Commentary Magazine


Topic: travel ban

Humanizing the Face of Evil

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a priceless take-down of Jeffrey Goldberg’s visit to the dolphin show with Fidel Castro (“At most marine parks in the world the animals provide the entertainment. But at the Havana aquarium last month, Fidel Castro had a couple of humans eating out of his hand and clapping like trained seals.”) It’s certainly worth reading in full. A sample:

If the regime is to stay in power, it needs a new source of income to pay the secret police and keep the masses in rice. The best bet is the American tourist, last seen circa 1950 exploiting the locals, according to revolutionary lore, but now needed by the regime. It wants the U.S. travel ban lifted. To prevail, Castro needs to counteract rumors that he is a dictator. Solution: a makeover in the Atlantic. In Mr. Goldberg, he no doubt recognized the perfect candidate for the job.

Fidel’s step one was to tell Mr. Goldberg that he is outraged by anti-Semitism. “I don’t think that anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” the old man proclaims to his guests. And by the way, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should “stop picking on the Jews.” When Mr. Goldberg asks whether Castro will tell the Iranian himself, Castro says, “I am saying this so you can communicate it.” Translation: This should be the headline of your piece so that the American people will recognize my benevolence. Mr. Goldberg complied.

I personally hope he’s not discouraged. I was looking forward to a whole series — “Lifestyles of the Ruthless and Infamous.”

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a priceless take-down of Jeffrey Goldberg’s visit to the dolphin show with Fidel Castro (“At most marine parks in the world the animals provide the entertainment. But at the Havana aquarium last month, Fidel Castro had a couple of humans eating out of his hand and clapping like trained seals.”) It’s certainly worth reading in full. A sample:

If the regime is to stay in power, it needs a new source of income to pay the secret police and keep the masses in rice. The best bet is the American tourist, last seen circa 1950 exploiting the locals, according to revolutionary lore, but now needed by the regime. It wants the U.S. travel ban lifted. To prevail, Castro needs to counteract rumors that he is a dictator. Solution: a makeover in the Atlantic. In Mr. Goldberg, he no doubt recognized the perfect candidate for the job.

Fidel’s step one was to tell Mr. Goldberg that he is outraged by anti-Semitism. “I don’t think that anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” the old man proclaims to his guests. And by the way, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should “stop picking on the Jews.” When Mr. Goldberg asks whether Castro will tell the Iranian himself, Castro says, “I am saying this so you can communicate it.” Translation: This should be the headline of your piece so that the American people will recognize my benevolence. Mr. Goldberg complied.

I personally hope he’s not discouraged. I was looking forward to a whole series — “Lifestyles of the Ruthless and Infamous.”

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Rewarding Dictators

Mary O’Grady frets that at the moment when Cuba is facing an economic squeeze, Democrats in Congress are throwing the Communist dictatorship a lifeline by seeking to lift the travel ban “without any human-rights concession from Castro.” She sees a disturbing pattern:

Why were the Obama administration and key congressional Democrats obsessed, for seven months, with trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back? Why did the U.S. pull visas, deny aid, and lead an international campaign to isolate the tiny Central American democracy? To paraphrase many Americans who wrote to me during the stand-off: “Whose side are these guys on anyway?”

As O’Grady notes, Cuba is economically vulnerable:

The dictatorship is hard up for hard currency. The regime now relies heavily on such measures as sending Cuban doctors to Venezuela in exchange for marked-down oil. But according to a recent Associated Press story, “Cuba’s foreign trade plunged by more than a third in 2009,” perhaps because Caracas, running out of money itself, is no longer a reliable sugar daddy. …

Cuba owes sovereign lenders billions of dollars, according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, and according to a June 23 Reuters report, it is so cash-strapped that it had “froze[n] up to $1 billion in the accounts of 600 foreign suppliers by the start of 2009.”

Now there is a serious food shortage. This month the independent media in Cuba reported that a scarcity of rice had the government so worried about civil unrest that it had to send police to accompany deliveries to shops.

