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Impromptus
In defense of contempt for the U.N. In praise of a Righteous Frenchman. Trying to get hitched, unracially — and more


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May I rant about the U.N. for just a sec? Thanks. (Impromptus-ites never mind — as far as I know.)

The other day, one of the Democratic candidates — I forget which — sneered at Bush for his “contempt for the United Nations.” When he became president, this guy, there would be no such contempt for this laudable and golden organization.

But why? I would like to ask this candidate — if I could remember which one it was — the following: What do you think of the U.N. human-rights commission? I mean, think of that holy-sounding name: United Nations Human Rights Commission. In the chairman’s seat is Qaddafi — his government. Other members of the commission are Cuba, China, Sudan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe. That is a murderer’s row (literally, unfortunately).

Remember that, the day before the beginning of the Iraq war, Castro rounded up 75 dissidents — independent journalists, independent librarians, democracy activists — and threw them into dungeons. Not long after, Costa Rica introduced a resolution at the U.N. human-rights commission calling for the release of those dissidents. Castro denounced all supporters of the resolution as “vile lackeys” and “miserable puppets” of the yanqui regime. (It’s sort of nice to know — isn’t it? — that, even in 2003, Communists still talk like Communists.) Castro needn’t have worried: The commission refused to approve the resolution. A spokesman for the dictator (Castro, I’m talkin’) hailed this rejection as “a new moral victory for Cuba.” I suppose it was. The commission did agree to send a human-rights monitor to the island — but Castro wouldn’t permit it, even though the proposed envoy was a Frenchwoman not exactly known for her sympathy with Castro’s prisoners.

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All right: Then the United States asked that Cuba be denied a seat on the human-rights commission for the upcoming year. I mean, given that it’s one of the biggest human-rights violators on the planet, why should it serve on the human-rights commission? (Of course, as much can be said for many other members, as I have noted.) The U.N. said nothing doing: Castro would stay. So the United States — to its credit — walked out of that meeting.

All right, I’m done with my rant: but the next time a Democrat, or anyone else, sneers at my contempt for the United Nations, I’m going to say, “I got your contempt right here, pal.”

Whenever I write like this, a friend of mine says, “Something in your Wheaties this morning?”

A P.S.: Over at the White House, Ari Fleischer said that putting Cuba on a human-rights commission was “like putting Al Capone in charge of bank security.” Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

From the ugly to the beautiful: National Review was fortunate enough, the other day, to be visited by Bernard Kouchner. This is the great man who founded Doctors without Borders. He is a French Socialist and human-rights campaigner. As far as I’m concerned, he is the conscience of that nation (not that his competition is stiff). I have dubbed him “NR’s Favorite Socialist.” (Again, he does not face great competition.)

A couple of items from our conversation: Kouchner does not believe that the French government handed out passports to fleeing Saddam thugs in Syria — passports enabling them to escape Allied justice. I wonder — but it’s a relief that Kouchner doesn’t think so. He says that much of the nation is rooting for U.S. failure in Iraq, so as to justify France’s pre-war position. He believes occupation forces should be as various as possible: using as much of the world’s troops as possible, including those from nations that opposed the United States. He says that support for Saddam Hussein — yes, support for Saddam — rose dramatically in France when Bush’s name became mud. He says that, in a way, Saddam became the new Che Guevara: the darling of the trendy and stupid. He identifies the main problem as ignorance, particularly of history. He also says that the only way to handle the North Korean problem is to get rid of the regime — otherwise, nothing is possible.

Kouchner was one of the very, very few French figures to see the necessity of destroying Saddam, and to argue loudly for it. It saddened him that France had abandoned its historic role of light of liberty (very historic, some might crack).

Anyway, it’s not every day you get to shake the hand of someone who’s done so much good, for so many, and it was good to see the charming, righteous Socialist.

Bear with me a second, folks: The death of Katharine Hepburn prompts me to share with you a piece I did for The Weekly Standard, years ago. It was occasioned by . . . a Valentine’s Day issue of People magazine. Bill Kristol observed, “This is the most right-wing thing we’ve ever published.” That was seven years ago, and I don’t know if my “record” still stands. I doubt it.

In any case, here it is, if you’re so inclined.

If the Nordlinger anthology ever comes to pass, this baby’s going in (the piece, not this column).

I did have an embarrassing episode regarding it, explained in this Impromptus, from January ‘02.

Reporters without Borders is no relation to Doctors without Borders, but I wanted you to check out this (from a wire-service report):

PARIS — The international press watchdog group Reporters without Borders on Monday began distributing postcards at the French capital’s largest airport that contained the slogan, “Welcome to Cuba, the world’s largest prison for journalists.”

The postcards, distributed at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport by the Paris-based group, are part of a campaign to raise tourists’ awareness of repression in Cuba. The cards were given only to people traveling to Cuba on Cubana de Aviación, the Cuban airline.

