More than one third of the retired soldiers being reactivated for duty in Iraq are refusing to go. The Army is threatening to charge some of the former soldiers with desertion. This according to a report in USA Today. The Army has called up about 1600 former soldiers as part of what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve. More than 600 have not shown up ˆ many have requested exemptions for health and personal reasons. 14 of these soldiers have already been declared AWOL. Senator John Kerry has accused President Bush of instituting a backdoor draft by recalling former soldiers.
Time Magazine has revealed that the White House had developed a secret plan where it would covertly use the CIA to help pro-U.S. candidates win in the upcoming Iraqi election. The plan was reportedly discarded after protests from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Time reports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to voice her opposition. Some officials within the Bush administration have defended the plan saying it is needed to counter outside influence from other countries including Iran. This comes as the Los Angeles Times is reporting that in Afghanistan numerous Afghan presidential candidates have complained that U.S. officials are pressuring them to drop out of the race against the U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai.
Meanwhile Jordan’s King Abdullah has told a French newspaper that it will be impossible to hold fair elections in Iraq if the security situation does not improve. The Bush administration and US-backed Iraqi leaders insist the elections will go ahead even if major portions of the country can not take part. The credibility of the elections are also in jeopardy because the influential Sunni group, The Muslim Scholars Association, has announced plans to boycott the election. The group has called for U.S. forces to leave Iraq.
The New York Times is reporting that the CIA’s National Intelligence Council warned President Bush in two classified reports in January 2003 that an invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict. The existence of these two classified reports had not been previously disclosed and offer new proof that the President was warned before the invasion that the Iraq invasion could lead to destabilize the region. The report was written by the same group that wrote the recent classified National Intelligence Estimate that predicted Iraq could face a civil war if the security situation doesn‚t improve. Bush recently dismissed the CIA report describing the conclusions of the reports as “guesses” by the CIA on the situation.
In Iraq, the U.S. is continuing to carry out major air attacks on the Sunni city of Fallujah and the Shiite area of Baghdad known a Sadr City. A representative of cleric Moqtada al Sadr called the raids in Baghdad QUOTE “the most intensive ever.” Most of the 2.5 million people in the Shiite neighborhood have lost power. At least five people died in Sadr City on Monday. Three deaths were reported in Fallujah.
A Kuwaiti daily newspaper is reporting that the captors of two Italian hostages in Iraq have agreed to free the women, as early as this week, for a $1 million ransom. The women, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, have not been seen since they were kidnapped on Sept. 7. The women worked for the group A Bridge to Baghdad, a humanitarian group opposed to the US occupation. The report has not been independently confirmed. Last week a message appeared on the Internet that claimed the women had been executed but the Italian government cast doubt on that claim. Meanwhile there has also been no word on British hostage Kenneth Bigley though British Muslim leaders and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have called for his release. Two of his fellow contractors from the U.S. were executed last week.
An Iranian diplomat held hostage since August 4 was released yesterday along with an Egyptian telecom worker.
A newly released report from the Justice Department has revealed the FBI has yet to translate more than 120,000 hours of recordings that could contain valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda. The report confirms criticisms by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds who was fired from her post in part because she criticized the agency’s translation department. The Justice Department has not yet released its full investigation into the matter but yesterday released a declassified summary. For the past three years the Bush administration has claimed that improving the government’s translation capability was a top priority. On Sept. 10, 2001 the National Security Agency intercepted messages saying, “Tomorrow is zero hour” and “The match is about to begin.” But the messages were not translated until after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
In election news, former President Jimmy Carter is warning that voting arrangments in Florida do not meet “basic international requirements” and could undermine the presidential election. Carter, who has monitored elections around the world, accused Florida of not implementing the necessary changes following the 2000 election. He said, “It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation.” Carter noted that the state recently tried to disqualify 22,000 African Americas becaused they were allegedly felons. He added, “With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.”
A United Nations investigator has issued a report concluding that Israel is building a massive wall through the West Bank not to keep out suicide bombers but to confiscate Palestinian land. The report concludes, “The course of the wall clearly indicates that its purpose is to incorporate as many settlers as possible into Israel.”
In Gaza, a CNN producer named Riad Ali was kidnapped yesterday and has not been heard from since. All of the major Palestinian groups have denied responsibility and called for Ali’s immediate release. A spokesman for Hamas condemned the kidnapping as a “violation of the rights of journalists and freedom of expression and goes against the true morals of our people.” A fellow CNN reporter said the operation was carried out by unmasked men armed with AK47s driving a Peugeot who confidently stopped the car carrying Riad, asked who inside the car was Riad and took him away.
In business news, the price of oil in the U.S. has set a new record surpassing $50 per barrel. Political unrest in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria have fueled the record price increases. In addition Hurricane Ivan temporarily crippled offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.
For the third time in the past two weeks the U.S. military has brought murder charges against U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. Yesterday two members of the 41st Infantry Regiment from Fort Reiley Kansas were charged with murdering an Iraqi civilian. No details on the case were released. Last week two U.S. soldiers were charged with murdering three Iraqis. And on Sept. 15, two soldiers were charged with shooting dead a fellow U.S. soldier.
And a new report from Families USA has found that workers are paying 36 percent more for health insurance than they did four years ago. Some 14 million people now spend at least a quarter of their income on medical costs. About 85 million were not insured for some period of time over the past year. Meanwhile the uninsured rates for Latinos has jumped to 61 percent.