The Decline of France

I enjoy taking a poke at France as much as the next person, but I should say that Shelly and I went to Paris and Cassis on our honeymoon two years ago and we had a wonderful time. I liked France a great deal, and I do feel some affection for it. The French people were much nicer to us than I expected, given their reputation, and I haven’t seen a city anywhere that can rival Paris in either beauty or culture.

Roger L. Simon just got back from a trip to France where he did some research for a novel. He filed this report, and I’m sorry to say that it isn’t looking good for them.

Clear-Eyed Marxists

There are some leftists (Paul Berman and Christopher Hitchens among them) that I still like more than I like some liberals. And this post (you might have to scroll down) about the UN on the British Marxist group blog Socialism in an Age of Waiting makes me smile.

The General Assembly is, of course, an assemblage of bourgeois governments, many of them dictatorships, all of them cynical to greater or lesser degrees. Its composition compels its members to horse-trade, obscenely, this people’s rights and freedoms against that people’s if it is to get through its business at all. The notorious elections of states such as Cuba and Libya to the Human Rights Commission have been among the wholly predictable results. The recent failure even to take seriously a proposal that referred to the right of Israeli children not to get blown up by fundamentalist fanatics, let alone pass it (as recounted, and rightly criticised, by Norm Geras, linked to in sidebar –>), was just one more case. The horse-trading is less robotically routine than it was during the Cold War, but it still goes on, making a mockery of the ideals that gullible bourgeois liberals still insist on praising the UN for upholding.

Anyone out there want to lump this Marxist blog into the vast right-wing conspiracy? Come on. I know there’s someone out there who wants to.

Seeing an Empty Glass

Roger Normand in The Nation magazine laments the global assault on human rights.

Who is leading the assault? Not the scattered bands of terrorists, who rely on fear and chaos to magnify their threat and disguise their essential weakness.

Who might it be then? Kim Jong Il who runs a repulsive gulag state in North Korea? Perhaps it’s the Baath Party dictatorship in Syria. Or maybe the Iranian mullahcracy that sends its goons into the streets to attack protesters with sticks, chains, knives, and guns.

It is the world’s sole superpower

Oh. I forgot. I was reading The Nation

–the primary architect of the United Nations and its Universal Declaration–that is now shaking off all legal constraints to unleash the most destructive military machine in history.

The most destructive military machine in history! Worse than Nazi Germany! Worse than Stalinist Russia! Worse than the Khmer Rouge! Worse than Sauron’s Dark Army of Mordor!

(Gasp.) Let’s catch our breath.

The Bush Administration seeks nothing less than the open establishment of empire–termed “full-spectrum dominance” in the new Pentagon papers.

I think not.



1. a. A political unit having an extensive territory or comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority.

b. The territory included in such a unit.

2. An extensive enterprise under a unified authority: a publishing empire.

3. Imperial or imperialistic sovereignty, domination, or control: “There is a growing sense that the course of empire is shifting toward the… Asians” (James Traub).

Disagree with the expansion of liberal democracy if you hate it so much. But don’t go calling it “empire.”

Since open empire is incompatible with a post-imperialist world order based on human rights and the rule of law, the law must go. This means bypassing the “useless debating society” formerly known as the Security Council, when it refuses to rubber-stamp the unlawful invasion of Iraq.

The organization that puts the Libyan police state in charge of human rights is not part of a “world order based on human rights.” Sorry, it just isn’t.

With dangerous extremists on all sides planning for global war, we should remember that the modern idea of human rights law emerged from the slaughterhouse of World War II.

We are the only “dangerous extremists” he mentions by name in the entire article.

Faced with the public outcry “never again!”, the victorious powers had no choice but to recognize the full range of human rights–not only civil, political and religious freedoms, but also rights to health, education, housing, work, social security and adequate livelihood. If taken seriously, this revolutionary idea had the potential to overturn, through peaceful legal means, the established distribution of political and economic power.

“Never again” meant that no genocidal dictatorship would ever again be allowed to stand, which in practical terms means overthrowing it by force. Social security, while important, had nothing to do with it.

The Bush Administration now seeks to kill the human rights idea in its infancy and return the world to the law of naked power.

How is it that literate people can write sentences like this at a time when naked power has been overthrown and human rights are being codified into law in Iraq partly at the behest of the Bush Administration?

