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[Weekly Review]

Weekly Review


President George W. Bush went on television and gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq; the president recited a long list of Security Council resolutions that “the dictator” has failed to obey, and then he berated the Security Council for refusing to submit to his war agenda. Bush repeated the discredited charge that Iraq has armed and trained Al Qaeda terrorists, and he even mentioned the “poison factory” that, upon inspection, had no plumbing. Bush observed that “we are not dealing with peaceful men” and all but issued a declaration of war; he smiled and told the people of Iraq that their liberation was near. United Nations weapons inspectors were ordered to evacuate. Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned France 12 times during a Sunday-morning television appearance and seemed to be more angry with Jacques Chirac than with Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s political future was beginning to look very grim. “I don’t think it is possible to exaggerate the degree of concern about the illegality of what is proposed,” said one Labour member of Parliament. “If there is no U.N. mandate and there is not a vote in the Commons before the commitment of British troops, then we ask the prime minister to consider his position as leader of the party.” Robin Cook, the leader of the House of Commons, resigned from the British cabinet to protest his government’s war policy; other resignations were expected. Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic of Serbia was assassinated. American military personnel were being instructed to bury dead Iraqis with their heads pointing southwest toward Mecca, and White House lawyers were busy trying to come up with a new legal theory to justify the invasion. Judges for the International Criminal Court were sworn in at The Hague; the court has received about 200 claims so far, though it has not yet appointed its chief prosecutor. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world marched in antiwar demonstrations. American officials were alarmed over an Iraqi drone aircraft that they claimed could be used to deliver anthrax, and they complained that Hans Blix had downplayed the drone in a recent report. The drone turned out, upon inspection by the press, to be a primitive affair with a tiny wooden propeller and a fuselage that was patched up with masking tape. The House of Representatives decreed that the word “French” would no longer appear on House menus, and it was reported that President Bush refused to speak before the European Parliament because he could not be guaranteed a standing ovation.

American troops rehearsed their invasion with bulldozers along the Kuwait-Iraq border, and four B-2 Stealth bombers left Missouri for the Middle East. Tom Ridge, the secretary of “homeland” security, declared that suicide bombings in the United States are “inevitable.” An Israeli soldier killed an American girl who knelt down in front of his bulldozer to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home; Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old from Olympia, Washington, was wearing a bright orange jacket and was shouting at the driver with a bullhorn before she went down on her knees. The bulldozer kept on rolling, crushing her to death. A Kurdish man exploded in Sulaimaniya, Iraq, apparently before he reached his target. The European Court of Human Rights declared that Turkey did not provide Kurdish rebel Abdullah Ocalan with a fair trial. A judge in Texas ordered a man to spend 30 nights in a 2-foot by 3-foot doghouse for abusing his stepson and rejected an appeal for a larger doghouse. Three young children were found beheaded in Brownsville, Texas, and their parents were charged with murder. Li Peng, the “Butcher of Beijing,” retired from Chinese politics. The Federal Election Commission declared that there was “no reason to believe” that Enron hired Ralph Reed as a consultant as a way of making an off-the-books contribution to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. A federal judge in Manhattan refused to reverse his ruling that Jose Padilla, an American citizen being held by the military without charge, must have access to his lawyer. “Lest any confusion remain,” he wrote, “this is not a suggestion or a request that Padilla be permitted to consult with counsel, and it is certainly not an invitation to conduct a further ‘dialogue’ about whether he will be permitted to do so.” The government has argued that allowing Padilla to exercise his constitutional rights will set back the interrogation process. Administration officials were investigating the use of cost-benefit analysis to measure in dollar terms the price of the freedoms lost to the war on terrorism.

The United States tested its “mother of all bombs,” a Massive Ordnance Air Burst (MOAB), at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. The MOAB, which is the most powerful nonnuclear explosive ever developed, creates a mushroom cloud and a shock wave similar to a nuclear bomb. It was reported that a group of Iraqi soldiers crossed the Kuwaiti border and attempted to surrender to British forces when they mistook military exercises for an invasion; the British soldiers told them it was too early to surrender and ordered them back across the border. A panel of military experts convened by the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the postwar occupation of Iraq will take up to 200,000 American soldiers and will cost at least $20 billion a year. Governor Gray Davis of California apologized for the involuntary sterilization of 19,000 people by the state between 1909 and 1964. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised to end slavery in Brazil. The president of a college in Iowa was arrested for growing pot in his basement, and a little 250-pound heifer knocked out one of Representative Frank D. Lucas’s teeth on his ranch in Oklahoma. The Islamic Cultural Center of Dublin, Ireland, announced that it will oversee the translation of the Koran into Gaelic. “It could take a few years,” said the center’s director. The World Health Organization issued a health alert concerning a new highly contagious form of pneumonia called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that has infected hundreds of people and killed at least nine. The disease does not respond to antibiotics or antiviral drugs, and no one who has contracted it has fully recovered. Jiang Zemin retired as president of China, and the Chinese government told the Rolling Stones not to play “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” or “Beast of Burden” on its upcoming tour, its first in China. After the deaths of the chickens that were supposed to act as chemical-weapons detectors for American Marines, the troops were being equipped with pigeons that will perform the same service, if they can survive in the deserts of Mesopotamia. Under pressure from animal-rights groups, the British Army agreed to look into alternatives to the black bear fur used to make the caps of Her Majesty’s Foot Guards. Spanish doctors diagnosed a four-year-old girl with a rare inherited disease called trimethylaminuria, which causes people to smell like rotting fish. Cameroon’s health minister warned the people not to drink their own urine.

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November 2008

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