Belmont Club

Supping With Long Spoon

Turmoil caused by the Arab Spring has thrown US plans to share civilian nuclear technology with regional governments into turmoil. The WSJ reports that “planned nuclear-power deals with Jordan, Bahrain and other countries now appear shaky, with the U.S. worried about the stability of their governments and the other countries worried about the safety of nuclear energy.” Uncertainty over the future of regional governments, coupled with doubts over whether they could handle a nuclear accident have thrown the program in doubt.

Doubt also clouds the outcome in Libya, and the Washington Post, in an editorial board piece, recommends giving Khadaffy the Osama Bin Laden treatment. “For the record, we think targeting Mr. Gaddafi and his sons — if that is what is really going on — is as legitimate as striking al-Qaeda. The Libyan leader presides over military units that are intentionally targeting civilians, using weapons ranging from sniper rifles to artillery and rockets. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and more are dying every day.”

Once Washington starts down that road it may find there is no shortage of bad guys. The New York Times says that North Korea has home grown concentration camps that are every bit as nasty as the 1940s versions in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR. Kim even had his own version of the Sonderkommando: inmates who pathetically vied with each other to bury the dead to get another bowl of food.

New satellite images and firsthand accounts from former political prisoners and former jailers in North Korea have confirmed the enormous scale and bleak conditions of the penal system in the secretive North, according to a report released Wednesday by the human rights group Amnesty International.

Former inmates at the political labor camp at Yodok said they were frequently tortured and had been forced to watch executions of fellow prisoners, the report said, noting that North Korea’s network of political prisons, known as “kwan li-so,” is estimated to hold about 200,000 inmates. …

“Frankly, unlike in a normal society, we would like it, rather than feel sad, because if you bring a dead body and bury it, you would be given another bowl of food,” Mr. Jeong said.

“I used to take charge of burying dead people’s bodies. When an officer told me to, I gathered some people and buried the bodies. After receiving extra food for the job, we felt glad rather than feeling sad.”

But why deal with such evil people at all? Or why deal with one yet not with another? The process of “engaging” — of making deals and alliances with — tyrants is necessarily selective. As one letter published by the New York Times pointed out, if governments were bombed simply on the basis of their brutality, the USAF would be doing a land office business. Since that is a practical impossibility, by exclusion diplomats are driven to the alternative. They make nice with the bad guys and keep making nice until they can’t. R2P is the “on error” clause of Engagement. Try: Engagment, Catch: R2P, Finally: Make Soothing Noises in the UN. The letter to the NYT said:

Brahma Chellaney (“Why single out Myanmar for sanctions?” Views, Nov. 18) makes an excellent point in asking why Western countries are singling out Myanmar (Burma) for human rights abuses while China gets a free ride. Sadly, instead of logically concluding that China should suffer the same penalties as Myanmar, Mr. Chellaney argues for easing sanctions and increasing economic ties with the Burmese regime.

China executes more people than any other country, engages in egregious currency manipulation, bullies its neighbors, supports disgusting regimes, violates its citizens’ rights on a daily basis and turns a blind eye to the theft of intellectual property. China should be subjected to Myanmar-style sanctions not the other way around.

That means that despite the difficulties in dealing with regimes in the Middle East or even predicting whether they will still be in power this time next month; despite the Nazi viciousness of the North Koreans and despite the treachery of the Pakistanis, everyone will remember to address their officials in the most honorific of terms. President Carter will show up with his begging bowl like poor Mr. Jeong.  America requires a prod like 9/11 to even bestir itself.

And even then action is questionable. The Daily Mail described how hard it was to even the make the decision to strike at Osama Bin Laden. The President had to weigh the imponderables, which are appeared to be so many as to defy quantification.

Barack Obama kept military commanders hanging by declaring he would ‘sleep on it’ before taking 16 hours to give the go-ahead to raid Bin Laden’s compound.

Hit squads of specialist Navy Seals – who were not even told who they were preparing to capture – had practised the mission at two reconstructions of the terror chiefs sprawling compound.

The mission looked set to be given the all clear last Thursday when analysts confirmed beyond doubt that Bin Laden was in busy town of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan.

But the president stunned officials when he told a national security meeting that he wanted more time to think – and disappeared out of the room.

‘I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now – I’m going to go back and think about it some more,’ said Obama, according to the New York Times. He then added ‘I’m going to make a decision soon.’

The head of the CIA and other senior intelligence officers who were keen to proceed were left tense as they waited for the president’s decision.

But the next morning after 16 hours, Obama summoned four top aides to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could speak, the president put his fist on the table and declared ‘It’s a go’

It may be “obvious” to the man in the street that regimes which are evil, unstable or downright crazy should never be humored. But in the world of diplomacy the burden of evidence seems to rest with the negative. The default position is to get along, to attend the cocktail party. The case for canceling attendance must clear a very high bar. Khadaffy must be wondering what on earth he did wrong to deserve being bombed? It couldn’t have been the fact that he was evil, could it? That’s hardly ever cause for alarm in this crazy world. Saddam Hussein’s son Uday was a bad guy, a real chip off the old block.

Although his status as Saddam’s elder son made him Saddam’s prospective successor, Uday fell out of favor with his father. In October 1988, at a party in honor of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Uday murdered his father’s personal valet and food taster, Kamel Hana Gegeo (some say at the request of his mother). Before an assemblage of horrified guests, an intoxicated Uday bludgeoned Gegeo with a cane, reputedly administering the coup de grâce with an electric carving knife. Gegeo had recently introduced Saddam to a younger woman, Samira Shahbandar, who later became Saddam’s second wife. Uday considered his father’s relationship with Shahbandar an insult to his mother. He furthermore feared losing succession to Gegeo, whose loyalty and fidelity to Saddam Hussein was unquestioned. Mubarak later called him a “psychopath”.

As punishment for the murder, Saddam briefly imprisoned his son. The original sentence was eight years; Uday probably served only three months in a private prison. In response to personal intervention from King Hussein of Jordan[citation needed], Saddam released Uday, banishing him to Switzerland as the assistant to the Iraqi ambassador there. He was expelled by the Swiss government after he threatened to stab someone in a restaurant.

Saddam later appointed Uday head of the Iraqi Olympic committee and soccer federation, and subsequently the head of one of Saddam’s security organizations. In the former role he tortured athletes who failed to win.

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They’re even going to make a movie of his life.  Then somehow the “on error” clause got invoked, and Uday found it was rather harder to intimidate the 101st Airborne than it was to beat up girls.

On 22 July 2003, Task Force 20, aided by troops of the United States Army 101st Airborne Division, had a showdown with Uday, Qusay and Qusay’s 14-year-old son Mustapha during a raid on a home in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. He had been the Ace of Hearts on the most-wanted Iraqi playing cards (with Qusay being the Ace of Clubs). Acting on a tip from an unidentified Iraqi, the blocking element from the 101st Airborne Division provided security while the Task Force 20 operators attempted to apprehend the inhabitants of the house. After U.S. troops hotwired Uday’s Lamborghini, he revealed himself, upon which a gunfight ensued. The assault element withdrew to request backup. As many as 200 American troops, later aided by OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and an A-10 “Warthog”, surrounded and fired upon the house, thus killing Uday with Qusay and Qusay’s son. After approximately four hours of battle, soldiers entered the house and found four bodies, including the Hussein brothers’ bodyguard.

There’s a moral in there some place, if only I could find it.

R2P: Rest To Pieces

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