President Obama announces U.S. troops in Iraq will be home by the holidays, Herman Cain declares homosexuality is a choice, Qaddafi dies, last moments captured in a riveting & revolting video, Europe struggles to staunch economic bleeding while American cities seek bankruptcy relief.
President Barack Obama announced Friday that he was ordering all American soldiers currently stationed in Iraq to return to the U.S by the Christmas holidays. The Iraq War has been fought for nearly 9 years, the second longest war in American history that resulted in 4,400 U.S. deaths and 103,000 to 112,000 civilian fatalities, according to Iraq Body Count. Obama’s decision, which he called a “promise kept” was made much easier to deliver as the Iraqi government refused to extend immunity to American soldiers, a non-starter for the Administration. A contingent of military trainers could be in the offing, however.
Qaddafi Captured Alive, Likely Executed by Libyan Rebels in the Sands of Surt
Reports that Muammar Qaddafi had been shot and was injured began breaking around 8:15 a.m. EST on Thursday morning. During the next 20 minutes, media reports indicated that Qaddafi had been captured and was perhaps mortally wounded. A photo taken via a mobile phone began moving on the wires, depicting a ghostly looking and bloodied Qaddafi, surrounded by raucous Libyan rebels. By 9 a.m. Reuters and BBC were reporting Qaddafi was dead. The Qadaffi “dead’ video was initially broadcast by Al-Jazzera, to the consternation of some media critics. But this writer believes the American media, in particular, has gone to such lengths to not offend Americans, that it has in effect wrongly sanitized the depravity of war. Perhaps it was the right time to show war’s dehumanization. This video portrayed, perhaps, the last minutes of Qaddafi’s life and reflects the deep well of pent-up rage, unleashed in retribution upon him by those who suffered beyond any measure, during his 42-years of despotic rule.
After Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril of Libya’s National Transitional Council confirmed Qaddafi’s capture, who Jibril later said was killed in a cross fire, NATO wasted no time in announcing it would be winding down its air campaign effort, by the end of October, including an announcement to recommend its end, by Admiral James Stavridis, its chief military officer on Facebook, arguably a first in world history.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights announced on Friday that its special committee on Libya would investigate the circumstances of Qaddafi’s death due to conflicting reports on how he died. The video, which he called “disturbing” showed Qaddafi alive and in the custody of Libyan rebels, who were roughly pushing him around. Libyan NTC member Waheed Burshan, echoed UN doubts over the exact circumstances of Qaddafi’s death and supported an investigation, raising questions over earlier claims by Prime Minister Jibril, that the deposed leader had been killed in crossfire.
UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Denounces Use of Unmanned Drones and Targeted Killings
As the Libyan war reached its final moments on Thursday, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings, made veiled allegations against the United States for its stepped up use of unmanned drone aircraft, in Pakistan and Libya (indeed Spencer Ackerman, aka “Attackerman,” reported that the Pentagon dropped bombs on Qaddafi’s convoy on Thursday, before he was killed.) In his presentation on targeted killings to the General Assembly, Heyns said the “current use of drones and raids into countries where there is not a recognized armed conflict to kill an opponent, as in Pakistan or Yemen, is highly problematic…The use of such methods by some States to eliminate opponents in countries around the world raises the question why other States should not engage in the same practices. The danger is one of a global war without borders, in which no one is safe.” Drones have been used by the U.S. in Yemen as well, which targeted and executed Anwar Al-wlaqi and Osama Bin Laden was executed by a U.S. Navy Seal Team in Pakistan. These tactics have been defended by Attorney General Eric Holder and Harold Koh, the State Department’s Legal Advisor. His full statement can be read here.
While Uganda is currently known for its pursuit to legally execute known homosexuals, it’s long history of violence, perhaps unknown to many Americans, is epitomized by the banal, destructive actions of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against children in Northern Uganda. The LRA originated in Uganda in 1987 as an armed resistance to the government, but has since become a violent ridden militia that operates not only in Northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan. The Christian and animist African theologically based militant group has terrorized Uganda’s neighbors, including the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kony has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. This past week, President Obama ordered 100 Special Forces into Uganda to assist the government in confronting Kony and his thugs, an action that many human rights advocates and groups are quietly applauding.
