Friday, December 9, 2005 at 10:51 AM
A week ago yesterday, the talk in Hollywood (and all over America) was about the scheduled appearance that night of mega-celebrity and life guru Oprah Winfrey on “Late Night with David Letterman”. Of course, Oprah has appeared on many TV shows to flak her projects. But what fueled the hype on this occasion was the alleged feud between the serene Oprah and funnyman Dave that began when Oprah declared – after her last appearance on his show almost 20 years ago – that:
“I was sort of like the butt of his jokes. I felt completely uncomfortable sitting in that chair, and I vowed I would not ever put myself in that position again.”
So, naturally, everyone wanted to see how this mother superior of life-affirming television would chastise (and then promptly forgive) her insensitive and rascally colleague. Therefore, imagine the national shock and dismay when, after cooing Dave like one of her puppy-mill puppies, the first words out of Oprah’s mouth were:
“Could you please tell me what has transpired? I have never for a moment had a feud with you.”
So much for “finding your authentic self [and] being your best you….”
Let me hasten to disclose that I have tremendous admiration for Oprah. And, even though I have little regard for the self-improvement séances she moderates on her daily talk show, I appreciate that this show is the cash cow that enables her to build schools in Africa, present provocative movies on prime-time television and fund culturally diverse productions on Broadway.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that Oprah, the woman, is greater than the sum of all of her many business and charitable projects. Moreover, if nothing else, Oprah has cultivated the impression that she is immune to the vain, capricious, and kiss-ass traits that characterize so many Hollywood personalities. Indeed, this is why her devoted followers had to have been stupefied by her disingenuous deference to Dave.
Not a word about how painful (psychologically abusive) it was to have been ridiculed by his crass and juvenile jokes for so many years!? Puhleeese!
This occasion clearly called for her to either counsel Dave to discover his comedic genius within so that it could bring forth jokes that do not demean people who are obviously suffering under weighty issues; or bound onto his stage, announce her triumph over the emotional insecurities that kept her away for 2 decades and laugh-off her hibernation like anyone – who’s not a holier-than-thou sourpuss – would.
As it happened, the biggest joke of the night came from the mockery Oprah made of her “standing your ground [and] confronting your fears” life-affirming mantra.
Thursday, December 8, 2005 at 10:57 AM
When President Reagan got into trouble for diverting funds from Iran to the Contras, wife Nancy protected his tarnished behind by diverting blame on others and firing Reagan’s Chief of Staff to make her point.
When President Clinton got into trouble for declaring under oath that “I never had sex with that woman…”, wife Hillary salvaged his butt from impeachment by declaring him the victim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and standing by her man.
And, now that President Bush is in trouble for cajoling new democracies in Eastern Europe into reverting to their old communist ways to run secret al-Qaeda prisons, political-wife Condi (they are so close that Condi once referrered to Bush in an interview as “My husb…er, the President”) is in Europe trying to cover his ass by reassuring America’s incredulous allies that:
“As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States’ obligations under the CAT [U.N. Convention Against Torture], which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment — those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States.”
Of course, in an artful dodge worthy of Bill Clinton, Rice did not deny that the U.S. solicited Eastern European allies who are less squeamish about exacting cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment on their own citizens – to say nothing of al-Qaeda suspects – to do its dirty work.
Just imagine the spectacle of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – seen here with Ukrainian President Vicktor Yushchenko, the man the U.S. hailed as democracy’s latest darling in an extraordinary joint session of Congress just months ago – shuttling this week all over the former totalitarian states of Eastern Europe, sheepishly proclaiming that President Bush has not ordered and does not condone the very kind of police-state tactics that they suffered under Soviet communism…
But her job is not only more foreign than domestic; the mess she has to clean up is potentially far more toxic to world affairs. After all, Condi is now in the untenable and unsustainable position of trying to convince the world that what she’s saying about U.S. policy on the torture of prisoners is not belied by daily news reports showing Americans committing the very abuses she denies – ever so diplomatically.
Unfortunately, just as he undermined the credibility of his previous Secretary of State by sending Colin Powell to the UN to present a fatally flawed case for America’s invasion of Iraq, Bush now seems determined to undermine Condi’s credibility (and effectiveness) by having her defend a policy that is not only disingenuous but also patently hypocritical.
Note: Meanwhile, the Russians, who once controlled these accommodating Eastern European states, have probably never felt so vindicated and self-righteous. After all, President Vladimir Putin has been governing their country like a politically savvy Joseph Stalin for years. And, perhaps even more troubling, his Putinization of Russia has been greeted with praise from many Russians whose alienation under American-style democracy induced nostalgia for the glory days of free vodka and absolute state control under Soviet communism.
