Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Taking Journalists to Task

Nicholas Kristoff, one of the very few journalists who has covered Darfur throughout the crisis, takes the media to task in his column today for failing to cover the genocide.

One suspects that in a decade or so when we are commemorating Darfur, as we commemorated Rwanda last year, the media will have plenty of criticism for today's political leadership -- as well they should. But they could play a very important role in bringing the world's attention to this tragedy and they have chosen not to.

Monday, July 11, 2005

No one can say it like Hitch

Christopher Hitchens has a brilliant piece on Slate today about what Srebrenica taught us -- or ought to have -- about intervention:

Why did Saddam Hussein, that great lion of the Arab and Muslim world, denounce the American bombing of the Muslim-killing Milosevic? Why did Qaddafi do the same? For the very same reason that Christian fascists in Serbia now denounce the intervention in Iraq: They know that the main foe is the United States and that this fact transcends all the others. There has been a great deal of nonsense published in the last week to the effect that an alliance with the United States can put other countries like Britain in the position of being "targeted." Why deny this? I reflect on what was not done at Srebrenica, and on what ought to have been done in Rwanda, and on what was put off too long with the Taliban and the Baathists, and I think what an honor it is to have such enemies. Co-existence with them is not possible, which is good, because it is not desirable or tolerable, either. The Srebrenica memorial stands as enduring testimony to that inescapable conclusion.

All too often the temptation toward appeasement proves stronger than the will to act. Unfortunately, it is rarely the appeasers who pay the highest price.

Ten Years

Today marks the anniversary of one of the biggest failures of the international community since the founding of the United Nations. Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered after Bosnian Serb forces overran the supposed UN safe haven of Srebrenica and the world stood by and did nothing. 50,000 people, including the typical foreign dignitary set, showed up at an event to mark the occasion.

Meanwhile, the commander of European Union forces in Europe insists that they're getting closer to catching Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karazdic who have been indicted in the Hague on charges of genocide for the role they played in this and other attrocities. He pointed out that it's "a bit like getting Osama bin Laden". This would be true if Osama bin Laden lived in Europe and attended public events. On Saturday, a ceremony was held to commemorate Serb victims of the wars in Yugoslavia, and who should be sat in the front row but Mladic and Karazdic (faithful readers of this blog will recall that Ratko is still collecting his pension.) So on what planet this is anything at all like capturing Osama, I am not sure.

The Europeans weren't really all that bothered about the slaugters going on in their own backyard while it was occuring, so there doesn't really seem to be a reason for them to care now that it is over. However, I would appreciate it if they didn't pretend to be trying to do something about bringing genocidal murderers to justice, when those same murderers are practically stood in a public square yelling "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, you can't catch me".

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Sign me up!

Using Robert Fisk's logic (that people who refuse to bow down to Osama's demands deserve to be attacked) against him, Tim Blair has posted an ultimatum: stop writing articles like the one yesterday or we will steal your shoes.

Very well; if you, Fisk, keep writing this crap, I will employ a squadron of expert footwear bandits to steal all your shoes. Do you know what it’s like to live without shoes, Robert? To wake every morning knowing that the shoes you had the night before are now in a foreign port being busted down to spare parts by criminal gangs operating under the direction of international shoelords?

Having been raised on the wonderful game of Shoe Tag as a child (much like regular tag except instead of just having to touch someone to make them 'it', you steal the shoes from off their feet... I'm not sure what genius thought it up), let me be the first to volunteer to join this squadron.

Fisk's full article is now available on his website if you have the stomach for it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Could I get a list of what I'm allowed to say?

I would like to preface this by saying I really really hate it when our justice system puts me in the position to have to defend anti-semites.

David Ahenakew was found guilty of thought crime (or as the government likes to call it 'willfully promoting hatred') today, and fined $1,000 for anti-semitic remarks that he made in 2002. I think this man is a despicable piece of filth. I would probably go so far as to say that I hate him, and I would willfully promote you to do so as well. I was very glad to see him stripped of the Order of Canada. I also think that this man is entitled to hate whoever he wants and to share his opinions with whoever he wants.

Yes, he probably hurt some feelings by calling Jews a disease. But I don't think it could reasonably be claimed that he actually put anyone in danger. No decent person wants to hear anyone justify the Holocaust, but this man is not in the position to start rounding people up and moving them to ghettos.

