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Yuan Yi Zhu

Good riddance, but Richard Falk’s departure will not change the UN

The United Nations is bidding farewell to Richard Falk, its Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories. He may not have won the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights, as his brother Rapporteur Jean Ziegler once did, but he nevertheless managed to discredit his employer even further, a task of not inconsiderable difficulty. Falk was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist before it was hip and a very early Khomeini groupie (though he later repented). His attitude towards Israel is so embarrassingly extreme that even the Palestinian Authority tried to get him fired. Now that he has finally retired, one wishes he will ease into a very silent retirement, though perhaps that is asking too much of him. However, the departure of another resident lunatic from the UN hardly restores to the organization the respectability it so desperately craves. After all, North Korea and Iran sit on its disarmament conference; Mugabe of Zimbabwe serves as a “special tourism ambassador”; Saudi Arabia and Cuba are on the Human Rights Council. Iran and Syria are hoping to get elected to the body in May. The Council, not incidentally, is the body which elected Rapporteur Falk. Is anyone surprised? Speaking of the Human Rights Council: it is due to begin the next round of its Universal Periodic Review this month. At these events, countries sit in judgment of other countries’ human rights records. Of course, there is nothing that bars a country that doesn’t have any human rights to begin with from condemning those who do. Hence, a few years ago, North Korea enjoined the United States to take “measures to end defamation of religion”, a curious request from a state which regularly shoots its citizens for having religious beliefs. At least they did not go as far as Venezuela, which exhorted the U.S. to abolish slavery.… Read More

The root causes of terrorism according to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

One of the great political obsessions of our age has been to find the “root cause of terrorism”. Only recently, Secretary of State John Kerry became the latest to wade into the debate, declaring that poverty “in many cases is the root cause of terrorism”. If that is the case, evidently the West needs to change fundamentally how it seeks to deal with it; maybe it should follow Lyndon Johnson’s example and offer one new Tennessee Valley Authority apiece to Afghanistan and Iraq. But is poverty really what motivates young men to strap explosives to their chest and detonate themselves in large crowds, or to fly planes into buildings? There is someone more qualified to answer that question than Secretary Kerry, and his recent contribution to the discussion has unaccountably been overlooked: I refer of course to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. A permanent guest of the U.S. government, Mr. Mohammed has written a remarkable document entitled “Statement to the Crusaders of the Military Commission in Guantanamo”, which has only recently been released to the public. As the mastermind of the September 11 attacks and the killer of Daniel Pearl, he has first-hand insights in the terrorist mind. Add that to his American university education, through which he acquired first-hand experience of Western society and good English writing skills, he is uniquely positioned to tell Westerners what makes the would-be terrorist dislike us. And money, according to KSM, is of little account. Contrasting the “American crusaders” who, despite living in material abundance, “[go] home and commit suicide”, and the poor Afghans who live in a cold mud-shack with little to eat, but have “happy hearts and souls”, he explains that happiness is not to be found in money, music, or even living a “so-called free life”, but only in following the right… Read More

Spies Spy, so Get over it

“Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail,” American Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson once said. Now we know that they do, and everybody is shocked. Ever since The Guardian revealed that the United States had been spying on its European allies, an incessant stream of light invective has been coming out of Europe’s chancelleries. “How dare you!” seems to be the general sentiment among European politicians, and France and Germany have been especially harsh in their public remarks. But all of this is humbug: nobody in Europe is in the least surprised at the American spying, because every European country does exactly the same thing. France says American snooping of French telecommunications is “totally unacceptable.” But why does its General Directorate of External Security maintain extensive electronic surveillance installations in South America and in the Indian Ocean, if not to spy on foreigners? Merkel made a “frosty” call to President Obama to complain about NSA wiretapping in Germany. Her interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, thinks that “those responsible must be held accountable.” Yet the German foreign intelligence agency collects massive amounts of foreign telecommunications, which it sends to…the NSA. Interestingly, the agency falls under the direct aegis of the German Chancellery. And yet Chancellor Merkel continues to play dumb and keep up the faux-outrage that shouldn’t fool a five-year old. Better still, back in August, Merkel announced the imminent conclusion of a mutual no-spying agreement with the United States. Why would Germany seek such an agreement, unless both are already spying on each other? Yet the Iron Frau, despite being aware of the mutual spying, doesn’t raise hell about it until this totally-unsurprising piece of information is splashed all over the front-pages of German newspapers. That’s because if she didn’t cry about it, the opposition would have called her an… Read More

Vo Nguyen Giap: Lessons in Death from Indochina

When General Vo Nguyen Giap died on October 4 at the age of 102, the French Foreign Minister called him a “great Vietnamese patriot, loved and respected by all his people and for the prominent role he played in founding the independence of his country.” Whether this was due to a surfeit of historical ignorance, or a sign of how distant the First Indochina War has become even for French politicians, there was something indecent in that statement. Seventy-five thousand Frenchmen died in that war in order to defend the honour of the Republic and the empire she had painstakingly acquired. And their most formidable foe, against whom most of them fell in battle, was Giap. The French were superior in equipment, in training, and in experience. Against them were a ragtag army of untrained irregulars. How could they lose? But the Vietnamese didn’t fight by the same rules. At the battle of Điện Biên Phủ, Giap sent wave after wave of soldiers against heavily fortified French positions. The Vietnamese took unimaginable casualties. But eventually the French simply ran out of ammunition, and of men. When the last French position was captured, Paris radio played Berlioz’s Requiem in honour of those who fell in battle. But they might as well have played it for the French Empire, for it had found its sepulchre in that obscure corner of Asia. The source of Giap’s strategic thinking was simple to find. Ho Chin Minh had said “You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.” He was right, of course. The French could carry on with their lives with or without their Indochinese colony; the Vietnamese, who fought for national salvation, could not. Giap translated… Read More

America’s Lord of Life and Death

By way of November 25th’s New York Times comes to us an article entitled “Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy”. Weighty stuff it is, since Barack Obama has been, for quite some time, using unmanned aerial vehicles to blow up a long list of mostly-unlamented terrorist suspects without due process of law, as the constitutional phrase runs.When Yemeni rabble-rousers were vaporized this way few objected; but when some American citizens received a complimentary missile from their government there were worried whispers. What would happen, it was asked, if President Obama exclaimed “Will no drone rid me of this turbulent Senator”? One suspects that there would be fewer filibusters, but also that the he didn’t quite have the right to do such a thing. The President of the United States might be the Nation’s Chief Magistrate, but he is emphatically not the Lord High Executioner.In practice through, he really is judge and jury, if not the actual executioner. Every week, a cabal of security advisors meets by teleconference in order to nominate terrorists that should be blown into oblivion by drones. The names are sent to the White House, where Mr. Obama and some advisors study the nominees’ files. The President makes the final determination as to who should make the final cut, and signs off a kill list. Then, it may presumed, the list goes to a joystick-wielding pilot who, from some military base, commits the deed.In order to wiretap a suspected al-Qaeda operative in Boston, say, the FBI has to go to a special two-tiered Federal court to obtain a warrant. There is nothing, however, that would prevent Mr. Obama from pointing a finger at the same person and make him history. Whatever one’s views about the War on Terror, it is, to say the least,… Read More
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