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HeadlinesApril 23, 2003

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Shiite Muslims Converge on Karbala; Bush Officials Say They Underestimated Organizational Strength of Shiites

Apr 23, 2003

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims have converged on the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. They’re demanding that U.S. troops get out of Iraq. The numbers could surpass 1 million this week as the pilgrimage reaches its climax. According to a front-page report in today’s Washington Post, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the organizational strength of the Shiites. They’re concerned they could establish a fundamentalist Islamic, anti-American government in Iraq, and are unprepared to prevent it. A meeting of generals and admirals at the Pentagon on Monday turned into a spontaneous teach-in on Iraq Shiites and the U.S. strategy for containing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq. One of the main strategic goals of the U.S. since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 has been to contain radical Shiite fundamentalism. In the '80s, the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein as a bulwark against Iran, but now the U.S. has toppled Saddam's government. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that as the administration plotted to overthrow the Iraqi government, too little attention was paid to the dynamics of religion and the politics in the region.

This comes as U.S. officials told The New York Times that Iranian-trained agents have crossed into southern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein and are working in the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra to promote friendly Shiite clerics and advance Iranian interests. Meanwhile, U.S. troops detained and later released a senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Modarresi, leader of an Iraqi exile group, after he crossed the border from Iran to attend the pilgrimage in Karbala.

And in Baghdad, hundreds of Shiites yesterday staged demonstrations outside the Palestine Hotel for the second straight day. They demanded the release of Baghdad’s leading Shiite cleric, Sheikh Mohammed al-Fartusi, who they said had been arrested by U.S. forces. One of al-Fartusi’s students who organized the protest told The Wall Street Journal, “Saddam was talking about freedom while killing us. The Americans are also talking about freedom, but they’re beginning to behave like Saddam.” Within hours, it was reported that the cleric had been released from custody, although U.S. officials never confirmed he was initially detained.

Gun Fairs Spring Up Around Iraq Since Fall of Saddam Hussein

Apr 23, 2003

The Wall Street Journal reports hundreds of flourishing gun fairs have sprung up around Iraq since the fall of Saddam. Under Saddam, Iraqis needed to go through strict background checks by the secret police before they could obtain a gun license. Now anyone who has money can buy a gun. At one market in a Shiite area of Baghdad, an oil company worker told The Wall Street Journal, “People are buying weapons to kill U.S. soldiers if they don’t leave Iraq.”

Americans Accused of Turning Blind Eye to Killings and Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq

Apr 23, 2003

In the north, The Independent of London reports Americans are accused of turning a blind eye to killings and even ethnic cleansing. Organizations representing the Turkmen population say the U.S. is failing to protect them from the Kurds, who were victims of oppression under Saddam Hussein. In Kirkuk, the city near the richest oil wells in the country, around a dozen people are reported to have been killed. Dozens of families, mainly Turkmen but some of them Arab, are said to have been driven from their homes by Kurds. This comes as The New York Times published on its front page a picture of new Iraq ruler General Jay Garner receiving a “rapturous welcome” in northern Iraq from the Kurds. The New York Times reports Garner worked the crowds like a gleeful political candidate.

Thousands of U.S. Troops Pour into Central Mosul

Apr 23, 2003

Thousands of U.S. soldiers poured into central Mosul in tanks and armed trucks yesterday. The show of force was aimed at ending resistance to U.S. troops, as well as intimidating heavily armed rival factions and taking control of the divided Iraqi city. Marines have had a series of gunfights with locals in the past several days.

Weapons Inspector Hans Blix: U.S. Case for Iraq Invasion Built on False Intelligence

Apr 23, 2003

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday the U.S. case for an invasion of Iraq was built on false intelligence reports, referring to false documents purporting to show that Iraq had imported tons of uranium. He told the BBC it’s disturbing that U.S. and British intelligence agencies did not discover that the documents were falsified, and asked who falsified them. Blix also accused U.S. officials of deliberately seeking to discredit his team in the run-up to the war in a bid to win political support for the invasion. In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Blix said that without U.N. verification, U.S. post-invasion inspections lack credibility.

Colin Powell: France Will Suffer Consequences for Opposing U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Apr 23, 2003

U.S. Secretary of State General Colin Powell told the “Charlie Rose” TV show yesterday that France will suffer consequences for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Powell said the U.S. has to review its relationship with France, but would not say what the consequences might be. News of his comments comes after the French ambassador to the U.N. unexpectedly proposed the immediate suspension of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. But Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière also said that the lifting of sanctions was “linked to the certification of the disarmament of Iraq.” He said the Security Council should look for ways to combine the work of U.N. and U.S. inspectors so that the Iraqi disarmament can be internationally verified. Russia and Germany are also saying that U.N. inspectors should be allowed to join the U.S. weapons hunt.

