United Nations: The Theatre of the Absurd

absurdWhen I was a university kid, I got tangled up with a student drama group committed to the Theatre of the Absurd.  For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, run for your lives.  I’m sure that some of it is good stuff, but my group were less than amateurs, with egos the size of Cleveland.  They spend most of their time talking about it (it being the absurd) and very little else.  By the time I realized they were never actually going to produce anything, I had 40 pages of freako dialogue written and a new understanding of just how absurd some things can be.  I resolved to steer clear of these folks in the future and have managed to do so for most of my life — until now.

Recently, the United Nations has unleashed a series of theatrical productions of such blatant absurdity as to do my long forgot, overly dramatic buddies proud.  They are called The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.  I believe they’re basically improve, but the premise is member nations periodically pick out one country and then criticize its human rights record in the most preposterous terms possible.  I’m sure it’s all great fun, but last week it was Canada’s turn, and I must admit, I took exception.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, if you look at a map, Canada is the big red bit sitting on top of the United States.  We’re the folks who frequently get voted one of the best places on earth to live, and, except for the weather (pee-your-pants cold for six to eight months of the year) we are.  We’re a peace-loving folk who try to mind our own business.  The only shot we’re ever fired in anger (in our entire history) happened in the 90s when Brian Tobin put a warning volley across the bow of some Spanish absurd2fishermen who were stealing our cod.  We are a generous people and try to take care of our own.  Actually, you have to work hard to starve in this country.  Despite what our underworked media tells us, we’re not racists, sexists or homophobes (yobs don’t count) and the only things we actively hate are Toronto and Vancouver (in that order.)  We vote and complain in equal proportions, and our greatest fault is, as a nation, we’re hopelessly fair and oddly self-conscious about it.  Yes, we have some serious problems in this vast frozen Nirvana, but given what the rest of the world puts up with, we’re not doing too badly.  So I get a little tight-jawed when a bunch of scoundrels who wouldn’t know human rights if it bit them on the bum, start lecturing me and mine about how to conduct our affairs.

However, judge for yourself.  Here are some direct quotations (gleaned from the National Post) from the stand up comedy which is the United Nations.
Russia was concerned about Canadian “police actions of torture and cruelty against peaceful demonstrators.”
Pakistan was worried about Canada’s “increased poverty and unemployment rate among immigrant communities”
China pointed out there was “widespread racial discrimination in Canada.”
Egypt talked about “racial profiling in law enforcement action.”
And Cuba accused Canada of “racism and xenophobia”

But I’ve save the best for last:
North Korea said “We have serious concerns about continued violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture and other ill-treatment, racism and xenophobia.”
Iran complained about “violation of human rights by Canadian government” including (but, apparently not limited to) “child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, the right to food, discriminatory law and regulation against indigenous people and minority groups, including Moslem, Arab and African communities.”

These are pretty bold words from a crew of nations whose collective track record on human rights could be published as a How-To Guide for Satan.

I haven’t got time to go into the gory details but here’s a quick skim of just who these people are.HUMAN RIGHT COUNCIL MYANMAR UN

Neo-tsarist Russia – A place where Putin, the king without a crown, can toss your ass into the “dismantled” Gulag for singing protest songs, justice is a matter for the oligarchs to decide and the difference between criminal and businessman depends on who’s doing the shooting.

Pakistan – The land where fourteen-year-old girls get shot for wanting to go to school, most disagreements come with a complimentary car bomb and assassinating your political opponents is a standard election strategy.

China – One of several nations whose last legitimate election was …hmmm… never, blind poets have previous convictions, Nobel Peace Prize winners are currently in jail, and if your ethnic background is Uyghur, your sentence is determined before the trial.

Egypt – A country where the national sport is chasing Coptic Christians, beating them with sticks and leaving them for dead.

Cuba – An island nation whose salute to equality is putting dissidents, homosexuals, marijuana smokers and AIDS patients all in the same jail cell.

North Korea – An unheated wasteland where the biggest employer is the secret police, you can say anything you want in praise of Kim Jong-un and most government officials like to spend quiet evenings watching the peasants starve.

Iran – The land that time forgot, where women are stoned to death for having the bad manners to get raped, top government officials go to jail for consorting (or is it cavorting?) with evil spirits and genies, and the national pastime in denying the Holocaust.

