In a speech in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, President Bush accused Iran of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. Bush said he traveled to the Middle East in part to rally U.S. allies in the region to “confront this danger before it is too late.”
Meanwhile, Iran has agreed to answer questions about its past nuclear activities within a month as part of an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The timetable was announced after IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei wrapped up a two-day visit to Tehran.
On the campaign trail, Senator Hillary Clinton is continuing to refuse to describe her 2002 Iraq war vote as a mistake. In an interview on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Clinton claimed that the 2002 vote was not actually a vote for war.
Sen. Clinton: “It is absolutely unfair to say that the vote, as Chuck Hagel, who was one of the architects of the resolution, has said, was a vote for war. It was a vote to use the threat of force against Saddam Hussein, who never did anything without being made to do so.”
Tim Russert: “The title of the act was the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq resolution.”
Clinton said she backed the bill after the Bush administration told her they intended to put inspectors back in Iraq and permit them to finish their job.
Meanwhile, supporters of Hillary Clinton are being accused of trying to disenfranchise some Democratic voters in Nevada ahead of the state’s caucus on Saturday. Six Nevada Democrats and the Nevada State Education Association teachers’ union have filed a lawsuit to block the Democratic Party from holding caucuses inside Las Vegas Strip hotels in order to allow casino and hotel workers a chance to take part in the caucus process. The suit was filed just days after the influential Nevada Culinary Workers Union endorsed Barack Obama. The teachers union has not endorsed a candidate, but the union’s deputy executive director, Debbie Cahill, is a member of Clinton’s Nevada Women’s Leadership Council.
In other campaign news, Democratic presidential contender Dennis Kucinich is considering taking legal action after NBC News rescinded an invitation for him to participate in Tuesday’s presidential debate in Nevada. On January 9, NBC told Kucinich that he had met the criteria for the debate. Then less than two days later, NBC changed the criteria and declared that Kucinich no longer qualified.
The D.C. Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by four British men who were held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The four men had sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse. The judges effectively ruled that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law. The court ruling read in part, “Because the plaintiffs are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory at the time their alleged claim arose, they do not fall with the definition of 'person.'” The ruling was issued on Friday just as thousands of human rights activists were gathering around the world to protest the sixth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo.
In Washington, at least 80 activists were arrested outside the Supreme Court during a demonstration calling for the shutdown of the military prison, where over 800 men and boys have been held without charge. Protesters marched in Washington dressed like Guantanamo prisoners wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods.
Meanwhile, the chair of the Joints Chief of Staff has publicly said he favors shutting down Guantanamo. Admiral Mike Mullen said, “I believe that, from the standpoint of how it reflects on us, it’s been pretty damaging.”
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has acknowledged that the interrogation practice known as waterboarding could be described as torture. McConnell told The New Yorker magazine, “Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.” “Waterboarding” involves pouring water over subjects who are bound, gagged and hooded in order to terrify them by stimulating the feeling that they are drowning.
The U.S. Army has thrown out the conviction of the only officer court-martialed in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. The military has announced that Lt. Col. Steven Jordan will only face an administrative reprimand. Jordan oversaw the Abu Ghraib interrogations center in Iraq from September to December 2003. Up until last week, Steven Jordan was the only officer or civilian leader to have been held criminally responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
The New York Times has revealed at least 121 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been charged with committing murder after they returned home from duty. The Times said the numbers indicated a nearly 90 percent increase in homicides involving active-duty military personnel and new veterans since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The Times said about one-third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives. The Times reports that while many of the veterans showed signs of combat trauma, they were often not evaluated for or diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until after the homicides.
Iraqi lawmakers have passed legislation that could potentially allow some former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to return to work in government jobs. But some officials say the law could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in. It could also bar any Sunni tied to the Baath Party from obtaining a high-level political position. In 2003 the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority removed all Baathists from the Iraqi government in a move that helped fuel the Sunni insurgency.
In business news, the City of Cleveland has sued twenty-one banks, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo, for their role in the subprime mortgage crisis. Cleveland has been at the epicenter of the country’s foreclosure crisis. The lawsuit alleges that the predatory lending practices of the banks has created a public nuisance that hurt property values and city tax collections. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said, “To me, this is no different than organized crime or drugs. It has the same effect as drug activity in neighborhoods.” There were more than 7,500 foreclosures in Cleveland last year – up from less than 120 in 2002.
The Green Party held a presidential debate on Sunday before 800 people in San Francisco, featuring former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and four other candidates. Ralph Nader, who ran on the Green ticket in 2000, spoke at the event but did not take part in the debate. Nader has not yet announced whether he will run for president again.
Ralph Nader: You want healthcare for all? Who says no? It’s the health insurance industry, the drug companies and the HMOs. You want living wage? Who says no and makes it stick? It’s McDonald’s. It’s Burger King. It’s Wal-Mart. You want peace in the world, and you want a country to wage peace and become a humanitarian superpower? Who’s opposed to that? The Lockheed Martins. What Eisenhower condemned is a military-industrial complex. Just ask: Who keeps saying no? And you know what the focus of a Green Party and an alternative party political movement has to be.
Cynthia McKinney cited Ralph Nader as part of why she was running on the Green ticket.
Cynthia McKinney: Mr. Nader, in a recent piece, asked us to take the next step if we don’t like what’s happening in our country. I’ve heeded his advice: I’ve joined your party. I’m helping Green candidates, and I’m here with you today. I ask you to take the next step with me.
Also participating in the Green Party debate were Jared Ball, Jesse Johnson, Kent Mesplay and Kat Swift.
And finally, the Associated Press has instructed its staff in Southern California to be on the lookout for all stories about Britney Spears. Last week, an AP assistant bureau chief wrote a memo to colleagues that read: “Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal.”