Richard Nixon used to say, not very nicely, but not very untruthfully, “You know Ted Kennedy is running for president when he starts slimming down.” Well, Mohamed ElBaradei is running for president of Egypt, for sure. Here is what he said the other day: “If Israel attacked Gaza, we would declare war against the Zionist regime.” (I am relying on this report.)
There’s the substance of what he said, yes. But note the language: “Zionist regime.” (Often, Mohamed, that’s “Zionist entity.”) Here is a man who worked in the U.N. system for 30 years. He shared the Nobel peace prize! He always said “Israel.” Now, as a national rabble-rouser, he’s saying “Zionist regime.”
But see how he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it? He said “Israel” and “Zionist regime” in the same sentence. He’s still learning. He will stamp “Israel” out of his vocabulary soon . . .
Now that Arafat’s dead, is ElBaradei the most disgraceful Nobel peace laureate extant? On some days, yes. But he has stiff competition from Tutu, Carter, Rigoberta Menchú, and many lesser-known others. (Betty Williams comes to mind. She’s the woman who, in the last decade, couldn’t stop saying how much she wanted to kill President Bush. For instance, she said this to schoolchildren in Brisbane . . .)
When ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency won the Nobel peace prize in 2005, I wrote a piece for National Review called “How Low Can They Go?” (“they” being the Nobel committee). If you’d like to take this walk down Memory Lane, go here.
Back to Egypt for a moment. I’d like to note a few things from this story, a report from the Associated Press. Three passages, please:
1) “Most of the top officials of Mubarak’s regime are now being investigated on allegations of corruption and abuse of authority. Although Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and his close aides were prosecuted and many of them hanged after the U.S.-led invasion, legal moves against an ousted Arab leader without any foreign role in the proceeding has been unheard of in modern times.”
That’s very interesting. Of course, many, probably most, Arab leaders who are “ousted” are killed. Leaders in this region die in bed, or die more bloodily. That’s a point our David Pryce-Jones has made repeatedly. There are no proper mechanisms for rotation in office. The mechanism is: death.
2) “. . . an airport official at the Sharm el-Sheik airport said the sons have been transferred aboard a private jet to the Torah prison on the outskirts of Cairo, where other detained former regime figures are already in custody.”
I was rather startled by the name of the prison.
3) “Gamal [Mubarak] is also seen as the architect of Egypt’s privatization program and economic liberalization, which has brought in billions in foreign investment but has also widened the gap between rich and poor.”
I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking: If the gap between rich and poor widened — does that mean the poor got richer, or less poor, too? This is a question unanswered by the report. It’s also a question almost always unthought of by . . . well, you know who by.
Is that English, exactly? I think so.
You may well have read about the subway bombing in Minsk, Belarus. An atrocity. Killed twelve people, wounded 200 others. In December, the country’s dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenko, cracked down horribly on the country. This was after he stole a presidential election. I did a three-part series on Belarus in January. If you’re interested, go here, here, and here.
So, who committed the subway atrocity? I had an e-mail exchange with a Belarusian I trust and think a lot of — a democracy and human-rights activist. She said, “It’s still just speculation, because none of us has any proof at the moment. My main concern is that this horrible incident will be used to intensify the repressions. It definitely will.”
“This is new for me,” said jewelry store owner Alan Perry, who thinks the items might fetch $800,000 to $900,000 at auction. “That’s why we’re going to put it up on eBay. It’s only worth what someone’s willing to pay for it, and eBay might be a good measure to see if people are interested.”
Why am I bringing this news story to your attention? Well, it was such a relief to find someone who understands basic economics: “It’s only worth what someone’s willing to pay for it.”
Can this man maybe be a part-time professor somewhere, please?
In politics, as in clothes, there is fashion. And that includes fashion in political language. About 15 years ago, everybody in Washington started to say “kabuki dance.” I don’t know why — they just did. Every process or procedure or exercise was a “kabuki dance.” My impression is, that term is fading out a little. But it is still in frequent use. Last month, a writer for The Atlantic spoke of “the kabuki dance that is our justice system.” The term has even crept into the sports pages: “NFL Talks Were a Kabuki Dance,” read a headline, also from last month.
What’s this essay about, specifically? It’s about the phrase “the right side of history,” and its companion, “the wrong side of history.” These phrases are in almost constant deployment now. I explore them, and criticize them — and deplore them. Kind of an interesting essay. Not because I’m so great, mind you — but because the topic is interesting.