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The US continues to be widely criticized around the world after photos leaked to the US news media show that Iraqi prisoners have been physically and sexually abused and tortured in U.S-run Iraqi prisons at the hands of military intelligence officers.
The New Yorker magazine revealed that the Pentagon knew of the widespread problems in the Abu Ghraib prison since at least last year but the issue wasn’t publicly addressed until after 60 Minutes aired graphic photos of Iraqi prisoners last week. An internal 53-page Pentagon report found that:
That is according to an internal Pentagon report on prison conditions in Iraq.
Earlier today the military announced that six U.S. soldiers had received the most severe level of administrative reprimand in the military for their role in the prison abuse. The reprimands could end their military careers but it is unclear if they will face court martial or criminal charges.
Also Sunday Israeli helicopters bombed Gaza City’s tallest apartment building. Israeli forces claimed they were targeting a radio station inside the 14-story building which also houses two newspapers and many apartments. Seven people were reportedly injured in the attack. Another Israeli helicopter strike on Sunday killed at least four Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus. Two other Palestinians including an eight-year-old boy were killed on Saturday. The Palestinian Health Information Center is reporting that of the 61 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the month of April, 22 were children.
Meanwhile more than 20 former U.S. diplomats have signed a letter to President Bush condemning his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The diplomats write "Your unqualified support of Sharon’s extra judicial assassinations, Israel’s Berlin Wall-like barrier, its harsh military measures in occupied territories and now your endorsement of Sharon’s unilateral plan are cost our country its credibility, prestige and friends." The diplomats include former US ambassadors to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The diplomats began their letter praising the 52 former British ambassadors who recently took the unprecedented move of publicly criticizing Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Middle East policies. While the letter by the British diplomats received widespread news attention on both sides of the Atlantic, the U.S. press has all but ignored the letter written by the American counterparts. The British-run Financial Times is alone as the only major paper to cover the letter critical of President Bush. [ Read the full letter]
Saturday marked the first anniversary since President Bush helped fly a fighter jet onto the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Hanging above him was a massive sign that read "Mission Accomplished." On May 2 of last year Pentagon advisor and a chief backer of the US invasion Richard Perle wrote in USA Today "Relax, celebrate victory." Since that time 590 soldiers have died in Iraq, about four times as many that died during the so-called major combat operations. Bush marked the anniversary by claiming this weekend that the war had been "one of the swiftest, most successful and humane campaigns in military history." Meanwhile in the London Independent, war correspondent Patrick Cockburn predicts the US can no longer win in Iraq and that the country may be facing "one of the most extraordinary defeats in history."
On Sunday, 11 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq including six in a mortar attack near Ramadi. U.S. forces also came under mortar attack in Najaf today.
Meanwhile Thomas Hamill, the Halliburton employee who was being held hostage, managed to escape from his captors who took him captive three weeks ago.
General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is denying reports that a former Saddam Hussein-era military leader has taken over security in Fallujah. Myers said the U.S. was still checking the background of Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh.
Former US weapons inspector David Kay is saying the the US may need to send as many as 250,000 more troops to Iraq in order to secure the country. Kay made the comments in an interview on the BBC Sunday.
Hearst newspapers has obtained government documents that show the chief of the Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft, expanding the draft age from 25 to 35, as well as requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services. The proposal was made by the agency’s acting director Lewis Brodsky prior to the invasion of Iraq. The paper obtained the previously secret proposal through the Freedom of Information Act.
Newsweek is reporting that the Bush administration has gathered intelligence that indicates Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi has been sharing detailed information about US security and political plans in Iraq to top Iranian officials. Chalabi, whose group still receives $340,000 monthly from US taxpayers, has denied the charges but an aide admitted that he has made regular visits to Tehran to meet with Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his top national-security aide.
In California, the state’s top elections official has banned the use of Diebold’s new touchscreen electronic voting machines from the November election in four counties because of concerns about security and viability. And Secretary of State Kevin Shelley called on the attorney general’s office to investigate whether the company committed fraud.
A new government report has found that the number of secret searches carried out by the Justice Department has increased by 85 percent in the past two years. During 2003, the Justice Department was given approval to conduct more than 1,700 secret searches under foreign intelligence surveillance laws.
In Saudi Arabia, five foreign employees working for a Swiss engineering firm were killed in the port city of Yanbu where they were working on a project for Exxon-Mobil. Killed were two Americans, two Britons, an Australian as well as a Saudi national. The engineering firm ABB-Lummus has since announced it is evacuating the rest of its foreign born staff.