In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has reiterated that it wants US combat forces to complete their withdrawal by the end of 2010. The Iraqi plan is similar to the one advocated by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who met with Iraqi leaders and military commanders on Monday. Obama is traveling around Iraq as part of a congressional delegation that includes Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Democrat Jack Reed. While political analysts say Iraq’s announcement will help Obama in November, on the streets of Baghdad some Iraqi residents questioned how much US policy toward Iraq would actually change under Obama.
Abu Ali, Iraqi citizen: “The new president who will replace President Bush is not going to change his policy in Iraq. His policy will remain the same regarding the occupation, and Iraq will see no change. I do not think that he is going to change anything, because the US policy is clear to everyone.”
While Obama visited Iraq, his Republican rival John McCain defended his own Iraq policy. During an interview on The Today Show, McCain dismissed Maliki’s request for a troop withdrawal. McCain said he knows what Iraqis want.
Meredith Vieira: “If the Iraqi government were to say, if you were president, 'We want a timetable for troops being removed,' would you agree to that?”
Sen. John McCain: “I’ve been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him. And I know what they want. They want it based on conditions. And of course they’d like to have us out. That’s what happens when you win wars.”
Attorney General Michael Mukasey has called on Congress to reaffirm the right of the President to indefinitely detain so-called enemy combatants by declaring an official war against al-Qaeda. Mukasey’s request came just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled prisoners at Guantanamo can challenge their imprisonment in US courts. The Center For Constitutional Rights accused Mukasey of trying to sidestep the court ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union said Mukasey’s proposal would subvert the right of habeas corpus and represent an enormous executive branch power grab. Caroline Fredrickson of the ACLU said, “Mukasey is asking Congress to expand and extend the war on terror forever. Anyone that this president or the next one declares to be a terrorist could then be held indefinitely without a trial.”
The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been captured in Serbia after a decade-long manhunt. In 1997, Karadzic was indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the war in Bosnia. He was accused of organizing the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. Nerma Jelacic, a spokesperson of the UN war crimes tribunal, praised the arrest of Karadzic.
Nerma Jelacic: “He is charged with genocide, complicity to commit genocide, murder, extermination, cruel treatment, torture, etc. It’s a huge array of crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina solely between March and December 1992, when Bosnian’s Serb Republic was declared and Radovan Karadzic was its president, but also for the crimes that were committed in the country from ’92 until November 1995, including the genocide in Srebrenica.”
Many Bosnian Serbs still see Karadzic as a hero and expressed bitterness over his arrest.
Voja, Serbian resident: “If he is guilty, he has to be arrested, but he is less guilty than others, but they are not arrested. Only Serbs are being arrested.”
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have signed a deal laying down the framework for formal talks on forming a power-sharing government to end a deep political crisis. On Monday, the two rivals held their first meeting with each other in ten years. South African President Thabo Mbeki mediated the deal. After the signing, Tsvangirai spoke at a news conference.
Morgan Tsvangirai: “As we sign this memorandum of understanding, we all commit ourselves to the first tentative step towards searching for a solution to the country that is in a crisis.”
The first US war crimes military commission trial since World War II opened on Monday at Guantanamo. Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, pleaded not guilty. The military judge made a series of rulings against the prosecution. He ruled prosecutors cannot use information collected during a series of interrogations in Afghanistan because of the “highly coercive environments and conditions under which they were made.” The judge said Hamdan had been kept in isolation twenty-four hours a day with his hands and feet restrained. Armed soldiers prompted him to talk by kneeing him in the back. The judge also said he would throw out statements whenever a government witness is unavailable to vouch for the questioners’ tactics. More details have also emerged about Hamdan’s mental state. A psychiatrist has diagnosed Hamdan with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. When the psychiatrist asked why he did not seek mental health treatment, Hamdan said that he did not trust any providers of medical services at Guantanamo, as he felt they had colluded with guards and interrogators.
A new congressional report has determined Vice President Cheney’s office and the oil industry blocked efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to rule that greenhouse gases should be regulated under clear air laws. The report says that there was wide senior-level support at the EPA for concluding that greenhouse gases are a danger to the public and that the EPA should regulate emissions. But the EPA ignored its own senior-level staff after concerns were raised by Cheney’s energy adviser, F. Chase Hutto, along with unidentified individuals from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute.
In other environmental news, police in Tennessee arrested four activists Sunday at a protest against mountaintop removal mining on Zeb Mountain in eastern Tennessee. The activists were arrested after they crossed onto the property of the National Coal Corporation. Environmental groups say National Coal has already destroyed more than 1,300 acres of Zeb Mountain. Eric Blevins of Oak Ridge, Tennessee was one of the activists arrested. He said, “I crossed an artificial line today, because Appalachia is my homeland, and its life is being destroyed far faster than it can regenerate.”
In North Carolina, a group of environmental organizations have sued Duke Energy in an effort to block the company from building a new coal-fired power plant.
Israel is continuing to come under criticism following the release of a video showing an Israel soldier shooting a Palestinian prisoner in handcuffs. The video was released to the news media by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. On Monday, the Palestinian man who was shot, Ashraf Abu Rahmeh, described what happened.
Ashraf Abu Rahmeh: “They handcuffed me and placed me under the sun for about three hours. Then they picked me up, walked me for a little bit and shot at me. I found myself on the ground. They told me, 'We are going to fire a rubber bullet at you,' and I did not imagine that this is how they were going to act: to open fire at me while I am handcuffed.”
Rahmeh was detained while protesting against Israel’s construction of a wall through the West Bank. Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahmeh called on the World Court to investigate the shooting.
Abdallah Abu Rahmeh: “This policy should be condemned internationally through human rights organizations, and they should be punished via an international court and not an Israeli court. At the end of the day, they will be released. The officer, after a month or two or a short period, he is in prison in front of the media but not in reality.”
In Louisiana, the American Civil Liberties Union is urging the District Attorney of Winn Parish to investigate the tasing death of a twenty-one-year-old African American man in the town of Winnfield. Baron Pikes died on January 17 from electrocution after a white police officer shot him nine times with a taser. At the time, Pikes was already in handcuffs. Last month, Pikes’ death was ruled a homicide.
India’s parliament is holding a vote today that could bring down the government and end a controversial nuclear energy deal with the United States. The nuclear deal has been strongly opposed by leftist politicians and Hindu nationalists. Indian broadcasters are reporting that it appears the government will manage to gain just enough votes to stay in power.
And Lina Newhouser has died at the age of fifty-six, after a three-year struggle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Newhouser was the co-founder of the popular progressive news website CommonDreams.org.
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