The Bush administration’s controversial military commissions and detainee treatment bill is one step closer to being signed into law. On Wednesday, the House approved its version of the measure, leaving it to a vote in the Senate today. Under the new bill, detainees would be prevented from challenging their imprisonment and denied access to evidence used against them. Critics of the bill say it also gives too broad a definition of who can be ruled an “unlawful enemy combatant”; and provides little protection against detainee mistreatment. The administration was forced to come up with new procedures following a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Guantanamo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan. On Wednesday, Hamdan’s lawyer, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Charlie Swift, said the new bill could again be ruled illegal.
Just one in five Democrats voted with Republicans in the House Wednesday. But Democrats say they won’t challenge the bill because they do not want to appear weak on terror ahead of the November elections. In an editorial today, the New York Times writes: “Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.”
In Iraq, the US military is being accused of killing an entire family in an attack on the town of Baquba Wednesday. The Pentagon says it killed eight “terrorists” who had fired at US troops. But family members and witnesses say the victims were a family of seven and a neighbor hiding in their home.
A new poll shows Iraqi opposition to the US occupation is growing. According to the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, six in ten Iraqis approve of attacks on US troops. Four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military provokes more violence than it prevents. The results come on the heels of a State Department survey that found two-thirds of Iraqis favor an immediate withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the US military says suicide attacks have now reached their highest level since the US invaded more than three years ago.
In Israel, the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister was freed Wednesday after spending more than a month in jail. Nasser Shaer is one of at least sixty Hamas officials arrested following the capture of an Israeli soldier in June. He spoke to reporters shortly after his release.
Shaer went on to call for the release of at least thirty Hamas officials who remain behind bars.
Meanwhile, one of Israel’s leading human rights groups is taking the Israeli government to task for its recent attack on Gaza. In a new report, B’Tselem says Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s main power plant in June constitutes a war crime. The bombing knocked out electricity to more than a million people and disrupted Gaza’s water and sewage systems. Israel says it launched the attack to rescue the captured soldier Gilad Shalit. But B’Tselem accused Israel of other motives.
B’Tselem wants the Israeli government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attack. It’s also calling on Israel to pay the cost of rebuilding the plant.
In Argentina, tens of thousands of people marched Wednesday for the safe return of a witness whose recent testimony led to the conviction of a former chief of police. The witness, Jorge Julio Lopez, is seventy-seven years old. He went missing just one day after police commissioner Miguel Etchecolatz was sentenced to life in prison for murder, torture and kidnapping during Argentina’s seven year dictatorship ending in 1983. The comissioner’s conviction was one of the first since Argentina’s Supreme Court overturned amnesty laws shielding Dirty War-era military and police officers from prosecution.
Here in the United States, an armed attacker stormed a high school in the town of Bailey, Colorado Wednesday, killing one girl before taking his own life. The victim, Emily Keyes, was sixteen years old. The attacker’s name has not been released. Bailey is just thirty miles from Littleton, Colorado, the site of the Columbine High shootings seven years ago.
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a landmark measure to curb global warming. The law commits California to the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. It also mandates that California establish emission controls on large industrial sectors including utilities, oil refineries and cement manufacturing. The legislation is widely considered the country’s most ambitious effort so far to combat global warming.
And finally, in an update on a story we’ve been following closely, the US military has brought charges against Specialist Suzanne Swift. She is the US soldier who was arrested and confined to base for going AWOL after her charges of sexual harassment and assault went un-addressed by the military. On Wednesday, Swift was charged with being absent without leave and missing movement. Swift has refused to return to Iraq, where she says she was sexually harassed by a commanding officer. She says the harassment also took place at her base in Fort Lewis, Washington.