The Pentagon is moving ahead towards resuming production of antipersonnel landmines for the first time since the signing of the international Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. This according to a report by Human Rights Watch. $1.3 billion dollars has already been earmarked for two new landmine systems. The U.S. last used antipersonnel landmines in the 1991 Gulf War, when it scattered over 100,000 landmines from planes in Iraq. In 1997 145 nations signed the international Mine Ban Treaty that banned the use, production, exporting, and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. The U.S. never signed the pact but it stopped production of antipersonnel landmines in 1997. According to Human Rights Watch, landmines continue to kill and maim an estimated 500 people — mostly civilians — each week.
Newly discovered records in Britain show that the British government covertly helped Israel build its nuclear weapons program nearly 50 years ago. The deal was so secret that the U.S. is only learning of it now. According to the documents, Britain — with help from Norway — sold Israel 20 tons of what is known as heavy water — a key ingredient to the production of nuclear arms.
In Iraq, Pentagon officials have concluded it was a massive bomb that killed 14 Marines on Wednesday in the western city of Haditha. The Marines were driving in a 25-ton lightly-armored amphibious troop carrier that was not designed for coming under such attacks. It was the deadliest roadside bombing since the war began. In the past two weeks, at least 31 U.S. soldiers and Marines have died in roadside bombings. According to the Knight Ridder news agency, bombs killed more coalition troops in July than in any previous month of the war. U.S. officials admitted on Wednesday that troops are now being targeted with more powerful and more effective bombs. The 14 Marines were all members of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, based in Brook Park, Ohio. Six more Marines from that Batallion died on Monday.
President Bush said Wednesday that he would not set a timetable for U.S. troops to leave Iraq. He said, “I hear all the time, 'Well, when are bringing the troops home?' And my answer to you: 'As soon as possible but not before the mission is complete.'”
In other news from Iraq — the Independent of London is reporting that Saddam Hussein’s lawyer has declared that his defense team will boycott the war crimes tribunal because the former Iraqi president was assaulted during a previous hearing. Hussein’s attorney — Khalil Dulaimi — said a judge recently grabbed his client and attacked him. The U.S. military — which guards the former Iraqi president — claims no such attack took place.
The State Department has issued an updated warning to U.S. citizens about traveling abroad in part because of the Iraq war. The State Department warning reads, “Ongoing events in Iraq have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries; such events are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Bush administration to disclose the locations of the government’s secret jails that were set up around the world after the Sept. 11 attacks. This comes after two Yemini men publicly claimed that they were held in secret underground U.S. jails for more than 18 months. The two men were arrested separately but reported being held in almost identical conditions. One of the men was arrested in Jordan, the other in Indonesia. Both were jailed in Jordan where they were reportedly tortured. Each says he was then flown to an unnamed underground jail where he was held in solitary confinement for at least six months. Then they were taken to a second underground jail. Amnesty’s Sharon Critoph said “To be 'disappeared' from the face of the earth without knowing why or for how long is a crime under international law and an experience no-one should have to go through. Critoph went on to say “We fear that what we have heard from these two men is just one small part of the much broader picture of US secret detentions around the world.”
A new story in Vanity Fair is alleging that Turkish-Americans may have attempted to bribe a group of U.S. lawmakers including Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The allegation appears in an extended piece in the magazine about FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. According to the magazine, Edmonds was helping the FBI translate tapes surrounding an investigation of Turkish nationals. She was fired from her job after she complained about corruption at the agency. Edmonds is under a federal gag order not to publicly discuss what she heard on the wiretaps. But sources told the magazine that Edmonds has testified that she heard wiretaps of individuals boasting that they had covert relationships with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and that Turkish interests had given tens of thousands of dollars in small donations to Hastert. The donations were reportedly given around the time that the House was considering passing a resolution condemning the Turkish genocide of Armenians. Hastert originally backed the resolution but then withdrew it minutes before it was scheduled to go up for a House vote. Hastert’s office has denied receiving any such payments and Vanity Fair reports that there is no evidence that any payments were made. Edmonds is suing the government over his dismissal but the Bush administration is attempting to have the lawsuit quashed claiming it would reveal state secrets.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit today to challenge the legality of New York City’s new policy of randomly searching the bags of subway passengers. The lawsuit contends that the searches are “virtually certain neither to catch any person trying to carry explosives into the subway nor to deter such an effort.” The civil liberties group says that riders have complained that they have been selected in a “discriminatory and arbitrary” manner, creating the potential for racial profiling. Meanwhile some public officials in New York are calling for the police to target Arab-looking individuals. Republican City Councilman James Oddo said, “Plain and simply, young Arab fundamentalists are the individuals undertaking these acts of terror.”
A pilot with the country’s national airline Garuda has been charged with helping to take part in the assassination of human rights activist Munir last September. Munir died aboard an international flight after his juice was poisoned. An independent inquiry has found indications the Indonesian intelligence agency was involved in his death.
And in Florida, a 67-year-old man has been freed from jail 26 years after being imprisoned for a crime that a judge now concludes he did not commit. Luis Diaz was exonerated on rape charges after new DNA evidence emerged that cast doubts on his guilt. Diaz said his time in jail “robbed me of part of my life.”