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June 11, 2005

Comments

I will agree with and applaud everything you are saying here Charles, this is an issue I think we can all agree on.

However, what moral authority do we currently have to tell people how to run their country when we are torturing people to death?

I can picture a Mugabe reading this thread and simply saying mind your own business, you torture people to death your way and we will torture people to death in our way. And he's right, we have no moral highground anymore.

This is why AI came down so hard on the USA, because when the good guys take off the white hat it gives the bad guys a certain license to ignore any criticism from the good guys. Mugabe would have ignored that criticism anyways, but now in the eyes of the rest of the world he is justified in ignoring that criticism.

"I can picture a Mugabe reading this thread and simply saying mind your own business, you torture people to death your way and we will torture people to death in our way. And he's right, we have no moral highground anymore."

This is what the inversion of moral distinctions that AI has recently been promulgating brings us.

"Mugabe would have ignored that criticism anyways, but now in the eyes of the rest of the world he is justified in ignoring that criticism."

In whose eyes? Has AI's inversion of moral distinctions by emphasizing lesser crimes really spread so far that people think American actions in Abu Gharib excuse choosing to starve thousands to death?

One of the biggest problems with the international community is that Mugabe was already justified in ignoring criticism. Chirac greeted him with open arms before US torture came to light.

"This is what the inversion of moral distinctions that AI has recently been promulgating brings us."

No, it's what torturing people to death brings us.

Well, here I am agreeing with a red-stater. Zimbabwe and Darfur are the two places where the US, should we ever have a president again who believes that human rights are valuable, needs to lead a raid that will arrest the corrupt regimes and turn them over to the International Criminal Court. Let us be the policemen of the world, and let's have good judges and prosecutors with whom we can work.

Unfortunately, this is going to take a while, because the GOP acts like Mugabe lite.

Virtually all the areas singled out for demolition voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the last elections. The MDC says that Mr Mugabe ordered the destruction as a deliberate reprisal. But the regime is also seeking to depopulate the cities, driving people into the countryside where the MDC is virtually non-existent and the ruling Zanu-PF Party dominates.

"Ford to NYC: Drop Dead," is still part of the GOP's living legacy. The Republicans so far are focusing on defunding rather than depopulating the blue states and cities, cutting or withholding budget allocations for education, homeland security, etc. But so long as they remain beholden to people like James Dobson, whose favorite movie worlds would seem to be those from "Escape from New York" and "The Handmaid's Tale," they won't be stopped by their own consciences or sanity.

So, Charles, you've got a liberal blue-stater who also believes in deposing Mugabe and in the Second Amendment (though guns and apartment buildings are a terrible mix). Somehow, though, I doubt we have the same reasons.

BSR,
Mugabe can rationalize all he wants, but it is up to you and those who share your same viewpoint to realize the excuse for what it is.

"Tony Blair is pushing for more aid to Africa from the US, but what's the point? Mugabe's opponents will still starve."

Um, it may have escaped your attention that "Africa" contains just a few other countries besides Zimbabwe. Presumably you're not actually advocating that all the impoverished other people in Africa deserve no relief because of the crimes of Zimbabwe, and were simply writing an incoherent and careless question ("what's the point?") with an immensely cruel and callous implication.

"By the way, Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission. When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?"

After you do? Since you have, so far as I am aware -- though I am no expert in the legalities and rules of the UN! -- as much legal power to accomplish that act as Kofi Annan does. Of course, if I'm wrong, and you can cite something that gives Kofi Annan such power, by all means, please provide us with that information. If you can't, what is the point of your question? How would it differ from demanding to know when President Bush will kick Zimbabwe (or any other country) off the UN Human Rights Commission? Or demanding to know when Kofi Annan, demon that he is, will stop refusing to order the Moon out of orbit? (The power in the UN lies, of course, with the Security Council, not the Secretary-General.)

"Mugabe can rationalize all he wants, but it is up to you and those who share your same viewpoint to realize the excuse for what it is."

Well, what Mugabe thinks really doesn't matter, he's scum.

What matters is what the rest of the world thinks, because without their help we cannot do anything about the Mugabe's of the world. We cannot be the world's policeman, nor do I think we should desire to be.

As long as we are counted among the countries that do allow torture, and we currenlty are, our effectiveness as a global force for good, as a country that could unite the West in beneficial projects and provide an alternative to the UN, is lessened.

"As long as we are counted among the countries that do allow torture, and we currenlty are, our effectiveness as a global force for good, as a country that could unite the West in beneficial projects and provide an alternative to the UN, is lessened."

Lessened? Yes. Materially lessened? I doubt it. The international community as a whole isn't that interested in dealing with people like Mugabe. See for instance paragon of moral authority--France.

BTW I note that this thread has already turned its focus from Mugabe starving thousands to what I am sure some people on this board think is the far more appropriate focus of criticizing Bush.

Interesting.

Gary,
On aid, sentence revised. Strings are still important with African aid to those many governments with well established histories of misuse and corruption. On Kofi, he already suggested that very thing in his reform proposal. 'Preciate the feedback.

I agree with most of this. I don't see why you think that reading Amnesty's reports (and the various other narratives) on the horrors perpetrated by Mugabe are insufficient to spur the world to action, but if Amnesty gave Mugabe a 9.25 of a possible 10 on the brutal human rights violation skill, suddenly things would change. The scale of human rights violations matters, but there's something odd and offensive about rating rape and torture and murder of human beings as if they are movies or Olympic pommel hourse routines. I can't see what purpose it would serve, if your position is that all of these things is unnacceptable. There are all sorts of analytical problems--for example, do you measure these things in proportion to the population, or do you count total dead bodies? etc. etc. And all of these would become political footballs. Countries that scored better than one might accept would say, our human rights violation index is 6 and theirs is 7; you should give us a prize. Countries that scored poorly would complain about the formula. Think of the arguments over U.S. News and World Report's college and grad school rankings, and what actual professors think of those rankings as a basis for evaluating schools--but again, these fights would be over the dead bodies of murdered people. I think it's a terrible idea.

Freedom House is the only major group that I know of that uses a rating system. Amnesty does not; Human Rights Watch does not; the U.S. State Department does not. I am familiar with those reports, having relied on them for my rendition paper and for country conditions research for asylum cases, and believe me when I say two things:
1) it is quite possible to know from reading the reports what the scale of these horrors is and to perceive differences in scale from country to country.
2) the most powerful evidence & most difficult to read parts of these reports are the detailed, individual document cases of human rights violations; followed by the more general descriptions; some sort of catch all index would be least useful of all. I am sure that no judge would pay much attention to such an index in an asylum case, for example.

Finally, as I said in the other thread in paraphrase of fred clark: I strongly suspect you want those numerical ratings so that you can say "hey, we may be bad, but look over there at all those countries that are worse!" I suspect you want United States--and especially the Bush administration--graded on a curve with Mugabe, Castro, Kim Jong Il, etc. because that's the only chance in hell we can pass the course. I don't, of course, know your motives, but as far as I can tell if Amnesty were to rank human rights violations, it would do absolutely nothing to help end then, convey no real useful information about them, but be EXTREMELY useful to politicians who want to distract from their own atrocities with a round of whatabouttery.

(N.B. that I'm talking only about some silly ranking system--in contrast, trying to figure out the actual number of people harmed is quite useful.)

"I don't know if the UN has sanctioned Zimbabwe, but it they haven't, they should. If they have, then sanction them more."

Charles, how does "the UN" pass sanctions? Via Security Council resolutions. Which country holds the most power and influence in the Security Council? Do you have some cites as to attempts by the Bush Administration to push Zimbabwe sanctions in the SC that have been thwarted? If not, why is it that you're not calling for people to protest the U.S. government's failure to do so? (I also advise reading this, and at least something about the Bossuyt report.)

I also recommend perusal of Articles 39, 41, and 42 of the Charter of the United Nations. You'll find a helpful link to the charter on the right sidebar of this blog. Sanctions may be imposed to "maintain or restore international peace and security." Mugabe's Zimbabwe is many evil things, but it does not appear to be a threat to international peace or security. If you'd like to call for the UN Charter to be amended to allow for intervention purely because of domestic humanitarian concerns, there's a case to be made; of course, then you'd be arguing for the right of the UN to intervene domestically in the US, if the the Security Council (or some other restructured entity of the UN) so determined was appropriate. Is that what you'd like?

"I note that this thread has already turned its focus from Mugabe starving thousands to what I am sure some people on this board think is the far more appropriate focus of criticizing Bush."

