Turkish warplanes bombed ten Kurdish villages in northern Iraq on Sunday in what has been described as Turkey’s most aggressive action against Kurdish rebels in years. Turkey’s military chief said the United States gave the go-ahead for the attacks and opened Iraqi airspace for the bombing raid. Turkish ground forces continue to shell areas of northern Iraq in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to continue attacks on northern Iraq.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Our government is determined to use effectively every kind of instrument (in the fight against terrorism) — political, military, diplomatic, social and economic. We will continue to wage this battle for our nation’s unity and peace, both inside and outside Turkey.”
Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by tanks, artillery and military aircraft, along the Iraq border. The Iraqi foreign ministry said the Turkish bombing raids destroyed hospitals, schools and bridges.
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic-led Senate has authorized another $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate approved the spending by a vote of 90 to 3. The only Senators voting against the war funding were Democrats Robert Byrd and Russ Feingold and independent Bernie Sanders. None of the Democratic senators running for president were in Washington for the vote. The bill also expands the size of the US Army by 13,000 soldiers.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports military commanders are seeking more US troops to be sent to Afghanistan. Commanders want several additional battalions, helicopters and other resources to confront a resurgent Taliban movement. The Washington Post reports President Bush might consider a troop drawdown in Iraq while bulking up force levels in Afghanistan.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey is coming under intense criticism by Democrats for his handling of the scandal surrounding the CIA’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotape showing interrogations inside secret CIA prisons. Within a single twenty-four-hour period, the Justice Department warned a federal judge to back off of his inquiry into the destruction of the tapes, told Congress to delay its own investigation into the matter, and refused to cooperate with congressional inquiries into the Justice Department’s role in the elimination of the tapes. The American Civil Liberties Union called the Justice Department’s actions a stunning rebuke of the constitutional system of checks and balances.
Meanwhile, on Friday Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have required the CIA to adhere to the Army’s field manual of interrogations, which bans waterboarding, mock executions and other forms of torture.
The Senate begins debate today on a bill that could permanently expand the government’s ability to carry out domestic surveillance and give immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted in the governments illegal spying. This comes as the New York Times reports the National Security Agency’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before. The Times has revealed the NSA has helped the Drug Enforcement Administration collect the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America. The Times also reveals that the Bush administration’s spy program began almost as soon as it took office, months before the September 11 attack. A lawyer for an AT&T whistleblower says that within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration began a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans’ phone usage. In a federal court case, the engineer claims that AT&T sought to create a phone center that would give the NSA access to “all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through” a New Jersey network hub.
The international climate change summit in Bali has ended with no new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. By the end of the two-week summit, negotiators could only agree to a framework for negotiating a climate change pact over the next two years. The United States initially refused to even sign the Bali road map but backed down under intense pressure. The Bush administration was widely criticized throughout the Bali talks for opposing mandatory emissions cuts for developed countries. Friends of the Earth accused ministers from some industrialized countries of letting down the people of the world.
Shane Rattenbury of Greenpeace: “Well, look, this afternoon we’ve seen the climate change talks brought back from the brink of collapse. Unfortunately the final deal does lack the substance that we would have hoped to see here.”
United Nations Climate Chief Yvo de Boer said some accomplishments were made in Bali.
Yvo de Boer: “And also we’ve taken important decisions on carbon capture and storage, to look at technical legal policy and financial aspects related to carbon capture and storage. And that, I think, is a critical advance for countries like China and India that will continue to use coal going into the future, but also offers a prospect for oil-producing nations to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
In southern Iraq, the British military has turned general control of security matters in Basra province over to Iraqi officials. A recent BBC poll found that only two percent of Basra residents felt that the British military had had a positive impact on the security situation in the southern port.
Meanwhile, another Iraqi journalist has been killed. Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi died on Friday when Iraqi National Guard forces raided his house in Sadr City. He was reportedly shot thirty-one times. Al-Moussawi was a journalist working for the Iraqi video website Alive in Baghdad.
In news from Washington, calls are increasing for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. Three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee — Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — have called on committee chair John Conyers to begin impeachment hearings. Robert Wexler said the charges against the Vice President are too serious to ignore.
Rep. Robert Wexler: “It is time for the House Judiciary Committee to hold impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney. We have an obligation to ask questions, to determine whether in fact the Vice President purposefully manipulated intelligence, bringing us into war, whether he knowingly ordered the illegal use of torture, whether he knowingly exposed covert agents for political purposes, whether he obstructed federal investigations. These charges are too serious to ignore.”
Since last week, 70,000 people have signed a petition on Robert Wexler’s website supporting impeachment hearings.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain have picked up endorsements from major newspapers in Iowa and Massachusetts. The Des Moines Register backed Clinton in the Democratic race. The Boston Globe, which is widely distributed in New Hampshire, picked Obama. Both newspapers endorsed McCain in the Republican race.
In Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has lifted emergency rule and restored the constitution less than a month before the January 8 elections. Critics say curbs on the media and a purged judiciary will remain in place.
President Bush has spoken out about a report exposing the widespread use of steroids and performance enhancement drugs in Major League Baseball. The President said steroids have “sullied” the game of baseball.
President Bush: “I think it’s best that all of us not jump to any conclusions on individual players’ name, but we can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game. And players and the owners must take the Mitchell report seriously. I’m confident they will. And my hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us.”
President Bush is a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers. Four prominent players named in the report played for the Rangers when Bush owned the team: Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Kevin Brown.
In New Orleans, plans to demolish 4,500 units of public housing have been put on hold, at least temporarily. On Saturday, New Orleans police arrested at least three people at a protest outside one of the public housing complexes slated for demolition. Among the arrested was filmmaker and journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films. Eyewitnesses said police manhandled Rowley, who was filming the nonviolent protest. Police also arrested Cheri Honkala, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia. The city council is expected to vote on Thursday on whether to grant demolition permits at the four public housing sites.
Democratic Congresswoman Julia Carson of Indiana has died at the age of sixty-nine from lung cancer. She was the first African American and first woman to represent Indianapolis in Congress.
The filmmaker St. Clair Bourne has died following an operation to remove a brain tumor. He was sixty-four years old. St. Clair Bourne was one the country’s most prominent African American documentary filmmakers. His works include films about Paul Robeson, Gordon Parks, Amiri Baraka and John Henrik Clarke.
And the world-renowned ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenco has died at the age of ninety-one. She was a leading authority on indigenous music of the Americas. She was also a pioneering radio broadcaster who helped popularize the music of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan.