In Iraq, over two dozen Iraqis were killed in a series of bombings over the weekend and the heavy U.S. bombing of Fallujah continues. On Saturday five Christian churches were bombed leaving 12 people dead. Nine Iraqi police officers were killed outside of Karbula on Saturday. Yesterday a car bombing in Baghdad killed seven. At least six U.S. soldiers were killed over the weekend bringing the week’s total number of U.S. soldiers dead to about 30. In Fallujah, the U.S. has released Sunni cleric Sheik Khaled al-Jumeili from detention. He was detained for three days following the breakdown of peace talks with the Iraqi government. The U.S. and Iraqi governments are still insisting the Sunni leaders in Fallujah hand over the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but they insist he is not in the city.
Meanwhile the U.S. military detained 19 of its own reservists late last week after they refused to carry out a mission of delivering fuel to a site north of Baghdad. One of the reservists left a message on her mother’s phone saying, “We had broken-down trucks, nonarmored vehicles and, we were carrying contaminated fuel. They are holding us against our will. We are now prisoners.” After the story received widespread attention the Army admitted the reservists were still using an unarmored vehicle and released the soldiers. But they could still face disciplinary charges.
Newsday is reporting that President Bush rejected a plan for a Muslim peacekeeping force to enter Iraq to help the United Nations organize elections. Bush reportedly nixed the plan because the special force would have been controlled by the United Nations instead of the US. Meanwhile the U.S. is now asking Britain to move some 650 troops closer to Fallujah and allow them to be put under U.S. military control. Critics of the war in Britain have said the request is a pre-election stunt to assist President Bush.
The Washington Post is reporting the top U.S. commander in Iraq, complained to the Pentagon last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened the Army’s ability to fight. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that the situation was so severe, “I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low.” Sanchez also complained that 36,000 soldiers were still waiting protective inserts to upgrade their body armour. Meanwhile the Knight Ridder news agency reports the Bush administration last year failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct Iraq.
Meanwhile in London, as many as 70,000 people marched yesterday against the Iraq invasion in an event that marked the end of the European Social Forum.
In an interview with the British TV network ITV, Kofi Annan charged the U.S.-led war in Iraq hasn’t made the world any safer. He said, “I cannot say the world is safer when you consider the violence around us, when you look around you and see the terrorist attacks around the world and you see what is going on in Iraq.”
Former employees at Guantanamo Bay have told the New York Times that detainees there were regularly subjected to harsh and coercive treatment that often amounted to torture. Near naked detainees were sometimes shackled to the floor in freezing cold rooms, while soldiers shined bright strobe lights in their face and blasted screamingly loud rock and rap music. Such sessions could go on for up to 14 hours, with few breaks. One official told the Times, “It fried them. They were very wobbly. They came back to their cells and were completely out of it.” The employees reported the harsh treatment quickly ended earlier this year after the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq became public.
The head of the Republican National Committee has threatened to take legal action against the pro-voting group Rock the Vote and to challenge its non-profit status if the group continues to discuss the possibility that the government may reinstate the draft. In an extraordinary letter sent last week that has received almost no media attention, Republican chief Ed Gillespie wrote to the group and accused it of “promoting a false and misleading campaign designed to scare America’s youth into believing that they may be drafted to serve in the military.” Last month the group sent a mock draft notice by email to over 600,000 email addresses. Gillespie described the possibility of the reinstatement of the draft as an urban myth and as proof cited a statement by President Bush that there would be no draft. Gillespie went on to write “As a non-partisan organization that enjoys the benefits of being formed under 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, you have an obligation to immediately cease and desist from promoting or conducting your 'Draft' campaign In response, the head of Rock the Vote, Jehmu Greene described the threat as a “textbook case of attempted censorship.” Greene wrote to Gillespie “By your logic, there should be no debate about anything that you disagree with. There’s a place for that kind of sentiment (and your threats), but its not here in our country. ”
In campaign news, the New York Times officially endorsed John Kerry for president yesterday in a editorial where it described the Bush presidency as “disastrous.” This brings the total number of papers backing Kerry to 45, according to Editor and Publisher. Other major papers backing Kerry include the Boston Globe, Miami Herald and San Francisco Chronicle. About 30 papers have backed Bush including the Chicago Tribune, Arizona Republic and Dallas Morning News. So far eight papers that backed Bush four years ago have opted to endorse Kerry. At one of those papers, the Tampa Tribune, the editors admitted they could no longer support Bush “because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his assault on open government and his failed promise to be a 'uniter not a divider' within the United States and the world.” Bush is the first Republican candidate not endorsed by the Tampa Tribune in 40 years.
The death toll from Israel’s two-week long attack on northern Gaza has now left some 140 Palestinians killed making it the bloodiest single operation during the four-year-old intifada. Some 500 Palestinians were wounded and 80 houses were demolished. Over the weekend Israel announced the operation had ended.
A new study by the Pew Hispanic Center has found the wealth gap between white families and African American and Latino has widened considerably. In 2002, the median net worth of white households reached $88,000 — 11 times higher than Latino families and 14 times higher than African American families. The group found that nearly one third of African American families and one quarter of Latino families were in debt. This compares to 11 percent of white families.