But with America behaving eerily like the old Soviet Union (complete with its own invasion of Afghanistan), it may only be a matter of time before leaders in the other “former communist states” of Eastern Europe retreat to the Stalinization of their own countries….
Wednesday, December 7, 2005 at 10:38 AM
In this previous article, I commented on the shady financial dealings that compelled President Thabo Mbeki to sack Zuma last June. But back then, his sacking only seemed to increase Zuma’s popularity amongst members of the governing African National Party (ANC) who retained a vested and emotional interest in seeing him succeed Mbeki as president.
That all changed a few weeks ago, however, when it was revealed that credible allegations of rape had been reported against Zuma by a well-known HIV-positive AIDS activist. Because, given that South Africa has one of the highest rape statistics and the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, these allegations resonated with dispiriting and disillusioning effect – even amongst Zuma’s most loyal supporters. Indeed, the prevalence of rape and HIV/AIDS is such that few people were surprised yesterday when the National Prosecuting Authority concluded their investigation by filing formal rape charges against him.
Zuma’s defense? I did it but it was consensual….
(Naturally, one wonders whether he infected her or whether she infected him. Because odds are that this intelligent and erstwhile respectable man did not wear a condom in the commission of this illicit act?)
Nonetheless, as tragic (or fatal) as Zuma’s fate seems to be, his plight demonstrates the remarkable maturity of South Africa’s 11-year old democracy. And, hopefully, this prosecution of Zuma will serve notice not only to other powerful South Africans but also to powerful men throughout sub-Saharan Africa that money and tribal allegiances no longer guarantee immunity from prosecution for their criminal activities.
Wednesday, December 7, 2005 at 10:17 AM
This very English man has all the right stuff to be the next Prime Minister of England. His name is David Cameron. He was elected as the new leader of the opposition Conservative Party yesterday, primarily because he’s every bit as young (at 39), telegenic, impudent and glib as current PM Tony Blair was when he was catapulted to the leadership of the Labour Party at the politically precocious age of 41.
And, if they stick to their let’s emulate Labour’s 1994 to 1997 playbook (1997 being the year Blair upset incumbent PM John Major to win his first election), it’s very likely that the Conservatives will be returned to government – with Cameron moving into the Prime Minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street – after the next general elections.
Beyond aping Blair, the Conservatives are bound to derive immeasurable benefit in their campaign to unseat Labour from the ongoing internecine battles between Blair and Deputy PM Gordon Brown (the very impatient Prime Minister-in-waiting) that have beset the Party for years. Because it is an open secret in Britain that, despite Blair’s re-election to an historic 3rd term just months ago, Brown is already conspiring and conniving to push him out of No. 10.
Allegedly, it was (and perhaps remains) the nature of their arrogant ambition that Blair and Brown struck a deal in the early 1990s in which Blair promised to serve only 2 terms as prime minister, and then resign so that Brown could assume leadership of the Labour Party and, in due course, the premiership. But, evidently, Blair became so intoxicated with the power of his position that he reneged on the deal and decided to run for that historic 3rd term; and, thereby, turned his most trusted (and capable) political ally into an almost mortal enemy.
In fact, given the undermining tactics these two perpetrated against each other in the run-up to this year’s elections, it’s a wonder they won. But, just as internecine squabbles doomed Al Gore’s ambition to succeed the inimitable Bill Clinton as U.S. president in 2000, it seems fated that similar squabbles will doom Brown’s ambition to succeed Tony Blair as British prime minister.
Note: It behooves Brown to appreciate that Gore would have been elected president in 2000 if he’d won a majority of votes in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. But he was so filled with hatred towards Clinton – at the end of Clinton’s 2nd term – that Gore allowed personal emotion to spite his political ambition when he rebuffed Clinton’s offer to rally support for him in that state.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005 at 11:27 AM
Instead of planting stories to make them look good, American military overseers in Iraq should stop showing stories that make them look bad. Specifically, if they are the puppet masters of everything Iraqi officials do, why, pray tell, would they allow this mother of all trials starring Saddam Hussein to be shown, not only on Iraq TV but also around the world?
