Saturday, March 29, 2003
Goodbye, Left-Wing Idiocy
By Ron Rosenbaum
SO I WENT UP TO THE ANTIWAR DEMONSTRATION in Central Park this weekend, hoping to hear some persuasive arguments. After a couple of hours there, listening to speeches, reading the hate-America literature, I still don‘t know what to think about Iraq but I think I know what I feel about this antiwar movement, or at least many of the flock who showed up in the Sheep Meadow.
A movement of Marxist fringe groups and people who are unable to make moral distinctions. An inability summed up by a man holding a big poster that proudly identified him as "NYC TEACHER." The lesson "NYC TEACHER" had for the day was that "BUSH IS A DEVIL, HANDS OFF NORTH KOREA, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN"
Yes, Bush is "a devil" compared to those enlightened regimes that torture and murder dissidents (like "NYC TEACHER"). Bush is certainly "a devil" compared to enlightened leaders like Kim Jong Il, who has reduced the North Korean people in his repulsive police state to eating moss on rocks; or to Saddam Hussein, who tortures and gasses opponents, and starves his people to fund his germ-war labs; or to the Taliban in Afghanistan, who beat women into burqas. Yes, surely compared to them, Bush is "a devil." Thank God New York’s schoolchildren are in such good hands.
And the level of idiocy one finds in knee-jerk Left oppositionalism is sometimes astonishing. I would like to focus on two particular examples that have led me to want to say my own goodbye-to-all-that as well.
It’s ironic, considering what I am about to write, that I got a nice note from that hard-core Old Red folkie, Pete Seeger, thanking me for my Dr. King column. But you know, I still can understand people like Pete Seeger joining the Party back in the 30’s during the Depression, when it looked like unregulated capitalism had cruelly immiserated America, when racism and lynchings reigned down South and it looked (looked, I said) as if the Soviet Union was the only force willing to stand up to Hitler. But to cling to Marxism now, after all we’ve learned in the past 50 years -- not just about the Soviet Union, but China and Cambodia?
I must confess that my own learning curve was on the slow side, having grown up reading The Nation and The New Republic and believing that the evils of Soviet Communism were a figment of J. Edgar Hoover’s imagination. My slow learning curve had a lot to do as well with coming of age during the Vietnam War and covering antiwar demonstrations, where I found myself seduced by the brilliant Groucho Marxism of Abbie Hoffman (I still miss his anarchic spirit). And (more culpably) I was fascinated by the Dostoevskian moral absolutism of the Weather Underground, although never, thank God, by the pretensions of Marxism to be a "science of history."
I still identify myself as a contrarian, libertarian, pessimist, secular-humanist, anti-materialist liberal Democrat who distrusts the worship of "the wisdom of the market." Someone who was outraged about the Bush-Baker election tactics in Florida, for instance.
Let’s begin with the little idiocy that I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In fact, I think I came across it shortly before I had heard of Mr. Hitchens’ farewell. One irony of it is that this little bit of idiocy was penned by a former Hitchens acolyte, a sometime Nation writer now living in London who appended a cruel little addendum to what ostensibly was a review, in London’s Times Literary Supplement, of Tom Hanks’ Road to Perdition.
At the close of an uninspired review of an uninspired film (How many times must wannabe intellectuals quote Robert Warshow when speaking of gangster films? Shouldn’there be some kind of statute of limitations?), the writer graces us with this final reflection:
"Still, if Road to Perdition ultimately fails as entertainment, it offers rich material for allegory. Maybe it was because I attended a screening on Sept. 11, but I couldn’t help seeing Hanks as an American everyman, a pure-hearted killer who will commit no end of mayhem to ensure a better life for his children. Imagine Willie Loman with a tommy gun, and you’ll see what I mean. ˜You dirty rats! Attention must be paid”.
