In Iraq, the U.S. military death toll has now topped * 1,000. All but 140 of the deaths have come since May 1, 2003, when President George Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq to be over. Bush spoke on that day under a banner that read * "Mission Accomplished." Yesterday Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the invasion and said that the people of Iraq were "better off today than they were a year ago, in every conceivable respect."
The number of Iraqis killed over the past 18 months is unknown. The website * Iraq Body Count* estimates at least 11,800 Iraqi civilians have been killed but some estimates put the Iraqi civilian death toll three times as high. Yesterday Rumsfeld said U.S-backed forces had killed between 1,500 2,500 Iraqis in the past month alone. He claimed the dead were * "former regime elements, criminals, terrorists."* In Fallujah, the U.S. launched another large attack reportedly killing 100 Iraqis. The New York Times is reporting that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government * has no control over Fallujah* and other cities in the Sunni Triangle.
In Baghdad, two 29-year-old Italian women working with the peace group Bridge to Baghdad were * kidnapped yesterday* along with two of their Iraqi co-workers. The BBC reports more than * 100 foreigners* have been kidnapped in Iraq since March 2003.
In an interview with the Washington Times, Defense Secretary * Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of fueling the resistance in Iraq*. Rumsfeld said "They have put people in there. They have put money in there... And it’s a very difficult thing to stop. Iran is a country that is not part of the civilized world in terms of its behavior." Rumsfeld claimed the Bush administration was finding it difficult to convince other countries to pressure Teheran to stay out of Iraq.
The Boston Globe is reporting today that a reexamination of President Bush’s military records show * the president fell well short of meeting his military obligations* in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. According to the Globe, twice during his Guard service — in May 1968 and in mid-1973 — Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty. But records show he didn’t meet the commitments, or face the punishment. In 1973 when Bush transferred out of his unit to attend Harvard Business School, Bush agreed to be assigned to another reserve unit within 60 days. But records show he never signed up with a Boston-area unit. And the Globe investigation has determined that Bush’s attendance in 1972, 1973 and 1974 was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty. But they did neither. In related news, the former Texas speaker of the house * Ben Barnes* is scheduled to appear on * 60 Minutes* tonight to discuss how he helped Bush get a coveted slot in the National Guard in 1968.
In other campaign news, Vice President Dick Cheney warned voters the election of John Kerry * would result in a major attack against the U.S.* He said, "It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating." In response Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards said "Dick Cheney’s * scare tactics crossed the line today*, showing once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs."
The Washington Post is reporting that * President Bush may skip one of the three presidential debates* proposed by the * Commission on Presidential Debates*. The Bush team is resisting an October 8 town meeting debate in Missouri where the candidates would take questions from undecided voters in the St. Louis area. According to the Post, Bush officials are concerned that people might pose as undecided voters when they are actually partisans.
In other election news, the New York Daily News is reporting Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is considering * challenging Hillary Clinton for her New York Senate seat*.
Federal investigators from the Government Accountability Office have determined the Bush administration * illegally withheld data from Congress* on the cost of the actual new Medicare law. The investigators recommended that the former head of the Medicare agency, Thomas Scully, pay as a penalty seven months of his salary. Scully, who now works as a lobbyist for several major health care companies, said he would not pay the suggested penalty.
Medicare Premiums Set For Record Increase
In other Medicare news, on Friday the Bush administration quietly announced a * record increase in next year’s Medicare premiums for doctor visits*. This according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The increase of $11.60 a month was the largest ever in the program’s 40-year history.
In Gaza City, * tens of thousands of Palestinians* took to the streets for the funerals of 14 members of Hamas killed in an attack by Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei warned that there would be a Palestinian response. He said "No crime goes unpunished. For sure there will be retaliation."
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Pentagon plans to break up Halliburton’s $13 billion contract in Iraq and put the contract out to bid.