A Legal Review Of The U.S. Position In Iraq

Legal authority for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq expires on Dec. 31. The United States is seeking an agreement to let American troops stay in Iraq indefinitely, but Iraqi officials indicate no deal may be reached until President Bush is out of office.

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DANIEL SCHORR: Maybe this is a good time to review the legal basis for the presence of American troops in Iraq which may soon come into question.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Chapter seven of the United Nations Charter authorizes the use of armed force to maintain or restore peace. Under chapter seven, the UN Security Council created a multinational force to restore peace in Iraq. Faced with termination of the U.N. mandate last December, Iraq agreed to a onetime extension until this December 31. That left the Bush administration to work out a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq to replace the U.N. mandate. The agreement that the United States sought would provide for American troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely. There was talk of up to 50 U.S. bases, something that the U.S. ambassador denied last month.

But Prime Minister Maliki had other ideas. He was being pressured by Arab countries not to agree to what these leaders regarded as a colonial-style occupation. So on a visit to Arab Gulf states, Maliki let it be known that he would not accept an indefinite stay of American troops. This is immensely embarrassing not only to the Bush administration but to Senator McCain who has opposed any timetable believing that he was acting in accordance with Iraqi wishes. Now Maliki seems to have dug in his heels. No timetable, no agreement. And what then? Legal authority expires on New Year's Eve. And Iraqi officials indicate they are quite ready to wait out the lame duck administration and deal with the next president. This is Daniel Schorr.

HANSEN: We received lots of mail last week about Dan Schorr's performance of this 1932 Depression-era song.

(Soundbite of song "Brother, can you spare me a dime?")

SCHORR: (Singing) Once I built a railroad, made it run. Made it race against time. Once I built a railroad, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

HANSEN: Bob Dean(ph) of Raleigh, North Carolina, wrote "Dan's solo rendition of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" was absolutely wonderful. He should never sing in public again. This should be treasured as his entire musical repertoire and an important part of his legacy."

And Lisa Higgins(ph) of Grants Pass, Oregon, had this to say. "Something about the sound of Daniel Schorr singing "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" brought spontaneous tears. It was easy to determine that the song had genuine meaning for Mr. Schorr, and very appropriate for what we could possibly be experiencing in the not very near future. I love Mr. Schorr's voice, and wanted to simply say thank you."

We also received a letter from Ernie Harburg, whose father E.Y. Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics to "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" He sent us a CD with 18 renditions of the song. Here's one of them.

(Soundbite of song "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?")

Mr. TOMMY HOLLIS: (Singing) Went slogging through hell, And I was the kid with the drum. Say, don't you remember you called me Al? It was Al all the time. Say, don't you remember? I'm your pal. Buddy, can you spare a dime?

(Soundbite of applause)

HANSEN: That was Tommy Hollis' version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" You're listening to NPR News.

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