Yesterday, Saddam Hussein demonstrated why former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clarke – who volunteered to represent him – is merely his legal stooge. Because Saddam wasted little time proving to everyone watching that he has courtroom skills that would make even the late Johnny Cochran proud…
Everyone in Iraq knows that Saddam is headed for the gallows. In fact, even Saddam – who blurted out defiantly in court yesterday “I am not afraid of execution” – seems to know his fate. And, despite the farcical nature of the proceedings thus far, there seems to be overwhelming evidence that he committed every crime against humanity for which he has been charged.
Yet it appears that American-style democracy – not Saddam – is on trial in that Baghdad court. And Saddam is turning out to be not only the best witness for the prosecution but also the prosecutor-in-chief. Indeed, he is coining memorable phrases that undermine America’s democratic experiment in Iraq just as Johnny Cochran coined memorable phrases that undermined California’s prosecution of OJ Simpson. And, he’s even dominating the judge and court proceedings just as Cochran dominated his court and Judge Lance Ito.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask why the Americans are giving Saddam this forum to play dictator, judge and jury of Iraq; when it clearly makes them and their Iraqi acolytes look foolish, and might even boost the confidence of his Sunni insurgent comrades….
I suspect the trial is being televised to demonstrate the transparency of American judicial due process that the Pentagon hopes to transfer to the Iraqi justice system. But this is naïve and, frankly, laughable under the circumstances.
After all, in the minds of most people around the world, what passes for American criminal justice today is: prisoner abuse at Abu Gharib; indefinite detention of al-Qaeda suspects, without charge, in Guantanamo Bay; rendition of other suspects to friendly dictatorships (like Egypt and Pakistan) to be tortured for information; jailing of others in secret gulags throughout Eastern Europe; and, apropos Saddam Hussein, the execution of 1000 Americans over the last 30 years.
Alas, the Americans are only shooting themselves in the democratic foot with this trial. They should either have sent Saddam off to The Hague to rot in obscurity with former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic (remember him?) or dispensed summary judgment when they found him in that rat hole. (And, for real PR value, they could have given credit to one of their Iraqi battalions in training for this prized hit! Trust me, the American military has concocted much worse….)
But just as they are now bogged-down in a no-win guerilla war with insurgents in Iraq, the Americans are courting a no-win PR offensive with the Iraqis and Europeans. And, this PR offensive is all the more foolhardy because they would have endeared themselves to many more Iraqis (including insurgent Sunnis) if Saddam Hussein were executed a long time ago; and, the Europeans won’t be content until they convince the world that there really is no difference between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush!
Note: The only good that will come out of this show trial is that it will provide lurid eyewitness accounts of the atrocities committed by Saddam and his Ba’ath Party for posterity; indeed, just as Steven Spielberg’s SHOA documented similar eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust committed by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party …so that we may never forget!
Monday, December 5, 2005 at 11:22 AM
When it is over, if it is over, this war [in Iraq] will have horrible consequences….Terrorism will be aggravated….Instead of one bin Laden there will be one hundred bin Ladens. Terrorist organizations will be united. Everything will be insecure.
[Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak – March 2003]
Yesterday, news anchors across America stumbled over the name of Abu Hamza Rabia as they reported, triumphantly, a “successful hit” on yet another al-Qaeda chief of operations. Frankly, why this still rates as “BREAKING NEWS” escapes me. After all, we hear reports every other week now about the assassination or capture of some obscure Muslim – who was allegedly a top al-Qaeda terrorist or the No.1 assistant to Osama bin Laden’s no. 3 lieutenant.
More to the point, I doubt Americans feel any safer today knowing that the name of Abu Hamza Rabia or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Faraj Farj al-Liby (et.al.) has been eliminated from the most wanted list of al-Qaeda terrorists.
Of course, the visionary Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that it would be thus. He was ridiculed, however, for sounding like a chastened Cassandra when he said the war in Iraq would produce 100 bin Ladens, after claiming that the war in Afghanistan would produce 1000 bin Ladens.
But the joke is clearly on anyone who thinks these high profile hits on al-Qaeda suspects are indications of success in America’s war against Muslim terrorists. Moreover, Mubarak may have been more prophetic than even he realised. Because 1000 bin Ladens today would amount to nothing more than a gaggle of cloistered or caved clerics: notorious for their incendiary rhetoric but who could never organise or carry-out a terror attack, and have no desire to die for their religious cause.
Instead, these wars have converted multitudes of peaceful Muslims into Jihadists who welcome the opportunity to sacrifice their lives in bin Laden’s holy war. Moreover, they have demonstrated that they are just as committed to and capable of killing Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) as President Bush is to “routing them out – one by one”. And, it doesn’t take a genius in military war strategy to figure out who will win this asymmetrical war – especially on their turf.
