John Bolton has resigned as ambassador to the United Nations, ending a controversial 16-month term. In August 2005, Bolton was given a temporary recess appointment after he failed to be confirmed by the Senate. Last month, President Bush renominated Bolton, but a number of Democratic and Republican senators announced they would not back his confirmation.
President Bush: “I received the resignation of Ambassador John Bolton. I accept it. I’m not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed. And the reason why I think he deserved to be confirmed is because I know he did a fabulous job for the country.”
One top contender to replace Bolton is reported to be Zalmay Khalizad, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq.
Since the November election, three of the most prominent hawks in the Bush administration have resigned: John Bolton, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official. On Capitol Hill, confirmation hearings begin today for former CIA Director Robert Gates — the man tapped by Bush to succeed Rumsfeld.
In Iraq, a series of shootings and bombings have left at least 30 people dead in Baghdad. A triple car bombing near a fuel station killed 15 people. Another 15 died when gunmen attacked a bus carrying employees of the Shia Endowment, a body that oversees religious sites and mosques.
The U.S. death toll in the war has topped 2,900. At least 13 U.S. troops have died since Friday, including four marines in a helicopter crash in Anbar province. The military claims the helicopter experienced mechanical problems and was not hit by gunfire.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is warning the situation in Iraq is now much worse than a civil war.
Kofi Annan: “Given the level of the violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way the forces are arranged against each other, look at—a few years ago when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse.”
During an interview on the BBC, Annan said he also understood why some Iraqis regret the fall of Saddam Hussein.
On Monday at the White House, President Bush met with one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
President Bush: “I appreciate so very much His Eminence’s commitment to a unity government. I assured him the United States supports his work and the work of the prime minister to unify the country. Part of unifying Iraq is for the elected leaders and society leaders to reject the extremists that are trying to stop the advance of this young democracy.”
Hakim is the leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the head of the Badr Brigade — a Shiite militia accused of operating death squads. He rejected calls for an international conference to deal with the Iraq crisis.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim: “We believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process. Iraq should be in a position to solve Iraqi problems.”
Hakim also called on the United States to crack down harder on Sunni insurgents. The Shiite cleric said, “Eliminating the danger of civil war in Iraq could only be achieved through directing decisive strikes against Baathist terrorists in Iraq.”
The number of private contractors in Iraq has now reached about 100,000 — the most ever used in a U.S. military operation. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root is one of the largest contractors in Iraq. It has more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working between Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Blackwater USA has more than 1,000 employees in Iraq. DynCorp has about 1,500 employees there.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a pair of cases that could determine whether local governments can take measures to promote racially desegregated schools. Parents of white students in Seattle and Louisville sued their local school districts to challenge policies that considered race as a factor in determining what schools students attend. The New York Times reports that after Monday’s oral arguments, it appears the court will rule on the side of the white parents. Civil rights groups have said such a ruling would undermine the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 decision that outlawed separate systems of education for black and white schoolchildren.
In Lebanon, a funeral is taking place today for Ahmed Ali Mahmoud — the Shiite man killed on Sunday after he took part in an anti-government rally organized by Hezbollah. He was shot as he walked through a Sunni neighborhood of Beirut. According to The Independent newspaper of London, some in Lebanon feel that Ahmed Mahmoud might have been the first victim of the next Lebanese civil war. Relatives of Mahmoud have accused the Sunni Future movement of carrying out the killing. That group is led by Saad Hariri, the son of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated last year. Meanwhile, anti-government protests in Beirut have entered their fifth day. Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, has been in Beirut meeting with government officials and the protest leaders.
Amr Moussa: “I am worried about the current situation in Lebanon. I should not worry about the future if we all work to save the situation today. I’m sure the Lebanese people, with the industrious richness, can always surmount to any of those obstacles, provided that we all help them and that they decide to help themselves. Lebanon should not be divided.”
In Mexico, police have arrested a leader of the Popular Assembly of the Oaxacan People, which has led the popular uprising in the southern state of Oaxaca. Flavio Sosa was detained in Mexico City on Monday after he gave a press conference announcing that APPO planned to hold negotiations with the government of Felipe Calderon. The police accused Sosa of being involved in kidnapping, violent robbery and arson.
In other news from Oaxaca, a judge has released two local officials who were jailed in connection with the murder of Indymedia journalist Brad Will. Will was shot dead in October as he filmed paramilitary forces shooting at protesters in Oaxaca. The men have acknowledged shooting at the crowd, but state prosecutors claim they couldn’t have fired the shots that killed Will. The Committee to Protect Journalists criticized the release of the men and called on Mexican federal authorities to take over the investigation into the killing.
The State Department has rejected a call for diplomatic talks with Cuba. Cuba’s acting president, Raul Castro, called for negotiations with the United States to resolve its long-standing isolation of the Cuban government.
Raul Castro: “We are convinced that the exit to the conflicts that affect humanity is not war but in political solutions. We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba as long as they accept, as we have said in another occasion, our condition as a country that does not tolerate shadows on its independence.”
State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack responded on Monday.
Sean McCormack: “I don’t see how that really furthers the cause of democracy in that country, where you have dialogue with a dictator-in-waiting who wants to continue the form of governance that has really kept down the Cuban people for all these decades.”
In Fiji, the military has seized power in the country’s fourth coup in the past 20 years. The country’s prime minister has been placed under house arrest, and Fiji’s military commander has announced that he has taken over.
In the Philippines, a U.S. marine has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a 23-year-old Filipino woman at a Navy base in Manila last year. The marine, Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, plans to appeal the ruling. Three other marines were acquitted in the case. This is Renato Reyes, who led protests outside the courtroom.
Renato Reyes: “The verdict, while we are happy with the conviction of at least one U.S. marine, it goes to show the weaknesses, the difficulties in prosecuting any American soldier under the current Visiting Forces Agreement. It has become difficult to gain the custody of the suspects. It has become difficult to really investigate the incident.”
The case has generated a lot of attention in the Philippines, where many residents oppose the U.S. military presence.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is urging lawmakers to back his plan to rebuild the country’s nuclear arms program by designing a fleet of new submarines armed with nuclear warheads. On Monday, Blair insisted that Britain can not get rid of its nuclear weapons program.
Prime Minister Tony Blair: “It is noteworthy that no present nuclear power is or is even considering divesting itself of its nuclear capability unilaterally, and that in these circumstances it would be unwise and dangerous for Britain, alone of any of the nuclear powers, to give up its independent nuclear deterrent.”
In other news, NASA has announced plans to build the first permanent base on the moon. NASA gave no cost estimate for the program but said construction would begin in the year 2020.
In Denmark, three journalists have been acquitted on charges of endangering national security. They were arrested after they published a series of articles based on classified Danish intelligence reports that concluded Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has publicly praised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s re-election.
President Evo Morales: “We’re very happy about Chavez’s victory, just like Correa’s victory, just like Nicaragua’s victory. The Latin American democracies are strengthening. We welcome whoever wins through the vote of the people. It’s a way to deepen democracy.”