More specificaly it's turned it's focus to how our torturing people to death effects our ability to influince the behavior of a mugabe. You might not like that topic, maybe it makes you uncomfortable, but it is certianly an aspect of the situation.

And your the first person to mention Bush, I would look further down the chain of command to Rumsfeld and Gonzolas.

(I apologize if that was off topic, but it was directly responsive to this:

"How does AI rank Zimbabwe relative to the 148 other countries it covers? Oh yeah, it doesn't."

BTW, for the more complete list of Amnesty documents on Zimbabwe, look here. You can look on this site for a similar list by any country.)

"BTW I note that this thread has already turned its focus from Mugabe starving thousands to what I am sure some people on this board think is the far more appropriate focus of criticizing Bush."

Pish and tush, Sebastian. When someone here starts defending Mugabe, or saying that attention should be paid to the alleged crimes of Bush, instead of Mugabe, we'll all notice. It hasn't happened yet.

Meanwhile, if we want the UN or "international community" to take action, I assume you wouldn't argue that it's inappropriate for U.S. citizens to petition their government to take such action? Or that it's inappropriate to complain if the U.S. government doesn't take such action?

Would you assert that it's inappropriate to ask a U.S. citizen why if they want UN action, they're not calling on their own government to push for it? If not, what are you, specifically, referring to when you refer to this thread -- which I'm reasonably sure has no more volition of its own than "the UN," or my keyboard -- actually, I'm rather doubtful about my keyboard, but never mind -- turning "its focus" away from Mugabe? Would further vehement denunciation on this thread of Mugabe change anything in Zimbabwe? Is the goal simple wordcount of denunciation? Is that anything like, say, demanding that, you or Charles or Von denounce torture with more vigorous and prolix adjectives, and if you don't, you should be condemned for insincerity and intentional distraction? Is it anything at all like that?

Seb: I note that this thread has already turned its focus from Mugabe starving thousands to what I am sure some people on this board think is the far more appropriate focus of criticizing Bush.

I too think that unhelpful. I'd rather focus on how Charles has found Mugabe a useful club to beat on the UN and AI. Although unsuccessfully, IMO.

"Charles, how does "the UN" pass sanctions? Via Security Council resolutions. Which country holds the most power and influence in the Security Council?

That is an interesting question. You phrase it rhetorically yet I don't believe the answer is obvious. Which country does hold the most power and influence in the Security Council?

In the previous thread you also dramatically downplay the Secretary General position. The position is capable of making proposals, Annan often does so. It is capable of public bullying, Annan often does so. But not in the cases like the Sudan or Zimbabwe.

"More specificaly it's turned it's focus to how our torturing people to death effects our ability to influince the behavior of a mugabe. You might not like that topic, maybe it makes you uncomfortable, but it is certianly an aspect of the situation."

I don't think it has much of an influence at all so I'm not made uncomfortable by it. The world community isn't much interested in acting. The marginal interest in acting pre 2001 vs. 2005 based on reports of US torture is negligible at best. Attributing the long-standing disinterest of the world community in stopping such evils to a very recent publication of US torture examples is almost certainly incorrect--and perhaps a distraction from dealing with the very uncomfortable fact that the international community isn't much interested in such things unless the US is willing to take the lead, pay the money and do the dying--and often not even then.

"I apologize if that was off topic...."

Is there some unwritten guideline on ObWings about staying "on topic"? If so, could someone maybe write it down, please? If not, what's to apologize for? Call me literal-minded, but I'm really uncomfortable with uncodified, uncitable, or secret, rules.

It would be nice if another free country, say Katzman's Canada, would muster up the gumption to take unilateral action against Mugabe. Alas, it's not very likely, because liberal democracies do everything possible in order not to be perceived as "bad guys" themselves.

"Which country does hold the most power and influence in the Security Council?"

I'd nominate the primary founding member, the one that had the largest say in creating the rules and structure, the one that contributes the largest amount of money, the one that is the acknowledged military super-power of the world, the richest nation on Earth, and the one with the most diplomatic leverage on Earth. But perhaps it's instead France. Or Belgium. What do you think?

"In the previous thread you also dramatically downplay the Secretary General position."

That's an interesting rewording into a defensible generalization of what actually was a quite specific point: the Sec-Gen has, to my knowledge, no power to remove any member state from the Human Rights Commission. It's a simple point; is it true, or is it false? If it's true, what was Charles's point in demanding to know when the Sec-Gen would do an impossible thing before breakfast? (Naturally, I don't expect you to answer for him, but feel free to give your own opinion.)

"The position is capable of making proposals, Annan often does so. It is capable of public bullying, Annan often does so. But not in the cases like the Sudan or Zimbabwe."

Specifically, what should he be proposing that the U.S. has already called for? Or should he, in fact, get out in front of the members of the Security Council and call for things they yet do not, that they have not yet (if ever) supported? Are you sure that that's what you favor the UN Sec-Gen doing?

Is there some unwritten guideline on ObWings about staying "on topic"?

They don't want to be corrupted by crypto-anarchists. Hard to accomplish on teh internets.

"Alas, it's not very likely, because liberal democracies do everything possible in order not to be perceived as 'bad guys' themselves."

Sure, that's why there are no sanctions on Zimbabwe. DaveC, did you bother to spend even two seconds looking into what sanctions do and don't exist on Zimbabwe, and who from? (Let's not even get into the assertion that "liberal democracies do everything possible" to avoid taking action, which is how we managed to avoid those whole "World War II" and "Korean War" unpleasantnesses, not to mention reams of OAS, EU, and other sanctions on various countries over the past few decades.) ("Relucant," I might agree with; "do everything possible" is clearly ahistoric.)

I strongly suspect you want those numerical ratings so that you can say "hey, we may be bad, but look over there at all those countries that are worse!"

You suspect wrongly, Katherine. Maybe it's the CPA in me, but the rankings are useful because they provide perspective. In the case of Zimbabwe, the point is not to compare to the US. If I were, I would have included US rankings. I didn't. Except for our recommended courses of action, this post isn't about the United States. The point is that Zimbabwe, from at least four different measures, is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth. But, taking you at your word here at 3:13am, I won't expect that you will be convinced.

"Attributing the long-standing disinterest of the world community in stopping such evils...."

Uninterest. Uninterest. Not "disinterest." "Freedom from selfish bias or self-interest; impartiality" or "being just and unbiased" in such matters would be a good thing, not bad. Really.

"perspective" meaning that we may be bad but other countries are worse? I'm not sure what else it means.

Obviously you wouldn't be attempting to distract from Zimbabwe's human rights abuses with the US; it would go in the opposite direction.

I do NOT perceive this post as doing this, naturally; this is worth its own discussion, and the bad situation seems to be getting much worse. But if hypothetically, someone criticized our human rights situation and you responded that were #38 in the world and Zimbabwe was 135 and we should "get some perspective", that would be an example of what I meant.

Gary, there's no posting rule about staying on topic, I halfheartedly try to sometimes, not consistently, and I was in no way speaking to or on behalf of the OW hivemind.

"But, taking you at your word here at 3:13am, I won't expect that you will be convinced."

Might you be so kind, Charles, as to quote the precise words you have mind to cite there that demonstrate Katherine's "word" that she won't be convinced "that Zimbabwe, from at least four different measures, is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth," please? Thanks.

"'perspective' meaning that we may be bad but other countries are worse? I'm not sure what else it means."

I'm just working from my own interpretation and guess-work here, but I read Charles as saying something like "to provide perspective that Zimbabwe is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth, compared to the world median or average, but the U.S.'s place in that is irrelevant to me."

I have no idea how inaccurate that formulation might be in regard to Charles' actual thinking, so make of it what you will. Best to see Charles' own words, of course.

Gary, "that anything like, say, demanding that, you or Charles or Von denounce torture with more vigorous and prolix adjectives, and if you don't, you should be condemned for insincerity and intentional distraction? Is it anything at all like that?"

Nope it isn't anything like that. Though I note that I and Charles and Von are in fact condemned for insincerity and intentional distraction on a regualr basis.

"Would you assert that it's inappropriate to ask a U.S. citizen why if they want UN action, they're not calling on their own government to push for it?"

Nope.

"If not, what are you, specifically, referring to when you refer to this thread"

For someone who seems to be able to read, but seems unable to write without dripping sarcasm I'm still surprised that you missed such comments as:

I can picture a Mugabe reading this thread and simply saying mind your own business, you torture people to death your way and we will torture people to death in our way. And he's right, we have no moral highground anymore.

