Colin Powell’s former chief of staff publicly accused top-level officials in the Bush administration of hijacking the country’s foreign policy in ways that have undermined American democracy. The official–Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson spoke Wednesday in Washington. Up until January he was chief of staff to then Secretary of State Powell. “What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense… that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made,” Wilkerson said. Wilkerson went on to accuse President Bush and Rumsfeld of condoning the abuse of detainees overseas. The Financial Times described Wilkerson’s comments as the harshest attack on the administration by a former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill early last year. Wilkerson admitted Wednesday his decision to publicly criticize the administration has led to a falling out with Colin Powell, who he worked with for 16 years.
A number of new developments have emerged in the growing scandal over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The New York Daily News reports that President Bush admonished Karl Rove two years ago after the president reportedly learned of Rove’s involvement in the leak. Meanwhile the Washington Post reports Rove told the grand jury that it may have been Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby who first told him that Plame worked for the CIA.
A new Pentagon study has found 28% of U.S. troops returning from Iraq face health problems that require medical or mental health treatment. So far this year almost 1,700 returning soldiers harbored suicidal or self-harming thoughts; nearly 20,000 reported nightmares; and more than 3,700 said they had fears they might “hurt or lose control” with someone else. The study also shows more soldiers are afraid in Iraq now than at any other point of the occupation of Iraq.
A Spanish judge has ordered the arrest and extradition of three U.S. soldiers connected to the killing of Spanish tv cameraman Jose Couso in Iraq. The judge said the action was needed because the U.S. had provided “no judicial cooperation” in trying to resolve the death. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
A 33-year-old Irish correspondent for the Guardian newspaper has been kidnapped in Baghdad. Rory Carroll was apprehended Wednesday by masked gunmen after interviewing a victim of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The newspaper’s editor Alan Rusbridger, said “We urge those holding him to release him swiftly–for the sake of his family and for the sake of anyone who believes the world needs to be kept fully informed about events in Iraq today.”
This news on Afghanistan–an Australian TV program has aired footage of U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters. The program also aired footage of a U.S. Army psy-ops unit caught on tape broadcasting news of the burning to local residents. The message read : “You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be… You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Taliban but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are.” On Wednesday the Pentagon announced it would investigate the incident.
Meanwhile at Guantanamo Bay, detainees are accusing guards and medical officials of mistreating prisoners taking part in a camp-wide hunger strike. Detainees said large feeding tubes were forcibly shoved up their noses and down into their stomachs, with guards using the same tubes from one patient to another. The force-feedings reportedly resulted in prisoners vomiting up “substantial amounts of blood.” The detainees say no sedatives were provided during these procedures, which they allege took place in front of U.S. physicians, including the head of the prison hospital. The accusations were made to New York-based attorney Julia Tarver of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Tarver says one client told her QUOTE: “now after four years in captivity, life and death are the same.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Bush administration will not rule out the use of force against Syria. Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Rice said quote: “I’m not going to get into what the president’s options might be. I don’t think the president ever takes any of his options off the table concerning anything to do with military force.” Rice also ruled out setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Washington today for a meeting with President Bush at the White House. Abbas is expected to ask Bush to pressure the Israeli government to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement and to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank. Meanwhile Bush is expected to urge Abbas to ban members of Hamas from running in upcoming elections unless they disarm and renounce violence.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate rejected a pair of proposals Wednesday to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1997. Senator Ted Kennedy had proposed raising the wage from $5.15 to 6.25. Kennedy said a single parent with two children working a minimum wage job would earn less than $11,000 a year — $4,500 below the poverty line.
A Texas state court has issued an arrest warrant for Tom DeLay. This comes two weeks after two separate grand juries indicted Delay on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Delay has temporarily stepped down as House Majority leader. He will now be required to appear in Texas for booking and possibly be fingerprinted and photographed.
And finally the US National Hurricane Center is warning Wilma has become a “potentially catastrophic” hurricane. At one point on Wednesday, Wilma became the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record. It has since been downgraded to a Category 4 storm. A mandatory evacuation order was in effect in the Florida Keys, where the storm is expected to hit Saturday and Sunday.