In Afghanistan, at least five people have died in a suicide bomb attack outside the U.S. military base where Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting. The Taliban claimed responsible and said Cheney was the target of the blast. Cheney was staying at Bagram air base but was not near the site of the bombing. The dead included one U.S. soldier. Two hours after the blast, Cheney was flown to Kabul to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The meeting comes a day after Britain announced it would send an additional 1,400 troops to Afghanistan. On Monday, Vice President Cheney met with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Cheney pressed Musharraf to crack down on al-Qaeda fighters who have set up training camps inside Pakistan. Following Cheney’s visit, the Pakistani government issued a statement saying, “Pakistan does not accept dictation from any side or any source.”
In Iraq, the country’s Shiite vice president has also survived an assassination attempt. The attack occurred on Monday in Baghdad when Adil Abdul-Mahdi was visiting the Ministry of Public Works. A bomb planted in the office exploded. Public Works Minister Riyad Gharib was seriously injured, and 10 others were killed.
The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a draft of a new oil law which will open up the country’s vast oil reserves to foreign companies. The legislation also calls for Iraq’s regions and ethnic groups to share oil revenues.
The nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, has warned Congress that the military is under increasing strain because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pace said there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to a third crisis.
A new poll by the Associated Press has found that Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, but they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed. Half of Americans polled said they thought fewer than 10,000 Iraqis had died since the Iraq War began. The actual death toll is far higher. Researchers from Johns Hopkins estimate about 655,000 Iraqis have died as a consequence of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
First lady Laura Bush is also being accused of downplaying the level of violence in Iraq. During an interview on Larry King, Laura Bush said, “Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody.” The Brookings Institute recently estimated there are approximately 185 insurgent and militia attacks every day.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting an American military raid in southern Iraq uncovered a makeshift factory used to construct advanced roadside bombs that the U.S. had previously claimed were made only in Iran. The Saturday raid in the small town of Jedidah marked the first time U.S. forces found evidence that militants inside Iraq are assembling “explosively formed penetrators,” or EFPs. Until now, the U.S. military was claiming that Iran was directly supplying Shiite militants with EFPs, which can punch through the armored shells of U.S. military vehicles. On Monday, U.S. military commanders displayed weapons and explosives seized in the raid that they claimed had markings indicating they had originated from Iran. However, The New York Times reports the military included several items that were obviously not from Iran. One box of plastic PVC tubes said the tubes had been made in the United Arab Emirates. Another box containing plastic read “made in Haditha” — a Sunni town in Iraq.
Prosecutors from the International Criminal Court have begun listing the names of suspected war criminals in Sudan who have played a role in the mass killings in Darfur. The list so far includes a former Sudanese government minister, Ahmed Mohammed Haroun. He is accused of helping recruit Janjaweed militias responsible for murders, rapes and torture in Darfur. Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesperson for the European Commission, praised the court for investigating the mass killings in Darfur.
Amadeu Altafaj: “It is very important that we pass the message — we, the international community — that there can be no impunity for such crimes. It is very important not only for the Darfur conflict but for other conflicts around the world, in Africa in particular, for the future generations, that anyone violating human rights will be subject to prosecution, sooner or later, whether it happens in the coming months or in a few years’ time, it is important that the message is sent out.”
Amadeu Altafaj of the European Commission also criticized Sudan for mistreating aid workers.
Amadeu Altafaj: “It seems there is clearly a kind of strategy, deliberate strategy, to push the humanitarian workers, to harass them. They have suffered from episodes from looting, from physical violence, from threats, from rape, for instance, too.”
The Washington Post is reporting the Justice Department has quietly opened a new prison unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, designed to hold mostly Arab Muslim prisoners. The jail operates under special rules restricting the ability of prisoners to communicate with the outside world. All telephone calls and mail are monitored, the number of phone calls are limited, and visits are restricted to a total of four hours per month. All prison conversations must be conducted in English unless otherwise negotiated. The Iraqi-born doctor Rafil Dhafir from upstate New York is among the prisoners being held. He is serving a 22-year sentence for violating the Iraqi sanctions by sending aid to Iraq through his charity, Help the Needy. Five members of the so-called “Lackawanna Six” are also being held in the Indiana prison. Only two non-Muslims are being held at the jail.
More information has come to light about the CIA’s network of secret overseas prisons. A Palestinian man named Marwan Jabour has told Human Rights Watch that he was held in a secret U.S. prison in Afghanistan for nearly two years. According to Jabour, his clothes were taken from him when he arrived at the prison. He was left completely naked for a month and a half. He was chained tightly to the wall of his small cell so that he could not stand up. He was placed in painful stress positions so that he had difficulty breathing. And he was told that if he did not cooperate, he would be put in a suffocating “dog box.” For two years Jabour spent nearly all of his time alone in a windowless cell, with little human contact besides his captors. Jabour said, “It was a grave. I felt like my life was over.” Based in part on information provided by Jabour, Human Rights Watch has released the names of 38 men believed to have been held in secret CIA prisons who have since disappeared. The group is calling on President Bush to account for the disappeared — all of whom are Muslim men
In the West Bank, a 50-year-old Palestinian man has died after being shot by Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus. He was walking down the street with his son in defiance of the Israeli army’s curfew. Both men were unarmed. For the past three days, tens of thousands of residents of Nablus were forced to stay home as Israel conducted house-to-house searches. Meanwhile, two Palestinian youths have been arrested for killing a West Bank settler. His body was found north of Hebron late Sunday.
A high-level Israeli delegation is in Washington this week to ask the Bush administration to give Israel more money in military aid. Israel currently receives $2.4 billion in military aid annually — more than any other country. Israeli officials are hoping for extra aid in part to compensate for the cost of last summer’s 34-day Lebanon war.
The governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together to reduce greenhouse gases. Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona said, “In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states … to address climate change.” The governors said their region has suffered some of the worst of global warming with recent droughts and bad fire seasons. Meanwhile, more than 60 countries, including the United States, will participate in the International Polar Year to examine the effects of climate change on the Arctic and Antarctica.
Robin Bell, chair of the U.S. Committee for the International Polar Year: “This program is incredibly important because the poles are changing faster than anywhere else in our planet, and while they seem remote and off the map, what’s happening there will influence our society and societies around the world. If we don’t understand how that’s happening, then.”
The project also will determine how climate change affects indigenous populations, plants and animals and the rest of the globe.
And in news from Capitol Hill, support is growing for a bipartisan bill to lift all restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba. The bill was written by Democrat Charles Rangel and Republican Jeff Flake. So far it has 68 official co-sponsors.