This is why AI came down so hard on the USA, because when the good guys take off the white hat it gives the bad guys a certain license to ignore any criticism from the good guys. Mugabe would have ignored that criticism anyways, but now in the eyes of the rest of the world he is justified in ignoring that criticism.

You also seemed to have missed:

Unfortunately, this is going to take a while, because the GOP acts like Mugabe lite.

Virtually all the areas singled out for demolition voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the last elections. The MDC says that Mr Mugabe ordered the destruction as a deliberate reprisal. But the regime is also seeking to depopulate the cities, driving people into the countryside where the MDC is virtually non-existent and the ruling Zanu-PF Party dominates.
"Ford to NYC: Drop Dead," is still part of the GOP's living legacy. The Republicans so far are focusing on defunding rather than depopulating the blue states and cities, cutting or withholding budget allocations for education, homeland security, etc.

Normally I would suspect you missed it because the threads here are so long. But this one was rather short.

And if you aren't capable of discerning general thread tone or substance I suggest that is a lack on your part, not a problem of metaphorical definition on mine. I am often accused of being too literal-minded, so I understand the problem. But it is a problem that we share, not a problem in everyone else's functioning ability to communicate and comprehend information.

Katherine, I agree that an officially publicized ranking system is no more likely to get world attention than its lack. However an understanding of how different crimes are different internally might allow for a more useful implementation of AI's limited ability to attract public focus unless AI really does not believe in a substantive difference between Mugabe and Bush (which I hope is not true of the organization). No organization has infinite publicity capital. When it is spent in a scattershot, it is often organizationaly a reflection of either accidental lack of attention to priorities or an unconcious revelation of non-articulated priorities. I suspect that many high-level AI officials have an anti-American-power streak (not to be confused with a general dislike of America) which since AI does not officially engage in prioritzing of crimes often leads publicity priorities to skew toward US action no matter the magnitude. If they were to conciously look at how they were spending their publicity capital they probably would not actively choose to do so in the way they currently are. But since they are discouraged from consciously prioritizing, other biases creep in. That is why corporations spend so much time on otherwise annoying identification of priorities--to avoid unconciously influenced actions which if conciously thought about would be seen contrary to the priorities.

Gary, I see on preview that you have written: "Is there some unwritten guideline on ObWings about staying "on topic"? If so, could someone maybe write it down, please? If not, what's to apologize for? Call me literal-minded, but I'm really uncomfortable with uncodified, uncitable, or secret, rules."

What I wrote above in this message was too harsh, but I'm leaving it unchanged because I mentioned literal-minded completely independent of your mention of it, and I want to preserve the thought that got to it. You and I share a literal-minded dislike of unstated rules. But I have been learning (through uncomfortable but useful experiences at work) that really isn't how most communities operate. And after becoming more conscious of that, I see that it isn't a bad thing. The codification is typically the absolute outside boundary. The informal understandings set the tone. So for example, my out-of-control attack on you above in this message was not a technical violation of any posting rules, but it does a very poor job of setting the tone that we want at ObsidianWings. Normally I would have written it and hopefully decided not to post it by now (though I admit to lapses in judgment in that)--and in fact I was thinking of revising it when I previewed. The only reason I am not choosing to revise it now, is because I think it helps illustrate the (off topic) point I'm trying to make.

As for rules against going off topic, there aren't any. But it is nice to try to engage in the conversation people are having rather than always trying to divert it to the one you wish people were having. But this shouldn't be seen as an attempt to enforce on-topicness. You can often avoid offense by prefacing the comment with "tangentially related" or "that made me think of...". Instead of appearing dismissive of the current thread of the conversation (an appearance with if my own experience in going off topic is any guide is usually unintentional) by merely ignoring the fact that you are going off topic, you signal that you are aware of it.

So, to come a little bit closer to the topic at hand, I chose to mention the topic diversion because I thought it was an intentional deflection instead of an unintentional one. I drew attention to that in what was probably an overly curt fashion.

Better would have been to say: Considering general international unwillingness to intervene in such situations in the past 20 years, usually by characterizing them as wholly internal as if that was an excuse, I strongly doubt that reports of US torture in certain limited instances are a major factor in international community indifference to the democide going on in Zimbabwe or the genocide going on in the Sudan.

But if I were perfect, people would resent me.

Charles, how does "the UN" pass sanctions?

Yes, I do support that we propose and try to pass sanctions (see update). I support any other nation on the UNSC to do the same. If the UN can get involved in places like the Congo, then why not Zimbabwe? If they can't get food in their homeland, thousands of starving Zimbabweans will be looking for food elsewhere, thus having international impacts on peace and security.

What I keep wondering here is what resources Zimbabwe has in order to support a transformation from a third world country to a first world country, and, given an optimal development of those resources, what sort of population that would support.

Development comes at a huge human cost wherever it happens. The industrial revolutions in Europe and the US created appalling conditions for the poor. Populations starved to death and were uprooted on a massive scale, and it took the better part of a century for something like a stable system to emerge from that upheaval. Russia and China have made the transition somewhat successfully (from a strict economic sense) over a shorter period of time, but at even greater cost, in part because they must compete with those of us who have already made it over the hump.

Can Zimbabwe make it over that hump without great human cost? This is not to endorse Mugabe's actions, it is once again a simple economic question. Even at optimum deployment of its resources could Zimbabwe support its current population in its current land distribution?

If it cannot, are we willing to subsidize the rest of the population for as long as it takes to get them over the hump and into this optimal deployment? If these costs are inevitable, and we act to preserve our own standard of living in our trade decisions, do we condemn them to more difficult conditions and a greater human cost? And what sort of societal cost does this upheaval have in terms of culture and institutions? What sort of individuals are being created in this upheaval? What sort of values do these conditions reinforce?

How many more Zimbabwes are there?

If this is a moral decision, then our moral obligation extends much farther than just to Mugabe. It extends to creating a stable global system with the least human cost. I'm not sure we can do both that and maximize shareholder profits over the short term, and the marketplace of ideas, so often trumpeted, is remarkably short-sighted and selfish.

I sincerely hope that none of those who supported John Bolton for the UN seriously expects us to believe that they see a meaningful role for the UN in challenging international reluctance to act, or even in carrying out a general consensus when it might be inconvenient.

"Though I note that I and Charles and Von are in fact condemned for insincerity and intentional distraction on a regualr basis."

I'd put an embedded permalink to my comment here, but they're not visible (it really would be wonderful if someone would fix that), and I didn't bookmark the technique of checking page source and adding it to the thread title, so I'll merely say: ya think?, and direct your attention to my rather pointed comment of June 11, 2005 12:37 AM on this thread.

Gary Farber: Uninterest. Uninterest. Not "disinterest." "Freedom from selfish bias or self-interest; impartiality" or "being just and unbiased" in such matters would be a good thing, not bad. Really.

"Disinterest" is also a synonym for "indifference".

"Even at optimum deployment of its resources could Zimbabwe support its current population in its current land distribution?"

I would defer to others far better qualified than I to discuss specifics of Zimbabwe's economy. But it was a major food exporter before Mugabe's ludicrous and oppressive decrees of recent years. The standard answer of every expert I've yet read over the years to your question is "yes, quite, for sure, absolutely, no question." The conventional wisdom is that the food resources are certainly there. But I Am Not An Economist. (See here for some background, and here for some larger context.)

"'Disinterest' is also a synonym for 'indifference'."

Yes, we can be as descriptivist as we like, and let all useful distinctions in language disappear, if we prefer. Mind, ultimately descriptivism, of course, trumps prescriptivism. But it's not always in the interests of clear, let alone elegant, communication to encourage it. I prefer clarity to blur, myself. YMMV.

"(see update)"

Thank you for that degree of responsiveness, Charles. However, I see that you don't see fit to modify or drop your demand to know "When will Kofi Annan kick this country off [the UN Human Rights Commission]?"

I'll repeat myself in asking how you expect him to do that: what power does he have to do that? Cite, please, if you would be so kind.

"[Update: The United States should lead the way on sanctioning Zimbabwe.]"

Can you suggest specific steps beyond this? (In the context of the links I previously provided, please.) It's entirely possible that I'll sign on with those you might suggest, and if you actually have effective steps to propose, I'm sure a great many people would, regardless (save on the extremes), of "left/right" divide.