They only way you could find a more scurrilous crew than these guys would be to join Evil-of-the-Month club.  But think about it, unlike my foolish university friends, who were just play acting, these boys are real and they figure they should run the world!

Mali: The Next Afghanistan!

Mali is one of those places we’ve all heard of but, without Google, can’t actually find on a map.  (I tried and only got close.)  In fact, it’s not exactly a country so much as an ill-defined area with poor people in it.  Most Westerners’ knowledge of Mali starts-and-stops with Timbuktu, the proverbial name for nowhere from our childhood.  At one time, it was the centre of a great trading empire (built on slaves and ivory) but by the time the French marched their Foreign Legion there at the end of the 19th century, all they found was a mud and waddle village.  According to all reports, they were deeply disappointed.

For the last half century, since independence from France in 1960, Mali has been kept in permanent poverty by UNICEF and a number of other well-meaning humanitarian agencies.  Unfortunately, since the Malians as just soul-suckingly poor, and not actually starving, people like Bono and Geldof give them a miss, and Oprah hasn’t built them any schools.  The only real distinction Mali has in the family of nations is it’s generally listed as the poorest place on the planet.  Mostly it flies under the radar — at least until now.  You can read about it here.

Mali is rapidly becoming a future destination for Western military might, and, like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq before it, many of our young people won’t be making the return journey vertically.  This deadly adventure is going to be brought to you by the dithering diplomats of the United Nations who are practically digging the graves even as we speak.  If it sounds as though I’ve lost my girlish laughter over these relentless debacles, it’s because I have.  I’m fed up to the eyeballs with career politicos weeping crocodile tears over the honoured dead, when they are the ones doing their incompetent best to stretch the casualty lists to the breaking point.  Let me explain.

Recently, a Moslem fundamentalist group (read Al Qaeda) has taken control ofPeople who have fled fighting in Mali rest at the Banibangou refugee camp in Niger northern Mali.  That’s the deserty bit that runs from Timbuktu to the Algerian border.  They now control a patch of real estate that’s roughly the size of Afghanistan.  Hmmm?  These boys (No Girls Allowed) are working flat out, to establish a safe haven for anybody with a homicidal grudge against the 21st century.  To that end, they’re collecting tons of Libyan weapons that NATO neglected to inventory after they bombed Gaddafi out of business.  They’re loading up on food, vehicles, oil, etc., creating safe routes in and out of Algeria, and generally digging in for the duration.  Basically, because nobody’s asked them to leave (the Mali military isn’t up to the task) they’re going full throttle Taliban and telling the legitimate Mali government to take a hike.

Cut to the chase: our world doesn’t exactly need yet another band of frontline fanatics hell-bent on destroying anything that doesn’t happen to fit their 7th century view of reality.  Nor, having seen the results in Somalia and Sudan, do we need another pack of heavily armed jihadists spreading their mutant Arab Spring across the lower Sahara.  Why?  Because recent history has shown us that, once these folks get established they tend to branch out.  Argue black is white all you want, but this Mali crew (actually, many of them aren’t locals) are eventually going follow the trail of their older brothers to London, Madrid and New York mali1and bring the battle to us.  Why?  They don’t like us.  They think we’re evil.  Everything we do sets their teeth on edge.  They don’t like our consumer society, our liberal education, our divorce rate, our homosexuals or our half-naked women.  They don’t like our social structure or our crazy adherence to the notion of democracy.   Plus, and most importantly, they don’t like our live-and-let-live brand of tolerance.  In the jihadist world, it’s their way or the highway.  No amount of reasonable discussion is going to change that.  These are facts, and anybody who hasn’t come to terms with them by now is either an abject apologist or a complete dolt.

The bottom line is at some point we’re going to have to fight these people.  Our only choice is where and when.  We can dick around like we did (and are still doing) in Afghanistan.  That’s basically waiting until all hell breaks loose and then getting tangled up in an Orwellian series of never-ending counterattacks with the resulting continuum of casualties.  Or we can exercise some political will and decide to commit our military and economic resources to the novel notion of victory — minimize the casualties (on both sides) and then go back to real life.

Unfortunately, it looks like the United Nations and the Western world are, once again, going to stick with Plan A.  So, I suggest you get out the Google Maps, folks — because Bamako, Kidal and Gao are going to be as familiar to our children as Darfur, Kabul and Mogadishu are to us.  And they are going to be there for a long time.