But the funeral may be premature.


Freed from the worst double standards of state power and invigorated by new forms of activism and solidarity, a broader and more inclusive human rights movement can join forces with the world’s second superpower: mass opposition to war and occupation, corporate-controlled global trade and the ongoing destruction of our environment.

I know it’s popular among a certain set of people to say that war is always bad and nothing good ever comes of it. But we need to get one thing straight right now. Mass opposition to democratic nation-building in tyrannical dictatorships will not yield a single accomplishment for human rights. Ever.

The title of Mr. Normand’s article is Facing the Human Rights Abyss. Not once does he mention the good news of late, that 20 million people were liberated from a regime modeled after Stalin and the Nazis. He’s the type of guy who sees a glass half full of water and hallucinates a hole in the bottom that drained the thing dry.

Not Just the Fringe

According to this Anti-Defamation League poll, 43 percent of Americans believe Israel is a threat to world peace. And 37 percent of Americans believe America is the greatest threat to world peace.

UPDATE: Moe Lane (who blogs at Obsidian Wings) in the comments points out that there must be a mistake. 37 percent can’t think America is the greatest threat because 77 percent think North Korea is the greatest threat. It must be that 37 percent think America is a threat to world peace.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll shows 37 percent (the exact same number as above) say they would vote for Howard Dean if the election were held today, while 60 percent would vote for Bush.

Democrats have a very serious problem, but they still refuse to accept it.

Iraq: UN Failed Us

The US isn’t the only country in the world unhappy with the UN.

Iraq’s foreign minister [Hoshyar Zebari] accused the United Nations on Tuesday of failing his country by leaving Saddam Hussein in power for decades and appealed to the world body to assume a leading role in Baghdad immediately.

Zebari said the United Nations had failed to help rescue Iraq from “a murderous tyranny” that lasted more than 35 years and “today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure.”

“The United Nations must not fail the Iraqi people again,” Zebari said.

Operation Photo Shop

Saddam had himself sculpted and painted all over Iraq in various guises. We saw Saddam the Bedouin, Saddam the General, Saddam the Gangster, Saddam the Camel Shit Shoveler.

Here’s an homage to all that from flip GenX artists all over the Internet. (Click photos for sources.)









Boo Hoo

The prisoner Saddam Hussein is being treated more humanely than he treated a single one of his countrymen. But that’s not good enough for some people.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A top Vatican official said Tuesday he felt pity and compassion for Saddam Hussein and criticized the U.S. military for showing video footage of him being treated “like a cow.”

Mean Americans. Treating a prisoner like a prisoner.

What did he expect? That we’d put Saddam up in one of his palaces and respect his privacy?

We are Americans. We will treat Saddam humanely even though he doesn’t deserve it at all.

Iraqis needed to see his ugly mug on the tv. You’re not the target audience, Cardinal. And history is not a sunday school lesson.

Hitchens Weighs In

Lovely stuff from the Hitch, as usual.

He had all his visitors body-searched and all his food tasted in advance. He was obsessed with hygiene and stray infections.

He wore a different uniform every day and built himself a vulgar palace in every city of his miserable country. Nice, then, to see him found like a rat in a hole, covered with grime, sprouting a dirty grey mane, and being shaven and combed for lice.

Defending Saddam

Via Jeremy Brown at Who Knew comes this little tidbit.

A French lawyer [Jacques Verges] known for his notorious clients said on Monday he would be ready to defend Saddam Hussein and that the former Iraqi leader must be presumed innocent at any trial.

I understand we’re supposed to presume innocence at trials. But some things are better left unsaid. I’d wonder if Mr. Verges feels embarrassed to say it, but he did defend Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon.

He added:

If [Saddam] is judged and treated like a pariah, clearly his defence counsel would have to say ‘but this pariah was the friend of all the Western heads of state. He was not only their friend but their ally.’

This is true, and it’s an excellent reason to let Iraqis try him themselves. Long ago Saddam Hussein was an ally of the United States, as well as an ally of the rest of the Western countries. The French government stuck by his side even after the Gulf War, and even after September 11. Make your case, Mr. Verges. Baghdad needs to know what Paris has been up to.

An Early Christmas Present

Okay, so most Iraqis don’t celebrate Christmas, but they are celebrating today because Saddam Hussein has been captured alive. Woo hoo!