Might you be so kind, Charles, as to quote the precise words you have mind to cite there that demonstrate Katherine's "word" that she won't be convinced "that Zimbabwe, from at least four different measures, is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth," please?

Sure, Gary. Quote: "and Charles, you will not convince me by anything you say in a comments thread, so don't bother". I take it to mean that any comments written by me, in this thread or any other, will not convince Katherine, including the comment of mine that you just quoted.

I'm just working from my own interpretation and guess-work here, but I read Charles as saying something like "to provide perspective that Zimbabwe is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth, compared to the world median or average, but the U.S.'s place in that is irrelevant to me."

I would phrase it thus, Gary: "to provide perspective that Zimbabwe is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth, compared to all the other countries in the world."

Here is a blog on Zimbabwe that looks like it might be useful; here is a list of Zimbabwean press sources from the Guardian.

The BBC and the Guardian also tend to follow international news in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, a bit closer than a lot of American papers.

One country that might have some pull is South Africa. Unfortunately, Mbeki does not seem even a little inclined to use it. (I am a big non-fan of his.) A good South African newspapers are the Mail & Guardian. Another leading South African newspaper is The Independent, with which I'm less familiar (their lead story on Zimbabwe right now is on Prince Harry's girlfriend's father's business tie to a close ally of Mugabe's, which may indicate a certain lack of priorities.)

Can you suggest specific steps beyond this?

No, Gary. The UN is one place where we can get the international community together to speak out against Mugabe's democide, but it's not a high priority for me because I don't expect that any UN resolution will change Mugabe's behavior, short of forcible removal for non-compliance.

Here's the full quote:

Perhaps you're genuinely worried about its credibility because you agree with them and you don't want conservatives to dismiss them? I don't believe that for a second of Charles (and Charles, you will not convince me by anything you say in a comments thread, so don't bother); I might of you. But look--your concern is misplaced.

My read is the quote is about AI and not Mugabe.

Gary Farber: Yes, we can be as descriptivist as we like, and let all useful distinctions in language disappear, if we prefer. Mind, ultimately descriptivism, of course, trumps prescriptivism. But it's not always in the interests of clear, let alone elegant, communication to encourage it. I prefer clarity to blur, myself. YMMV.

Gary, according to Geoff Nunberg, Sebastian's usage of the word has been around for centuries, and concern over the conflation of "disinterest" and "uninterest" is a more recent development resulting from the relative decline of what you view as the correct usage. I like clarity quite a bit, but one thing I've discovered from Nunberg's essays is that some of what we consider formal rules of language developed not to put the brakes on change or decay, nor for the sake of clarity, but rather to reinforce social distinctions, particularly with regard to class or familiarity. Thus a contraction like "ain't" which dates back at least to Elizabethan times and which was once considered a perfectly proper contraction for "am not" over time becomes a marker for uneducated speech, or for down-to-earth wisdom or candor.

Besides, Sebastian's meaning was evidently quite clear to everyone concerned.

Charles writes: "Sure, Gary. Quote: 'and Charles, you will not convince me by anything you say in a comments thread, so don't bother'. I take it to mean that any comments written by me, in this thread or any other, will not convince Katherine, including the comment of mine that you just quoted."

Thank you, Charles. The context of what Katherine wrote was this:

"Perhaps you're genuinely worried about its credibility because you agree with them and you don't want conservatives to dismiss them? I don't believe that for a second of Charles (and Charles, you will not convince me by anything you say in a comments thread, so don't bother); I might of you."

Katherine clearly stated that you "will not convince" her that "you're genuinely worried about its credibility because you agree with them and you don't want conservatives to dismiss them." That's up to you and her to debate, but it clearly doesn't speak at all to whether or not you can convince Katherine of anything else on God's green earth. Perhaps you somehow misread her entirely clearly limited specific to read as some sort of more general assertion (what Katherine actually is or is not convinceable of, I couldn't possible speak to).

Would you now agree that her statement was, in fact, quite limited and specific to your concern about AI's credibility, and not applicable in the way you've attempted to cite it, which is that she'll refuse to believe that "that Zimbabwe, from at least four different measures, is one of the very worst violators of human rights on earth"?

I apologize to everyone in advance for this sort of pettiness.

Charles, you seem to have misunderstood me. I meant that you would not convince me of a specific proposition, which you seem to have omitted from your quote:

"Perhaps you're genuinely worried about its credibility because you agree with them and you don't want conservatives to dismiss them? I don't believe that for a second of Charles (and Charles, you will not convince me by anything you say in a comments thread, so don't bother); I might of you. But look--your concern is misplaced."

I do not believe that your posts about Amnesty International were motivated by a genuine solicitude for the well being of Amnesty International, an organization you agreed with & did not want conservatives to dismiss. Nor could you have convinced me of that by anything you wrote in comments, in part because on issues that are a subject of dispute between the political parties, you tend to post very very partisan things on the front page and then make qualifiers primarily in comments or, ocasionally, updates. This is not the say that you cannot ever convince me of anything, either about your motives (as far as your concern with Darfur and Zimbabwe I am totally convinced already and you don't need to try to convince me) or of things that are matters of provable, proven fact (as far as the human rights situation in Zimbabwe--I am, as I said, uncomfortable on saying "top four" or "top ten" because their might be even worse things going on somewhere else that I don't know about, but "one of the very few worst in the world" and "much, much, much worse than the U.S." seem manifestly correct to me.)

I don't think these personal discussions--I realize I made it personal first--are useful or interesting to most people, so I doubt I'll post anything else on this thread or the AI ones.

"I like clarity quite a bit, but one thing I've discovered from Nunberg's essays is that some of what we consider formal rules of language developed not to put the brakes on change or decay, nor for the sake of clarity, but rather to reinforce social distinctions...."

Yes, I've been writing on such points for over three decades now, not that I fault you for being unfamiliar with that, of course. I make no silly and ill-educated claims for there being "rules" of grammar and usage, or non-existent controlling authorities. I simply favor, as I said, useful distinctions and clarity. You, and anyone else, may favor dropping the useful distinction between "disinterest" and "uninterest." I do not. I make no larger claim.

Thanks for clarifying, Katherine.

CB:

Can you suggest specific steps beyond this?

No, Gary. [...] ...it's not a high priority for me because I don't expect that any UN resolution will change Mugabe's behavior, short of forcible removal for non-compliance.

Ah.
I don't know if the UN has sanctioned Zimbabwe, but it they haven't, they should. If they have, then sanction them more. By the way, Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission. When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?
So when you wrote that, then, you weren't actually providing the sort of "constructive" suggestions you were rather insistent in this thread two days ago at June 9, 2005 03:07 PM that Hilzoy should provide when posting, but were simply "venting," and "ranting," and that you although had a "beef" with Hilzoy doing so, that's all you were actually doing yourself with that small section of your post?

Two days ago, you said "It begs the question: Then what?" (Of course, that's not begging the question at all, but never mind.) You can now, of course, point out all the non-UN-related suggestions you made above, which is fine, but doesn't explain your purpose in what you did write about the UN. Clarify as you find useful, or not, of course.

"I don't think these personal discussions--I realize I made it personal first--are useful or interesting to most people, so I doubt I'll post anything else on this thread or the AI ones."

Katherine, while understanding your impulse perfectly well -- really -- I'd like to urge you in the strongest possible terms to consider that if you allow yourself to be silenced because someone, anyone, even any number of people, challenge you in personal terms, which duly forces you to defend yourself in personal terms, you are allowing yourself to be silenced, and this is not just unjust, but surrender to the forces of suppression, and following such logic leads to the fall of all that is good, and, without added drama, the triumph of evil.

Please, please, please, please reconsider such a reaction. (Big surprise, I've had occasion to think about this dynamic myself, albeit with the advantange of approximately thirty years of experience; refusal to engage in reasoned self-defense is not a good thing, trying and often frustrating though it is.)

Gary,
I believe the "what are we to do" punchlist is constructive, but I acknowledge that the line pertaining to the UN was not very specific. But the bigger issue to me deals with the final line. Do you agree with the "blogging storm" idea, and if so, what are you going to do about it?

"Do you agree with the "blogging storm" idea,"

It's as reasonable as usual.

"...and if so, what are you going to do about it?"

Get as irritated if I feel anyone is pressuring me what to blog about as you probably would be. The best way in the world to get me to not blog about something I'm otherwise inclined to blog about is to make me feel like someone else feels it's my obligation. Perhaps you differ in that, though.

Charles: good post. Thanks.