Arab Spring/Chaos Summer

In a fortified bunker somewhere in Tripoli, Muammar Gaddafi is saying, “What’s the deal?  I shoot a couple of protesters, who were probably Al Qaeda anyway, and NATO goes berserk.  Meanwhile, over in Syria, Assad’s gunning down civilians like there’s a deposit on them.  What happens?  Nothing!  All Bashar gets is a couple of nasty e-mails from Ban Ki-moon, and he walks away smilin’.  Where’s the justice?  And that’s not all.  In Iran, Ahmadinejad is building a bomb the size of Baltimore.  In Bahrain, Al Khalifa called in the Saudi tanks five minutes after CNN turned its back, and nobody even knows who’s killing who in Yemen – or how many!  So why am I the goalie on the Cruise Missile team?”  Actually, Muammar has a point.  Protecting civilian populations seems to be a selective process at the UN these days.  I’ll grant you, NATO can’t bomb everyone they’d like to, but just exactly what is the UN mandate?  Something is going disastrously wrong in North Africa and the Middle East.  The Arab Spring that started out with such hope in Tunisia is rapidly deteriorating into Chaos Summer.

The rebels in Libya aren’t going to win anytime soon – not without a lot more help than they’re getting.  NATO’s been blowing up everything bigger than a Safeway cart for nearly three months now.  Some countries are actually running out of ordinance, for God’s sake.  Yet, all I see on TV are smoke plumes in the distance and some scrubby guys with automatic weapons, firing wildly into the desert.  No offence, but what are they shooting at?  One would think, Gaddafi couldn’t have enough hardware left to defend himself against my nephew’s hockey team.  Not so.  Apparently, Muammar is just as nasty as he always was and about twice as defiant.  Again I ask, what is the UN mandate?

The Canadian commander of the mission, General Charles Bouchard, has called this Libyan adventure “a knife fight in a phone booth.”  I have never been in a knife fight — either in or outside a phone booth — but common sense tells me the object would be to stick the other guy.  Unfortunately, the UN won’t let anybody do that: regime change is not on the table.  I hate to keep asking obvious questions but…  what, then, is the purpose of this Libyan debacle?  Honestly, it’s beginning to look like the only way to get a favourable result is if NATO somehow manages to kill Muammar – accidently.  Pack a lunch, folks: we could be here for a while.

Of course, the unforeseen side effect reality of sixty missions a day in Libya is every other dictator within F-18 distance of Tripoli can do as he damn well pleases.  Bashar al-Assad isn’t really too worried about shooting protesters out of season in Syria when NATO is otherwise engaged.  He knows the Western powers aren’t going to launch anything more than a stern warning in his direction, and he’s acting accordingly.  The same goes for whoever is trying to be in charge in Yemen.  The extra added attraction there is Al Qaeda already has a firm presence.  Fortunately, Ahmadinejad in Iran has his own problems.  He’s just one magic lamp away from getting charged with sorcery or cavorting with genies or some other such madness.  Otherwise, he’d be putting the boots to his dissidents, as well.

What’s happened here is the West has squandered its power to influence events by actually using it.  It has always been the threat of unleashing unlimited Hell that has kept the more petty of the dictators in line.  They knew they could only go so far, dishing out nasties to their own people, before Hillary, Cameron and Sarkozy said enough is enough.  The problem is power is not what you do, necessarily; it’s what you’re willing to do.  If dictator A knows you’re willing to blast him out of his jackboots, he tends to tiptoe.  Once he knows you’re not, he’s kinda got you over a barrel.

Everybody knows that the West can’t disentangle itself from Libya now without looking like jackasses.  If Gaddafi’s still there when NATO goes home, Bashar and the boys aren’t going to worry about the UN, NATO — or anybody else, for that matter.  Syrian dissidents might as well be put on the Endangered Species List.  The best bet is for NATO to forget about UN Resolution 1973 and get rid of Muammar as quickly as possible.  From there, the West could relax and rearm and tell guys like Assad to shape up and fly right — or there’s a good possibility they’re going to get the same treatment as the last guy who pissed us off.  Maybe then the West could start directing traffic again — instead of standing on the curb watching the world go by.