The New York Times is reporting that 380 tons of powerful explosives were looted from a former military installation in Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion. The explosives vanished at a time that the site was supposed to have been secured by U.S. forces. The missing explosives, HMX and RDX, are strong enough to shatter airplanes and tear apart buildings. The Nelson Report quotes unnamed U.S. officials who say the explosives have since been used to attack U.S. forces. One official said “this is the stuff the bad guys have been using to kill our troops.” The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. Bush administration officials have not been able to explain why the explosives were not safeguarded. According to the Times, the International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of the explosives before the war, and had specifically told U.S. officials about the need to keep the explosives secured. Two months after the U.S. invasion, an internal I.A.E.A. memorandum warned that whoever seized the material might be helping “themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history.” The U.S. has never publicly admittedly the explosives had gone missing but officials admitted it happened when questioned by the Times. The Nelson Report newsletter is also reporting the U.S. pressured Iraqis not to report the missing explosives to the United Nations.
48 Iraqi Army Recruits Massacred
In other Iraq news, nearly 50 Iraqi army recruits were massacred this weekend near the Iranian border Many of the recruits had been shot in the head in the deadliest ambush to date by Iraqi resistance fighters. The recruits had been killed shortly after completing three weeks of basic training. They were unarmed at the time. They were traveling on three buses in a remote area when they were ambushed at a fake checkpoint. The recruits were ordered out of the busses and then executed. Iraqi security officials are now saying inside information about the recruits’ travel plans was likely supplied to the attackers by someone inside the Iraqi forces.
The bodies of the recruits were found a day after a pair of suicide car bombings killed 22 Iraqi police officers and wounded over 40 others.
The Guardian of London reports attacks by the Iraqi resistance have increased by 25 percent since the start of Ramadan.
Meanwhile a U.S. diplomat was killed in a mortar attack on Sunday. Ed Seitz is believed to be the first state department employee killed in Iraq.
The U.S. bombing of Fallujah continues. At least six Iraqis died in the Sunni city over the weekend. And Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr has voiced his support for the resistance fighters in Fallujah. He said in a statement “I am ready to provide a helping hand for you, my mujahedin brothers in Fallujah.”
Margaret Hassan, the head of the humanitarian group CARE International, remains in captivity five days after she was kidnapped. On Friday Al Jazeera aired a video of Hassan where she pleads for her release.
800 Ex-GIs Refuse to Report To Duty
The U.S. Army has now admitted that more than 800 former soldiers have failed to comply with orders to report back to duty to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. All of the soldiers are on what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve.
In New York, one former soldier, Army Captain Jay Ferriola, sued the government to block his pending deployment to Iraq. Ferriola resigned from the military in June after completing eight years of service but last week he received orders to report back to active duty and serve an 18-month mission in Iraq. We’ll speak to his attorney later in the program.
The Washington Post is reporting the CIA has been secretly transporting as many as a dozen Iraqi detainees out of the country in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions. The detainees have been kept hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities. In March the Justice Department issued a confidential memo that authorized the CIA to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogations.
The Wall Street Journal has obtained internal Pentagon documents that show the Army is preparing to allow Halliburton to keep several billion dollars for work done in Iraq even though the company can’t document how the money was spent. According to the report, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root has so far billed about $12 billion in Iraq, and about $3 billion of that remains disputed by government officials. Meanwhile the Army has agreed to a Pentagon investigation into claims by a top contracting official that a Halliburton subsidiary unfairly won no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars for work in Iraq and the Balkans. The chief contracting officer of the Army Corps of Engineers, Bunnatine Greenhouse, said in a letter the Halliburton deals put at risk “the integrity of the federal contracting program as it relates to a major defense contractor.” Attorneys for Greenhouse are now seeking whistleblower status for the Army employee.
In election news, Republican officials in Ohio have formalized plans to send thousands of paid recruits to go to polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters in heavily Democratic urban areas. This according to a report in the New York Times. Republicans have registered 3,600 election monitors in Ohio each of whom will be paid $100 to work on election day. The Democrats have registered about 2,000 monitors. Already the Republicans have challenged the voting eligibility of 35,000 registered voters in Ohio.
In other election news, it appears Ralph Nader’s name will not appear on ballots in either Ohio or Pennsylvania. On Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an effort by Nader for his name to appear on the state’s ballot. And on Saturday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania state court ruling to keep Nader off that state’s ballot.
The magazine Editor and Publisher is reporting Senator John Kerry has now won the endorsement of 122 newspapers — 53 more than President Bush. At least 33 papers that endorsed Bush four years ago have opted not to endorse him this year. Several newspapers including the Tampa Tribune and Detroit News have opted to endorse neither Bush nor Kerry. The headline in the Time Picayune of New Orleans read “No One To Champion.” Over the weekend Kerry won the endorsement of The Washington Post and the Orlando Sentinel, which gave him a sweep of major papers in Florida. Meanwhile Bush won the much coveted endorsement of the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio.
On Friday, President Bush quietly signed a bill giving corporations $136 billion in tax breaks. No signing ceremony was held at the White House. The bill marks the most sweeping reworking of corporate tax law in nearly two decades.
In Gaza, Israel has launched a major new offensive killing as many as 14 Palestinians overnight in the town of Khan Yunis. Dozens were injured. The raid came hours the Israeli cabinet approved details of a plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from Gaza next year. The plan will now go before the Knesset today. Meanwhile the United Nations is now estimating that 200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died over the past month making it one of the deadliest months of the intifada.
In Afghanistan, the U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai appears set to win the country’s presidential election. With 94 percent of the vote counted, election officials say Karzai has won more than 55 percent of the vote. Despite initial protests, his main rivals have conceded to Karzai. On the day of the election over a dozen of Karzai’s opponents called for a boycott of the election due to voting problems.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the FBI to get more information about the agency’s questioning of thousands of Muslims ahead of this year’s elections. The FBI has admitted it has conducted 13,000 so-called voluntary interviews this year as part of an effort to disrupt any election-year attacks. The ACLU is seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how the FBI chooses who it subjects to interviews.
And in an interview with the Guardian of London, former president Jimmy Carter has accused President Bush of exploiting 9/11 and abandoning efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Carter also criticized the media for its handling of the Bush administration. He said, “The press have been cowed, because they didn’t want to be unpatriotic. There has been a lack of inquisitive journalism. In fact, it’s hard to think of a major medium in the United States that has been objective and fair and balanced, and critical when criticism was deserved.”