In Iraq the death toll from the US siege on Fallujah has now topped 600. Over 1,200 more Iraqis have been injured. On Friday 60,000 women and children fled the city during a brief ceasefire but the US blocked any men of military age from leaving. The US claims there is a ceasefire in the city to allow for political negotiations to take place. But other reports from Iraq indicate there is no ceasefire.
Dozens of bodies have been buried in the city’s soccer stadium after US forces blocked roads heading toward the cemetery.
According to the Guardian of London, local hospitals reported the majority of the dead were women, children and the elderly but the US maintained 95 percent of those killed were members of the resistance.
The attack on Fallujah has galvanized major portions of the Iraqi population against the US. Even the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council appears to be in danger of collapsing. One member suspended his seat on the council to protest the US actions. Four more have threatened to quit. And one of the Iraqis closest to the US, Adnan Pachachi, charged the US actions in Fallujah were “unacceptable and illegal.”
The US initially blocked members of the Iraqi Governing Council from entering Fallujah. The council members were attempting to start negotiations.
Council member Hachim Hassani said the US has alienated much of the Iraqi population. He said, “If you keep shooting them you are gaining more enemies, not just in Fallujah but all over Iraq and then you cannot have democracy.”
In addition, the newly installed Iraqi minister of human rights resigned in protest. And there are reports that many governmental workers are on strike to protest the US actions in Fallujah.
And the London Telegraph is reporting senior British army officials are growing more concerned over US actions in Iraq.
One official told the paper “My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans’ use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don’t see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen [or sub humans]. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are.”
The official went on to say, “The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach — it has failed. They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people. ”
Fighting continued to rage through several other Iraqi cities over the weekend including Bacuba where US forces killed 47 Iraqis.
President Bush reiterated Sunday that the US still plans to hand over power on June 30 but it remains unclear who power would be handed to.
When asked on Sunday what kind of Iraqi government would take over in July, the head of the US occupation Paul Bremer said: “That’s a good question.”
The Los Angeles Times reports the continuing violence has brought to a virtual halt U.S. reconstruction efforts and work toward the planned June 30 transition to Iraqi sovereignty.
President Bush described the resistance as “a few people trying to stop progress toward democracy.”
But nearly all evidence coming out of Iraq indicates much of the population, even the US-trained Iraqi army, have turned against the occupying forces.
The Washington Post reports an entire battalion of the US-trained Iraqi army refused orders to fight in Fallujah against the Iraqi resistance. One soldier told reporters, 'We didn't sign up to fight Iraqis.” Some members of the army reportedly quit to join the resistance.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw admitted to the BBC that the resistance is widespread. Straw said, “The lid of the pressure cooker has come off… It is plainly the fact today that there are larger numbers of people, and they are people on the ground, Iraqis, not foreign fighters, who are engaged in this insurgency.”
A new Newsweek poll has found 64 percent of Americans are concerned Iraq will turn into another Vietnam.
Overall at least 60 U.S. troops have died over the past week including 19 since Friday. Two died yesterday when their Apache helicopter was shot down near the Baghdad airport. Over 750 coalition troops have now died since the US invasion, about 665 from the U.S. and 100 from other members of the coalition including nearly 60 from Britain.
At least 10 civilian hostages are also being held by various groups within the Iraqi resistance. The hostages include three Japanese civilians who have been held since Wednesday, seven Chinese civilians who were taken Sunday and an American working for the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. He was abducted on a road after the truck he was driving was attacked by insurgents. An Australian camera crew filmed him being taken away by armed men wearing traditional Iraqi headdress.
In Japan, the news of the hostages has been the country’s top story for much of the past week. Being held are an 18-year-old who had traveled to Iraq to study the effects of depleted uranium, a 32-year-old freelance journalist and a 34-year-old aid worker. On Saturday Al Jazeera recevied a faxed statement that said the three hostages would be released within 24 hours but they are still being held leading to increased calls for the Japanese to pull its troops from Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney is traveling to Japan and South Korea on a previously scheduled trip in part to urge the countries to remain in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Cheney will also be visiting China.
Friday marked the first anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and the day US troops pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Bagdad. But there was no celebration at the former site of Saddam’s statue. On Friday the Los Angeles Times reports the square was sealed off by US troops with armored vehicles. Soldiers removed large posters of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who the US has labeled an outlaw. In the square, the US troops were broadcasting a message in Arabic warning that anyone who approached the square would be shot.
On Saturday, the White House released a once top secret memo that warned President Bush some 36 days before the Sept. 11 attacks that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike inside the U.S.
The memo reported that the FBI had found, “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”
The memo also states that the FBI was conducting 70 full field investigations connected to Bin Laden throughout the country.
The report was declassified two days after National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice claimed the August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing was a “historical memo” that did not merit special action.
Bush received the briefing at his ranch in Crawford Texas on Aug 6, 2001 where he continued to vacation.
On Sunday Bush, on another trip to Texas, defended his administration’s handling of the Al Qaeda threat pre-9/11. He said, “I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America–at a time and a place, an attack.”
The New York Times reports some Republicans are now openly questioning whether the GOP made a major political mistake in selecting New York City, the site of the attacks, to hold the party’s convention this summer. The convention is set to begin just two weeks before the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
On Tuesday the independent 9/11 commission will begin two more days of hearings. Set to testify Tuesday are former FBI Director Louis Freeh and Attorney General John Ashcroft.