It seems a humanitarian flotilla for Cuba would be in order. But rather than push Cuba to show progress on human rights, the Obama team and its Democratic allies are giving the regime a way out. (It’s the reverse of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of bankrupting the Soviet Union.) As with many other foreign policy endeavors during this presidency, one can chalk up the give-Cuba-a-break approach to foolishness or a frightful desire to cozy up to despots. Whatever the rationale, it’s not “smart” — but it will help facilitate Cuba’s influence in our hemisphere and keep Cuban dissidents’ jailers in power.

Mary O’Grady frets that at the moment when Cuba is facing an economic squeeze, Democrats in Congress are throwing the Communist dictatorship a lifeline by seeking to lift the travel ban “without any human-rights concession from Castro.” She sees a disturbing pattern:

Why were the Obama administration and key congressional Democrats obsessed, for seven months, with trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back? Why did the U.S. pull visas, deny aid, and lead an international campaign to isolate the tiny Central American democracy? To paraphrase many Americans who wrote to me during the stand-off: “Whose side are these guys on anyway?”

As O’Grady notes, Cuba is economically vulnerable:

The dictatorship is hard up for hard currency. The regime now relies heavily on such measures as sending Cuban doctors to Venezuela in exchange for marked-down oil. But according to a recent Associated Press story, “Cuba’s foreign trade plunged by more than a third in 2009,” perhaps because Caracas, running out of money itself, is no longer a reliable sugar daddy. …

Cuba owes sovereign lenders billions of dollars, according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, and according to a June 23 Reuters report, it is so cash-strapped that it had “froze[n] up to $1 billion in the accounts of 600 foreign suppliers by the start of 2009.”

Now there is a serious food shortage. This month the independent media in Cuba reported that a scarcity of rice had the government so worried about civil unrest that it had to send police to accompany deliveries to shops.

It seems a humanitarian flotilla for Cuba would be in order. But rather than push Cuba to show progress on human rights, the Obama team and its Democratic allies are giving the regime a way out. (It’s the reverse of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of bankrupting the Soviet Union.) As with many other foreign policy endeavors during this presidency, one can chalk up the give-Cuba-a-break approach to foolishness or a frightful desire to cozy up to despots. Whatever the rationale, it’s not “smart” — but it will help facilitate Cuba’s influence in our hemisphere and keep Cuban dissidents’ jailers in power.

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Libya’s Son

Iraqi Police Colonel Jubair Rashid Naief claims Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam (whose name means Sword of Islam) is sponsoring a terrorist group in Northern Iraq called the Seifaddin Regiment. This group is allegedly responsible for recent attacks in Mosul that killed and wounded hundreds. The U.S. military so far has no comment on the accusation one way or another. I’ve never heard of this group and am not even convinced it exists. But U.S. military officials believe 19 percent of foreign terrorists in Iraq come from Libya.

Robert H. Reid wrote in an Associated Press article that Seif al-Islam “seems an unlikely figure as a sponsor of terrorism. Touted as a reformer, the younger Gadhafi has been reaching out to the West to soften Libya’s image and return it to the international mainstream.”

Yes, Seif al-Islam is touted as a reformer – by journalists. Perhaps naïve government officials also believe Seif al-Islam is a reformer. His father has certainly been given a pass in the last couple of years even though he barely deserves it – if he deserves it at all.

I visited Libya as soon as the U.S. government lifted the travel ban, after Qaddafi supposedly gave up his weapons of mass destruction program. (Click here to see my photo gallery.) It is by far the most oppressive country I have ever been to. Freedom House ranks it the most oppressive of all Arab countries, lower than even Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Qaddafi’s government structure is modeled after Nicolae Ceauşescu’s totalitarian regime in Romania. His state ideology, the unexportable “Third Universal Theory,” is a merger of The Communist Manifesto and the Koran. His own infamous manifesto, The Green Book, is a daft and sinister pseudo-intellectual excuse for his own absolute power. Don’t be fooled by Qaddafi’s court jester antics and buffoonish charisma. He is only funny and entertaining to watch from abroad. Libya is an Orwellian God-state with only Turkmenistan and North Korea as peers.

