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Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Happiest Country in the World…

May 31st, 2011 - 8:24 pm

… is China, according to a newly released global survey of “Gross National Happiness.” The number two spot goes to North Korea. Cuba ranks #3, Iran #4, Venezuela #5.

And, if you’re starting to detect a pattern here, South Korea ranks #152. The U.S. clocks in with the abysmal rank of #203.

So which country reportedly produced this Happiness Index? Why, North Korea, of course. At least so we’re told as this news spreads through the blogosphere.

Assuming this isn’t satire (and I haven’t quite ruled that out; though, with all of North Korea’s official propaganda to draw on, who needs satire?) there are two things that stand out here. One is obvious: This list is a great guide to North Korea’s buddies in the global trouble-making racket; a wish-list for pals of Kim Jong Il’s utopia.

The second is tantalizing in its potential significance. In its own happiness index, North Korea cedes first place to China. That’s quite a concession for a North Korean regime that officially regards itself as the perfection of all systems and endlessly exhorts its people to extol the colossal happiness conferred upon them by the father-son tyrannical tag team of the late Kim Il Sung and the current Kim Jong Il. Perhaps deferring to China as #1 was just a bit of despotic neighborly etiquette, given that the release of this Happiness Index apparently coincided with Kim Jong Il’s latest trip to China. During that trip, Kim tried harder — lavishing praise on China’s ruling Communist Party. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency has posted Kim’s speech from a banquet last week with China’s supreme comrade, Hu Jintao, in which Kim thrills to China’s rejection of “dominationism” and celebrates the successes of the Chinese Communist Party and government as clearly proving “the scientific nature and invincibility of socialism.”

A companion explanation might be that China has been Kim’s most visible collaborator in the nuclear and missile proliferation rackets. China is currently blocking the official release by the United Nations Security Council of two recent reports by a UN panel of experts on sanctions on North Korea. According to leaked accounts, this UN panel alleges that China has been abetting North Korea’s illicit proliferation deals. U.S. officials have made similar charges. In such circumstances, it’s easy to see why North Korea’s regime might modestly place itself at #2 on the world happiness list, and flatter China as #1.

Another possibility, however, is that enough information from the outside world, or at least from China, is by now seeping into North Korea, so that even the Pyongyang regime isn’t quite sure it can get away with a lie as spectacular as ranking North Korea itself as #1 on the North Korean global happiness index. North Koreans may not have an accurate sense of how folks live in Kentucky. But it’s a good bet that by now they do know that compared to North Korea, China is a land of plenty. For North Korea’s brutal and totalitarian regime, growing awareness among North Koreans themselves of a better life elsewhere is one more sign that spells trouble for Kim — and his Happiness Index.

As if there weren’t enough trouble in the world, it’s “Freedom Flotilla” season again in the Middle East. Self-declared “freedom activists” are again maneuvering  to score big propaganda points by trying to break the Israeli naval blockade meant to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza — the Palestinian enclave ruled by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hamas. In Turkey, such activists are marking the first anniversary of the May 31, 2010 confrontation aboard the Turkish flagship of last year’s flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, in which some of the erstwhile peaceniks aboard the vessel turned out to be thugs wielding clubs and knives. They attacked the Israelis trying to enforce the blockade; nine “peace” activists died and seven Israeli commandos were wounded.

Plans are now taking shape for another flotilla to sail for Gaza, sometime in June. A major organizer of last year’s flotilla, the terror-linked Turkish nonprofit known as IHH, is seeking preliminary applications for people who want to join this year’s excursion to bait and besmirch Israel and support Iranian-backed Hamas. The IHH site lists some who have already signed up, including a number of Americans described as planning to sail aboard a U.S.-flagged ship called the Audacity of Hope.

Whatever the lofty intentions under which some of the dupes among this crowd might sail, the effect is to support the terrorist rulers of Gaza — who have recently, once again, ratcheted up their rocket and mortar bombardments of Israel, and, as clients of Iran, may be planning worse. Which is the reason for the Israeli blockade in the first place. Recall that in 2005, hoping for peaceful coexistence, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, forcibly evicting even those Israelis who refused to leave their homes there. The Palestinians of Gaza did not respond with peace. They voted into power Hamas, which is dedicated in its charter to the eradication of Israel. They launched thousands of attacks on Israel. Gaza’s real problem is not the Israeli blockade, or a lack of supplies, but its predatory devotion to the aims of terrorizing and destroying the democratic state of Israel. In the name of humanitarian aid, United Nations agencies and assorted charities have been pouring resources into Gaza for years (much of that provided by American and European taxpayers). Attempts to shred the Israeli blockade do not add up to humanitarian help; they add up to support for terror-loving Hamas.

