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The two leading U.S. officials in Iraq came before Congress Monday to praise the so-called troop surge while asking for more time to achieve its promised goals. Speaking alongside U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, war commander General David Petraeus asked lawmakers to wait until March to decide whether to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.
Gen. David Petraeus: “The military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met. In recent months, in the face of tough enemies, in the brutal summer heat of Iraq, coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena.”
Petraeus also recommended what he called a “very substantial withdrawal” of 2,000 troops. The Wall Street Journal reports the pullback plan is essentially the smallest he could offer because many of the troops are already scheduled to be rotated out of Iraq next August. Democratic lawmakers offered a less critical response than some had expected. One criticism came from California Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos.
Rep. Tom Lantos: “Is it any wonder that on the subject of Iraq more and more Americans have little confidence in this administration? The fact remains, gentlemen, that the administration has sent you here today to convince the members of these two committees and the Congress that victory is at hand. With all due respect to you, I must say I don’t buy it.”
Protesters from CodePink and other groups repeatedly interrupted Monday’s proceedings. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was arrested after he shouted out a request that Petraeus and Crocker be sworn in before testifying. Nine others were also arrested including Cindy Sheehan and CodePink’s Medea Benjamin.
Meanwhile in Iraq, new signs indicate the Bush administration is expecting the Iraqi government to soon pass its U.S.-backed oil law. The Washington Post reports the Commerce Department is looking to hire a legal adviser to help U.S. and Iraqi officials put the oil law into place. The adviser would apparently enjoy extensive sway over the Iraqi government. The job description includes assisting in developing a “tax environment conducive to domestic and foreign investment in Iraq’s key economic sectors, starting with [mineral resources].” The adviser would also review all draft oil laws created by Iraqi agencies, including those setting basic regulations for the oil sector. The job appears long-term — it runs through July 2008 with an option to extend through July 2010.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, at least 69 Israeli soldiers have been wounded in a Palestinian rocket firing on a base near the Gaza Strip. It was the highest-ever injury toll from a single Palestinian rocket attack. The Israeli army says it has already struck back at the site of the firing. But local officials say four Palestinian civilians, including children, were left wounded in the Israeli strike. In a joint statement faxed to reporters, the militant groups Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Indonesia, the U.S.-based Time magazine has been ordered to pay more than $100 million in damages to former Indonesia President Suharto. A 1999 article detailed the Suharto family’s rampant corruption and alleged it pocketed more than $70 billion while in power. The ruling overturned two previous lower court judgments that dismissed the damages claim. The court ruled “the article has damaged the reputation and honour of the grand general of the Indonesian armed forces and former president of Indonesia.”
A government audit has found the Bush administration allowed insurance companies to hold onto tens of millions of dollars that should have gone to Medicare consumers. The Government Accountability Office says the companies kept the money because the administration failed to perform mandatory audits and recover wrongly paid funds. The money could have been used to either reduce payments or provide more benefits to senior citizens. The proportion of audited Medicare companies fell to 14 percent from 24 percent in 2001. The Bush administration has pushed corporate involvement in Medicare and encouraged beneficiaries to enroll in private plans.
In environmental news, a new study is warning two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could be extinct if global warming continues apace over the next 50 years. The U.S. Geological Survey predicts the bears will die out if warm weather continues to melt the ice sheets where they live. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to designate polar bears a “threatened” species.
A group of medical professionals and anti-torture activists have compared doctors involved in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay to those who covered up the murder of South African anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko 30 years ago. In a letter published in the medical journal Lancet, 260 signatories write: “The failure of the US regulatory authorities to act is damaging the reputation of US military medicine. No health-care worker in the War on Terror has been charged or convicted of any significant offence despite numerous instances documented.” The letter also says the American Medical Association has failed to respond to their original complaint sent 18 months ago.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is being accused of reckless hypocrisy following the disclosure it allowed thousands of products it deemed unsafe for Americans shipped overseas. According to The Sacramento Bee, 96 percent of more than a thousand companies that asked to export their products despite failing U.S. safety standards were given approval to ship. Thousands of those goods included toys violating the same child safety guidelines that led to last month’s massive recall of Chinese-made products. The toys were sent to countries including Venezuela and Jamaica. Experts say the shipments’ danger is higher in those countries because of fewer local resources for consumer protection and safety. The shipments were not announced at the time at they were made.
In Guatemala, the country’s presidential race is headed for a second round following Sunday’s vote. Three-time candidate Álvaro Colom and former army general Otto Pérez Molina will square off in a runoff vote on November 4. Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the first indigenous woman to run for president of Guatemala, finished in sixth place with 3 percent.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed on to join Stanford University’s Hoover Institution as a visiting fellow. Rumsfeld will take part in a new task force studying post-9/11 ideology and terrorism. Hoover is the home for several current and former Republican officials. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she intends to return when her term ends in 2009.
In Britain, Dame Anita Roddick has died at the age of 64. She was the founder of the cosmetics firm Body Shop. She was a well-known environmental campaigner and a pioneer of cruelty-free beauty products.
Commemorations are being held around the country and worldwide today on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Here in New York, four moments of silence will be held to mark the times the two hijacked planes hit the towers and when the towers collapsed. It’s the first time the anniversary falls on a Tuesday, the day of the attacks. The Ground Zero ceremony will be held in a nearby park because of increased construction at the trade center site. Firefighters who rescued victims on 9/11 will read victims’ names. The ceremonies will mark the first time a victim who did not die in the attack will be recognized. Attorney Felicia Dunn-Jones died five months after 9/11 from toxic exposure to the trade center dust. Other ceremonies include commemorations near the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field where the other planes crashed.
And also on this date, on Septemer 11, 1973, U.S.-backed Pinochet forces rose to power in Chile to overthrow the democratically elected Salvador Allende. Allende died in the presidential palace. On September 11, 1990, American anthropologist Myrna Mack was murdered by U.S.-backed Guatemalan security forces. On September 11, 1977, in South Africa, Steve Biko, founder of the black consciousness movement, was being beaten in the back of a van by apartheid forces. He died in the early morning hours of September 12, 1977. On September 11, 1993, in the midst of the U.S.-backed coup in Haiti, Antoine Izméry was dragged out of a church by coup forces and murdered in broad daylight. He had been commemorating a massacre of parishioners at the Saint-Jean Bosco Church that had occurred five years earlier on September 11, 1988. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide had narrowly escaped death in that attack. He later became president of Haiti.