Indeed, it is precisely this realisation that American troops are caught in a no-win death dance with suicidal fanatics that is causing support for the global “war on terror” to plummet. And, if Pentagon officials hope that trumpeting the assassination or capture of one al-Qaeda deputy after another will reverse this trend, they are hopelessly misguided.
After all, the most notable success in this war to date is the rapidity and seamlessness with which al-Qaeda replaces its assassinated or captured deputies. And, this stands in stark contrast to anxiety and foreboding amongst Americans every time there’s a report about yet more American troops being blown up by these holy warriors.
Note: President Bush has decided to deliver a series of cheerleading speeches to counter increasingly defiant calls to bring the troops home…now! But his PR initiative cannot be helped by revelations like the recent escape of 4 al-Qaeda detainees from a high security prison guarded by top America military police; or the fact that in 2003 news anchors reported, triumphantly, the capture of the man who remains the most wanted terrorist in Iraq today, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Sunday, December 4, 2005 at 11:37 AM
Two weeks ago, in a move that shook the world and registered at least a 9 on the political Richter scale, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon abandoned the ruling right-wing Likud Party – which he helped found over 30 years ago – and formed a new centrist party called Kadima!
Then, last week, in an equally earth-shattering move, his erstwhile nemesis, Opposition Leader Shimon Peres, abandoned his left-wing Labour Party and joined Kadima by endorsing Sharon as the man best suited to lead Israel to a peaceful coexistence with a new Palestinian state and its other Arab neighbours.
And, with these seismic political moves and the recent success of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s shuttle diplomacy, peace in the Middle East has never looked more promising.
Allahu Akbar! Shalom! Hallelujah!
Saturday, December 3, 2005 at 1:35 PM
With its prison abuse scandals, violations of international laws of warfare, use of chemical weapons against “insurgents” and funding of propaganda stories in the national press, American-style democracy in Iraq is bearing an uncanny resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Yet, Americans wonder why “freedom loving Iraqis” are not throwing rose petals in the path of democracy convoys with U.S. troops canvassing their country in armored Humvees and battle-ready tanks.
Click here to read how the first casualty of war, the truth, has finally been reported.
Friday, December 2, 2005 at 11:32 AM
Reflecting uncanny coincidence or, perhaps, just shared desperation, the United States and France announced new anti-immigration measures on Tuesday that are aimed at “preventing terrorists [and rioters] from crossing [their] borders.”
For his part, President Bush used the background of the notoriously porous fence at the US-Mexican border to warn would-be illegal immigrants (some of whom American intelligence suspect could be terrorists) that:
“We’ve got a comprehensive strategy that says we’re going to enforce this border….We’re going to prevent people from coming here in the first place.”
Key provisions in the “get-tough” U.S. immigration laws are those calling for high-tech sensors, more Border Patrol agents, cameras aimed at catching illegal entrants and more aggressive (and intrusive) surveillance powers to monitor the activities of suspected terrorists already in the country. Moreover, Bush gave notice that illegal immigrants who make it across the border, despite these measures, will no longer be granted due process hearings.
Instead, those caught will be repatriated to the “interior” of Mexico pursuant to a new agreement with the Mexican government. Of course, this is critical because, under the old policy, illegal immigrants who were caught were issued court dates to plead their case but invariably ignored them and disappeared into America’s insular illegal immigrant community, which is now estimated at over 11 million people.
Meanwhile, over in Paris, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stood before the French Parliament and blamed the recent riots that set his country ablaze on immigration laws that were too accommodating (especially to Muslim immigrants from North Africa). He then proposed his own “get-tough” immigration laws that he promised would:
“…make it more difficult for foreign students and foreign-born relatives of French residents to enter the country. [Adding that] integration into our society, notably command of the French language, should be a condition for bringing in one’s family.”
Not to be upstaged, however, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy – the man generally blamed for igniting and credited for putting out the riotous fires (and who is expected to run against de Villepin to succeed Jacques Chirac as president of France) – took to the floor of Parliament to endorse its new anti-immigration surveillance laws and announce that:
“France did not want those people that nobody else in the world wants….We want selective immigration.”
Indeed! Nonetheless, here’s a reality check:
Although these new measures might appease the paranoia (and appeal to the xenophobia) of some American and French citizens, they are patently reactionary, irrational and, ultimately, irrelevant.
First of all, the U.S. does not even have an immigration problem. It has an employment problem. And this problem cannot be solved by using Mexicans – who provide indispensable cheap labour for its thriving economy – as scapegoats to ally concerns about terrorists.
