Democratic lawmakers are calling for U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Iraq within the next four to six months. The incoming Senate majority leader, Harry Reid; the incoming Armed Services Committee chair, Senator Carl Levin; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair, Senator Joseph Biden, all said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January.
Howard Dean, the chair of the Democratic National Committee on Fox News Sunday: “We need to work with the president to get ourselves out of Iraq. The vast majority of the American people believe the truth, which is that it was a mistake to get into Iraq in the first place. That, the president does not believe. But everybody in America understands that we cannot stay — except possibly the president and Vice President Cheney — understands that we cannot stay in Iraq forever.”
Republican senator and presidential hopeful John McCain said more troops are needed in Iraq. He spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sen. John McCain: “The question is: What’s the solution? And I believe that a withdrawal, or a date for withdrawal, will lead to chaos in the region. And most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.”
Sen. McCain’s call for more troops to be sent to Iraq came on a day that at least 159 people died in Iraq. In Baghdad, two suicide bombers killed 35 men who were waiting in line to join Iraq’s police force. In Baquba, 50 bodies were found behind an electrical company. Twenty-five more bodies were found in Baghdad. The Guardian newspaper described Sunday as a day of violence exceptional even by the country’s grim standards. The violence continued this morning when a minibus exploded in eastern Baghdad, killing 20 people and wounding 20 others. At least another 64 Iraqis died on Saturday. Officials in Baghdad announced that around 1,600 bodies were brought to the city morgue last month — the highest tally since July.
In Washington, President Bush is planning to meet with advisers from the Iraq Study Group today to discuss options on Iraq. For the first time, the White House has indicated it might be open to hold talks with Iran and Syria. Meanwhile in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Sunday for a shakeup of his Cabinet.
More signs are also emerging on how the Iraq War has stretched the military thin. The Associated Press is reporting the Pentagon is developing plans that for the first time would send entire National Guard combat brigades back to Iraq for a second tour. Smaller units and individual troops from the Guard have already returned to Iraq for longer periods, but this marks the first time entire brigades of 3,500 troops are being sent back.
In political news, a two-way race has developed between Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha to become the new majority leader in the Democrat-controlled House. On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi, who is set to become House speaker, endorsed Murtha over Hoyer, who is currently her deputy. In a letter to Murtha, Pelosi wrote, “I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election.”
Also on Sunday, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold announced he will not run for president in 2008. In a message to supporters, Feingold said he feels he can best advance a progressive agenda as a senator.
A new government report out of Afghanistan has found that the number of people killed in the war has increased fourfold over the past year. It is estimated that 3,700 people have died this year — including at least 1,000 civilians. The report also found that the number of militant attacks in Afghanistan has surged in recent months from about 300 in March to more than 600 in the month of September.
At the United Nations, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun that killed at least 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens wounded. One family lost 16 members when Israeli tanks opened fire on their house. Seven children died; the youngest was just a year old. The U.N. resolution called on Israel to abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention. It also called on the Palestinian Authority to stop rocket attacks on Israel. The U.S. delegation criticized the resolution for being one-sided.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton: “We are disturbed at the language of the resolution that is in many places biased against Israel and politically motivated. Such language does not further the cause of peace, and its unacceptability to the United States in previous resolutions is well known.”
The U.S veto was widely criticized in part because the United States has repeatedly used its veto to shield Israel from criticism at the United Nations.
Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer to the U.N.: “As I said, you know, that fact the the Security Council did not adopt this balanced resolution is sending wrong messages. The first one, the wrong message to the extremists on the Israeli side that they are above the law and they can continue this aggression. This aggression has been unfolding for the past five months.”
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said the veto was incomprehensible. In response, the Arab League announced it would lift the financial blockade on the Palestinians in defiance of the United States.
Despite the international outcry, Israel is continuing to carry out attacks on Gaza. On Sunday, a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager was killed by an Israeli missile strike on Beit Lahiya. Three other Palestinians were injured in the strike.
In other developments in the region, a deal appears to have been reached between leaders of Hamas and Fatah over a new coalition Palestinian government. Under the reported agreement, a former university official named Mohammed Shbeir will become the new Palestinian prime minister, replacing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is visiting Washington and will meet today with President Bush.
A coalition of antiwar and veterans’ groups met in Philadelphia on Saturday to announce plans to mobilize a national movement to impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. A national Impeachment Day has been called for December 10. Activists are urging grassroots groups to set up impeachment lobbying offices in every congressional district. Speakers on Saturday included Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan: “Right now, at this minute, we have to start calling the offices of John Conyers, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Steny Hoyer, Harry Reid, your congressperson, and start saying, 'We want accountability.'”
Sheehan criticized the Democratic leadership for saying impeachment is off the table. Meanwhile, a new poll from Newsweek has found that President Bush’s approval rating has dropped to a new low of 31 percent.
Officials in Havana are praising a recent vote at the United Nations calling for the United States to end its 48-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. One hundred eighty-three nations in the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of lifting the embargo. Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau joined the United States in opposing the resolution. The U.N. has passed a similar resolution for 15 consecutive years.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez: “Our people have won a strategic victory over a policy which has tried to defeat it through hunger and sickness and, without success, tried to bring it to its knees. On a day like yesterday at the U.N. filled us all with pride and gives us hope in the conviction of how much prestige and support our fight has on an international scale.”
In Germany, anti-nuclear activists temporarily stopped a train on Sunday transporting 175 tons of nuclear waste from France to Germany. Activists repeatedly blocked the train tracks to protest the shipment of the nuclear waste. At one spot, two activists chained themselves to the rails. Police removed a total of 200 demonstrators from railway lines. Over 1,000 activists also staged a sit-in near the site of the final storage dump.
In Washington, ceremonies will be held today to mark the beginning of construction of a new federal monument to civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The memorial will sit on four acres, adjacent to the FDR Memorial and in direct line with the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It marks the first monument to an African American on the National Mall.
Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Martin Luther King National Memorial Project: “Dr. King will be situated not far from the Lincoln Memorial where he made his famous speech, but then Dr. King is looking over at the Jefferson Memorial and talking about the promissory note that we will come to collect. It’s all apropos to what his message was about then and will be about in the future.”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'”
And the pioneering feminist, journalist and cultural critic Ellen Willis has died at the age of 64. She was the first pop music critic at The New Yorker and was a founder of the feminist group Redstockings. She was also a professor of journalism at New York University. She is survived by her husband, the sociologist Stanley Aronowitz.