The United States has formally declared an end to the Iraq War after an eight-and-a-half-year-long occupation. In a ceremony earlier today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta hailed what he called "an independent, free and sovereign Iraq … after a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans." Panetta’s declaration effectively ends the Iraq war two weeks earlier than planned with the year-end deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The United States is leaving behind a $6 billion embassy and diplomatic effort to be run by the State Department and staffed with thousands of private contractors. In a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, President Obama paid tribute to a contingent of returning troops.
President Barack Obama: "As your commander-in-chief and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree: welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home."
As the United States military leaves Iraq, the New York Times has recovered hundreds pages of documents detailing internal interrogations of U.S. Marines over the 2005 Haditha massacre. The documents were found among scores of other classified material at a junkyard outside Baghdad. The Marines described killing civilians on a regular basis, with many snapping photos of the violence. One sergeant testified that he would order his men to shoot children in vehicles that failed to stop at military checkpoints.
The Obama administration has withdrawn its veto threat of a military spending bill after lawmakers made adjustments to provisions on indefinite detention. The National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. After the White House vowed to veto the measure, House and Senate lawmakers made several revisions, including dropping a ban on civilian courts for al-Qaeda suspects and adding more leeway for exceptions on holding terror suspects in military custody. Although the White House says it is satisfied with the changes, civil liberties groups are continuing to denounce the bill.
A federal survey has provided new figures on the prevalence of sexual violence against women in the United States. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found nearly one-in-five U.S. women have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, and one-in-four women the victim of severe violence by a boyfriend or husband. One-in-six women has experienced a stalking experience that made her fearful for her own life or that of a close relative or friend. More than one million women reported being the victims of rape or an attempted rape over a 12-month period.
The mobile technology firm Carrier IQ is being investigated for allegations its software was used to track the user activity of around 150 million cell phone users and pass their information onto carriers without permission. The Federal Trade Commission launched the probe following the disclosure smartphones with Carrier IQ software captured every keystroke and text message and sent the data to the user’s cell phone provider. Three of the four major cellular providers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — say they use Carrier IQ software. Apple says its Carrier IQ will be removed in future software updates. Meanwhile, Carrier IQ is also engulfed in another controversy over its suspected ties to law enforcement surveillance. The controversy erupted after the FBI denied a journalist’s Freedom of Information Act request for documents on data analysis that were gathered with Carrier IQ software. The FBI confirmed it has pertinent information, but denied to release it on the grounds it falls under "law enforcement records." The FBI so far has refused to deny whether it is using Carrier IQ for surveillance activities.
Newly resurgent Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was demonstrated against on Wednesday during a speech at the University of Iowa. A protester led the crowd in an Occupy Wall Street-style "mic check." With the Iowa caucuses three weeks away, Gingrich is holding a lead over Mitt Romney in national polls for the Republican nomination.
Protesters: "Mr. Gingrich, we are here to protest your speech today... We object to your callous and arrogant attitude toward poverty and poor people."
As American wages fail to keep up with inflation, a new survey shows the nation’s top CEOs have received massive pay increases. According to The Guardian, the country’s leading executives enjoyed pay increases of between 27 and 40 percent last year.
Time Magazine has chosen "The Protester" for its vaunted annual "2011 Person of the Year." Time Magazine editor Jim Frederick said the choice reflected the growth of people’s movements from Tunisia to Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street.
Jim Frederick: "Time chose the protester, the global protester, as Time’s '2011 Person of the Year,' because for the past 20, 25 years, almost a full generation, protest had stopped being a really viable way to change the political order, and then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, all across the globe, you have global, mass market protests that—you know, we’re two regimes down and counting. Whether it’s in Russia and London, Wall Street and all across the Middle East, suddenly the protest has become one of the ways that people are actually taking back political power."
Hundreds of Seattle high school students walked out of classes on Wednesday to protest state budget cuts to education. The students marched from a number of Seattle-area high schools before meeting up at the University of Washington for a joint rally.
The U.S. Marine Corps is being accused of embellishing and exaggerating the actions of a corporal recently awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor. On September 15, President Obama bestowed the medal on Dakota Meyer for supposedly carrying out a number of acts, including rescuing two dozen Afghan soldiers, saving 13 U.S. service members, and personally killing eight insurgents at extremely close range. According to dozens of documents uncovered by McClatchy news, crucial parts of the story are either untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated. At the time Meyer was awarded his medal, lawmakers and officers were reportedly pressuring the military to award more Medals of Honor because few were conferred in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is unclear if the White House knew President Obama was detailing an embellished story when presenting Meyer with the award.
The alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday more than a year and a half after his arrest for allegedly passing on classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Members of the Bradley Manning Support Network have announced plans for a march outside the gates of Fort Meade, Maryland, where Manning will face a military hearing. Kevin Zeese is an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Kevin Zeese: "The people who should be prosecuted are not Bradley Manning. He’s accused of letting the truth out. He’s not accused of doing any criminal activity. He’s accused of letting the truth out, and he should be given an award for that, not prosecuted. He’s facing the death penalty, potentially. He’s facing the death penalty for exposing war crimes."
Over 50 demonstrations around the world are planned for Saturday as part of a global day of solidarity to mark Manning’s 24th birthday.