News in Brief: Army Begins Criminal Investigation Into Afghan Civilian Deaths and More ...

Thursday, 20 May 2010 11:17 By Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | News in Brief | name.

The US military command in Afghanistan announced early Wednesday morning that the Army's Criminal Investigation Division will be investigating whether an unknown number of American soldiers were responsible for the "unlawful deaths" of "as many as three" Afghan civilians. The Washington Independent reported the vagueness of the key details, including where the incident took place, when it occurred and how many soldiers are involved in the investigation.

The incident was reported earlier this month by soldiers from the same unit who came forward to their chain of command about the incident. Allegations of "illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy" are involved, and one soldier is being held in pre-trial detention. This follows several high-profile cases of civilian deaths at the hands of NATO forces in the past few months. On February 12th, US Special Forces killed two men and three women - two of whom were pregnant- during a house raid. Most recently, on a "night raid" earlier this month, locals said 11 civilians were killed by US troops. NATO said all those killed were insurgents, leading to violent protests in the Nangahar Province.

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Senators and politicians from Arizona press for National Guard troops on the US-Mexico border, reported the AP, drawing lukewarm responses from Homeland Security and the Pentagon. In a letter sent to President Obama this week, Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) called for at least 6,000 National Guard troops on the border - with half within Arizona state boundaries - to immediately improve the safety of Americans there.

But the idea to have Guard troops supplement border patrol agents fell by the wayside over disagreements about who would bear the cost and how the troops would be utilized. Pentagon officials, who are worried about perceptions that the US is militarizing the border, said the Guard could only be used for particular duties, which did not include screening vehicles at border points or performing any law enforcement duties.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama came face to face with the human costs of a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, reported Democracy Now! and The Washington Post. On a visit to a Maryland elementary school with Mexico's first lady Margarita Zavala, a second grade student told Michelle Obama that she was worried about Obama's plans to deport people like her undocumented mother.

Student: "My mom said that - I think that she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers."

Michelle Obama: "Yeah, well, that’s something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That’s exactly right."

Student: "But my mom doesn’t have any."

Michelle Obama: "Yeah, well, we have to work on that. We have to fix that. And everybody’s got to work together in Congress to make sure that that happens."

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In a dramatic escalation of tensions between North and South Korea, an international report concluding that a South Korean warship was sunk by a torpedo from a North Korean submarine has led to South Korean calls for "stern action" against the North, reported the Guardian UK. The report, compiled by both civilian and military investigators, said there was "no other plausible explanation" for the sinking of the Cheonan warship. Forty-six sailors were killed when the warship was struck by a torpedo in March.

Pyongyang has called Seoul's finding a fabrication, and in a show of North Korea's diplomatic bravado, threatened to wage "all-out war" if punished.

But South Korea's options are limited, reported the AP. Since the 1950-53 war between what is now North and South Korea ended in a truce rather that a peace treaty, both nations are still locked in a state of war on either side of the world's most heavily armed border. This truce prevents South Korea from waging a unilateral military attack, but may allow it to cooperate with the US, which has 28,500 troops on the Korean peninsula. South Korean and US officials said they are considering a variety of punitive responses, ranging from UN Security Council Action to additional US penalties.

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Venezuela's government has taken control of currency trading Thursday, reported Reuters, promising to ban brokerages from an unofficial market where the local bolivar fell severely this year. President Hugo Chavez's attempts to rein in the currency, which has been devalued three times since he took power in 1999, led him to order the central bank to take sole charge of the free-floating "parallel" market. Chavez attributed sky-high inflation and the driving down of the bolivar to capitalist speculators, but critics say an ill-planned and multilayered system has distorted the market and encouraged corruption in Venezuela.

Yana Kunichoff

Yana Kunichoff is an assistant editor at Truthout.

Last modified on Thursday, 20 May 2010 12:33