But of course! What a brilliant point he’s making in the course of preening his anti-Americanism before his audience of U.K. intellectuals. What does Sept. 11 remind him of? The way Americans are killers. Sept. 11 becomes, in his lovely leap of logic, really about Americans being pure-hearted killers capable of "no end of mayhem," infinite evil deeds. Doesn’t everybody think that way? (Everybody in his little circle, I imagine). Sept. 11 reminds them that Americans are first and foremost murderers, so let’s not spend a moment acknowledging that little matter of Sept. 11 being a day on which 3,000 Americans were murdered by the "pure-hearted killers" of Al Qaeda. Who, when not committing mass murder, stone women as punishment, torture gays, crush free thought by executing dissidents. No, they get a pass (and the 3,000 become non-persons). Because they hate America, they must be for liberation, and so we can’t blame them; we must accuse ourselves of being killers. In fact, we should thank them for providing our witty writer with an occasion for reminding the world that the "American everyman" is a killer.
I encountered barely a month after Sept. 11, from a more illustrious figure on the Left, an academic Left paragon.
It was a mixed gathering with a heavy representation of Left academics, and people were going around the room and speaking about the attacks and the response. Over and over, one heard variations on the theme of, "Gee, it’s terrible about all those people who died in the towers and all" -- that had already become the pro forma disclaimer/preface for America-bashing -- “but maybe it’s a wake-up call for us to recognize how bad we are, Why They Hate Us." The implication was evident: We deserved it. It would be a salutary lesson. It was the Pat Robertson wing of the Left in full flower: Sinful America deserved this Judgment from the sky. Crocodile tears could be shed for those people who died in the towers, but those buildings were so ugly, they were such eyesores, they were a symbol of globalist hubris -- it was as if the terrorists who flew the planes into the towers were really architectural critics, flying Herbert Muschamps, not mass murderers.
Until finally, the coup de grace -- the Big Idiocy, the idiocy di tutti idiocies. It came from the very well-respected and influential academic, who said that there was at least one thing that was to be welcomed about 9/11: It might give Americans the impetus to do "what the Germans had done in the 60’s -- make an honest reassessment of their past and its origins, as a way to renewal.
Reassessment of our past: Clearly he was speaking admiringly of the 60’s generation in Germany coming to terms with its Nazi past, with Germany’s embrace of Hitler.
At that point, having sat silently through an accumulation of self-hating anti-Americanism, I couldn’take it any more. I am not a demonstrative patriot; I don’t believe in putting God in the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance. I don’believe in making people pledge at all -- there’s something collectivist about it. But this last was too much: We should be grateful for 9/11 because it would allow us to reassess our shameful, even Nazi-like, past?
The analogy that occurred to me grew out of a conversation I had several years ago with the philosopher Berel Lang, author of Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide, a talk that took place in the course of researching my book, Explaining Hitler. Mr. Lang is an extremely thoughtful and meticulous thinker on the question of degrees of evil, and the role of intentionality in determining them. He was speaking about the question of whether one could say there was "a history of evil" -- whether Hitler represented a new fact, a new landmark in that history, and if so, what the next step might be.
I suggested the "next step" might be Holocaust denial, because the deniers had found a diabolical way to twist the knife, compounding the pain of the survivors by negating and slandering the memory of the murdered.
Mr. Lang demurred, because he had his own notion of what the next step in the history of evil might be. The paradigm for it, he told me, was the postwar career of Martin Heidegger, the Nazi-friendly philosopher beloved to distraction by postmodernists (and Hannah Arendt).
All of whom apologized for him, despite an increasingly damning series of revelations that disclosed his toadying to Hitler’s thugs in order to attain professional advancement, hailing Hitler’s Reich as the ultimate synthesis of politics and his philosophy.
But that wasn’t what made Heidegger a new chapter, Mr. Lang said; it was his astonishing postwar behavior. After everything came out, after it was no longer possible to deny at least post facto knowledge of the Holocaust, nothing changed for Heidegger. He felt no need to incorporate what happened into his philosophy. "His silence," Mr. Lang said, "it wasn’even denial. For him, it wasn’t important! It wasn’t important! Now if you ask which of them is worse: the Revisionists [Holocaust deniers] deny it occurred, but their official position, at least, is that if it occurred, it would have been wrong. But Heidegger knows it occurred, but it’s just not important -- it’s not something to distort history to deny. For Heidegger, this is not history to concern oneself with."