“This is not a call to boycott flights to Cuba, but just [a way of letting] those who go to that country know that behind its sun and beaches there is a totalitarian regime that represses and impedes freedom of the press,” Reporters without Borders secretary general Robert Menard said.

The cards feature Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Che Guevara’s face superimposed on an anonymous police officer, who in a famous image from France’s May 1968 protests holds a shield in one hand while brandishing a club in the other.

“Did you choose Cuba for its friendly people, its lovely beaches, its rum, and its seductive rhythms? Know where you’re heading. Behind its clichés, the sun doesn’t shine for everyone. ‘Che’ is no more than an icon used by the authorities to legitimize their repression,” the back of the postcard reads.

Well, that’s sort of a balm to the soul.

Speaking of balms (and palms): Do you know that National Review is cruising again? In November? Through the Panama Canal? To Curaçao, Aruba, Costa Rica (of remembering-political-prisoners fame), etc.? Should be a lovely and stimulating time, with a slew of interesting speakers, and very, very nice people all around. If you come, I promise to share all the gossip from the office. That is, if I succeed in learning any.

No, seriously, do come — you can investigate here. I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be disappointed. We specialize in satisfied customers.

P.S. The cruise will not be going to Cuba. Not with me, anyway (unless I can meet, say, Oscar Biscet, as he guts it out with his rotting gums in his hole — fat chance, though).

Hang on, how did I get an angry human-rights blast in a breezy plug for a cruise through the breezes? Ah, my frame of mind.

For many years, I have lamented that I lack a talent for fiction. I mean, I just don’t have stories in me. Can’t make things up. I flatter myself by saying, “You know, the problem is, I just can’t lie.” But the truth is, I simply lack the gift. Oh, how I’d love to sit and compose stories!

If a child said to me, “Tell me a story, please,” I’d have to go and get someone else’s book. I couldn’t just close my eyes and say, “Okay: Once upon a time . . .” But if the child wanted to hear opinions on the U.N. human-rights commission: no problem!

I bring this up because I was touched by something J. K. Rowling said. This (apparent) genius and zillionaire — author of the Harry Potter books — said that she got the idea for her series while riding a train from Manchester to London. “It was as if the story was there for me to discover.”

Yes, that’s how it is — or should be: You don’t generate it yourself; you just see it, and serve as the vehicle for its expression.

But I don’t see it! Which is why I’m writing these Impromptus . . .

As I’ve mentioned before, Ralph Peters writes hot. Check him out: “The best way to promote peace isn’t to create a shooting gallery featuring G. I. Joe. [Peters is opposing U.S. troop participation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.] It’s to hunt down and kill every single terrorist. The terrorists, not the average Ari or Ahmed, are the problem. They want every Jew dead, and then they want the power to impose their perverted religious views on the rest of the Palestinians. If you want to make peace, you must make it over their corpses.”

Hot, yes — but not necessarily untrue.

More hot? A judge in New York — Nassau County’s Donald Belfi — recently sentenced a wife-killer. He said, “It is my strongest hope and desire that you may never again see the light of freedom.” According to the New York Post, the judge “lamented not being able to sentence [the killer] to death, noting that current laws do not ‘allow our justice system to exact the punishment you deserve.’”

Tell it, Judge.

I’ve told this particular story before, but I retell it, for a present purpose. When I was in college, a kid from the dorm came back one night and announced, “I said ‘the president and his spouse today’ — and I wasn’t even trying. It just came naturally. I didn’t have to block the word wife at all. It just came out: ‘the president and his spouse.’” He was beaming, grinning, delighted to have been successfully programmed.

Okay: Recently, Newsweek quoted Teresa Heinz Kerry, who said, “People out there need simple things. Like, ‘Mrs. Reagan says, Just say no, so maybe I can.’ She was also a good wife — a good spouse, I mean — in terms of pushing the president, or not pushing.”

. . . a good spouse, I mean . . . What is wrong with people? Why are they so allergic to the words “wife” and “husband”? What wonderful, divine words they are, bursting with meaning! Husband! Wife! Say ‘em loud and say ‘em proud, and don’t be intimidated.

(Like I have to tell you that, Impromptus reader?)

We’ll end this column on a letter — having to do with marriage, as it happens:

“Hi, Jay: I found myself thinking of you (and Ward Connerly) today while my fiancé and I were filling out a marriage-license application at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Down at the bottom of the form were boxes to indicate the race(s) of the intendeds. I immediately thought of your correspondent who suggested that college applicants misreport their races [in an act of civil disobedience]. I looked at my fiancé and said, ‘Hey, shall we leave this blank?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, it’s none of their business anyway.’ So, with a tingle of excitement at our rebellion against the racialization of, well, everything, we turned in our form.

“Upon being asked why the boxes were blank, we responded that we preferred not to answer that question. Of course, we were promptly informed that the State of Wisconsin will not issue a marriage license without recording the race(s) of the two people to be married. Not being in a position to move out of state, we meekly complied, as people usually do when they are up against robotic bureaucrats.

“So that, as they say, was that. But we tried!”

And a damn good try it was.



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