Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Can the United Nations be "fixed", or reformed? Or does the world need a new organisation to meet needs different from those of 60 years ago? I think the answer should become more clear in the next few months, now that Kofi Annan has released his plan for UN reform. The world body is in need of a wholesale restructuring, not just adding a few more Security Council permanent members and a bit of tinkering around the edges.
The Human Rights Commission is becoming an absurd self-parody, because totalitarian states and tinpot dictatorships are the most motivated in becoming members -- all the better to squelch and suppress criticism of their own human rights records. China has taken this to an art form, using procedural rules to avert -- not a debate or a vote, but the mere raising of the issue of its own record. The infamous "no action motion" has been quite successful for them.
Dictators seem to have more influence and power at the UN, despite being fewer in number, than do democratic countries. It's a scenario that could form the basis for a Monty Python sketch, except if the Pythons did it, it would at least be funny. I've always been a supporter of the UN ideal, which is why I feel so disgusted at what it has become. I think the gang-up on Israel at the "anti racism conference" a few years ago was the turning point for me, the eye opener. With membership should come responsibility to fundamental human rights and freedoms -- if that can't be achieved through reforms, then a new body should be built from scratch. Anybody for a United Democratic Nations, where there are at least some minimal standards for membership?
I had actually been thinking that Paul Wolfowitz would have been a good choice for UN Ambassador, but I'm even gladder to see him going to the World Bank. I like Wolfowitz, he's a good, smart and compassionate man. Not what the self-described "progressives" like to paint as the evil neo-Zioncon baby killer -- but then I would guess that upwards of 90% of those who have labelled him thus, have never actually listened to him deliver a speech or engage in intellectual conversation. I'll never forget seeing him in extremely hostile surroundings at New York University a couple of years ago, having a one-on-one interview on stage and then engaging with highly antagonistic students and faculty for questions and answers. He showed himself to be a man of principle, and he kept his cool in that inferno of taunts and shrill insults, and my estimation of him was increased considerably.
So Wolfy is going to the World Bank, a place where I think his idealism is well suited. Surprisingly, I hear now that Canada's Foreign Affairs Dept. has announced that it supports his placement, as does Chancellor Schroeder. I'll bet Joschka Fischer must be ticked off about that. Perhaps the days of the World Bank bureaucrats bending over backwards to bend some of its own regulations (and outrightly ignore others) for the approval of oppressive states such as China, might be finally at an end.
Current World Bank president James Wolfensohn presided over a shameful episode, approving financial assistance to China for eviction of Tibetan and Mongolian nomads from an area in Tibet's Amdo region (now known as "China's Qinghai Province") and the population transfer of Han and Hui Chinese resettlers into the pastoralists' lands. Generally this kind of resettlement is considered to violate the rights of the original population, and in cases of disputed territories is an even bigger no-no. But China has already accomplished the marginalising of Uighurs in Xinjiang, and Mongolians of "Inner Mongolia" into minorities in their own lands (Han Chinese became large majorities in both these regions within a very short time due to China's resettlement policies), and now Tibetans are getting the same treatment. The world may or may not be able to ameliorate these marginalisation plans toward non-Han minorities, but the World Bank sure doesn't need to be funding it. Wolfowitz, I believe, will not let that kind of thing happen on his watch.
The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the nomination of John Bolton to represent the US at the UN has been quite, er, delicious. He's been the "bad cop" in the North Korea portfolio with his blunt spoken style, and that's just what's needed to spur serious movement on UN reform. I know, he's been quoted saying he doesn't believe in the UN, that you could knock 10 floors off and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Well, with all the scams and corruption, the abuses of populations it's supposed to be assisting, the phenomenal wastage and the ideological echo-chamber within, some blunt talk from the US rep is exactly what the UN needs right now. What does Bolton think about offering incentives to repressive regimes (in straight talk, that's known as "appeasing dictatorial thugs")? He replies, "I don't do carrots." Heh. I can hardly wait to see him at UNSC meetings! More on this from Mark Steyn. A wai to LGF for the link.
Leave aside for the moment, UNSCAM (the UN's Iraqi Oil for Palaces and Kickbacks scheme), and the now known to be worldwide problem of UN peacekeepers abusing of women and children, or the myriad of other problems for which the UN has proven to be absolutely ineffectual, and let's just consider the most urgent current emergency -- that of Darfur. For eleven months, the UN has been frozen into inaction, while defenceless refugees continue being attacked from the air and on the ground.
