President Bush last night claimed a war in Iraq would set the stage for peace in the Middle East. He was speaking at the American Enterprise Institute. Bush also drew a comprehensive picture of post-war Iraq and discussed humanitarian missions. Under pressure from Arab and European states, Bush said the U.S. is committed to a Palestinian state and that Israel must end the further settlement of Palestine. But he did not set any deadlines nor detail any specific steps toward this end.
ABC News is reporting military sources say the U.S. is preparing to use a monster new weapon during the first nights of an attack on Iraq. It’s called MOAB, short for Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. It’s a modern, bigger version of the 15,000-pound daisy cutter used in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan. MOAB is 21,000 pounds. It’s still experimental. And its massive explosive power is similar to a small nuclear weapon. Military sources say it’s intended to terrorize Iraqis.
Meanwhile, in Britain, nearly 200 members of Parliament last night staged the biggest revolt against a governing party in over a century. One hundred ninety-nine MPs voted against Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying there is not yet a case for attacking Iraq. Rebel MPs included over 120 from Blair’s own Labour Party, as well as over 50 Liberal Democrats and even two dozen Conservatives and nationalists. But Tony Blair still has won twice as many votes as the opposition.
In Australia, 43 legal experts warned yesterday an attack on Iraq would be a violation of international law that could end in the World Court. In an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald, the group of leading Australian lawyers and academics argued that “the 'coalition of the willing,' including Australia, have not yet presented any persuasive arguments that an invasion of Iraq can be justified at international law.” But the group says Iraq would now be justified in launching a pre-emptive attack against the United States and its coalition partners, because it is Iraq that is now facing a direct threat.
A career U.S. diplomat who has served in U.S. embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca resigned this week in protest of the Bush administration’s plans to attack Iraq. John Brady Kiesling wrote in his resignation letter: “Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson.” The diplomat of 20 years wrote: “We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners.” The New York Times reports Kiesling faxed the letter to Secretary of State General Colin Powell.
Hundreds of thousands of opponents of a U.S. invasion of Iraq called and faxed their senators and the White House yesterday in a virtual march on Washington. The unprecedented “million modem march” hemmed many congressional telephone lines for several hours. It was coordinated by the Win Without War coalition.
CBS program 60 Minutes II broadcast Dan Rather’s exclusive interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein last night and refused to bow to Bush administration pressure to allow a White House spokesperson to appear repeatedly throughout the broadcast. CBS News told the White House it would grant the request if Bush, Cheney or Powell wanted to comment on the interview. But the White House insisted on giving spokesperson Ari Fleischer or Communications Director Dan Bartlett the chance to appear. CBS News President Andrew Heyward responded, “Ari Fleischer has access to the American public every single day.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting, after Rather interviewed Hussein, Hussein interviewed Rather. Saddam Hussein asked Rather whether the American public supported Bush; Rather told Saddam Hussein that the U.S. public opinion is behind President Bush.
In northern Iraq, the first-ever Kurdish suicide bombing took place last night when a man detonated a bomb he was wearing at a Kurdish checkpoint. He killed himself, two Kurdish soldiers and a civilian. The checkpoint was on a military road very near a military headquarters, where Kurdish forces supervise military action against Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group. The headquarters has recently been frequented by U.S. intelligence teams.
The BBC is reporting half of the military jets due to move to the Gulf are stuck at bases in Cyprus and Britain because Muslim nations have refused to allow them to fly over their countries.
Turkey is poised today to open seaports and air bases to tens of thousands of U.S. forces, closing the last major gap in Washington’s planning for an attack on neighboring Iraq. The Turkish Parliament votes on the issue today. As part of the troop deal, The Washington Post is reporting, the United States has promised to prevent Kurds from setting up a federation-style government in post-war Iraq that would ensure their continued autonomy. The U.S. has also agreed to allow Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq. The Washington Post also reports the United States has offered Turkey a package of trade concessions in the textile industry. The proposals would temporarily waive long-standing “buy American” provisions to enable the Pentagon to purchase Turkish-made apparel for U.S. troops. Officials of the U.S. textile industry are reeling from the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the past decade and sharply criticized the deal.
The Pentagon is seeking to begin deploying its missile defense system on the West Coast next year before it is fully tested. The request to skip the required testing regimen is included in an appendix to the Bush administration’s 2004 budget.
And the Supreme Court yesterday overturned a federal racketeering judgment against a network of anti-abortion protesters that shut down abortion clinics nationwide through human blockades during the 1980s and '90s. The justices ruled that the protesters' actions were in some cases criminal, but did not fit the federal definition of extortion. The Washington Post reports the ruling could help advocates of other causes by making it more difficult for the targets of sit-ins, aggressive pickets and other forms of civil disobedience to reach for the heavy hammer of federal law.