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Iraqi Police Colonel Jubair Rashid Naief claims Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam (whose name means Sword of Islam) is sponsoring a terrorist group in Northern Iraq called the Seifaddin Regiment. This group is allegedly responsible for recent attacks in Mosul that killed and wounded hundreds. The U.S. military so far has no comment on the accusation one way or another. I’ve never heard of this group and am not even convinced it exists. But U.S. military officials believe 19 percent of foreign terrorists in Iraq come from Libya.

Robert H. Reid wrote in an Associated Press article that Seif al-Islam “seems an unlikely figure as a sponsor of terrorism. Touted as a reformer, the younger Gadhafi has been reaching out to the West to soften Libya’s image and return it to the international mainstream.”

Yes, Seif al-Islam is touted as a reformer – by journalists. Perhaps naïve government officials also believe Seif al-Islam is a reformer. His father has certainly been given a pass in the last couple of years even though he barely deserves it – if he deserves it at all.

I visited Libya as soon as the U.S. government lifted the travel ban, after Qaddafi supposedly gave up his weapons of mass destruction program. (Click here to see my photo gallery.) It is by far the most oppressive country I have ever been to. Freedom House ranks it the most oppressive of all Arab countries, lower than even Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Qaddafi’s government structure is modeled after Nicolae Ceauşescu’s totalitarian regime in Romania. His state ideology, the unexportable “Third Universal Theory,” is a merger of The Communist Manifesto and the Koran. His own infamous manifesto, The Green Book, is a daft and sinister pseudo-intellectual excuse for his own absolute power. Don’t be fooled by Qaddafi’s court jester antics and buffoonish charisma. He is only funny and entertaining to watch from abroad. Libya is an Orwellian God-state with only Turkmenistan and North Korea as peers.

Of course none of this means Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam sponsors a terrorist group in Iraq. I really have no idea if that’s true or not. What I do know is that he is ideologically committed to preserving his father’s prison state system, and that he wants to export that system to as many countries as possible. Gullible diplomats and journalists may sincerely believe he’s a reformer, but a close look at his own statements proves that he’s lying when he passes himself off as moderate. And he is not even a good liar.

“My father has been promoting the idea of direct democracy in Libya for almost 26 years now,” he said to New York Times reporter Craig S. Smith in December, 2004. “It’s quite rational and logical that we have to continue in that direction.”

So much for him reforming his father’s system. He is quite up front about that part of his agenda, at least. What he’s lying about is the nature of his father’s system. Libya is no more a direct democracy than the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea is a democratic republic.

In the same New York Times interview he said “We don’t have an opposition — there is no opposition.” Only “five people,” he claimed, oppose his father’s regime, and all five live in the United States.

It’s breathtaking, really, that even a totalitarian tool like Seif al-Islam doesn’t understand real democracy well enough to know that more than five people in any country will oppose the government regardless of its system or what it does. It takes real insularity from the modern world and its ways to say something like that to a reporter with a straight face. What’s even more striking is that reporters who actually live in a democratic country could take a serious look at this kid and think he’s a straight shooter. You might as well believe Saddam Hussein won 100 percent of the vote in Iraq. At least Syria’s dictator Hafez Assad only claimed to win 99.

I suppose it’s the “direct democracy” part of Seif al-Islam’s shtick that throws people off.

Here is what his father says about democracy in The Green Book: “Political struggle that results in the victory of a candidate with, for example, 51 percent of the vote leads to a dictatorial governing body in the guise of false democracy, since 49 percent of the electorate is ruled by an instrument of government they did not vote for, but which has been imposed upon them. Such is dictatorship.” His solution to the problem of “false democracy” is his version of “direct democracy” that enshrines himself as leader of 100 percent of the people rather than a mere 51. Political parties and political opposition are banned in Libya because they would divide that 100 percent. Libyan-style direct democracy is actually fascism or something very much like it. This is what Seif al-Islam is talking about when he says “we have to continue in that direction.”

The jury is out on whether he’s sponsoring a terrorist group in Iraq. I don’t have access to Iraqi Police Colonel Naief’s intelligence reports and cannot evaluate them. But the idea isn’t that much of a stretch. The Arab world has its reformers, but Seif al-Islam isn’t one of them.

