In southern Afghanistan, nine children were killed Saturday when U.S. warplanes fired rockets into a group of villagers sitting under a tree. The military claimed they were trying to assassinate a member of the Taliban. Local residents told the BBC, the man Mullah Wazir had left the area 10 days earlier. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan= said the incident was “profoundly saddening” and announced plans for an investigation. The BBC described the target as a low-ranking member of the Taliban who was suspected of overseeing the murders of two foreign contractors. [ More from Today’s Democracy Now!__]
President Bush has appointed former Secretary of State James Baker as his envoy for settling Iraq’s crippling $120 billion in foreign debt. Baker will be dispatched as a special presidential envoy to deal with heads of state in Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. He will report directly to President Bush who has called on Baker for help in times of crisis before. In 2000, Baker led the successful legal fight over the disputed Florida ballots in 2000 for George W Bush. [ More from Today’s Democracy Now!__]
The U.S. is coming under increasing criticism for its tactics in Iraq that mirror Israel tactics in the Occupied Territories. The New York Times on Sunday reported the military has begun wrapping entire Iraqi villages in barbed wire, demolishing homes believed to be used by members of the Iraqi resistance and jailing the relatives of suspected militants. At the Iraqi town of Abu Hishma, barb wire surrounds the perimeter of the town. A U.S. checkpoint guards the town’s only entrance. Residents wait in line to enter and leave. Only residents with U.S.-issued ID cards are allowed entry. A local teacher said, “This is absolutely humiliating. We are like birds in a cage.” Another resident told the New York Times, “I see no difference between us and the Palestinians. We didn’t expect anything like this after Saddam fell.” The U.S. has acknowledged they have closely studied Israel’s tactics in the Occupied Territories. Despite the criticism, U.S. officials interviewed by the Times defended the actions. Captain Todd Brown of the Fourth Infantry Division said, “You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face.”
60 South Korean contract engineers and technicians working for the U.S. to restore Iraq’s power grid have decided to leave Iraq a week after two of their colleagues were killed. The Washington Post reports this marks the largest withdrawal of contractors over security issues. Their decision came as the chief U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez warned that the occupying forces would come under increasing attacks in the lead-up to national elections in Iraq. And in Mosul, one U.S. soldier was killed Sunday when a bomb blew up under an Army humvee.
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich charged yesterday that the Bush administration has gone “off a cliff” in dealing with postwar Iraq. Gingrich claimed the White House had failed to put Iraqis at the center of the reconstruction and said “the White House has to get a grip on this.” Meanwhile Senator Hillary Clinton blamed the White House for “miscalculation” and “inept planning” in Iraq. She added that more troops are likely needed in Iraq.
The Boston Globe is reporting that for the first time, Congress is set to approve sending $1.5 million to Iranian dissidents who are attempting to undermine the Iranian government. The funding was attached to the massive omnibus spending bill by Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. The Pentagon has also secretly held meetings with Iranian dissidents including Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah of Iran, and Manucher Ghorbanifar, a discredited Iranian who played a role in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair in the 1980s. A 1987 Congressional reported determined that Ghorbanifar, aas a fabricator and a nuisance. The Times reports the CIA considers him to be a con man. Meanwhile the Financial Times reports the American Enterprise Institute, the leading neoconservative think tank, has begun piping in a new live radio program into Iran advocating for regime change.
The Justice Department has said it will investigate reports that Republican Congressional leaders attempted to bribe Republican Congressman Nick Smith of Missouri on the floor on Congress last month in order to win his vote to overhaul Medicare. Smith held out in supporting the Medicare until the last hour. Last week Smith repeatedly said he was bribed and threatened but now as an investigation seems imminent he now claims he wasn’t. In a November 23 newspaper column he wrote “Bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes.” Then Smith, who is preparing to retire, said in a radio interview that Republican leaders promised to give $100,000 to his son’s campaign for his seat.
The Financial Times reports that defense contractor Boeing had developed ties with at least six members of an influential civilian Pentagon advisory board as it attempted to win support for an $18 billion contact with the Air Force. Boeing gave millions to separate investment funds run by former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle and former CIA head James Woolsey. Perle is also coming under criticism for writing an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in support of the Boeing deal without disclosing his ties to the project. We’ll have more on this story later in the show. [ More From Today’s Democracy Now!__]
Queen Elizabeth the Second has visited Nigeria for the first time in almost 50 years. But according to the Associated the close she came to meeting with working class Nigeria was in a mock Nigeria village that was populated by actors playing villagers. The AP reported security concerns prevented her from visiting any real village. The village was constructed by the BBC for the set of radio soap opera. The BBC spun the story a bit differently. It claimed the Queen visited the site in order to meet with the actors of the soap opera.
The Queen’s visit came on the eve of the Commonwealth summit which was dominated by talk about Zimbabwe. After member nations refused to drop sanctions about Robert Mugabe’s government, Zimbabwe decided to quit the Commonwealth of former British-ruled nations.
Three men convicted and later cleared in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case are planning to file separate $50 million lawsuits against the city of New York. The men, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray, spent seven years in prison after they were wrongly convicted for the rape of a 28-year-old woman in Central Park. The men, along with two others, were cleared last year after DNA evidence supported their innocence. The lawsuit accuses the city of “malicious prosecution” and “conspiracy to cover up the truth.” The other two men wrongly convicted, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, are also expected to file similar lawsuits. [ Archived Democracy Now! Coverage]
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