The Army and Navy has revealed that 26 prisoners have been killed while in the custody of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all of the cases military investigators have concluded or suspect the deaths were acts of criminal homicide. This according to the New York Times. The number of prisoners killed is far higher than any figure previously released by the military. Another 11 prisoners were killed in what the U.S. has classified as justifiable homicides. More prisoners have died of natural causes while in detention. James Ross of Human Rights Watch said “This number to me is quite astounding. This just reflects an overall failure to take seriously the abuses that have occurred.” Last week the Pentagon sent Congress a report on prisoner abuse. It mentioned just six prisoner deaths. That same report concluded the widespread reports of abuse were not the result of official Pentagon policy. The deaths occurred in a number of U.S.-run prisons. Only one took place in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Meanwhile a U.S. army platoon leader was sentenced Tuesday to 45 days in military prison. Lieutenant Jack Saville pleaded guilty that he ordered his troops to throw two Iraqi prisoners into the Tigris River. One of the prisoners has never been found and is believed to have drowned. Saville is one of the first officers to be tried for abusing prisoners in Iraq. His sentence was kept to just 45 days because he had agreed to testify in another military trial. In that trial, Saville revealed that his captain had once given him a hit list of five Iraqis who were to be executed on the spot if they were captured in a raid.
In Iraq today the country’s new interim parliament convened for the first time inside the Green Zone. Minutes before the session opened, at least a half dozen explosions detonated nearby. The U.S. military said two mortar rounds landed inside the zone but caused no injuries. Inside the convention hall, windows shook and the lights flickered as the explosions shook the building. Parliament’s first session ended without the formation of a new government. The leading Shiite coalition and their Kurdish allies have so far failed to reach an agreement on how to share power.
Meanwhile the U.S.-led Coalition of the Willing continues to shrink. Italy has announced it will begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made the surprise announcement Tuesday saying “Public opinion expects it.” Anti-war sentiment has increased in Italy following the death of senior intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead by US troops in Baghdad. He was killed shortly after he rescued Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena who had been held hostage.
Meanwhile Ukrainian and Dutch troops are already in the process of pulling out of Iraq. The first group of Ukrainian soldiers arrived home on Tuesday.
Among the nations that withdrew last year from the so-called Coalition of the Willing were Spain, the Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Singapore, Nicaragua, Hungary, Norway and Tonga. After Italy and Ukraine pull out its troops only three nations besides the U.S. will have more than 1,000 soldiers in Iraq. They are Britain, South Korea and Poland.
A jury in New York has convicted the former CEO of WorldCom of taking part in the largest accounting fraud in corporate history. The telecommunications executive, Bernie Ebbers, faces up to 85 years in jail. The federal jury found Ebbers guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy and seven counts of filing false information with regulators. When WorldCom filed for bankruptcy two and a half years ago, shareholders lost about $180 billion. 20,000 workers lost their jobs. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hailed Tuesday’s verdict as a triumph of the legal system. Ebbers’ attorney Reid Weingarten accused the government of withholding key evidence. Ebbers’ attorney vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled Senate is preparing to vote as earlier as today to give oil companies the OK to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.5 million acres of land have been under federal protection for 45 years. Environmentalists describe the area as an ecological treasure. The Republican leadership has included the measure in a budget bill which makes it immune from a Democratic filibuster.
A new Senate investigation has revealed that six different U.S. banks helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet stow away more than $13 million. Riggs Bank, Citibank and Bank of America were all named in the investigation. Some of the banks allowed Pinochet to use assumed names on accounts. In addition, banks arranged international wire transfers and helped the Pinochet family set up offshore companies. An estimated 3,000 Chileans were killed by Pinochet’s regime between 1973 and 1990.
In Jerusalem, over 40 world leaders gathered Tuesday to mark the opening of a new Israeli memorial to the Holocaust. The memorial puts on display artifacts, diaries and photographs of some of the six million Jewish victims. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke at the ceremony. “World wide revulsion at the genocide at the systematic murder of six million Jews and million of others was also a driving force behind the universal declaration of human rights,” said Annan. “Our global mission of peace, freedom, and human dignity, was literally forced in fire in fact the most awful fires that mankind has ever seen.” Annan’s wife is the niece of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 100,000 Jews in Hungary during World War Two. Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet troops who liberated Budapest and was never heard of again.
Meanwhile Israel today is scheduled to hand over security control of the West Bank city of Jericho to the Palestinian Authority. Soldiers began dismantling some of the checkpoints around the city. For more than four years, Israeli troops have controlled all access in and out of Jericho. At last month’s summit in Egypt, Israel also agreed to hand over security in four other West Bank cities including Ramallah and Bethlehem.
And the family of Rachel Corrie has sued bulldozer manufacturer Caterpillar and the state of Israel in connection with her death. The 23-year-old U.S. activist was killed two years ago today in the Gaza town of Rafah. She was run over by a bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier. We’ll speak to her family later in the show.