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Squeezing Iran

On Tuesday, the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany agreed to a new round of sanctions, including a travel ban on key Iranian individuals, limits on businesses and military branches involved in nuclear activities, and the monitoring of banks and other institutions implicated in Iran’s nuclear program. While the forthcoming resolution merely adds stronger monitoring to previous sanctions, it achieves a unified western front against Iran and establishes a diplomatic platform for future resolutions, as necessary.

This represents progress. (I disagree with Gordon on this point.) As Norman Podhoretz argues, it indicates that the National Intelligence Estimate may not be as damaging as previously thought. Indeed, rather than derailing the U.S.-led effort to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the NIE simply convinced our allies that a military strategy against Tehran had been put on the back-burner, thus refocusing efforts towards a strengthened diplomatic strategy.

Yet two key hurdles remain in insuring the effectiveness of these new sanctions. First, Russia has downplayed their seriousness, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the forthcoming resolution will not require tough measures against Tehran other than calling for “countries to be vigilant in developing trade, economic, transport and other relations with Iran so that these relations are not used to transfer illegal, banned materials that can be used in nuclear affairs.”

Second, the new sanctions may have little consequence for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s domestic standing, which will face a major test when Iranians vote in the March parliamentary elections. Over 70 percent of the reformist candidates have been disqualified, making it difficult for Iranians to hold Ahmadinejad accountable for his failed economic policies. It is thus hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad’s response to the announcement of new sanctions was typically defiant, indicating that increased isolation might yield few domestic consequences.

Still, courting the Iranian public provides one strategy forward. As the Washington Institute’s Mehdi Khalaji reports, a low voter turnout will significantly undercut the regime’s legitimacy. At Davos, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thus wisely declared Iranians “a proud people with a great culture,” vowing expanded trade should Iran end its enrichment of uranium. Yet Russia’s narrow interpretation of the sanctions threatens to undermine the authority of these appeals, mitigating the political damage that Ahmadinejad might incur on account of them. Bottom line: keep an eye on Moscow.

On Tuesday, the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany agreed to a new round of sanctions, including a travel ban on key Iranian individuals, limits on businesses and military branches involved in nuclear activities, and the monitoring of banks and other institutions implicated in Iran’s nuclear program. While the forthcoming resolution merely adds stronger monitoring to previous sanctions, it achieves a unified western front against Iran and establishes a diplomatic platform for future resolutions, as necessary.

This represents progress. (I disagree with Gordon on this point.) As Norman Podhoretz argues, it indicates that the National Intelligence Estimate may not be as damaging as previously thought. Indeed, rather than derailing the U.S.-led effort to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the NIE simply convinced our allies that a military strategy against Tehran had been put on the back-burner, thus refocusing efforts towards a strengthened diplomatic strategy.

Yet two key hurdles remain in insuring the effectiveness of these new sanctions. First, Russia has downplayed their seriousness, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the forthcoming resolution will not require tough measures against Tehran other than calling for “countries to be vigilant in developing trade, economic, transport and other relations with Iran so that these relations are not used to transfer illegal, banned materials that can be used in nuclear affairs.”

Second, the new sanctions may have little consequence for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s domestic standing, which will face a major test when Iranians vote in the March parliamentary elections. Over 70 percent of the reformist candidates have been disqualified, making it difficult for Iranians to hold Ahmadinejad accountable for his failed economic policies. It is thus hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad’s response to the announcement of new sanctions was typically defiant, indicating that increased isolation might yield few domestic consequences.

Still, courting the Iranian public provides one strategy forward. As the Washington Institute’s Mehdi Khalaji reports, a low voter turnout will significantly undercut the regime’s legitimacy. At Davos, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thus wisely declared Iranians “a proud people with a great culture,” vowing expanded trade should Iran end its enrichment of uranium. Yet Russia’s narrow interpretation of the sanctions threatens to undermine the authority of these appeals, mitigating the political damage that Ahmadinejad might incur on account of them. Bottom line: keep an eye on Moscow.

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The Big Rock Candy Security Council

If they were familiar with American music, the mullahs would be humming the lyrics to Harry McClintock’s Big Rock Candy Mountain:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in

As the Washington Post reported yesterday,

The United States and five other major powers agreed yesterday on a new draft U.N. resolution on Iran, but the compromise incorporates weakened language that calls only for “vigilance” or “monitoring” of financial and military institutions without most of the tough economic sanctions sought by the Bush administration…

To break an eight-month deadlock, the Bush administration accepted a plan that includes largely voluntary monitoring of transactions involving two banks, and calls for restraints on export credits, cargo traffic and business involving individuals or institutions linked to proliferation. The toughest restriction is a travel ban on key officials, the European officials said.

Nothing demonstrates the solidarity of the free world like a travel ban, I’ve always said. The most hilarious comment on the sanctions came from one of our own diplomats:

“This will come as a rude shock to the Iranians,” departing Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview. “They had been predicting that the Security Council was no longer unified enough to pass a third resolution, and they were wrong. The council will pass this resolution in several weeks, and it will add to the international pressure on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.”

I’ll see you all this coming fall, in the big rock candy mountains.

If they were familiar with American music, the mullahs would be humming the lyrics to Harry McClintock’s Big Rock Candy Mountain:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in

As the Washington Post reported yesterday,

The United States and five other major powers agreed yesterday on a new draft U.N. resolution on Iran, but the compromise incorporates weakened language that calls only for “vigilance” or “monitoring” of financial and military institutions without most of the tough economic sanctions sought by the Bush administration…

To break an eight-month deadlock, the Bush administration accepted a plan that includes largely voluntary monitoring of transactions involving two banks, and calls for restraints on export credits, cargo traffic and business involving individuals or institutions linked to proliferation. The toughest restriction is a travel ban on key officials, the European officials said.

Nothing demonstrates the solidarity of the free world like a travel ban, I’ve always said. The most hilarious comment on the sanctions came from one of our own diplomats:

“This will come as a rude shock to the Iranians,” departing Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview. “They had been predicting that the Security Council was no longer unified enough to pass a third resolution, and they were wrong. The council will pass this resolution in several weeks, and it will add to the international pressure on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.”

I’ll see you all this coming fall, in the big rock candy mountains.

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Cheapening Free Speech

When Columbia University invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last month, the most common refrain uttered by the University’s defenders was that, by doing so, the University was honoring the time-tested and proudly American principle of “free speech.” This country was founded upon a resistance to monarchical authority; a corollary to that impulse is the individual’s freedom to say or publish what he thinks. No one can quibble with this understanding of a bedrock American freedom. But where Columbia’s defenders went wrong was in their contention that protesting Ahmadinejad’s presence would contradict thi fundamentally American notion.

This has always been a silly and unsophisticated understanding of what the Bill of Rights actually says, or what the “spirit” of free speech actually means. No one has denied Ahmadinejad a platform for his odious views; indeed, just the day after his rant at Columbia he was given an international soapbox at the United Nations General Assembly. And the fact that his views on matters ranging from the existence of the Holocaust to the future existence of Israel are so well known further lays waste to the claim that not inviting Ahmadinejad would strike a blow to “free speech.”

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When Columbia University invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last month, the most common refrain uttered by the University’s defenders was that, by doing so, the University was honoring the time-tested and proudly American principle of “free speech.” This country was founded upon a resistance to monarchical authority; a corollary to that impulse is the individual’s freedom to say or publish what he thinks. No one can quibble with this understanding of a bedrock American freedom. But where Columbia’s defenders went wrong was in their contention that protesting Ahmadinejad’s presence would contradict thi fundamentally American notion.

This has always been a silly and unsophisticated understanding of what the Bill of Rights actually says, or what the “spirit” of free speech actually means. No one has denied Ahmadinejad a platform for his odious views; indeed, just the day after his rant at Columbia he was given an international soapbox at the United Nations General Assembly. And the fact that his views on matters ranging from the existence of the Holocaust to the future existence of Israel are so well known further lays waste to the claim that not inviting Ahmadinejad would strike a blow to “free speech.”

What ultimately mattered was that a distinguished University lent credence to his views. Columbia’s physics department would never host a speech by a member of the Flat Earth Society, nor should it. People who think the moon landing was a hoax or that the Holocaust never happened have every right to utter and publish these beliefs; they have no “right” to a speaking engagement at an Ivy League School.

This crucial distinction is one that has long been lost on those people who organize events on college campuses. The latest example occurs across the pond at Oxford University, where the Oxford Union—the school’s prestigious debating society that counts leading politicians, journalists, and business leaders as alumnae—has invited a rogue’s gallery to take part in a “Free Speech Forum” set for the end of November. The Union has already been excoriated by critics, as noted on contentions, for staging a debate on the Middle East conflict and loading it with anti-Israel activists.

Among those invited to the “Free Speech Forum” are David Irving (the notorious Holocaust denier), Nick Griffin (the leader of the anti-Semitic, racist, and fascist British National Party), and Alexander Lukoshenko, the dictator of Belarus. The Union’s president told the Guardian that, “The Oxford Union is famous for is commitment to free speech and although I do think these people have awful and abhorrent views I do think Oxford students are intelligent enough to challenge and ridicule them.” Indeed, one Oxford Union committee member even used Columbia’s example as a justification for the invite: “If Columbia can invite Ahmadinejad, then why shouldn’t we invite Irving?” Thankfully, Lukoshenko is under a European Union travel ban and will not be able to attend. Unfortunately, both the fascist and the Holocaust denier have indicated their eager anticipation.

The primary outcome of this invitation is the Oxford Union’s discrediting of itself. As with Ahmadinejad at Columbia, there is nothing to be “learned” from engaging in dialogue with fascists and Holocaust-deniers. Oxford students are indeed an “intelligent” bunch: all the more reason that they do not need to spend an evening listening to these men, thus granting them legitimacy. One presumes that the motivating impulse behind Oxford’s “Free Speech Forum” is to present some of the most outlandish views possible. But the purpose of freedom of speech is to elevate discussion and broaden our common understanding, not to promote lies and hate (Griffin’s and Irving’s specialty).

To honor “free speech,” ought not the Oxford Union instead extend invitations to individuals living in countries where the principle is non-existent? Why not invite democracy activists in China or exiled Zimbabwean journalists, of which there is no shortage in the United Kingdom?

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Victory for a Dictator

What is the point of putting sanctions on a dictator if you refuse to enforce them? This was the question that the world community faced in its dealings with Saddam Hussein, who, over a twelve-year period, violated sixteen Chapter VII Security Council resolutions with impunity. The question has come up again in the person of Robert Mugabe. In 2002, the European Union placed a travel ban on the Zimbabwean dictator and his top associates, which it has repeatedly allowed them to break. This December, a European Union-African Union summit is planned for Lisbon, Portugal, and at the insistence of African governments, the Portuguese will be inviting Mugabe. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has issued an ultimatum that he would not attend the conference were Mugabe seated across the table. Now, the Guardian reports:

“It’s the working assumption that Mugabe will be coming if invited by the Portuguese as expected,” said a European Commission official familiar with the preparations for the first Europe-Africa summit in seven years.

It appears that Brown will not be in attendance, then, and that the European and African Unions have chosen a dictator over a democrat.

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What is the point of putting sanctions on a dictator if you refuse to enforce them? This was the question that the world community faced in its dealings with Saddam Hussein, who, over a twelve-year period, violated sixteen Chapter VII Security Council resolutions with impunity. The question has come up again in the person of Robert Mugabe. In 2002, the European Union placed a travel ban on the Zimbabwean dictator and his top associates, which it has repeatedly allowed them to break. This December, a European Union-African Union summit is planned for Lisbon, Portugal, and at the insistence of African governments, the Portuguese will be inviting Mugabe. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has issued an ultimatum that he would not attend the conference were Mugabe seated across the table. Now, the Guardian reports:

“It’s the working assumption that Mugabe will be coming if invited by the Portuguese as expected,” said a European Commission official familiar with the preparations for the first Europe-Africa summit in seven years.

It appears that Brown will not be in attendance, then, and that the European and African Unions have chosen a dictator over a democrat.