Here’s the analogy: Heidegger’s peculiar neutrality-slash-denial about Nazism and the Holocaust after the facts had come out, and the contemporary Left’s curious neutrality-slash-denial after the facts had come out about Marxist genocides -- in Russia, in China, in Cambodia, after 20 million, 50 million, who knows how many millions had been slaughtered. Not all of the Left; many were honorable opponents. But for many others, it just hasn’registered, it just hasn’been incorporated into their "analysis" of history and human nature; it just hasn’been factored in. America is still the one and only evil empire. The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on America’s alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at America’s deplorable "Cold War mentality" -- none of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitler’s, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesn’need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there. The judgment that McCarthyism was the chief crime of the Cold War era doesn’t need a bit of a rethink, even when put up against the mass murder of dissidents by Marxist states.
The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Friday, March 28, 2003
THE “OTHER” CHINA
Last year was the 91st Anniversary of the Republic of China.
The largest celebrations took place in Taipei, where ROC President Chen Shui-bian presided over a 9am ceremony at the Presidential Building and later addressed a rally in the Presidential Plaza.
The National Music Hall was the site of a National Day reception from 6 to 8 pm, and a mass audience enjoyed a "Starlight Concert" at the Presidential Plaza from 7 pm. Live video of Taichung’s traditional fireworks display and of celebrations in the southern port city, Kaohsiung, was relayed to four giant television screens in the Presidential Plaza. The technology made possible a combined choir of around 2,000 voices from the three cities to join in chorus with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
Around the world, Overseas Chinese communities celebrated the anniversarty with parades, receptions, exhibitions and very many dinners.
In December 1972 the newly-elected Whitlam Government severed diplomatic relations with the Republic of China and recognised the People’s Republic of China. Under Prime Minister Whitlam and his successor Malcolm Fraser the official Australian position was hostility to Taiwan and subservience to the Chinese Communist regime. A low point was the refusal by Immigration Minister Michael Mackellar to allow the Mayor of Taipei and founder of Tatung Corporation, Dr T.S. Lin, to attend a local government conference in Sydney. Mackellar also banned a Taiwan netball team from transiting through Sydney to play in New Zealand.
During that period, Australians who stood up for Taiwan included NSW Parliamentarian Douglas Darby who wrote two books about Taiwan and established the Australia Free China Society, plus Federal Parliamentarians Hon. WC Wentworth and Hon. Michael Hodgman. Bill Wentworth famously refused to participate in a “moment of silence” in the House of Representatives on the demise of the Communist mass-murderer, Mao Tse-Tung.
Under subsequent Australian Governments, the official Australian attitude towards Taiwan has become progressively more friendly, and visits to Taiwan by Australian politicians are now commonplace. Foreign Minister Hon Alexander Downer and (then) Deputy Prime Minister Hon Tim Fischer visited Taiwan in 1996 and (later) Deputy Prime Minister Hon John Anderson MP made an excellent impression when he addressed large gatherings in Taipei and Kaohsiung in the same year. Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd MP is a Chinese linguist who is very well regarded in Taiwan.
Australians are rightly concerned about the contempt for human rights which is the hallmark of the Communist regime on the Mainland, and many Australians support the independence of Tibet. From time to time the Chicoms attempt to bully Australia, in the mistaken impression that the Australian Government can and should control the opinions of its citizens and the commerce of its entrepreneurs. For example, on 5 September 1996, Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guo-Fang warned Australia not to forge any official links with Taiwan and not to allow Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, any official meetings during his intended visit to Australia.
Prime Minister Hon John Howard and Foreign Minister Downer quite rightly ignored this and other “warnings”, which proved to be no barrier to a recent major contract for the sale of natural gas.
Taiwan is the only nation not represented in the United Nations, a ridiculous situation for a nation of 23 million people which makes a huge contribution to the world economy and which in its own right conducts significant agricultural assistance and emergency aid projects.
