Evidence continues to emerge that the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was not the only jail where US troops abused and tortured Iraqi detainees. A U.S. officer investigating abuse in Iraq concluded that Iraqi prisoners were “systematically and intentionally mistreated” at a military base in Mosul. The officer also concluded that the U.S. troops in Mosul violated the Geneva Conventions. Fourteen months ago one detainee died at the base. Another had his jaw broken. In other cases, soldiers also had cigarette smoke blown into sandbags that were then used as hoods on the detainees. Nobody was court martialed over the abuse that took place in Mosul in December 2003 — at the same time similar abuse was being carried out at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad
Meanwhile the Pentagon now suspects 27 detainees have been murdered while in U.S. custody in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002. The report by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is the first detailed accounting of detainee deaths overseas. The American Civil Liberties Union accused the Pentagon of trying to hide the report by releasing it on Good Friday. According to the New York Times, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in some of the deaths even though Army investigators recommended they face charges of murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. Only two of the soldiers received any punishment. One received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged.
In Iraq, the death toll of contractors working for U.S. companies is approaching 300. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 295 civilians employed by U.S. companies have died so far in Iraq. 136 employees or subcontractors of the San Diego-based company Titan have died. Titan, which provides translators to the U.S military, has suffered more deaths than any country fighting in Iraq besides the United States. Halliburton has suffered the second-highest number of fatalities among contractors. At least 61 employees and subcontractors of the company have died.
Here at home, Terri Schiavo has been given her last rites. On Sunday, a priest also gave her Easter communion — a drop of wine, but no bread. It has been 10 days since doctors removed the feeding tube from the brain-damaged woman. A family lawyer said she was past the “point of no return.” After the Florida Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Saturday, her family announced they had exhausted their legal options.
The Los Angeles Times has revealed that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s family went through a similar ordeal as Schiavo’s family. While Delay has denounced the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube as “an act of barbarism”, he supported allowing his father to be taken off life support 16 years ago. In 1988, Delay’s father suffered a freak accident and went into a coma. He was kept alive by intravenous lines and oxygen equipment. Then when his kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. Charles Delay died on Dec. 14, 1988 surrounded by his family. Tom Delay’s mother said “There was no point to even really talking about it. There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew–we all knew–his father wouldn’t have wanted to live that way.”
In Minnesota, hundreds gathered Saturday as the first funerals began for victims of last week’s shooting on the Red Lake Native American Reservation that left 10 people dead. Saturday also marked the first time President Bush said anything about the shootings which marked the deadliest school shooting since the massacre in Columbine, Colorado six years ago. Bush had been widely criticized for not addressing the killings earlier. President Clinton expressed his condolences within hours of the shooting at Columbine.
In Afghanistan, it now appears the U.S. military will stay in the country for years to come. The Bush administration announced today it is spending $83 million to upgrade two main military bases including Bagram Air Base. New runways are being built to allow NATO F-16s to use the airstrip. The U.S. still has 17,000 troops in Afghanistan. On Saturday four U.S. soldiers there were killed by a landmine.
In neighboring Pakistan, the Bush administration announced Friday it would resume selling F-16 fighter planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons to Pakistan. India protested the decision saying it could shift the balance of power in the region and spark an arms race. Sixteen years ago Congress blocked the sale of such planes in order to punish Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons. Since then both India and Pakistan have announced they have nuclear weapons. F-16 fighter planes has been used extensively by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out air strikes. But the plane also has the ability to carry nuclear weapons. Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota described the decision as a mistake. Pressler said “F-16’s are capable of nuclear delivery. That’s about the only reason Pakistan wants them. The only people they are in a fight with are in India. India now will have to get the same thing somehow.'’ The decision, however, will benefit the plane's manufacturer — Lockheed Martin. The company has threatened to shut down its plant in Forth Worth, Texas if it can not secure more F-16 orders from overseas. The plant employs about 5,000 workers.
Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times reports that the sale comes at the same time that the U.S. is conducting a criminal investigation into how Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons program. Federal investigators have uncovered evidence that Pakistan defied U.S. law, by making secret purchases of high-tech components from U.S. companies for use in its nuclear weapons program.
In Taiwan, up to a million people rallied Saturday in the island’s largest protest ever against China. The demonstrators criticized a newly passed Chinese law that allows the Chinese government to use force if Taiwan ever moves toward independence.
In Lebanon, video footage has emerged showing the streets of Beirut moments before Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated five weeks ago. The Arabic television station Al Arabiya says the tape shows a truck believed to have been involved in the bombing. The images were captured by the closed circuit television camera of a bank near the site of the massive blast.
Meanwhile eight people were injured Saturday in a bombing in a suburb of Beirut. It marked the third bombing in eight days targeting Christian areas of Lebanon.
And this update on embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. A special panel at the university has concluded that Churchill’s controversial comments about the Sept. 11 attacks could not be grounds for his dismissal and that his statements were protected by the First Amendment. In an essay written shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Churchill compared some of the victims to Nazi Adolph Eichmann. However the controversy surrounding Churchill is not over. The same committee has called on the university to investigate a series of allegations about the professor’s academic research. Churchill has been accused of plagerism and fabricating his Native American heritage. Churchill’s lawyer, David Lane, described the new inquiry as “blatantly unfair’’ because the professor was given no opportunity to present a defense. Lane said, “If they had bothered to call Ward Churchill, they would have investigated his response, found the allegations to be baseless, and there would have been no further action taken.”