Forty-six nations have backed a call to form a new environmental body to fight global warming and to protect the planet. The United States, however, is refusing to support the initiative. So are China and India. The United States is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. France proposed the formation of the new United Nations environmental body following the publication of last week’s major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientists warned that fossil fuel pollution would raise temperatures this century, worsen floods, produce more droughts and hurricanes, melt polar sea ice and damage the climate system for a thousand years to come.
French President Jacques Chirac: “So that we may all become citizens of the Earth, let us adopt at the United Nations a Universal Declaration of Environmental Rights and Responsibilities. It will be an expression of common environmental ethics, which we may apply both to our public and our private actions.”
The Iraqi Interior Ministry is estimating about 1,000 people have been killed throughout Iraq over the past week. On Saturday, 135 people died when a suicide truck bomber blew up a crowded market in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad. It was the deadliest single bombing of the entire war. Over 300 people were also injured. The blast was so powerful it brought down 10 surrounding buildings.
The U.S. military has confirmed for the first time that the four U.S. helicopters that recently crashed in Iraq were likely downed by enemy fire. Twenty Americans died in the crashes. On Sunday, video appeared online reportedly showing one of the helicopters being shot down.
Major General William Caldwell: “There’s been an ongoing effort ever since we’ve been here to target our helicopters, obviously. Based on what we’ve seen, we are already making adjustments in our tactics, techniques and procedures as to how we employ our helicopters in support of Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, and we are making those appropriate changes.”
The Associated Press recently reported that private Saudi citizens are giving tens of millions of dollars to Sunni fighters in Iraq to buy weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
In Washington today, the Senate is planning to debate the merits of a nonbinding resolution criticizing President Bush’s escalation of the Iraq War. Several prominent Republican senators, including Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, have voiced support for the measure.
Sen. Chuck Hagel: “We need to have this debate. Every senator needs to have an opportunity to express him or herself and be put on the record here. We’re sending young men and women off to war, and apparently we’re escalating that military involvement in Iraq. The American people want to know where we stand and why, what’s our position. And I think that’s fair, it’s responsible.”
Republican Senator John McCain criticized the resolution.
Sen. John McCain: “To my Republican colleagues, we have a disagreement, and I hope they keep in mind that this is fundamentally a vote of no confidence in the people that we are sending on this mission in harm’s way. We are telling them we support you, but we believe your mission will fail, and we don’t support what you’re doing. I think that’s a vote of no confidence.”
On the Democratic side, Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold said he would vote against the nonbinding resolution because it will not lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Last week, Feingold introduced a measure to cut off funds for the war, but he has received little support from the Democratic leadership.
President Bush is sending a proposed $2.9 trillion budget to Congress today. Bush is seeking a nearly 10 percent increase for the Pentagon annual budget to bring it to close to half a trillion dollars. Bush also wants an additional $245 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A new study by Harvard University shows the hidden financial costs of the Iraq War will be felt for decades. Researchers estimate that medical costs for U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be at least $350 billion dollars over the next 40 years. The study said the total medical costs could reach $660 billion.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is being accused of undercounting the number of troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you looked at the Pentagon’s website last month, it would have appeared that about 47,000 soldiers had been injured in the two wars. But now the figure on the website has dropped to less than 32,000. The Pentagon is no longer including troops who suffered what it considers minor injuries or mental illness.
A new grassroots campaign called The Occupation Project is being launched today to end the war in Iraq. Activists plan to occupy the offices of lawmakers who refuse to pledge to vote against additional war funding. The Occupation Project is being led by the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
In other Iraq news, the U.S. intelligence community has issued a dire report on the state of Iraq. The National Intelligence Estimate predicts Iraq’s security situation will worsen over the next 18 months unless the slide toward sectarian polarization is halted. The NIE represents the consensus views of the vast U.S. intelligence community.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “The words 'civil war' oversimplify a very complex situation in Iraq. I believe that there are essentially four wars going on in Iraq. One is Shia on Shia principally in the South. The second is sectarian conflict principally in Baghdad, but not solely. Third is the insurgency. And fourth is al-Qaeda. And al-Qaeda is attacking at times all of those targets. So I think — it’s not I think, just a matter of politics or semantics. I think it oversimplifies. It’s a bumper sticker answer to what’s going on in Iraq.”
The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq also stated that “outside actors” are not a “major driver of violence” inside Iraq. This refutes recent suggestions by senior Bush administration officials that Iran is playing a major role in support of Shiite militias.
Three former high-ranking American military officers have warned that a U.S. military attack on Iran would have “disastrous consequences” and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions. General Joseph Hoar — the former commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command — and two other high-ranking officers voiced their concern in a letter to The Sunday Times of London.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed reports on Friday that the Pentagon is drawing up plans to attack Iran.
Robert Gates: “Nobody is planning. No, we are not planning for a war with Iran. What we are trying to do is, in Iraq, is counter what the Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement in activities, particularly these explosively formed projectiles that are killing our troops, and we are trying to get them to stop their nuclear enrichment.”
Meanwhile, New York senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is saying that she would not rule out attacking Iran. She spoke last week at a dinner organized by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: “U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table.”
Senator Clinton described Iran as a danger to the United States and one of the greatest threats to Israel.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports the Israeli military has accelerated its planning for what it describes as an extended military operation in Gaza. This comes as fighting continues between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. At least 20 Palestinians have died since Friday. Fighting continued over the weekend despite calls for a ceasefire. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshal of Hamas are scheduled to meet for talks in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
In the state of Washington, the court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada begins today. Seven months ago he became the first commissioned officer in the country to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq. He faces four years in prison. He is charged with one count of missing movement and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for refusing to ship out with his unit. Lt. Watada recently appeared on Democracy Now! and explained his actions.
Lt. Ehren Watada: “I became convinced that the war itself was illegal and immoral, as was the current conduct of American forces and the American government on the ground over in Iraq. And as such, as somebody who has sworn an oath to protect our Constitution, our values and our principles, and to protect the welfare and the safety of the American people, I said to myself that’s something that I cannot be a part of, the war. I cannot enable or condone those who have established this illegal and immoral policy.”
In Afghanistan, the number of U.S. troops on the ground has reached 26,000 — the highest number since the U.S. invaded the country over five years. On Saturday, the United States took command of the NATO-led troops. Meanwhile, the Taliban is threatening to make 2007 the deadliest year so far for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Mullah Hayatullah Khan, a Taliban commander: “I want to announce that 10 percent of our mujahideen are ready for suicide attacks against Americans, so we have 2,000 Talibans who want to carry bombs against Americans in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, the Afghan Parliament has approved a bill granting amnesty for all crimes committed in Afghanistan over the past 25 years. Critics said the move was made to protect lawmakers who have been accused in the past of human rights abuses.
In Indonesia, the capital Jakarta remains largely underwater after massive flooding. At least 25 people have died. Some 340,000 others have been forced to flee from their homes.
And in New York, newly released statistics show the city’s police stopped and frisked over 500,000 individuals on the streets last year. That is an average of nearly 1,400 stops a day. It is over five times the number of stops reported in 2002. Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton accused the police of racial profiling and is threatening to sue the city. Eighty-five percent of the individuals stopped by the police were either African-American or Latino.