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Entries in 2005 (9)

Thursday
Dec292005

The Weakly Standard (3): Spruyt

 

Mexican Riviera: Tsunami expected end Februari 2006!

 

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White sands, so virginal, so innocent. Even Jack Abramoff hasn't been here to corrupt the indigenes... But, suddenly, the image is full of busy men (no women). Busying themselves to sell the weakly truth in another setting: With their friends, their clients, their admirers and their groupies. Sailing around in a very American part of the Pacific, just miles from where George Bush, on the 1st of May 2003, proclaimed on a navy ship: "Mission completed!"

Osama bin Laden's sleeping divers' cells will be busy, too, at the end of Februari 2006. One moderate boom!, and... the neocon cabal will be beheaded. A sudden end to the exclusive conversations with your favorite Weekly Standard writers. Hundreds of dollars down the drain.

Is it decent, to enjoy a loveboat cruise, visiting poor Mexican outcast neighborhoods, while tens of thousands GI's wage their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan?
We should see this cruise as a working party. It is a serious effort to keep the course at a crucial crossroads of shifting paradigms.

What do we mean by that?

Let us take a recent article from our favored weekly.

In the December 19 edition, we spotted one of our Dutch acquaintances: Bart-Jan Spruyt. He "leads the Edmund Burke Stichting, a Dutch conservative think tank", says the WS (p. 17) and he writes about Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish author, so his article is in the cultural section of the paper. This must be a compromise, for Spruyt is not a litarary critic and his article does not deal with literature, but with Islam and it's threatening entry into Europe. Bart-Jan is against a Turkish membership of the EU, and the American (and neoconservative) policy is very much in favor of it. So, Bart-Jan has an eccentric opinion. Moreover, it is based upon a rejection of Islam as a religion, while an established neocon axiom is just the contrary: any religion is a structuring ethical tool to prevent chaos and loose morals in the popular masses.

Why did the neocon political bureau decide to have this dissenting and lightly irritating opinion, be it in the cultural corner, printed on it's pages? Not because of Spruyt's qualifications as a literary critic. We know him as an excited busybody, "Wichtigtuer" and "touche-à-tout", but au fond, he is only a journalist. Any editorial official at the Weekly Standard would have seen, only reading Spruyt's text, that Spruyt has even not read most of Pamuk's books. Orhan Pamuk, during a long writers' career, produced a series of very various books. A common feature of those texts is an absolute refutation of Bart-Jan's central proposition. Reading Pamuk, one cannot but be impressed by the modernity of Turkish life: Turks enjoy, what Europeans and Americans enjoy; they have problems where we have them too.

The only book Spruyt mentions more than once, is "Snow", a story situated in an isolated city, far away in the North-East of Turkey, where secularists and islamo-fundamentalists struggle with each other. As a modern Turk, Pamuk rejects the corruption and hypocrisy of both contenders. In the good old European novelist tradition, he chooses for the tragic, impossible, relationship between the visitor and an independent woman he meets during the blizzard. More European, you die.

Is Bart-Jan Spruyt perhaps a "must" for the neocon PB, as he is considered "the leader" of the Edund Burke think tank? No, not at all: Spruyt is an employee of the Foundation. The leadership of a Dutch "Stichting" is reserved for the "bestuur", the management. Until recently, this "bestuur" was composed of a typical Dutch assembly of well-known representatives of the different political and cultural composites of the country: former prime minister Van Agt, former Finance minister Ruding (also former ceo of the CitiBank), etq. Some months ago, they resigned all, but for Professor Andreas Kinneging, a former aide to liberal-conservative leader Bolkestein. As far as I know, Kinneging is now the sole member of the "bestuur", and his friend Spruyt is, now that American pharmaceutical concern Pfizer has discontinued it's subsidies, the only employee of the "stichting". A very small "think tank" indeed!

I have no explanation of the enigmatic appearance of jolly Spruyt in the Standard. Is he planning to emigrate to the States? Did the editors tend a pitfall for him, in order to be able to dissociate themselves from this extremist?

Only if some people who plan to participate in the WS-cruise, would agree to put these questions before their favored WS writers, we may get an answer. So, please, if you are preparing your trip on the WS love-boat, contact me, so that we can finetune an intelligent interrogation of our favored writers!

Thursday
Dec222005

Sensation; Bush-Blair same-sex marriage in Windsor !!


Sensation ! Bush-Blair same-sex marriage in Windsor !!

