The Bush administration agreed on the day before the Sept. 11 attacks to force the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. That was part of the conclusion issued by the independent 9/11 commission on Tuesday. The commission began two days of high-profile public hearings with testimony from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and their counterparts from the Clinton Administration, William Cohen and Madeline Albright. All four officials defended their administration’s handling of the Al Qaeda threat. Powell rejected charges by Bush’s former counterterrorism czar that the current administration did not take the terrorist threat seriously. Powell said “President Bush and his entire national security team understood that terrorism had to be among our highest priorities, and it was.” Powell also described the war on terror as a “crusade” borrowing a term that President Bush used shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s use of the word was widely criticized internationally and it raised questions if the war on terror was really a modern day crusade against Islam. Hearings continue today with Richard Clarke and others appearing to testify. The commission yesterday also called on National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to come forward and publicly testify.
In Iraq at least 11 Iraqi police and trainees were killed Tuesday. Meanwhile in Baghdad rockets struck the Sheraton Home which houses many journalists and contractors. No one was injured.
Hamas has chosen Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi as its new leader to replace Sheik Yassin who was assassinated by Israeli forces on Monday. Rantisi is widely seen as a hardliner within Hamas and is considered to be one of the seven founders of the organization. Last year he opposed the group’s declaration of a cease-fire. He told supporters yesterday “The door is open for you to strike all places, all the time and using all means.” Another Hamas leader suggested in an interview that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will now be targeted for assassination. Meanwhile President Bush appeared to have approved of the assassination of Yassin. In a brief meeting with reporters Bush said Israel has a “right to defend herself from terror. ”
World leaders have gathered in Madrid today for a ceremony marking the lives of those who died in the March 11th train bombings. On Tuesday Spain lowered the death toll in the attack from 201 to 190.
A new government report is predicting that the Medicare system will go broke in 15 years in part because of President Bush’s new Medicare prescription drug plan. Last year the government was projecting the Medicare system would stay solvent until 2026. Bush successfully pressed for an overhaul of the Medicare system that gave private insurers a much greater role in the program. An analyst from the Center for American Progress told the Washington Post the Medicare financial problems are a “direct result of increased payments to private health plans.”
In business news, the European Union has ordered Microsoft to pay a record $613 million fine for abusing its dominant market position.
In Britain the publisher of the new book House of Bush, House of Saud has dropped the book fearing lawsuits from the Saudis. In the book journalist Craig Unger exposes the deep ties between the Bushes and the Saudi Royal Family. In Britain the book was scheduled to be published by a division of Random House.
This news from Africa: a United Nations official Mukesh Kapila in Sudan has issued a grave warning about the situation there. He told the BBC, “This is ethnic cleansing. This is the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don’t know why the world isn’t doing more about it.” The official compared the government’s program of ethnic cleansing, systematic rape, and murder to the Rwandan genocide. At least 100 women were raped recently in a single attack. 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.