Paul McCartney Calls for Ban on Cluster Bombs

Apr 23, 2003

Paul McCartney has called for a ban on cluster bombs. The former Beatle told the BBC that after the fighting is finished, it’s civilians, mainly women and children, who are blown up. The interview will be broadcast on Monday to coincide with the release of a new album featuring Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Cat Stevens and other artists. Profits will go toward charities aiding children in Iraq.

U.S. Weapons Manufacturers See Jump in First Quarter Profits

Apr 23, 2003

The U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced a jump in first quarter profits and raised its forecast for the coming year. Sales at the company’s aeronautics division more than doubled. Lockheed makes the F-16 and F-22 fighter jets used in the invasion of Iraq. And Raytheon revealed a jump in sales at the unit which manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missile.

Four U.S. Soldiers Face Court-Martial for Trying to Make a Profit on the War

Apr 23, 2003

The New York Post is reporting four U.S. soldiers have been arrested for trying to make a profit on the war. They attempted to take nearly $1 million U.S. from the huge stash found hidden on the grounds of several estates in Baghdad. The four men face court-martials

U.S., North Korea and China Begin Talks in Beijing

Apr 23, 2003

Talks between the U.S., North Korea and China began today in Beijing. They are the first negotiations since North Korea announced it was resuming its nuclear program last October.

Beijing Closes Primary and Secondary Schools as Infections Mount and Virus Mutates

Apr 23, 2003

The city of Beijing has closed all its primary and secondary schools for at least two weeks. An announcement in this morning’s papers told the 1.7 million students to study at home. Hundreds of travelers wearing white masks are thronging Beijing’s railway stations desperate to flee the Chinese capital. The panic comes as the government has finally allowed state media to fully report on the disease, this according to Reuters. On Monday, China’s top official in charge of Beijing released a statement taking responsibility for providing late and inaccurate data on the epidemic. The Financial Times called the statement an act of contrition not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Liu Qi’s statement came a day after the mayor of Beijing and China’s health minister were sacked. China acknowledged over 150 more infections yesterday, and Hong Kong authorities announced five more deaths. Meanwhile, China’s top genomics institute discovered that the virus is rapidly mutating. Hong Kong has announced a $1.5 billion package to help businesses reeling from the impact. In Singapore, the government threatened to jail people who are violating the quarantine. A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has arrived in Canada, after Canadian healthcare workers in two Toronto hospitals were exposed to the virus, despite taking all recommended precautions, including wearing goggles, gowns and a double set of gloves. About 7,000 people have been quarantined in Canada, where 14 people have already died from the virus.

Blair Warns Arafat International Community Would Halt Peace Efforts If Abbas Is Not Confirmed as PM

Apr 23, 2003

Israel radio is reporting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Yasser Arafat by phone on Tuesday that the international community would halt its efforts to bring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to an end if Abu Mazen isn’t confirmed as prime minister. Arafat and Abu Mazen have been unable to reach an agreement on the makeup of the new Palestinian Cabinet and have not spoken since Sunday. Haaretz reports that Abu Mazen has prepared a letter of resignation but has not yet delivered it to Arafat.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reports that neoconservatives, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have launched a campaign to undermine the U.S.-backed roadmap to peace and criticize the State Department. Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute, Gingrich urged the president to “take on transforming the State Department as its next urgent mission.”

Rick Santorum Ignores Calls He Apologize and Resign over Homophobic Comments

Apr 23, 2003

Senator Rick Santorum, the Republican of Pennsylvania, is ignoring calls that he apologize and resign from his Senate leadership post for comments he made comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. Santorum’s remarks came as he talked about the Supreme Court reviewing the sodomy laws in Texas. He told the Associated Press, “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

ACLU Sues U.S. Government for Maintaining No-Fly List

Apr 23, 2003

The U.S. government was sued Tuesday for maintaining a secretive no-fly list. The ACLU is joining the suit on behalf of two women who publish War Times, a newspaper critical of the invasion of Iraq. Rebecca Gordon and Jan Adams were stopped at San Francisco’s airport last August and held for 20 minutes by police before they were allowed to board. There have been many similar reports of journalists being detained at airports when entering and leaving the country, and then being told their names were on a list. A spokesperson for the FBI in San Francisco said the no-fly list came into existence after the September 11 attacks and was an effort to gather information about the hijackers. The suit against the FBI, the Justice Department and the Transportation Security Administration seeks access to records on no-fly lists and the payment of legal fees. After the U.S. government was sued, administration officials said they’ll review the policy.

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