Poor Augusto Pinochet! Try to imagine Fidel Castro flying to England on private business and getting arrested for alleged crimes against humanity. Within hours, every talking head on this planet would be up in arms, demanding British blood and Castro’s freedom.
It hardly needs stating that Fidel would be better suited to incarceration at Her Majesty’s pleasure than Pinochet. El Jeffe‘s 40 years of misrule have brought untold misery and suffering to millions of Cubans. La Revolucion also meant the deaths of thousands of political opponents, and tens of thousands of ruined lives. While Pinochet paved the way for Chile’s transition to the democracy it is today, after four decades of dictatorship, Castro shows no sign of mellowing.
Clive Nicholls, the Queen’s Counsel representing Pinochet, warned that the denial of his immunity will open up the prospect of the Queen being extradited from a third country to Argentina to stand trial for the murder of Argentinean POWs by British forces in the Falklands, or to Ireland for the murder of Irish citizens by the British Secret Service in Gibraltar.
But “international morality” is a decidedly one-edged sword. Jiang Zemin, the president of China and the architect of the Tiananmen Square massacre, may safely come to the United States; Muammar Qaddafi may not. (No civilized person would want either of those two gentlemen at his dinner table, but that is not the point.) If Serbs and Croats want to secede from Bosnia, it is definitely not on; but if Albanians want to secede from Serbia, that is a different story. If Serbs try to stop them, NATO bombers start revving their engines.
That trigger-happy alliance includes Turkey, and in a non-relativistic scheme of things, NATO should be prepared to bomb its own members. According to an Associated Press report (October 25), Turkey
is in its 15th year of a fight against Kurdish rebels seeking autonomy in southeastern Turkey. Some 37,000 people have died in the struggle.
Thirty-seven thousand dead? That’s 37 “Kosovos” so far, year in, year out, since those distant days when Reagan was in his first term, and Bill Gates was yet to make his first billion.
Speaking of Kosovo, public television viewers may have noticed that Jim Lehrer on News Hour (October 2), responded “What’s wrong with that?” to Senator Warner’s concern that the remaining Serbs in Kosovo would be wiped out if the Albanians take over. It would be interesting to observe the fallout if Lehrer expressed similar sentiments about the settlers on the West Bank—should Mr. Arafat ever be allowed to take back that piece of real estate.
By way of a modest consolation, Serbs will be gratified to learn from the Agence France Presse (October 10) that a delegation from France’s National Front (FN) went to Kosovo “to support Serbia in its showdown with NATO allies.” FN deputy vice president Jacques Dore expressed the Front’s support for Serbia’s “just struggle to safeguard its national identity.”
We’ve known all along that those LePenists are sturdy fellows, but that fact is now clear to none other than Charles de Gaulle. According to a report in the Times of London (October 24), the eldest grandson and namesake of Le Général said he was willing to stand for the FN in the European parliamentary elections in June 1999. M. de Gaulle, who is already a Euroskeptic member of the European Parliament, believes that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s people better represent the ideals of his grandfather than does the wishy-washy Gaullist Party that bears his name. With the mainstream right in disarray, the presence of M. de Gaulle on its slate would be a coup for the FN, which already commands 15 percent of the national vote.
At the opposite end of the European political spectrum, another illustrious grandson—that of Leonid Brezhnev— congratulated Massimo D’Alema of Italy’s Democratic Party of the Left (formerly known as the Communist Party) on his recent appointment. While Le Pen’s elevation to a position of power in France would prompt our ruling elites to boycott claret and Roquefort, the Corriere della sera reports that Clinton press flack Joe Lockhart has declared that the White House “will be happy to work in close contact” with the new government in Rome headed by D’Alema.
Like its predecessors, the new Italian ministry is gung-ho for Europe, but the Europhoric camp is not as monolithic as it used to be. As 1998 drew to an end, the French were trying to put the best spin on the embarrassing refusal of new German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to take part in a joint celebration of the end of World War I on November 8. For years, ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his French colleagues marked this anniversary with joint Franco-German ceremonies near Aachen, on the Franco-German border, and at Vrigne-Meuse in the Ardennes, the last place where French and German soldiers died in the Great War. But Schroeder told French President Jacques Chirac that he would not take part, and he ruled out any German participation, now or in the future. He indicated that he was not bound by Kohl’s earlier acceptance of the invitation to this year’s event.
Schroeder said he wanted “a new Germany that presented a new face to the world and not one of guilt.” Le Monde and Liberation warn that Schroeder’s decision has added to growing French concerns that, under Schroeder’s coalition government, Germany has turned away from France.
