At least nine civilians have been killed in a NATO bombing of a southern village in Afghanistan. The attacked occurred early Wednesday morning while the victims were asleep in their homes.
Eyewitness Wakeel Ahmad: “Around 2:00 am a plane bombed our houses here, you see that it is a residential area. 16 people were killed — women, children and men and another 21 people wounded. After the bomb the foreign soldiers came here and shot dead two wounded residents here. We don’t know why.”
NATO says it was aiming at Taliban hideouts.
In Iraq, the number of US troops killed this month is on pace to become the third-highest of the Iraq invasion. Eleven US troops were killed around the country Wednesday, bringing this month’s toll to seventy. The killings are on track to reach one hundred and twenty. That would trail only two months in 2004 — when the US military was engaged in full-scale attacks on Najaf and Fallujah.
This news comes as President Bush has admitted there may be a parallel between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam. In an interview with ABC News, the President was asked whether he agreed with the assessment the situation in Iraq is similar to the 1968 Tet offensive, which is seen as a turning point in the Vietnam War. Bush said the comparison could be accurate because violence is on the rise and the US is heading into an election.
In other Iraq news, the Pentagon announced Wednesday it will try eleven soldiers in three separate cases involving the deaths of Iraqi civilians. Four soldiers will be tried for the rape and murder of fourteen-year old Iraqi teenager Abeer Qasim Hamza and the killing of her parents and younger sister at their home in Mahmudiyah. The soldiers names are Sergeant Paul Cortez, Specialist James Barker and Privates First Class Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard. According to investigators, Spec. Barker testified he held Abeer Qasim Hamza down while Cortez raped her. Barker also said he tried to rape her before she was shot by former soldier Stephen Green. Green will be tried in civilian court. Trials were also ordered Wednesday for the murder of Iraqis in Tikrit and Hamdaniyah.
Meanwhile in Britain, a top military official has leveled criticism of the Iraq war for the second time in a less than a week. On Tuesday, Brigadier Ed Butler, the outgoing head of British forces in Afghanistan, said the diversion of thousands of troops to Iraq had cost years of progress on the ground in Afghanistan. His comments come days after British military chief Richard Dannat said the foreign occupation of Iraq is worsening the situation in Iraq and should come to an end. On Wednesday, Tony Blair dismissed the mounting calls for a change of course.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “It is our policy to withdraw progressively from Iraq as the Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the security task. That is why it is important, when we are able to hand over to them that we do so, otherwise, of course, we are a provocation rather than a help to them.”
In media news, the executive editor of the New York Times has admitted he believes the American news media failed the public in the lead-up to the Iraq war. In a speech at the University of Michigan Monday, Bill Keller said: “The American media let the country down in its reporting before the war.'’ The New York Times was widely criticized for publishing a series of articles that un-critically adopted the Bush administration's argument that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
In political news, a new poll shows public support for the Republican-controlled Congress is at its lowest level in fourteen years. According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, just sixteen percent of Americans give Congress a favorable rating. For the first time ever, more than fifty percent of Americans now support Democratic control of Congress. Democratic pollster Peter Hart said the results show voters see Democrats as “a marginally acceptable alternative.”
In Chile, former dictator Augusto Pinochet was questioned Wednesday for his role in the torture of political opponents at Villa Grimaldi, one of that country’s most notorious secret prisons. Prosecutors want to charge Pinochet with the torture and disappearance of at least three dozen people. Judge Alejandro Solis spoke after visiting Pinochet’s home in Santiago.
Judge Alejandro Solis: “We were in the home of General Augusto Pinochet to interrogate him. He is accused regarding 35 cases of kidnapping and people who were arrested and disappeared in the Villa Grimaldi, as well as the case of 23 people who charge they were tortured. The General voices the opinion with which we all are familiar. He insists that he is not responsible for these events and that he does not even know the circumstances or the names of the victims.”
Pinochet’s interrogation comes days after Chilean President Michelle Bachelet visited Villa Grimaldi last week. Bachelet was imprisoned and tortured there more than 30 years ago under the Pinochet regime.
The Bush administration’s refusal to join the International Criminal Court is coming under criticism from the Chief US interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials. Richard Sonnenfeldt oversaw the translations during interrogations and questioning of several Nazi war criminals. He spoke Tuesday in New York.
Richard Sonnenfeldt: “I personally think that is most regrettable because we took the leading part in pioneering and establishing world law, crimes, war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity in Nuremberg and yet when the only world court was established we did not accede to it.”
And finally, the US Department of Homeland security is coming under criticism today for preventing a leading British Muslim from entering the United States. Kamal Helbawy, the eighty-year old founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, was scheduled to speak in New York today at a conference organized by the New York University Law School. But just minutes before Helbawy’s flight was to leave London Wednesday, US officials forced him off the plane. Newsweek magazine reports the officials did not provide an explanation. Helbawy is well-known as a leading Islamic scholar and European spokesperson for the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. He is also a member of the Muslim Council of Britain, which works with the British government to encourage non-violence in the Muslim community.