The United States and Russia appear to have reached a compromise on Washington's efforts to have the U.N. Security Council adopt a new approach to Iraqi sanctions.
That's according to diplomatic sources, who said Wednesday that while a draft Security Council resolution extending the oil-for-food program that has been in force against Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War for another six months was essentially unchanged, for the first time it called for a "goods review list" suggested by Britain and the United States.
Assuming the resolution is adopted, said one U.N. source, work could begin on establishing U.N. criteria that would allow Iraq to import a wide range of goods, although none that could be used for a military purposes. Under the existing "food for oil" regime, Iraq is allowed to import only humanitarian and food aid.
Last June, the United States managed to get the Security Council to adopt the statement of principal endorsing the need to streamline the Iraqi sanctions. But without Russian acquiescence, the current oil for food program was extended for another six months.
The sanctions -- begun in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait -- can only be lifted after Baghdad cooperates with weapons inspectors, who left in 1998 and have not been allowed back. On Monday, in what appeared to be a toughening of the U.S. position on Iraq, President Bush warned Saddam Hussein to allow the U.N. weapons inspectors to return. When asked what the consequences would be if he didn't -- Iraq has since refused the demand -- Bush cryptically replied, "He'll find out."
When asked Wednesday to clarify the president's statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "I think everybody understood what he meant."
-- Is it time for a partial lifting of the U.N. sanctions against Iraq? Why or why not? What do you think could be done to induce Saddam to again cooperate with the weapons inspectors?
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday grilled Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff over the possible use of military tribunals, the monitoring of lawyer-client talks in some circumstances, and the detention of hundreds of suspects in the war against terror.
Republicans and Democrats expressed support for an aggressive war against terrorism, but some lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- warned the Justice Department not to toss aside the protections afforded by the Constitution in the name of safety for U.S. citizens.
"Let us have some confidence in those things that make us strong and great as a nation," Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said.
Some members of both parties expressed particular concern that the administration had apparently not notified any members of Congress that President Bush might establish military tribunals. Chertoff and committee members also squarely disagreed over whether the president must receive explicit approval from Congress before establishing military tribunals.
"This is a matter the Constitution gives to the Congress, to establish military tribunals" Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., said. "It is surprising to know that the attorney general did not consult with a single member of this committee."
Other Republicans -- including committee Ranking Member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. -- said while the administration must be careful with aggressive law enforcement tools, those tools might best protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.
The administration has cited a historical precedent set by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to use military tribunals to try Nazi saboteurs captured during World War II.
The U.S. Supreme Court approved Roosevelt's decision in the landmark Quirin case. But some legal scholars have pointed out that there was a formal declaration of war in that case, which handed the executive branch extremely broad authority. While Congress has passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some scholars argue that resolution falls far short of letting Bush follow Roosevelt's lead with military tribunals.
Other experts disagree. Former Attorney General William P. Barr told the committee that an 1862 Supreme Court decision clearly gives the president the power to establish military tribunals once a state of war exists.
-- What do you think?
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing several Kentucky counties to force them to take down displays of the Ten Commandments.
The ACLU filed four such lawsuits on Tuesday and said more suits could be expected in the next few months. More than two dozen Kentucky counties reportedly have the Old Testament rules posted.
The lawsuits were against Garrard, Mercer, Rowan and Grayson counties for Ten Commandments displays at the county courthouses. Also cited was a display at the public hospital in Garrard County.
"It's not a small measure of irony that these four governments, among others, are seeking to impose their religious views on the nation at the same time the nation is fighting those overseas who would impose their religious views on others," said David Friedman, ACLU general counsel.
The Florida religious group Liberty Counsel has offered to represent the counties against the suits.
This is the second time in three years the ACLU has gone after displays of the commandments in public buildings in Kentucky. The earlier suits against displays in Harlan County schools and the courthouses in Pulaski and McCreary counties resulted in federal court decisions ordering the displays removed
A federal judge also ruled plans to erect a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds unconstitutional. The cases are on appeal.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from establishing a religion, and the ACLU contends posting the commandments in public buildings violates that prohibition.
-- Do you agree? Why or why not?