At least 70 people have died and 270 have been injured in Iraq after members of the Iraqi resistance staged a coordinated pre-dawn uprising in five cities and towns today. Most of the attacks targeted U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces. The worst violence was in the northern city of Mosul where at least 40 people died and 60 were injured. Iraqis also died in attacks in Baghdad, Baquba, Ramadi and Falluja. In Fallujah a U.S. Cobra helicopter was shot down. The U.S. bombed portions of Falluja and Baquba. At least three U.S. soldiers also died today. The coordinated uprising comes less than a week before the scheduled so-called handover of power to Iraq. The attacks also come one day after Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi vowed to assassinate Iraq’s selected prime minister Iyad Allawi. Zarqawi is a Jordanian who the U.S. claims has ties to Al Qaeda and is leading the Iraqi resistance.
The US has given up trying to lobby the United Nations to exempt Americans from the International Criminal Court and prosecution of war crimes committed by US troops overseas including rape, torture and other crimes against humanity. The US had secured such an exemption over the past two years but it faced wide opposition this year in part due to the prison torture scandal in Iraq. Even though the UN will not be voting on the exemption, the US has already received agreements from about 90 countries not to prosecute Americans. Meanwhile in Iraq, The Bush administration has granted its own troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after June 30.
The Washington-based watchdog group Project on Government Oversight sued Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday for classifying previously public documents pertaining to the case of Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds is the former FBI translator who was hired after the 9/11 attacks. She has publicly said on Democracy Now and other news programs the US had information before Sept. 11, 2001 that indicated Al Qaeda was planning an attack on the US using planes. The government has been attempting to bar Edmonds from testifying in a lawsuit related to the 9/11 attacks. In addition to attempting to put a gag order on Edmonds, Ashcroft recently reclassified information that had been previously given to Congress in public. The suit filed yesterday claims Ashcroft’s move to reclassify is illegal and unconstitutional.
The Associated Press filed suit in federal court yesterday for full access to President Bush’s military service records. The White House says it released all records related to Bush’s service earlier this year. However, the administration has not responded to Freedom of Information Act requests for access to Bush’s microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin. The records relate to Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. The period is surrounded by controversy because he was working for an Arizona Senate candidate at the time and it is unclear whether he actually spent time in the Guard.
In an incident similar to the beating of Rodney King, Los Angeles police officers have been captured on videotape beating a man after it appears he tried to surrender. The tape shows one officer kicked the man in the head and then hit him in the neck and upper back at least 11 times with a flashlight. The beating was filmed by a news helicopter. The incident began when the man attempted to flee police on foot. He was unarmed. Civil rights activist Najee Ali said “Here we go again. This is Rodney King all over again.” Los Angeles Police chief William Bratton said “There is no denying that it looks very bad from what is seen on the video.” Bratton said the incident would be investigated.
Newsweek is reporting Kerry has narrowed his list of possible Vice Presidents to three: Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and Sen. John Edwards. Ralph Nader took the unusual step of urging his opponent to select Edwards, who is a former trial lawyer.
In other elections news, Congressional Black Caucus has met with Nader and requested that he drop out of the Presidential race.
Meanwhile in Arizona, the Democratic Party has filed suit in Arizona to keep Nader off the ballot. The suit challenges the validity of petitions submitted by Nader’s campaign.
And supporters of jailed soldier Camilo Mejia rallied in Lawton, Oklahoma yesterday where the military held a hearing to determine if Mejia should receive conscientious objector status. Mejia was sentenced last week to one year in prison for desertion. He refused to return to Iraq last year in part because he witnessed U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqis. Among those protesting outside the hearing was Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out.