With Lebanon possibly next in the US crosshairs following the Valentine's Day car-bomb assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the Hezbollah militia movement marked the Shi'ite holy day of Ashura with a massive rally in Beirut. Amid requisite chants of "Death to Israel, death to America," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told hundreds of thousands of followers, "Resistance is the choice of our nation and the enemy cannot disparage us." He called the White House "an enemy to this nation because it supports Israel with money and weapons, because it wants to humiliate our people," and described the US government as the "biggest thief of our oil and resources, while hundreds of millions [in the region] remain unemployed." In a statement clearly directed Bush, he added: "Those who try to put us on the terrorism lists will fail again, for our being on the terrorism lists will make us more determined in continuing our path." (UPI, Feb. 19)
Writes Israeli left-wing commentator Uri Avnery in a Feb. 19 piece for Media Monitors Network, "Beware of the Dog!":
It is not very flattering to be paraded like a Rottweiler on a leash, whose master threatens to let him loose on his enemies. But this is our situation now.
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)
In an uncharacterstically strong and principled lead editorial Feb. 19, the NY Times says its "Time for an Accounting" on Abu Ghraib and the administration's policy on torture and detainment generally. Maybe, finally, a sign that elite consciences are beginning to stir. It is worth quoting at length:
The NY Times' Feb. 18 front-page profile of John Negroponte, Bush's appointment as Director of National Intelligence, did at least mention—albeit towards the end, at the bottom of page 16—"allegations that he played down human rights violations in Honduras when their exposure could have undermined the Reagan administration's Latin American agenda." (NYT, Feb. 18)
The American Civil Liberties Union has called for creation of an independent special counsel to investigate "torture policies" following the Senate's confirmation Feb. 15 of Michael Chertoff as Homeland Security Secretary. (ACLU, Feb. 15) Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division during the post-9-11 sweeps, in which many detainees were physically abused—as documented in a 2003 report by the DoJ's own Inspector General. See WW4 REPORT #89
More horrific claims of rights violations in Uncle Sam's military prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan—including threatening detainees who dared to complain of beatings and torture. One Iraqi detainee who was apparently beaten and injured was forced to drop his claim before being released, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report.
Six are dead and over 40 injured following a car bomb attack in the southern Thai city of Sungai Kolok. The bomb went off in a hotel parking lot hours after newly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had completed a visit to the restive Muslim-majority region. The government blamed relatives of wanted insurgent leaders for the blast.