President Bush has announced the withdrawal of some 8,000 troops from Iraq by early next year. But at the same time Bush says the US will send around 5,000 more forces to Afghanistan.
President Bush: "In November, a Marine battalion that was scheduled to deploy to Iraq will instead deploy to Afghanistan. It will be followed in January by an Army combat brigade. The mission of these forces will be to work with the Afghan forces to provide security for the Afghan people, protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure and democratic institutions and help ensure access to services like education and healthcare."
The news of an increased occupation of Afghanistan comes amidst ongoing public uproar over a series of US bombings that have killed innocent civilians. Afghan member of parliament Ramazan Bashardost said sending more US troops is not the solution.
Afghan M.P. Ramazan Bashardost: "Three years ago, we had 10,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan, but the security situation, compared to today’s, was much better. In 2003, they added another 20,000, but we have seen more and more insecurity, and the situation is getting worse. In my opinion, the increase in troop numbers is not the solution."
In the latest deadly attack, at least two Afghan civilians were killed and ten wounded Tuesday when a NATO warplane missed its target in the province of Khost. It was the fourth lethal US air strike in just two weeks, beginning with the deadliest of the US occupation so far: some ninety Afghan civilians in Herat, including sixty children. On Tuesday, villagers in Herat released grainy cell phone footage of scores of dead bodies lying in the village mosque. The Pentagon says it’s investigating the attack after initially disputing the number of casualties.
Hurricane Ike is making its way to the Gulf Coast after a deadly sweep through the Caribbean. Cuba is estimating the damage from Ike at around $4 billion. Some 140,000 buildings were said to be damaged as the storm pounded the island over two days. Four people were killed, the first storm-related deaths Cuba has seen in several years. Meanwhile, Haiti continues to reel from what has become a humanitarian disaster. More than 1,000 Haitians are believed to have died and an estimated one million left homeless. Rescue groups have no access to many interior villages across the southern region and to Gonaives, Haiti’s third-largest city, cut off by a bridge collapse.
Here in the United States, a federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former Ku Klux Klan member sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of two black teenagers in 1964. James Ford Seale was convicted last year after the case was reopened after more than four decades. He was first arrested shortly after the killings, but the charges were thrown out after the FBI turned the case over to local authorities. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel ruled Seale should never have been tried, because a five-year statute of limitations on kidnapping-related charges had expired. Seale had been thought dead but was discovered by the brother of one of the victims. During the trial, Seale’s cousin Charles Marcus Edwards testified he and Seale had abducted and attacked the black teenagers. Edwards said Seale and other Klansmen then drove the teenagers across the Louisiana border. They put duct tape over their mouths and dumped them into the Mississippi River alive. The victims, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, were both nineteen years old. Their bodies were found about two months later, when authorities were conducting an intensive search for slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
In Virginia, police have opened a probe into the discovery of a noose in the office of the African American student body president at Abilene Christian University in Fredericksburg. The student, Daniel Paul Watkins, found the noose on his office chair last week.
On Capitol Hill, Congress member Jim McDermott of Washington has become the latest lawmaker to sign onto a measure to impeach President Bush. McDermott announced his support on Tuesday from the House floor.
Rep. Jim McDermott: “I was attacked for saying the President would mislead us into the war, but the American people ultimately learned the truth. There seems to be no end to the allegations, and we have a responsibility to investigate their authenticity. That’s why I’m signing onto a resolution to consider impeachment of the President. Without accountability, a democracy will fail.”
McDermott is the tenth House member to support the measure, which is co-authored by Congress member Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
In campaign news, the comedian and radio host Al Franken has won the Democratic primary to run for the Senate seat in Minnesota. Franken will take on incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman.
The French-Colombian politician and former hostage Ingrid Betancourt was in New York Tuesday for an appearance at the UN. Betancourt was among fifteen hostages freed in July after being held since 2003 by the Colombian rebel group FARC. On Tuesday, Betancourt said her experience reinforces the importance of dialogue among warring groups.
Ingrid Betancourt: “I think that by opening the dialogue, by talking to people that have to have in their heart human feelings, this must be a possibility to save lives. And I think that life is so important that we cannot just say that we are not going to discuss to save a life because this person is from another religion or from another political side."
Betancourt was speaking at a UN symposium on victims of terrorism.
In Florida, a circuit court has ruled a three-decade-old ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional. The ruling comes in the case of a gay parent seeking to adopt a teenager he has raised since 2001. Florida and Mississippi are the only two states in the country barring gay adoption.
And legal and civil rights groups say they plan on filing multiple lawsuits over the crackdown on protesters at both the Democratic convention in Denver and the Republican convention in St. Paul. The National Lawyers Guild of Minnesota says it will sue police and city officials over tactics against protesters in St. Paul. More than 800 people were arrested during the Republican National Convention. In Denver, the group Re-create 68 says it plans to launch similar suits. More than 150 people were arrested during the Democratic convention. The American Civil Liberties Union is planning on representing Code Pink member Alicia Forrest, whose arrest became a widely seen video on YouTube. During a protest, a Denver police officer shoved Forrest with his baton, forcing her to the ground. Moments later, Forrest was seized and arrested by police officers as she tried to explain to reporters what had just happened.