The U.S. Consulate in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah came under attack earlier today. News reports indicate a car exploded outside the consulate. Gunmen then stormed the compound killing four Saudi guards taking 18 local staff members hostage. All Americans who were at the consulate are reported to be safe.
In Iraq, more than 80 people have died over the past three days in a bloody weekend. On Sunday, 17 unarmed Iraqi contractors working for the Pentagon were shot dead in Tikrit. Another 20 were wounded. On Saturday, a suicide bomber in Mosul hit a bus killing Kurdish fighters. Also on Saturday, fighting between Shiites and Sunnis in the city of Latifiya left 20 dead.
Meanwhile leaders from 40 political parties gathered Sunday in Baghdad to warn that holding elections next month will only make matters worse. Tawfik al-Yassri, a member of Iraq’s interim parliament and a leader of the Iraqi National Coalition party, said “It will be the first seed of civil war.”
Meanwhile the top United Nations envoy in Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, has admitted the country’s security situation is not safe enough to hold national elections. He said “It is a mess in Iraq.” However the Iraqi and US leadership maintain the elections will go ahead as planned. Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar is in Washington to meet today with President Bush. He said Sunday on Meet the Press “”We do not think that postponing election or delaying it will solve the problem.”
Meanwhile Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on a trip to Washington has admitted the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and that it has made the world “less safe.”
In Fallujah, the Boston Globe is reporting the US military has made the city look like a police state. The military has set up so-called citizen processing centers where US soldiers take DNA samples from residents and makes scans of their retinas. In addition residents are given ID badges that must be worn at all times. The military has banned cars from the city center in an effort to eliminate the threat of suicide car bombings. In addition, the Globe reports the military is considering requiring all men in the city to work in military-style battalions to help rebuild the city. One college student in Fallujah criticized the occupying US forces saying, “When the insurgents were here, we felt safe. At least I could move freely in the city; now I cannot.” Meanwhile, the only humanitarian relief group in Fallujah has withdrawn from the city. The Red Crescent said the US military requested it leave “for security reasons.”
New photographs have emerged showing U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees. One photo shows Navy SEALs sitting on top of hooded and handcuffed detainees. Another shows an Iraqi being held with a gun to his head. Several photos appeared to show bloodied prisoners. The photos appear to have been taken by soldiers in May 2003 which would make them the earliest documented proof of prisoner abuse in Iraq. The Pentagon has launched a criminal investigation. John Hutson, a retired rear admiral said the taking of the photos was illegal under the Geneva Conventions which prohibits souvenir photos of prisoners of war.
Eight soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kuwait are filing a lawsuit today against the Army’s stop loss policy. The policy has prevented thousands of soldiers from returning home even though have fulfilled their agreed-upon commitment. The New York Times reports the names of seven of the soldiers are not appearing on the lawsuit because they fear retribution from the Army including being given more dangerous assignments in Iraq.
Meanwhile, 12 former soldiers are filing a lawsuit today against the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The plaintiffs were all forced out of the military because of their homosexuality.
In news from Afghanistan, the Washington Post has shed new light on the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player who went to Afghanistan to fight. Tillman was killed by fellow US troops last year but the Army issued a distorted and incomplete account of the events to make it appear that he was killed while fighting Afghan forces. Post reporter Steve Coll writes, “Tillman died unnecessarily after botched communications, a mistaken decision … and negligent shooting.”
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Fox News will soon become the primary news provider to radio giant Clear Channel. By mid-next year as many as 500 Clear Channel radio stations will be airing hourly five-minute news reports from Fox. Many stations will also carry syndicated talk shows hosted by Fox News personalities.
In news from Ukraine, the country’s Supreme Court has invalidated the results of last month’s presidential election. A runoff will now be held later this month.
In other election news, in Puerto Rico, the candidate narrowly leading in last month’s governors race is charging the U.S. government with acting as a colonial ruler for seizing control of ballot counting in the protracted election. This according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. A Boston-based federal judge has decided to step in and overrule Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court on how to run the recount. Gubernatorial candidate Aníbal Acevedo Vilá said the move “tortures the island’s residents and holds them hostage.” Last week 20,000 people protested outside the federal courthouse in San Juan to denounce the decision of U.S. District Judge Daniel Dominguez. Some demonstrators held signs reading “Stop the federal coup, respect Puerto Rico.”
The British aid agency Oxfam is warning that 45 million children will die needlessly over the next 10 years because rich nations have failed to live up to promises to fight global poverty. The group has released a new report titled Paying the Price that reveals that in real terms, the aid budgets of rich countries are half what they were in 1960. To worsen matters, Oxfam is also estimating that poor countries are now paying $100 million a day in debt repayments. Oxfam director Barbara Stocking said “The world’s poorest children are paying for rich countries’ policies on aid and debt with their lives.”
President Bush has decided to replace the top two officials on the Commission on Civil Rights and is expected to appoint a longtime critic of affirmative action to head the commission. The civil rights commission has been critical of the Bush administration’s civil rights policies and on how the president won the 2000 election in Florida. Losing their posts are chair Mary Frances Berry and Vice Chair Cruz Reynoso. The Washington Times reports Bush is expected to appoint former Virginia deputy attorney general Ashley Taylor, and Gerald Reynolds, the former assistant secretary in the Department of Education’s civil rights office. Reynolds is the former legal analyst for the Center for Equal Opportunity — a conservative think tank that opposed affirmative action. In 1997 Reynolds criticized affirmative action as a “corrupt system of preferences, set-asides and quotas.” Two years ago more than two dozen groups, including the NAACP and NOW, opposed his nomination to a post in the Education Department. Bush sidestepped the opposition by appointing Reynolds while the Senate was on recess. Reynolds nomination to head the civil rights commission however does not require Senate confirmation.
Former CIA Director George Tenet has called for the government to take greater control of the Internet because he claims the openness of the Internet poses a security problem. He said last week, “I know that these actions will be controversial in this age when we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability, but ultimately the Wild West must give way to governance and control.” He went on to say that access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously. Tenet’s comments during an IT conference in Washington. The national press was barred from attending the event.
This news just in from Spain: At least four bombs have exploded in Spanish cities shortly after a warning came from the Basque separatist group ETA. The attacks came on a public holiday that celebrates the 1978 constitution and the return to democracy after the four-decade dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. On Friday, ETA took responsibility for carrying our four small bombings in Madrid.