The Pentagon is drafting plans to keep over 100,000 troops in Iraq for the next four years. Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the Associated Press, the Army is already making plans for troop deployments in Iraq through the year 2009. He admitted that keeping over 100,000 troops in Iraq that long is a possibility but he described it as a “worst case” scenario. This comes as a high-ranking Republican Senator has publicly compared the war in Iraq to Vietnam. “We are locked into a bogged down problem, not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam,” said Hagel. “The longer we stay, the more problems we’re going to have.”
In Crawford Texas, anti-war protesters have begun their third week of vigils outside President Bush’s 1,600-acre estate. The protest began on Aug. 6 by Cindy Sheehan–whose 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq last year. But the protest has rapidly expanded. Military families, veterans and anti-war protesters continue to travel across the country to Crawford to take part in the demonstrations. On Friday a second protest camp was opened next door to President Bush’s property. Over the weekend musicians Joan Baez and Steve Earle performed before hundreds of people. The protesters are vowing to stay in Crawford for the rest of the month until President Bush ends his five-week summer vacation.
Meanwhile in Salt Lake City Utah, protesters are planning to greet President Bush during his visit to the city today. The president is speaking at the annual national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Large protests are expected. Last week the city’s Democratic mayor Rocky Anderson sent out an email urging supporters to join him in staging “the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen.”
Meanwhile ABC’s affiliate in Salt Lake City, KTVX, is refusing to run an ad featuring Cindy Sheehan. The station claimed the ad was an “inappropriate commercial advertisement” that could QUOTE “be offensive to our community in Utah.”
In Iraq, lawmakers are still negotiating on the wording of a new Iraqi constitution. Today is the new deadline for the constitution to be drafted. It remains unclear whether a consensus will be reached between the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish officials. The role of Islam in the new constitution remains a divisive issue. The Reuters news agency is reporting that the Bush administration has conceded ground to hardline Shiite Islamists to enshrine Islamic law as the guiding principle of the new Iraqi Constitution.
The U.S. support of such a constitution was quickly criticized by Kurdish officials. One secular Kurdish politician said “It’s shocking. It doesn’t fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state … I can’t believe that’s what the Americans really want or what the American people want.’
On Sunday Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammad and dozens of other Iraqi women demonstrated in central Baghdad. Yanar Mohammad said she feared lawmakers would approve a “fascist, nationalist and Islamist” constitution that would curtail women’s rights. She said, “We are fighting to avoid becoming second class citizens.”
In Afghanistan, four U.S. soldiers died on Sunday. With 65 U.S. troops already killed this year, 2005 has already become the deadliest year so far for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Officials are warning that violence is likely to intensify before the nation’s legislative elections next month.
In Gaza, Israeli forces have evacuated all but one Jewish settlement. Beginning tomorrow Israel will begin evacuating four Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Settlers are expected to mount fierce resistance–an estimated 2,000 activists have gathered to resist the evacuation orders. The military says armed troops may be deployed to clear the two settlements. In Gaza all of the soldiers used were unarmed. In Gaza, Israeli bulldozers have begun demolishing homes left behind by the settlers.
The West Bank settler who shot and killed four Palestinians last week said he has no regrets. He also called for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The settler, Asher Weissgan, said “I’m not sorry and only hope that somebody murders Sharon, too,” He went on to say “We have a corrupt country. I meant what I said and I hope that someone will take up the gauntlet and kill Sharon.”
This news from Zimbabwe: Amnesty International is estimating 70,000 people were left homeless because of a government program to demolish homes in slum areas. The human rights organization has just released video secretly shot from inside Zimbabwe that shows the displaced people have been forced to live in makeshift camps with little to no food, water and sanitation. Critics of Robert Mugabe government charge that the home demolition campaign was politically motivated.
Here in this country, the airline industry is facing one of its largest strikes in years. On Saturday, over 4,000 mechanics and maintenance workers from Northwest Airlines went on strike. Northwest has been able to keep flying in part because it has hired a team of replacement mechanics. In addition, the unions representing pilots and flight attendants decided not to join the strike. The airline suffered three mechanical failures over the weekend but airline officials denied they were strike-related. On Saturday, a Detroit bound plane had to return to Pittsburgh after reports of smoke in the cabin. Another plane had four tires blow out upon landing in Detroit. And in Guam the nose of a Northwest aircraft hit the runway. No one was hurt in any of the incidents.
In other labor news, a global coalition of unions is launching an unprecedented campaign to organize workers at Wal-Mart around the world. 900 unions spread across 140 countries are taking part in the campaign to unionize Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania dozens of anti-war demonstrators attempted to shut down a military recruiting center on Saturday. Two protesters were hospitalized after suffering injuries at the hands of the police. Officers shot one woman with a Taser stun gun as she was lying on the street. Pittsburgh Indymedia captured the scene on tape. Another woman — who was 68 years old — was bit in the thigh by a police dog. At least five protesters were arrested. The police defended the level of force used. A spokesperson said, “When you’re fighting with police officers, we’re allowed to use the force necessary to effect an arrest, up to and including Taser.”
Police officers in Utah are also coming under criticism for using excessive force. On Saturday dozens of armed officers dressed in military fatigues raided a peaceful rave in Spanish Fork Canyon. 60 people were arrested. Attendees of the party reported incidents of police brutality and the unnecessary use of tear gas. Police defended the raid by citing the confiscation of drugs and drug paraphanelia at the rave.
In Texas a Peruvian man has died after being pepper sprayed by police. On Aug. 4, police pepper sprayed 45-year-old Edgar Vera after he allegedly resisted arrest. Police tried to arrest Vera for an outstanding warrant for a seat belt violation. The Peruvian government is calling for an investigation into his death.
And in Aspen, Colorado, friends and relatives of Hunter S. Thompson gathered on Saturday for a farewell to the famed writer and father of gonzo journalism. Thompson’s ashes were fired into the sky from atop a 15-story high tower built for the event. Thompson killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.