The New York Times is reporting President Bush has secretly approved US ground attacks in Pakistan without the Pakistani government’s prior approval. The order came in in July — less than two months before last week’s deadly assault that killed some twenty civilians. In what would have been the first attack under the new policy, US forces are said to have fired inside three homes containing women and children. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s top military chief harshly criticized the US ground attack, saying Pakistan will defend its sovereignty “at all costs.” The military chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said no external army is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.
The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has admitted he doesn’t believe the US military is winning its fight against insurgents in Afghanistan. General Mike Mullen testified Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee.
Gen. Mike Mullen: “I’m not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can. That is why I intend to commission and am looking at a new more comprehensive military strategy for the region that covers both sides of that border.”
Mullen’s comments come one day after President Bush announced an increase to the US occupation of Afghanistan by around 5,000 troops. Mullen said the additional troops mark a “good start” but a larger number is needed down the line.
The Iraqi government has withdrawn a plan to award six no-bid contracts to large Western oil corporations. Earlier this summer, Iraq announced it would let Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, BP and Chevron service Iraq’s largest oil fields. But Iraqi officials say the agreements have taken too long to complete. The companies will still be eligible to bid on open deals.
In Haiti, recovery efforts continue in the aftermath of the latest devastating tropical storm. Haiti’s third-largest city, Gonaives, remains mostly under water. Food and fresh water supplies are said to be running low for tens of thousands of people living on their rooftops, in the streets or emergency shelters. The United Nations has launched a $108 million appeal for emergency humanitarian aid. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino announced the Bush administration would commit just $10 million — half of it already pledged.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: "Finally, the United States government will dedicate $10 million to immediate disaster assistance to Haiti, following Hurricane Gustav, Hanna and Ike. Of this amount, $5 million is new funding pledged for program in the past week. Our support includes provision of relief supplies, transportation and logistics to deliver relief and ongoing damage assessments. Our highest priority is to help deliver urgently needed relief supplies to communities which are now cut off from overland access."
As many as 1,000 Haitians have died and nearly a million displaced in four major storms and hurricanes in less than a month.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales says he’s asked the US ambassador to return to Washington. Speaking at the presidential palace, Morales said Ambassador Philip Goldberg has helped orchestrate efforts by oil-rich provinces to declare autonomy.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: "Without fear of the empire and before all of you and the people of Bolivia, I declare [Philip] Goldberg, the US ambassador, persona non grata."
Morales has frequently accused the US of siding with his right-wing opponents. The State Department says it hasn’t received a formal request for Goldberg’s departure.
Today is the seventh anniversary of 9/11. Presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain have agreed to scale back campaigning today and will appear together at a Ground Zero ceremony honoring the nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks.
The latest row between the two campaigns has McCain’s camp accusing Obama of sexism. The dispute centers over Obama’s use of the colloquialism “lipstick on a pig” when talking about McCain’s vow to bring change to Washington, despite supporting President Bush’s key policies.
Barack Obama: “You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.”
The McCain campaign says Obama was in fact referring to Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Obama has dismissed the allegation and says the McCain campaign is manufacturing a phony controversy over a common saying. McCain himself has used the term several times, including in 2002.
In Minnesota, a local estimate says some forty journalists were arrested or detained during last week’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The Minnesota Independent has published a list that includes Associated Press reporters, an AP photographer, a St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer, a New York Post freelance photographer, independent journalists, college journalists, and three of us at Democracy Now! — myself [Amy Goodman] and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar.
Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr has asked Republican Congress member Ron Paul to join his ticket as his vice-presidential nominee. Paul made a failed bid for the Republican nomination earlier this year. Barr’s request came as he refused to appear at a unity event with other third-party candidates in Washington, D.C. Barr initially pledged to attend, but backed out after citing differences with Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. McKinney and Paul appeared at the event Wednesday, along with Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin.
Congress member Dennis Kucinich has presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with another petition for the impeachment of President Bush. The latest petition has about 50,000 signatures, on top of the 100,000 already submitted. Kucinich is calling for establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to order testimony and gather documents on why the Bush administration chose to invade Iraq.
And in California, four people have ended their nearly two-year sit-in atop several redwood trees in Berkeley. The protesters have been living in a grove on the UC Berkeley campus since late 2006 in an effort to save the trees from being cut down to make room for a multi-million-dollar sports facility. The tree-sitting came to an end after workers and police used scaffolding to arrest the protesters atop the remaining ninety-foot redwood. The tree was cut down hours later.