The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is continuing to break apart. On Sunday Spain’s new Socialist government announced it would withdraw Spanish troops by the end of June without a UN mandate. Honduras announced Tuesday it too would pull its troops. The Los Angeles Times reports El Salvador and Guatemala might follow suit. And the Netherlands has refused to commit to keeping its troops in Iraq beyond June. To confront this crisis, President Bush has called a meeting at the White House on Friday with ambassadors from 60 nations that have supported U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged Tuesday that he may face an anti-war backlash when Australian voters go to the polls.
Probe To Begin Over Medicare Cost Coverup
The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general has begun investigating whether Bush administration officials committed any wrongdoing last year by lying to Congress about the actual cost of a Medicare bill being considered. The controversy exploded late last week when the Medicare program’s longtime actuary, Richard Foster, said he was warned not to disclose that the actual cost of the bill was $130 billion higher than announced. Foster said he was threatened with being fired if he revealed the true estimates. The former head of the Medicare program, Thomas Scully, has admitted he threatened to fire Foster but claims he did so only in jest.
The independent panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks announced Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as their counterparts in the Clinton administration, William Cohen and Madeleine Albright will all testify at a two-day hearing next week. CIA Director George Tenet and Clinton’s national security advisor Sandy Berger will also testify. One top official who is not scheduled to appear is national security advisor Condoleezza Rice who repeatedly declined on the advice of the White House, citing separation of powers.
Meanwhile Time Magazine reports the President Bush-appointed panel to examine intelligence failures before the invasion of Iraq has yet to meet — five weeks after the committee was formed. It is unclear when the panel will hold its first meeting.
A Congressional report released Tuesday has found President Bush and his top four advisors made at least 237 misleading or false statements about the threat posed by Iraq over the last two years. The report was requested by California Congressman Henry Waxman and done by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee.
Meanwhile a coalition of groups known as Win Without War plans to hand deliver to Congress today the signatures of 600,000 people who are urging Congress to censure President Bush for lying about Iraq before the invasion.
And across the globe anti-war groups are preparing to stage protests on March 20 in a global day of action to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In Taos New Mexico, where Donald Rumsfeld owns a home, protesters are planning to topple a 20-foot effigy of the Defense Secretary.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is accusing Israel of trying to destroy the Gaza Strip by engaging in slash and burn tactics. Arafat said "They want to destroy Gaza before they leave it, but the Palestinian people will not kneel.’ In the Rafah refugee camp Israeli forces killed four Palestinians Tuesday including two 15-year-old boys. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reports Israeli forces have killed 30 Palestinians in Gaza and 14 in the West Bank so far this month. Among those killed were 18 minors. The Israeli government has announced plans to pull out of the Gaza Strip but Haaretz has reported the Bush administration has asked Israel not to pull out until after the presidential elections in November.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday it would begin using unmanned aerial drones to monitor people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Meanwhile the Pentagon agency DARPA is planning to seek designs to create giant surveillance blimps three times the size of the Goodyear blimp that could hover above a city or battlefied and monitor everything happening. This according to the website Defensetech. One DARPA official said QUOTE "We will apply this technology to track people emerging from buildings of interest and follow them as they move to new locations. Imagine the impact it will have if it tracks the movement of individuals for months."
A new international poll conducted by the Pew Research Center has found that support around the world for the United States has fallen to a new low. Support for President Bush is especially low. In Germany just 14 percent of the country view Bush favorably. In 1991, the same poll found 75 percent of Germans viewed Bush’s father favorably. Support for Bush in Muslim countries is even lower. The director of the poll said "This poll says to me the discontent with America is a long-term problem that U.S. leaders have to confront. We’ve never seen ratings as low as this for America."
And a US soldier who has refused to return to serve in Iraq is expected to learn today whether he will be charged with desertion. Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, of the Florida National Guard, has asked to be considered a conscientious objector. He surrendered to the military on Monday after spending five months on the run. He sad, "I am saying no to war. I went to Iraq and was an instrument of violence, and now I have decided to become an instrument of peace."