As thousands of men and women registered their same-sex partnerships today in Britain, a discreet ceremony took place in the royal borough of Windsor. George W. Bush and Anthony Blair sealed their partnership during an intimate ceremony at an undisclosed castle in the Windsor region, a ceremony that was chaired by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It is not my cup of tea”, Putin said. “Homosexuals are unknown in Russia. All genuine Russians make love to women, either male or female”, the Russian president declared after the ceremony.
As I said, last year, at the European Union, everybody is free to use his penis as he or she likes, but we keep the right to cut a little bit deeper, when they ask us for a circumcision”, the former NKVD official said, grinning.

We were able to report this stunning historical event, as we happened to be strolling through the countryside where, some thousand years ago, the Doomesday Book was accepted by the English king, thus giving birth to the first genuine democracy, covering a whole country.

Best man to Mr. Bush was, of course, a woman: Condoleezza Rice, who, assisted by Ms. Miers, who had done the shopping, threw the traditional handfuls of rice over the young couple at their exit from the ceremonial room.

President Bush "...another sacrifice for the American people..."

 

Everybody was delightfully moved, as both courageous and steadfast men left, hand in hand, for their bridal rooms, in another wing of the undisclosed castle. “This union will be the ultimate blow to Saddam Hussein”, foreign minister Jack Straw commented after the ceremony. “There is no hope left for him now.

John McLellan, the presidential spokesman, had another hard time to shake off the many questions, White House correspondents raised at this occasion: “The President did not break any American law in marrying, in a second marriage, the British Prime Minister”, he insisted. “And, if he did, it was based upon the presidential prerogative, to break any law that may hinder American independence and safety.

He made another big sacrifice for America!”, McLellan concluded, refusing to answer any more questions on this thorny subject. It is true, that the British-American alliance is vital to the Iraq efforts of this Administration. From McLellan’s words, and more so, from Washington officials who declined to be named, we can infer, that it was Blair in the first place, who embarked President Bush in this risky consecration of the transatlantic partnership, and that it was certainly not the other way around.

Religious leaders, when consulted, were stunned in disbelief and refused to comment. President Bush surely risks to lose their support for his policies, a support that was already heavily thwarted at the occasion of the Miers candidacy for the Supreme Court.

Vice-president Cheney, acting president for the duration of the honeymoon, refused also to comment, although your correspondent could hear him fighting his disgust and feelings of betrayal, when he said: “Who am I to judge the President’s choices? He is serving a vital interest of the United States of America. This is a vital presidency. Or not?” When we agreed, Mr. Cheney continued: “When I accept the choices of my own daughter, who am I, to deny the same choices to Mr. Bush, who isn’t even my son?” (“Although he behaves so”, we thought to hear him add to that.)

Bill Kristol: "...my mother is not amused..."

Mr William Kristol, Editor in Chief of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, known for its allegiance to American family standards, reminded us of the executive privileges of the president. “We do not know yet, but we are confident, that President Bush did this for the American people and that he has a plain right to do so. Sometimes, laws, even our dearest laws, have to be broken in the interest of America and its mission in the world. Only the President can do so. And he did. This may upset many of our believing friends. I understand that. And I do not recommend to all American men to follow this example. Our President is someone special. Always has been. He has a mission that leads him on roads, a common being cannot follow. Without putting the two on the same level, I humbly remind you of Jesus Christ, who went out in the night in order to stroll around in the orchards with his dearest pupil, leaving his disciples behind.

I guess, that this unusually candid statement by an important political observatory in Washington, will guide our religious leaders to issuing a wise comment on this unexpected decision of our president.

Meanwhile, British reactions to this unique event (we have to return to Alexander the Great, at the end of the fourth century before Christ, in order to observe similar officialised same-sex unions on a statesmen’s level) are less embarrassed than the American ones. “The Dutch have male and lesbian homosexual couples since more than three years”, commented Professor Wastecruick, an eminent psychosocioligist from Oxford University today. “Why should we, with our venerable and firmly established gay tradition, based upon our sexually separated boarding school system, stay behind the Dutch, whose homosexuals are mainly closet-confined uneducated bastards, as we intend to lead the European Union?” And he added: “Even if this is the only significant renewal, New Labour will have brought to Britain (and it is), it makes up, for me and my friends, to more than ten years in the desert. Now, really, New Labour has become what Neoconservatism should have been!

