The White House staunchly defended its Iraq policy on Tuesday as new questions emerged about US President George W. Bush's prewar decisions and postwar planning. An impending weapons report undercut the administration's main rationale for the war, and the former head of the US occupation said the US had too few troops in Iraq after the invasion. \nFour weeks before the election, Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry pounced on an acknowledgment by former Iraq administrator Paul Bremer on Monday that the US had "paid a big price" for insufficient troop levels. \nBremer, who shot into the national headlines with his remarks, softened his comments during a speech on Tuesday in Michigan. \n"We certainly had enough [troops] going into Iraq, because we won the war in a very short three weeks," he told an audience of more than 400 people at Michigan State University. \n"The point that I have been making, and that has gotten a little bit distorted in the press recently, is that, as I look back now, I believe it would have been better to stop the looting that was found right after the war. \n"One way to have stopped the looting would have been to have more troops on the ground. That's a retrospective wisdom of mine, looking backwards," he added. "I think there are enough troops there now for the job we are doing." \nKerry said there was a "long list of mistakes" that the Bush administration had made in Iraq. \n"I'm glad that Paul Bremer has finally admitted at least two of them," Kerry said, referring to postwar troop levels and a failure to contain chaos. \nA 1,000-page report by the chief US weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duefler, concludes that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had less capacity to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons when the invasion occurred last year than it did in 1998, when UN weapons inspectors left, the Washington Post reported on its Web site on Tuesday night. \nBut the report, which was to be released yesterday, also includes comments Saddam made to debriefers after his capture supporting the administration's assertions, the Post said, quoting an unidentified senior US official. It cited a claim by Saddam that his past possession of weapons of mass destruction "was one of the reasons he had survived so long." \nA US official said he could not confirm the report on Tuesday night. \nAt a campaign stop in Tipton, Iowa, Kerry said the question for voters was whether Bush was "constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the truth" or was "just so stubborn." \nIn a rare day spent in Washington, Bush remained out of sight and silent, letting his surrogates answer Kerry's charges. His speechwriters polished an address that administration aides said would be a sweeping indictment of Kerry's policies on Iraq, the war on terrorism and the economy. \n"It's a comprehensive look at two very different records, one of accomplishment, and one of being on the wrong side of history over and over again," Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish said of the speech. \nThe address in the swing state of Pennsylvania was originally to focus on healthcare, but the White House reversed course and made it about Iraq, seeking to blunt a new report on the absence of weapons of mass destruction there before the war. \nBremer, in a speech last month at DePauw University in Indiana, said he had raised with the Bush administration the issue of there being too few troops and "should have been even more insistent" when his advice was rejected. \nWhite House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say if Bremer had pleaded with Bush for more troops, saying, "We never get into reading out all the conversations they had." \nBush consulted military commanders -- not his hand-picked Iraq administrator -- for guidance on troop levels, McClellan said, adding, "The lessons from the past, including Vietnam, are that we shouldn't try to micromanage military decisions from Washington." \nIn unusual public acknowledgment of internal dissent, Bush campaign spokesman Brian Jones said Bremer and the military brass had clashed on troop levels. \n"Ambassador Bremer differed with the commanders in the field," Jones said. "That is his right, but the president has always said that he will listen to his commanders on the ground and give them the support they need for victory." \nMilitary commanders believed the force level was adequate, Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said. \n"Before, during and subsequent to Mr. Bremer's tenure, the military commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that the level of US forces in Iraq was the appropriate level, and that was their recommendation to the secretary of defense," Di Rita said.
Four employees working with a French Christian charity who were kidnapped in Iraq in January have been released, France’s presidency said on Thursday. The release of the four men with SOS Chretiens d’Orient (Christians of the Middle East) comes just a day after France said it would withdraw its troops from Iraq due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The presidential Elysee Palace in Paris said that France had made “every effort to reach this outcome.” “The president expresses his gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation,” the presidency said in a statement without adding details. SOS Chretiens d’Orient said on Twitter it welcomed the
‘DREADFUL’ ACTS: A British Supreme Court judge said that despite their ‘awful’ crimes, it would been unlawful to turn over evidence that could result in the death penalty A court on Wednesday barred the British government from providing US prosecutors with evidence against two Islamic State militants suspected in the beheadings of Western hostages, citing the prospect that the men could face the death penalty if tried and convicted in the US. The ruling by the British Supreme Court blocks an earlier decision by the country’s authorities to cooperate with the US by sharing information about El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey. The British men, captured two years ago by a Kurdish-led, US-backed militia, are accused of participation in a brutal Islamic State group known for beheadings and barbaric treatment
ECONOMY FIRST: Despite the rising number of cases, Donald Trump said the US was not built to shut down and he would love the country to open up by Easter US President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and called for a quick end to social distancing, even as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo compared the growing pandemic to a “bullet train.” Trump, who is keen to get his re-election campaign back on track, said that social distancing has caused too much pain to the US economy, prompting the US Congress to debate a historic rescue package. “Our country — it’s not built to shut down,” he said on Fox News. “You can destroy a country this way by closing it
As thousands of Hong Kongers and expatriates return to the territory, many are seeking refuge in hotels, fearful that cramped apartments in one of the world’s most expensive property markets could put their families or friends at risk. Social distancing is tough in Hong Kong, where most of the territory’s 7.4 million population live in apartments that on average are no bigger than 46m2. The concerns have triggered a spike in occupancy rates for those Hong Kong hotels prepared to take guests undergoing quarantine, even as most of the industry grapples with a devastating slump due to COVID-19. One expatriate who has lived