December 2003

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • International Court Convicts Rwandans of Genocide (Dec. 3) Three-judge panel in Arusha, Tanzania, finds three Rwandan media figures guilty of genocide in the slaughter of the Tutsi minority in 1994. Court said the men used their media outlets to provoke Hutus to massacre the Tutsis.
  • Former Secretary of State to Restructure Iraqi Debt (Dec. 5) Bush administration calls on James Baker III, a close friend of the Bush family, to help restructure the more than $100 billion Iraq owes to foreign nations.
  • Suicide Bombers Strike in Moscow (Dec. 5) Nearly 50 people killed and about 150 wounded when a commuter train blows up. (Dec. 9) Suicide attacker kills herself and five others near the Kremlin and Red Square.
  • Coalition Attacks Kill Afghan Children (Dec. 6) Nine children die in air strike led by U.S. military. Troops were successful in killing a suspected member of the Taliban. (Dec. 10) U.S. reports that six more children had been killed in an earlier attack targeting a Taliban militant.
  • Zimbabwe Leaves Commonwealth (Dec. 7) Zimbabwe pulls out of the 54-nation Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary group of countries tied by their former associations with Great Britain. For almost two years, Zimbabwe has been suspended from the Commonwealth because of President Robert Mugabe's alleged election fraud and human rights abuses. Mugabe opts to leave the Commonwealth rather than allow Zimbabwe's suspension to continue.
  • Bush Warns Taiwan on Independence Move (Dec. 8) In uncharacteristically strong language, president advises Taiwan not to hold referendum that indirectly calls for independence.
  • Greek Court Convicts Terrorists (Dec. 8) Fifteen members of terror group November 17 convicted in series of attacks that killed 23 people between 1975 and 2000.
  • Parliamentary Elections in Russia Boost Putin (Dec. 8) President's party, United Russia, takes 36% of the vote, more than twice the amount won by opponents.
  • Pentagon Excludes War Opponents from Bidding on Iraqi Contracts (Dec. 9) Directive issued by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, bars France, Germany, and Russia from bidding on lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq. He cited the need to protect “the essential security interests of the United States.” Only the U.S. and its coalition partners will be eligible to bid.
  • Oil Services Company Charging U.S. Inflated Prices (Dec. 10) Halliburton charging the U.S. about twice the amount other companies pay to import oil into Iraq from Kuwait. Vice President Richard Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton.
  • New Prime Minister Takes Over in Canada (Dec. 12) Paul Martin, former finance minister, replaces retiring premier Jean Chrétien.
  • Afghanistan Leaders Meet (Dec. 14) About 500 delegates gather in Kabul for a grand council, or loya jirga, to debate and approve a constitution.
  • Pakistani President Survives Assassination Attempts (Dec. 14) Remote-controlled bomb weighing nearly a half a ton explodes seconds after President Pervez Musharraf's motorcade passed it. He was traveling in Rawalpindi. (Dec. 25) Two suicide bombers attack Musharraf's motorcade, killing 14 people.
  • Hussein Caught (Dec. 13) American troops find former dictator of Iraq on a farm near Tikrit, in an 8-foot hole. He surrenders without a fight. He refuses to cooperate with interrogators. Iraqis rejoice in the streets. President Bush says, “In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over.”
  • Libya to Dismantle Weapons Program (Dec. 19) President Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair announce that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has agreed to give up country's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
  • French Officials Cancel Flights to U.S. (Dec. 24) Six Air France to Los Angeles cancelled at request of U.S. officials, who feared a terrorist attack. French say none of the passengers had links to terrorist groups.
  • Earthquake Ravages Iranian City (Dec. 26) Massive earthquake, measuring 6.6 on the standard magnitude scale, destroys much of Bam, a city in southeastern Iran. As many as 30,000 people die.


  • Bush Reverses Steel Tariffs (Dec. 4) Reversing a decision he made last year, President Bush eliminates tariffs on steel. Change in policy comes weeks after the World Trade Organization ruled the tariffs illegal and authorized European Union countries to impose retaliatory tariffs on the $2.2 billion in U.S. goods sold there.
  • Congressman Guilty of Manslaughter (Dec. 8) Bill Janklow, Republican representative from South Dakota, convicted of second-degree manslaughter by a South Dakota jury. In August, he hit a motorcycle, killing its driver, Randolph Scott. Janklow says he will resign.
  • Bush Signs Medicare Bill (Dec. 8) President signs into law largest overhaul of Medicare system since it was established in 1965. Under plan, which will cost an estimated $400 billion, the elderly will be eligible for prescription drug coverage beginning in 2006. Program will be run by private insurers with the help of government subsidies.
  • Gore Endorses Dean for President (Dec. 9) Former Vice President Al Gore throws his support behind Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean. The endorsement should boost Dean's already energized campaign. Dean leads the polls in many states. “I have come to the conclusion that among all of the candidates, Howard Dean and you have managed to do a better job of igniting enthusiasm at the grass roots all across the United States of America,” Gore said.
  • Three Indicted in Rhode Island Nightclub Fire (Dec. 9) Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderdian, owners of the Station club where 100 people were killed in a fire in February, and Daniel Biechele, the tour manager of the band Great White, which was playing at the club when the inferno ignited, charged with involuntary manslaughter.
  • Supreme Court Upholds Landmark Finance Reform Bill (Dec. 10) Court affirms the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, which was signed into law in 2002. The decision supports the ban on soft money donated to political campaigns. Court says “there is substantial evidence to support Congress' determination that large soft-money contributions to national political parties give rise to corruption and the appearance of corruption.”
  • FDA Approves Contraceptive (Dec. 16) Food and Drug Administration votes to allow over-the-counter sale of “morning-after pill.”
  • Federal Courts Reject Bush's Detention Policy (Dec. 18) New York court rules that President Bush does not have the authority to hold Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, indefinitely because he had been labeled an enemy combatant. Padilla was arrested in 2002 for allegedly planning to explode a dirty bomb inside the U.S. In addition, a federal appeals court in San Francisco rules that it's unconstitutional for the government to hold about 660 noncitizens involved in the Afghan war at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without legal protections.
  • Second Sniper Convicted (Dec. 18) Lee Malvo found guilty of shooting an FBI analyst in the October 2002 shooting spree that killed 10 people. (Dec. 23) Virginia jury sentences Malvo to life in prison.
  • U.S. Reports First Case of Mad Cow Disease (Dec. 23) Slaughtered cow from a Washington farm tests positive for illness. Several countries ban import of U.S. beef.
  • Ashcroft Recuses Himself from Leak Inquiry (Dec. 30) U.S. attorney general decides not to head Justice Department's probe into who revealed the identity of a CIA officer to a syndicated columnist. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the husband of the CIA operative, believes the Bush administration leaked the name of his wife, Valerie Plame, as punishment for his disclosure that Bush's claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger was false. Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who will oversee the inquiry, appointed a special counsel to investigate the leak.


  • U.S. Manufacturing Figures Rise (Dec. 1) Factories report increase in production and orders in November. Manufacturing activity reaches highest level since 1983.
  • Unemployment Rate Falls Again (Dec. 5) Jobless rate falls to 5.9% in November, from 6% in October, but only about 57,000 new jobs were added to the work force, far fewer than expected.
  • Dow Closes at 18-Month High (Dec. 11) Dow Jones average closes at 10,008.16.

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