Military marks end to nine bloody years in Iraq The United States lowered its flag in Baghdad as the American military mission in Iraq was officially declared over Thursday. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and the top US Military Commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin presided over a low-key ceremony at Baghdad International airport on Thursday, to mark the end of the almost nine year war, and thank the one million American troops who served there. “The muted ceremony stood in contrast to the start of the war in 2003 when an America both frightened and emboldened by the attacks of September 11, 2001, sent columns of tanks north from Kuwait to overthrow Saddam Hussein,” the New York Times’ Thom Shanker and Michael Schmidt write. In the run-up to this week’s ceremonies marking the war’s close, Schmidt, the Times’ Baghdad correspondent, got word that an Iraqi businessman had purchased trailers from a closing American base, he recounted in a first-person dispatch Wednesday.
US resilient, Europe debt woes touch Asia
An improvement in the US employment picture last week and a rise in regional factory activity suggested an emerging divide between resiliency in the US economy and faltering growth in Europe and Asia. Even so, overall factory data in the United States on Thursday was mixed as industrial output declined in November for the first time in seven months. As a whole, the day’s data pointed to a US economy that is improving but not off to the races. US weekly claims for jobless benefits fell to a three-and-half-year low on Thursday, and factory activity in much of the country’s northeast picked up this month, suggesting an emerging divide from gloomy economic trends in Europe and Asia.
Fitch downgrades six global banks
Fitch has downgraded six of the world’s largest banks, citing the challenging financial markets. The banks include Bank of America and Goldman Sachs in the US, the UK’s Barclays and France’s BNP Paribas. Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse were also cut. Fitch cut the ‘issuer default ratings’ at the banks, which ‘reflect the ability of an entity to meet financial commitments on a timely basis’. Banks and credit markets have been squeezed by fear over the Euro Zone debt crisis, which has seen several nations in the 17-nation single currency bailed out and fears that the euro could collapse. Banks that hold Euro Zone sovereign debt have taken massive charges on the debt, and it has increased fears about banks lending to each other.
Gaddafi’s death may be war crime: ICC prosecutor
The death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in October, may have been a war crime, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Thursday. “I think the way in which Gaddafi was killed creates suspicions of ... war crimes,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters. “I think that’s a very important issue,” he said. “We are raising this concern to the national authorities and they are preparing a plan to have a comprehensive strategy to investigate all these crimes.”