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President Obama has publicly acknowledged for the first time he supports the indefinite jailing of some prisoners without trial. Obama made the admission during a speech at the National Archives Thursday defending his plan to close Guantanamo.
President Obama: “Let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: we are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.”
Obama also went on to repudiate several Bush administration counterterrorism policies and criticize the media and his own party for failing to oppose them.
President Obama: “But I also believe that, too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight, that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.”
Just minutes after Obama spoke, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute defending Bush administration policies. Cheney said Obama is endangering the United States.
Vice President Dick Cheney: “The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half-exposed.”
The Senate has approved a $91 billion measure funding the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure passed by a vote of 86-to-3.
A former US soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2006 rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the killing of her family. Steven Green was found guilty earlier this month of being the ringleader in raping and killing fourteen-year-old Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi and killing her parents and five-year-old sister. Green was given the life term after jurors couldn’t come to unanimous agreement on sentencing him to death. Three other soldiers have also been sentenced to life in prison in the case.
In Pakistan, the UN is appealing for more than $500 million in aid to help the hundreds of thousands displaced by clashes between government troops and Taliban fighters. Some two million people have fled their homes in the Swat Valley following last month’s collapse of a government-Taliban truce. UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said the displacements have caused “incredible suffering.”
Meanwhile, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has admitted the escalation of the US occupation of Afghanistan could end up worsening Pakistan’s internal unrest. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mullen said, “We may end up further destabilizing Pakistan without providing substantial lasting improvements in Afghanistan.” He continued, “Can I…[be] 100 percent certain that won’t destabilize Pakistan? I don’t know the answer to that.”
The hearing was briefly interrupted by four antiwar activists protesting the occupation of Afghanistan. The protesters threw money stained with blood and shouted, “Stop pouring blood money into warfare.” One demonstrator stood up to repeat the words of committee chair, Senator John Kerry, when he testified as an antiwar veteran during the Vietnam War: “How do you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die for a mistake?” The activists are members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.
President Obama is expected to sign a bill today imposing new regulations on the credit card industry. The final measure excludes stronger proposals that would have capped interest rates and fees. The bill has drawn criticism from gun control advocates over an amendment that would allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks.
In other news from Washington, fifteen people were arrested Thursday protesting Democratic Congressmember Rick Boucher over his support for the coal industry. The activists say Boucher has led efforts to weaken the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill while inserting billions of dollars in incentives for coal companies.
In Spain, charges have been reinstated against three US soldiers in the killing of the Jose Couso. A Spanish journalist, Couso died when US troops shelled Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel in April 2003. Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk also died in the attack. On Thursday, a Spanish judge revived the case against Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp over what he called new evidence. Initial charges were dropped after Spain’s National Court dismissed the case. Jose Couso’s brother, Javier Couso, welcomed the reinstatement.
Javier Couso: “The success of what’s happening today is thanks to a joint effort, not only of the justice system, but of the civil testament in our country. This case was very important here. Jose gave a face to the victims in the Iraq war. It made many very indignant, and we all saw it. It was an attack against the press.”
The judge, Santiago Pedraz, says the new evidence includes eyewitness testimony contradicting US claims the tank that attacked the Palestine Hotel came under fire. One year ago, former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! she saw the Palestine Hotel on a military target list and said she frequently intercepted calls from journalists staying there.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is calling for a new phase in relations with the United States. The Bush administration funneled tens of millions of dollars to Morales’s opponents in an effort to destabilize his government. Bolivia expelled the US ambassador last year over allegations of conspiring with opposition groups. On Thursday, Morales held talks with Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “On the issue of cooperation, whatever cooperation that is undertaken must be from state to state. On the issue of investment, the investment must be orientated toward having partners, and the investment must not just be made to guarantee the plunder of groups without any benefit for the people of Bolivia.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared Israel will never cede control over all of Jerusalem. Palestinians have called for sovereignty over East Jerusalem as part of any future peace deal. But on Thursday, Netanyahu said Jerusalem will remain undivided.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “A united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was and will always be ours. It shall never be divided and split again.”
Netanyahu’s comments come just three days after his White House meeting with President Obama where he pledged to seek peace with Palestinians.
Back in the United States, the Washington Post is reporting the Obama administration plans to steer General Motors into bankruptcy as early as next week. The move would enable GM to take out nearly $30 billion in additional government loans. Meanwhile, the government has increased the bailout of GM’s financing arm, GMAC, with an additional $7.5 billion in taxpayer money on top of the $5 billion it’s already poured in.
Federal regulators have shut down the Florida-based savings bank BankUnited FSB. The bank was the largest banking institution headquartered in Florida and the thirty-fourth federally insured financial institution shut down this year.
And the bailed-out insurance giant AIG has announced Edward Liddy will resign as chair and CEO. Liddy has led AIG since the US government bailed it out last September with what’s grown to a $180 billion commitment.
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