China has lucrative contracts for Sudanese oil, and has been protecting the duplicitous Khartoum regime and Janjaweed Arabist thugs by blocking Security Council action. Couldn't we get a "no-fly zone" going here? Maybe a few targetted sanctions to hurt the regime in their bank accounts, a little beefing up of the meagre African forces who are in Darfur now? Since everyone has to wait for UN approval for any such life-saving activities, and this is the only right and proper way to take any decision for launching any actual measures, then let's see it all work the way the proponents say it's supposed to.
I've been waiting (not to compare with the waiting of several million homeless, hungry and defenceless Africans under attacks by camel-borne thugs as well as Khartoum's own gunships -- or the waiting in vain of the several hundred thousand souls who couldn't quite wait long enough to get saved by the "international community") and watching for this good, responsible international activity, for eleven months already. No sign of movement yet, but I'm still
After all, the world has a new committment to work together to deal with crises, it's been years already since the SecGen of UN proposed his "Annan Doctrine" on the limits of national sovereignty in cases of catastrophe, genocide and the like, and almost as many years since Canada has been developing the "new" international concept of Responsibility To Protect. So with all this new progressivity and evolution of the international system, where are the measures which would save lives? I'll tell you where. All this consensus and responsibility is nowheresville, because one or two non-democratic (anti-democratic?) members of a so-called "Security" Council can stop any such measures if it's in their own interests to do so. Of course it's even easier to stall and block and thwart the protection of innocents, when such a non-democratic (anti-democratic?) country is a "big five" one, like China.
So where are the protests? Where are the banners reading "No Blood for Oil!", "Stop Trading Rapes and Killings for Stability of Dictators" and "People's RepubliKKK of China Protects Genocidal Sudanese Arabist Killers of Ethnic Africans!". Where are the giant puppets of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiaobao with blood dripping fangs, and carrying faux Nazi regalia? Where?
Don't be silly; all banner painters and papier mache artisans have been extremely busy since way back last April (when the UN became very much "seized" of the Darfur issue). Why, they've needed all this time to prepare for the big 2 year anniversary last weekend of Chimpyshrub McBushitler's aggression on Saddam's genocidal regime, and the freeing of his former subjects. Must make sure that never happens again! Hands off Iran, Syria and Sudan, right? Victory to the noble Iraqi resistance fighters and down with Israel is just so much more de rigeur than, say "No More African Blood for Chinese Oil Contracts", right? Would this, er.. slant have anything to do with International A.N.S.W.E.R., Stop the War Coalition and allied groups being front organisations for the Socialist Workers' Party, Workers of the World Party, Kim Jong Il fans, and so on? And that the "People's" Republic of China is the last real surviving hope in the world for these idealistic and hardy Stalinists.... I think I'm seeing some pattern here, but I'm sure it's only my imagination.
I have no idea if it's really possible to "fix" the United Nations at this point. Even though the count of democratic states continues to increase (round about 100 out of 191), as we've seen, the dictatorships still seem to have enough blocking power to stymie the most basic consensus on an urgent matter of human rights and human lives. Urgent for me, I hope urgent for you, like it was urgent last year for John Danforth, then UN Ambassador from the US who was incredibly passionate about the need for the world to do something immediately. It had to be done through the UN, and consensus and cooperation -- but eleven months of being hamstrung by one or two stubborn UNSC members is just too ridiculous for words. But just be patient; if you think Khartoum is pushing the limit here, remember that Saddam had most of the world wrapped around his little finger, running back and forth with resolutions, inspections, evictions of resolute inspectors, and perpetual debate about it all for twelve years -- so I'm sure the Khartoum regime can push it out for a few more years at least. Probably the refugee problem will diminish gradually, as the genocidal killing by government gunships and Janjaweed militiamen reduces them to more manageable numbers. [Do I need to mark that out as sarcasm?]
So a majority of countries are now, at least to some basic extent (admittedly, some quite minimally as yet), democratic. But how does one actually reliably recognise a real dictatorship? Here is a handy seven point guide to help. The sad thing is how much actual truth there is in these, but the one that grates the hardest for me is #5: "They are a member of the UN Human Rights commission (not 100% foolproof but getting closer every year)." Dictatorships have a great interest in occupying those seats in order to block and suppress discussion of their own records (as I said, China has made a fine art of this), while only a few democracies are as strongly motivated for actual human rights reasons. In my view, only democratic countries which meet a non-minimal standard for human rights and freedoms should be allowed membership on that commission. Now I see that among Kofi Annan's new reform proposals, is included an idea for a new Human Rights Council -- which Russia and China apparently have already opposed, so it's possible it might be something better than totally useless.
Several wais, to InstaPundit for Coyote's dictatorship guide and LGF for the weekend demo reportage sites.
