14 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq after an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed north of Baghdad this morning. It was the deadliest U.S. helicopter crash in Iraq in over two-and-a-half years. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Tension continues to grow between the U.S. government and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. On Tuesday, President Bush refused to publicly support al-Maliki’s government. Earlier in the week, Democratic Senator Carl Levin called for al-Maliki’s ouster. During a press conference, President Bush was asked about Levin’s comment.
President Bush: “There’s a process taking place. And the fundamental question is: Will the government respond to the demands of the people? And if the government doesn’t demand — respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government. That’s up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians.”
Earlier in the day, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, warned that U.S. support for Maliki’s government was “not a blind check.” Crocker said the level of political progress in Iraq has been “extremely disappointing.”
President George Bush is scheduled to give a speech today directly comparing the Iraq War to Vietnam. According to excerpts of the speech released on Tuesday, Bush will warn that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could produce a catastrophe similar to what occurred in Vietnam and Cambodia after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. In part of the speech, Bush says: “The price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps,' and 'killing fields.'” Vietnam historian Stanley Karnow told USA Today that Bush is reaching for historical analogies that don’t track. He said Vietnam was not a bunch of sectarian groups fighting each other as in Iraq. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge toppled a U.S.-backed government. Karnow went on to ask: “Does he think we should have stayed in Vietnam?”
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society is reporting the death toll from last week’s massive truck bombing near the Syrian border has topped 500 people and left another 1,500 wounded. Doctors say the death toll could rise even higher because 20 percent of the survivors suffered serious injuries. The double truck bomb was by far the deadliest coordinated attack since the U.S. invasion.
The CIA’s inspector general has concluded the CIA had no comprehensive strategy for dealing with al-Qaeda before the Sept. 11th attacks and failed to act on information indicating that suspected al-Qaeda members had been dispatched to the United States. The newly declassified report released states that the CIA had identified two of the 9/11 hijackers as threats over a year before the attacks. But the CIA failed to rapidly pass their names — Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar — on to the State Department or to the FBI. The report said that between January and March 2000, up to 60 individuals read CIA cables about how the two men were expected to travel to the United States. It wasn’t until late August 2001 that the men were put on watch lists that might have resulted in their capture before the attacks.
The Pentagon has announced it will shut down its controversial domestic spying database known as TALON in mid-September. The Pentagon had used the database to include reports on nonviolent demonstrations and antiwar rallies. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision. Anthony Romero of the ACLU said, “There should have been no place in a free democratic society for the military to be accumulating secret data on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights.”
A summit of North American leaders has concluded in Montebello, Quebec. On Tuesday, President Bush praised NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
President Bush: “And I think we made some good progress toward eliminating barriers and to harmonizing regulations, to a point where more prosperity will — will come to be.”
President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Montebello to discuss an expanded version of NAFTA known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Canadian activist Jaggi Singh said, “The Security and Prosperity Partnership is, in brief, NAFTA on crack combined with the fear and paranoia of Homeland Security policies.” The three leaders also discussed border issues.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon: “We all want secure borders. We all also want efficient borders, borders that will allow a border crossing of those who build, who contribute, and of course prevent border crossings of those who damage our societies — organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal markets.”
In other news from the Canadian summit, protesters are accusing police of using undercover agents to provoke violent confrontations during the meeting.
In economic news, the number of house foreclosure filings reported last month in the United States jumped by 93 percent from a year ago. There were nearly 180,000 foreclosure filings in July. Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, California, Florida and Ohio were the hardest hit. The foreclosure rate in Nevada is now three times the national average. Meanwhile, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial Corp., announced on Monday that it had eliminated about 500 jobs.
Thirteen pro-democracy activists have been arrested in Burma after participating in a rare public protest. Burma’s military junta accused the activists of undermining stability and security of the nation for participating in a series of protests against rising fuel costs and deteriorating living conditions in Burma. The arrested activists included Min Ko Naing and at least six other leaders of a 1988 student-led uprising.
Meanwhile in Bangladesh, police fired tear gas on Tuesday at a group of students demanding that the army withdraw from the campus of Dhaka University. The students took part in the demonstration despite a ban on street protests imposed by the military-backed emergency government. Police injured over 100 students.
Aminul Islam, teacher: “They were beaten up, and we were absolutely surprised. Many untoward things happened, but such intervention in the private life, the rights of the students who had never (inaudible).”
The state of Texas is scheduled to carry out today its 400th execution since the state resumed the death penalty in 1982. Johnny Ray Conner is scheduled to be killed for shooting a grocery store clerk. The European Union urged the governor of Texas yesterday to halt all executions before tonight.
Meanwhile, a pair of other Texas death row prisoners who are scheduled to die next week have announced plans to stage hunger strikes up until the time of their execution. Kenneth Foster and John Joe Amador said they will refuse all food beginning on Wednesday. The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Amador on August 29. Foster’s execution date is set for August 30. Both men said they will commit to a protest of passive non-participation in their executions. In a statement released yesterday, the men said: “We will not walk to our executions and we will not eat last meals. We will not give this process a humane face.” Kenneth Foster is scheduled to be executed under a controversial Texan law known as the law of parties. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred. In Foster’s case, he was driving a car 11 years ago with three passengers. One of the passengers left the car, got into an altercation and shot a man dead.
And the Chinese pro-democracy activist Yang Jianli has returned to the United States after serving a five-year prison sentence in China. Yang moved to Boston after participating in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. On Tuesday he accused Chinese authorities of torturing him in jail.
Yang Jianli: “The first couple of years of my imprisonment was very difficult, was very harsh. When I first got there, there were many worries, and the authorities tried various kind of means to subdue me, try to press for information from me. They used different — I was constantly subject to physical torture and psychological torture.”