Calls increased Thursday for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down for his handling of the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. Presidential candidate John Kerry, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Tom Harkin as well as the New York Times all called for Rumsfeld to resign. Congressman Charles Rangel called for Rumsfeld’s impeachment. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts placed the blame not on Rumsfeld, but on Bush. He said “The tragedy unfolding in Iraq is the direct result of a colossal failure of leadership. The president has failed the Iraqi people, and he has failed America.” Today Rumsfeld will testify before the Senate Armed Forces Committee. One Republican staffer predicted “If he says anything arrogant, it’s over.” CNN is reporting Rumsfeld will announce today plans to form an independent panel to review how the Pentagon handling of the Iraqi prisoner scanda.
Meanwhile President Bush called Rumsfeld “a really good secretary of defense” and said “he will stay in my Cabinet.” Bush’s comments came during a mid-day appearance in the White House Rose Garden alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah where Bush apologized for the first time about the abuse of Iraqis in U.S.-run jails in Iraq. He said he was “sorry for the humiliation that was suffered by the Iraqi prisoners” and said the revelations were a “stain on our country’s honor and our country’s reputation.” According to the Washington Post, Bush’s advisors had urged the president to apologize on Wednesday during his interviews with Arab-language television networks, but for some reason the president did not.
The governnent’s chief classifier has begun investigating whether the Pentagon illegally classified its internal study on prison conditions. The law bars government agencies from classifying reports in order to conceal illegal or criminal activity. The Pentagon has yet to explain why the report — which was eventually leaked to New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh — was classified.
Meanwhile the government announced Thursday that two guards at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay have been disciplined for using excessive force against detainees.
In Iraq, U.S. forces went deep into the Shiite Holy City of Najaf where troops captured the former governor’s office that had been seized by Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. It was the deepest U.S. incursion into Najaf since the standoff with Sadr began over a month ago. The U.S. are now stationed about a mile away from one of Iraq’s holiest shrines, the shrine of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Dozens of Iraqi supporters of Sadr were reportedly killed in battles with the U.S. in Najaf, Karbala, and Kufa. The U.S. also destroyed the political offices of Sadr in Karbala. Two journalist s from Poland and Algeria died today in Iraq in a shooting and bomb ambush south of Baghdad.
On Thursday, the Senate voted 95 to 3 to approve UN ambassador John Negroponte as the head of the new US embassy in Iraq. According to the Los Angeles Times, only one Senator, Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa said that Negroponte’s record as ambassador of Honduras made him the wrong choice to represent the country in Iraq. Harkin accused the nominee of lying to his bosses and to Congress about the death squads that were responsible for the disappearance of 184 people, including an American priest, while he was ambassador to Honduras. Harkin said “Ambassador Negroponte turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the human rights abuses in Honduras. To send Mr. Negroponte to Iraq would send entirely the wrong message at this time.” Democrats Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Richard Durbin of Illinois also voted against Negroponte’s nomination.
The FBI has detained an Oregon man in connection to the March 11 train bombings that killed 191 in Madrid. Officials said the fingerprints of Brandon Mayfield had been found on evidence connected to the bombings. He is being detained as a material witness in a grand jury investigation. No charges have been filed against him.
The Food and Drug Administration has ruled a pharmaceutical company can not sell its morning-after-pill over the counter. In December a panel of independent experts voted 23 to 4 to recommend that the drug, made by Barr Pharmecitcals, be sold over the counter. The FDA said it was concerned about young teenagers’ use of the pills.
In Pakistan at least 10 people have been killed and 50 wounded in a suspected bomb attack on a mosque in Karachie.
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