Charles, I notice that you haven't put any of the "updates" on the Redstate version. I assume you're busy, but will get to while it's still fresh enough that people won't have stopped reading it.

How does AI rank Zimbabwe relative to the 148 other countries it covers? Oh yeah, it doesn't.

Maybe it's the CPA in me, but the rankings are useful because they provide perspective.

Nice post except for this needless little fart squeezed in the general direction of AI.

I think AI does rate the relative severity and extent of abuses in a particular country, without trying to play the meaningless parlor game of comparing human rights abuses in Cambodia with those in Bolivia.

Or to put it more in CPA-speak, its the qualitative rather than the quantitative analysis that really matters.

Mugabe's thuggery has an extra-level of ugliness about it since he pretends to be addressing alleged colonialist wrongdoing. At least he could be an honest despot like Idi Amin, and just acknowledge that he is killing people for the fun and profit in it.

If it will help Charles in answering Gary's repeated question about whence the Secretary-General of the United Nations derives the power to kick someone of the UNCHR, here are the CHR's rules of procedure. Also noted is the membership section, which explains that the CHR composition

The 53 seats of the Commission are distributed as follows:

African States 15, Asian States 12, Eastern European States 5, Latin American & Caribbean States 11, Western Europe & Other States 10.

I would like to hear Charles' suggestions, given those constraints, of who should and should not be on the CHR.

Apologies, real life (in the form of the mumps in the lj household) intervened.

Seb
BTW I note that this thread has already turned its focus from Mugabe starving thousands to what I am sure some people on this board think is the far more appropriate focus of criticizing Bush.

Wow, at that point three other people posted (one agreeing with Charles, the other discussing the structure of the UN) and it's a trend. I realize that 3 points can describe a curve, but don't you think this is a Karnak violation?

Gary
I'd put an embedded permalink to my comment here, but they're not visible (it really would be wonderful if someone would fix that), and I didn't bookmark the technique of checking page source and adding it to the thread title, so I'll merely say: ya think?, and direct your attention to my rather pointed comment of June 11, 2005 12:37 AM on this thread.
Gary, your link is
here. I can't remember who taught me how, but what you do is open the document in view source, use the find function to locate your comment (if you know the time, it is very easy) and then copy the comment id (in the case of your comment, it is a id="c6171188" surrounded by angle brackets) Simply append a hash mark followed by the comment number (in your case #c6171188) to the url of the thread and you have a link to your comment. Not the easiest thing to do, but accuracy is always an unforgiving mistress.

As always, I'm thankful for all the links Charles. Though one wonders why Zimbabwe isn't on the Axis of Evil™

Of course, one could draw a connection your free market post, and the problem with free markets is that if you have areas where there are no free markets, then people can, as Mugabe has, use the distribution of food as a weapon. It seems to me that you can't have half a horse. You have to have a system where countries give up a measure of their sovereignty which I believe is one of the things that motivates conservative animus towards the UN. There is a waffle position that says one isn't objecting to giving up some sovereignty, it's just that the UN is not a worthy recipient, but when faced with the kind of government sponsored campaigns that you document, it makes it difficult to make that argument in good faith, I think.

Perhaps it's a little late in the thread to try making a constructive comment, but here goes anyway:

I've travelled in Zimbabwe, and I grew up next door (Botswana), where my mom and sister still live. Personal experience is no substitute for rigorous analysis, so take the following with the appropriate level of skepticism.

Mbeki is constrained in his ability to take on Mugabe in part because Mugabe stood by the ANC during the Apartheid era. In addition, Zimbabwe is as close an analog to South Africa as exists in Africa. The Ian Smith government of Rhodesia implemented many of the same policies as the National Party did in SA. The fact that Mugabe is in effect a post-apartheid African leader makes it very hard for Mbeki to confront him directly, since to do so may indirectly reflect poorly on the new SA. As things have developed is it increasingly becoming imperative for Mbeki to confront Mugabe precisely because the Zimbabwe model makes the future of SA look very bleak indeed unless Mbeki does something drastic to show the world that he (and future black leaders of SA) are in no way like Mugabe and his cronies.

Nonetheless, for Mbeki to actively try to topple Mugabe means that he has to work against one of his historical allies, dating back to the period when SA was under apartheid and Mugabe had not yet spiralled into his current totalitarian kleptocratic mode (he was at that time merely a mildly corrupt African Big Man).

The trigger for intervention by SA and surrounding countries is almost certain to be the mass migration of Zimbabweans. On my last visit to Bostwana (2004) there were huge numbers of unemployed Zimbabweans looking for work, and willing to work for well below minimum wage. The resentment from the citizens of Botswana was enormous, since the Zimbabweans were driving down wages and were suspected (probably correctly) of being responsible for large numbers of petty crimes. I don't doubt that border areas of SA, Zambia, and Mozambique are also seeing mass migration from Zimbabwe. Zambia and Mozambique are probably not in any shape to do much about the problem (though they are harder hit, since they are closer to the economic edge). SA and Botswana are in good enough economic shape that they can afford to divert significant resources to dealing with the problems of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the only thing that will bring about real change is the destruction of ZANU-PF as a political force, and that's almost certainly not going to happen without either a civil war or invasion.

Andrew C., speaking strictly for myself, of course (who else?), I'd like to thank you for your knowledgeable comments, and chime in simply that while I'm just a guy in a chair who reads some, everything I've read about the situation over the years jibes completely with your precis. (A good friend of mine for decades, incidentally, who spent a few decades in the State Department until recently retiring, was First Secretary in Botswanna for a year or two, among one of his many positions, and naturally it was one of several topics I pumped him about for what he was able to talk about [being one of the arms control negotiators with the Soviet Union being an example of something he couldn't say too much about, for instance); in general, he was very positive about Botswanna and the strides it has made.)

nous_athanatos,

Good call. That Mugabe is the origin of the problem prevents a broader understanding, does nothing to address the larger dynamic you suggested (economics, power, etc.), and absolves others from complicity in the problem. This may get to the issue of “perspective” raised upthread.

Oh, and thanks for the recapitulated permalink explanation, LJ; I had no problem recalling how to find the comment ID; it was where precisely to add it to the URL that I didn't recall. Arigatô gozaimasu.

Get as irritated if I feel anyone is pressuring me what to blog about as you probably would be.

Fair enuf, Gary. Ferget I aksed.

I would like to hear Charles' suggestions, given those constraints, of who should and should not be on the CHR.

This isn't a matter of procedure, Phil, but of principle and leadership, two attributes that Kofi Annan lacks. As a leader of this group, supposedly responsible for its moral authority, he should pursue the ideal that nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe--guilty of genocide and democide, respectively--have no place on a Human Rights Commission. That shouldn't be too much to ask, nor would it be unfair for him to endorse an--or even ask a permanent member to introduce his own--initiative to penalize Mugabe for his actions.

There is a waffle position that says one isn't objecting to giving up some sovereignty, it's just that the UN is not a worthy recipient, but when faced with the kind of government sponsored campaigns that you document, it makes it difficult to make that argument in good faith, I think.

Thanks for kind words about the links, LJ. I didn't suggest that we go to the UN for sanctions out of any high-falutin' principle here, but more out of cynical political advantage, using "international community" as a club to use against Mugabe to change his behavior. If we want to talk principles, I favor a Democracy Caucus; if we are to consider the notion of sacrificing a little sovereignty, that would be the place, not the UN itself.

Andrew C.,
Thanks for the on-the-ground perspective.

"right to keep and bear arms is a universal human right"

The clear implication here is that Mugabe would not have been able to bring Zimbabwe to its current mess if the people had the right to keep and bear arms.

I'm curious. Has there ever been an instance in the US where armed citizens have successfully prevented any US government from doing anything? Where they have actually proved there is any benefit to keeping an armed populace?

Of course there was Kent State...silly me that was the "well regulated militia" killing students there, wasn't it. So that wasn't an example.

Then there were the various labor massacres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries....but they weren't against any government, were they.

Of course in Zimbabwe if the farmers had been able to keep arms they would have not had their farms invaded, would they. But wait a minute, they WERE in fact armed, it just didn't do them any good. And the population of Southern Rhodesia was armed, hence their ability to fight a civil war, which they lost. Fancy that, being armed not being any use. Who would have thought it.

I wondered how the right to bear arms related to this post, too.

There is quite a bit of literature on the negative impact of the proliferation of small arms on many African nations. I believe there is a professor at London School of Economics who specializes in this, but I can’t remember the name right now.

