On the campaign trail, Senator John Kerry accused President Bush of creating * “a crisis of historic proportions”* in Iraq because of “colossal failures of judgment.” In a major address at New York University, Kerry gave his harshest critique yet of Bush’s policies in Iraq and outlined his plan to improve the crisis. Kerry said “In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence.” Kerry outlined a four-point plan to improve the situation in Iraq. He said he would: get more help from other countries, provide better training for Iraqi forces, increase benefits to the Iraqi people and ensure elections take place next year as scheduled. [* Read speech* || * Watch Speech*
Bush responded to Kerry’s speech by accusing his opponent of shifting his position on Iraq once again. [* Read speech*] Today Bush is scheduled to outline his plans for Iraq in his address before the General Assembly of the United Nations.
In news from Iraq, the American contractor * Eugene Armstrong* has been executed by the captives who kidnapped him along side two others contractors last week. A video of Armstrong being beheaded was aired on Arabic television yesterday. Armstrong was shown blindfolded, wearing an orange jumpsuit and sobbing. US officials have reported recovering his body. Armstrong’s killers are now threatening to execute one of the other two contractors unless all Muslim women are released from Iraqi prisons.
In other Iraq news, * two prominent Sunni clerics have been assassinated*. Both were members of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars. Meanwhile a commander of the armed wing of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq was killed along with his wife north of Karbala. In Mosul, a car bomb killed three. In Fallujah, the US continued air strikes killing at least two people.
The Los Angeles Times has revealed that U.S. military investigators have opened a criminal probe into allegations that U.S. troops * tortured and murdered an 18-year-old Afghan soldier, Jamal Naseer last year while in U.S. custody. The investigation is also examining the alleged torture of seven other Afghan soldiers — none of whom were linked to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. The US allegedly beat the detainees, immersed them in water, gave them electrical shocks, hung them upside down and tore off their toenails. This according to Afghan investigators and an internal memorandum prepared by a United Nations delegation that interviewed the surviving soldiers. Some of the Afghan soldiers were reportedly beaten to the point that they could no longer walk or sit. One witness described Naseer’s battered corpse as “green and black” with bruises. According to the LA Times the US Army had stymied previous attempts to investigate the murder and torture, but the Army reopened the probe in response to questions from the newspaper and the * Crimes of War Project. [Related links from the Crimes of War Project website: * “A Torture Killing by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan”* || * “Not Above the Law: U.S. Special Operations in the War on Terror”*]
In other news from Afghanistan, two U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.
In the northern province of Kunduz, one of the country’s vice presidents * survived an assassination attempt* after a roadside bomb went off near his 20-vehicle convoy.
Meanwhile U.S. military officials are reporting members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban recently held * high-level meetings* in Pakistan to discuss ways to derail the October 9th Afghan election.
Newsweek is reporting that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency have conducted “war games” to study what would happen if the * US preemptively attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities*. The agencies reportedly concluded that such an attack would not resolve the standoff with Tehran. The US has accused Iran of secretly building nuclear weapons but Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Today President Mohammad Khatami said that Iran will * continue its nuclear program* even if that means an end to U.N. oversight. It also announced today that it has started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons. Khatami said “We’ve made our choice: yes to peaceful nuclear technology, no to atomic weapons.”
Yesterday the chief nuclear watchdog at the United Nations, Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran’s program did not present an * “imminent threat.”*
Mohamed ElBaradei also said yesterday that there now are at least * 40 countries who know how to produce nuclear weapons*. He urged the international community to tighten world policing or nuclear activities and for the UN to stop relying on voluntarily compliance by member nations.
In Haiti, more than * 600 people have now died* following devastating floods caused by tropical storm Jeanne. The northern coastal city of Gonaives has been hit worse. The United Nations is estimating 80 percent of the city’s 200,000 population has been affected by the floods.
CBS News yesterday acknowledged that it can * no longer vouch for the authenticity of memos* about President Bush’s National Guard service. Dan Rather said * “We have been misled* on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers.” We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to * approve the nomination* today of Republican Congressman Porter Goss as the new director of the CIA. The full Senate will soon start debate on his nomination. Some Democrats have expressed concern that the former CIA officer is too partisan and too close to the White House to carry out the job. Yesterday Goss admitted for the first time that some prewar statements by senior Bush administration officials might have * overstated available intelligence* about the threat posed by Iraq.
In other intelligence news, a group of Sept. 11 families went to Washington yesterday to urge lawmakers to oppose all amendments designed to * extend or expand the Patriot Act* and not to link the passage of the 9/11 Commission with the expansion of the Patriot Act.
And in elections news, a federal judge yesterday * struck down* more than a dozen of the government’s current rules on political fund raising with just weeks before Election Day. The judge concluded federal regulators had improperly weakened the nation’s campaign finance law.