A new survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. troops in Iraq found half of those polled described their unit’s morale as low and said they did not plan to reenlist. The survey was conducted by the Pentagon-funded Stars and Stripes newspaper. 40 percent of the troops also said the war in Iraq was of little or no value. The paper reported some soldiers who had complained about morale problems faced disciplinary actions which can result in reprimand, extra duties and forfeiture of pay. Soldiers interviewed by Stars and Stripes said the Pentagon was handpicking what troops have a chance to meet with dignitaries when they travel to Iraq for tours and photo ops. The paper reported, "Some troops even go so far as to say they’ve been ordered not to talk to VIPs because leaders are afraid of what they might say."
In Gaza, Palestinian police have arrested three people, including members of the Popular Resistance Committee, for their role in Wednesday’s bombing that killed three Americans. The Americans have been described as security guards who worked for the private military contractor Dyncorp. Dyncorp reportedly was hired to provide security for U.S. embassy officials in Tel Aviv. The bombing was the first to target Americans during the three-year intifada. In response, Washington sent FBI investigators to the area and called on all Americans to leave Gaza.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today warned about the growing split between Islam and western countries. In a statement before the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Annan said, "We must unite our efforts to address the extremism that is, alas, on the rise, not only in Islam but among many faiths."
In Saudi Arabia, more than 150 people have been arrested for protesting in the capital of Riyadh. The BBC reports police fired shots into the crowd of male and female demonstrators who were calling for political reform. The arrests came during the country’s first-ever human rights conference. Analysts say the protests shook the Saudi monarch, but publicly the government dismissed the demonstrators. The country’s Interior Minister said "What happened was just a limited gathering in [the] street. They are a small bunch ... this won’t happen again." Saudi Arabia’s leading religious authority condemned the protest saying "demonstrations are the behaviour of non-Muslims".
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 398-4 yesterday to impose news sanctions against Syria. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, "Syria is a government at war with the values of the civilized world and a violent threat to free nations and free men everywhere." Backers of the sanctions have charged Syria is attempting to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The Arab American Institute warned the sanctions will weaken moderate forces within Syria who are seeking political change. Meanwhile tensions increased along the Syrian-Iraq border. Agence France Press is reporting that U.S. forces killed several men identified as foreign fighters along the border.
The New York Times reports that several tops officials at the Justice Department and FBI are privately criticizing Attorney General John Ashcroft’s decision to not to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate who within the Bush administration leaked the identity of a CIA operative. Ashcroft, a former Republican senator and governor of Missouri, has deep ties to some officials within the White House including President Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove. Time Magazine recently reported that Ashcroft paid Rove’s former company nearly three quarters of a million dollars between 1984 and 1994 for offering direct mail services to Ashcroft’s campaigns in Missouri for governor and senator.
An advisory group of the Food and Drug Administration voted yesterday to urge the government to overturn a decade-old ban on silicone breast implants despite warnings from women who suffered serious health effects from the implants.
In New York, at least 10 people died and 34 were injured when a ferry that connects Manhattan and Staten Island crashed into a terminal. Police said the operator of the ferry fled the scene and attempted to commit suicide at his nearby home.
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks yesterday threatened to subpoena records from the Federal Aviation Administration that might shed light on how the FAA responded after four airplanes were hijacked. The FAA has so far refused to hand over some wanted documents. The commission also warned other agencies could face subpoenas if requested documents are not handed over.
And a soon-to-be-published book titled The Faith of George W. Bush reports that during his run for president, George W. Bush told a Texas preacher, "I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me... I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."