In Iraq, the number of US troops killed has topped 4,000. On Sunday, a homemade bomb killed four US troops as they patrolled southern Baghdad.
Meanwhile, at least fifty-eight Iraqis died Sunday, including thirteen who were killed when the heavily fortified Green Zone was shelled by mortars. The shelling has been described as one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the US-controlled zone in the last year. In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, twelve Iraqi soldiers died when a suicide truck bomber attacked their Army garrison. Four other Iraqi soldiers died in a roadside bomb in the Hamrin Mountains.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror of London reports the US plans to urge Britain to launch a “surge” in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region. Britain handed control of Basra to Iraqi forces in December, but it could now be asked to step up its role again.
The former Chilean ambassador to the United Nations has revealed new details on how the Bush administration pressured its allies to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to Heraldo Munoz, the United States threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies and pressed for the recall of UN envoys that resisted US pressure to endorse the war. Munoz says the diplomatic strategy has generated lasting “bitterness” and “deep mistrust” in Washington’s relations with allies in Latin America and Europe. Munoz says Bush personally prodded the leaders of six nations in the UN Security Council: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan. When Chile tried to broker a compromise to delay military action, then-US Ambassador John Negroponte and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell moved quickly to quash the initiative.
President Bush has been accused of directly lying to the Iranian people about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In an interview on Thursday, Bush said, “They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people — some in the Middle East.” The interview aired on the US government-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts into Iran in Farsi. Bush’s comment directly contradicts the judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate. Several foreign policy analysts accused Bush of distorting the truth. Joseph Cirincione, of the Ploughshares Fund said, “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.” Former State Department official Suzanne Maloney said, “The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon.” Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department has called on international financial institutions to steer clear of doing business with almost all Iranian banks. The Financial Times describes the move as the Bush administration’s most wide-ranging attempt yet to isolate Tehran financially.
In other news from the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney has accused Hamas of trying to torpedo peace between the Palestinians and Israel. Cheney’s comments came during his visit to Jerusalem. On Sunday, Cheney said, “As we continue to work for peace, we must not and will not ignore the darkening shadows of the situations in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iran.” Cheney vowed to fully support Israel.
Dick Cheney: “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitments to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security.”
In campaign news, New Mexico Governor and former presidential candidate Bill Richardson has officially endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president. Richardson’s endorsement surprised some, since he was a longtime friend to the Clintons and served in two senior positions in Bill Clinton’s administration. At an Obama campaign rally in Portland, Oregon, Richardson said Obama’s candidacy “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our nation.”
Bill Richardson: “I think Senator Obama — I decided on this endorsement because I think he’s something special that the country needs right now, somebody that can bring the country together. Something very good about this man. And I was just reinforced to do the endorsement by his speech on race, where he could have just said, ’I’m going to give a safe speech’ in response to what his pastor had said, but instead he faced the issue head on and talked about unity and talked about the need to eliminate stereotypes. It just reinforced my decision.”
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Arlen Specter has called on the Justice Department to investigate the improper breach of confidential passport files of presidential candidates John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The State Department has admitted the breach involved contractors from two private companies, Stanley Incorporated and the Analysis Corporation, which is know as TAC. TAC’s CEO, John Brennan, is a former CIA agent and is an informal foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign.
China is threatening to smash the protests in Tibet, where up to 100 people have died over the past two weeks. An editorial in the People’s Daily said opposition to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region must be wiped out. The editorial stated, “China must resolutely crush the conspiracy of sabotage and smash 'Tibet independence forces.'” The Chinese government recently posted online wanted posters for twenty-one Tibetan activists. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Dalai Lama in India and demanded China come clean on the repression in Tibet.
Nancy Pelosi: “The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. It’s a challenge to the conscience of the world that I hope that we can help meet. It is a situation where we need to know what is happening there and the world needs to know. And so we come here and say to you we are with you to meet that challenge. We thank you for the inspiration that you are to the world and thank you for the courage that you give us to join you in this.”
The World Food Program has launched an “extraordinary emergency appeal” to raise at least $500 million in the next four weeks. In a letter to donor nations, the UN agency said food aid would have to be rationed off if the new funds are not received by May 1. The World Food Program said its funding gap is largely caused by soaring food prices, as well as record-high oil prices.
The Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, has vetoed a measure to allow for the construction of two new coal-fired power plants. The plants would have produced up to eleven million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The New York Times reports new government research has found “large and growing” disparities in life expectancy for richer and poorer Americans paralleling the growth of income inequality in the last two decades. There is now a four-and-a-half-year gap in the life expectancy between the country’s most affluent and most deprived. In the early 1980s, the gap was less than three years. The gap between poor African American men and affluent white women is now more than fourteen years.
In media news, the business publication Crain’s reports Rupert Murdoch wants to buy a third daily newspaper in New York: the Long Island-based Newsday. Murdoch’s News Corp already owns the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and two major TV stations in New York. Newsday is currently owned by the Tribune Company.
A federal district court has ruled that the National Park Service violated the First Amendment rights of antiwar protesters when it excluded them from a major section of President Bush’s 2005 inaugural parade route. The decision came in a lawsuit brought by the ANSWER Coalition.
In Belgium, police arrested nearly 500 demonstrators Saturday at a peace demonstration outside the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The protest came just days after the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Protest organizers accused NATO of being an instrument of US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hans Lammerant, anti-NATO campaigner: “The Belgian government was very much against the war, but at the same time we saw a whole US army passing Belgium on their way to Iraq. And the reason why, they said it like 'Yeah, that's NATO. We are in NATO. We have to accept this.’ And for all European countries, you always see these sort of policies, which means that NATO is in a certain sense the limit of your foreign policy, which is, for us, reason enough to question NATO.”
Police used dogs, horses, pepper spray, clubs and water cannon to prevent the protesters from entering the NATO grounds.
In Chicago, six peace activists disrupted Easter Mass Sunday at the Holy Name Cathedral by staging a die-in, where they squirted fake blood on themselves to protest the Iraq war.
The activists called themselves the “Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War.” The protest occurred during the 11:00 mass at the Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago’s most prominent Catholic parish. The protesters were all charged with felony criminal damage to property and two counts of simple battery for squirting the blood around the auditorium and onto worshipers’ clothes.
Meanwhile, in Binghamton, New York, a group of student antiwar activists are accusing the local police of using excessive force to break up a protest last week near the State University of New York at Binghamton. Police reportedly fired pepper spray at ten protesters, in some cases at point blank range. The police tried to break up the peaceful demonstration after activists started marching in one of the city’s busiest roadways. Several protesters held a sign reading “Occupation is Murder.” The police made nine arrests.
The former 1970s radical Sara Jane Olson is back behind bars just days after she was released from prison following a seven-year term. Olson was rearrested on Friday after a corrections officials claimed an administrative error resulted in her early release. Olson’s attorney Shawn Chapman Holley criticized the move. He said, “It’s like they make up all new rules when it comes to her. It’s like we are in some kind of fascist state.” Sara Jane Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group best known for kidnapping the newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. Olson was arrested in 1999 after living underground for twenty-five years. She is now scheduled to be released next year.
And the legendary Cuban composer and bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez has died at the age of eighty-nine. Cachao transformed the rhythm of Cuban music in the 1930s and is credited with inventing the mambo.