4 Marines Charged with Murder in Haditha Killings

Eight US Marines have been charged in connection with the killing of twenty-four Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year. Marine Colonel Stewart Navarre announced the charges Thursday at Camp Pendleton in California.

Col. Stewart Navarre: "Based on the findings of the investigation, various charges have been preferred against four marines, relating to the deaths of the Iraqi civilians on 19th November 2005. Also, charges have been preferred against four marines for failure to report and/or investigate the deaths of the Iraqi civilians. These charges include murder, dereliction of duty, false official statement and obstruction of justice."

The victims were asleep the night of November 20th, 2005 when marines burst into their homes and shot them dead. The military initially claimed fifteen civilians died in a roadside blast caused by insurgents. In announcing the charges Thursday, the Marines acknowledged that claim was false.

Iraq PM: Troop Increase Up to US Military

In Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued his inaugural visit Thursday with meetings with Iraq’s Prime Minister and other top officials. Gates’ visit has coincided with increasing reports the Bush administration is gearing to send more troops to Iraq. Gates denied getting into specifics with his Iraqi counterparts.

Defense Sec. Robert Gates: "I can say that no numbers of additional troops were discussed. The focus was mainly on an overall approach and including the possibility of some additional assistance. But as I said, he really didn’t discuss any numbers we were really talking in broader terms."

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later said he has no opinion on an influx of US troops and that US military leaders should decide.

4 US Troops Killed in Anbar Province

In other Iraq news, four US troops were killed in Anbar province Thursday. At least seventy US service-members have died this month — now on pace to become one of the deadliest of the Iraq war.

Iraq Deadliest Country for Journalists

Meanwhile, Iraq is the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the fourth consecutive year. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than half of fifty-five murders of journalists world-wide took place in Iraq.

NYT Publishes White House-Redacted Op-Ed Critical of Iran Policy

The New York Times has published a controversial, White House-censored article critical of US policy towards Iran. The Bush administration had blocked the piece on the grounds it contains classified information. The op-ed is co-authored by Former National Security Council official Flynt Leverett. The New York Times did not defy the White House censorship and published the piece in redacted form. Leverett has argued the White House demanded the removal of sections detailing publicly known information about how Iran cooperated after the 9/11 attacks and offered to negotiate a diplomatic settlement three years ago. In an accompanying statement, Leverett writes he will continue to campaign for the article’s publication without White House censorship.

UN Security Council Nearing Vote on Iran Sanctions

Meanwhile at the UN, the Security Council is preparing to vote on a new resolution threatening sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment. On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice predicted tough consequences for Iranian defiance.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "I am quite satisfied and quite certain that the resolution that would be adopted will be one that both says to Iran you cannot defy the international community and imposes penalties on Iran for that defiance. I just want to underscore that a Chapter 7 resolution puts Iran in some very unwelcome company in terms of the international community, in terms of the decisions that people will make about Iran as a partner in the international economy and that more than anything is the importance of this resolution."

Thousands Flee Homes as Somali Islamic Leader Declares State of War

In Somalia, thousands of people have fled their homes today amid escalating fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces and the Somalia Islamic Courts Council. The Islamic Courts control much of Somalia and are now fighting to expel Ethiopian troops from the last remaining government stronghold north of the capital Mogadishu. On Thursday, the Islamic Courts’ leader said Somalia is now in a state of war.

Turkmenistan Leader Dies of Heart Attack

In Turkemenistan, president Saparmurad Niyazov died Thursday from a heart attack. Observers are widely expecting a power struggle over who will control the gas-rich country. Niyazov was known as an authoritarian who jailed opponents and constructed lavish tributes to his rule.

Audit: World Bank Ignores Evidence in Promoting Policies

In economic news, an external audit has concluded the World Bank has downplayed or ignored its own evidence when promoting policies favorable to neo-liberal globalization. According to The Financial Times, the audit says the World Bank has often used research without taking a balanced view of the evidence.

Australia Called off Rescue Missions Days Before Indonesian Forces Killed Journalists

And in other international news, the rescue that wasn’t. Thirty-one years after the murder of five Australian journalists in East Timor by Indonesian troops, the Australian government has revealed a special forces rescue mission was called off just three days before their deaths. The journalists were killed on the orders of Indonesian generals. Government sources say the special forces were waiting at Australia’s Darwin airport for approval to sneak into East Timor and carry out the rescue. But the mission was called off after high-level government officials failed to approve it. Approximately two days later, Australian television correspondent Greg Shackleton and his crew filed what would be their last report.

Greg Shackleton: "’Why,’ they ask, 'are the Indonesians invading us?' 'Why,' they ask, 'if Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist, do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out?' 'Why,' they ask, 'are the Australians not helping us? When the Japanese invaded, they did help us.' 'Why,' they ask, 'are the Portuguese not helping us? We're still a Portuguese colony.’ 'Who,' they ask, 'will pay for the terrible damage to our homes?'

My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here. That’s impossible. However, I said, we could ask that Australia raise this fighting at the United Nations. That was possible. At that, the second in charge rose to his feet. He exclaimed, 'Camerado journalist!' shook my hand. The rest shook my hand. And we were applauded, because we are Australians. That’s all they want, for the United Nations to care about what is happening here."

One day after Shackleton filed this report, Indonesian forces killed him and his crew.

DHS: Stalled Passenger Screening Program Violated Privacy Law

Back in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has admitted for the first time a stalled program to monitor domestic air passengers violated federal privacy law. The program — called Secure Flight — has been used to screen passengers against terrorism watch lists. A review by the Homeland Security Privacy office found the program broke the law because it failed to disclose passenger information was gathered from commercial brokers.

NJ Gov Signs Gay Civil Union Laws

And in New Jersey, Governor John Corzine signed legislation Thursday granting gay couples the right to civil unions. New Jersey will become the third state to offer gay civil unions when the law goes into effect in February.


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