A Pentagon probe has found US forces committed serious errors in the deadly bombings of two Afghan villages last month. According to the New York Times, the investigation found at least half the bombings wouldn’t have occurred had US forces followed operational rules. It’s the latest acknowledgment of wrongdoing after the Pentagon’s initial effort to blame the Taliban for the casualties. The death toll remains disputed, with the Afghan government claiming 140 civilians were killed and the US claiming a lower figure of thirty civilians dead.
In Kansas, an anti-abortion activist has been charged with the murder of the abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was shot Sunday as he attended services at his Wichita church. District Attorney Nola Foulston said the suspect, Scott Roeder, won’t face the death penalty.
Nola Foulston: “This is not a death penalty case. The State of Kansas requires a number of predicate factors and special circumstances, and under the facts and circumstances that are known at this time the election has been to go with a first-degree murder.”
A clinic in nearby Kansas City, meanwhile, says it reported Roeder to federal authorities after a man matching his description vandalized it twice last month. The Central Family Medicine Clinic said the man glued the clinic’s locks shut on May 23rd and again on Saturday, the day before Tiller’s killing. The clinic’s office manager says he filed a report with the FBI after both incidents and provided it with Roeder’s license number after the Saturday vandalism.
A Guantanamo Bay prisoner has died of what the Pentagon is calling an “apparent suicide.” The prisoner, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, was thirty-one years old. A Yemeni national, he had been held at Guantanamo without charge since 2002. He had previously taken part in a long-running hunger strike that had left him weighing as little as around eighty-six pounds. It’s the fourth apparent suicide by a Guantanamo prisoner.
The Washington Post is reporting former Vice President Dick Cheney personally oversaw at least four briefings with senior lawmakers on the Bush administration’s torture program in 2005. The CIA has previously failed to disclose Cheney’s role in the meetings, saying information on who oversaw them was unavailable. The briefings came as part of the Bush administration’s aggressive effort to convince Congress members to back the torture techniques used on foreign prisoners. In an interview, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “[Cheney’s] office was ground zero. It was his office you dealt with at the end of the day.”
The US government has mistakenly published a confidential report detailing hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including the location of fuel stockpiles used for nuclear weapons. A bulk of the information was previously publicly known, but experts still call the publication a major security lapse.
President Obama is in Saudi Arabia today at the start of a Middle East tour. Obama will meet with Saudi King Abdullah before going on to Egypt for a much-anticipated speech in Cairo on Thursday. Ahead of his departure, Obama played down expectations for the trip.
President Obama: “I think it’s very important to understand that one speech is not going to solve all the problems of the Middle East. And so, I think expectations should be somewhat modest. What I want to do is to create a better dialog so that the Muslim world understands more effectively how the United States, but also how the West, thinks about many of these difficult issues, like terrorism, like democracy, to discuss the framework for what’s happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and our outreach to Iran and also how we view the prospects for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Obama will reportedly ask King Abdullah to push for further overtures toward normalizing relations with Israel. The Saudi government spearheaded the 2002 Arab League peace initiative that offers Israel full peace in return for its complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the creation of a Palestinian state there. Meanwhile, Obama has said he will limit criticism of the Saudi and Egyptian governments’ human rights records, calling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a “force for stability and good” in the Middle East.
The Israeli government, meanwhile, is scrambling to deflect Obama’s demand for a freeze to all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. The Independent of London reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to justify continued Israeli settlement construction by citing secret agreements between prior Israeli governments and the Bush administration. The Israeli government says it agreed to the 2003 US-backed Road Map that called for a settlement freeze only on condition that it be allowed to violate the plan’s ban on expanding existing settlements.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is accusing the CIA of involvement in an alleged attempt on his life. Chavez canceled a planned trip to El Salvador this week to attend Monday’s inauguration of the new president Mauricio Funes. On Tuesday, Chavez said he had abandoned the trip after learning of an assassination attempt planned by the CIA and the Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “Yes, I am accusing Luis Posada Carriles. President Obama, I demand justice, that the full extent of the law be applied. Send us, President Obama, that terrorist, because here, we are preparing to send him to where he belongs: in prison. He is a murderer, a war criminal, and it was him that put the bomb on another plane of Cubana Air.”
Posada is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for a 1976 airliner bombing that killed seventy-three people, but the US has refused calls for his extradition.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor has begun meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of her confirmation hearings expected next month. The meetings followed days of attacks from Republicans, who have cited a 2001 speech in which she asserted that, as a Latina woman, she would offer wiser judgments than a white male judge in some cases. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the meetings “productive.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “Let’s take a couple of points. I think, first of all, obviously, we believe that she will get a fair shake and a fair set of hearings. I think the meetings that she’s had thus far have been productive.”
Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy says he’ll push for a vote to begin Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings next month.
President Obama has signed legislation establishing a commission to mark the centennial of the birth of the late President Ronald Reagan. Obama signed the measure at a White House ceremony with Reagan’s widow, Nancy Reagan.
President Obama: “President Reagan helped as much as any president to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics, that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day.”
Many human rights groups say it was the Reagan administration that was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Central America through its support for right-wing governments and death squads battling popular movements.
The Obama administration is facing continued opposition from Latin American countries over its isolation of Cuba. On Tuesday, several leaders gathered in Honduras for the annual summit of the Organization of American States and called on the body to reverse its 1962 decision to expel the Cuban government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would consider supporting granting Cuba a path to membership if it carried out several reforms. But several countries say Cuba should be readmitted without preconditions. Cuba has said it wouldn’t accept reentry even if it’s offered, because it no longer considers the OAS a viable grouping.
And here in New York, a wake was held Tuesday for an off-duty African American police officer killed last week by a white officer who mistook him for a criminal. The slain officer, twenty-five-year-old Omar Edwards, had come across a man breaking into his vehicle. He chased the man with his gun drawn, when three police officers came upon him and one of them opened fire. Edwards was recently married and the father of two children. Democratic Congress member Charles Rangel of New York says he wants the Justice Department to probe Edwards’ killing.