Tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated on Saturday against a proposed pact that that would allow US forces to stay in Iraq for three more years. Marchers waved Iraqi flags and chanted, “Yes, yes Iraq! No, no to the occupation!” Demonstrators set fire to effigies of President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said the protest showed many Iraqis oppose any plan that would keep US forces in Iraq.
Hazim al-Araji, aide to Muqtada al-Sadr: “All the Iraqis, including Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds, have taken to the streets today to express their rejection of the occupation and the security pact, and we demand from all those who also denounce the pact to organize a similar demonstration.”
The New York Times reports opposition to the pact is growing inside Iraq even by some of the parties that negotiated the agreement. On Sunday, the pro-government United Iraqi Alliance said it could not endorse the agreement unless it requires US troops to leave Iraq by 2011.
In Afghanistan, a British aid worker was shot dead earlier today as she walked to work in Kabul. Gayle Williams worked with the organization SERVE Afghanistan, a British-based Christian aid organization that focuses on community development and education and vocational training for people with disabilities. At least thirty aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan this year. Another ninety-two have been abducted.
In campaign news, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The retired four-star general, who served in the last two Bush administrations, made the announcement on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Colin Powell: “So when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we’ve got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president, but which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that, because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities, and we have to take that into account, as well as his substance — he has both style and substance — he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.”
Colin Powell also criticized the campaign tactics of John McCain and the Republican Party.
Colin Powell: “I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said, such things as, 'Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ’He’s a Muslim, and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”
Barack Obama has picked up the endorsement of two of the nation’s largest newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Obama is the first Democrat to be endorsed by the Tribune in the paper’s 161-year history.
The New York Times reports Barack Obama is days away from breaking the advertising spending record set by President Bush four years ago. Obama has spent nearly $188 million on advertising in the general election. John McCain has spent $91 million. Kenneth Goldstein of the Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin said, “This is uncharted territory…we’ve never seen in a presidential race one side having such a lopsided advantage.” On Sunday, Obama’s campaign announced it had raised a record-shattering $150 million in donations in September. The previous monthly record was $66 million, which Obama raised in August. Obama is the the first presidential candidate to opt out of the government financing system since its establishment in 1976.
The McCain campaign is coming under criticism for using automated robocalls in at least ten swing states to attack Obama. In at least one of the robocalls, the McCain campaign highlights Barack Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers, the former member of the Weather Underground.
John McCain Robocall: “Hello, I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC, because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the US Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500.”
Surrogates of John McCain have also intensified their campaign to paint Barack Obama as anti-American. On Friday, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Rep. Michele Bachmann: “Yeah, absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That’s what the American people are concerned about. That’s why they want to know what his answers are. That’s why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in the last few days.”
Chris Matthews: “OK. I’m not going to get off this…”
Bachmann: “Because Joe the plumber…”
Matthews: “I want to stay this — what do you mean by…”
Bachmann: “…asked a question that a lot of Americans want to know.”
During the same program, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said the media should launch an investigation to determine who in Congress is pro-American or anti-American. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Bachmann’s comments may end up hurting her re-election bid. Since Friday, her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, raised more than $640,000 — more than all the donations he received during the entire third quarter.
Attorneys for the community organizing group ACORN have notified the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division of several incidents where ACORN organizers and offices have been attacked. Last week, John McCain accused the group of possibly destroying the fabric of democracy by “perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country.” In Cleveland, Ohio, an ACORN organizer received a death threat after appearing on television. Meanwhile, vandals broke into the group’s Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers.
In other voting news, the Los Angeles Times reports the owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters has been arrested on suspicion of voter registration fraud. Mark Jacoby is accused of fraudulently registering himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California.
The Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s order requiring state officials in Ohio to supply information that would have made it easier for the Republican Party to challenge the right to vote of as many as 200,000 people in Ohio. Republicans had sued Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide county election boards with lists of new registrants whose information didn’t match up precisely with government databases. Carrie Davis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio praised the court’s decision. She said, “This is a major victory for Ohio voters. Purging voters because of data errors is unlawful. We must continue to be vigilant and fight against these and other forms of voter suppression.”
The Associated Press is reporting Freddie Mac secretly paid a Republican consulting firm $2 million three years ago to kill legislation that would have regulated and trimmed the mortgage finance giant and its sister company, Fannie Mae. The lobbying firm was DCI of Washington. Its chief executive, Doug Goodyear, was later hired by John McCain’s campaign to manage the Republican National Convention in September. Goodyear had to later resign from the convention job after it was revealed that he had also lobbied for the military junta in Burma.
The Bush administration is proposing to ease restrictions on dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams. The Interior Department is moving forward in rewriting a 1983 regulation that bars coal mining companies from dumping huge waste piles within 100 feet of any stream if the disposal affects water quality or quantity. Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice said, “The new rule will allow coal companies to dump massive waste piles directly into streams, permanently burying them.”
And the State of Georgia has announced it plans to execute Troy Davis a week from today on October 27. Last week, the Supreme Court decided it would not hear Davis’s appeal of a death sentence for the 1989 killing of a police officer. Since his original trial, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony. There is no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene.