Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry said yesterday that he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq even if he had known then that no weapons of mass destruction would be found. Kerry said “Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have.” Kerry was responding to a challenge laid down by President Bush last Friday for Kerry to clarify his position, including why he voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the invasion yet opposed funding for it. While Kerry continues to support the occupation of Iraq, he said that his goal as president would be to reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed there during his first six months in office through diplomacy and foreign assistance.
A roadside bomb apparently aimed at a US military convoy exploded near hotels used by foreigners in central Baghdad early on Tuesday, but Iraqi police said there were no casualties. Overnight, resistance forces fired a dozen mortars or rockets in central Baghdad aimed at the Green Zone compound housing the interim Iraqi government and the US and British embassies. A series of strong explosions were also heard in Baghdad early on Tuesday, coming from the direction of the Sadr City neighborhood. In the Shiite Holy City of Najaf, fresh fighting broke out today, with explosions and gunfire coming from the heart of the city where Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are dug in. Iraqi officials have reportedly given US military commanders permission to strike the Holy shrine in Najaf, where some members of the Mehdi Army are based. Meanwhile, news agencies out of the city say residents are rejecting a curfew and are vowing to fight the US forces. The LA Times reports today that the US has taken operational control” of Iraqi troops in the city.
Serious questions are being raised about a raid on a mosque in Albany, New York last week that was hailed as a victory in the so-called war on terror. Two leaders of the mosque were arrested in a sting operation and were indicted on charges of conspiring to launder money and concealing a plot to use a shoulder-fired weapon to kill Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations. But it now appears there was no actual plot; it turns out the 2 men from the mosque were dealing with an FBI informant who is a convicted felon trying to get a reduced sentence in an unrelated fraud case. According to court documents reviewed by the Financial Times newspaper, conversations taped by the FBI informant show that Mohammed Mosharraf Hossain and Yassin Muhhiddin Aref were lured into receiving $5,000 for helping the informant to launder $45,000. As part of the sting operation, the informant invented the story that he had earned the money from smuggling an anti-aircraft weapon into the US that was to be used to strike the Pakistani consulate in New York or hit its ambassador. But the official indictment also reveals that one of the men told the FBI informant that now was not the time for “violent jihad” or struggle, and that importing such weapons was illegal. Both accused refused a request to help transport the smuggled weapon through New York.
A federal judge in Washington held a reporter for Time magazine in contempt of court yesterday and ordered him jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to him. The magazine was also held in contempt and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 a day. The judge, Thomas Hogan, suspended both sanctions while Time and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, pursued an appeal. But the judge firmly rejected their contention that the First Amendment entitled journalists to refuse to answer a grand jury”s questions about confidential sources. Legal experts said yesterday that the potential jailing of a journalist represented perhaps the most significant clash between federal prosecutors and the news media since the 1970”s. The case is one of several making their way through federal courts in which journalists have been ordered to reveal their sources. Like Cooper, Tim Russert, of NBC”s “Meet the Press,” received a subpoena in May. But unlike Cooper, Russert agreed to cooperate. In a statement, NBC said Mr. Russert was interviewed under oath by prosecutors on Saturday. A Washington Post reporter, Glenn Kessler, was interviewed by prosecutors in June. A second Post reporter, Walter Pincus, said he received a subpoena yesterday.
Japanese police are investigating Kansai Electric Power for possible negligence leading to the deadliest accident at a nuclear power plant ever in the country. The company had not thoroughly inspected the cooling pipe that exploded and killed four people for almost 30 years. Officials claim that no radiation leaked following the accident.
Following the lead of the Bush administration, the European Union said yesterday that it does not consider the widespread violence in Sudan to be genocide. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana did say that “it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing and village burning of a fairly large scale. There are considerable doubts as to the willingness of Sudan’s government to assume its duty to protect its civilian population against attacks.” Solana cited unwillingness to send a significant military force, saying the EU and others are being forced to cooperate with the Khartoum government. Last month, the US House of Representatives voted 422 to zero to describe the situation in Darfur as genocide.
Amnesty International and other groups are reporting that between 40 and 150 construction workers have died in Athens due to poor safety measures leading up to the Olympics, scheduled to begin this Friday. Union officials say there is no official record being kept of the deaths. City authorities are also reportedly rounding up homeless people, drug addicts, and mentally ill people and requiring that psychiatric hospitals lock them up. Also affected by Athens Olympic clean-up are refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom are being targeted for detention and deportation in the days leading u to the games. And as the city makes preparation to welcome athletes, inmates of Korydallos Prison and five other prisons have protested against the government’s decision to stop authorizing parole during the games as a security measure.