Fourteen Marines and a civilian interpreter were killed early today in western Iraq making it one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces in months. Seven more Marines died on Monday.
The overall U.S. military death toll in Iraq has now topped eighteen hundred and the total number of coalition troops killed has passed 2,000.
Meanwhile a U.S. journalist named Steven Vincent has been found murdered in the Iraqi city of Basra. He was shot three times in the chest. His killing comes just days after he published an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the rise of Shiite fundamentalism in Basra. Vincent was in Iraq as an unembedded, freelance journalist. He had published articles in the National Review and Christian Science Monitor ran a blog called In The Red Zone. He also wrote a book titled “In the Red Zone.” The Los Angeles Times reports that Vincent is believed to be the first non-embedded U.S. journalist intentionally killed in Iraq.
The Washington Post has revealed that the CIA recruited and trained an Iraqi paramilitary group ahead of the U.S. invasion to conduct sabotage, and helped the CIA target buildings and individuals. The Iraqis were trained at two secret military bases in Jordan. The government’s codename for the group was the Scorpions. After the invasion, the secret Iraqi force helped the U.S. carry out interrogations. The Post reports that in one case in November 2003, members of the unit, wearing masks and carrying clubs and pipes, beat up an Iraqi general named Abed Hamed Mowhoush in the presence of CIA and military personnel. That general died in U.S. custody two days later after a U.S. interrogator and military guard stuffed him in a sleeping bag, wrapped him in an electrical cord and beat him. Hours after his death U.S. military officials issued a news release stating that the prisoner had died of natural causes after complaining of feeling sick. Army psy-ops officers then distributed leaflets designed to convince locals that the general had cooperated and outed key insurgents. But now two Army soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Carson, Colorado have been charged with the killing and are currently on trial. Documents released as part of the court proceeding have given the public a rare look at how interrogations were carried out in Iraq.
Meanwhile Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka has publicly criticized the U.S.-led efforts in Iraq. Belka said post-war nation-building efforts in Iraq have failed totally. Belka said the US and its allies made a mistake by basing its post-war plan for Iraq on the same model used for Germany after World War II. Belka said “It failed totally. Many mistakes, major mistakes, have been committed.”
In Saudi Arabia ceremonies are being held today to mark the start of King Abdullah’s reign. Vice President Dick Cheney is leading a U.S. delegation to pay tribute to the late King Fahd and to meet the new king.
In London, police are reporting that the number of religious hate crimes has soared by almost 600 percent since the July 7th bombings. Since that day, nearly 270 hate crimes have been reported in the city. During the same period last year, 40 were reported.
Here in this country… A Marine sergeant has been charged with negligent homicide and other charges following the death of a Marine recruit. The recruit, 19-year-old Jason Tharp, died while taking part in a swimming exercise at Parris Island in South Carolina earlier this year. The day before he died a local TV station happened to have videotaped the recruit being struck and grabbed by a Marine drill instructor, Staff Sergeant Nadya Lopez. Three other Marines at the base face possible disciplinary action as well.
In business news, a Chinese oil company has dropped its bid to buy the U.S. oil company Unocal. The move paves the way for Chevron to purchase the company. The bid by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation marked the first major takeover bid by the Chinese government of a U.S. corporation.
The Russian government has barred the U.S. tv network ABC from operating in the country after the network broadcast an interview with the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. The interview aired last week on Ted Koppel’s Nightline. The Russian government called the broadcast a “clear fact supporting the propaganda of terrorism.”
In Sudan, at least 71 people have now died following the death of Sudan’s Vice President John Garang. 800 more people have been injured in sectarian fighting. Garang died in a helicopter crash over the weekend. Garang is a former leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement which fought for 21 years against the Islamic government in Khartoum. It was Africa’s longest and costliest civil war. A peace agreement was signed in January. Three weeks ago, he was sworn in as Sudan’s first vice-president.
Troops in the nation of Mauritania have seized control of the state radio and television station and main routes into the capital. Presidential guards are said to have blocked off access to the presidential palace and gunfire has been heard. The government says it foiled two coup attempts last year.
Republican Jean Schmidt has won a special Congressional election in southern Ohio beating out Democrat Paul Hackett by a 52 to 48 percent margin. Hackett was attempting to become the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. He had run on a platform highly critical of President Bush’s handling of Iraq. Analysts had originally predicted the Republican Schmidt would easily win since no Democrat had come close to winning the House seat in decades. But Hackett nearly pulled off a major upset by losing by only about thirty-five hundred votes. The Cincinnati Enquirer described Hackett’s run as “nothing short of astounding.”