A new study from a prominent London-based think tank warns that the U.S. military will be in Iraq for up to five more years because the Iraqi military is no where near capable of imposing law and order in the country. The report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies is being published as the security situation worsens in Iraq.
The U.S. has lost 14 soldiers over the past four days. The month of May is on pace to be one of the deadliest months for the U.S. in over a year — 58 U.S. soldiers have died since the new Iraqi government was formed on April 28. The number of Iraqis killed since then is approaching 600.
The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting that Shiites near the oil rich city of Basra in the south are pushing to make the region a semi autonomous state. Analysts fear the move could spur more sectarian violence.
And the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the U.S. has essentially ceded much of the Anbar province to the Iraqi resistance. One unnamed military official said “[Commanders] can’t use the word, but we’re withdrawing. Slowly, that’s what we’re doing.”
Washington is preparing to spend more money on the war. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee approved another $45 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which would bring the costs of the U.S. military operations there to more than $300 billion.
But also on Capitol Hill — a surprising critic of the war has emerged — Republican Walter Jones. The Congressman from North Carolina recently told a local newspaper that the US went to war “with no justification.” Jones made international headlines three years ago when he lashed out at France for not supporting the war effort. In March 2003 he demanded that three Congressional cafeterias ban the word French from the menus. French fries soon became freedom fries. While the ban is still in force, Jones’ current view on the war appears to be closer to France’s than President Bush’s. Jones said “If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong. Congress must be told the truth.”
A coalition of more than four dozen groups have called on President Bush not to offer Indonesia military assistance when he meets today with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network organized the campaign calling for no U.S. military aid to Indonesia. Karen Orenstein, a member of the group, said “Withholding prestigious U.S. military assistance is the best leverage the U.S. government has to demonstrate its commitment to justice, human rights and democratic reform.” Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving military aid in 1991 following the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor that left more than 270 Timorese civilians dead. The Indonesian troops carrying out the killing were using U.S. supplied M-16 rifles. All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 following the Indonesian razing of East Timor.
Meanwhile a new report from the World Policy Institute has found that the U.S. is routinely funneling military aid and arms to undemocratic nations. In 2003 more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world were defined as undemocratic by the State Department. Recipients included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and Uzbekistan.
Human Rights Watch is accusing the FBI of interrogating and threatening two U.S. citizens while they being unlawfully detained and tortured by the Pakistani security services. According to Human Rights Watch, the men — who are brothers — were abducted from their home in Karachi in August, 2004. They were held until last month without ever been charged. During their eight months of detention, FBI agents repeatedly questioned them and threatened to send them to Guantanamo Bay. In addition, Human Rights Watch alleges that the FBI did not intervene to end the torture of the men or provide consular facilities normally offered to detained U.S. citizens. One of the brothers said “We were beaten severely, kept awake all night or hung upside down by Pakistani agents before each of about 10 interrogation sessions by FBI agents.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is taking initial steps to greatly expand the power of the FBI under the USA Patriot Act. On Tuesday the FBI formally asked Congress for sweeping new powers to seize private records without first securing approval from a judge. According to the American Civil Liberties Union this power would let agents seize records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other business, without having to appear before a judge, and without any evidence that the people targeted are involved in any criminal activity.
On Capitol Hill, the full Senate is expected to vote as early as this week on the nomination of John Bolton to become ambassador to the United Nations. Ohio Republican George Voinovich has begun circulating a letter urging his colleagues to vote against Bolton. If five Republicans join Voinovich, Bolton’s confirmation would fail. In his letter Voinovich wrote “In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation’s ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations.”
An Israeli lawmaker has called for an immediate debate in the Knesset over a new report by Amnesty International that accuses the Israeli military of war crimes. Amnesty said the Israeli military is responsible for the deaths of some 700 Palestinians including 150 children. During the same period Amnesty said militant Palestinian groups killed 109 Israelis — including 8 children.
In defiance of President Bush, the House has voted to ease restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Bush has vowed to veto the measure. The new law supports research on human embryos that would otherwise be discarded.
The president of PBS–Pat Mitchell — has defended the network and rejected claims that public television is guilty of liberal bias. She also defended the former PBS host Bill Moyers who has been the target of right-wing criticism. Appearing at the National Press Club, Mitchell said ”PBS does not belong to any one political party.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is demanding a church in North Carolina take down a sign that reads “The Koran needs to be flushed.” The pastor of the church–the Rev. Creighton Lovelace–defended the sign saying “My creed is the Bible, which tells me I am supposed to stand up and defend my faith. I don’t hate Muslims, I just hate their false doctrines.” Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR responded by saying “Christians often ask themselves, 'What would Jesus do? I don't think Jesus, who is loved by Muslims and mentioned frequently in the Koran, would use such hate-filled and divisive rhetoric.”