The Bush administration argued on Monday that the government can indefinitely jail immigrants in the United States and prevent them from ever challenging their detention in civilian courts. The Justice Department is claiming that the recently signed Military Commissions Act applies not only to detainees in Guantanamo Bay but also to any foreigner detained in the United States on suspicion of terrorism. Attorney Jonathan Hafetz said this means any noncitizen can be whisked off at night and put in detention. The Justice Department also claimed on Monday that hundreds of lawsuits by prisoners at Guantanamo should be thrown out because they no longer have the right to challenge their detentions in civilian courts.
Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a war crimes lawsuit today in Germany against outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his role in the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. We’ll have more on the lawsuit in a few minutes.
In Iraq, universities have been ordered to be shut down after gunmen kidnapped up to 150 scientists and staff members from a government institute in Baghdad. The mass kidnapping occurred this morning when gunmen wearing Interior Ministry commando uniforms stormed the institute, which is located beneath the Ministry of Higher Education. Estimates of the number kidnapped varied widely from as few as 30 to as many as 150. University professors have been a frequent target of violence. Since the war began, thousands have fled the country for safety.
On Monday, at least 90 people died across Iraq. Gunmen attacked a convoy carrying Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi. He survived the assassination attempt, but two of his bodyguards died.
In Washington, Senator Carl Levin said Iraq was in a low-grade civil war and that it was heading into an abyss. Levin, who is set to become the new chair of the Armed Forces Committee, reiterated his call for troop redeployment. Levin said, “We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves.”
President Bush said he would reject any calls for setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He spoke to the press after meeting with advisers from the Iraq Study Group.
President Bush: “They want us to succeed in Iraq, just like I want to succeed. And so we had a really good discussion. I’m not sure what the report is going to say. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I believe this: I believe that it’s important for us to succeed in Iraq, not only for our security, but for the security of the Middle East, and that I’m looking forward to interesting ideas.”
In other news on Iraq, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to intervene in the case of Mohammad Munaf—the U.S. citizen who is facing a death sentence in Iraq. He was sentenced on charges of kidnapping three Romanian journalists. Munaf was unable to hear or challenge the evidence against him. His lawyers say the judge had been prepared to dismiss the case until two U.S. military officials intervened and told the judge to hand him the death penalty. The Supreme Court gave no explanation for its order Monday denying Munaf’s request.
On Monday, President Bush also called for the worldwide isolation of Iran until it gives up what he described as its nuclear ambitions. The president made the comment during a press conference in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
President Bush: “I think it’s very important for the world to unite with one common voice, to say to the Iranians that if you choose to continue forward, you’ll be isolated. And one source of isolation would be economic isolation. In other words, there has to be a consequence for their intransigence.”
Earlier in the day, Ehud Olmert appeared on “The Today Show” and claimed that Iran will soon have nuclear weapons.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “I don’t want to measure it in days or weeks, but it’s quite close, and we have to join forces in order to stop it, because this is a serious danger to many countries, amongst them Israel, and this is a moral obligation that we all have, and I think that we all understand. It will not happen. It can’t happen. We will not tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran, and I think America, and I even believe that Russia, will not tolerate it.”
Meanwhile in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a major address on the Middle East. He said the answer to Iraq lies not only in Iraq itself, but outside it. Blair broke with President Bush and advocated for building up a “new partnership” with Iran to help calm the violence in Iraq. He said steps must be taken throughout the Middle East.
Prime Minister Tony Blair: “A whole region policy should start with Israel and Palestine. That is the core. Then we should make progress with Lebanon. We should then unite all moderate Arab and Muslim voices behind a push for peace in those countries, but also in Iraq. And we should be standing up, empowering, respecting those with a moderate and modern view of the faith of Islam everywhere.”
In news from Capitol Hill, Nancy Pelosi is being criticized for endorsing Congressmember John Murtha to become the new majority leader in the House. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington described Murtha as one of the most unethical members of Congress, in part because he recently blocked proposed changes to ethics rules.
The House has passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act despite opposition from dozens of organizations including the National Lawyers Guild, Humane Society and Natural Resources Defense Council. The bill makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in nonviolent protests that result in businesses losing money. Legal experts say a protester could be charged with terrorism if they engaged in a sit-in that caused a business to lose profits. Congressmember Dennis Kucinich said the law would have a chilling effect on nonviolent protest. Kucinich said the country has to be very careful of painting everyone with a broad brush of terrorism.
In Denmark, two journalists have gone on trial for publishing a prize-winning article that revealed the Danish government did not believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ahead of the war. The articles were published a year after the war started and were based on a leaked government report. This marks the first time in the history of modern Denmark that journalists have been charged with divulging state secrets. They face up to two years in prison if found guilty.
Over the weekend President Bush gave his first weekly radio address since the midterm elections. He said the country should be proud that the elections were held even though the county is in a war.
President Bush: “One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war.”
Nobel laureate and Nigerian human rights activist Wole Soyinka presided over a citizens’ tribunal on Sudan, which charged the Sudanese president with genocide and crimes against humanity.
Wole Soyinka: “We, the judges of the International Citizens’ Tribunal for Sudan, find the defendant, Omar Hasan al-Bashir, guilty as charged.”
Soyinka told Reuters that the United Nations has not acted effectively and that the African Union is “playing footsie” with Sudan.
Wole Soyinka: “In the meantime, what is happening to the victims? In the meantime, the final solution—and I use that expression very deliberately—the final solution is being prepared and is already in fact gradually being implemented. The world cannot pretend not to know this. Now the investigation going on at The Hague is not going to spur the United Nations to action on behalf of a suffering humanity.”
At the mock trial, a Sudanese man named Mohamed Elgadi testified.
Mohamed Elgadi: “Definitely, as a victim of torture, I don’t ask to import the same kind of what happened to me to them. I just want justice. I want them to recognize what they did and say, 'Sorry, sorry,' and then we will decide what to do.”
Hundreds of Israeli peace activists have asked Israel’s high court to order the military to stop carrying out targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The petition was signed by 10 peace groups, 200 individuals and three foreign Nobel Peace Prize winners. The petitioners urged the court to make a decision immediately in light of Israel’s attack on Beit Hanoun that killed 19 people, mostly women and children.
In Washington, a groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday for the new monument on the National Mall dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King. Speakers included his son, Martin Luther King III, and President Clinton.
Martin Luther King III: “The best way to memorialize the meaning of what our father’s life is to help realize his dream. And what was his dream? He dreamed of peace. He dreamed of a world at peace with itself, a world of justice, equality and community. We stand today to memorialize his life. We must stand also to realize this dream.”
President Clinton: “The monument, however beautiful it turns out to be, will be but a physical manifestation of the monument already constructed in the lives and hearts of millions of Americans who are more just, more decent, more successful, more perfect because he lived.”