From a couple of recent article written on the subject:

-“Many hot spots in sub-Saharan Africa are awash with light weapons in the hands of unemployed, dispossessed youths, making the continent a perpetual tinderbox. Experts agree the often-ignored problem of small arms is getting bigger and harder to stop, while criminal networks and corrupt authorities are profiting.”

-“"These weapons have had a huge impact, a huge negative impact, on the people, their rights and their way of living," [the arms division director for New-York based Human Rights Watch, Steve Goose] said. "Does it get enough attention? The answer is certainly no. You have a lot of governments who only want to focus on weapons of mass destruction when it fact it has been light weapons and small arms that have killed more people, that have had a larger societal economic impact even than the weapons of mass destruction."”

-“"The proliferation of light weapons in Africa poses a major threat to development," noted Ms. Virginia Gamba, the former director of the Arms Management Programme of the South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS). Their low cost, ease of use and availability "may escalate conflicts, undermine peace agreements, intensify [the] violence and impact of crime, impede economic and social development and hinder the development of social stability, democracy and good governance."”

“Hinder the development of . . . democracy”?! Good God! Gamba needs to gain some perspective. And if only Goose had an objective ranking system on which to rely. Maybe he should try some inflammatory language if he expects to get the issue more attention.

Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission. When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?

Given the fact that he didn't put it on the UNCHR, he doesn't have the right to kick it off. It was voted on by the other African countries.

By the way, did you know this:

On Thursday [April 7], the secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, did what was once unthinkable: He told the UN Commission on Human Rights that the best way to improve the organization was simply to throw it away and start from scratch.

Annan's bombshell, delivered to a packed room here, could have a transformative impact on human rights worldwide. The commission has indeed suffered, as Annan understatedly put it, a "credibility deficit" over the last few years, as the world's most abusive governments flocked to Geneva each year for six weeks only to give each other passes for their egregious records of human rights violations.

This year some observers felt that the organization had a choice of proving its critics wrong by taking on the worst violators, or collapsing under the weight of its lack of legitimacy. It appears to have chosen the latter. A month into its session, commission members have already decided not to act on rights violations in China, Chechnya, Iran or Zimbabwe.

Annan's bold proposal to replace the 53-member commission with a smaller Human Rights Council that would stand as a "society of the committed," whose members "should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards" could not come at a more welcome moment. The proposed Human Rights Council would operate year-round, which would ensure its ability to respond quickly to crises and to act preventively - a role in which the current commission has consistently failed in situations such as Darfur.

Keep setting up those strawmen. I'm happy to knock them down.

How does AI rank Zimbabwe relative to the 148 other countries it covers? Oh yeah, it doesn't.

Now you're just being petulant. Did you ever bother to consider that AI doesn't rank countries by human rights abuses because such a ranking would please absolutely no one. Left wing governments accused ranked high would likely say that AI is biased against them as would right wing governments similarly ranked. It would take a great deal of subjective thinking to accomplish this. Would a country that tortured its citizens, but do not arrest and imprison as many resulting in prisoners of conscience be worse than one that did not torture, but had numerous prisoners of conscience? Ranking human rights abusers is not in their mandate.

It would not be a good use of their limited resources to spend time debating which country is worse, especially not to please the peevish among us.

Other than that, btw I agree that Mugabe is vile beyond description and needs to be driven out of office asap.

If you want to find some interesting firsthand accounts of Zimbabwe's current misery, the postscript to the paperback version of Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari is excellent. Nothing shows the Mugabe lunacy better than this:

There was some good news in late June [2003]. Zimbabwe, facing a serious shortfall in food, had found a new source in Zambia and was planning to import thirty thousand tons of maize, as well as soybeans and wheat as well as twelve thousand tons of seed maize. All this from the bumper crop produced by the Zimbabwe farmers whose land had been taken from them, and who had begun farming over the border in Zambia.

liberal japonicus: I can't remember who taught me how...

:)

Randy, how would you like to see him driven out of office?

Good post, Mr. Bird. As one who usually (silently) fumes at your more incendiary offerings, I was pleased to keep reading and agreeing.

However, a feeling grew in the back of my mind the further I read: I just know there's going to be a dig at AI in here somewhere. And sure enough, there it was. I can't say that it angered me or swayed me or had any other meaningful impact. At that point it was more like the punch line of a well-loved and oft-repeated joke. "Oh, that's our shortstop."

But that's just a small lurker's quibble. Thanks for raising this terrible situation and providing such a complete context for understanding it.

chas
I didn't suggest that we go to the UN for sanctions out of any high-falutin' principle here, but more out of cynical political advantage, using "international community" as a club to use against Mugabe to change his behavior.

I take your point, but I if you are advocating using the UN/international community for "cynical political advantage" (and this should not in any way be taken as a defense of Mugabe), you can't really complain when others do it. (well, you can, of course, but it does make for a bit of hypocrisy)

Anarch
I will definitely be buying the first round!

This isn't a matter of procedure, Phil, but of principle and leadership, two attributes that Kofi Annan lacks. As a leader of this group, supposedly responsible for its moral authority, he should pursue the ideal that nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe--guilty of genocide and democide, respectively--have no place on a Human Rights Commission.

And he has. (See Randy Paul's comments farther down.) Are you then conceding the point that Kofi Annan is powerless to kick anyone off the UNCHR?

It's worth noting, by the way, that were I to attempt to derive As a leader of this group . . . [Kofi Annan] should pursue the ideal that nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe . . . have no place on a Human Rights Commission from By the way, Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission. When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?, I would be engaging in the very mindreading that you complain about all the time.

The clear implication here is that Mugabe would not have been able to bring Zimbabwe to its current mess if the people had the right to keep and bear arms.

Well, Katzman also said "on par with freedom of speech and press". It didn't happen in the US because we are governed by the "will of the people", but it almost did with the Civil War. It has surely successfully happened in other countries. Mugabe's opponents have a right to defend themselves and they have a right to live. Being armed is merely a part of that bundle of rights.

"I take your point, but I if you are advocating using the UN/international community for "cynical political advantage" (and this should not in any way be taken as a defense of Mugabe), you can't really complain when others do it."

There is a lack of reflexivity between using cynical political advantage to attempt to get Mugabe to stop killing his people on the one hand and using it to get a seat on the Human Rights Commission so you can keep killing your people without UN censure on the other.

Sebastian,

By the Zimbabwean people and if not tehm, by an indictment by the ICC.

you can't really complain when others do it.

I readily accept that most, if not all, nations use the UN similarly, LJ. It takes effort to not roll the eyes when high-sounding rhetoric splurts forth, no matter who's doing the splurting.

I would be engaging in the very mindreading that you complain about all the time.

Nice try, Phil. Suggesting what Kofi Annan should be doing is just that: suggesting. BTW, I'm generally aware of the procedural limitations Annan has in his position. But again, the issue is leadership and having a basic understanding of a post-9/11 world. The issue is him using his influence to foment change. He has neither leadership abilities nor understanding, which is absymal for a man in his position, as noted here and here. Here he is, the veritable face of the UN, with a big bully pulpit and the ability and opportunity to speak with moral clarity on a whole range of issues. All too often he doesn't, giving the impression of a go-along get-along Kofi. He's still in a post Cold War rut, favoring the failed notion of stability over freedom. Not only that, he is presiding during a time when too many incidences of corruption are coming forth and his own responses have come up well short and defensive. In a job-saving move, he's come out with a few reform proposals. Some of them are good and long overdue, and some are just more bureaucratic shuffling. Structural and procedural changes are fine, but they don't solve the problem of poor and ineffectual leadership.

As a founding member, this does not absolve our own role and responbility in making the UN a better place, and I'm not going to defend the Bush administration here.

Now you're just being petulant.

The accurate sentiment is sarcastic, Randy. Funny how the four other human rights organizations were able to muster the resources to quantify the amounts of freedom available in each of the countries, yet AI does not? If resources are truly the problem, seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to get a Soros or a Peter Lewis or a Gates Foundation or a Bing or a Streisand to cut a check to cover the extra cost. The issue really isn't about the money.

One more thing, Randy. We can quibble about AI and the UN to your heart's desire, but first and foremost I'm going to ask you the same question that I asked Gary (Gary, pretend you're not reading this):

Do you agree with the "blogging storm" idea, and if so, what are you going to do about it?

CB writes: "BTW, I'm generally aware of the procedural limitations Annan has in his position. But again, the issue is leadership and having a basic understanding of a post-9/11 world. The issue is him using his influence to foment change."