Australia and Taiwan, as the two best-governed nations in the Western Pacific, have a shared interest in the preservation of peace and the freedom of trade. The exclusion of Taiwan from the United Nations is a major violation of the UN Charter, perpetuated for the sake of appeasing the Chinese Communists. Admission of Taiwan to the United Nations should be a major goal of Australian foreign policy.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Thursday, March 27, 2003
THE AMAZING OPTIMISM OF THE ZIMBABWE OPPOSITION
IT WAS A NONDESCRIPT SORT OF ROOM, about 12ft by 9ft, and the windows at the top of one wall looked out onto flowerbeds, but the police paraphernalia lying around left Tom Spicer in no doubt as to why he had been brought there. Scattered about the floor and tables were pieces of leather, handcuffs and blindfolds. As he had been led down to the basement of Harare central police station he had already seen a battery in one room with wires leading from it. "They told me I was going to be tortured, I just didn’t know how they were going to do it," said Spicer, 18, a college student and the sole white youth activist for Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The electric shocks were the worst of the four-hour ordeal. Blindfolded, Spicer felt a wire inserted into his ear, and he began experiencing the sort of pain meted out on a regular basis by President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly lawless police. Diplomats have begun comparing the brutality with the darkest days of Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda, a quarter of a century ago. "It’s fairly indescribable," said Spicer, a fifth-generation Zimbabwean whose parents once supported Mugabe and everything he stood for. More than a week after his torture he still cannot eat, his arms are sore and some of his muscles numb after straining against the handcuffs that bound him. He is at least able to walk again, after being beaten - again blindfolded - on the soles of his feet while a policeman sat on his knees. "They told me they were going to kill me," he said. But Spicer insists nothing he has been through has deterred him from supporting and working for the MDC. The opposition party’s swelling popularity has so irked Mugabe he has given his security forces virtual carte blanche to collude in the thuggery that besets a nation which was once - at his inauguration as president 22 years ago - a beacon of hope. "It’s definitely not put me off. I’m a Zimbabwean, and I’ve got the right to campaign for the party of my choice," said Spicer. "All my friends are supporting me."
Among them are Cosmos and Barabas Ndira, Reuben Tichareva and Tendai Maluzi, the four young blacks arrested with Spicer by the police in Mabvuku, a poor township area on the eastern outskirts of Harare a week last Thursday. The group were interrogated about a recent murder that had taken place while Spicer had been away on holiday with his parents, and were also quizzed about a series of alleged arson attacks. The blacks were asked why they liked a "white boy", and told they should be killing whites, not befriending them. The group were beaten and forced to chant slogans in support of Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, which Spicer refused to do. He was then separated from his friends and his torture session began. During the four days of their detention the teenagers were allowed no access to lawyers and Spicer’s mother, Edwina, 54, a documentary film-maker, had only managed once to get a doctor anywhere near her badly injured son. Eventually on Monday the group was released, on bail of 10,000 Zimbabwean dollars each, about £115.
The irony for the Spicers is that they are a liberal family who left the then Rhodesia during the Ian Smith era in the 1970s and returned in the belief that Mugabe was setting up a genuinely pluralistic, multiracial and tolerant society. Tom’s father Newton is a former civil servant who works with the communal and small-scale farmers that Mugabe has championed in his land seizures. "Tom’s predicament catches headlines because he is white but this is nothing to do with race," said Edwina Spicer. "The British press has laboured on about the farmers but the point is the lack of any rule of law. Tom’s case highlights what is happening to every other young activist in the country. This is just my child\s story: there are thousands more." "We’re bringing a court action," said Tom Spicer. " I honestly do hold out hope."
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
ELECTIONEERING IN ZIMBABWE
SIXTY ONE YEAR OLD Highfield Movement for Democratic Change District Chairman, Ernest Banda, will forever thank his captors’ decision to phone his daughter after he had been abducted by suspected CIO agents and taken to Murehwa, where his captors wanted to kill him for his involvement in MDC politics.