CONDI COMES TO ASIA
Secretary of State Rice has been in China, and it's not really a surprise that they are not permitting any open discussion of the type Colin Powell had when he visited a few years ago. There was a bit of a kerfuffle then, when his townhall style meeting with students in Peking was transcribed for publication in the official Party mouthpieces -- heavily edited and changed, of course. But never mind, it's all non-partisan censorship, as Hilary Clinton found out when her book was published in China with certain parts chopped out and others changed, for a more healthy and wholesome message for Chinese readers.
A Washington Post editor got a taste of this recently, when he was in China for the rubberstamp meeting of the National "People's" Congress. He did an interview with People's Daily, and what they published got him into a spot of hot water when he got home. More on this from Michelle Malkin, who notes a partial clarification by Washington Post managing editor Philip Bennett to broadcaster Hugh Hewitt, wherein he claims People's Daily severely misquoted him:
The version published in the People's Daily includes numerous and important inaccuracies. In many places words and sentences were removed to change the meaning of what I said. In some places words or sentences were invented that I did not say. In one typical example, where I said "China is not a democracy" the People's Daily version quoted me as saying "China is not a democracy either by American standards." At the same time, comments critical of China were deleted.There are a number of other specific quotes of a questionable nature which he has yet to elaborate on. Michelle's on it.
Family readers will be pleased to hear that Agam's Ibu and Bapak have been transported from Tapaktuan to Jakarta by their eldest son, the one who so kindly hosted me down there in October. The news isn't completely good though, as Ibu's mental state has become badly disturbed again, as she was after the abduction of her youngest son Uddin -- Agam's best friend and brother -- on the day of a big referendum drive in Aceh in 1999. She had been getting medicine and was improving slowly over time, but even though Tapaktuan wasn't badly damaged in the tsunami, it may be that the disaster had an effect on her. Bapak has been in the hospital as well, but I'm not clear on the ailment. I don't think it's too serious, but I feel so much better that they are in Jakarta now, with lots of family to care for them. Brother A says they'll stay until next Lebaran (the celebration following Ramadan), so that takes up most of 2005. I hope I can get down there soon to visit.
Brother A also tells me he is on contract now for building a whole lot of fishing boats to replace those destroyed in December, and I may be able to help with this from Bangkok. We're looking for about 500 small marine diesel engines, 20 - 30 horsepower Yanmars would be about right. My old sailboat had a Yanmar, and it was a good, reliable machine. Brother A also mentioned Mitsubishis, but I can't seem to locate any models of that size, only big 6 cylinder jobs. Good quality second hand reconditioned engines might be alright as well, so if anyone in the neighbourhood (Singapore, Padang, Medan) has any leads, use the email up on the sidebar.
FREEDOM ON THE MOVE
It's been great to see the stirrings of democratic aspirations lately, from Lebanon to Iran and Gulf states to central Asia. Of course all this would have happened anyway, right.... as Howard Dean used to say, "I question the timing!"
As usual, getting a local perspective or a "well connected to the locals" perspective is made possible by the blogosphere.
Afghanistan's newest (and maybe first) blogger, is the Afghan Warrior, check him out for some interesting writings on how freedom is working out there. For some excellent analysis and reporting on the Lebanon situation, don't miss Across the Bay, and if you're up for some delightful fisking of Juan Cole's "informed" commentary on the Middle East, this is your stop as well. Lots has been happening in central Asia, most notably in Kyrgyzstan the past few weeks (I see it made some of the normal news channels today), and for watchers of that region, Registan is the place to be. For broader views of these movements, I've been enjoying Austin Bay, and also the Publius Pundit.
Other recent blog discoveries which are sharing my interest in the worldwide democratic movement generally, are the Seeker Blog and Solomonia, the latter of which was added quietly to my blogroll in the last week or two, and promptly returned the favour unsolicited. I like it when that happens, so check him out.
On the The Arab Street (please do read Hitchens' dissection of that disappearing expression), there is a new Iraqi blogger named Ahmad, the Iraqi Expat, who is based in London but seems quite well connected with family and friends not only in Iraq but nearby countries also. In fact I just had to clip this short post from him to give readers a taste of Lebanese humour, as he offered us a new joke from Beirut last week:
There are five differences between Syria and E.T.:Heh. And finally we move down to Australia, where some very fine writers seem to originate..... it's the Jihad Pundit, "The Arab Street Neoconservative." I like your attitude, habib.1. E.T. looked better