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Why… that would mean the UN would be subject in the U.S. to genuine rule of law. A novel idea for the UN, where since its 1945 founding, immunity and impunity have gone hand in hand.

The usual argument in favor of immunity is that it is necessary for the UN to carry out its business. Such are the perquisites of diplomacy. But at the UN, which is a collective too often left by its 192 member states to police itself, this immunity translates all too easily into abuses of many kinds. In a recent post pegged to l’affaire Strauss-Kahn, Multilateralists Gone Wild, Colum Lynch provides a tour of assorted sexual escapades and allegations among the diplomatically immune set.

And then there is of course the effect of immunity on the UN’s financial integrity — or lack thereof. In a case worth watching, a Turkish businessman has now brought a $150 million lawsuit in New York federal court against the UN Development Program, or UNDP. The businessman, Kahraman Sadikoglu, alleges that the UNDP failed to pay him for his work in 2003 in clearing sunken ships from the Iraqi port of Um Qasr. The UNDP has refused to comment, respond, or accept notice that the lawsuit has been filed. A federal judge has issued an order that could open a way around this — the Fox News web site has the story, on how “Contract Dispute With United Nations Could Lead to End of Diplomatic Immunity.” If this gets real traction, it could just spell the makings of UN accountability on a scale the institution has been promising for decades, but never delivered on yet.

Helping North Korea Help Itself

May 22nd, 2011 - 12:32 am

Here we go again. Amid warnings about an impending “food crisis” in North Korea, the U.S. administration is working its way around to sending yet more massive subsidies, in the form of free food, to the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong Il. Apparently, President Barack Obama’s lofty promises for the Middle East last week, about America supporting universal rights, do not extend to the people of Asia.

Not that American aid will be packaged as help for Kim Jong Il. This week the Obama administration will be sending its special envoy for human rights in North Korea, Robert King, along with a team of U.S. Agency for International Development “food experts,” to evaluate North Korea’s need for food. That sounds all very charitable and humanitarian, and there is no question that the people of North Korea could benefit from more humane treatment, and more food.

But North Korea’s real problem is not a food crisis. It is a totalitarian crisis. If, indeed, a grinding and chronic situation of  state-enforced deprivation can be called a crisis at all. We usually think of a crisis as a time of intense trouble that represents a deviation from the norm. In Kim’s North Korea, famished misery is the norm. Behind the endless reports of extraordinary floods and crop failures is a brutal command-and-control system that guarantees any natural disaster will be amplified to lethal dimensions, crops will fail, and people will go hungry. Somehow, on the same Korean peninsula, just south of the demilitarized zone that divides impoverished North from thriving South Korea, the vagaries of nature are not threatening to produce famine. The difference is not a function of quantities of food aid, but of totalitarian planning versus democracy and markets.

The problem with sending humanitarian teams to North Korea on the erstwhile neutral mission of evaluating the need for food, is that these teams become de facto partners of the North Korean regime — proposing to try to make up for the grotesque failures of the North Korean government. The failure here, by the way, does not consist of North Korea’s government failing to feed its people. It consists of North Korea’s government running a system so self-serving and restrictive that it does not permit North Korea’s people the freedom necessary to feed themselves. The same rigid North Korean system has repeatedly diverted food aid from the intended beneficiaries to the military, refused to allow effective monitoring of international handouts, cheated on every deal it has ever made with the West, and carried on pouring resources into missiles and a nuclear weapons program while children die of malnutrition and neanderthal medical care. These are among the reasons the Obama administration cut off the free food pipeline in 2009.

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Just when you thought Libya was in trouble enough, here comes the self-described former “chief diplomat of the world,” Kofi Annan, with more of his trademark prescriptions for making a big mess even bigger.