Etc.

And still stands: "By the way, Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission. When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?"

When will Charles Bird acknowledge that he is still making a demand he now knows cannot be answered?

This demonstrates a fascinating sense of what is fair and honest rhetoric, as memorable as is declaring that building perfectly legal energy facilities is "belligerent," that bombing said facility isn't an act of war, and that the proper reaction of a country to being bombed is to understand that it's "their problem."

"Here he is, the veritable face of the UN, with a big bully pulpit and the ability and opportunity to speak with moral clarity on a whole range of issues." Etc. And when confronted with actual fact (thanks, Randy!) of actual use of said pulpit to do exactly what Charles demands, er, "suggests," Charles just repeats himself. Thus we appear to learn that to meet Charles' criticism is not possible. Lesson absorbed.

When will Charles stop making demands he knows cannot be answered? (This form is, of course, merely a "suggestion," I have learned, and unobjectionable.)

Charles, want a better reputation for intellectual honesty? "I must admit that I hadn't looked into UN procedures, and hadn't realized that it isn't possible for Kofi Annan to 'kick out' any country from a UN Commission; I was wrong about that, but still feel that...," would have, I suggest, helped. But it was your call.

Oh, well. Lessons in leadership.

There is a lack of reflexivity between using cynical political advantage to attempt to get Mugabe to stop killing his people on the one hand and using it to get a seat on the Human Rights Commission so you can keep killing your people without UN censure on the other.

For someone who asserted that those of us of the other faith feel that appropriate topic of this thread was to criticize Bush (before we even said anything), it might be worthwhile to note the other definition of reflexive (as in knee-jerk)

Do you agree with the "blogging storm" idea, and if so, what are you going to do about it?

Again, let me say for the benefit of our listening audience that this is not an endorsement of Mugabe, nor of death by starvation, on, but the problem with the 'blogstorm' concept is that it utilizes the psychology of the mob. Gresham's law, folks, Gresham's law.

Nice try, Phil. Suggesting what Kofi Annan should be doing is just that: suggesting.

Yes, but the entirety of your original "suggestion" was that Kofi Annan kick Zimbabwe off the UNCHR. Something he has no power to do. Did you actually expect me -- or anyone else -- to be able to say, in response to that suggestion, "Yes, Charles, I agree with you that Kofi Annan should use his position as the public face of the United Nations to blah blah blah blah." I submit that, had anyone actually done that, you would have been calling a mindreading foul. What you now claim that your real point was is not derivable from the statement you made.

Now, that out of the way, Kofi Annan has -- and again, see Randy Paul's comments -- done exactly what you ask of him: Suggest a major restructuring of the UNCHR that will correct exactly some of these problems. So what's the problem again?

But again, the issue is leadership and having a basic understanding of a post-9/11 world. . . . He's still in a post Cold War rut, favoring the failed notion of stability over freedom.

Except in the most literal, calendrical sense, the entire notion of a "post 9/11 world" is codswallop. Particularly since it's fine for you to sit here in the U.S. -- in Seattle, no less, far, far away from where any of this might actually have any effect on you -- and propose whipping a whole bucketload of instability (read: war, destruction or civil unrest) on people in order to spread "freedom."

Charles Bird,

-"Mugabe's opponents have a right to defend themselves and they have a right to live. Being armed is merely a part of that bundle of rights."

Did you see the quotes above on the impact of arms on many societies in Africa and how they are effecting their "right to live," how being armed can actually work against the rights you are promoting(10:34)? What is stated in these quotes is not an exception to a rule (I did not cherry pick them to win an argument). They are typical examples of the assessments of many experts who study this issue.

This demonstrates a fascinating sense of what is fair and honest rhetoric, as memorable as is declaring that building perfectly legal energy facilities is "belligerent".

I don't recall ever writing that, Gary. I did write that we should take out Iranian nuclear facilities under certain conditions, one of those conditions being that we had sufficient intelligence that they there developing nuclear bombs. On the UN, I have another update.

Did you see the quotes above on the impact of arms on many societies in Africa and how they are effecting their "right to live," how being armed can actually work against the rights you are promoting(10:34)?

Yes, I did, otto. I'd rather see the cites than the snippets, for one thing. I suspect the problem is not so much the guns, but the lack of decent government and rule of law. I'm sure fewer Tutsis would have been slaughtered had more of them been armed in the first place. Most died by machete.

Particularly since it's fine for you to sit here in the U.S. -- in Seattle, no less, far, far away from where any of this might actually have any effect on you -- and propose whipping a whole bucketload of instability (read: war, destruction or civil unrest) on people in order to spread "freedom."

Go back to back to Latvia, Phil: "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history." Agree or disagree? Are nations truly stable when they're unfree? To me the answer is no. BTW, the word is freedom, not "freedom".

Chas
I truly do appreciate the time you put in to post here, but I have to say, being unable to step back a little from your positions and take the points that others make really doesn't add much to my ObWi experience. I mean, are you thinking that otto took those clips out of context? Since the killing of Tutsis was (as I think you have noted in previous posts?) part of a government supported campaign, do you think that there would have been less killing if the NRA had a Tutsi branch?

BTW, the word is freedom, not "freedom".
Actually, the word "freedom" is "freedom." "The word is freedom" says something entirely different than it appears you think it does. It could be code. Or it might be a metaphor. Or possibly even a statement of philosophical nature ("without words, without 'the word,' we have no freedom"). But to refer to the word, per se, rather than to make use of the word, you do have to put it into quotation marks. Or reword your statement. Take your pick.

To put it another way, if you want instead to indicate that you are simply referring to putting the word in quotation marks (which appears to be your intent: to argue that Phil was using "scare quotes" to indicate unreal "freedom," which would appear to accurately capture Phil's intent, you have to either punctuate or phrase what you wrote differently than you, in fact, did. (There are any number of possible ways to do that.) (The simplest might be "the word 'freedom' shouldn't be in scare quotes.")

Possibly I should put this in the language thread, of course.

Another alternative would be to nest the quotation marks: "the word is 'freedom,' not ''freedom.''"

Or, to use blockquotes, if you prefer:

The word is "freedom," not "'freedom.'"

This demonstrates a fascinating sense of what is fair and honest rhetoric, as memorable as is declaring that building perfectly legal energy facilities is "belligerent".

I don't recall ever writing that, Gary. I did write that we should take out Iranian nuclear facilities under certain conditions, one of those conditions being that we had sufficient intelligence that they there developing nuclear bombs.

It's been twelve whole days. Pray allow me to jog your memory:
Just so we're clear, are you suggesting nuclear strikes on Iran, or that we have sufficient intelligence so that conventional bombing will be sufficiently damaging to their nuclear program?

Targeted strikes with conventional weapons. Bunker busting nukes would do us more harm than good, politically. If Iran locates its military facilities too close to civilian populations, that's their problem. Also their problem if they consider our response to their belligerence an act of war.

"Posted by: Charles Bird | June 1, 2005 07:59 PM"

I commented immediately following, at 8:14 p.m., and others followed, and as is your frequent wont, and certainly your privilege, you provided no further response on that point, although you did respond to another at 9:50 p.m. Do feel free to pick up your thoughts again, please. It was quite an interesting point of discussion, I thought. (Yes, I am fond of British understatement.)

In case you've forgotten, the "military facilities" you were referring to were perfectly legal uranium enrichment facilities.

Charles Bird:

-“I'd rather see the cites than the snippets”

I wasn’t trying to deceive you. The quotes were typical examples of the assessments reached by individuals and institutions from across the political spectrum who do research in this area. Their conclusions overwhelmingly support the statements I quoted. I figured there was enough of a start with the two sources in the quotes for you to do your own investigation. I’m supposed to do the work for you? ;)

Already mentioned were Human Rights Watch and South African Institute for Security Studies. Here are a few more places to look: Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, United States Army War College’s Strategy Research Project, and Institute for Security Studies (My favorite ISS paper title: “We Can’t Eat the Constitution: Transformation and the Socio-economic Reconstruction of Burundi” by Mariam Bibi Jooma).

-“I suspect the problem is not so much the guns, but the lack of decent government and rule of law.”

