The private military firm Blackwater Worldwide is facing new allegations of unlawful activity in Iraq, this time for dropping a heavily-restricted riot-control gas on a crowded Baghdad checkpoint in May 2005. According to the New York Times, the release of the CS gas by a Blackwater helicopter and armored vehicle temporarily blinded drivers, pedestrians and at least ten American soldiers. Blackwater is already under scrutiny for a mass shooting in Baghdad that killed seventeen Iraqis last September. Military witnesses say Blackwater personnel appeared to release the gas as a way to clear a traffic jam that was blocking their route. The gas is only authorized for use in dangerous situations. Its effects include burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, coughing and breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting. Blackwater says it reported the incident to the U.S. Embassy and that the case was investigated. But U.S. officials could not confirm that an investigation occurred.
In Mideast Visit, Bush Affirms Support for Israeli Settlement Blocs
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, President Bush is in the West Bank today for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, the first of his three-day trip. Speaking alongside Olmert in Jerusalem, Bush said he will push Israel to remove scattered settlement outposts but reiterated his endorsement of Israel’s plan to retain its large West Bank settlement blocs.
President Bush: “He understands he has an obligation to protect Israel. He also understands that he’s got to be circumspect–reasonable about how he does it so that innocent people don’t suffer. He just gave you the answer on the settlements. In terms of outposts, yeah, they ought to go. Look, I mean, we’ve been talking about it for four years. The agreement was–get rid of outposts, illegal outposts and they ought to go.”
Palestinian negotiators have called the settlement blocs the main obstacle to peace.
NSA: “No Attack Happened” in Gulf of Tonkin
Newly declassified documents have provided more evidence the Johnson administration faked the Gulf of Tonkin incident to escalate the Vietnam War. The alleged 1964 attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnamese was used as a pretext to increase bombing and troop deployments in Vietnam. But a report from the National Security Agency concludes: “no attack happened that night.”