Back home, amidst the media blitz that accompanied the release in December of the new $70 million animated feature. Prince of Egypt, an interesting detail from the history of this masterpiece of popular culture went unnoticed. Before the final version was completed, DreamWorks SKG—the movie studio formed by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen—screened a roughcut for an interesting focus group. The invitees included the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Mushm Council, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Islamic Information Service, and diplomats from a number of Muslim countries. The film is an adaptation of the Ufe of Moses “based” on the Book of Exodus. Following the preview, studio executives soUcited comments and suggestions on the film’s content from the invitees “to ensure historical accuracy and to eliminate sources of stereotyping.”
It is ironic that Muslims were given screening rights for a film that deals with a period in history when their religion did not even exist. As for the ancient Egyptians, they were, of course, not Arabs. The only real descendants of the Pharaohs in Egypt are the Coptic Orthodox minority. But the Copts, being Christian, are unlikely to be invited to a screening, let alone awarded the seal of victimhood that they deserve. Their daily lot under the rule of the Muslim Arab majority is little known to most Americans. A glimpse is provided by the Daily Telegraph of London (October 25):
Hundreds of Copts have been rounded up in southern Egypt after suspected retaliatory killings involving local Muslims and Christians. . . . Most Copts are too frightened to speak about their plight. But the local bishop and two priests are now facing the death penalty for bringing the persecution to the attention of the world. . . . Police have reportedly detained about 1,200 Christians in Al-Kosheh, near Luxor in Upper Egypt. Seized in groups of 50 at a time, many were nailed to crosses or manacled to doors with their legs tied together, then beaten and tortured with electric shocks to their genitals, while police denounced them as “infidels.” An 11-year-old boy, Romani Boctor, was hung upside down from an electric ceiling fan and tortured as the fan rotated. Young girls were raped and mothers were forced to lay their babies on the floor of police stations and watch police beat them with sticks. . . . Copts were the ancient inhabitants of Egypt before the Arab invasions in the seventh century, but have been surrounded for centuries by a hostile Muslim majority. They now need presidential permission to open a church, their history cannot be taught in schools and people can be arrested under the National Security Act for converting to their faith. Mustafa Shukravi, a human rights activist who converted to Christianity and was jailed for 10 months, was granted asylum in England last September. He said: “I was beaten with sticks and electric shocks. I was hung, blindfolded, made to stand for five days and five nights.” . . . The Clinton administration sees Mr. Mubarak as a key player in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and seems unlikely to risk upsetting him by reducing its £1.3 billion aid package
In the meantime, on the other side of the Mediterranean, a French Muslim made his own modest contribution to the cause of inter-faith relations á la Arabique. According to Agence France Presse (October 16) an Albanian court has charged Claude Cheik Ben Abdel, 27, with the murder of a young Albanian Christian. Ben Abdel came to Tirana posing as a journalist and hired the victim, Leonard Vangjeli, 22, to be his interpreter In fact, Ben Abdel and eight other Islamic militants came from France to help ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo, prosecutor Ariston Puka said. The group had smuggled weapons and killed Vangjeli because he was a witness. Ben Abdel admitted to the murder, saying he had killed Vangjeli to “accomplish the will of God.”
That the size of a country does not necessarily correlate to the magnitude of the horrors emanating from it was confirmed two days later when Agence France Presse reported that an illegal clinic, involved in the traffic of baby organs, was discovered in the Albanian capital, Tirana, during an investigation of alleged baby trafficking from Albania to Italy. The clinic was administrated by Albanian doctors and surgeons who “operated on babies and sent their organs to Italy,” reportedly upon the orders of Italian Mafia bosses. “Skillful surgeons have carried out many operations on babies and sold their organs in Italy, earning large amounts of money,” a senior prosecution official said. The scandal first came to light when gravediggers discovered that the coffins of some allegedly stillborn infants were empty.
Let us hope that the missing Albanian babies will be the next cause Tony Blair decides to promote, when he tires of persecuting Pinochet and egging on his American buddy to bomb the Serbs. The cause is worthy, and it is harmless. It would even justify the paean that one Dominic Mohan sang to him last fall in that official organ of British Yobbery, the Sun of London:
From the moment I heard the opening bars of Dario G’z Ibiza’s anthem Sunchyme I realised that the days of dull politics were long gone. The EM put his hand on his heart throughout and his words gave me goosebumps. I realised later I had witnessed something very special. It was perfectly scripted, simple enough for a layman like me to understand, and oozed passion.
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