In Baghdad at least 15 people have died and another 80 wounded after a car bomb exploded earlier today outside an army recruitment center near the heavily-fortified Green Zone.
Meanwhile in Samarra, a major assault led by the U.S. has left at least 150 Iraqis dead including many women and children. Scores were injured and 88 people have been detained. The offensive began on Thursday when 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops invaded the city held by the Iraqi resistance. U.S. and Iraqi forces are now saying they have secured 70 percent of the city following one of the largest offensives in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. The U.S. admitted at least 10 percent of the casualties were civilians, but local hospital officials said the percentage is much higher. Of the 70 dead brought to Samarra’s General Hospital, officials reported 23 were children and 18 were women. The BBC reports that witnesses in the center of Samarra are reporting U.S. snipers are shooting at anyone who appears on the streets. Many buildings in the city’s commercial district are reportedly riddled with bullets or partially destroyed. The streets are littered with burnt out vehicles. The influential Sunni group Committee of Muslim Scholars called the U.S.-led attack a “massacre” and warned against the U.S. plan to invade other cities held by the resistance before the scheduled January elections. A spokesperson for the group said “Who is going to respect elections paved by the blood of Iraqis and built on their skulls?” Meanwhile in Fallujah, nightly air strikes continued throughout the weekend.
The New York Times has published a major 10,000 word investigation into how the Bush administration ignored claims from within its own government that Saddam Hussein did not have an active nuclear program before the invasion of Iraq. The article examines the story behind the claim that Iraq possessed aluminum tubes that could be used in a nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration repeatedly cited the existence of the tubes as definitive evidence that Iraq had a nuclear program. But what the Bush administration never revealed was that the top officials inside the Energy Department had concluded the tubes were being used not for a nuclear program, but to build conventional rockets. The paper said National Security Adivsor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld and Sec. Of State Colin were all aware of the conflicting intelligences. But the Times reports “They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of their own experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.” The Times went on to report “The result was a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against the administration’s most tangible proof of a revived nuclear weapons program in Iraq.”
In Australia, thousands of anti-war protesters marched in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and other cities calling for the ouster of the government of John Howard. The coordinated protests came as part of the End the Lies campaign.
Meanwhile in Washington, police arrested 28 people at the White House as they attempted to deliver a cardboard box containing the names of people killed in Iraq. Among the arrested were family members of soldiers in Iraq.
In other Iraq news, one of the two Italian hostages freed last week has publicly supported the Iraqi resistance. Simona Toretta told an Italian newspaper, “I distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians.” Toretta was kidnapped along with Simona Pari last week. Both worked for the Italian group A Bridge to Baghdad which has opposed U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.
In Gaza, at least 73 people–all but three were Palestinians — have now been killed during the five day Israeli assault. Yesterday Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians. The past week has marked one of the deadliest periods for Palestinians since the intifida began four years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed to proceed with the military action. He said “This is not a short operation. We should act for as long as the danger exists.” Yesterday UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on Israel to end its offensive and for the Palestinians to halt rocket attacks against Israel. Egypt and France joined Spain, Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Canada in expressing concern at Israel’s action. Arab League representatives decided that the 22-member bloc would make a joint appeal at the United Nations for urgent action to halt Israel’s “continuing war of extermination against the Palestinian people.”
President Bush’s lead over John Kerry has vanished in most polls following Thursday’s debate. A Newsweek poll now has Kerry beating Bush 47 to 45 percent. Among those polled, 61 percent said Kerry was the clear winner of the debate while less than 20 percent said Bush had won the debate. Four weeks ago the same Newsweek poll found Bush beating Kerry by an 11 point margin. Tomorrow night Vice President Dick Cheney and Kerry’s running mate John Edwards will take part in the first and only vice presidential debate.
Fox News said yesterday it has reprimanded its chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, after he wrote an article mocking John Kerry that included fabricated quotes attributed to the Democratic presidential nominee. The article appeared on the Fox web site Friday, the day after the first presidential debate. One quote from Kerry read “Didn’t my nails and cuticles look great? What a great debate.” Another fabricated quote had Kerry saying “I’m metrosexual — he’s a cowboy.” The news network blamed the story’s posting on “fatigue and bad judgment, rather than malice.”
In Haiti, police have arrested three politicians including the country’s Senate president. All three are supporters of the ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They were arrested after a standoff at the independent radio station Radio Caribes. While he was being taken away the Senate President Yvon Fuille said “They are kidnapping me. They have no reason to arrest me, it is an illegal arrest.” The U.S.-backed government claimed the men were linked to recent killings but many saw the arrests as a political move.
In other Haiti news, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is calling on the White House and Congress to increase its disaster aid to Haiti tenfold to at least $500 million to help the country recover from the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Jeanne. The death toll in Haiti has risen to 2,000 and another 900 people remain missing and are presumed dead.