2. He learned to communicate
3. He came alone
4. He had his own bike
5. And he wanted to go home!
NOT DEAD YET
Thomas Lipscomb writes on Editor and Publisher that in his estimation, neither Rathergate nor Easongate should be considered to be pushing up the daisies quite yet. Some inside info on Eason Jordan's situation regarding the "off the record recording":
Not only was there a tape, but CNN admits it never asked for it, as CNN spokeswoman Megan Mahoney has revealed to me. There was no problem with getting a copy of the notorious "off the record" tape from the World Economic Forum. When I asked WEF's Klaus Schwab whether he would have made a tape available, cut to just Eason Jordan's remarks, and give it to Jordan and CNN, he replied: "Of course. And they could make any distribution of it they wished."At the beginning of this kerfuffle, WEF promised several interested bloggers that the tape would be released. Then they changed their mind and said no, it's off the record. Now it appears that they are willing to release it to CNN, but CNN has not been willing to ask for it. C'mon there, 'most trusted source in news'; do they shoot journalists, or don't they?
CNN had the power and the obligation to release the tape as a news organization. That responsibility was its bond to the public trust. If the head of its news department had gone off his head, firing him and getting back to basics would help to keep that trust intact. Why wouldn't CNN, like Dan Rather, want to "break that story?"
OF COURSE THEY DO?
Giuliana Sgrena is convinced that she was intentionally targetted for assassination by US troops, so there's one point on Eason's side at least (but then she changed her mind about it, so who knows what she believes this week). However, due to her support for the freedom-fighting head choppers and her bona fide anti-American credentials, she was certainly not targetted for kidnapping by the comradely "insurgents" ... or something like that. I think I'll wait until the investigation before assuming that we know anything about what happened to her and her rescuer / negotiator from the Italian security services.
However this is a short piece which I'd wanted to include last week which seems like a pertinent bit of info, but at the time I couldn't lay my hand on it when I wanted to post. It's been published on a few blogs though, so avid blogospherians might have seen it. But since many of my readers are not avid blogospherians, I found it on Chrenkoff, which appears to have been the origin for this translation anyway. One of Arthur's readers, Hagel has translated an article from a Dutch newspaper "Nederlands Dagblad", written by one of Giuliana Sgrena's own journalistic colleagues (the original is here):
Journalist Sgrena didn't like the YanksAnd millions of Euros will buy an awful lot of bomb making supplies, I should think. How many deaths will eventually be attributable to that?
Filed on 3/8/2005 06:53
By Harald Doornbos
BEIRUT - "Be careful not to get kidnapped", I said to the female journalist sitting next to me on a small plane flying to Baghdad. "Oh, no", she said, "we are on the side of the Iraqi people. No Iraqi will kidnap us."
Eight days later this woman, Giuliana Sgrena, was kidnapped by armed Iraqis during a visit to the university of Baghdad. A month later she is freed. But don't ask how. For four weeks she was in captivity, appeared crying in a videotape, begging for her life and the withdrawal of Italian forces from Iraq. She also said that "Iraq wasn't a place for journalists". Then followed negotiations between Italian authorities and the group of kidnappers, who threatened to behead her.
It's highly likely that ransom was paid Friday, after which Italian security agents picked her up. But the trouble didn't end here. Just after Sgrena was freed, her car was shot at when, on the way to the airport, the driver drove too fast towards an American checkpoint. One bullet hit Sgrena in the shoulder and one of the secret agents died.
Sgrena, who arrived in Rome Saturday, claims that the Americans tried to kill her. The member of the secret service received a state funeral yesterday and is revered as a hero in Italy.
It doesn't sound nice to attack a colleague. But Sgrena's attitude is a complete disgrace to journalism. Didn't she say, sitting next to me in the airplane, that "normal journalists like you" don't stand behind the Iraqi people. "The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind", the three women told me, because Sgrena traveled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who also disliked the Yanks.
When I told I wasn't going to sit in Baghdad, but travel as an embedded journalist, I was treated as the Big Traitor. "I just don't want to be kidnapped", I said. "That is the only reason I go with the Americans."
Jeering. "You don't get the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists", they said. The Iraqis only kidnap stooges of the Americans, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.
Now I told them that I thought they weren't sane. You cannot deny that Al-Qaeda-like groups operate in Iraq, who specifically target western journalists. And Al-Qaeda warriors are the Arabic equivalent of fascism: anti-American, anti-Jewish and above all anti-communist.
But well, the three knew better. When we arrived in Baghdad, I waited on an American jeep which was going to pick me up. I saw how one of the three Italian women walked around crying, because an Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. Shivering they stood outside, waiting for a taxi to bring them to Baghdad.
With her total prejudice Sgrena didn't only put herself in danger, but because her conduct an Italian security agent is dead and the Italian government spent millions of euros trying to save her life. Let's hope Sgrena chooses another job. Propagandist or parliamentarian maybe. But she should quit journalism immediately.