Instead, though anathema to many in his ruling Republican Party, Bush should push for the enactment of his guest worker plan, which calls for comprehensive documentation of all illegal immigrants. Because such documentation would remove the stigma of criminality from these mostly honest and hardworking people, provide more reliable demographic information for the census and national security databases, increase national revenues as some of these newly documented workers pay income taxes, and, ameliorate fears about the solvency of social security as FICA taxes are withheld from their paychecks.
By contrast, however, France does have an immigration problem. But it’s not illegal immigration. The problem is that France is treating its legal immigrants the way the U.S. treated its black citizens almost 50 years ago. And, just as they incited blacks to riot in America back then, institutionalized racism and de facto segregation incited these immigrants to riot all over France a few weeks ago.
Instead of enacting gratuitous immigration laws, therefore, France should redress the systemic barriers that prohibit the assimilation of its dispossessed, disenfranchised and disillusioned immigrant population into mainstream society and inhibit their educational, professional and cultural ambitions. In fact, notwithstanding the backlash against it in America today, an aggressive programme of affirmative action in each of these areas would do more to cure the root causes of the riots than hermetically sealing French borders against illegal immigration.
Note: Implementing Bush’s guest worker plan does not preclude improving border security. However, it behooves Americans to appreciate that the new immigration laws Bush announced on Tuesday is like using a band aid to treat a patient with heart problems. Whereas, implementing his guest worker plan is like operating on that patient’s defective heart.
Endnote: It’s a testament to Bush’s incorruptible humanity that he proposes this guest worker plan in the face of fierce opposition from some of his most loyal political allies. But he probably recognises that these are the same mercenary politicians who opposed his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (which was heralded around the world just yesterday on World AIDS Day). And, he undoubtedly appreciates that their opposition now is motivated not out of concern for the welfare of the country but out of concern for the bottom line for their business-owning constituents who, under this plan, will have to pay documented immigrants a minimum wage and provide other employment benefits.
Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 11:19 AM
More than a year ago, then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the systematic raping, pillaging and killing of black Africans in Sudan’s Darfur region constitute genocide. Indeed, since 2003, these targeted crimes against humanity have resulted in the death of over 300,000 and dislocation of over two million Sudanese.
Although Powell did not use the term, I published this article several months later in which I described these genocidal acts as ethnic cleansing because they were (and are) being perpetrated by Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed (bandits) who were (and are) backed by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government. (Not unlike the 1990s ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs – who were backed by the Milosevic government of Serbia – that so outraged European and American leaders that it compelled them to intervene militarily.)
And, given the failure of the Sudanese government to rein in the Janjaweed, despite repeated promises to do so, yesterday’s announcement by black Africans of new talks aimed at resolving their differences over land, mineral and water rights offers little hope. In fact, just weeks ago, Special UN advisor on preventing genocide Juan Mendez said the government in Khartoum had done little to disarm militias or end the “culture of impunity” in Darfur.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding mounting death tolls in Darfur that make the number of those who were massacred in Bosnia pale by comparison, European and American leaders have done little more than express moral indignation and allocate guilt assuaging funds to deal with the problem. Even though it’s been abundantly clear for years that these funds have had virtually no salutary impact on the genocidal plight of black Africans in this region of Africa.
Unfortunately, news coverage of the Natalee Holloway saga over the summer and hurricanes throughout the fall seems to have precluded reports on the situation in Darfur. This, despite the fact that experienced aid workers now say what’s going on there is the worst humanitarian crisis in history. And, given my previous articles on the humanitarian crises in Niger and the DR Congo, this is a truly alarming assessment.
Alas, I can only reiterate my plea to the readers of this weblog to do whatever is possible to challenge world leaders (including Obasanjo of Nigeria and Mbeki of South Africa) to organize an international coalition of the willing to intervene to stop this ethnic cleansing in Africa; just as the international community intervened to stop similar atrocities in Europe just years ago.
Note: I fully appreciate the compassion fatigue and feelings of inefficacy that greet yet more pleas to alleviate suffering in Africa. Nonetheless, our shared humanity demands our vigilance and we are not powerless to help these oppressed victims! Because, although there’s nothing world leaders can do about the pestilences of drought and locusts that plague this continent (except help Africans be better prepared to weather them), they have demonstrated that they are quite capable of dealing with the pestilence of ethnic cleansing.
Therefore, please click on the Niger and DR Congo links above or here for guidance on what you can do….