In Iraq, influential tribal leaders are saying the recent U.S. offensive near the Syrian border has been a disaster for local residents. According to the Knight Ridder news agency, local tribesman requested U.S. assistance to force foreign fighters from the area. But once they arrived U.S. troops failed to distinguish between the Iraqis who supported the United States and the fighters battling it. One former governor of the region said QUOTE “The Americans were bombing whole villages and saying they were only after the foreigners. An AK-47 can’t distinguish between a terrorist and a tribesman, so how could a missile or tank?”
Under intense government pressure, Newsweek has retracted a story that claimed U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran by flushing the holy book down the toilet. The Pentagon first complained about the article on Friday following deadly anti-American protests throughout the Muslim world. On Monday White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said “The report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said “People need to be very careful about what they say and just as people need to be careful about what they do.” And the conservative media watchdog group Accuracy in Media said “blood is on the hands of Newsweek magazine.”
However, more evidence has emerged that U.S. interrogators did in fact desecrate the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. A former interrogator has confirmed to the New York Times that copies of the Koran were once tossed on the floor in pile and mistreated. Meanwhile a report from last year issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights also cited Koran abuse. A former British detainee said “The behavior of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect it.”
Meanwhile a military jury in Texas has convicted army reservist Specialist Sabrina Harman on six of seven counts related to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Harman was tied to several of the most notorious photos to emerge from the Iraqi prison. She was credited with engineering the photo that showed a hooded inmate in rags standing on a box with electrical wires attached to his hands. She also posed by a pyramid of naked detainees. Harman faces a maximum of 5 years in prison.
In Afghanistan, an Italian aid worker with CARE International has been kidnapped in Kabul. Afghan authorities suspect criminals, not militants, conducted the kidnapping.
The Miami Herald has confirmed that the wanted Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles is inside the United States. He snuck into the country in March and is seeking political asylum. Both Cuba and Venezuela have called for the Bush administration to extradite him to face terrorism charges in connection to the bombing of a commercial airliner in 1976. During an interview with the Miami Herald, Posada denied any role in the bombing–which was the first case of airline terrorism in this hemisphere. But recently declassified documents from the CIA and FBI, indicate he attended at least two planning meetings for the attack.
On Capitol Hill, British lawmaker George Galloway is preparing to testify today before a Senate committee that has accused him of taking kickbacks from Saddam Hussein’s regime.
In Mexico, President Vicente Fox has apologized for saying that Mexicans in the United States do the work that African Americans won’t. Last week Fox said “There’s no doubt that Mexican men and women — full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work — are doing the work that not even Blacks want to do in the United States.” In telephone conversations with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Fox said he “regretted any hurt feelings.”
And in Los Angeles, voters head to the polls today to pick the city’s next mayor. Antonio Villaraigosa is attempting to become the city’s first Latino mayor in 130 years. He is running against incumbent James Hahn.