On Saturday, former President Ronald Reagan died after suffering for more than a decade from the mind-destroying illness of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 93 years old. Services honoring the former president will take place in Washington, D.C. and California, and span five days. Today his family is gathering for private services at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Afterward, the body will lie in repose at the library through Tuesday for public visitation. The body will be flown to Washington on Wednesday, where it will lie in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol for public viewing through the night and all day Thursday. The federal government will be closed Friday to honor the former president. The funeral service will take place at the National Cathedral, Reagan’s body will be returned to California later that day for burial at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Today we will spend the hour taking a look at Reagan’s presidency with Noam Chomsky, Helen Caldicott and Robert Parry, whose reporting helped lead to the exposure of what is now known as the “Iran-Contra” scandal.
In Iraq at least 20 people died in a pair of car bombings on Sunday. South of Baghdad, a bombing killed at least 11 police officers in an attack on an Iraqi police station. North of Baghdad, nine Iraqis were killed and another 30 injured in a car bombing outside a U.S. air base. In another attack on a U.S. base, one American was killed in Balad, this came two days after five U.S. soldiers were killed in Sadr City.
For the second time in a week the U.S. has announced a ceasefire has been reached with Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr who met over the weekend with the country’s leading Shiite leader Ayatollah Sistani. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times is now estimating 800 Iraqis living in the section of Baghdad known as Sadr City have been killed in fighting over the past few months.
On the governing front, the country’s new prime minister Iyad Allawi, who is a former Baathist with ties to the CIA, lashed out at the US for disbanding Saddam Hussein’s Baathist army, police and security forces. He is expected to soon announce that some Baath party members will be allowed to begin working again for the government. Meanwhile Iraq’s appointed president Ghazi Al Yawar will make his first trip to the United States as president this week to attend the G8 sumitt on Sea Island, Georgia where attendees will consider passing a resolution calling for more democratic reforms in the Arab world.
The New York Times reports most Arab nations with the exception of Qatar have been invited to attend the G8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia. The Qatar snub is the latest chapter in an ongoing battle over the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al Jazeera which the US claims incites anti-American violence in Iraq. One diplomat said QUOTE “It’s strange, having a summit declaration on democratic reforms and not inviting a country because it has a free press.”
In other Iraq news, the London Telegraph is reporting an arrest warrant has been issued for the American consultant Francis Brooke who has worked for years with Ahmend Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. An Iraqi judge said Brooke had tried to stop a recent raid on Chalabi’s headquarters. Brooke, who is believed to be back in Washington, boasted in a recent interview with the New Yorker that he helped engineer the war on Iraq by providing the United States the evidence it was seeking on weapons of mass destruction. He told the magazine “I’m a smart man. I saw what they wanted, and I adapted my strategy.” The INC has been widely accused on passing on fabricated intelligence to the U.S. government and major media outlets including the New York Times.
Meanwhile the Baltimore Sun has revealed that employees of the private military firm DynCorp oversaw the raid that was carried out on Chalabi’s headquarters by Iraqi police with U.S. support. Members of Chalabi’s INC had previously said that armed Americans in civilian clothes directed the Iraqi police on what rooms to go into and what items to take. The State Department has given DynCorp $50 million to provide 1,000 advisers to help organize Iraqi law enforcement and criminal justice systems. There are an estimated 20,000 contract security workers in Iraq. A recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee predicts the number could more than triple in the next several months. On Saturday four employees of the North Carolina-based security company Blackwater USA were killed in an ambush.
Over the weekend the U.S. released 320 more prisoners from the Abu Ghraib. This came as more news reports emerged that the incidents of torture recently captured on film in Abu Ghraib were not isolated events but part of a new Pentagon policy on dealing with detainees. The Wall Street Journal is reporting it has obtained a classified Bush administration report that concluded the president wasn’t bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn’t be prosecuted by the Justice Department. The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren’t getting enough information from prisoners. The report claimed that on national security grounds the president could approve the use of almost any physical or psychological action during interrogation including torture. In addition, the report advised that torture or homicide could be justified as “self-defense,” should an official “honestly believe” it was necessary to head off an imminent attack on the U.S.
In Saudi Arabia, two BBC journalists were shot Sunday in a gun battle near Riyadh. Simon Cumbers, an Irish cameraman for the BBC was killed. BBC’s Security Correspondent Frank Gardner was seriously injured. They were filming the house of a member of Al Qaeda who was killed last year. Gardner is one of the BBC’s foremost experts on Al Qaeda.
In Italy, the country’s largest electric company cut off power to two left-wing radio stations just as they were preparing to broadcast coverage of the protests against President Bush on Friday. This according to a report by MediaChannel. The electric company, which is partly state owned, claimed the power outage was due to maintenance work but it forced the two stations Radio Città Aperta and Radio Onda Rossa off the air for four hours. Green Party ministers have called for a parliamentary inquiry into the power outage. Protesters estimate 250,000 took to the streets against Bush in Italy.
In radio news in this country.... Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican John McCain have introduced legislation that could allow the formation of thousands of new low power FM radio stations across the country.
The New York Times is reporting federal prosecutors recently questioned Vice President Dick Cheney as part of their investigation into who outted the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame in apparent retaliation for public criticism of the Iraq war by her husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson. Cheney was not brought before the grand jury and was not questioned under oath. In his recent book Wilson identified Cheney’s chief of staff Scotter Libby as one possible source of the leak.
An Israeli court has sentenced a popular Palestinian leader who was once seen as a possible successor to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to life in prison. Marwan Barghouti was convicted last month of five killings. He rejected the sentence saying “The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation. The judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs.” In other news from Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet has approved a watered-down plan for Israel to dismantle Jewish settlements in Gaza.
The FBI has confirmed that it failed to act on a tip from a British man a year before Sept. 11 that Al Qaida was planning a large-scale attack in the U.S. The 29-year-old man approached the FBI in Newark NJ and told them he had been trained as a hijacker for Osama Bin Laden and had been taught the layout of the cockpit on a Boeing commercial plane. After questioning, the FBI allowed him to leave the country voluntarily. And according to the Independent of London no action was taken beyond placing his name on a no-fly list. The FBI claims it couldn’t substantiate his claims even though he passed a lie detector test. It wasn’t until after Sept. 11, 2001 that U.S. officials tried to contact him again.