Fears of a civil war in Iraq are mounting. The Daily Telegraph of London reports Britain has scrapped plans to begin bringing troops home because of the increasing violence. Britain currently has 8,500 troops in Iraq. The paper reported that 6,000 British Desert Rats are now expected to be sent to Iraq in what it described as “an unexpected redeployment”.
On Saturday at least 52 people died in Iraq including 30 in a suicide bombing in the town of Nahrawan.
A Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament was also assassinated over the weekend. The lawmaker–Faris Nasir Hussein–was a member of President Talibani’s political party. The attacks came just days after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi announced an all-out war in Iraq.
Meanwhile the U.S. death toll since the invasion has now topped 1,900.
On Sunday former President Clinton described the war in Iraq as a mistake during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. The show’s host Tim Russert asked him if he thought the war had hurt the U.S. image in the world.
Here in this country, Four anti-war activists go on trial today in Binghamton New York on federal conspiracy charges for taking part in a non-violent act of civil disobedience protesting the Iraq war. The activists–known as the Saint Patrick’s Day Four–face up to six years in prison, a period of probation and $275,000 in fines. It marks the first federal conspiracy trial of antiwar protesters since the Vietnam War. On March 17, 2003, two days before the Iraq invasion, Daniel Burns, Clare Grady, Teresa Grady and Peter De Mott, were arrested inside the Army recruiting station in Lansing New York after they had poured vials of blood on the walls, windows and American flags. They were originally charged in state court with criminal mischief but the judge declared a hung jury after 9 of the 12 jurors voted for acquittal. The federal government then upped the charges to conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States “by force, intimidation and threat” as well as three lesser charges. Law Professor Bill Quigley, who is advising the four protesters, said there is concern that this case will set a precedent for nonviolent protesters across the country to be charged with federal conspiracy. To coincide with the trial, activists in Binghamton are staging A Citizens’ Tribunal on Iraq.
In Afghanistan parliamentary elections were held this weekend for the first time in over 30 years. Early estimates show about half of the electorate voted–far less than the 76 percent that voted in last year’s presidential election. Counting will officially begin on Tuesday but full results are not expected for another month.
North Korea has pledged to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of aid and security. Diplomats are hailing this as the first major breakthrough in more than two years of deadlock.
In Germany–the country is in political limbo after this weekend’s election left no clear winner. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his chief opponent, Angela Merkel, are both claiming they have a mandate to be chancellor and to form a new coalition government. Merkel, who heads the conservative Christian Democrats was expected to be the clear winner but her party won the election by just three seats, falling far short of a majority needed to form a government.
This news on Hurricane Katrina: it has now been three weeks since the storm hit the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. The death toll has reached 880 and continues to grow. The New York Times reports that at least 154 of the dead were patients staying in nursing homes or hospitals that weren’t evacuated for days. 40 percent of New Orleans remains flooded. Thousands of children are still not reunited with their parents.
The Mississippi Clarion Ledger is reporting that it has obtained internal emails from the Justice Department that indicates the Bush administration may be seeking to blame the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina on environmentalists. The Justice Department is seeking information from various U.S. attorneys offices on whether they have defended any cases involving environmental groups seeking to block the Army Corps of Engineers from working on the levees around New Orleans.
The City Council in Gretna Louisiana has passed a resolution supporting a move by the police chief to seal off a bridge that could have been used by thousands of people in New Orleans to evacuate. Gretna is a largely white town while the vast majority of the evacuees in New Orleans were African-American. The town’s mayor Ronnie Harris said “This wasn’t just one man’s decision. The whole community backs it.” Hundreds of men, women and children were turned away as they tried to cross the bridge over the Mississippi River. There were reports that officers fired gunshots over the heads of some people trying to cross the bridge. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin criticized the town’s move to close off the bridge. He said “We allowed people to cross … because they were dying in the convention center. We made a decision to protect people.... They made a decision to protect property.”