Irish police say they have seized nearly $5 million in a series of raids on suspected Republican safehouses across the country, uncovering what hardline Justice Minister Michael McDowell called a "colossal crime machine, laundering huge sums of money." One suspected IRA militant was reportedly caught burning a pile of British currency in his backyard. But authorities admitted they were unable to determine if any of the money came from December's massive Belfast bank heist which British and Irish officials alike have blamed on the IRA, leading to a breakdown of peace talks. (AP, Feb. 19)
The NY Times notes today that when accused Serbian war criminal Vladimir Lazarevic surrendered himself to the UN tribunal at The Hague last month, he was hailed in his own country as a national hero. Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica hailed Gen. Lazarevic's decision to turn himself in as "patriotic, highly moral and honorable." The leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church gave him an audience and praised him as a defender of the nation. When he flew to The Hague, he was accompanied by Serbia's justice minister. Rights groups were aghast at such pomp for a man accused of overseeing the killing of 700 ethnic Albanians and the forcible expulsion of 800,000 more when he was military commander in Kosovo in 1999. (NYT, Feb. 14)
The UK Independent reports Feb. 14 that over 5,000 neo-Nazis swarmed the official 60th anniversary commemoration of the Allied bombardment of Dresden, effectively "hijacking" the event in the east German city. Bused in from all over Germany, they overwhelmed the proceedings outside the rebuilt Semper Opera House, which had been destroyed in the bombing. They violated German law by singing the Nazi-era national anthem. It was the largest Nazi rally in Germany since the fall of the Third Reich.
The Basque separatist group ETA reportedly claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a Madrid convention center Feb. 9, injuring at least 40. The blast went off hours before Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were to arrive there to preside over the opening of an arts fair with Mexico's visiting President Vicente Fox. In the aftermath of the blast, police arrested 14 suspected ETA militants in coordinated raids across Spain. (Electric New Paper, Singapore, Feb. 11)
The Irish Republican Army announced Feb. 2 it is withdrawing from the Northern Ireland peace talks and rescinding its disarmament proposal, accusing both London and Dublin of bad faith by blaming the IRA for a $50 million Belfast bank heist in December. "We do not intend to remain quiescent within this unacceptable situation," said a press release signed P. O'Neill, the psuedonym siginifying official IRA positions. "It has tried our patience to the limit." Unionist leader Ian Paisely predictably responded by claiming the IRA never intended to disarm in the first place. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declined to comment, saying he would let the IRA speak for themselves, but Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the raid blame "scuttles disarmament." The US State Department called the IRA's move "un-welcome." This could be the final crisis for the 1998 Good Friday accord, which established a local legislature to share power between Catholics and Protestants. The legislature has been suspended since 2002 because of allegations of IRA activity. (NYT, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 3; BBC, Feb. 4; UK Guardian, Feb. 5)
It has hardly made international headlines, but there has been a wave of bombings at Spanish resorts by ETA in recent months--not claiming any lives, but causing several injuries and wreaking some property damage. Now the Basque regional government is pushing an autonomy plan that stops just barely short of full independence in a bid to appease the separatists. Catalonia, following the Pais Vasco's lead, is also pressing for near-independence. In reaction, the Franco-nostalgists are coming out of the woodwork...
Sorry, but this is revisionism ("How Silent Are The 'humanitarian' Invaders Of Kosovo?" ZNet, December 2004) no less than that of the propagandists Pilger is critiquing. He seems to want us to forget that 200,000 Kosovar Albanians (out of a total population of 1.4 million) had been forced from their villages to refugee camps in the mountains or in Albania and Macedonia by the time the bombing started in March 1999. After the bombs started falling, the number was quickly jacked up to 800,000.
An interesting and important piece, but a little irksome. We don't doubt that the CIA and State Department are pulling out all the stops to aid the Yushchenko forces, and this certainly warrants exposure. But the implicit assumption here seems to be that these poor naive Slavic types could never be capable of launching a legitimate opposition movement on their own, so this whole affair must be purely "astroturf" (pseudo-grassroots). We can assure you that Serbia's Otpor was a genuine movement, not just a CIA creation, and we assume the same is true of the Ukrainian movement. In any case, much of the leftist commentary on Ukrainia has been rather glib about the whole matter of electoral fraud--a rather ironic stance, given the dilemma we are currently facing in our own country...