Banda, who is the MDC’s election agent in the forthcoming Highfield parliamentary by-election, was abducted by 8 strangers while relaxing at his New Canaan home at about 2.00pm yesterday. About 40 minutes before the arrival of his abductors, members of the PISI, an internal security organization under the Zimbabwe Republic Police, visited him and asked him why he had been reporting to Machipisa Police Station on Saturdays instead of Fridays for a case in which he is alleged to have attacked his neighbor’s tuck-shop on 22 October 2002 after the announcement of the late Kuwadzana Member of Parliament, Learnmore Jongwe’s death.
When his abductors arrived at his home, they asked him why he had not reported to the police station after a message had been sent to him that he should report to the police. Banda professed ignorance of such a message from the police. His abductors then handcuffed him, dragged him and shoved him into one of three vehicles they had parked by the roadside and drove off to Murehwa district, some 80 kilometres from Harare, where they tortured him using electric shocks, teeth bites, claps and an iron bar. They also cut off his deadlocks using a knife.
The abductors then decided to phone his daughter, who told them she had taken the registration number of one of the vehicles used in the abduction, and that she knew one of the abductors very well. At this point they then decided to change their plan and drove and dumped him in a bush in Bhora communal area in the same district. After his abductors left, Banda started the 80 kilometre journey to Harare on foot, but was rescued by a good Samaritan driving to Harare who stopped for him and gave him a lift. Banda’s abductors also burnt his beard using a cigarette lighter.
The day before Banda’s abduction, Joseph Chinotimba, the Zanu PF candidate for Highfield had instructed Banda to cut his dreadlocks.
This latest act of violence in what Zanu PF has said should be a violence-free campaign exposes Zanu PF’s hypocrisy. The violent party preaches peace to hoodwink the international community, while mobilizing their thugs and state agents such as the CIO and the police to perpetuate violence and protect Zanu PF initiated violence respectively. We strongly warn Zanu PF to live by their word and desist from such barbaric electioneering methods.
An email from Robert Hoogenboom:
John Howard, you dim-witted little man, by declaring war on Iraq you will invite terrorist attacks on Australia and you will make enemies of 250 million Indonesians, just across the Timor Sea.
Dear Mr Hoogenboom,
Thank you for your letter. I will reproduce it so that all my readers will be in no doubt about your status as an offensive ignoramus. You are so ill-informed that you are unaware that the Bali bombing was at least in part motivated by Australia’s noble support of the East Timorese, and that Australia worked closely with Indonesia to apprehend the perpetrators. You are so ill-informed that you do not even know that the Prime Minister has expressly NOT declared war on Iraq.
Prime Minister Howard is a giant in terms of intellect, integrity and principle. So what relevance is his physical stature? Does it matter that he is taller than ex-Prime Minister R.J. Hawke? If you are unhappy with the leadership of John Howard, I earnestly hope that you will find leadership more to your taste, perhaps in Cuba or North Korea.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
UK Muslim cleric jailed 9 years for soliciting murder of infidels
ABDULLAH EL-FAISAL, the Muslim cleric convicted of soliciting the murder of non-believers and stirring up racial hatred, was jailed for nine years yesterday. But his defence counsel, Jerome Lynch QC, called the sentence at the Old Bailey "harsh" and said Muslims might see it as undermining their community. He said that the preacher would appeal.
"We don't have any time for his views, but this seems excessive," said Trevor Hemmings of the civil liberties campaign Statewatch, comparing it with shorter sentences for hate crimes by far-right extremists. "The message that this sends out is that if you are black or Asian and say something out of order you get jailed for nine years and deported, but if you are on the right you can go out tooled up with knuckledusters and get half of that."
El-Faisal, 39, was convicted last month on three counts of soliciting murder, in the first prosecution of its kind for 100 years, and three counts of inciting racial hatred. He was the first Muslim cleric to be tried in the UK for his preaching. "Allah is the only judge," a supporter called from the public gallery as Peter Beaumont, the common serjeant of London, jailed El-Faisal and recommended he be deported after his sentence. El-Faisal is a Jamaican citizen but his wife and three children are British.
