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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed to remove half of Britain’s troops in Iraq by next spring. The drawdown will reduce the number of British troops from 5,000 to 2,500. Gordon Brown made the announcement before Parliament.
Gordon Brown: “With the Iraqis already assuming security responsibility, we expect to establish provincial Iraqi corps in Basra province in the next two months, as already announced by the prime minister of Iraq, move to the first stage of overwatch, reduce numbers in southern Iraq from at the start of September 5,500 to 4,500 immediately after provincial Iraqi control, and then to 4,000, and then in the second stage of overwatch in the spring, and guided as always by advice of military commanders, reduce to around 2,500 troops, with a further decision about the next phase made then.”
Britain originally sent 45,000 troops as part of the initial Iraq invasion. Gordon Brown said there is a possibility that all British troops would be out of Iraq by 2008. While Brown addressed Parliament, thousands of antiwar activists gathered outside to call for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
British MP George Galloway warned that Britain should not allow the United States to drag it into war with Iran.
George Galloway: “So I say to those MPs who are able to go into the House of Commons, you’d better tell Gordon Brown to make up his mind, to stand up and say, 'No, not one single British soldier or military asset will be lent to George W. Bush for any war with Iran.' Thank you very much, indeed.”
Iraqi authorities are calling on the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with the private military firm Blackwater USA within six months. Iraq is also seeking $8 million in compensation for each of the families of the 17 Iraqis killed last month by Blackwater guards in Baghdad. Iraqi lawmaker Omar Abdul Sattar accused Blackwater of creating chaos in Iraq.
Omar Abdul Sattar: “This accident has revealed this case, but if this accident did not happen, we would not know anything about it. How many people have Blackwater and others killed? I do not know. I think that there are many security firms. There is security chaos, and the Iraqi citizen has became a target for everyone.”
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has revealed that the widow of the Iraqi vice-presidential guard killed last year by a Blackwater employee has yet to receive any compensation. The Iraqi guard was fatally shot while on duty in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone by a drunk Blackwater employee named Andrew Moonen. After the fatal shooting, Moonen was flown out of Iraq. He was never charged with a crime. Two months later, Moonen reportedly returned to the Middle East to work for another private military company, Combat Support Associates.
The New York Times is reporting congressional Democrats appear to be backing down from promises made two months ago to roll back broad new wiretapping programs granted to the National Security Agency. A Democratic bill to be proposed today in the House would impose some controls over the NSA’s powers but would give the government broad, blanket authority for wiretapping. Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies said: “This still authorizes the interception of Americans’ international communications without a warrant in far too many instances and without adequate civil liberties protections.” Senate Democrats are drafting a competing proposal that might retroactively grant immunity for telecommunications companies that took part in the NSA’s warrantless domestic spying program.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will not investigate whether Verizon, AT&T and other telephone companies handed over customer phone records to the government as part of its domestic surveillance program. FCC Chair Kevin Martin cited National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell’s claim that such an investigation would pose an unnecessary risk of damage to the national security.
The military junta in Burma has indicated pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest for years to come. A state-run newspaper has suggested in a commentary that she would remain detained until a new constitution was in place — a milestone that could take years to achieve. Meanwhile, the Burmese military has appointed a government official to act as a liaison between with Suu Kyi and Burma’s military generals. This comes as The Guardian newspaper reports the Burmese government has shut down some of the last communication links between Burma and the outside world. Exiled dissident groups in neighboring Thailand say the Burmese government has seized up to 10 satellite telephones and countless computers that had been smuggled into Burma. The military junta had already shut down the Internet and blocked mobile and fixed-line telephones. The British and U.S. embassies in Rangoon are now impossible to get through to from outside the country.
A prominent member of the American Psychological Association has resigned from the organization because the APA continues to condone psychologists’ work on interrogations at Guantánamo and CIA black sites. Marybeth Shinn is a former president of two APA divisions. She also criticized the APA leadership for discouraging dissent from its interrogation policies.
Meanwhile, the psychology departments at two Quaker colleges — Earlham College in Indiana and Guilford College in North Carolina — have passed resolutions calling on the APA to change its interrogations policy. Psychology professors at Earlham are urging other departments to pass similar resolutions.
In campaign news, the former actor and U.S. Senator Fred Thompson will be participating in his first Republican presidential debate tonight in Dearborn, Michigan. On Monday Thompson announced Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz would co-chair his presidential campaign. Former Virginia Senator George Allen is another co-chair. Last year Allen lost his re-election bid after he referred to a young man as a macaca at a campaign event.
In other campaign news, Republican presidential candidate Congressman Duncan Hunter has claimed undocumented workers are being rounded up and forced to illegally vote in the United States. He said, “We have right now a real danger of people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls, we’ve seen that in California, voting illegally. That disenfranchises everybody in that community.”
The gay rights advocacy group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is demanding the Pentagon conduct a full investigation into the death of a lesbian soldier in Afghanistan. Specialist Ciara Durkin of the Massachusetts Army National Guard was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head on September 27. Her sister Fiona Canavan said: “She told us that if anything happened to her, we were to investigate.” According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Durkin is the first openly gay GI to be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.
In Colombia, the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo is reporting a 12-year-girl has accused two U.S. soldiers of sexual assault and rape. The men reportedly met the girl at a disco and brought her back to the Tolemaida military base. Charges have not been filed against the soldiers. The Colombia Support Network has criticized an agreement between the U.S. and Colombian governments that prevents Colombian officials from prosecuting crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Colombia.
Newly declassified documents reveal the U.S. Army once explored the potential for using radioactive poisons to assassinate important military or civilian leaders. According to the Associated Press, the program was approved at the highest levels of the Army in 1948. The documents give no indication whether a radiological weapon for targeting high-ranking individuals was ever used or even developed by the United States.
And today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Born in Argentina in 1928, Che rose to international prominence as one of the key leaders of the 1959 Cuban revolution that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista. Che later aimed to spark revolutionary activity internationally. In 1965, he led a secret Cuban operation aiding and training rebels in the Congo. One year later, Che was in Bolivia, helping to lead an uprising against the U.S.-backed government. On October 8, 1967, Che was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. He was executed one day later. Commemorations are being held across the Americas today. On Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales paid tribute to Che.
Evo Morales: “Who could ever consider themselves to be his successor? It is impossible to eclipse the life of Che. Nobody could do that. One could consider themselves the successor of Che only if they give their life for humanity. While we are still alive, we could never consider ourselves the successors of Che.”