At least 15,000 U.S. troops are facing longer tours of duty in Iraq under a new proposal at the Pentagon. The delay would last up to four months. Meanwhile, the National Guard announced thousands of Guard members are being notified to prepare for a second deployment to Iraq. The total National Guard deployment will top 13,000.
The news comes as tens of thousands of people rallied in the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Kufa on the fourth anniversary of the ouster of Saddam Hussein to call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Demonstrators burned U.S. flags and chanted, “No to the occupier, Yes to Iraq.” The crowd reportedly included members of the Iraqi army.
Sheikh Abdelhadi Al-Muhammadawi, a leader of the movement of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr: “In your name, you, the mujahideen, we call for a pullout of the occupiers and the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldier. We also reject the presence of any form of military bases on the land of the faithful. I want you to make America, Tel Aviv and the White House and all the tyrants hear: 'Get out, get out occupiers.'”
Meanwhile in Baghdad, thousands of troops swept through the city to enforce a fourth anniversary curfew. A Baghdad resident identified by his first name Mazin reflected on the four years since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Mazin: “On this occasion we remember the anniversary of the occupation and the anniversary of great tragedy. Frankly, nothing has changed, and we have not noticed any change. If you compare the current situation and the situation under the ousted regime, you see it the same. You can see car bombs, terrorism and blood.”
In other Iraq news, a former Iraqi cabinet member has authored a new book harshly criticizing the U.S. occupation. Ali Allawi has served as Iraq’s trade, defense and finance minister since 2003. Allawi writes: “The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order.” Allawi also criticizes what he calls the Bush administration’s “monumental ignorance,” “rank amateurism” and “swaggering arrogance” in running Iraq.
The Ethiopian government has admitted for the first time to secretly detaining at least 40 people captured in neighboring Somalia. The admission follows reports last week CIA and FBI agents have been interrogating hundreds of detainees held at Ethiopian secret prisons. Human Rights Watch has accused the U.S. of being the ringleader behind the secret prisons. The group described the prisons as a “decentralized, outsourced Guantanamo.” Ethiopia did not confirm the U.S. role but defended the interrogations as part of “the global war on terror.”
Meanwhile in Somalia, local clan leaders are reporting at least 1,000 people were killed over four days of clashes with Ethiopian troops last month. The estimate could not be verified, but humanitarian groups have called the fighting the worst Somalia has seen in 15 years.
The Iranian government has announced it has begun producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. The announcement came on the first anniversary of Iran’s first announcement of a successful enrichment of uranium fuel.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Today, on the anniversary of such a celebrated occasion, with great pride, I announce that the dear country of Iran will place itself amongst the countries that produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian government released new footage Monday in an attempt to counter claims the 15 British sailors and marines were mistreated before their release. The video shows the sailors playing ping pong and watching soccer. The sailors say they were blindfolded, interrogated and held in isolation. Meanwhile, the British military has blocked the sailors from selling their stories to the media. The military had been criticized after the former captives Faye Turney and Arthur Batchelor made separate deals with media outlets.
President Bush has renewed his push for immigration reform. On Monday, the president said he would call for a temporary guest-work program and massive fines for those seeking citizenship. The announcement came two days after tens of thousands of immigrants and immigrant rights advocates held a massive rally in Los Angeles. Bush spoke at the U.S. border crossing with Mexico in Yuma, Arizona.
President Bush: “Congress is going to take up the legislation on immigration. This is a matter of national interest, and it is a matter of deep conviction for me. I’ve been working to bring Republicans and Democrats together to resolve outstanding issues so that Congress can pass a comprehensive bill and I can sign it into law this year.”
East Timor has held its first presidential vote since winning independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002. Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta is holding an early lead. Horta spoke during Monday’s vote.
Jose Ramos-Horta: “I don’t want to be elected on the back of violence. So, for me, this is absolutely off limit. Any sort of violence, even insults against other candidates.”
A group of tomato pickers from Florida have claimed a major victory in their two-year grassroots campaign against the fast-food giant McDonald’s. On Tuesday, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced McDonald’s has agreed to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes, enforce worker regulations, and agree to third-party oversight. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a farmworker organization made up largely of indigent immigrants who work tomato fields in southwest Florida. The group was in the midst of a cross-country bus tour that was to end in Illinois Friday with a rally in front of McDonald’s global headquarters. The agreement comes two years after the Immokalee Workers led a successful boycott of Taco Bell.
New developments in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant connected to the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. A federal judge has ruled Posada can be set free on bail. Posada is being held not on terrorism charges, but for naturalization fraud and making false statements. He snuck into the United States in 2005 and then lied about how he entered the country. The Bush administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela or Cuba to stand trial for the airline bombing. Federal prosecutors are challenging the bail ruling. Posada’s attorney says he expects to see him freed next week.
And CBS Radio and MSNBC have announced they’re temporarily suspending the syndicated radio program hosted by Don Imus. Speaking on “Imus in the Morning” last Wednesday, Imus and his producer Bernard McGuirk referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” and “hardcore hos.” The suspension will take effect next Monday and last for two weeks. In response, the Reverend Al Sharpton said civil rights groups would not drop their demands for Imus’ dismissal.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “We continue to be organizing and mobilizing in these two weeks and to meet with the heads of both stations to say why he can’t come back. We also intend to deal with advertisers.”
Sharpton’s comments came after Imus appeared on Sharpton’s radio program to defend himself.