Eurozone Crisis Continues, Leaders Fail to Achieve Self Imposed Deadline Today
European leaders met in Brussels today, marking its 13th summit in 21 months about the European sovereign debt crisis due to Greece’s fiscal insolvency that began in 2009, claiming they moved forward on addressing the crisis, yet deciding not to tap funds from the European Central Bank, ultimately to aid in the bailout of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (known as the PIIGS), preventing a global economic calamity. The meeting has generated new pressure on Italy’s Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi to cut debt, enabling Italy to receive bailout funds. The bailout fund is expected to reach 1.2 to 1.4 trillion Euros, according to Irene Finel-Honigman, a financial expert and faculty member at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
This writer has stubbornly resisted reporting on the Republican presidential contest, but could not resist this week when Herman Cain announced his intolerance and bigotry toward LGBT Americans during an appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan, when he declared that homosexuals choose to be gay and thus can revert to being heterosexuals, just like changing one’s clothing. He retorted by stating his race as proof of bona fide minority status: “I was born Black… this doesn’t wash off” during his offensive remarks. The New Civil Rights Movement forum reported it all, including Dan Savage’s public challenge to Cain in a letter demanding he prove it. Thus far, no response from Cain. Perhaps GetEQUAL may take up the task of following Cain around on the campaign trail?
Republican Party Finalizes Early Primary Caucus Dates
The Republican Party’s primary and caucus schedule that has been expected to begin in January 2012 had been, until recently up-in-the-air, until Nevada finally conceded the first Republican primary date back to New Hampshire by announcing it would hold its primary on Feb. 4. New Hampshire will remain the first primary in the nation when the Granite State voters go to the election polls on January 10. Iowa Caucuses are scheduled for January 4, the first ones in the country. South Carolina will be the second primary on January 21. Florida’s primary’s date was recently set for January 31, defying Republican Party rules.
Michelle Bachmann’s New Hampshire Staff Quits on Friday
Michelle Bachmann’s New Hampshire staff quit in a unified walk-off, including the state director on Friday, although Bachmann feigned ignorance of their departure. Reports from Politico.com indicate that they had not been paid in a month. The Bachmann Southern New Hampshire director Caroline Gigler, jumped to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign, according to a report in the National Journal. Bachmann had difficulty explaining the disarray in her campaign from the stump in Iowa today.
During the past year, three U.S. cities have become increasingly insolvent, due to short falls in their budgets as tax revenues have dramatically dropped due to long-term unemployment. In late August, Central Falls, Rhode Island applied for bankruptcy and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, joined them last week, as both cities have been unable to cover payroll and pension costs for retirees.
Rhode Island is facing a steep downturn in tax revenues, saddled by 10.5 percent unemployment, and perhaps poor management, it is now challenged to cover a $14.8 billion pension system that demands payment of ten cents from every state tax dollar to cover the outlay of pension checks.
Hamtramck, Michigan asked for permission to apply for bankruptcy in November 2010, when it had a cash short-fall and would not be able to cover the salaries of its 155 employees. But the Michigan State Treasury department forbid it to file, despite its serious cash short fall. It has continued to struggle since then, finally applying for a $2.5 million loan from the state that can cover its expenses through June 2012.
Just last week, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital, filed for bankruptcy, which follows Central Falls, Rhode Island, who became the first city in the United States to apply for bankruptcy in August 2011, due to pension outlays that the city decided it just could not cover. However, Harrisburg’s mayor, the state’s governor and a state senator, declared the capital city’s action illegal and unlawful. Nonetheless, the city attorney filed papers in federal court. Harrisburg has turned to the State of Pennsylvania for relief several times in the past year, including a $4.3 million bailout.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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