If we have become a state that protects people from having their feelings hurt, perhaps we should start having police monitor the halls in junior high schools across the country, because 12 year olds can really be mean!

Freedom of speech is an integral part of a democratic society. There is no value in what this man said. But where do you draw the line? Who gets to determine which speech is protected and which is not? And do they really think that they have done any good by finding this man guilty of hateful speech? So that now the people who agree with him feel that he is a victim of the state. Racists with a legitimate reason to be angry at the justice system. That's exactly what we need.

Peace in Our Time

The expected response from Robert Fisk today (subscription or access to a university library system required), convinced that if we just give Osama what he wants he'll go away. This totally always works! Britain will leave the Muslim world alone and Osama's followers will stop bombing England.

To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy 'what we hold dear' encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a 'war on terror' which Lord Blair of Kut al- Amara has locked us into. Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: 'Why do we not attack Sweden?'

Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.

Yeah, you know who else Sweden didn't take sides against? Hitler. Which was great for Sweden who were free to direct their energies toward finding practical solutions to the world's furniture assembly problems, but if England and the U.S. had had that attitude there'd be no Jews left. And though Osama wouldn't have a problem with that, I have a sense that Adolf would have turned his attentions to the Muslim hordes eventually.

What Robert Fisk fails to explain is what business Iraq is of Osama's. Mecca and Medina I might grant you for the sake of the argument (although not the modern political state of Saudi Arabia). But from what I recall, despite some attempts on Saddam's part to buddy up to the Islamists after the Gulf War, Iraq was a secular state. And it has to be about Iraq, because if this is about Afghanistan then Sweden's in trouble too, because they have forces there as peacekeepers. And I tend to feel that Osama might frown upon that, because helping turn theocracies into democracies would seem to work counter to his goals.

If we're talking not just about Muslim holy sites, but countries with lots of Muslims, how many do you need for Osama to make you his business? With Muslim immigration to Europe growing, and a higher birth rate among Muslims, eventually they could reach a critical mass so that Osama gets to decide what is right for those countries too. Will he or his designates then get to be represented in the European Union and in various European governments? Surely they should (one suspects that these representative bodies wouldn't last very long if they did). Although the vast majority of the world's Muslims have never claimed to be represented by this man, he is willing to kill lots of innocent people, so his aims must be valid.

It is not encouraging racism to say that Osama and those who agree with him seek to destroy our way of life, unless you group all Muslims in with Osama (and even then it wouldn't really be racist, as last time I checked Muslims can be any race). What is racist is to assume that the people of the Middle East want to live the way that Osama bin Laden thinks that they should, as though people with darker skin are somehow less democratic by nature.

It's all very well for people like Robert Fisk to demand that we appease Osama, because they are going to get to continue to lead their well off Western lives. No one is ever going to force Robert into a burka or stone him to death for showing a little too much ankle. Just as no one was ever going to force King Gustav into a gas chamber. Pity that.

"An air of weary inevitability"

Ian McEwan's piece in the Times today reflects on the mood in London after yesterday's attacks:

...now the disaster was upon us, it had an air of weary inevitability, and it looked familiar, as though it happened long ago. In the drizzle and dim light, the police lines, the emergency vehicles, the silent passers-by appeared as though in an old newsreel film in black and white. The news of the successful Olympic bid was more surprising than this. How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?

We now live in a world in which it will continue to happen. It is not a matter of if the next attack will occur, but where and when. I hope that we will never come to the point that these things cease to shock us, but perhaps surprise is not in order any more.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London's Reaction

From the London News Review

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?

This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.
Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.
Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city."

Well said indeed.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

It continues...

The terrorists continue their attacks. Today it was London.

This is not about Iraq, this is not about the G8. This is about a group of nihilists seeking to destroy our way of life. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be appeased. They must be defeated.

Canadians need to understand that this is about us too. Unfortunately, I don't get the sense that we do.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

From the folks who brought you WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com

Tom Cruise Is Nuts*

*For those of you who feel that this is outside the mandate of this blog, please note that Tom Cruise is an ambassador for one of the world's great religions and I had totally always intended to deal with spiritual issues.

I confess I had just assumed France was just going to buy it this time

London has won the Olympic Bid. Jacques Chirac is a loser...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I tried to resist, but...

