The Army has announced thousands of troops will be barred from retiring or leaving the military as planned in order to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest stop-loss order affects all active duty and reserve units that are within 90 days of deploying to either country. Some soldiers who were on the verge of retiring could now be forced to stay in the Army and fight overseas for another year. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday’s announcement marked the broadest effort by the Pentagon so far to prevent soldiers from leaving the military. Military analysts say the new stop-loss order indicates the Army is stretched dangerously thin as it fights the two wars. The Army has also begun combing through the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former soldiers, to look for specialists with critically needed skills. The Los Angeles Times reports 5,000 members have already been called up. The Army has also decided to deploy — for the first time since World War II — a training unit at Ft Polk in Louisiana whose job has been to prepare other units being sent to combat. And last month the U.S. transferred 3,600 troops from South Korea to Iraq. One analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. said “It’s clear there was a fundamental miscalculation about how protracted and how intense the ground commitment in Iraq would be.” Sen. Jack Reed a Democrat from Rhode Island warned the move would have “a detrimental impact” on troop morale. He added “It is unfortunate that the administration has resisted attempts to be candid with the American people about the cost and length of this war and the commitments expected from the troops in the field and their families.”
In Iraq a ceasefire between the U.S. and backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appears to have all but ended as fighting broke out again on Wednesday between US forces and Sadr supporters in the city of Kufa. 7 Iraqis were reportedly killed, another 37 injured. According to the Washington Post, almost all the conditions of the truce worked out a week ago today have failed to hold.
The Pentagon has begun forcing some of its employees to undergo lie detector tests in an attempt to find out who leaked highly classified information to Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi has been accused of sharing secret information with Iran about U.S. war plans in Iraq and tipping Iran off to the fact that the U.S. had broken Iran’s top-secret intelligence code which allowed the U.S. to easily spy on Iran’s intelligence services. Chalabi has denied the charges. Newsweek is reporting Chalabi may have also attempted to blackmail U.S. officials by collecting and maintaining files of potentially damaging information on U.S. officials. Some officials said that when Chalabi’s offices were raided last month, American officials had hoped to find Chalabi’s cache of information he had gathered on Americans.
Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi has defended some of the interrogation tactics used by the U.S. in Iraq that have been condemned by human rights groups around the world. During an interview with a Jackson Mississippi tv station, the former Senate Majority leader said there is “nothing wrong with holding a dog up there, unless the dog ate him.” Later when the news anchorman noted that a prisoner died at Abu Ghraib, apparently after a beating, Lott responded, “This is not Sunday school; this is interrogation; this is rough stuff.” While the Red Cross has estimated that up to 90 percent of the prisoners held in Iraq should not be in jail because they are innocent, Lott had a different take. He said some of the prisoners “should not have been prisoners in the first place, [they] probably should have been killed.”
House Democrats on Wednesday called for special counsel to be named to probe whether Vice President Dick Cheney broke the law through any involvement in the award of a government contract in Iraq to Halliburton, his old company. In a letter singed by 11 Democrats, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan wrote “The public deserves to know the truth about whether the Vice President has illegally commingled his official and personal dealings.”
President Bush has sought counsel from a private Washington lawyer in connection with the grand jury investigation into who within the White House outted the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame last year. The move indicates Bush anticipates being questioned by the grand jury. The leak of Plame’s name came shortly after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, came public questioning claims made by the president about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capacity. Bush’s lawyer, Jim Sharp, is best known for representing Gen. Richard Secord of the Air Force during the Iran-contra affair.
Tapes have emerged that show Enron employees joking about shutting down power plants during the California blackouts in order to push local energy prices higher. Another tape has Enron employees discussing the possibility of Enron CEO Ken Lay becoming Secretary of Energy under President Bush. A third tape has an Enron employee joking about all of the money Enron stole “from those poor grandmothers in California?” The tapes aired on CBS News. The network reports both Justice Department and Enron tried to prevent the release of the tapes.
Reuters has obtained a Congressional report that shows nine months after Congress shut down the controversial Pentagon computer-surveillance program called Total Information Awareness, the U.S. government continues to comb private records and databases to sniff out suspicious activity. Peter Swire, who served as the Clinton’s administration’s top official said “I believe that Total Information Awareness is continuing under other names.”
The state of New York sued the giant British pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, on Wednesday claiming the company had illegally suppressed studies that showed its popular drug, Paxil, was not only ineffective in treating children but that it may have caused children to suffer from an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. A year ago the British government banned the use of Paxil for most minors but the Food and Drug Administration in Washington has not gone further than issuing warnings against its use among some children.