"You not only preached hate but urged [listeners] to kill those who did not share your faith," Judge Beaumont said. "This country has a tradition of free speech, but that right is preserved by making sure one person's right to speak what he or she believes does not endanger someone else's right to live or worship in peace and safety." He said that, as a cleric, El- Faisal had a responsibility to "young and impressionable people" at a time of tension, but "instead of calming fears, you fanned the flames of hostility.
During the trial the court heard that El-Faisal told audiences the way forward was "the bullet, not the ballot" and urged them to learn to fly planes, drive tanks, load guns and use missiles. In one speech he told them: "People with British passports, if you fly into Israel, it is easy. "Fly into Israel and do whatever you can. "How do you fight a Jew? You kill a Jew."
Letter from “Women of Zimbabwe Arise”
In Zimbabwe 56% of the population is female and traditionally it is the mother who must provide sustenance despite a meager budget. We believe that it is the women who are at the end of the suffering chain and it is they who suffer in silence. The time has come for women to arm themselves NOT WITH WEAPONS OF WAR AND DESTRUCTION but with their God given weapons – their hearts, minds and their voices. Women of Zimbabwe Arise, (WOZA) was formed to end that silence and lobby to end the suffering.
We, the women of Zimbabwe, who are wives, mothers and sisters, appeal to you to assist us to vocalize this torment. We seek not feminist ideals but rather to make it known that we will not stand by and let the torment continue unabated. It is in our homes that we tend the tortured and sadly turn away the starving.
We talk of our concern for our families, of our pain when we see their pain. We, the women, sit for days and weeks and months in queues – waiting and waiting for food that does not arrive. While we wait, our children wander the forests searching for roots and seeds and even insects to eat.
Share our despair, the men we love and rely on, face the humiliation because they cannot provide for us. Eight out of ten of our husbands are without formal employment. Those in jobs earn so little money that they can barely buy basic foods. 200% inflation has made wages meaningless. Some of our husbands rise at 4 am to walk 20 km to work, to avoid the taxi fares. They work all day on nothing to eat and arrive home so late and so tired they can do nothing. Often they beat us up just out of frustration.
Can you imagine the horror of a mother who sees her week-old baby assaulted for her political beliefs?
Can you imagine the hopelessness of a mother whose child is denied access to health care because of his parents’ political beliefs?
Can you imagine the endless frustration and simmering anger when our children cannot eat because we, their mothers, do not have the right political party card to produce at the selling point?
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Monday, March 24, 2003
KNOWING TYRANNY FROM EXPERIENCE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
From Erich Kern
A LOOK AT THE NATIONS that have declared their support for U.S. policy toward Iraq shows a mostly unremarked link: Many have had first-hand experience with tyranny in recent memory. Saddam Hussein is an all too familiar animal.
In the United Nations Security Council, that includes Spain, where Franco's memory has not yet faded, and Bulgaria, where people endured 50 years of totalitarianism first under the Nazis and then the Communists. Elsewhere in the former Soviet empire, Hungary has provided a training camp for Iraqi exiles; the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine are offering chemical weapons-cleanup teams. Even tiny Albania says it will send commandos to Iraq, in part as thanks for U.S. help in 1999 in Kosovo, where Serbs were slaughtering ethnic Albanians.
An eloquent expression of the sentiment behind this support was heard recently in rural northwest Connecticut. The Litchfield County Times quotes one Peter Orenski, born in Romania and now an American citizen resident in New Milford. Mr. Orenski spoke out last month at a town meeting called to discuss an antiwar resolution then under consideration by the town council.
"I have been brought up by thugs," he said in opposing the resolution. "I am not really qualified to talk about many things but I can talk about thugs. I know about thugs. Whether they be fascists, Nazis or Saddam Hussein, I know thugs when I see them."
The resolution was defeated.
Invading Iraq is a "diversion" from the war on al Qaeda?
