The civilian death toll from the U.S. bombing of a village in Afghanistan this week could be nearly four times the official figure of 21. The New York Times reports residents of the Sarwan Qala village are claiming as many as 80 civilians were killed in the attack. At least three houses were destroyed. Most victims identified so far are women and children.
A majority of Iraqi lawmakers have approved a draft bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a freeze on current troop levels. The measure would require Iraqi leaders to seek parliamentary approval for any extension of foreign troops when the U.N. mandate expires this year. At least 138 of Iraq’s 275-member Parliament have signed on.
The Iraqi draft bill comes as the House has approved a measure that would fund the Iraq War in two stages. Money would be provided until July but then held up until President Bush reports progress on reaching several benchmarks. President Bush has vowed to veto the measure, as he did the Democrats’ war funding bill last week. This is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “The legislation that we are putting forth on the floor today gives the president the money that he needs for the next few months to engage in the war in Iraq, but it has accountability, and that is something the president has always resisted. And Democrats are not going to give the president a blank check for a war without end. What we want to do is go to the conference and negotiate with the Senate and with the White House on legislation to bring this war to an end. We believe that the legislation that we will present on the floor today will be in further of reaching that store.”
The resolution was approved after antiwar Democrats failed to pass a measure that would put an end to most U.S. military operations in Iraq within nine months. The vote got more supporters than expected, with 170 one in favor and 255 opposed. Bill author Congressmember Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said, “This is proof that the United States Congress is getting closer to where the American people already are.”
Vice President Dick Cheney is in Abu Dhabi today following a two-day visit to Iraq. On Thursday, Cheney addressed a gathering of U.S. troops in Tikrit.
Vice President Dick Cheney: “Many of you have had your deployments extended, and that puts an unexpected hardship on you and your families. I want you to know the extension is vital to the mission. The Army and the country appreciate the extra burden that you carry.”
Cheney’s Mideast tour will also take him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
In other Iraq news, four Iraqi journalists have been killed in a shooting in the northern city of Kirkuk. It was the second attack against Iraqi media workers in less than a week.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced he’ll step down next month after more than a decade in office.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “So, I’ve come back here to Sedgefield to my constituency, where my political journey began and where it’s fitting it should end. Today, I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party. The party will now select a new leader. On June 27, I will tender my resignation from the office of prime minister to the queen.”
Blair will stay on until the Labour Party elects a new leader, widely expected to be Finance Minister Gordon Brown. While Blair’s announcement drew praise from leaders around the world, critics say he will be remembered for following President Bush into an unnecessary war. This is Brian Haw, an antiwar protester who has camped outside the British Parliament for nearly six years.
Brian Haw: “I voted for Mr. Tony Blair the first time along with many people in my country. He was the big white hope, wasn’t he? After Thatcher, the warmonger, and we hoped for something better, didn’t we? ’I’m Christian Tony, I am going to do right by everyone.’ Have you seen what he’s done?”
Meanwhile in Iraq, a Basra resident identified by his first name Mahmoud said Blair’s departure was of little consequence.
Mahmoud: “The issue is not his resignation. The British military bases will remain. I do not think they will leave the Basra province. They’ve built bases in Shuaiba and in many other centers of other areas.”
Russia is accusing the U.S. of trying to build a new “Berlin Wall” with its plan for a new missile shield in Europe.
Russian Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluyevsky: “Today it is suggested to us, without any assessment of the threat, but simply accepting a hypothetical threat of the sort I mentioned, notably from Iran, that we should build new Berlin Walls in Europe. We are against this. We do not consider that today there is any threat of the sort that would allow us to go back to what we have left behind.”
The comments come one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin compared U.S. foreign policy with Nazi Germany.
Survivors of a boat capsizing that killed at least 61 people fleeing Haiti last week are claiming they were deliberately overturned. The survivors say they were just minutes from the British territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands when a patrol boat rammed them and left them to drown in shark-infested waters. More than 160 people were on board. Both the Turks and Caicos and British governments have declined comment.
In East Timor, the Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has won the presidential race with nearly 70 percent of the vote. It’s East Timor’s first presidential election since winning independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002.
In Los Angeles, attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild have filed suit against city and police officials on behalf of immigrant groups and protesters injured during the LAPD’s crackdown on a May Day rally in MacArthur Park. Police with riot guns fired hundreds of rubber bullets, shot tear gas and clubbed protesters and journalists. At least 10 people were injured.
More developments in the U.S. attorney scandal — investigative journalist Murray Waas is reporting the Bush administration has withheld emails showing senior White House and Justice Department officials collaborated to conceal the role of White House strategist Karl Rove in installing his former deputy Timothy Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas. The emails show Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, worked with White House officials on two letters that misled Congress on the appointment and Rove’s role.
In media news, CBS has dismissed an Iraq War veteran over his involvement in an ad campaign criticizing the war. General John Batiste appears in an ad from the group VoteVets.org. Batiste has been working as a CBS News consultant.
The right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh is coming under criticism for airing a song about Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama called “Barack the Magic Negro.” The song has played on Limbaugh’s program in recent weeks. Obama was given Secret Service protection last week in part due to threatening messages posted on white supremacist websites.
And finally, a coalition of Latino organizations have reached an agreement with the filmmaker Ken Burns on a forthcoming World War II documentary that had been criticized for ignoring the role of Latino soldiers. The 14-hour film, “The War,” initially included no interviews with any Latino veterans even though over 500,000 Latinos served in the war. The documentary also included no interviews with any Native American veterans. After an initial refusal, Burns has now agreed to incorporate Latino voices into a new cut of the film.