The so-called coalition of the willing in Iraq is continuing to shrink. The Japanese prime minister has announced plans to pull its six hundred troops out of Iraq within weeks. Italy has already said it will remove its troops by year’s end. Spain, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Honduras have already pulled out. Once the Italian troops leave, Britain and South Korea will be the only nations besides the United States to have more than one thousand troops in Iraq.
In other news from Iraq, the two U.S. soldiers missing since Friday have been found dead south of Baghdad. Kristian Menchaca, of Houston, Texas and Thomas Tucker of Madras Oregon were the first U.S. soldiers to have been reported missing in action in Iraq in two years. A group with ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq called The Mujahedeen Shura Council had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the men.
Three U.S. soldiers have been charged in connection with the killing of three Iraqi detainees last month in the town of Thar Thar Canal. The soldiers — all members of the 101st Airborne Division — reportedly detained the Iraqis during a raid on a former chemical factory. Then the soldiers allowed the Iraqis to flee the scene so they would have an excuse to shoot them. The men are also accused of threatening to kill another soldier if he assisted investigators.
Meanwhile there are reports coming out of the Iraqi city of Baquba, that U.S. forces killed 13 Iraqis working in poultry farms during an overnight raid. An Iraqi police officer said the workers were sleeping on the roof of their houses. Four others were wounded in the raid and 10 people were arrested. Earlier today in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a crowded market. Seven people died. 18 people were wounded.
In Italy, federal prosecutors are calling for a U.S. Marine to stand trial for the killing of Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari in Baghdad last year. Calipari was escorting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena after she been released by kidnappers. U.S. troops opened fire on their car killing Calipari and injuring Sgrena. The U.S. Marine charged with the killings has been identified as Mario Lozano. Tune in to Democracy Now on Thursday when Giuliana Sgrena joins us in the Firehouse studio.
The U.S. Supreme Court has moved a step closer to rolling back the Clean Water Act. A divided court said the landmark 1972 law should only apply to wetlands with a close connection to a river, lake or some other major waterway. The court was split three ways. Four justices — led by Antonin Scalia — argued to sharply restrict the definition of wetlands. Four justices argued for upholding the law as is. And in the middle was Justice Anthony Kennedy who argued the law may have been misinterpreted but he upheld federal control over most wetlands. Kennedy argued that Justice Scalia’s opinion was unduly dismissive of the importance of wetlands. Kennedy went on to say Scalia’s view was “inconsistent with the text, structure and purpose” of the Clean Water Act.
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration ignored an offer from Iran in 2003 to cooperate on a number of key issues now at the center of the dispute between the two nations. According to the report, Iran offered to fully cooperate on its nuclear program, recognize the state of Israel and terminate support for Palestinian militant groups. Iran sent the offer just weeks after the U.S. invaded Iraq. The Bush administration belittled the offer and formally complained to the Swiss ambassador for sending the proposal along.
Meanwhile on Monday — President Bush warned Iran again that it will face tough sanctions if it rejects a new offer from the U.S. and European nations to rejoin nuclear talks.
The United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea are all warning North Korea not to proceed with test-firing a long range ballistic missile.
North Korea responded by lashing out at the Bush administration for moving ahead with plans to build a missile shield. North Korea said the Star Wars like program could fuel a dangerous arms race in space. In other news from the region — 22,000 U.S. troops and 280 aircraft are taking part in staged war games today in the western Pacific.
The Bush administration is pressuring Latin American nations to prevent Venezuela from securing an open seat on the United Nations Security Council. Under UN rules, Latin American governments are entitled to pick a country from the region to fill the rotating seat that comes open next year. The Los Angeles Times reports the U.S. fears the selection of Venezuela might confound the Bush administration’s plans to step up pressure on Iran. U.S. diplomats are threatening nations like Chile with withdrawing support for key projects if they back the selection of Venezuela. One Chilean newspaper reported Secretary of State Rice told her Chilean counterpart that a vote for Venezuela would lump Chile with a group of “losers.” Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and several Caribbean nations have already backed Venezuela. The U.S. is lobbying for Guatemala to get the UN seat.
The BBC has obtained evidence that Afghanistan’s intelligence services are putting new restrictions on what Afghan journalists can report. According to a leaked memo, Afghan journalists are no longer allowed to criticize the U.S.-led military coalition, or publish interviews against the government’s foreign policy. The Afghan media has also been instructed to limit the coverage dedicated to the activities of militants and there are now prohibitions on interviewing, filming or photographing men considered terrorist commanders. The government maintains the restrictions are needed to prevent the media from what it describes as glorifying terrorism. A spokesperson for the U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai said “This request is entirely consistent with the principles of the freedoms of speech and press enshrined in the constitution.” One news agency chief said 95% of his stories would be banned if these rules and regulations became law.
The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting the Department of Veterans Affairs is on a pace to see nearly 20,000 new cases of post-combat stress this year among service members who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is more than six times the number of cases that officials had expected. Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that thousands of Vietnam veterans are now seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder–more than 30 years after their war ended. Experts say one reason appears to be harrowing images of combat in Iraq.
This news from Africa: Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia has been flown out of Sierra Leone to go on trial for war crimes in The Hague. He faces 11 war crimes charges for backing rebels in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war that left tens of thousands dead. Last week Britain offered to hold Taylor in prison if he is convicted by the International Criminal Court.
Reports are coming out of the Middle East that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plan to meet for the first time on Wednesday in Jordan. On Monday, thousands of Palestinian workers were paid for the first time since March. The money largely came from private donations and Islamic charities.
Here in this country, a coalition of consumer, civil rights, labor and media reform groups are launching a new campaign today. The groups oppose rule changes that would allow large media corporations to control more TV channels, radio stations and newspapers in communities across the country. The groups are launching a new website today called StopBigMedia.com. The campaign comes as the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to start a new rulemaking process this week that could result in the overhaul of the nation’s media ownership rules. The advocacy groups maintain the relaxation of the rules would lead to more corporate consolidation, less competition, and fewer local voices in the media.
The governor of Louisiana has ordered the National Guard to return to New Orleans to begin patrolling the city streets following an outbreak in violence. Over the weekend six people were murdered. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked the governor for 300 soldiers and 60 state police officers to be deployed. Nagin said the troops are needed to restore law and order.
Mayor Nagin also said the city is considering implementing a curfew for the city’s youth.
There is an update in the case of Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart — she is the New York attorney convicted of terror-related charges for her work representing her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Stewart filed court papers on Monday seeking to learn whether any warrantless or illegal electronic surveillance was conducted on her or anyone involved in her case. Stewart maintains that the government’s case against her would be compromised if it engaged in illegal surveillance. The Bush administration has already admitted it monitored jailhouse conversations between Stewart and her client.
And in India, trash collectors in the city of Meerut are staging mass protests in an attempt to gain permanent jobs with benefits. The trash collectors have begun dumping garbage in the city’s streets and pelting the homes of government officials with filth.