(From a speech given to the Fabiani Society in New York by JAMES TARANTO, editor of OpinionJournal.com)
The idea that finishing the Gulf War detracts from the terror war reminds me of the arguments we used to hear against quality-of-life policing. The objection went something like this: Why would you want cops to waste their time on "minor crimes" like panhandling, or subway fare-beating, or public urination? The police ought to be out catching murderers.
After the Giuliani years here in New York, it'd be hard to find anyone who doesn't acknowledge that public order prevents crime, and that public disorder, by creating an atmosphere of lawlessness and anarchy, encourages serious crime. This principle is no less applicable on the "Arab street" than on the streets of New York.
Terrorism does not occur in a vacuum; it is a product of the tyranny, misrule and fanaticism that prevail in much of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Saddam Hussein's continued defiance of the U.N.'s demands and its failure to do anything about it make a mockery of international law. What lesson can terrorists take from this but that this is a world without authority, a world in which the civilized nations will not act to protect themselves from those who would murder the innocent in the name of jihad?
Furthermore, the need to contain Saddam Hussein distorts American policy toward the entire region. Many critics of Washington's Iraq policy point out that al Qaeda actually has much closer ties to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq. This is undoubtedly true. Osama bin Laden is a Saudi native. Fifteen of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis. Riyadh exports the extremist Wahhabi brand of Islam throughout the world.
Yet Saudi Arabia is our ally. We even station troops on Saudi soil, to protect the Saudi royal family from Saddam Hussein. With Saddam gone, we'll be able to reassess our relationship with the Saudis and with other "friendly" dictatorships. The fewer enemies you have, the more selective you can afford to be about your friends.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Sunday, March 23, 2003
French, Russians to lose Iraq oil
WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- French and Russian oil and gas contracts signed with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq "will not be honored," Barhim Salih, a leading Iraqi Kurdish official, said in Washington Friday, just before a series of high-level meetings with Bush administration officials.
"A new Iraqi government should not honor any of these contracts, signed against the interests of the Iraqi people. The new Iraqi government should respect those who stood by us, and not those who stood beside the dictator," added Salih, who is prime minister in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan government that controls Iraq's eastern Kurdish area.
Russian and French oil corporations have each signed draft contracts with Iraq, to come into force only when the United Nations sanctions are lifted, for exploration, development and exploitation of the country's energy resources -- which geologists believe may be the world's second largest after Saudi Arabia. The value of the draft contracts, if fully taken up, is estimated to have a potential of more than $20 billion.
Salih is expected to be one of the leading political figures in Iraq, along with the PUK's leader Jalal Talabani, after the fall of Iraq's current leader Saddam Hussein. The Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, protected for a decade by British and U.S. warplanes enforcing a no-fly zone, has become an island of prosperity and nascent democratic ways.
While there is no guarantee that Salih will be elected to a high position in whatever new government emerges in Baghdad after Saddam, the Iraqi Kurds -- both in the PUK area and those in the region controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and its leader Masud Barzani -- constitute the best-organized opposition in Iraq and are expected to play a decisive role.
Prime Minister Salih went on for talks with senior Bush administration officials on plans for rebuilding post-war Iraq and for creating political stability. His top priority was to dissuade the Bush administration from giving the Turkish military any role in the Kurdish region on northern Iraq.
"Turkish military involvement will invite other neighbors to intervene, like Syria and Iran. This would open Pandora's box. It would create havoc, and compromise the real mission, which is to install representative government and democracy in a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors."
He also said that the 70,000 Kurdish troops, mostly with light weapons, at his government's disposal would come under U.S. command in the event of war. And he confirmed intelligence reports that Iraqi troops had affixed explosives to the oil wells near Mosul and Kirkuk.
"Saddam wants to instigate an environmental catastrophe. This is his Armageddon," Salih said. "We are in touch with the Iraqi military, telling them to ignore orders to destroy the wells. We think very few of them will fight. Senior officers at border crossing have asked us to let them know when the moment (for attack) comes so they can escape."
Comments? Email Michael Darby