Democrats won their first measure against the Iraq War Wednesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a nonbinding resolution calling the troop increase “not in the national interest.” The final vote was 12 to nine. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was the lone Republican to vote along with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s 11 Democrats.
Sen. Chuck Hagel: “There is no strategy. This is a ping pong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad, are not beans. They’re real lives, and we better be damn sure that we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”
The resolution is expected to reach the Senate floor next week. At an appearance in Delaware, President Bush repeated calls for bipartisan support.
President Bush: “It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle we sit on. What the American people expect are for people from both sides of the aisle to come together and solve problems.”
Meanwhile, Iraq is topping the agenda today at the gathering of world leaders in Davos, Switzerland. Iraqi Parliament member Adnan Pachachi addressed the growing political opposition to the Iraq War in the United States.
Adnan Pachachi: “If, because of domestic pressures in the United States, the United States will feel it’s not possible for them to continue undertaking this burden, then I think we should consider the possibility of internationalizing the whole thing and going to the United Nations and have a restructured multinational force under United Nations authority.”
In Lebanon, calm is slowly returning to the capital Beirut two days after the opposition-led general strike. On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the opposition could have overthrown the government but stopped short to avoid civil strife.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: “The opposition is able. I am not exaggerating when I say this. The opposition has the political force, mobility, the crowds and the strong will, the ability to make decisions and the ability to plan and act. If the opposition wanted to topple the government, it would have done so on the first day of its protest.”
Meanwhile at a donor meeting in Paris today, the Bush administration announced plans to triple aid to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Back in the United States, nine former Black Panthers have been arrested and charged for a 35-year-old murder case that was originally dismissed because police had obtained confessions through torture. The case centers around the killing of a San Francisco police officer in 1971. Three of the former Panthers were cleared of wrongdoing in 1975 after it was revealed police used torture to extract their confessions. The men were beaten, stripped naked, blindfolded and had electric probes applied to their genitals. The new arrests are drawing intense criticism. Attorney Kamau Franklin of the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “These indictments are an attempt to rewrite history — the history of the Black Panthers, the history of COINTELPRO, and the history of the civil rights movement.”
In Mississippi, a former sheriff’s deputy and reported Ku Klux Klan member has been arrested in one of the last major unsolved murder cases of the civil rights era. James Ford Seale has been charged with the 1964 kidnapping of two 19-year-old African-American hitchhikers who were beaten and dumped alive into the Mississippi River. Seale’s family claimed he was deceased after investigators reopened the case seven years ago. But efforts by one of the victim’s brothers revealed Seale was alive and still living down the road from where the kidnappings occurred.
Here in New York, a survivor of the police shooting that killed the unarmed Queens man Sean Bell has been released from the hospital. Joseph Guzman is still in a wheelchair recovering from 16 bullet wounds. At a news conference in Harlem Wednesday, Guzman said the police officers should be held accountable for shooting him and his unarmed friends. A grand jury investigation is continuing with no indictments to date.
In military news, the Pentagon unveiled a new weapon Wednesday that gives targets the sensation they are about to catch fire. The ray gun was displayed at a media demonstration where people pretended to take part in a riot. The weapon isn’t expected to go into production for another three years.
In election news, Democratic senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry has announced he will not be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
In Ohio, two election workers were convicted Wednesday of rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election. The workers oversaw balloting in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County. Prosecutors say they secretly vetted ballots before a public recount took place. The tampering did not affect the final outcome of the Ohio vote, but critics say it was part of a broader wave of electoral misconduct.
Former President Jimmy Carter has announced he will change a sentence in his recent book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” that indicates Palestinians should not be expected to end suicide bombings until Israel withdraws settlements from the Occupied Territories. Speaking at Brandeis University in Boston Tuesday, Carter said the sentence was worded in a “completely improper and stupid way” and would be changed in new editions. But Carter refused calls to retract other claims in his book, including his comparison of Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories to South Africa under apartheid.
Attorneys for the jailed independent journalist Josh Wolf have launched a new effort for his release. Wolf was sent back to prison last year after refusing a court order to hand over video of a protest in San Francisco. His lawyers have filed what’s called a grumbles motion. The motion argues Wolf’s commitment to press freedom will forever prevent him from handing over the tape. Wolf would be released if the court rules keeping him in jail would only be punitive. Wolf has spent more than 150 days in prison.
In Florida, jailed University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian has begun the second hunger strike of his time in prison. Al-Arian has been accused of links to the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. He’s been jailed for over three years despite the fact the jury in his case failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the charges brought against him.
And a correction to a headline from yesterday’s broadcast about newly freed prisoner Roy Brown: Brown was exonerated of his rape and murder conviction not by DNA testing on the boyfriend of the victim, but by DNA testing on the boyfriend’s brother.