After initial denials, the Pentagon is now admitting it used white phosphorus as an offensive weapon in the attack on Fallujah last November. The allegations were made in an Italian documentary produced by the Italian state television network RAI. Democracy Now played an excerpt of the film last Tuesday, the day of its premiere. On the same program, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Steve Boylan denied the allegations, saying “I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus.” The Pentagon now says it used the weapon against insurgents. White phosphorus produces a dense white smoke that can cause serious burns to human flesh. The RAI documentary, entitled “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre”, showed graphic footage of civilians with severe wounds and burns allegedly caused by phosphorus bombing.
The Iraqi government says 173 tortured and malnourished detainees have been found in a raid on an Interior Ministry compound. U.S. forces carried out the raid Sunday. The detainees were found in a locked basement. In an interview with CNN, Iraq’s undersecretary for interior security said: “I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralyzed and some had skin peeling off various parts of their bodies.” Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country’s largest Sunni political group, told the Associated Press he had warned top government officials about torture at Interior Ministry detention centers, including the one raided Sunday. He says his complaints were dismissed. The Iraqi government says it will launch an investigation into the incident. The human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the decision, but said the investigation should extend to cover all detention facilities in Iraq.
Also in Iraq, the Pentagon says it killed over 80 insurgents in a 48-hour period of fighting in the Syrian-border town of Obeidi. Military officials say six US soldiers were killed during the same period.
Jordan has introduced strict new security measures in the wake of last week’s hotel bombings in Amman. Under the new rules, Jordanians must provide authorities with the names, nationalities and passport details of any foreigners renting property. The Jordanian government is also drafting new legislation that would allow security forces to detain suspects indefinitely. Meanwhile, 11 top officials including the country’s chief of security submitted their resignations Tuesday.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution mandating the White House to provide quarterly Iraq progress reports and urging it to accelerate the process for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. The measure passed after a Democratic measure calling for a specific timetable for troop withdrawal was defeated. Commenting on the rejected Democratic resolution, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: “I think it speaks to a bit of nervousness about public perception of how the war is going in terms of 2006 elections. And to be honest with you, the war is going to be going on long after '06. I'm more worried about getting it right in Iraq than the ’06 elections.”
The Senate also approved what lawmakers hailed as a bipartisan “compromise” on legal rights for Guantanamo Bay detainees. A Senate vote last week stripped detainees of their right to challenge their detentions in US courts. A Democratic proposal to restore the right to habeas corpus failed Tuesday. Under the new measure, detainees will only be allowed to challenge their status as “enemy combatants,” and only appeal sentences only exceed 10 years. In a statement, a group of Guantanamo lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights called the new measure “a scandal.” The statement said : “The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus is as old as the Magna Carta. It is too fundamental, too important, too precious, to be rewritten on the back of an envelope, then passed as a floor amendment to an authorization bill on four days’ notice, and then hastily further revised.”
In Israel, a military court has acquitted an army captain who fired 17 bullets into a Palestinian schoolgirl. Thirteen-year old Iman al-Hams was killed while walking by an Israeli army tower near Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip last year. An audio tape of the incident shows the girl was identified as a “a little girl” who looked “scared to death.” Soldiers fired anyway, hitting her several times, including as she tried to flee. On the tape, the captain — identified to the media only as “Captain R” — said he was going to “confirm the kill.” Palestinian witnesses say they then saw him shoot Iman twice in the head and several times in her body. On the recording, the captain explained: “Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed.” After the verdict, the girl’s father, Samir al-Hams, said : “They did not charge him with Iman’s murder, only with small offences, and now they say he is innocent of those even though he shot my daughter so many times. This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children.”
Longtime Washington Post journalist and current assistant editor Bob Woodward testified Monday a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame nearly a month before her identity was thought to be first disclosed. The official appears to be someone other than Lewis Libby or Karl Rove. Woodward was questioned by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald after the unnamed official alerted Fitzgerald of his conversation with Woodward. Citing a confidentiality agreement, Woodward and Post editors did not reveal the source’s identity. Post editors say Woodward only told them of the conversation last month.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday it will stop subsidizing hotel stays for an estimated 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The decision will go into effect December 1st, giving evacuees fifteen days to find a new place to live. Some families will be eligible for an additional three months’ rental assistance, while evacuees in Lousiana and Mississippi may have their subsidies extended on a two-week basis up until the first week of January. Housing advocates criticized the decision. Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said : “Unless they have some serious plan for helping move people from hotels into apartments, other than putting up fliers … as of December 1, there’s going to be a lot of homeless people.”
A White House document obtained by the Washington Post shows executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force in 2001. The documents appear to prove a suspicion long held by environmentalists and contradict testimony oil executives gave before Congress last week. The document shows representatives from Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP America met with Cheney aides responsible for developing a national energy policy. Some of their task force’s recommendations have become law while others have been held up in Congress. In testimony before the Senate Energy and Commerce committees last week, chief executives from Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips denied their companies took part in the energy task force discussions. The White House has refused to release records of the meetings’ participants. A spokesperson for Vice President Cheney declined comment on the White House document. The executives were not sworn in for their testimony, and so cannot face perjury charges. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said he will ask the Justice Department to investigate. Lautenberg told the Post: “The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force.”