The White House said Monday President Obama has no plans to walk away from the war in Afghanistan, which began eight years ago this week. Obama is expected to decide soon whether to send tens of thousands of more troops as requested by US commander General Stanley McChrystal.
During Monday’s White House press briefing, reporter Helen Thomas questioned Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President’s plans.
Helen Thomas: “Is pulling out of Afghanistan part of the assessment?”
Robert Gibbs: “No. In fact, the President was — the President was exceedingly clear that no part of the conversation on — no part of the conversation involved was leaving Afghanistan. That’s not something that has ever been entertained, despite the fact that people still get asked what happens if we leave Afghanistan. That’s not a decision that’s on the table to make.”
Thomas: “What does he think will happen?”
Gibbs: “What does he think will happen?”
Thomas: “If we leave?”
Gibbs: “I don’t think we have the option to leave. I think that’s — that’s quite clear.”
Outside the White House, sixty-one people were arrested Monday in a protest to mark the anniversary of the Afghan war. Protesters included longtime peace activist Elizabeth McAlister of Jonah House.
Elizabeth McAlister: “The powers of death and destruction reign, or so it seems, but they are undone. So, dear friends, let us not be awed by the mayhem with which the powers of this world will bamboozle us. Let us embrace intransigent resistance. Let us imagine a new world is possible. And then let us live as if that new world were indeed among us, and so live it into being.”
On Capitol Hill, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation to prohibit funding for another surge in Afghanistan. The bill has twenty-one co-sponsors.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is coming under intense criticism for supporting the postponement of a United Nations vote which could have led to the prosecution of Israel for war crimes during its assault on Gaza. On Monday, a senior member of Hamas called for Abbas’s resignation. Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al Jazeera that Abbas was guilty of “a very big crime against the Palestinian people” for supporting to defer endorsing the Goldstone report. Thirty-two Palestinian groups in Europe also called on Abbas to immediately step down from office. Al Jazeera reports the upcoming Fatah-Hamas talks in Egypt may also be in jeopardy.
The Honduran coup government has lifted an emergency decree imposed after the country’s ousted President Manuel Zelaya returned to the country. The decree suspended some civil liberties and also shut down two radio stations loyal to Zelaya. Opponents of the coup praised the decision to lift the emergency decree.
Rafael Alegria, leader of the National Front for Resistance Against the Coup: “It’s a triumph for the people, for the resistance. This decree was rejected by businessmen and politicians. The resistance rejected it from the beginning, and so we consider this a triumph.”
Honduras’s democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya remains holed up inside the Brazilian embassy. On Monday, Zelaya said he would consider negotiations with de facto president Roberto Micheletti, but only if certain conditions are met.
Manuel Zelaya: “We are willing to sit down at the negotiating table when we arrive at an agreement over what is not negotiable, which is the restoration of democracy and the restoration of the position of president. Once this agreement has been reached, we can discuss how to implement it. Prior to this, it would be a waste of time, another deception of the foreign ministers.”
In news from Pakistan, Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for Monday’s deadly suicide bombing in Islamabad that killed five workers of the World Food Program. The Taliban said it carried out the bombing to avenge the August 5 slaying of their leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a US drone attack.
In other news from Pakistan, the New York Times reports the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies are concerned that the private US military contractor DynCorp is being used by Washington to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan. The full extent of DynCorp’s role in Pakistan remains unclear, but part of its mission is to provide protection for American diplomats. Last month Pakistani police raided the offices of one DynCorp subcontractor. The entire workings of DynCorp within Pakistan are now under review by the Pakistani government. The criticism over DynCorp comes as the Obama administration prepares to expand US influence in Pakistan. Last week Congress approved sending $7.5 billion in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan over the next five years. The United States is also planning for a vast new embassy in Islamabad for about 1,000 people.
Police in Uganda have arrested one of the most wanted suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda’s former intelligence chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana is accused of organizing the killing of thousands of ethnic Tutsis, including the revered former queen.
In Bangkok, some 3,000 protesters demonstrated on Monday, calling on world leaders to take immediate and tougher action to fight global warming. Bangkok is hosting the last major negotiating round before the UN’s climate summit in Copenhagen in December. Protesters called on the United States and other developed nations to make steep cuts in emissions.
Jacques-chai Chomthongdi, Focus on the Global South: “The most important thing is that developed countries need to quickly cut emissions by 2020, by at least 40 percent of the level that they negotiated. If they don’t cut that down, everyone will be impacted. We need rich countries to cut emissions, and poor countries need a proper plan to encourage their people to adjust to live with that.”
The computer giant Apple has announced it is pulling out of the Chamber of Commerce because of the organization’s strident criticism of plans to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions. In a letter to the Chamber’s president, Apple Vice President Catherine Novelli wrote, “Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort.” Three other companies, Pacific Gas and Electric, PNM Resources and Exelon, also recently pulled out of the Chamber over its climate policy. In addition, Nike resigned from its position on the Chamber’s board, but not its membership.
In other climate news, President Obama has ordered federal agencies to set a goal within ninety days for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
The nation’s leading gay rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, has announced President Barack Obama will address the group this weekend at a fundraising dinner gala. Obama has been criticized by many gay rights groups for being slow to implement his campaign pledge to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many gay rights advocates also expressed dismay when the Obama Justice Department defended the Defense of Marriage Act.
In Ohio, four executions have now been postponed as the state revises its lethal injection procedures. The review began after a failed execution on September 15, when the state attempted to kill Romell Broom. Broom’s execution was put off after technicians spent over two hours trying to maintain an intravenous connection in order to inject him with lethal drugs.
In other death penalty news, two men in Oklahoma have been released from prison after spending fifteen years on death row. A federal judge had dismissed the men’s convictions in 2006, after it was revealed that the prosecutors made a secret deal with a key witness.
In southern India massive flooding has killed 250 people and left 2.5 million homeless. Over 1,200 temporary camps have been set up to shelter the displaced.
Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada is facing a preliminary ethics investigation into whether he broke any rules while trying to cover up an affair with a former campaign staffer. Ensign pushed to get the husband of his mistress a job and paid off the family.
And Peg Mullen has died at the age of ninety-two. In the 1970s she became a nationally recognized antiwar crusader after she launched a quest for the truth about her son’s death in Vietnam. Michael Mullen’s death was the subject of the 1970s bestseller and TV movie Friendly Fire. After her son’s death, the Mullens took out half-page advertisements in the Des Moines Register with 700 crosses for each of the Iowans who had been killed in Vietnam at that time.