In Iraq, as many 15,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a major new offensive in Baghdad — the largest joint offensive to-date. Overnight the military reported the arrest of 300 people as part of what is being called “Operation Squeeze Play.” Over the past month some 550 people have been killed in a series of attacks largely in Baghdad.
Earlier this morning the commander of Iraq’s new counter-insurgency headquarters was assassinated. Major General Wael Rubaye, was a top aide to Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. His main job was coordinating the fight against the Iraqi resistance. His driver was also shot dead.
More signs are emerging that the U.S. intends to stay in Iraq for years to come. The Washington Post is reporting the US plans to build four new giant military bases inside Iraq. Under the plan, the US would station most of its troops in these heavily fortified bases designed to withstand mortar fire. Currently the US is operating out of more than 100 bases throughout the country. A spokesman for the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party warned the U.S. about the plan. He said “They appear to be settling in a for the long run, and that will only give fuel for the terrorists.”
Meanwhile Sunni Iraqis are planning to temporarily shut down their mosques to protest recent raids led by the Shiite-led Iraqi government.
The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration wants to enlist the postal service in its fight in the so-called war on terror. The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to consider giving the FBI greater power to track mail sent through the postal service. Under one proposal, postal officials would be required to hand over information on the outgoing and incoming mail of anyone connected to foreign intelligence investigations. The FBI would still need a search warrant to actually open the mail.
In the Middle East, Israeli hecklers greeted First Lady Laura Bush during her visit Sunday to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The protesters demanded that the U.S. release the Jewish-American spy Jonathan Pollard from jail. Armed Israeli security personnel were forced to lock arms and form a human blockade in order to keep the protesters away from the First Lady who was surrounded by Secret Service agents. Later in the day an Israeli SWAT team was called in to calm Palestinian protests while Laura Bush visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In Florida, an Army recruiter has been arrested for raping a potential recruit. According to police, the rape occurred after the recruiter invited the 20-year-old woman to his apartment to take a recruiting exam on his computer.
Amnesty International has announced it will support a U.S. war resister who fled to Canada to avoid fighting in Iraq. The international human rights group said it would consider Jeremy Hinzman to be a prisoner of conscious if he is deported back to the United States and jailed. Hinzman has sought political asylum in Canada but his refugee claim was rejected two months ago. He is now appealing that decision to the Canadian federal court. If Hinzman was forced to return to the United States he would face up to five years in jail.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is meeting with President Bush today in Washington. Karzai — as well as the United Nations — has called for an investigation into new reports of U.S. soldiers abusing detainees in Afghanistan. In one incident, a 22-year-old taxi driver died after being hung from the roof of his cell by his wrists. During his trip to Washington, Karzai is expected to ask Bush to allow the Afghan government to be given more power from the U.S. military. The Observer of London has reported Karzai is facing bitter criticism in Afghanistan for heavy-handed US military tactics.
Meanwhile the family of former professional football player Pat Tillman has lashed out at the Bush administration for lying about the circumstances of Tillman’s death in Afghanistan. Tillman made headlines when he quit the NFL to fight after the Sept. 11 attacks. He died last year. The military initially mislead the family into believing he was killed in battle when in fact he was killed by friendly fire. In an interview with the Washington Post, Tillman’s mother, Mary, said “The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.”
A new review of major US newspapers and magazines has found that the publications are running almost no photographs from Iraq showing U.S. troops killed in action. The Los Angeles Times recently reviewed news reports from September 1st of last year to the end of February of this year. During that period 559 Americans and Western allies died. But readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Washington Post never saw a single picture of a dead serviceman in their morning papers. Neither did readers of Time nor Newsweek. Steve Stroud, deputy director of photography at the Los Angeles Times said “I feel we still aren’t seeing the kind of pictures we need to see to tell the American people about this war and the costs of the war.” Veteran war photographer Chris Hondros added “I think if we are going to start a war, we ought to be willing to show the consequences of that war.”
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has threatened to cut off diplomatic ties to Washington if the Bush administration refuses to hand over Luis Posada Carriles. Posada is the Cuban-born militant tied to the 1976 bombing of a commercial airliner. Posada is still wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges. Chavez says Washington would be guilty of protecting international terrorism if it refused extraditing Posada.
The Independent of London is reporting that a new scientific study carried out by Monsantao raises new fears over the safety of genetically modified corn. The study — which the company has tried to keep secret — found that rats fed genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to the composition of their blood.
In labor news — the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is focusing its organizing efforts on more fast food restaurants following its successful campaign against Taco Bell. The farmworkers group led a three-year campaign to force Taco Bell to help improve working conditions for tomato pickers. Now the group is calling on McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King to follow Taco Bell’s lead.
The former chairman of the Black Panther Party — Elaine Brown — is seeking political office. She has announced her candidacy for mayor of the city of Brunswick, Georgia.