The unelected prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi thanked the president and Congress for taking down the regime of Saddam Hussein. He told Congress "Things are moving in the right direction." Allawi also attacked critics of the occupation and suggested they may be fueling the opposition. He said "When political leaders sound the sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence."
Although this marked Allawi’s first address before Congress he has long had ties to the U.S. government as a CIA asset and as the head of the U.S.-supported Iraqi exile group called the Iraqi National Accord.
Allawi vowed the Iraqi elections scheduled for January would go ahead as planned. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday revealed that between 20 to 25 percent of the country may not take part in the elections because of continued violence. Rumsfeld admitted it would be "an election that’s not quite perfect."
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Pentagon has plans to send 15,000 more troops to Iraq ahead of the elections.
Senator John Kerry criticized Allawi’s speech and accused him of contradicting statements he made to the press just days before. Kerry said Allawi’s remarks were "highly selective and designed to thank the president and ultimately help the president." Many in the press noted how Allawi’s comments echoed–both in tone and content–key themes of Bush’s reelection campaign.
Last night in an interview with The Newhour on PBS, Allawi even attempted to connect Saddam Hussein with the Sept. 11th attacks. He said "I assure you if Saddam was still there, terrorists will be hitting there again at Washington and New York, as they did in the murderous attack in September; they’ll be hitting also on other places in Europe and the Middle East."
Violence continued yesterday in Iraq. In Mosul, a senior Iraqi oil official was shot dead. He had previously survived two other assassination attempts. In the province of Anbar, one U.S. Marine was killed. 1,037 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq. Pipelines north of Baghdad and in Najaf were attacked yesterday disrupting oil exports.
Meanwhile in Baghdad two Egyptians working for a mobile phone company were kidnapped from their company’s office.
And the fate of the kidnapped Italian women Simona Torretta and SimonaPari is still unknown. Two Iraqi groups have now claimed to have executed the women but the Italian government has cast doubts on the claims. The women were in Iraq with the group A Bridge to Baghdad, which opposed the U.S. occupation.
In other news related to Iraq, the U.S. National Guard is reporting that it will fall short of its recruiting goal for the first time in a decade. The Guard will likely fall about 5,000 members short of its goal of 56,000.
Officials in Haiti are fearing the death toll from recent floods may soon rise over 2,000. Over 1,100 people have been confirmed dead and another 1,200 are still missing. The country’s third largest city, Gonaives, is devastated. At least 4,000 homes are destroyed. Rivers of mud have flowed through the city. Survivors are shoveling mud out of their homes. The mayor of the city said yesterday, '’There is no water, no electricity, no communication. Many people don't have a place to sleep.’’ The United Nations arrived yesterday to distribute food but many aid vehicles have had difficulty reaching the city. Just outside Gonaives, part of the main road is still submerged under three feet of water. The floods in Haiti were caused by Hurricane Ivan. Meanwhile Florida is bracing to be hit by a fourth hurricane this season. Hurricane Jeanne is expected to hit land this weekend.
On the campaign front, John Kerry’s wife, Theresa Heinz-Kerry told a crowd in Phoenix that Al Qaeda leader may be captured before the election. She said "I wouldn’t be surprised if he appeared in the next month."
The Council on American Islamic Relations has called on President Bush to explain why the singer Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam, was denied entry to the country this week. The singer was on board a trans-Atlantic flight when officials learned his name appeared on a terror watch list. The plane was diverted to Maine and the singer was denied entry to the country. In a statement group CAIR said that treating "mainstream and moderate Muslims like Yusuf Islam as if they are criminals or terrorists, without bringing charges or allowing due process, sends the message to the Islamic world that even those who seek peace and condemn terror are not fit to enter the United States." Back in London Islam said he had felt victimized by the process. He said "The one positive thing I can say is that a lot of security officers are very pleased because they got my autograph."
In Britain, an influential Anglican group is planning ask church leaders to impose a boycott of Israel and firms that do business there in protest of the occupation. This according to a report in the Guardian of London. The divestment campaign proposed by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network is similar to ones used to fight apartheid in South Africa. In July, the Presbyterian church in the US became the first major denomination to agree to a formal boycott of Israel.
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have given 2 million undocumented immigrants California driver licenses. Last year then Governor Gray Davis signed into law a similar bill but the legislature repealed it shortly after Davis was recalled.
And in New York, police are threatening to arrest participants in tonight’s Critical Mass bike ride. Last month police arrested and jailed 264 riders. The ride came shortly before the start of the Republican National Convention. It marked the first mass arrests during the week of the convention. Before last month’s ride, police seldom made arrests during the monthly rides which have been taking place for the past 10 years.