On Monday, over 100 antiwar activists were arrested in New York and San Francisco as they marked the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In New York, dozens of activists lied down in front of the entrance of the New York Stock Exchange.
Protester Margio Farr: “If people sit down and they refuse to move and they create a dent in the effectivity of the market today, hopefully that will send a message to government officials that this war needs to end and that corporations have to stop profiting off of people’s lives.”
A total of 44 people were arrested in New York. In San Francisco, police made 57 arrests after activists staged a die-in on Market Street. The action blocked the street for much of the afternoon. Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was among the arrested. Scores of activists also gathered in San Ramon, California, outside the headquarters of oil giant Chevron.
As the Iraq War enters its fifth year, President Bush asked Americans for patience on Monday and claimed the war can still be won. President Bush said withdrawing from Iraq would have devastating consequences.
On Monday, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org publicly endorsed the Democratic House leadership’s bill to approve $100 billion in additional funding for the war. On Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on the bill that would fund the war for another year on the condition that American troops begin to withdraw by next March. Eli Pariser of MoveOn said, “While this measure doesn’t go far enough, they know the choice is a war without end or a safe and responsible end to the war. This measure is an important step in the right direction.” Several prominent antiwar advocates have criticized MoveOn for refusing to support the Iraq amendment from Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, which calls for “a fully funded, and systematic, withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq” by the end of 2007.
A new poll of Iraqis commissioned by USA Today has found that 83 percent of Shiites and 97 percent of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. By a margin of more than three to one, Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making the security situation worse.
Saddam Hussein’s former vice president, Taha Yassin, Ramadan has been hanged for his role in the killings of 148 Shiites in 1982. Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice criticized the execution saying the evidence against him was insufficient for the death penalty. Ramadan was sentenced in November to life in jail, but an appeals court recommended that he receive the death penalty.
Hospitals in Iraq are still treating Iraqis poisoned in a series of chlorine gas bomb attacks over the weekend. Eight people died in the attacks, and 350 people became sick. David Dorsey, the medical director of the Intensive Care Institute, said the injured included many children.
David Dorsey: “I am worried about scars on her lungs in the long term. I also know that children heal up very well, and I feel that it is hopeful that she will live a full life without problems with her lungs.”
As Iraqis mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, an unlikely critic of the occupation has emerged. Four years ago, images of a prize-winning Iraqi weightlifter named Kadhim al-Jubouri were broadcast around the world. He was videotaped using a sledgehammer to bring down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdous Square. Now al-Jubouri says he regrets his actions. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, he said, “The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.” He said Saddam Hussein was like Stalin, but the occupation is proving to be worse.
The Washington-based website Politico is reporting Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Among the names floated by administration officials are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the latest lawmaker to call for Gonzales’ resignation. Pelosi said, “I don’t think Alberto Gonzales fundamentally understood the difference between being the president’s lawyer and the attorney general of the United States and the premier defender of the Constitution.” At a press briefing on Monday, White House spokesperson Tony Snow was asked about Gonzales’ future. Snow replied, “We hope he stays.” Last night the Justice Department released more than 3,000 pages of new documents relating to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
The Boston Globe is reporting the Pentagon is considering installing surveillance cameras in military recruiting stations across the country. The military is also considering a ban on recruiters meeting alone with prospective recruits of the opposite sex. The actions are being taken to address a rise in misconduct allegations against military recruiters — including sexual assaults of female prospects and bending the rules to meet quotas.
In Afghanistan, an Italian journalist has been set free after being kidnapped two weeks ago in the southern province of Helmand. ABC News is reporting the journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo was let go in exchange for the release of at least two captured Taliban officials.
The Taliban has taken credit for a suicide bombing in Kabul next to a motorcade of U.S. Embassy officials. Several U.S. officials were injured. A 15-year-old boy from Afghanistan died in the blast.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair could one day face war crimes charges before the court. Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s comments came in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph of London. He urged Arab nations, particularly Iraq, to sign up to the court to enable allegations against the West to be pursued.
In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian journalists are staging a work strike today to protest the kidnapping of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. His father, Graham Johnston, has made a public plea for his release.
Graham Johnston: “This holding of Alan is not doing to the Palestinian people any favors, quite the opposite. This is no way to treat a friend of the Palestinian people, and all I can say to the men that are holding Alan: Please let my son go.”
Alan Johnston was seized a week ago by four unidentified assailants in the center of Gaza as he was heading home from work.
On Monday, a House committee released documents that showed hundreds of instances in which a former oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role. The official, Philip Cooney, served as President Bush’s chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Prior to working in the White House, Cooney served as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil lobby based in Washington, D.C. Cooney acknowledged that some of the changes he made were to align the studies with the administration’s stated policy on climate change.
Philip Cooney: “It had really nothing to do with my prior employment at the American Petroleum Institute. When I came to the White House, my loyalties were to the president and his administration.”
Coney now works for ExxonMobil.
At the same congressional hearing, NASA climate scientist James Hansen accused the Bush administration of preventing scientists from freely speaking to the media about global warming.
James Hansen: “Scientists were being asked not to speak to reporters, to tell reports that I can’t speak to you, I have to get permission, and I have to get someone on the phone with me to listen in on our conversation.”
Hansen said political appointees of President Bush had also blocked reports that link rising temperatures or melting sea ice with global warming.
The banana company Chiquita admitted in federal court on Monday that for years it paid right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia to protect its banana-growing operation. As part of a deal, Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million fine under the condition that it does not have to identify several senior executives who approved the illegal protection payments. Prosecutors said the Cincinnati-based company paid about $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Chiquita also made payments to the right-wing National Liberation Army and the left-wing group FARC. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said he supports requesting the extradition of Chiquita executives involved in the payoffs. Colombia officials are also investigating reports that Chiquita directly helped arm paramilitary groups. In 2001, a Chiquita-owned ship was reportedly used in Colombia to unload 3,000 Kalashnikov rifles and more than 2.5 million bullets.
And the environmental activist and radio host Ida Honorof has died at the age of 93. For 20 years, she hosted the program “Report to the Consumer” on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK in Los Angeles. Her reporting on contaminated lettuce led to a ban on the pesticide Monitor-4. In 1992, she was honored by the Northcoast Environmental Center as being “a one-person environmental corporation … working on behalf of clean air, clean water and pure food.”