Which is unaffected by the prevalence of guns? That’s the point of what these and many other experts are saying on this issue: the abundance of guns in the hands of civilians is crippling efforts for democracy (i.e. decent government), law and order, and economic development – and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in general – for much of Africa, South America, and South Asia. What does one do when a right, a freedom undermines democracy or economic development? It is possible for these things to be at odds with one another. I have yet to come across a shred of research that could support a claim that a citizen’s right to bear arms is an unqualified good, a freedom without negative repercussions, for anywhere in the Third World. Instead there is a whole hell of a lot that says these very arms are decidedly working against the sort of social, political, and human rights reforms you seem to be concerned with in your post.

Since some of this work is done by NGOs or other groups of questionable political allegiance, I thought you might like to hear from a more credible source:

“The destabilizing accumulation and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) has proven a major obstacle to peace, economic development, and efforts to rebuild war-torn societies.”

-Ambassador Robert G. Loftis, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Remarks to the Organization of American States, Small Arms/Light Weapons Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 12, 2005 (Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Otto: "I thought you might like to hear from a more credible source...."

Tsk. Everyone knows that the State Department is crammed with commie-pinko Third-World-loving terrorsymps. Just like the CIA. Hadn't you heard? It goes back to at least when those traitors lost China.

(Mind: I am not attributing these beliefs to Charles Bird, and I'm sure he would disavow any affirmation of literal use of my words; I am noting, however, that brushing aside the State Department as a "credible" source is both easily done and in a certain tradition that's very much alive.) (I'd also suggest providing links when you give cites if you really expect or desire people to follow them up; they're unlikely in many cases to find the discussion important enough to take it to a major library.)

See also A Scourge of Small Arms by Jeffrey Boutwell & Michael T. Klare, originally published in the June 2000 issue of Scientific American.

This story was part of a Scientific American special report: Waging a New Kind of War. Also included in the special report were "Invisible Wounds" and "The Human Cost of War" about the psychological effects of living in a war zone, , and "Children of the Gun", about the growing use of children as soldiers in third world conflicts. It's pretty chilling reading.

To back to back to Latvia, Phil: "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history." Agree or disagree?

With what? The existence of the sentence? The plight of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain? The relative value of stability vs. freedom? (For the record, I don't believe, as you appear to, that the latter are actually opposites.) Be more specific here, and I'll let you know.

Are nations truly stable when they're unfree? To me the answer is no.

You don't have to live in them, Charles, and it isn't your decision to make on their behalf.

BTW, the word is freedom, not "freedom".

Freedom consists of a lot more than having your dictator deposed by military force. If you had to pick a place to live right now, would you pick Havana or Fallujah? Heck, would you pick Riyadh or Baghdad? When we've got an Iraq with a real autonomous government, it's own autonomous and well-trained police force and military, and fewer things blowing up all the time, then we'll talk about freedom.

In case you've forgotten, the "military facilities" you were referring to were perfectly legal uranium enrichment facilities.

Gary, I wrote that, with sufficient evidence, that we go after their atomic bomb-making facilities, an acitivity which breaks the bounds of "perfectly legal" in my book. Last I heard, the mullahs agreed to a loophole-ridden pact with France-Britain-Germany regarding nuclear weapons development.

I wasn’t trying to deceive you.

Never suggested or meant that you were, otto. I'll check 'em out.

Charles, on the subject of 'blogstorms':

I am an activist, not a writer. To me, widespread and organized blogging on a topic is most useful when it offers readers a specific action or set of actions to accomplish a goal.

For instance, I will believe that Republican-voting bloggers oppose torture when I see them call for specific actions that could really make a difference (letter campaigns to Senators to sign onto S. 654, to take the mildest example). "Taking a public stand", via blogging alone, does not cut much ice with me.

A blogging campaign to make a difference in the situation of the people of Zimbabwe (rather than just fuel anti-Mugabe anger and allow easy denunciations of UN figures that conservative bloggers already scorn) would involve asking readers to call on U.S. government officials to do something within their power.

I don't share the evaluation in a comment above that blogging campaigns necessarily 'use the power of the mob', though that's always a risk. Collective action is often more effective than individual efforts. I do, however, think that any blogger's choice to join in a blog campaign or not is utterly his or her own, and that failure to join in does not entitle anyone to conclude that the nonparticipant therefore "supports Mugabe's campaign of starvation." This is all too reminiscent of some pro-Iraq-war criticism of antiwar expression.

The question "what are you going to do about it?" cuts both ways.

As U.S. citizens, we are in a better position to affect our government's policy and practices on torture than we are to bring about political change in another country. However, I agree that the scale and severity of the famine and human rights problem in Zimbabwe is worthy of attention and effort from us, even if that will be more indirectly effective than, say, South Africans' pressure on their own government. But that effort has to be something other than denunciation.

"Gary, I wrote that, with sufficient evidence, that we go after their atomic bomb-making facilities, an acitivity which breaks the bounds of 'perfectly legal' in my book."

Charles, respectfully, your "book" matters not at all in determining what is and is not legal. Law books determine that. If you can provide a cite as to what law or treaty Iran would be violating by enriching uranium, by all means, cite it. Alternatively, if I claim that you are violating the law "in my book" by posting without adequate citation, I'll be on equally justified ground as you appear to be in issuing your personal judicial rulings.

Also -- and I realize this is a vastly technical point -- a uranium-enriching facility is no more or less an "atomic bomb-making facilit[y]" than a saltpeter mine is a "gun-making facility." That's why, you know, no one with a clue has ever claimed that enriching uranium violates any international law or treaty, including the U.S. government. (As I said in the first place, I certainly favor modifying the treaty to put such activity under far greater international control and supervision; but, of course, as I pointed out, we blew that a few weeks ago -- I don't recall any posts from you complaining about that, though.)

As it is, your remarkable statements stand: building legal facilities are "belligerent," bombing them isn't, and the proper response of a country to having legal facilities bombed is that it's "their problem." Naturally, as applied to, say, the WTC, this is immensely offensive; why do you hate America, Charles?

Gary's beaten me to this yet again, but yet again it's worth comment:

Charles: Gary, I wrote that, with sufficient evidence, that we go after their atomic bomb-making facilities, an acitivity which breaks the bounds of "perfectly legal" in my book.

No you didn't: the topic was uranium enrichment facilities not atomic bomb-making facilities. There is a vitally important difference between the two, and you should know better than to obfuscate or ignore this.

Otherwise, or rather additionally, what Gary said.

Ah, and today, the U.S. took another giant step forward to support freedom. How proud we should be! Wanna blog any storms about this, Charles, where it's apt to have a greater effect against tyranny than, say, some other possibilities?

It goes back to at least when those traitors lost China.

Well, I swear I've seen it around here once or twice. How far back are we talking about?

"How far back are we talking about?"

Not sure what you're asking, Slart. I thought I pointed to at least 1949. John Stewart Service, Edmund Clubb, John Paton Davies, etc., and a bit earlier, General Joe Stillwell, although the arch-traitors as identified by Republicans, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, were that pansy Truman and his aides at the Cowardly College of Communism, George W. Marshall and Dean Acheson.

One "Chiang Kai-shek," of course, was completely blameless. (And, yes, Alger Hiss was a real traitor, and VP Henry Wallace was a naive fool; but neither had anything to do with China.)

Well, I'm not exactly as conversant with history as I ought to be, but what does "lost China" mean in this context, and who was it that did the losing?

Or is this all a terrible misunderstanding, and we're talking about a few pieces of Wedgwood?

Well, I'm not exactly as conversant with history as I ought to be, but what does "lost China" mean in this context, and who was it that did the losing?

To the Communists, and it depends but it's usually leftist commie terrorsymps in the State Department (and often Truman as well). As Gary noted, Chiang Kai-Shek is rarely mentioned in these rants.

[Fun fact o' the day: apparently Chiang Kai-Shek's memoirs were somewhat expurgated when translated into English. All the chapters on what horrible people the Communists were made it through; the three chapters in which CKS derided the decadence and worthlessness of the West, particularly the US, somehow didn't make the cut.]

Slarti -- the question 'who lost China?' (as Anarch says, lost it to the Communists) was a Great Big Deal in the aftermath of 1949 (when it was 'lost'.) The usual thought was that it was, as Anarch says, Communist sympathizers in the government, and more specifically in the State Department. A lot of the experts on China were purged in the aftermath of this (e.g., the McCarthy era), which is one reason we were so completely clueless about Vietnam -- we had deliberated eliminated people with expertise on the area from our diplomatic corps and our foreign policy establishment the decade before.

Hmmm...I have to say, that's all new to me. Not surprising that it's new, though.

Chang on one side and Mao on the other; could we have done anything at all to the good?

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