Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Russian military to cease its operations in Georgia following five days of fighting. Medvedev made the announcement after French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to Moscow in an attempt to secure a ceasefire. Russia says over 2,000 people have died since fighting first broke out in South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has displaced 100,000 people. On Monday, Russia opened a second front in the war by taking the Georgian city of Gori, about sixty miles west of the capital Tbilisi. The BBC reported several people died in Gori when Russian warplanes bombed a hospital. A Dutch TV cameraman was also killed in the Georgian city. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Georgia of starting the conflict by invading South Ossetia.
Dmitry Medvedev: “I’ve already said that in accordance with the United Nations code, we are trying to force Georgia, which started the aggression, to peace. We find this tactic very effective and the only possible one. I want to remind you that history has seen many examples of pacification by the aggressor in this way. Western countries did it seventy years ago, and you know the tragic consequences of it, I mean the lessons of the Munich Agreement of 1938.”
On Monday, the US-backed Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia was trying to annihilate Georgia.
Mikheil Saakashvili: “We are in the process of invasion, occupation and annihilation of an independent democratic country. We are in the process of the destruction of world order as it was established after the end of the Cold War. And it is so obvious that the world has to react. There is no way Georgian people would ever live with occupation and annexation.”
The international community has been split on how to respond to the Russian-Georgian conflict. The United Nations failed to reach an agreement to call for a ceasefire, but President Bush accused Russia of acting with brutality.
President Bush: “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the twenty-first century.”
The Bush administration has proposed rolling back protections for the nation’s wildlife by rewriting the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule change would allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects. This would eliminate the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades. The draft rules also would bar federal agencies from assessing the greenhouse gas emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats. The Bush administration publicly announced the proposed regulatory changes on Monday, only after the National Wildlife Federation posted leaked documents outlining the administration’s plan. John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation described the proposed change as a “full blown attack on America’s premier conservation law.”
A new report by the Congressional Budget Office estimates the US will have spent $100 billion by the end of the year on private contractors in Iraq since the invasion in 2003. The Pentagon’s reliance on outside contractors in Iraq is proportionately far larger than in any previous conflict. The Washington Post reports contractors in Iraq now employ at least 180,000 people in the country, forming what amounts to a second private army, larger than the United States military force.
In campaign news, Republican John McCain is preparing to hold a fundraiser next week with Ralph Reed, a close associate of the jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In 2006, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which was chaired by McCain, found that Reed admitted receiving $4 million from Abramoff and one of his partners to run anti-gambling campaigns in the South. Reed is also the founder of the Christian Coalition.
The website The Colorado Independent is reporting the Colorado National Guard is looking to set up a twenty-four-hour camp in a central region of Denver during the Democratic National Convention. The National Guard has already rented more than 500 hotel rooms in Denver and is commandeering a private campus on the outskirts of Denver during the convention.
In Kashmir, a prominent separatist leader has been shot dead by Indian security forces as demonstrations intensify in the region. Indian security forces have shot dead at least seven Muslim protesters in recent days. On Monday, as many as 250,000 people took part in a protest march. The BBC reports the demonstrations are some the biggest since a separatist rebellion against Indian rule broke out nearly twenty years ago. The government has imposed a curfew on the city of Srinagar for the first time in over a decade.
Two boats carrying humanitarian activists are scheduled to leave Cyprus today and are heading to the Gaza Strip in a bid to break Israel’s blockade and raise awareness for Palestinian human rights. Members of the Free Gaza Movement include three European parliamentarians and Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Lauren Booth: “What is going on there is so far beyond what the general public around the world is allowed to see. You can not not react with compassion and pity for what the individuals of Gaza is going through. I want to reach there. All of us desperately hope that there will be humanitarian aid increase and a port opened for these people to be able to go in and out of this giant, open-air prison.”
The FBI has admitted it illegally obtained the phone records of reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post in 2004. FBI Director Robert Mueller has told the papers that the FBI obtained the records for four reporters in the papers’ Indonesian bureaus apparently as part of a terrorism investigation.
Thirteen peace activists were arrested Sunday in Wisconsin after they walked onto the grounds of the Ft. McCoy National Guard base calling for an end to the war in and occupation of Iraq. Fort McCoy is one of the largest Guard bases in the country and a central training and deployment hub for troops heading to Iraq. All of the protesters were released on Sunday, except for Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kelly was still being held as of last night. The action at Ft. McCoy was part of the Witness Against War campaign, a 450-mile walk from Chicago to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul to end the US occupation of Iraq.
And the longtime foreign correspondent John Cooley has died. He covered the Middle East for more than fifty years, mostly at the Christian Science Monitor. He was the author of eight books, including Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism.