In Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces have killed up to 25 Afghan civilians in a pair of attacks over the past day. Last night a NATO warplane bombed a house in the Kapisa province. Afghan officials said five women, three boys and a man were killed. The airstrike came just hours after U.S. troops opened fire on a busy highway killing up to 16 civilians. Local residents said the U.S. troops began shooting indiscriminately at civilian cars and pedestrians after a suicide car bomber and gunmen ambushed a U.S. convoy. Thousands of protesters took to the streets following the highway shootings. Demonstrators chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Karzai”.
Sher Gul, protester: “The foreign troops have come for the destruction of Muslims, they have not come here for the good of people. They want to destroy this country.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is being accused of trying to cover up the civilian deaths. A freelance photographer working for the Associated Press said he took photos of a vehicle where three Afghans had been shot to death inside. An American soldier then took the photographer’s camera and deleted the photos. A reporter for Afghanistan’s largest television station, Tolo TV, said a U.S. soldier also forced him to delete footage. The soldier reportedly told the journalist, “Delete them, or we will delete you.”
In Iraq, British-led troops have uncovered an Iraqi government facility in the southern city of Basra where Shiite forces were torturing prisoners and producing bomb-making equipment. The torture was going on inside the local headquarters of Iraq’s Interior Ministry’s domestic intelligence agency. The troops captured an alleged death squad leader and found 30 prisoners with signs of torture. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an investigation — however, not of the torture taking place but of the British-led raid. Al-Maliki called the raid an “unlawful and irresponsible act.”
In other news from Iraq, at least 26 people died today when a suicide car bomber struck a busy commercial district in Baghdad. On Sunday, hundreds of U.S. troops moved into the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City to conduct house-to-house searches.
The body of an Iraqi journalist who disappeared last week has been found in the Amal district of Baghdad. Jamal al-Zubaidi was the managing editor of Baghdad’s al-Safir newspaper.
A British think tank is warning that a military attack against Iran could speed Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Oxford Research Group says that Iran would likely respond to any attack by launching a “crash program” to build a crude nuclear device within months. The report states, “In the aftermath of an attack, it is likely that popular support for an Iranian nuclear weapon capability would increase; bolstering the position of hardliners and strengthening arguments that Iran must possess a nuclear deterrent.”
A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled a lawsuit over the CIA’s secret prisons and use of torture cannot go forward because it would expose government state secrets. The German citizen Khalid El-Masri sued the CIA after he was kidnapped in Macedonia and flown to Afghanistan. El-Masri was held for five months in a secret prison where he says he was drugged, beaten and interrogated. Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “With today’s ruling, the state secrets doctrine has become a shield that covers even the most blatant abuses of power.” Meanwhile, the German newspaper Der Spiegel is reporting that senior U.S. diplomats are pressuring German officials not to go ahead with a related case. German officials recently issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents for their role in the kidnapping of El-Masri.
The fallout continues from the scandal over the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted Army Secretary Francis Harvey from his post as the top civilian in the Army. Democratic lawmakers are now vowing to investigate the connections between the problems at the hospital and the privatization of services. In September, an Army official wrote a memo that Walter Reed was facing an exodus of highly skilled and experienced personnel because of the Army’s decision to privatize support services. A company named IAP Worldwide Services has received a five-year $120 million contract to provide services to Walter Reed. The company is headed by a former senior official from Halliburton.
In campaign news, Democratic presidential rivals Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton both spoke in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday to mark the 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On March 7, 1965, police violently attacked hundreds of peaceful civil rights protesters as they tried to march from Selma to Montgomery to secure their voting rights. Senator Obama said he was able to run for president because of the sacrifices made by those in Selma. He described himself as an offspring of the movement.
Sen. Obama: “Government alone can’t solve all those problems, but government can help. And it’s a responsibility of the Joshua Generation to make sure we have a government that’s responsive as the need that exists all across America. But that brings me to one other point though, Joshua Generation. That is this. It’s not enough just to ask what the government can do for us. It’s important for us to ask what we can do for ourselves.”
Senator Clinton appeared in Selma along with former President Bill Clinton.
Sen. Clinton: “How do we say everything is fine, Bloody Sunday is for the history books, when over 96,000 of our citizens, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, are still living in trailers and mobile homes, which is a national disgrace to everything we stand for in America?”
After speaking at separate rallies, both Obama and Clinton joined in a march across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The Bush administration has announced plans to go ahead with building the nation’s first new nuclear weapon in nearly two decades. On Friday, the National Nuclear Security Administration selected the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to design a new nuclear warhead to replace older ones. The United States still maintains an arsenal of 6,000 nuclear warheads. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California criticized the move to create a new nuclear warhead at a time that the United States is pushing other countries to drop nuclear weapons programs.
