Army officials apologized on Monday for the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley told a congressional panel that housing conditions did not meet the Army’s standards. But Henry Waxman, the chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the situation at Walter Reed the tip of the iceberg of what is going on at Army medical facilities around the country. A group of injured veterans and relatives testified on Monday before Congress.
Army Specialist Jeremy Duncan: “The conditions in the room, in my mind, it was just unforgivable for anybody … it wasn’t fit for anybody to live like that. I know most soldiers have — they’ve just come out of recovery, they have weaker immune systems. Black mold can do damage to people. The holes in the walls… I wouldn’t live there, even if I had to.”
Annette McLeod, the wife of Corporal Wendell McLeod, also testified.
Annette McLeod: “All I’m trying to do is have my life, the life that I had and I know. My life was ripped apart the day that my husband was injured. But having to live through the mess that we lived through at Walter Reed has been the worst thing I ever sacrificed in my life.”
Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon urged Army officials to improve its treatment of soldiers who are returning from Iraq with psychological problems
Staff Sgt. Shannon: “They have discovered that men suffer post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms from concussive forces to their heads. We get mortared every day over there, depending on where we’re working. Just 'cause a guy's not got a visible injury doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a PTSD.”
Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon testified with a patch over his eye. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round in Iraq. He is now waiting for prosthetic eye surgery.
Meanwhile, Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said a major factor in the conditions at Walter Reed might be the result of the privatization of services. Welch cited a five-year $120 million contract given to a company called IAP Worldwide Services, which is operated by a former Halliburton executive. The Corporate Research Project is reporting IAP has close ties to the Republican Party. Ownership of the company is controlled by the giant hedge fund Cerberus, whose chair is former Bush administration Treasury Secretary John Snow. The IAP board of directors includes former Vice President Dan Quayle and retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee.
In Iraq, nine U.S. soldiers have died in a pair of roadside bombings north of Baghdad. Six of the troops were killed in the Salahuddin province when a bomb exploded near their vehicle. It was one of the single deadliest ground attacks against U.S. forces in months.
In Baghdad, the death toll from Monday’s bombing in the city’s old book market has reached 38. Another 105 people were injured.
The United Nations has announced plans to open an office in Jordan to deal with the refugee crisis caused by the Iraq War. 1.8 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries — mostly Syria and Jordan. Meanwhile, the U.N. estimates 4.5 million Iraqi children are now undernourished. In Washington, the White House is preparing to ask Congress for more money for the Iraq War. The Bush administration says the plan to send in over 21,000 more combat troops has been more expensive than projected.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran seems to have at least temporarily halted its uranium enrichment program. Mohamad ElBaradei said the pause could represent an attempt to de-escalate Iran’s conflict with the U.N. Security Council, which is considering new sanctions against Iran.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia introduced legislation Monday to prohibit the Bush administration from using funds to invade Iran without congressional authorization.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has named a prominent neoconservative who has advocated for the overthrow of the Iranian government to be the new counselor of the State Department. The official, Eliot Cohen, had been described as “the most influential neoconservative in academe.” Two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Cohen advocated for going after Iran. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “The overthrow of the first theocratic revolutionary Muslim state and its replacement by a moderate or secular government, however, would be no less important a victory in this war than the annihilation of bin Laden.” Eliot Cohen has also described the so-called war on terrorism as World War Four.
In Indonesia, a powerful earthquake has struck the island of Sumatra, killing at least 70 people. Hundreds of buildings have been flattened. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.3.
Six former U.S. attorneys will be testifying on Capitol Hill today in a pair of hearings as part of a congressional investigation into why the Justice Department took the unprecedented move of purging them from their jobs. One of the former U.S. attorneys, David Iglesias of New Mexico, revealed last week that he was fired after he resisted pressure by two Republican members of Congress to complete a corruption investigation involving Democrats ahead of the November elections. Senator Pete Domenici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson have admitted calling Iglesias but denied they were pressuring or threatening him. On Monday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Domenici violated ethics law. Meanwhile, the McClatchy newspapers is reporting that a high-ranking Justice Department official told one of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration that if any of them continued to criticize the administration for their ousters, previously undisclosed details about the reasons they were fired might be released.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have opened up in New York in an effort to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time in 50 years. The talks come just three weeks after North Korea agreed to abandon part of its nuclear program. Meanwhile, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is preparing for a landmark trip to North Korea.
Mohamed ElBaradei: “I welcome obviously both the Beijing agreement and the invitation to go to DPRK. This is obviously an important step in the right direction. This file has been going from bad to worse in the last five to 10 years, and this is the first time we see now a concrete step to reverse course and to hopefully work collectively as an international community towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and towards a comprehensive settlement.”
The authors of a new medical study on the effects of torture say the Bush administration’s definition of torture is too narrow because it focuses mostly on physical abuse. The researchers said they found that aggressive interrogation techniques, humiliating treatment, verbal abuse and isolation produced as much if not more distress than some forms of physical torture. The study was based on interviews with nearly 300 prisoners held in the former Yugoslavia.
Conservative writer and commentator Ann Coulter is defending her decision to call presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot.” Last night on Fox News, Coulter said, “I think the lesson young right-wingers ought to draw from this is: It’s really not that scary to attack liberals.” Coulter’s comments came during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. On Monday, three major corporations — Verizon, Sallie Mae and the Georgia-based NetBank — announced they would pull their ads from Ann Coulter’s website.
U.S. Army medic and war resister Augustín Aguayo appeared before a court-martial today at an American base in Germany for refusing a second tour of duty in Iraq. He faces up to seven years in prison.
In Tacoma, Washington, four people have been arrested while protesting the movement of Stryker equipment from Fort Lewis in preparation for shipment to Iraq. Eyewitnesses said one of the protesters was shot at close range with some type of nonlethal ammunition. The demonstration was part of an ongoing vigil at the Port of Tacoma organized by the Tacoma Port Militarization Resistance.
In Copenhagen, Denmark protests continued yesterday as the city demolished a building housing an anarchist youth and cultural center. The eviction of activists living in the building sparked a series of protests and clashes with police over the weekend. More than 650 people were arrested. On Monday, activists rallied outside the building as the demolition began.
Ken Jansen: “It’s a symbol of Danish culture and Danish nationalism. I think it is a pity that it is torn down. It’s a building that actually turned this year 110 years old, and we got so much culture in that house.”
Protests were also held last night outside the Danish Embassy in Oslo.
A new survey by the BBC World Service has found that Israel, Iran, United States and North Korea are perceived as having the most negative influence on the world. Japan, France, the European Union and Canada are seen as the most positive.
And Fox News is being criticized for spending more time covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith than the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. According to the website ThinkProgress.org, Fox News devoted 12 times more coverage to Anna Nicole Smith on Friday than Walter Reed.