For a while now, the former UN Secretary-General has been relatively quiet, or at least he has failed to insert himself much into the news. But now we have the Financial Times, in an article headlined “The Road to Redemption,” featuring coverage of Annan as he motorcades around Tanzania, opining lovingly on his own record at the UN, and offering views on the future. One of Annan’s views, detailed in another FT piece headlined “Kofi Annan hits at west over Libya,” is that it was a mistake for western leaders of the no-fly-zone coalition to call for Moammar Gaddafi to step down. In Annan’s opinion and signature lingo, this was “not very helpful” because, by antagonizing Gaddafi, it could complicate negotiations for a settlement, thus risking a “messy” stalemate.

Thanks to a murky UN resolution mandating protection of civilians, but not actually authorizing the defeat of Gaddafi, there’s already a very messy scene in Libya — where the conflict has now dragged on for three bloody months. One might have supposed that the real solution to the stalemate is not just to call for Gaddafi’s removal, but to do it.

But this is Annan’s trademark style, deferring to the preferences of thugs while trashing the West. The FT also reports that Annan is being courted by Gaddafi as a possible mediator in the Libyan conflict — and it’s easy to see why Gaddafi would favor such a fellow. This, after all, is the same Annan who said in 1998 that he could “do business” with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and under Annan, the UN, to the great emolument of its own treasury and staff, certainly did. Perhaps it’s time the UN considered passing some rules forbidding secretaries-general — both current and former — from serving as de facto spokesmen and fixers for UN-sanctioned thugs.

Human Rights Achievement, UN-Style

May 11th, 2011 - 11:23 pm

Credit the United Nations that even its thug-loving General Assembly couldn’t quite face the embarrassment of giving Syria a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. After diplomatic lobbying by the U.S. and a variety of others, Syria, in the words of its UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, finally agreed to “reschedule” its candidacy for a later date. In the May 20 election of candidates to the Human Rights Council, Kuwait will now replace Syria as one of four countries running for four seats coming up for grabs by the Asian group of nations. Apparently the diplomatic set view that as an acceptable swap, though as UN watcher Anne Bayefsky points out at the Weekly Standard, Kuwait hardly qualifies as a beacon of human rights: “There is no independent judiciary. The emir appoints all judges… Formal political parties are banned,” etc.

So what, exactly, is the UN achieving here in the way of a producing a Council that protects human rights? So far this year, the UN has suspended Libya’s membership on the 47-seat Council, and persuaded Syria to at least delay its bid for a seat. But nothing has yet been done to address the membership on the Council of such human rights abusers as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon or Cuba. In other words, human rights abuses are no bar to membership, as long as they don’t spill out too visibly into butchery in the streets. As a public relations move for the UN, that may be savvy. But how much does it actually have to do with human rights?

Bin Laden’s Dead, But It Ain’t Over

May 2nd, 2011 - 12:34 am

Congratulations to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism forces, and to both Presidents Bush and Obama, for the long chase that finally led to the end of Osama bin Laden. Americans can celebrate justice done, in the killing of this mass murderer. As Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal notes, this is “a major blow to al-Qaeda.”

But Obama, in his remarks Sunday evening, had it right this fight is not over: “There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.” Al-Qaeda trained thousands upon thousands in its bloodthirsty totalitarian creed and tactics of terror. Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, remains at large; so do many others, such as Saif Al-Adel, who according to the Telegraph is “thought to be in Iran.” Iran and al-Qaeda have a long history of connections, as detailed by a wide variety of sources, including the 9/11 Commission Report.

Which brings us to an enormous font of terror that Obama in his focus on al-Qaeda did not touch upon, and that is Iran — the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism,” according to none other than Obama’s own State Department. In State’s “Country Reports on Terrorism,” you can read about Iran’s Quds Force, “the external operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” which “is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.” The State report goes on to describe how Iran has “provided weapons, training and funding to HAMAS and other Palestinian terrorist groups,” as well as training and hundreds of millions in funding to the terrorists of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Recall that Hezbollah, in its terrorist attacks, has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except al-Qaeda. Add to this that while al-Qaeda has murdered thousands, Iran’s rulers, in their public statements, have proposed the murder of millions. They are working toward weapons that would enable them to do this. And for all the effort that has gone into imposing and trying to enforce sanctions meant to change Iran’s ways, nothing has yet persuaded or forced Tehran’s totalitarian theocracy to change course.

Getting bin Laden is a terrific victory in the battle to rid the world of the most notorious mass murderer of the 21st century. Now we need a lot more action to stop the rest, some of whom aspire to attacks even more devastating. This is a long war, and al-Qaeda is just one part of it. It ain’t over.