U.S. special operations forces have launched a pair of airstrikes on Somalia. Many people are believed to have died. One man told the Associated Press that his four-year-old son was among the dead. The strikes hit the region of Ras Kamboni, just north of the Kenyan border. The Pentagon says the target of the strikes were members of al-Qaeda connected to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The attack comes just weeks after U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia and overthrew the Islamic Courts Union. The attack is the first overt U.S. military action in Somalia since American troops departed the country in 1994 following the infamous “Black Hawk Down” attack. According to news reports, the U.S. military used unmanned aerial drones to carry out surveillance in Somalia. Once they identified the potential targets, the aircraft carrier Eisenhower moved out of the Persian Gulf toward Somalia. An AC-130 gunship operated by the U.S. Special Operations Command carried out the attack. Reports have also emerged that suggest U.S. special forces and CIA paramilitary teams are now directly embedded with Ethiopian forces in Somalia. Earlier this year, the CIA began quietly making cash payments to a group of Somali warlords who pledged to help hunt down members of al-Qaeda. Publicly the U.S. claims it does not back Somali warlords.
Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa: “We do not want to return to warlordism in Somalia. We don’t support it, we don’t want it, the people don’t want it, and their neighbors don’t want it. So those individuals who are characterized as warlords should join the process of national inclusive dialogue and join the process of having a peaceful Somalia. They should turn in their weapons. They should have their militias go away or join the legitimate institutions of the government.”
President Bush is preparing to address the nation and call for an escalation of the war in Iraq. He is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday and is expected to call for 20,000 more troops to be sent to Iraq. The speech comes as the president’s approval ratings on Iraq have dropped to a record low of 26 percent. A new USA Today/Gallup poll found that nearly half of those surveyed say the United States can’t achieve its goals in Iraq regardless of how many troops it sends.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said yesterday that President Bush understands there is a lot of public anxiety about the Iraq War. But Snow said Americans “don’t want another September 11.”
On Capitol Hill, Senator Ted Kennedy plans to introduce legislation today that would require new authorization for any troop increase. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois also criticized the call for more troops.
Sen. Barack Obama: “You know, I met with the president last week and expressed my clear and unequivocal opposition to an escalation of troops levels in Iraq. I don’t think that 15,000 or 20,000 more troops is going to make a difference in Iraq and in Baghdad. What will make a difference is a political accommodation between the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds.”
In the House, Congressman Dennis Kucinich plans to put forward his own plan calling for the end of the U.S. occupation, the closing of U.S. military bases and the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. As part of the plan, Kucinich calls for cutting off new funds for the war and using existing funds to bring the troops home. Kucinich also wants the return of all U.S. private contractors in Iraq.
The United Nations refugee agency is seeking $60 million in emergency funds to help deal with the Iraqi refugee crisis. The U.N. estimates that one in eight Iraqis have fled their homes and that 1.7 million Iraqis are now displaced. Up to one million Iraqi refugees are in Syria. Up to 700,000 are in Jordan. Tens of thousands of Iraqis continue to flee monthly.
President Bush is expected to name Fred Fielding as his new White House counsel this week replacing Harriet Miers. Fielding was deputy counsel to President Nixon under John Dean and was White House counsel for the first five years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. In recent years he has headed up the lobbying practice at the law firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding. He is a close friend of Vice President Cheney and has served as an informal adviser to him.
At the State Department, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice officially announced that President Bush would nominate Zalmay Khalilzad to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “The past year has shown how clearly important the U.N. is for America and the world, and how important American leadership is to the U.N. Together with our partners on the Security Council, we have passed important resolutions on major international challenges, like the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, the ongoing violence in Darfur and the extremist threat to a free Lebanon. Much still remains to be done.”
Khalilzad has been serving as U.S. ambassador in Iraq. He will be replaced in Iraq by Ryan Crocker, who had been the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.
Here in New York, a 24-year-old Pakistani immigrant has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station. Shahawar Matin Siraj was arrested days before the Republican National Convention in 2004. Attorneys for Siraj said he was set up by a police informant and that the informant was the one who pushed the bombing. Siraj had no explosives, no timetable for an attack and little understanding about explosives.
Attorney Martin Stolar: “It makes him a symbol of the war on terror rather than the sentencing of an individual human being. It’s unfortunate that the New York City Police Department created a crime in order to solve it and claim a victory for the war on terror. The sentence of 30 years is draconian, totally draconian.”
A new study has determined that the biggest beneficiaries of President Bush’s tax cuts have been families earning more than $1 million a year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the wealthiest families had their individual tax rate cut twice as deep as for middle-income families. It translated to an average tax cut of almost $58,000 for every family that earned more than $1 million.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has requested a congressional investigation into whether a U.S. government propaganda radio and TV station can be broadcast over the commercial airwaves in southern Florida. The U.S. government recently reached deals with two South Florida commercial Spanish-language TV and radio stations to broadcast TV and Radio Marti, which are run by the U.S. government and have historically been beamed into Cuba as part of a U.S. effort to overthrow the Castro government. The Miami Herald has reported the White House is now pushing to begin broadcasting on local stations in Miami even though the government is prohibited under the Smith-Mundt Act from broadcasting propaganda inside the country.
And in media news, ABC has announced that Bob Woodruff will return to air next month for the first time since being severely injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq a year ago.