In Iraq at least 75 people died on Saturday in the deadliest day since the U.S. launched Operation Lightning to hunt down members of the Iraqi resistance. In Baghdad, 11 people were killed in a car bombing in a Shiite neighborhood. 11 Iraqi construction workers died after their minibus came under fire. 21 bodies were also discovered in western Iraq. In Basra, the head of the region’s police academy was assassinated. And U.S. forces said they killed 40 Iraqi fighters in air strikes.
Meanwhile the U.S. death toll in Iraq has topped seventeen hundred.
There was good news out of Iraq this weekend. French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter were freed after five months of captivity.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, four U.S soldiers were wounded today in a suicide bombing in Kandahar.
The Washington Post is reporting that it has obtained another pre-war memo that raises new questions about President Bush’s push toward war in Iraq. The eight page British memo from July 2002 shows that Tony Blair’s government had concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for post-war Iraq and that there would be a “protracted and costly” post-war occupation of the country.
In addition the Sunday Times of London reports that Ministers were warned that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The memo was written in advance of the now famous July 23rd Downing Street meeting that produced the Downing Street memo. The recently leaked minutes from that meeting paint a picture of a Bush administration that had already committed to attacking Iraq, was manipulating intelligence and had already begun bombing Iraq to prepare for the ground invasion.
Time Magazine is reporting that it has obtained new evidence showing how U.S. interrogators are treating detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The magazine obtained the interrogation log for a Saudi man named Mohammed al-Qahtani who was supposed to have been the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks. According to the log, the man’s head and beard were shaved. He was stripped naked, ordered to bark like a dog and had pictures of scantily clad women hung around his neck. He was also straddled by a female interrogator in a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female. When he refused to drink water, he was injected with an IV tube. After interrogators pumped three and half bags of fluid into him, they told him that a visit to the bathroom would only be allowed if he started talking. He was also woken up at night by interrogators dripping water on his head or to the music of pop star Christine Aguilera. The 84-page interrogation log is the first such document that has emerged from Guantanamo. The Pentagon defended its treatment. A spokesperson said “Qahtani’s interrogation during this period was guided by a very detailed plan and conducted by trained professionals motivated by a desire to gain actionable intelligence, to include information that might prevent additional attacks on America.”
In other news about Guantanamo, the New York Times is reporting that as many as six of the detainees still being held at the military prison are under the age of 18. One lawyer said his client was only 14 when he was captured. At Guantanamo the teen has said U.S. forces hanged him by his wrists for hours at a time and that an interrogator pressed a burning cigarette into his arm.
The world’s richest nations have agreed to cancel debt owed by 18 of the world’s poorest countries including many in sub-Saharan Africa. The announcement comes after years of protests by activist groups including the Jubilee Debt Campaign calling on the United States and other nations to cancel the tens of billions of debt that have economically crippled nations in Africa and Latin America. Mozambique’s Prime Minister Luisa Diogo said “This is an important decision that means we can have more money saved from debt servicing being directed to education, health, infrastructure and social sectors.” While the Jubilee debt campaign praised the move as a needed first step, it said there are more than 40 other nations that need total debt cancellation.
In Iran, hundreds of women protested outside Tehran University Sunday, calling for greater rights and a boycott of the upcoming presidential election. Nearly 90 female candidates have been barred from running for president. The New York Times described the demonstration as the “first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution.” Meanwhile 10 people died in Iran on Sunday in a series of pre-election bombings across two cities. At least seven bombings were reported. 75 people were also wounded in the attacks. The Iranian government blamed two opposition groups as well as the United States and Britain for the bombings. The deadliest attacks occurred near the Iraqi border in the largely Arabic city of Ahvaz.
In Washington, the White House has announced that Philip Cooney has resigned his post as chief of staff to President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality. The resignation came just two days after it was revealed that Cooney had edited government reports to play down the effect of global warming. Before coming to the White House in 2001, he was a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute. The White House insisted his resignation was not connected to the new revelations and that Cooney had wanted to take the summer off.
Congress has taken initial steps to sharply cut how much money the government spends on public TV and radio. On Thursday a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to cut $100 million in funding for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. In addition the panel agreed to eliminate within two years all federal money for the CPB. The subcommittee also voted to cut $23 million for the creation of children’s educational shows as part of PBS’s Ready to Learn program which funds Sesame Street and other programs. According to the Washington Post, the proposed cuts are the most drastic since the formation of the CPB in 1973.
On Capitol Hill, a hearing on the expansion of the Patriot Act took an unexpected turn Friday when Republican House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner cut off the microphones during a hearing called by Democrats. Sensenbrenner cut short the hearing after the witnesses denounced President Bush’s so-called war on terrorism as well as the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. All of the witnesses had been selected by Democrats. After Sensenbrenner ended the meeting, he had the mics cuts as Democratic members tried to continue questioning witnesses. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said “It is quite ironic that at a hearing on the impact of the Patriot Act on civil liberties, the Republicans attempted to suppress free speech.”
In Mississippi, the trial begins today of Edgar Ray Killen in connection to the murder of three civil rights workers 41 years ago during the Freedom Summer voter registration drive. In June 1964 — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney — were shot dead allegedly by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The 80-year-old Killen is believed to have been the mastermind behind the killings.
Meanwhile in Washington, the Senate is scheduled to vote today on a resolution to apologize for its failure to enact anti-lynching legislation. While the House of Representatives passed anti-lynching bills three times over the past century, the legislation was repeatedly blocked in the Senate. An estimated 4,700 people — mostly African-Americans — were lynched between 1882 and 1968.
And 25 years ago today Guyanese historian and anti-imperialist Walter Rodney was assassinated. He was 38 years old.