Alaa blogs from Baghdad:

This, surely, is the mother of all days for us. The heroes of our valiant Pesh Mergas, and the heroes of the U.S. Fourth division have done it. Now is the time to unleash the Iraqi Counter Terror; now is the time to go for the kill. Let us go after them. Don’t lose this moment. They want to recant and live in equality with the people? they have a chance – otherwise they will have to go. I am too overwhelmed with emotion to write coherently; please excuse me. The foul mouths of the enemies of our people everywhere and the neighboring vultures and hyenas be stuffed with dirt; we will come after you; your time will come.

Long live the great alliance of Mesopotamia and the United States of America and her allies. Now is the time, now is the time; Do not delay; unleash the Counter Terror.

God Bless Iraq; God Bless America; God bless the Allies.

And above all Praise be to Allah the Almighty the Avenger.

Coalition of the Pissy

T-bogg says he hates to join the Coalition of the Pissy. But he joins on his own free will.

Is Iraq better off now than it was before? At the moment, yes. Will it be better off after the US Corporations finish acquiring all the Iraqi assets and have their own little colonial empire to bleed dry under the protection of a puppet military and private “security forces”? Nope. History and time don’t stop with this moment, much as the warbloggers would like to believe.

The exploitation of the Iraqi people is over. Let the new exploitation begin…

Hey, T-bogg. I know you hate me because I left the left. But you’re part of the reason I left the left. I used to miss it, but comments like yours make me feel a whole lot better about my decision.


Via Tim Blair comes this tidbit from England:

A church has been told that it cannot publicise its Christmas services on a community notice board to avoid offending other religions.

I’m trying to imagine myself in this kind of situation. Let’s say I take a job in, oh, Istanbul. I see a community notice board that mentions Ramadan service at a mosque and, not being a Muslim, I yell at a bunch of people and say I’m offended and I want it taken down.

Wouldn’t that make me a complete and total jerk (not to mention an ugly American)? I mean, in this hypothetical, I’m in Turkey complaining about Ramadan. Methinks the Turks would (rightly) tell me to go eff myself.

When in Rome… When in Istanbul… When in England…

My wife and I are both atheists. We celebrate Christmas and always will. Don’t like it? Lump it, grinches.

A Defense of Norman Geras

Some of my conservative readers emailed me in exasperation that I linked approvingly to the blog by Professor Norman Geras, who is a Marxist.

I can understand (a little) if someone is surprised. But I think anyone who has read my stuff with any regularity ought to know by now that I do not provide links to totalitarian communists unless I am going to open up both barrels on ‘em.

I am not a Marxist, but Norman Geras shares my value system and we have many opinions in common. He and I arrived at the same place by different roads. We both hail from different left-wing traditions, but we’re both old lefties all the same.

I also provide approving links to conservatives, as does the good professor. One of the many things he and I have in common is that we know very well that we can learn from smart and decent people with different backgrounds and ideas than ourselves. A lot of people who read my site, including the conservatives who expressed dismay at my linkage, must surely agree with this too. Otherwise they wouldn’t care what a guy who voted twice for Ralph Nader has to say about anything in the first place.

Oliver Kamm sticks up for Norman Geras, too:

I’m not a Marxist, but a militant liberal. I believe that capitalism may be cyclically unstable, but capitalism with the operation of automatic stabilisers (fiscal and monetary policy) and a welfare state (at least of the type that provides benefits in cash rather than in kind, that discourages dependency and that promotes autonomy) is a powerful vehicle of social advance and an essential part of a free society. But there is no more important political question than the defence of the values of an open society against those in every age – secular totalitarians, theocratic terrorists, Baathist tyrants – who subvert and threaten them. An ethically grounded Marxism ought to be a natural part of the coalition that mounts that campaign, and that’s why I’m less surprised than others that Norman Geras stands where he does.

We all need diversity of opinion. I link to Normblog for a reason. Give him a chance and, even if you’re a conservative, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Terror Supporters in Germany

Harry Hatchett got his hands on a report to be published this Saturday in Britain. According to Harry, one in four Germans supports the Baathist and Islamist terrorists in Iraq, and some activists there are even raising money for them. If they were Americans, or if German forces were on the ground in Iraq, those activists would be guilty of treason.


Mike Silverman’s big effing rant contains profanity and will not be one bit appreciated by bigots or ideologues.


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