Laura Bush and Cherie Blair could not be reached for comment. In both cases, in the US as well as in the UK, bigamy is not allowed. Cherie, who is an attorney, is not expected to accept the new situation. She is known for her commitment to women’s rights.

Finally, at the moment we were to close this post, their common statement hit the news agencies. “Neither of us has been consulted about this decision of our husbands. Although both of us, if asked for our opinion, would have rejected severely this moral and ethic transgression by our spouses, we are confident, knowing intimately our husbands’ frigidity, that no serious harm will come from this outrageous sidestep to our children and families.

Tony Blair: "...knowing intimately our husbands' frigidity..."

 

As soon as we’ll have the opinions we asked for from Osama bin Laden, the Pope, and other world leaders, we’ll come back to you.
Wednesday
Dec072005

2005.12.07-12: Rice in Europe

A Week of Torture

Let me say it outright and at the beginning of this post: In my opinion, coercive techniques are allowed, if not necessary, when dealing with active criminal terrorists. People who are engaged in crimes against civilian populations, who are in the business of concretely preparing and executing them, should be forced to tell all information they dispose of, in order to save lives of innocent preople. This exception to a general worldwide treaty on banning torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, should be accepted, put on paper, and surrounded by all possible guarantees, that it will not be misused and abused.
In Europe, this is not a popular point of view. In Europe, we, civilians, are used to dress barriers, legal barriers, against all possible abuse by authorities. That is because we do not trust them. Historically, there is plenty of good reasons for that mistrust. For us, legal limitations on official intrusion into the corporal and psychic integrity, even of offenders, are a landmark of civilisation. There is nothing wrong with that. Abolition of capital punishment saved our countries from the embarrassment that exists at the moment in the U.S., where many, too many, instances of misjudgment are being discovered, using DNA tracing.
It is a hard moment for me, this one, for I do not trust any US Government that has existed in my lifetime, nor most of the European ones. But some action is needed. And Governments of the relevant European countries are apparently not up to the challenge. So, as I will explain later, I think that we'll have to return to the mutual control of state powers, the check of balances.
But this is not about the penal system. This is about criminals who dispose of the power to do a great amount of harm to innocent people in far away regions and who have proven that they will use such power to that end. A "normal" penal system to judge them, exists. An international penal court, where in the name of the peoples of the world, will be dealt with the biggest criminals among them, is in existence. The US are very much against that construction. That is a big part of the problem. They have a very good and subtle judicial system themselves, but they cannot and should not expect that others who have built their own systems through struggle and experience, will abandon their gains. To expect from others that they will submit to the sycophantic interpretations by Bush and consorts of the great American judicial system, is mere illusion.
International criminal terrorists have to be brought before the international court, without any delay. (Self-)accusations eventually found under coercion, are not to be allowed as a proof in that Court. Other evidence, existing or found by the accusation, will be sufficient for a balanced judgment.
What we are talking about, is the short period that may be found necessary, when a criminal is caught, to extract from him (or her) any information that could save lives and bring the struggle against criminal terrorism worldwide, forward.
'Habeas Corpus' in the UK, limited to two or three days, may be an example. It has a venerable history and has served as a model for similar dispositions in other European Countries, during and after the Great French Revolution. Basically, these ways of dealing are founded upon the 'Trias Politica', a theory that draws from the triple balance between executive power, controlling poser and Justice (Government, Parliament and Court). There is no reason, whatsoever, to depart from this idea, this practice. The 'only' new phenomenon is international terrorism, or terrorism tout-court, for, without an international dimension, terrorism has been in existence every time, great social changes were taking place (end of the 19th century, during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th, etc.).

So, what have we seen happening these last days, during Condoleezza Rice's trip to Europe?
An embarrassed US Government, that has been condoning secret or hidden torturing practices, 'outsourced' to dictatorships like the Syrian, the Egyptian and the Pakistan ones, or practiced during years on the territory of benevolent European governments, like the Polish and the Rumenian.
Let us take first the hypocrisy of the Europeans. Nobody can make me believe, that they did not know. It is more than a year ago, that the Gonzales memos were made public. More than a year ago, the whole world was upset about the Abu Ghraib exactions. It was clear from the outset, that these tortures were part of a system, initiated by the then Guantanamo commander, who visited Abu Ghraib shortly before corporal Graner and Lynndie England started their despicable amusements.
If Europe, under the same danger, the same risks as the US, would have been able to take some responsability, it would have condemned, for sure, those actions, but, at the same time, it would have proposed a better procedure, under international responsability. But we failed to do so. We avoided the necessary interior debate, but tried to keep both sides quiet: At one side, the outraged population of our lands, saying to them, that we were not part of it (torture), and, at the other, telling the Americans, that they have nothing to fear, as long as they do not go public.
If that is not hypocritical, I do not know, what is.

