Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dispatch from Paris

A few items from the international press for you today.

Við munum ekki leyfa ofbeldi að breyta samfélögum okkar eða gildum okkar, né munum við leyfa því að hafa áhrif á störf þessa fundar. Við munum halda áfram að ræða hvernig bæta má heiminn. Hryðjuverkamennirnir [terrorists] munu ekki hafa sitt fram. Við munum sigra, ekki þeir. — Tony Blair, forsætisráðherra Bretlands, 2005-07-07 (Morgunblaðið)
Well, yes, actually, I did throw in that quote just to put in the thorns and eths. It's the translation into Icelandic of Prime Minister Tony Blair's statement that the terrorists will not defeat Britain.

Can you guess which movie got this review? "Innrásin er girnileg sumarskemmtun. Poppkornsmynd af bestu gerð!" I must say, though, that Hagar the Horrible takes on a whole different meaning when you read it in actual Viking language.

In other news from London,
Être unis, être forts, ne pas se laisser diviser, ne pas laisser monter la haine intercommunitaire. C’est lobsession des autorités britanniques, et singulièrement celle d'un leader travailliste désormais soutenu de toutes parts, depuis l'explosion de quatre bombes jeudi dans le métro londinien et dans un bus. Hier, s'exprimant pour la première fois devant les députés de la Chambre des communes, Tony Blair a insisté: Notre pays ne seras pas vaincu par la terreur mais la vaincra et émergera de cette horreur avec nos valeurs, notre mode de vie, notre tolérance et notre respect pour les autres non diminués. — Libération 2005-07-12
(In other words, We must not let the terrorists divide our community. We will defeat the terrorists with our values, our way of life, our tolerance, and our respect for others undiminished.)

One comment from this week's Economist magazine (July 9th 2005) about the situation in London I found especially noteworthy: "George W. Bush has sometimes claimed that a silver lining to the cloud his forces are struggling through in Iraq is that at least the West's enemies are being fought there rather than at home. The attacks in London are a reminder that that view is as wrong as it is glib."

The French paper Libération also noted with horror that Ryanair (a low-cost airline based in Dublin, Ireland) is — so far unsuccessfully — pressuring its pilots to accept a contract that would require them to repay €15,000 to the company for their flight training if they either leave the company within five years or join a union. For some reason, the pilots aren't eager to sign. Said Michael O'Leary, president of Ryanair (quoted in English, even though the rest of the article is en français): "Only over my dead body and never on my fucking watch" will the pilots unionize. Wow.

A couple of tidbits from today's International Herald Tribune, truly a must for travelling in a non-English-speaking country.

Muhammad Bouyeri, a 27yo Dutch-Moroccan on trial for the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, has exercised his right to remain silent and instructed his defense attorney not to participate in the trial proceedings. Bouyeri is accused of brutally murdering van Gogh, apparently because he made a film that was critical of the treatment of women in Islamic countries. Bouyeri could receive life in prison if convicted.

Robert A. Pape has analyzed information regarding 67 of the 71 al Qaeda-linked suicide terrorists from 1995 to 2004. His conclusions are unsettling: al Qaeda is stronger since 9/11, not weaker. It has carried out more attacks and killed more people since 9/11 than before. Almost all of its suicide bombers have come from Islamic countries in which the United States has a significant military presence, not from other countries listed by the State Department as "state sponsors of terrorism" (Iran, Libya, Sudan, or Iraq).
Afghanistan produced al Qaeda suicide terrorists only after the American-led invasion of the country in 2001. The clear implication is that if al Qaeda was [sic] no longer able to draw recruits from the Muslim countries where there is a heavy American combat presence, it might well collapse. — Robert A. Pape, International Herald Tribune, 2005-07-12
Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and Jihad: the Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, gives striking insight into Osama bin Laden's apparent ability to hide in Pakistan: it is not in Pakistan's interest to find him, because if it does, its domestic problems will multiply while the U.S. will no longer consider it quite as vital to our strategic interests.

One of the letters to the editor especially caught my eye:
It's dangerous to assume that more than a billion of the world's Muslims are a monolithic bloc. Terrorists come from countries and regions where Shariah law [a draconian set of Islamic legal traditions] is prevalent. Youth raised under Shariah inevitably feel enmity when faced with the modern way of life and values; some of them react violently. Islam is a religion that promotes compassion and justice. It is the archaic set of values associated with Islam that creates this terrible problem we are facing. — Ahmet Ozgunes, Istanbul
Back on the home front, Nicholas Kristof writes of the insanity of the Bush administration's position against Oregon's "death with dignity" statute, and the main editorial makes the point that it is time for the Defense Department to address the real enemies we face, instead of the enemies that would justify the weapon systems we would like to build. "After four years of painful surprises, the Pentagon should recognize that chasing indiscriminately after remote contingencies can leave U.S. forces dangerously underequipped and understaffed for real wars."

Lastly, here in Paris (both where I'm staying and where the IHT is headquartered), John Vinocur details the ways in which the political leadership in France is dangerously out of touch with both domestic and international realities. The people have resoundingly said "non" to the draft European constitution, but the leaders across the spectrum continue undaunted to press for France to lead the drive for Eunity. France is also falling out of a leadership role on the world stage, in part because of their lack of involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, their lack of attention to African poverty and famine, and their bizarre relationship to American power, following our lead in Lebanon but insisting that they can lead Europe to provide a much-needed counterbalance to American unilateralism (never mind what the rest of Europe thinks). Evidently the problem of arrogant and/or insane political leaders isn't limited to America.

For those of you sitting in America, please please please seek out sources of news beyond the American corporate media conglomerates. There are fine, responsible journalists working for PBS, NPR, Comedy Central, CNN, ABNBCBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post (though much less often the New York Post or the Washington Times), and others, but in a world of global problems we need to at least take a look at the viewpoints of the other 5½ continents.