Protests to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion are continuing today across the country. In New York, peace activists are taking part in mass civil disobedience on Wall Street. In San Francisco, activists are planning to stage a die-in at the Federal Reserve Building. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters took part in a march on the Pentagon. Protests were also held over the weekend in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and scores of other cities. This is former U.S. soldier Terry O’Brien, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Terry O’Brien: “I’m basically here to support the troops. I think the only way to support the troops is to be here on the streets and demand that they come home, and I’m here to support the self-determination of the Iraqi people.”
In New York, protesters marched by the offices of Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. The protest took place just days after Senator Clinton said she would keep troops in Iraq if she were elected president. The actor Martin Sheen and thousands of others marched in Hollywood.
Martin Sheen: “This government, no, it does not represent the people. It’s given us a horrible name, it’s given us an obscene war, and they have no leadership and no credibility. They are disgraceful. They all belong in the federal penitentiary, all of them.”
Protests were also held around the world, including in Australia, Chile, Turkey, South Korea, Malaysia and Greece. In Madrid, the Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodovar joined a massive protest of up to 400,000 people.
Pedro Almodovar: “According to Bush, this war was going to be quick. It was only going to take a few weeks, and it’s been four years. I think that what’s really disgusting is to read every day on the papers the number of deaths in Iraq. That makes me feel so powerless. I find that frightening.”
In Washington, antiwar protests began on Friday night when 222 people were arrested outside the White House. Many were Christian peace activists who had just taken part in a prayer service at the National Cathedral. This is Faith Garlington, who traveled to Washington from Atlanta, Georgia.
Faith Garlington: “We, as Christians, do not support his invasion of Iraq. We want the troops out immediately. We, as Christian, do not want, we do not want this war fought in the name of Christ.”
Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War are launching a caravan today to visit military towns across the East Coast to build opposition to the war within the ranks. Stops on the caravan include Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Jackson in South Carolina and Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco and Washington, vigils are continuing to take place outside the homes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Protesters are urging her to cut off funding to the war.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the United States plans to maintain a presence in the Middle East for decades to come. Gates made the comment during the swearing-in ceremony of Admiral William Fallon to become the new head of U.S. Central Command replacing General John Abizaid. Fallon is the first Naval officer to ever take the helm of CENTCOM.
Opposition to U.S. forces in Iraq remains high four years after the start of the occupation. A new survey from the BBC found just 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S.-led forces. On Friday, over 10,000 Shiite Iraqis rallied in Sadr City to denounce plans for the U.S. to build bases in the Shiite neighborhood.
An Australian scientist is estimating the number of deaths in Iraq since the start of the conflict four years ago could be as high as one million. Dr. Gideon Polya said, “Using the most comprehensive and authoritative literature and U.N. demographic data yields an estimate of one million post-invasion excess deaths in Iraq.” In October researchers at Johns Hopkins estimated more than 650,000 Iraqis had died since the U.S. invasion.
On Saturday, two Iraqis died and 350 more were poisoned when three suicide bombers drove trucks filled with chlorine into the offices of a Sunni tribal leader in Iraq.
In Washington, it has been revealed that the White House never ordered a probe who outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. James Knodell, the director of the Office of Security at the White House, made the admission on Friday during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee chair, Democrat Henry Waxman, has written to the White House to demand why no investigation was ordered. At the same hearing, Valerie Plame testified in public for the first time.
Valerie Plame: “My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA, and having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer.”
Valerie Plame also described how she learned that columnist Robert Novak had publicly identified her as a CIA agent.
Valerie Plame: “I found out very early in the morning when my husband came in and dropped the newspaper on the bed and said he did it. And I quickly turned and read the article, and I felt like I had been hit in the gut. It was over in an instant, and I immediately thought of my family’s safety, the agents, the networks that I had worked with, and everything goes through your mind in an instant.”
Pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign is intensifying over his role in the political purging of eight U.S. attorneys. New York Senator Chuck Schumer says he wouldn’t be surprised if Gonzales doesn’t survive another week on the job.
Senior White House officials, including chief political strategist Karl Rove and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers, may be subpoenaed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy if they do not agree to testify in the probe into the firings of the U.S. attorneys. On Sunday, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California revealed that Gonzales’ former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, described fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam as a “real problem” one day after Lam announced plans to execute search warrants on Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo, the third-ranking CIA official at the time.
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has sent Alberto Gonzales a letter in response to allegations that Gonzales may have advised President Bush to shut down an investigation into the administration’s domestic wiretapping surveillance program because of his role in the program. Conyers wrote, “It would be an extraordinary abuse of authority if you advised the President on this matter after learning that your own conduct was to be investigated.” Conyers wrote his article following the publication of an article on the issue by Murray Waas in the National Journal.
The United States and Israel are refusing to lift the economic boycott of the Palestinian territories despite the swearing in of a new Palestinian unity government. The United States has said it was disturbed by the Palestinian government’s claim of a right to resist the Israeli occupation. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made the comment on Saturday night.
Ismail Haniyeh: “The government affirms that resistance in all its forms, including popular resistance against the occupation, is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people, that the international community and international agreements have adopted in totality. And it’s the right of our people to defend themselves from the continuous Israeli aggression.”
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has also ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians. Olmert urged the international community to boycott the new Palestinian government, as well.
A British coroner has ruled that a U.S. pilot committed a criminal act when he opened fire on a British convoy in Iraq four years ago. Twenty-five-year-old Lance Corporal Matty Hull died when a U.S. A-10 tank buster hit his convoy. The coroner said the U.S. pilot had no lawful authority to fire on the convoy. Matty Hull’s widow, Susan Hill, welcomed the coroner’s report.
Susan Hill: “I think all of our family feel it was the right verdict. It was what we have waited four years to hear, and a mixture today of a great sense of relief that it’s over, and we heard what we wanted to hear. But, in fact, what that means for us is that it was entirely avoidable. Matthew’s death was entirely avoidable.”
The U.S. State Department has rejected the coroner’s report, saying the killing was a tragic accident.
In Zimbabwe, another opposition leader has been badly beaten. Nelson Chamisa was attacked at an airport as he tried to travel to Belgium. Chamisa is the spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change. The organization’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested last week and was beaten while in police custody. Over the weekend, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu rebuked African leaders for failing to condemn the human rights record of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Tutu said, “We Africans should hang our heads in shame. How can what is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa?”
Here in New York, a grand jury has indicted three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Sean Bell. Bell was killed on his wedding day when police fired 50 shots at a car carrying him and two friends. All three men were unarmed. Sources say two of the officers will be charged with second-degree manslaughter. A third officer will be charged with reckless endangerment. Two of the officers involved in the shooting were not indicted. On Saturday, members of the People’s Justice Campaign held a protest to criticize the grand jury’s decision not to indict all five officers on murder charges.
The family of the murdered U.S. journalist Brad Will has begun a trip to Mexico to call for a legitimate investigation into his death. Brad Will was shot and killed five months ago while covering the popular uprising in Oaxaca. Shortly after his death, members of the local police force and government were arrested, but they were soon released. Nobody has been convicted in the killing. Last week, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission blasted the Mexican government for failing to stop the killing of 20 people in Oaxaca, including Brad Will.