that case, and at some point it will either be accepted or it won’t be, but I feel strongly about making it.”

Clinton argued that even superdelegates who have committed to Obama are free to “change their minds” — a suggestion the Obama campaign declined to comment on.
Despite the odds against her, Clinton continues to pick up support even as Obama grows his lead among superdelegates.

Original posting was found @ CNN.com

iNPLACENEWS


Former Bush Spokesman Says President Used Propaganda

May 28, 2008

The spokesman who defended President Bush’s policies through Hurricane Katrina and the early years of the Iraq war is now blasting his former employers, saying the Bush administration became mired in propaganda and political spin and at times played loose with the truth.

In excerpts from a 341-page book to be released Monday, Scott McClellan writes on Iraq that Bush “and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.”

“[I]n this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security,” McClellan wrote.

McClellan also sharply criticizes the administration on its handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush‘s presidency,” he wrote. “Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said the White House would not comment Tuesday because they haven’t seen the book.

Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to Bush, said advisers to the president should speak up when they have policy concerns.

“Scott never did that on any of these issues as best I can remember or as best as I know from any of my White House colleagues,” said Townsend, now a CNN contributor. “For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional.”

Fox News contributor and former White House adviser Karl Rove said on that network Tuesday that the excerpts from the book he’s read sound more like they were written by a “left-wing blogger” than his former colleague.

In a brief phone conversation with CNN Tuesday evening, McClellan made clear that he stands behind the accuracy of his book. McClellan said he cannot give on-the-record quotes yet because of an agreement with his publisher.

Early in the book, which CNN obtained late Tuesday, McClellan wrote that he believes he told untruths on Bush’s behalf in the case of CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the media.

Rove and fellow White House advisers Elliot Abrams and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby were accused of leaking the name of Plame — whose husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, had gone public with charges the Bush administration had “twisted” facts to justify the war in Iraq.

Libby was convicted last year of lying to a grand jury and federal agents investigating the leak. Bush commuted his 30-month prison term, calling it excessive. At the time, McClellan called the three “good individuals” and said he spoke to them before telling reporters they were not involved.

“I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood,” he wrote. “It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively.”

McClellan wrote he didn’t realize what he said was untrue until reporters began digging up details of the case almost two years later.

A former spokesman for Bush when he was governor of Texas, McClellan was named White House press secretary in 2003, replacing Ari Fleischer. McClellan had previously been a deputy press secretary and was the traveling spokesman for the Bush campaign during the 2000 election.

He announced he was resigning in April 2006 at a news conference with Bush.

“One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary,” Bush said at that conference. “And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.”

This story was found @ CNN.com

iNPLACENEWS


The Polls Going Into Tuesday’s Primaries in OR and KY

May 19, 2008

New polls show Sen. Hillary Clinton with a commanding lead going into the Kentucky primary, while Sen. Barack Obama holds a comfortable one in Oregon.

Those two states, which hold contests Tuesday, are expected to do little more than illustrate the divide between Democratic voters in selecting a presidential candidate.

Clinton leads the latest CNN “poll of polls” — an average of multiple polls — in Kentucky, 58 percent to 28 percent. Kentucky is dominated by working-class voters, which has been a source of support for Clinton throughout the prolonged primary season.

Obama’s base of support — young and higher-educated voters — are better represented in Oregon, and a poll of polls there reflects that demographic: The senator from Illinois holds a 50 percent to 40 percent advantage over Clinton.

The former first lady is campaigning Monday in Kentucky, while former President Clinton and daughter Chelsea are on the trail in Oregon.

Obama spoke Sunday in front of what his campaign called his biggest audience to date — 75,000 people on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.

Obama will campaign Monday in Montana, which, along with South Dakota, will hold the last contests of the primary season on June 3. Democratic voters in Puerto Rico will cast their ballots June 1.
Clinton on Sunday told voters in Kentucky that she’s “running for the toughest job in the world.”

Speaking in Bowling Green, the senator from New York said it was a “treat” to have the whole state to herself since Obama would not be returning there.

Clinton has faced calls to drop out of the race since she trails Obama across all fronts — in pledged delegates, superdelegates and the popular vote.

Clinton recently has argued she has a lead over Obama in the popular vote, counting the Florida and Michigan primaries. Video Watch why Clinton says she’s ahead »

But the Democratic National Committee stripped Florida and Michigan of their delegates for scheduling their primaries too early, and Clinton was the only top-tier candidate whose name was on the ballot in Michigan.

Clinton’s campaign also excludes caucus states in its popular vote count.

Obama leads Clinton in total delegates, 1,904 to 1,717, according to a CNN survey. A candidate needs 2,026 to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Clinton on Sunday encouraged her Kentucky supporters to vote, saying, “If we get everybody turned out, it’s going to send a great message to our country that you don’t stop democracy in its tracks.”

She said, “You don’t tell some states that they can’t vote and other states that have already had the opportunity that they’re somehow more important.”

In considering which candidate to vote for, she told the crowd to “think about this as a hiring decision.”

“Come out and vote for me on Tuesday. I’ll work my heart out for you,” she said.

Meanwhile Obama, who’s been campaigning in Oregon, focused his attacks on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Obama on Sunday suggested that McCain hasn’t received the kind of scrutiny that he’s received throughout the campaign.

“It is very understandable that the press focus has been on myself and Sen. Clinton because this has been a pretty exciting race on the Democratic side. I would expect that the press will submit him to the same scrutiny that they are submitting me,” he said at a senior center in Gresham. 

Obama also detailed his plans to strengthen Social Security. Part of his proposal includes eliminating income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 a year.

advertisement
Obama made low-key campaign stops this weekend, hitting a street festival in Keizer and stopping for ice cream in Eugene.The last time Oregon carried much weight in the primary season was in 1968, when Sen. Robert Kennedy campaigned for the Democratic nomination.

This story found @ CNN.com

iNPLACENEWS