Wednesday, December 13, 2006

World Events - Monday

What’s going on in the world today?  Without going into a  huge investigation of all the news sources out there, I read a bit about these topics.

Chile:  Augusto Pinochet, the fascist dictator of yesteryear, finally cashed it all in, dying of old age this week.  Of a heart attack.  Some mourned with tears, but I suspect most citizens of Chile celebrated the ex-general who escaped ever being prosecuted, jailed or otherwise brought to justice for his brutal reign.

      Pinochet took power on Sept. 11, 1973, demanding an unconditional surrender from President Salvador Allende as warplanes bombed the presidential palace. Instead, Allende committed suicide with a submachine gun he had received as a gift from Fidel Castro.

      The U.S. had been working to destabilize Allende's Marxist government and keep Chile from exporting communism, but the world reacted in horror as Santiago's main soccer stadium filled with political prisoners to be tortured, killed or forced into exile after Pinochet came into power.

      Although his dictatorship laid the groundwork for South America's most stable economy, Pinochet will be remembered as the archetype of the era's repressive rulers who proliferated throughout Latin America and, in many cases, were secretly supported by the United States.

Nice.  Good to know we were on the right side there (sarcasm).  That’s one difference between Republican administrations of the past and Bush.  Our current president is less likely to side with a dictator just for the sake of curbing some greater evil.

Iran is sponsoring a conference discussing the reality of the Holocaust, inciting Jews everywhere.  The article says that no one is disputing that Jews were killed, but there’s some dispute as to whether they were really gassed.  Which seems to me like a stupid point.  Either 6 million Jews were held in prison camps until they became emaciated and then brutally killed or they weren’t.  I’m not sure why anyone thinks that arguing that the gassings didn’t occur makes it NOT a holocaust, but this is, of course, all political in some attempt to discredit Israel.

      "The aim of this conference is not to deny or confirm the Holocaust," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a welcome address. "Its main aim is to create an opportunity for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust."

This also might be some play on Ahmadinejad’s part to slap the United State’s face on an issue of free speech.  Question, if this sort of thing were held in the US, would it be tolerated?  It certainly is anyone’s right to speak their mind, even when they’re horribly misguided, but what would the obviously visceral reaction be?

By the by, check out this report of a student protest of a speech made by Ahmadinejad at a university in Iran.

      As Ahmadinejad approached the podium to speech, the members of the Islamic Students Association -- a banned group -- began booing and chanting, while some even burned pictures of the Iranian president, ADWAR reported.
      , according to ADWAR. He added that he loved each one of them and said, "You insult me but I will respond to you calmly."

And Ahmadinejad responds:

      "A small number of who claim there is suppression here are themselves creating a suppressive atmosphere and will not allow the majority to listen," FARS quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Another play by the Iranian leader at claiming free speech as his own.  Clever, and ironic to the last. 
An interesting point to take from this is one of the things that the students were chanting.  We often think it’s just extremists and extreme Islam that displays fanatics chanting “Death to America” or “Death to whoever”, but when the opposition to the theocracy is chanting “Death to the dictator” it kind of makes you wonder.  

Turkey has been trying for some time now to get into the European Union.  It’s a long and arduous process and involves a lot of demands on Europe’s part.  It seems now that Europe wants Turkey to open relations with Greek Cyprus, which is Turkey’s Achilles Heel, for sure.

      From the beginning, Turkey's path to the European Union was a diplomatic minefield. The country is large, 99 percent Muslim, prone to military coups and economic crises, and developed to European levels only in small pockets. It has problems with torture, violence, freedom of expression, corruption and minority rights. The vast majority of its land mass is in Asia Minor, where battles against Kurdish separatists have killed some 37,000 people. Most pressingly, it has 40,000 soldiers occupying part of another EU member country, Cyprus, which it invaded more than three decades ago.

Turkey has claimed Cyprus for it’s own forever now, and the country is still divided, with a DMZ like strip of no-man’s-land dividing much of the country.  Despite the quote from above, Turkey has been a secular government for all it’s existence (80 years or so) and while the country is prone to moving in an Islamic direction, they are usually rescued from becoming theocratic by the secular military.  It’s an interesting process, and most of their problems, like the Kurds and Cyprus, are nationalistic problems, not religious problems.

It’ll be interesting to see how Turkey ends up responding to this latest demand of the EU.  Will they soften on the Cyprus issue, or will this break the camel’s back, ending Turkey’s quest for EU membership, and all the benefits that it brings?

Kofi Annan delivered his farewell address to the UN, since he’s on his way out.  He decided it was time to get a little tough with the US.

I don’t really have the time to go into this in detail.  You’ll have to read it for yourself.  However I have one thing to say about leadership.  Mr. Annan criticizes the US on leadership issues, urging us to go back to the type of leadership that Truman exhibited in the 1940s.  What Annan is referring to here is Truman’s instrumental role in creating the UN and allowing the UN to be the instrument in Korea, instead of going in without the UN’s permission.

But I think that Kofi suffers from a vast misunderstanding of what true leadership is.  Would the UN have gone into Korea without the US’s urging and support?  Was the US following the UN, or was the UN following the lead of the US on that point?  

Was it easier for the US to make the case to enter Korea in 1950 than it was for us to make the case for Iraq now?  Sure, but why?  I don’t think that Korea was any more or less a compelling case for the world to demand action, but the politics are different now.  And I would argue that true leadership is knowing that something HAS to be done, even when that something is difficult and especially when political opposition demands that you not do it. 

It seems to me that the leadership in the UN has been very flaccid as of late, especially in regards to Islamic terrorism and fascist dictatorships.  Kofi Annan and the bureaucrats in Geneva have stood by and watched while one genocide after another crosses in front of their ivory tower and did nothing.  Is that leadership?  Kofi turns a blind eye when important committees, like human rights committee, are populated by documented human rights violators.  Is that leadership?  Kofi has presided, and it’s debatable that he did or didn’t know what was going on, over the largest corruption scandals the world has ever known; engineered by people working for the UN.  Is that leadership, Mr. Annan?

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