Early this morning, Israeli forces assassinated the spiritual leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. He was killed by a missile fired from a helicopter gunship as he returned from a mosque in Gaza City at daybreak. At the time of the airstrike, Yassin was being pushed in his wheelchair by an aid. Seven others were killed and many more wounded in the attack. Yassin is by far the most high profile Palestinian assassinated during the second intifida.
The assassination has sparked massive street protests as tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in a funeral procession. The Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning and a general strike has been called. The Hamas leadership said Sharon had "opened the gates of hell" and the group vowed all-out war.
On Sunday, millions gathered around the world in a global day of protest to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In New York organizers said up to 200,000 marched through midtown. In North Carolina, military families led a rally outside the gates of Fort Bragg. In San Francisco, on Friday, some 500 protesters shut down Bechtel’s corporate headquarters.
President Bush’s former terrorism czar Richard Clarke is publicly accusing Bush of ignoring the threat posed by Al Qaeda up until Sept.11, 2001 and that after the US was attacked, Bush wanted to immediately to strike Iraq.
According to a new book by Clarke, Bush said on the evening of Sept. 12: "Go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this." When Clarke responded that Al Qaeda was responsible, Bush said "I know, I know, but . . . see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred."
Clarke is widely viewed as a leading figure in national security circles. He has held top posts under every president since Reagan and served as both President Clinton and President Bush’s top anti-terrorism official.
In his book Clarke writes that Bush "failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks." He goes on to write that Bush "launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."
Clarke charges the Iraq war was used to help the Republicans win the 2002 midterm election. He writes, "The crisis was manufactured, and Bush political adviser Karl Rove was telling Republicans to 'run on the war.'"
Clarke also says that before Sept. 11 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claimed Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and posed at least as much as danger as Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, less than a day after the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said at a cabinet-level meeting that, "there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq."
The White House Sunday dismissed Clarke’s charges as "politically motivated," "reckless" and "baseless."
In an interview with the London Independent, former US President Jimmy Carter blasted President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for waging an unnecessary war in Iraq based on "lies and misinterpretations". Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also described the US-led war in Iraq as a "great mistake." He told students in Mexico: "Every day we witness the consequences of the erroneous invasion of Iraq." We’ll have more on the protests in a few minutes.
In El Salvador the U.S.-backed right-wing candidate Tony Saca easily won in national elections on Sunday beating former guerilla leader Schafik Handal. The Bush administration was accused by some as meddling in the election by publicly backing Saca.
A week ago, White House Special Assistant Otto Reich gave a phone press conference at the headquarters of the right-wing party. He told Salvadorean reporters he was worried what kind of impact a victory by the left could have on the country’s "economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States."
Last month Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noreiga told voters to "consider what kind of a relationship they want a new administration to have with us."
This prompted 28 members of Congress to send a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell warning that Noriega’s remarks were perceived as "interference in Salvadoran electoral affairs."
One of the signees of the letter Dennis Kucinich said "Unfortunately, what is going on in El Salvador is representative of a Latin American policy that is not about promoting healthy democracies, but instead focused on making Latin American nations bend to U.S. commercial interests."
In Taiwan, thousands took to the streets Sunday following Saturday’s presidential race after President Chen Shui-bian was re-elected by the narrowest of margins.
Allegations swirled around Taiwan that the President staged an attempt on his own life Friday to win the sympathy of voters.
His opponent, Lien Chan, has demanded a recount in the election which he lost be two-tenths of a percentage point.
Newsday is reporting that President Bush’s re-election campaign is selling $50 fleece pullovers with Bush-Cheney logos that were made in Burma even though the U.S. has banned imports from the country. The merchandiser claimed it had purchased the fleece pullovers before the embargo and only sold 10 of the $50 items that were made in Burma.
In Afghanistan the country’s minister of civil aviation and tourism was assassinated Sunday in Herat. The cabinet member, Mir Wais Sadew was the won of the governor of the Herat province, Ismail Khan. There were reports that that there attempts on Khan’s life as well. After the killing up to 100 Afghan troops died in clashes.
Meanwhile on Saturday at least six Afghan civilians were killed and seven wounded in a U.S. airstrike in central Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the U.S. military charged six soldiers with abusing about 20 inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. 11 other U.S. soldiers remain suspended for playing a role in the abuse. The U.S. is detaining at least 10,000 people in Iraq.