At least 35 people have been killed and 28 wounded in escalating bombings in Iraq. The assault followed several other deadly attacks in recent days. On Sunday and Monday, militants targeted Iraqi police and military at 11 locations throughout the country, killing at least eight people and wounding 20 others. June was the deadliest month for Iraqis this year with 271 people killed in attacks. It was also the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the region in three years, with 14 service members killed in hostile attacks.
In Iraq, the Obama administration is reportedly offering to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq despite vows to bring U.S. forces home by the end of the year. According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials say options have been worked out to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 troops in Iraq through 2012 to train Iraqi security forces. The sustained troop presence depends on a formal request from the Iraqi government. Last week, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, who has been nominated to command U.S. special operations, said a contingent of commando forces should remain in Iraq.
Britain has acknowledged a British drone killed four Afghan civilians in March of this year. The deaths occurred when a U.K. Reaper drone piloted from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada bombed a truck in Helmand province as it tried to target a militant commander. In other Afghan war news, four NATO troops were killed in two separate attacks in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday. At least 280 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year.
A British navy medic has been sentenced to seven months in military jail for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan over moral objections influenced by WikiLeaks’ release of secret government cables. Michael Lyons applied for conscientious objector status after WikiLeaks exposed the cover-up of civilian casualties in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Lyons said his conscientious objection to deployment was strengthened after an officer told him he would not be allowed to treat ailing Afghan civilians, which the officer called “a waste of resources.”
At least 14 people have been killed and more than 40 wounded in the central Syrian city of Hama as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad continues a crackdown on opposition protesters. Hama residents say they had protested Assad for the last month without government interference until state forces opened fire during street clashes on Tuesday. The violence comes as the Assad government has invited Syria’s top opposition figures to attend a national dialogue meeting in Damascus this weekend.
A French boat carrying eight people as part of the Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip has left Greek waters, defying a ban imposed by Greece under heavy pressure from Israel and the United States. The small vessel is the first to elude Greek authorities after two Gaza-bound ships were stopped since Friday.
On Tuesday, John Klusmire, the captain of the U.S.-flagged ship, “The Audacity of Hope,” was released from jail following his arrest for setting sail despite the Greek ban. U.S. Boat to Gaza organizer, Jane Hirschmann, said the flotilla’s efforts to reach Gaza will continue.
Jane Hirschmann: “We will be sailing to Gaza. They will not stop us. Our captain has said what he’s really concerned about is not his case but the fact that he wants ships to go to Gaza, and he wants to communicate that to the world.”
President Obama has called congressional leaders to the White House in an attempt to break the stalemate over a proposed increase the nation’s debt ceiling. Obama’s said he is confident a deal can be reached.
President Obama: “I’ve asked leaders of both parties and both houses of Congress to come here to the White House on Thursday so we can build on the work that’s already been done and drive towards a final agreement. It’s my hope that everybody is going to leave their ultimatums at the door, that we’ll all leave our political rhetoric at the door, and that we’re going to do what’s best for our economy and do what’s best for our people.”
The oil giant Exxon Mobil has acknowledged it is yet to develop a repair plan for a ruptured oil pipeline beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River. The Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company says as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil has leaked into the water and onto surrounding lands. On Tuesday, Democracy Now! spoke to area resident and farmer Alexis Bonogofsky about the spill.
Alexis Bonogofsky: “The place where there’s oil on our property is a really diverse area with lots of diverse plant species and wildlife. And usually when you go down there in the evening, that’s all you can hear is amphibians. And, you know, it’s frogs, it’s toads, a lot of insects, crickets and birds. And right now you walk down there at dusk, and you don’t hear anything.”
The Obama administration has reversed a longstanding U.S. policy to deny presidential condolence letters to families of soldiers who have committed suicide. Democracy Now! broke this story in 2009 when we interviewed the parents of Chancellor Keesling, a U.S. soldier who took his own life during his second tour of duty in Iraq. During his first deployment, Chancellor suffered mental health issues so severe he was placed on suicide watch. After getting back to the United States, Chancellor turned down a bonus offer to return to Iraq in the hopes that he would not be redeployed and could get his life together. He committed suicide one month after the military forced him to return.