A United Nations fact-finding mission has found Israel committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians during the attack on Gaza earlier this year. More than 1,400 Palestinians, over half of them civilians, were killed in the US-backed Israeli assault. The head of the inquiry, Judge Richard Goldstone, said his investigation focused on deliberate attacks ordered by Israeli commanders.
Judge Richard Goldstone: “The thirty-six incidents that we investigated, by and large, and to the greatest extent possible, do not relate to, as I say, 'second guessing' commanders or soldiers who were in the heat of battle. What we’re talking about is a much broader aspect of the deliberate policies that were adopted and the military actions that were taken, not in urgency, not in urgent situations.”
The Israeli attacks included the shooting of Palestinian civilians holding white flags, the deliberate bombing of UN shelters, and the killing of over 300 children. The report accuses Palestinian militants of also violating the Geneva Conventions with rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Thirteen Israelis died during the Gaza attack, four by “friendly fire.” The report advises the UN Security Council to call on both sides to probe the allegations or face investigation by the International Criminal Court.
The nation’s top military officer told Congress Tuesday the US will likely need more troops in Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comments in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Admiral Mike Mullen: “Now I do not know exactly what additional resources General McChrystal may ask for, and I do not know what ratio of training to combat units he really needs. We’ll get to all of that in the coming weeks. But I do believe that, having heard his views and having great confidence in his leadership, a properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces and, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance.”
The Obama administration is opposing habeas corpus rights for prisoners at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. In a legal brief filed this week, the Justice Department says the estimated 600 Bagram prisoners don’t have the right to challenge their jailing in US courts. The brief came as part of the administration’s appeal of a court ruling that granted habeas corpus to three Bagram prisoners because they were seized outside Afghanistan. The move comes just as the White House began touting new guidelines it says will improve legal rights at Bagram. It also contradicts President Obama’s previous stance on habeas corpus when he was running for president. On the campaign trail just over a year ago, Obama praised the August 2008 Supreme Court ruling that Guantanamo Bay prisoners can challenge their detentions in US courts. At the time, the Obama campaign said, “The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo…This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.” Commenting on President Obama’s reversal, ACLU attorney Melissa Goodman said, “Since the Supreme Court declared that prisoners in Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus, it would appear that the government is attempting to use Bagram, instead, as the new off-shore warehouse for indefinite detention.”
The Obama administration, meanwhile, is seeking to renew three controversial domestic spying methods under the USA PATRIOT Act before they expire at year’s end. On Tuesday, the Justice Department asked Congress to extend government powers to collect financial records and monitor suspects with roving wiretaps. The Justice Department says it would consider adding new privacy protections, but only if they don’t “undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities.”
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush spoke out Tuesday after his release from prison. At a news conference, Muntadhar al-Zaidi said he was tortured during his nine-month jail term.
Muntadhar al-Zaidi: “What provoked me to a confrontation was the injustice that has befallen my people and the way in which the occupation wanted to humiliate my country by placing it and its people — the elderly, women, children and men — under its boots. At the time, the Iraqi prime minister appeared on satellite channels saying he would not sleep until he was assured of Bush’s safety. As the prime minister was speaking, I was being tortured in the most cruel manner, being electrocuted, beaten with cables, beaten with metal rods.”
In Honduras, opposing sides of the coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya took to the streets Tuesday as Hondurans marked their national independence day. Speaking to supporters, the head of the coup government, Roberto Micheletti, said only a foreign invasion could bring Zelaya’s return to Honduras. Meanwhile, thousands of Zelaya supporters held a rally for the restoration of democratic government.
Protester: “We want the return of democracy in Honduras and want the President to return to our country. He was taken out by force, and we Hondurans elected him, and it’s not fair what [Micheletti] has done, taking him out by force.”
In Canada, activists with the environmental group Greenpeace have shut down production at a large oil sands mine in northern Alberta. On Tuesday, the activists locked themselves to a massive dump truck and mining shovel, forcing owners to suspend operations. The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has majority ownership in the mine, while Chevron holds a minor stake. Greenpeace says it took action to protest what it calls “the climate crimes of tar sands development — rising energy intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, and boreal forest destruction.” Tar sand oil extraction is said to generate up to five times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil.
In other environmental news, US and European negotiators have reportedly split over proposals to regulate pollution ahead of the upcoming global climate summit in Copenhagen. The Guardian of London reports the division centers around how to count national carbon reduction targets. The US is reportedly seeking to drop structures established under the Kyoto Protocol that regulate how greenhouse reductions are calculated and how carbon credits are sold. The apparent US proposal would instead let individual countries unilaterally decide how to meet their emissions targets.
The Obama administration has formally proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars sold in the United States. Automakers would be required to improve fuel economy at an annual rate of five percent until reaching 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016. Obama announced the proposal at a General Motors plant in Ohio.
President Obama: “For too long, our auto industries faced uncertain and conflicting fuel economy standards, and that made it difficult for you to plan down the road. And that’s why today we are launching, for the first time in history, a new national standard aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all cars and trucks sold in America. Creates an even playing field. It’s an action that is long overdue. It will give our auto companies clarity and stability and predictability.”
If approved, the new fuel standards would mark the first time the US has imposed limits on greenhouse gas pollution.
Later in the day, President Obama addressed the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, where he touted his support for a public healthcare option. After Obama spoke, AFL-CIO delegates voted unanimously to endorse a proposal to advocate a single-payer, universal healthcare system. The vote marked the first time in two decades the AFL-CIO has formally committed to supporting single payer.
On Capitol Hill, new divisions have opened up over the healthcare bill overseen by Democratic Senator Max Baucus. Baucus is one of the leading congressional recipients of campaign donations from the private healthcare industry. On Tuesday, Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia said there is “no way” he would vote for the bill, because it excludes a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers. Meanwhile, in the House, Congress member Charles Rangel of New York criticized the Baucus measure for cutting subsidies aimed to help low-income Americans obtain coverage.
In other news from Washington, the Democratic-led House has voted to rebuke Republican Congress member Joe Wilson for his outburst during President Obama’s healthcare speech last week. Wilson shouted “you lie!” after Obama said his healthcare plan doesn’t cover undocumented immigrants. The measure passed mostly along party lines. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer rejected Republican criticism.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: “What is at issue here is of importance to this House and to our country. And that issue is whether we are able to proceed with a degree of civility and decorum that our rules and our democracy contemplate and require.”
Former President Jimmy Carter has also weighed in on the Wilson controversy and the recent right-wing protests against President Obama. Speaking to NBC News, Carter said the recent attacks on Obama are rooted in racism.
Jimmy Carter: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American. I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shared the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. That racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”