Foreign Secretary Rice was referring to that, when leaving for Europe on December 6:

(7 December 2005, editorial comment in the New York Times)
"Ms. Rice said Monday that rendition had been used to lock up some really dangerous bad guys, like Carlos the Jackal and Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But both men were charged in courts, put on trial, convicted and sentenced. That's what most American think when they hear talk about "bringing the terrorists to justice" - not predawn abductions, blindfolded prisoners on plane rides and years of torture in distant lands without any public reckoning."


But, meanwhile, liberal US knew better:

Slate's Eric Umansky (Today's Papers) on December 8:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that the United States prohibits all its personnel from using cruel or inhuman techniques in prisoner interrogations, whether inside or outside U.S. borders. Previous public statements by the Bush administration have asserted that the ban did not apply abroad.

That is obviously what Rice wanted people to hear—that U.S. personnel are prohibited from engaging in "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" anywhere. But it is not what she said. Here's the out: While Rice asserted that the U.S. abides by the "obligations" of the anti-torture treaty across the globe, the administration's legal position is that those "obligations" don't extend to the treatment of foreigners being held overseas. In other words, according to the administration's long-standing legal position, CIA interrogators in say, secret prisons in North Africa aren't bound to treat foreign prisoners humanely.

The Post wasn't the only one to have a tough time getting a read of Rice's circumlocutions. Her underlings did too. "State Department officials" in the NYT talked up her comments as "an important policy statement," with one adding that it was "a change" in policy. One of those "officials" might want to poke their head out of the door and chat with the State Department spokesman who, according to the LAT, insisted that Rice's comments simply reiterated what has already "been the U.S. policy."

The NYT and WP include suggestions that Rice's ambiguous construction was meant in part to actually push for more humane detainee policies. A "former senior American government official"—(Hello, Colin or Richard!)—told the Times that apart from trying to placate Europeans, Rice was aiming "to tie more firmly the hands" of the Justice Department, CIA, and Pentagon. Of course, that doesn't amount to a policy change, just a potential attempt at one. Unlike the Post's news section, the WP's editorial page gets it: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not break any new ground yesterday." As even the Post's news article acknowledges, previous administration officials have (quietly) used the same line Rice did. For a second day, the NYT's Rice coverage is also worth reading; it's particularly sharp on the confusion.

And: Oups! As I wrote in a comment on AFOE, the ink in the European papers, citing ministers who are reassured by Rice's explanations, is not yet dry, and .... (AP) is already sending out a correction: She cannot guarantee, that it won't happen again:

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Dec. 8) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she can give no guarantee that terrorism detainees won't be abused again despite what she called the United States' clear rules against torture.

"Will there be abuses of policy? That's entirely possible," Rice said at a NATO press conference. "Just because you're a democracy it doesn't mean that you're perfect."

She offered assurances, however, that any abuses would be investigated and violators punished.

"That is the only promise we can make," Rice said. She spoke a day after trying to clarify to European foreign ministers the U.S. policy on secret prisons and treatment of terrorism suspects.

Here we will have to deal with the US side of the matter. The White House, presumably under Dick Cheney's inspiration, but certainly not without Bush' knowledge, devised an extrajudicial system, where it is absolutely free to deem any person an "unlawful enemy combatant", take him or her in custody, and, provided that it happens outside the US boundaries, do completely what you like to that person: waterboarding, injections, transfer to torturers, etc., etc.
This is in blatant contradiction to US established procedures and application of law. Choosing the torturing locations in European countries, is another feature of the contempt the actual administration has for European sensibilities and national culture.
Real US leadership in this, would have meant, that it put European allies bluntly before their responsabilities: "Either you participate in this struggle, we welcome your suggestions, and, if we agree, we will share completely informations obtained, and, yes, we will transmit detainees to the International Penal Court in The Hague as soon as we are ready with them, OR, you keep your hands clean, and you will have nothing."
But, it seems, the US did not do this at all. They confided in thir own services, used individual clients and trusted persons in allied countries, and turned down bluntly any demand for judicial help. The US played one country, one contact, against one another, as if European countries are part of the world still to be "democratised" by their intervention. Important informations from the French secret services, who have so much experience with terrorist attacks, were disregarded.
Ms. Rice had to make up for all that in a four-day trip to Europe. She failed. Understandably. EU foreign ministers do not trust each other either. So they went into the move to feel 'relieved' by her explanations, avoiding a clash with the big ally, and preparing themselves, to feel 'very disappointed', when, inevitably, Rice's sayings would appear pointless, so as to calm public opinion at home. And, which is most disappointing in my eyes, avoid taking responsability in the antiterrorist struggle, leaving it to the leading ally, the US. This is a weasels' approach, that will result in more disasters like the ones that took place in Madrid and London, this year. Europe is in the frontline of the terrorist attack, if it likes or not, and it has its stake in it. Moreover, it has its knowledge and experience to contribute, but mutual distrust prevents any contribution of that sort.
Is it despicable, then, when the Wall Street Journal lashes out, on December 8, to those European bandwagon passengers?

