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November 29, 2008
Iraq SOFA ApprovedBy Greyhawk
It's official: Barack Obama's "16 month" withdrawal from Iraq must begin no later than September, 2010. Unless conditions change, then it might be sooner or later.
Thanksgiving in America, and in Iraq the Parliament approved the Status of Forces Agreement. The news was scarcely noted on our shores as coverage of our national day of plenty gave way to that of the busiest shopping day of the year even as both vied with reports of terror in faraway places for the attention of those not otherwise engaged.
And the English language version of the document was finally released, clarifying some of the issues raised by the previously available translations of the Arabic version. Those questions were noted here, but most are resolved in the now released official English version.
The withdrawal from cities and towns (Article 24):
All United States combat Forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.
And the total withdrawal (also Article 24) must indeed be accomplished "no later than December 31, 2011" - meaning President-elect Obama's "16 months" must begin no later than a year from next September. (The withdrawal of combat Brigades, however, began months ago and is ongoing.)
Unless both Parties agree that conditions have changed (Article 27):
In the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq that would violate its sovereignty, political independence, or territorial integrity, waters, airspace, its democratic system or its elected institutions, and upon request by the Government of Iraq, the Parties shall immediately initiate strategic deliberations and, as may be mutually agreed, the United Sates shall take appropriate measures, including diplomatic, economic, or military measures, or any other measure, to deter such a threat.Meanwhile, as "combat forces" withdraw, training and support forces remain (Article 27):
The Parties agree to continue close cooperation in strengthening and maintaining military and security institutions and democratic political institutions in Iraq, including, as may be mutually agreed, cooperation in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces, in order to combat domestic and international terrorism and outlaw groups, upon request by the government of Iraq.But (Article 24),
The United States recognizes the sovereign right of the Government of Iraq to request the departure of the United States Forces from Iraq at any time. The Government of Iraq recognizes the sovereign right of the United States to withdraw the United States Forces from Iraq at any time.But at least the agreement is final, right? Well, maybe not:
The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition's Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year.
And will provincial governments (after the provincial elections scheduled for January) also have input on these issues? One might expect they certainly would.
One final note (for now).You'll likely hear some chatter regarding "controls on private security contractors" established by this document. Much of this chatter will be misguided and uninformed. The SOFA only applies to military forces in Iraq - meaning the DoD. (See the definitions in Article 3. For example, "Member of the civilian component" in this agreement is defined as "a civilian employed by the United States Department of Defense". "Contractors" are defined as those in Iraq under contract with U.S. Forces, and U.S. Forces members are defined as members of the Army, Navy, etc.) This agreement has nothing whatsoever to do with the State Department.
Why does that matter? For the most part it's State, not Defense*, that employs the much (and usually wrongly) maligned "private security contractors" of the Blackwater variety. "Security contractors" employed by DoD are used to check I.D. at the DFAC. The SOFA defines who might have legal jurisdiction over one if they were to sneak off base and steal a brass lamp from a shop. It does not address the hypothetical fate of one of the members of State's (soon to be Hillary Clinton's) private Army if they were accused of shooting up a town square in response to a perceived threat.
*There are (non-security) contractors for Defense that might hire (sub contract) private security; they may be covered under this agreement.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 29, 2008 2:53 AM | Permalink
Well, it seems we now have a SOFA with Iraq. A Status of Forces Agreement, means for all intents and purposes, our withdraw timetable has been set and our presence is at the discretion of the government of Iraq. SOFAs are agreements between our gove...Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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