This is not good news for Zimbabwe’s democrats, either, who have been working tirelessly, under very difficult conditions, to discredit Mugabe internationally. One would not imagine this to be a difficult task, considering the fact that the man is responsible for the deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of innocent civilians and is slowly starving his own people to death. The EU invitation will send a message to other African leaders: not only are their governments able to hold European diplomacy hostage, but the Europeans respect Mugabe. According to the Guardian, “EU diplomats hope that Mugabe will come under ‘peer pressure’ from fellow African leaders.” As long as the international community acts like a high school guidance counselor when dealing with African politics, it should expect little to get done.

On the bright side, now that Mugabe is set to come to Europe, perhaps the European Union is deftly executing the plan I proposed earlier this week. One can hope.

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Arrest Mugabe

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set African leaders astir with his ultimatum concerning an upcoming European Union/African Union conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Brown has laid down a simple condition for his attendance at the December conference: that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe not attend. “We should not sit down at the same table as President Mugabe,” Brown told the Labour Party conference last week. He elaborated

We will play our part also in helping all those people who want to work together to make sure there is social and economic justice, and then political justice, also for the Zimbabwean people. We are ready to play our part in the reconstruction and in the building of a democracy…. There must be democracy restored to Zimbabwe.

Many of Tony Blair’s friends in America were unsure of his successor’s commitment to global freedom, but Brown’s principled and uncompromising stand on the Mugabe tyranny should assuage most, if not all, of those doubts.

African leaders, who have done nothing of substance to assist Mugabe’s exit from power (and have actually aided him whenever the democratic opposition to his rule came close to weakening his regime) are angry at Mr. Brown’s provocation. It is expected that if the EU follows the British Prime Minister’s suggestion and retracts Mugabe’s invitation, the entire summit will collapse due to African states’ boycotting the event. European diplomats, unwilling to take any step that would cause offense or discomfort to dictators, are already busying themselves condemning Mr. Brown to the media.

I have a compromise solution to this seemingly intractable quandary. Brown should at once rescind his opposition to Mugabe’s attendance at the Lisbon summit, and instead express his giddy anticipation at greeting the Zimbabwean president in Portugual come December. The EU should officially waive the travel ban it placed on Mugabe in 2002 and ceremoniously grant him a visa. When Mugabe steps off his plane (AirZimbabwe’s only international jet, which Mugabe regularly commandeers on a whim, throwing the national carrier’s schedule into chaos), he will be greeted by a Hague-appointed prosecutor serving him an indictment for crimes against humanity. The Portuguese police will then take him promptly into custody. I hope this is an idea Brown is already contemplating.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set African leaders astir with his ultimatum concerning an upcoming European Union/African Union conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Brown has laid down a simple condition for his attendance at the December conference: that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe not attend. “We should not sit down at the same table as President Mugabe,” Brown told the Labour Party conference last week. He elaborated

We will play our part also in helping all those people who want to work together to make sure there is social and economic justice, and then political justice, also for the Zimbabwean people. We are ready to play our part in the reconstruction and in the building of a democracy…. There must be democracy restored to Zimbabwe.

Many of Tony Blair’s friends in America were unsure of his successor’s commitment to global freedom, but Brown’s principled and uncompromising stand on the Mugabe tyranny should assuage most, if not all, of those doubts.

African leaders, who have done nothing of substance to assist Mugabe’s exit from power (and have actually aided him whenever the democratic opposition to his rule came close to weakening his regime) are angry at Mr. Brown’s provocation. It is expected that if the EU follows the British Prime Minister’s suggestion and retracts Mugabe’s invitation, the entire summit will collapse due to African states’ boycotting the event. European diplomats, unwilling to take any step that would cause offense or discomfort to dictators, are already busying themselves condemning Mr. Brown to the media.

I have a compromise solution to this seemingly intractable quandary. Brown should at once rescind his opposition to Mugabe’s attendance at the Lisbon summit, and instead express his giddy anticipation at greeting the Zimbabwean president in Portugual come December. The EU should officially waive the travel ban it placed on Mugabe in 2002 and ceremoniously grant him a visa. When Mugabe steps off his plane (AirZimbabwe’s only international jet, which Mugabe regularly commandeers on a whim, throwing the national carrier’s schedule into chaos), he will be greeted by a Hague-appointed prosecutor serving him an indictment for crimes against humanity. The Portuguese police will then take him promptly into custody. I hope this is an idea Brown is already contemplating.

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