WSJ, 8 December, quoted by Der Spiegel:

"Was war das für ein Spektakel, als Condoleezza Rice diese Woche durch Europa reiste und überall auf gespielte Entrüstung traf, weil die CIA vielleicht Terroristen in europäischen Gefängnissen festgehalten hat. Wäre die Außenministerin nicht so diplomatisch, hätte sie ihre Reise abgesagt und verkündet, dass sie erst wieder kommt, wenn die Politiker des Kontinents sich entschieden haben, erwachsen zu werden."

WSJ points out, that all heavyweight Al-Quaeda prisoners have been forced through waterboarding sessions, all but one, who started to speak after seeing what had happened to his colleagues. I cannot have an opinion on waterboarding. I think it has worked, just for avoiding imminent crimes. I also think, that Americans have overdone, and should have transferred captured AQ responsables since long to competent courts. Europeans have only to gain from taking responsability in this. Only then, they can weigh upon a sound judicical procedure. All the rest is byzantinian rabbitting.

Quoting the Wallstreet Journal:

Wir stellen "geheim" in Anführungszeichen, weil die CIA kaum ohne das Wissen der betroffenen Länder in Europa agieren könnte. Vielmehr greift die US-Regierung den Feind häufig "durch die Zusammenarbeit unserer Geheimdienste mit ihren ausländischen Kollegen" an, wie Frau Rice es trocken formulierte. Die umstrittenen sogenannten "Rendition"-Maßnahmen, die Transport, Gewahrsam und Verhöre von Terroristen betreffen, sind genau jene Anti-Terror-Maßnahmen, die die multilateralen Europäer lieben sollten.

But, in the end, nothing has changed, after this torturing week. On December 11, The Washington Post commented sadly:

Europeans and Americans who interpreted Ms. Rice's statements last week as an assurance that the CIA will no longer use waterboarding, prolonged shackling or induced hypothermia in its secret prisons were misled. Administration officials tell us there has been no decision to abandon those practices. Similarly, those who have hoped that the McCain amendment would end CIA abuses, as we have, must lower their expectations. The creation of a legal standard, while essential, probably will have to be followed by an effort to compel the administration to respect it, through further legislation or court action.

In short: American services should shut up with their contraproductive and offending practices, and the Europeans should abandon their illusion that they could stay out of it, and act.

Monday
Dec052005

The Weakly Standard (2)

Tableau de la Troupe

Fred Barnes, Executive Editor Weekly Standard

 

Irwin Steltzer, economist, slightly marginal to the Persuasion Centre

 

 


William (Bill) Kristol, Son Of-, Editor in Chief

 

WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS LAUGHING?

Here is why I cannot hate Americans, even if they read the WS:

"Question of the Week

Torture
Senator John McCain has proposed an amendment to next year's Defense authorization and appropriations bills that would make illegal the torture of terrorists held at Pentagon facilities. Do you believe it is acceptable to torture prisoners under certain c
No, the United States should never, ever torture prisoners


40%
Yes, if the prisoner is a "ticking bomb"


20%
Yes, enemy combatants should be afforded no legal protection


23%
Yes, if interrogators believe torture may advance their objectives


1 7%"
An inquiry on today's TWS website shows, that participants are 40% in favour of McCain's proposal to stop torturing army prisoners (some hours ago, it was even 41%), and we may count the 20 (formerly 22) % who make an exception for ticking bombs, also as taking a more or less independent and human point of view. If visitors on TWS website, who are for sure not biased by liberal leanings, think so independently, I see again, why I am a Friend of America...