Refering to the English, Jacques Chirac said that he "can't trust people who have such bad food...". Hmmm. How to reply, how to reply? I know: you certainly trusted us to help liberate you from the Germans.

Next time you're in a spot of trouble ask the Italians to help or something, we'll be at home eating fish and chips (I haven't felt so viscerally English, or non-vegetarian in a very long time).

Monday, July 04, 2005

I suppose we're all entitled to our opinions...

African Union leaders meeting for a summit in Libya have expressed reservations about whether the G8 leaders will be able to solve Africa's problems.

President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir thinks that the G8 countries have their own problems to worry about and can't be solving Africa's:

But if it can, the G8 should “not only lift the interest on debt but the debts themselves, because they are the biggest catastrophe facing African countries...”

Really? 'Cos I kinda thought that the biggest catastrophe facing his country was the willingness of the government to turn armed militias on its own citizens.

But as usual, our old friend Bobby chose the most appropriate thing to say:

“This is the most important African summit ever for it concentrates on real problems in the continent which are security and poverty,” President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe told AP.

I can only assume that he isn't referring to the kind of security that comes from having a house to sleep in.

Shall we just hand them over a big pile of cash right now? Because, let's face it, you can't accuse either one of them of being the kind of man who can't get things done.

Damn you G8, listen to these people!

There is an interesting piece in the Christian Science Monitor asking Africans and Live 8 attendees about the solutions to Africa's problems. I think it's fair to say that the concert goers could do with a little bit more 'consciousness raising' of their own before the G8 leaders listen to them. My personal favourite was the Italian who couldn't name a single African leader (only half of those asked could), who claimed that he himself was a victim: a victim of a lack of information. Because that's the big problem at the start of the 21st Century, there just aren't enough sources for information. A person who gives a damn about Africa could never find out about Thabo Mbeki's strange beliefs about HIV/AIDS or how Robert Mugabe is destroying Zimbabwe, or how Joseph Kabila is supposed to be leading DR Congo toward democracy despite a complete lack of ability, or the attempts of Yoweri Museveni's supporters to change Uganda's constitution so that he could run for another term in office. Even assuming that your only source for information (you poor victim) is the TV news, you might have heard about how Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons program last year. No? Well, don't let that stop you from having an opinion on the solution to Africa's problems!

It is telling that the Africans interviewed had far less faith in their leader's to spend aid money effectively than the incredibly well informed concert-goers. They must have been brainwashed by Western imperialists or something.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Don't Be Like Kofi!

In a documentary made by the BBC Kofi Annan expresses disappointment that the world has barely reacted to the genocide in Darfur. If he was the sort of person in a position to get the world to pay attention, I'm sure he would talk about it every day to whomever would listen and shame the world into do something. As it is, he's just the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

He also points out that the world's response to this genocide proves that we learned nothing from Rwanda. I won't disagree with him on that point. But what I find most interesting about his statement is not that we haven't learned anything from Rwanda, but that most of the world hasn't learned anything about Rwanda. Or at least the genocide that occurred there. Because anyone who knows anything about Rwanda in 1994 knows that while Romeo Dallaire was begging the UN for the power to do something to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people, Kofi was urging caution.

In the same documentary, the American Ambassador to the U.N., John Danforth provides excuses as to why the U.S. could not consider military intervention. If Kofi really wanted to see action he would be saying to people like John Danforth every day "11 years ago I was like you, I didn't see the urgency, I watched people die and came up with excuses to not do anything when people were demanding that we stop murder and I have to live with that every day. Don't be like me." But the thing is, despite the fact that he should feel tremendous guilt, I don't get the sense that Rwanda profoundly affected him. If it had, he wouldn't just offer pat phrases like "we learned nothing from Rwanda".

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day.... morons!

Let's celebrate this Canada Day by acknowledging how completely ignorant we are about our history.

Homeless Zimbabweans Glum

A U.N. Envoy is in Zimbabwe this week and is preparing a report on the demolitions that have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Despite my initial skepticism that the U.N. never really accomplishes anything, I have to confess that she seems to be asking the hard-hitting questions.

"'When I asked them if they were happy, I got a resounding no. So definitely there are challenges that we have to sort out,' she said, quoted by AFP news agency, after visiting the Caledonia Farm site [where displaced people are being housed]."

Elsewhere on the continent, people are starting to express concerns that Darfuris are "feeling a little low".