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The U.S. invasion of Fallujah has begun. After weeks of daily bombings, US forces have begun to move into the Sunni city seen as the center of the Iraqi resistance. Earlier today the US-appointed Iraq Prime Minister Iyad Allawi officially gave the * go-ahead* for the US-led attack. Already the US has seized two key bridges over the Euphrates River as well as the city’s main hospital.
The BBC is reporting the Marines are expecting the attack on Fallujah to be the Marines’ * biggest engagement since 1968* when they captured the Vietnamese city of Hue. In that battle the US lost 142 men and killed thousands of Vietnamese. The New York Times is reporting the US and Iraq militaries will send as many as * 25,000 troops=* into Fallujah. Meanwhile Reuters is reporting many of the Marines have * never fought in major combat* situations before. One sergeant reported that 95 percent of the troops in his company had never fought in combat before.
In this initial stage of the attack, the US appears to be * targeting the city’s hospitals=. On Saturday U.S. forces bombed and * destroyed a small hospital in the center of the city. Yesterday US forces took over the city’s main hospital claiming it was being used for propaganda purposes. U.S. military officials told the Times said the hospital was the main source of so-called rumors of heavy casualties in Fallujah. In addition, a medical supplies storeroom has also been damaged in a bombing over the weekend. The head of Fallujah’s main hospital said he asked the US forces for permission to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded, but the US said no. Dr. Salih al-Issawi, told the Associated Press "The American troops’ attempt to take over the hospital was not right because they thought that they would halt medical assistance to the resistance. But they did not realize that * the hospital does not belong to anybody*, especially the resistance."
On Friday, United Nations Secretary General * Kofi Annan warned against the attack on Fallujah* saying it would alienate parts of the Iraqi community and reinforce the notion that the country is still under military occupation.
Meanwhile Sunni leaders from the * Association of Muslim Scholars have put forth a peace plan* that the US seems to have all but rejected with almost no public discussion. Up until now the Sunni group has been advocating for resistance against the US and its puppet government in Baghdad as well as a possible boycott of the elections slated for January. The Sunni groups offered to withdraw their support for violence and to openly support the elections if the US did not attack Fallujah and if the US confined its troops to their bases in the month before balloting.
As the US prepared to invade Fallujah, violence spread throughout Iraq over the weekend. Fighting, suicide car bombings and assassinations took the lives of 60 people and left another 75 injured. In the deadliest attack, gunmen * executed 21 Iraqi police officers* in the province of Al-Anbar. In response to the violence, the U.S.-backed Iraqi government declared a 60-day ,b> state of emergency and put most of the country under martial law.
In other Iraq news, the New York Times is reporting that * 4,000 shoulder-fired surface -to-air missiles have disappeared* from Iraqi military sites since the US invaded the country. Two weeks ago news reports emerged that indicated the US military had failed to stop the looting of over 380 tons of deadly explosives. kouddous
In news from France, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is reported to be in stable but very serious condition. A controversy erupted yesterday over whether senior Palestinian leaders would be allowed to visit Arafat in France. Arafat’s wife, Suha Arafat, tried to block the visit claiming they were attempting to * "bury Arafat while he is still alive."* Today the officials, including Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, are expected to arrive in France to see Arafat. Suha is one of only a handful of people who have seen Arafat since he was hospitalized 10 days ago. There have been rumors that Arafat has fallen into an irreversible coma but his wife has denied this. Meanwhile conflicting reports are coming out of Israel as to where Arafat’s funeral will be held. Yesterday the government said Arafat would be buried in the Gaza Strip. But today news reports are claiming that the official funeral will take place in Cairo followed by a private ceremony in Gaza.
In election news, more questions are being raised about the accuracy of electronic voting machines used last week. Three Democratic members of Congress have written to the General Accounting Office of Congress to request * an investigation into problems with voting machines* on Election Day. This according to Wired.com. The Congressmen are John Conyers of Michigan, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Robert Wexler of Florida. In their letter they note how in one Ohio county, the electronic voting machines mistakenly gave President Bush an * extra 3,900 votes* due to a machine mishap. Also they noted that in North Carolina, electronic voting machines accidentally * lost 4,500 votes*.
In news from Capitol Hill, Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid is poised to replace Tom Dashchle as minority leader in the Senate. Reid is seen by most as * more conservative than Dashchle* who lost his seat in Tuesday’s election. Reid opposes abortion. He backed the Iraq invasion of 2003 as well as the Persian Gulf War. He has supported President Bush’s tax cuts and has often clashed with environmental groups over mining issues in the West. Reid had been serving as the party’s whip — the second top Democrat in the Senate. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois is expected to now move into that position.
USA Today is reporting the CIA has secretly undertaken the * most extensive deployment of CIA agents working inside the United States in the spy agency’s history*. According to the report in today’s paper, the CIA has assigned dozens of case officers and analysts to work with FBI agents across the country. This marks the CIA’s broadest association with the FBI since the agency was created 50 years ago. By law, the CIA is prohibited from participating in intelligence-gathering operations against U.S. citizens. Federal officials claim the CIA’s expanded work is not illegal but civil liberterians have expressed concern. Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "We have been very concerned about the growing surveillance power of the government through these task forces."
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that US troops may take part in an unprecedented security operation surrounding President Bush’s second inauguration in January. According to the Post, a combat brigade of * 4,000 troops could be stationed in the streets* of Washington. In addition thousands of police officers from across the country may be brought into the capital for the event.
The number of women in state and federal prisons has * topped 100,000 for the first time* according to newly released data from the Justice Department. Just over 101,000 women served in prison last year. The new figures show the incarceration rate of women is growing much faster than men. Since 1995, the total number of women in prison has jumped 48 percent largely due to the so-called war on drugs.
In Mexico, Wal-Mart has opened a new superstore within a half mile of the 2000-year-old pyramids at Teotihuacan. Environmental groups had protested the location of the store because it was so close to the ancient pyramids. One of the lead opponents of the Wal-Mart, Homero Aridjis, said, "It’s like planting the staff of globalization in the heart of ancient Mexico. It is supremely symbolic."
A 23-year-old anti-nuclear activist was killed in France after a train carrying nuclear waste ran over his leg. The protester had chained himself to the tracks in attempt to block the shipment of nuclear waste from France to Germany.
Meanwhile in New York a 25-year-old man from Georgia killed himself on Friday at Ground Zero apparently after becoming distraught over Tuesday’s victory by President Bush. News reports indicate Andrew Veal bought a shotgun the day after Bush won and then drove to New York. His friends said he opposed the Iraq invasion and had supported John Kerry’s campaign. A co-worker said "He cared about politics, people and the state of the world. Andrew was definitely sending a message. Certainly, it was a protest." His body was found on Saturday morning.