Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted yesterday that he has not seen any hard evidence that links Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda. At an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld said “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” That was Donald Rumsfeld speaking yesterday. Two years ago, in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld claimed the U.S. had credible information that Al-Qaeda leaders had sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction. He also said in 2002, “solid evidence” showed that there were senior Al-Qaeda members in Iraq.
The former head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq, Paul Bremer, charged yesterday that the U.S. failed to have enough troops in Baghdad following the fall of Baghdad. He suggested the mass uncontrolled looting helped pave the way for the resistance against the U.S. presence. Bremer said “We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the group.”
A leading Kuwaiti newspaper is reporting that a number of Iraqi resistance groups are planning on uniting under a single umbrella group to oppose the US presence in Iraq. The paper reports the resistance group will command a total of 7,000 fighters across Iraq. In addition, the resistance groups are threatening to take up arms against suspected Al Qaeda leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi unless he stops carrying out attacks against Shiite Iraqis. A source for the new unity group said, “If Zarqawi does not abandon his plans to instigate a sectarian rift, the groups will force him to do so even if that requires taking up arms against him.” The group’s stance on Zarqawi cast new doubts on the Bush administration’s claim that Zarqawi is leading the resistance. A new report by Newsday has found that Zarqawi has far less power than portrayed by the U.S. and the media. The paper estimates his group has just 100 members inside Iraq. A new Arab intelligence assessment cited by Newsday determined that Zarqawi does not have the support to carry out all of the attacks that he takes credit for. Meanwhile President Bush said of the Iraqi resistance yesterday “We’re dealing with an enemy that has no conscience. These people are brutal. They’re the exact opposite of Americans.”
Four U.S. soldiers were charged with murder yesterday for killing an Iraqi general who suffocated during an interrogation. The Denver Post has reported the soldiers put a sleeping bag over the man’s head and rolled him onto his stomach. The medical examiner found the general had died of asphyxiation from chest compression and from being smothered. The soldiers could face life in prison for the murder.
Governmental officials in Poland said yesterday that they expect to pull their troops out of Iraq by the end of 2005. Poland is the fourth largest troop contributor to the US-led coalition in Iraq. The announcement comes as opposition to the Polish presence increases. One recent poll showed 70 percent of Poles opposed the presence of Polish troops in Iraq. One opposition party, the Polish Peasants Party, has launched a petition calling for an immediate pullout.
Pentagon statistics show that September was the second deadliest month of the year for U.S. forces in Iraq. 80 soldiers died during the month–up from 65 in August.
At the United Nations, Arab nations called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Israel for its ongoing attack on Gaza. Algerian’s U.N. Ambassador said “The Palestinian people are exposed to a virtual war of extermination. The unfettered use of brutal force is terrifying.” The U.S. indicated it would veto any anti-Israel resolution. Agence France Press reports U.S. Ambassador John Danforth accused the United Nations of acting “as the adversary of Israel and the cheerleader of the Palestinians.”
A new report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has found that 41 percent of the fatalities in Gaza over the past week have been civilians. The group estimates Israeli forces have killed 75 Palestinians–31 of whom were civilians. Among the dead were 19 Palestinian children aged 17 and under. The group says 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza are living under complete siege without water and electricity and little food. B’Tselem also reports Israeli forces have demolished 55 hmed in the Jabaliya refugee camp and another 50 additional houses have been severely damaged. B’Tselem also condemned Palestinian militants for continuing to carry out missile attacks against Israel which they said constitutes a war crime. But the group said in a statement “the grief for the death of Israeli civilians cannot justify such extensive harm to Palestinian civilians uninvolved in the hostilities.”
Illinois and Wisconsin yesterday launched the nation’s first state-sponsored program to help residents buy cheaper prescriptions from other countries despite a federal ban on such programs. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a complaint to the states but news reports indicate the FDA does not intend to shut the program down. State officials estimates residents in Illinois and Wisconsin will now be able to purchase scores of drugs up to 50 percent off the U.S. retail price.
The New York Civil Liberties is accusing the New York Police Department of illegally fingerprinting the majority of people arrested during the Republican National Convention. Of the 1800 people arrested in the mass arrests, most were charged with minor violations such as disorderly conduct and parading without a permit.
The Council on American Islamic Relations is reporting anti-Islamic sentiment in the country is deeper than the group had previously understood. A new study commissioned by the group shows one in four Americans holds a negative stereotype of Muslims, and almost one-third respond with a negative image when they hear the word “Muslim.” More than a quarter of people polled felt that Muslims value life less than other people and that Muslims teach their children to hate unbelievers. The group conducted the poll over the summer after it released its annual civil rights report that determined harassment, violence and discrimination against American Muslims had increased by 70 percent since 2002.