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The Iraqi city of Fallujah is devastated after a week of intense fighting that has left at least 1200 Iraqis dead.
A reporter from the London Independent reports, “US warplanes, tanks and mortars have left a shattered landscape of gutted buildings, crushed cars and charred bodies. A drive through the city revealed a picture of utter destruction, with concrete houses flattened, mosques in ruins, telegraph poles down, power and phone lines hanging slack and rubble and human remains littering the empty streets.”
Al Jazeera reports that as many as half of the city’s mosques have been destroyed.
While the U.S. military claims most of the city is now under their control the BBC reports the Iraqi resistance is putting up an intense fight in the southern part of the city.
The civilian death toll remains unknown. The U.S. has blocked the Iraqi Red Crescent from sending humanitarian workers into the city. One volunteer with the Iraqi Red Crescent said, “Anyone who gets injured is likely to die, because there’s no medicine and they can’t get to doctors. There are snipers everywhere. Go outside and you’re going to get shot.”
And human rights experts said the U.S. military might have committed war crimes when it sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Fallujah. This according to a report in the New York Times. The Geneva Conventions requires military forces protect civilians as refugees and forbid returning them to a combat zone
The U.S. military has estimated that 1200 Iraqis have been killed and they claim all of them have been fighters with the Iraqi resistance. In addition 38 U.S. troops and 6 Iraqi troops have died. Over 400 injured U.S. troops have been airlifted to the U.S. medical hospital in Landstuhl Germany.
Meanwhile intense fighting continues to spread elsewhere in Iraq. In Kirkuk gunmen have assassinated a member of Iraq’s 100-seat National Council. Middle East analyst Juan Cole said this is the Iraqi equivalent of a U.S. Senator being assassinated. The official, Sadoun Mohammed of the Communist party, was killed when gunmen ambushed his car.
In Mosul, the Iraqi resistance have seized control of another police station and burned down the governor’s house. The interim Iraqi government has reportedly fired the police chiefs of Mosul and Samarra for failing to protect the city’s from attacks by resistance fighters. In Baiji, the resistance claims to have taken control of parts of the city and have destroyed one of the city’s key bridges. Fighting has also broken out in the Iraqi city of Baqouba and the nearby town of Buhriz. In Samarra, a strict curfew has been put in place that forces residents to say insider for all but four hours a day.
Meanwhile for the first time, Iraq’s Deputy Minister Barham Salih has admitted to the Guardian of London that the January elections in Iraq could be delayed due to the ongoing violence.
In other news, Iran has pledged to fully suspend its uranium enrichment program. In a letter to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran said it would suspend all activities connected with uranium enrichment until a final diplomatic agreement is reached with the European Union. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes
In Gaza City, the new chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mahmoud Abbas, escaped injury Sunday after masked gunmen opened fire on a gathering where Palestinians were mourning the death of Yasser Arafat. Two of Abbas’ bodyguards were killed in the shooting.
Meanwhile Palestinian’s Foreign Minister has announced that Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to visit the West Bank next week for talks.
In Haiti, the U.S.-backed government has announced it is preparing to issue an arrest warrant for the country’s ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide who was overthrown in a US-backed coup in February. The interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has also announced the creation of a five-member commission to investigate alleged corruption that took place by Aristide’s government. Aristide, who was the country’s first democratically elected president, is now living in exile in South Africa.
The news of Aristide’s possible arrest comes as the new government faces increasing criticism for carrying out human rights abuses against backers of Aristide and his Lavalas party. Last week Amnesty international issued a report condemning the new Haitian government for carrying out summary executions and illegally detaining Aristide supporters. Also last week, the Carribean nations in CARICOM refused to normalize relations with the new Haitian government because of its poor human rights record. The Bush administration, however, continues to openly support the new Haitian government. Last month the State Department lifted its 13-years arms embargo setting the way for the US to help arm the new police forces.
In his first remarks since he announced his resignation, Attorney General John Ashcroft lashed out at judges who have attempted to question moves made by President Bush in his so-called war on terror. In a speech before the Federalist Society on Friday, Ashcroft said, “The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war.” In response, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said Ashcroft’s statement showed “his clear disdain for the rule of law.”
The CIA is undergoing a major shakeup in the weeks following the presidential election. The deputy director of the agency, John McLaughlin, has announced his resignation. He served as acting CIA director following the departure of George Tenant. Meanwhile Newsday is reporting that the White House has ordered the purging of anyone inside the agency who has criticized the Bush administration.
In news from Capitol Hill, debate continues among Senate Republicans as to whether the party’s leadership will attempt to block Penn. Senator Arlen Specter from becoming chair of the Senate Judiciary. Specter, who is pro-choice, has hinted that he may block judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade from being put on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile Senate Republicans are also considering rewriting Senate rules in order to block Democrats from being able to block judicial nominees by using filibusters.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Presbyterian Church has taken the initial steps toward divesting from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The church is the largest US organization to back a policy of divestment from Israel. Meanwhile the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have launched an investigation into a letter sent to the national office of the church threatening violence for its criticism of Israel. The handwritten letter postmarked in Queens warned, “I promise violence against Presbyterian churches… they will go up in flames… that’s a terrorist threat… there will be bloodshed.”
The Miami-Dade police department has announced it is reviewing its policy on the use of Taser stun guns after police twice used them in recent weeks to shoot pre-teen children. On Oct. 20 an officer shot a six-year-old first grader with a taser that generated a 50,000 volt shock. The boy was reportedly holding a piece of glass and threatening to hurt himself. Last week police shot and immobilized a 12-year-old girl who was playing hooky from school. Meanwhile in Sacramento California, a man died last week after being shot with a Taser. The man, Ricardo Zaragoza, became the second person in Sacramento County to die after being shot by a taster over the past year. Both victims were on medication at the time for mental illness. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates 76 people have died in the U.S. and Canada after being shot by Tasers since 2001.