US and Iraqi forces have launched what is being described as the biggest security crackdown Baghdad has seen since the start of the war. Up to 75,000 troops will be deployed around the city. The troops will man increased numbers of checkpoints, launch raids, and call in air strikes.
The crackdown comes one day after Iraq received a surprise visit from President Bush. The President met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri-al Malaki to show support for Iraq’s recently-formed government.
Much like his first visit to Iraq in November 2003, the President’s trip was a brief one. He left Iraq after just six hours. The visit was kept under such secrecy Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki was made aware just minutes before he met the President in the Green Zone. According to the New York Times, Maliki appeared uneasy and “mostly somber” throughout his joint appearance with Bush.
The President’s visit was protested in Baghdad. Earlier today, more than one thousand people took to the streets calling on the US to withdraw from Iraq. The demonstrators waved Iraqi flags, carried signs and chanted slogans including “No, No to the occupiers.”
Meanwhile, at least 36 people died in violence across Iraq Tuesday. 18 were killed in a bombing in the city of Kirkuk.
The number of US military fatalities is approaching twenty-five hundred. According to the Associated Press, 2,498 members of the US military have lost their lives since the invasion of April 2003.
Meanwhile, a Republican Congressmember is coming under criticism for making comments downplaying the dangers of life in Iraq. Speaking Monday on the House floor, Iowa Republican Steve King said: “My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you… she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq.”
And finally in Iraq, the US military is facing a new scandal over the conduct of its soldiers. A video has been released showing a man who appears to be a Marine performing to applauding troops. He sings a song about killing Iraqis. The undated video comes at a time the US military is dealing with the fallout over allegations it massacred civilians in Haditha and Ishaqi. The Pentagon says it’s investigating. Human rights groups condemned the video Tuesday.
In Israel, the military says an internal investigation has concluded Israeli forces were not behind Friday’s bombing that killed seven Palestinian civilians on a Gaza beach.
Israel maintains the bombing was caused by either a mine planted by Hamas or unexploded ordinance left on the beach. Palestinians and human rights groups immediately criticized the Israeli response. Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon battle expert now working for Human Rights Watch, spoke after investigating the scene of the bombing.
Garlasco says the shell likely came from a land-based Israeli firing device, not a naval ship as had been previously alleged.
In Afghanistan, the US-led coalition is preparing to launch its biggest offensive since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. An estimated 11,000 troops are expected to be deployed to attack fighters in four southern provinces.
In China, a prominent opponent of a massive dam project has been left paralysed after a beating by unknown assailants. The activist, Fu Xiancai, was attacked after he ignored a police warning not to speak to foreign journalists. He has been a leading spokesperson for the movement against the Three Gorges dam, which has uprooted more than one million people.
Here in the United States, hundreds of police officers shut down the fourteen-acre South Central Farm in Los Angeles Tuesday. More than 40 protesters were arrested as they staged an encampment to resist removal from what is considered the largest urban farm in the United States. It took authorities nearly eight hours to forcibly clear the farm. Police bulldozed vegetable gardens and used bolt cutters to remove the protesters who had chained themselves to trees and picnic tables on the property. Since an eviction order last month, occupants have staged an encampment to resist removal from the land they’ve tended for over a decade.
A Congressional audit has concluded the government handed out up to $1.4 billion to recipients who wrongly claimed to be victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to the Government Accountability Office, the fraudulent payments account for as much as 16 percent of total assistance given to Katrina victims.
The Pentagon has announced it is dropping plans to maintain secret interrogation techniques by placing them in a classified section of the Army Field Manual. Human rights groups had raised concerns the secrecy of the techniques could have sanctioned soldiers to commit abuse. Army officials told the Associated Press the techniques will either be made public or eliminated.
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has come out against the direct involvement of doctors in prisoner interrogation. In a policy adopted at the group’s annual meeting Monday, the AMA says: “Physicians in all circumstances must never be involved in activities that are physically or mentally coercive. If physicians engage in such activities, the whole profession is tainted.” The issue was raised amid concerns over the role of doctors in the treatment of detainees at the Guantanomo Bay prison and elsewhere.
And a new poll of fourteen countries shows a continuing decline in support for US policies around the world. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority in ten of fourteen countries believe the Iraq war has made the world more dangerous. That number includes Britain, where support for the so-called war on terror has dropped to below fifty percent. A majority in 13 countries believe the Iraq war poses a bigger threat to world peace than Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
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