In Moscow, a respected Russian journalist named Ivan Safronov mysteriously plunged to his death from the 5th floor of his apartment building on Friday. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, he is the 14th journalist to die under questionable circumstances since Vladimir Putin took power.
Meanwhile, here in this country, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin named Paul Joyal was shot and injured Thursday outside his home in Maryland. The shooting occurred four days after Joyal appeared on Dateline NBC and accused Russian agents of being involved in the radiation poisoning of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. On the program, Joyal said a “message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you and we will silence you in the most horrible way possible.” Another person who appeared on the same Dateline NBC program, the journalist Daniel McGrory of The Times of London, died in London two weeks ago. At the time, MSNBC reported that the cause of death was a heart attack. Last week, the new U.S. national intelligence director, Mike McConnell, criticized the state of affairs in Russia. His comments came during questioning by Republican Senator John Warner.
Mike McConnell: “And what I’ve learned so far is the march to democracy has taken a back step. And now” —
Sen. Warner: “In Russia.”
McConnell: “In Russia.”
Sen. Warner: “Regrettably.”
McConnell: “There’s more arrangements to control the process and the populace and the parties and so on, to the point of picking the next leader of Russia. Don’t know that that’s been done with 100 percent assurity, but, in fact, we are seeing behavior that would take them down that path. They’re doing a few things.”
In other news from Russia, several thousand anti-government protesters marched in St. Petersburg to protest what they said was Russia’s rollback from democracy. Police responded by clubbing demonstrators and arresting more than 100 people.
In Australia, calls are increasing for the U.S. government to hand over the Australian citizen David Hicks who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past five years. Last week Hicks became the first detainee at Guantanamo to be charged under the Military Commissions Act. The U.S. government had originally accused Hicks of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to engage in acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. But now he is being charged with a single crime: providing material support for terrorism. David Hicks’ military attorney, Major Michael Mori, criticized the U.S. government’s handling of Hicks’ case.
Major Michael Mori: “I think they realize that everybody else in the world realize that it was made up in a BS charge. It was ridiculous. No one thought that you could charge him with attempted murder when you admit, when the prosecution admitted that they never shot anybody. But yet they let that go on for two-and-a-half years. It’s embarrassing that it’s gone on for this long.”
Now Hicks’ attorney, Major Michael Mori, might be in trouble himself. The Pentagon is threatening to remove him from the case and charge him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The army’s chief prosecutor has accused Mori of using contemptuous language toward the president, vice president and secretary of defense. Mori could lose his job and go to jail.
In Denmark, over 640 people have been arrested in a series of protests and clashes with police. The demonstrations began on Thursday when police moved to evict a group of squatters from an anarchist youth center in Copenhagen. As word spread about the evictions, anarchists from around northern Europe traveled to Denmark to show solidarity. Anarchists had lived in the building since 1982, and it had become a symbolic center for many groups in Denmark. Protesters on the street criticized the police actions.
Simon Nyborg: “The people in the house have been trying to get into dialogue for a lot of years, and now there is no dialogue. So now they are fighting for a place to be.”
On Saturday night, police searched homes in Copenhagen for activists involved in the street clashes. Earlier today cranes began demolishing the graffiti-covered red-brick building.
In other news from Europe, Belgium has became the first country to make it a crime to invest in companies that make cluster bombs. The move comes a week after 46 countries agreed to back an international treaty to ban cluster bombs.
In Guatemala, scores of protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy on Sunday ahead of President Bush’s visit there.
Ana Cofino, protester: “We are not in favor of this visit because he represents the interests of the empire here in Guatemala. He has only done damage to this country. They are taking away our resources. They are treating Guatemalan and Central American migrants badly.”
Bush is scheduled to embark on a trip to Latin America that includes stops in Guatemala, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico.
Here in this country, 14 activists in Pittsburgh were arrested on Friday when they tried to shut down the National Robotics Engineering Center. Organizers targeted the Pentagon-funded center at Carnegie Mellon University because it has become a world leader in warfare robotics. The antiwar protesters managed to block the entrance to the center by locking themselves together with plastic pipe.
And in an update on a story Democracy Now! has been covering, opposition parties in Canada are demanding the conservative government pressure U.S. authorities to release a nine-year-old Canadian boy held at an immigration jail in Texas. The boy, whose first name is Kevin, has been held at the Hutto jail in Texas for the past month along with his Iranian parents. Democracy Now! spoke to the boy recently from the jail.
Kevin: “I want to be free. I want to go outside, and I want to go to school. I want to be in my homeland: Canada.”
The U.S. government is currently holding as many 200 children at the immigration jail in Taylor, Texas.
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