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President Bush has vowed the U.S. will keep a large number of troops in Iraq well beyond his presidency. In a prime-time address last night, Bush said he foresees what he called “an enduring relationship” between Iraq and the United States. Bush made the call in announcing he would withdraw a limited number of troops by July of next year. But administration officials quietly announced part of the so-called troop “surge” contingent could remain and even more troops could be sent. That would mean a larger occupation next summer than just before the surge began earlier this year. President Bush also singled out progress in Anbar province, where former Sunni insurgents have switched sides and are now fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Just hours earlier, the U.S. had suffered a major setback there. Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed in a bombing near his home in Ramadi. One year ago to the day, Sheikh Abu Risha formed the pro-U.S. Anbar Awakening to fight members of al-Qaeda. President Bush met with Sheikh Abu Risha just 10 days ago during the president’s brief visit to Anbar province.
Democrats are taking House Minority Leader John Boehner to task for calling U.S. troop deaths in Iraq “a small price” to pay for achieving U.S. goals there. Bohener made the comments during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Wolf Blitzer: “Here’s the question: How much longer will U.S. taxpayers have to shell out $2 billion a week or $3 billion a week, as some now are suggesting the cost is going to endure — the loss in blood, the Americans who are killed every month? How much longer do you think this commitment, this military commitment, is going to be — is going to require?”
Rep. John Boehner: “I think General Petraeus outlined it pretty clearly. We’re making success. We need to firm up those successes. We need to continue our effort here, because, Wolf, long term, the investment that we’re making today will be a small price if we’re able to stop al-Qaeda here. If we’re able to stabilize the Middle East, it’s not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids.”
Democrats are calling on Boehner to retract his statement and apologize.
The Pentagon has released a censored audio version of the confession of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [through translator]: “One, I was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center operation. Two, I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z. Three, I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan.”
The Bush administration has been accused of using Mohammed’s confession for political purposes. Critics have raised the possibility Mohammed is falsely confessing to the crimes to shoulder the blame for the real perpetrators. Mohammed has also claimed he was tortured.
South Africa has marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of the black consciousness leader Steve Biko. Biko died of massive head injuries at the hands of apartheid police. On Wednesday, South African President Thabo Mbeki honored Biko at a ceremony in Cape Town.
South African President Thabo Mbeki: “We have gathered here exactly 30 years to the day after Steve Bantu Biko was murdered by those responsible for the apartheid crime against humanity. We have convened here not to mourn his death but to celebrate his life, his thoughts and the immense contribution he made to the liberation of our country and people.”
Ten years ago, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that five former members of the South African security forces had admitted to Biko’s murder, but no charges were filed.
At the United Nations, the General Assembly has passed a landmark measure affirming the human rights of the world’s indigenous people. One hundred forty nations voted in favor. Just four countries were opposed — the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They say the declaration goes too far in recognizing indigenous ownership of traditional land and veto rights over legislation governing natural resources. The vote caps a more than 20-year debate on an indigenous rights declaration at the U.N.
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has admitted he wrongly told Congress that last month’s broad new surveillance law helped foil an alleged plot on U.S. military targets in Germany. On Monday, McConnell told a Senate committee the suspects had been apprehended because they had been monitored under the Protect America Act. But McConnell retracted his statement following an investigation by Newsweek magazine.
The media reform group Free Press has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information on whether industry lobbyists or political maneuvering influenced the Justice Department’s decision to publicly oppose net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user. Last month the Justice Department sided with the country’s large telecommunications companies and urged the Federal Communications Commission not to adopt it.
A leading media protection group is renewing calls for the U.S. to release an Al Jazeera cameraman from Guantánamo Bay. Sami al-Hajj is now more than eight months into a hunger strike protesting his imprisonment without charge or trial. Doctors who’ve examined him say it appears he’s given up his fight to live. Yesterday, Democracy Now! spoke to Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, about al-Hajj’s case.
Joel Campagna: “He is a journalist and assistant cameraman who worked for Al Jazeera and who was detained in the line of work, and for over five years now yet to be charged with a crime. And I think the implication of his arrest is that the U.S. military can effectively remove a journalist from the battlefield, hold them for years without end, without charge, and not be compelled to charge them with a crime. And we’ve been calling on the U.S. military to either charge Sami al-Hajj with a crime and give him a fair trial or release him.”
On Capitol Hill, dozens of protesters occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office this week to urge her to back the impeachment of President Bush. Activists read aloud letters to Pelosi written by voters across the country.
Protester: “Speaker, we trusted you. Yes, over half the country trusted your leadership. You had no right to deprive this nation of the tool granted to us — impeachment. You have caused the death and terror to continue with renewed energy by your callous decision.” (Video Courtesy of WhyNotNews.org)
More protests in Washington begin tomorrow, when a week of antiwar activism kicks off with a “die in” on Capitol Hill. The peace coalition ANSWER says more than 1,000 people will lie down to represent the Iraqis and Americans killed since the U.S. invasion. ANSWER is predicting a turnout of more than 10,000 for a march through Washington.
And back in Iraq, a new study is suggesting the civilian death toll from the U.S. invasion has topped 1.2 million. The British agency Opinion Research Business surveyed more than 1,400 Iraqi adults. The estimate was based on the number of deaths reported per household and the number of total households in Iraq. One in two households in Baghdad reported losing at least one family member. The 1.2 million estimate is the highest on civilian deaths so far. A study in the British medical journal The Lancet last year put the number at more than 650,000. This week the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraueus, spoke about Iraqi deaths on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Gen. David Petraeus: “In many respects, this is a thinking man’s warfare. You can’t kill everyone out there. You’re not going to kill yourself out of an insurgency.”