Politics & Policy

Top Secret

What a "sensitive war" looks like.

Remember John Kerry’s “secret plan” for dealing with Iraq? He announced it on ABC’s This Week. Everybody wanted to know what it was. It turns out it was just like the “secret plans” I had back in high school when I’d take girls to the drive-in: Once the wraps came off, everybody felt pretty stupid.

Kerry’s secret plan, it finally emerged, was to convince France and the U.N. to help us get out of Iraq. To you and me, asking France to help you win a war is like asking your mother-in-law to help settle a family quarrel. But according to Kerry, asking France to help win a war makes the war “sensitive” because, as everyone knows, France is more sensitive than the United States, just as liberals are more sensitive than conservatives. In fact, to be liberal is to be French, even if only in spirit.

For a good example of how a sensitive, Frenchified foreign policy works, let’s look at the warring, unhappy natives in faraway Darfur, a dusty stretch of the Sudanese way-outback. According to the U.S. Congress, there’s a genocide going on in Darfur, and if we apply John Kerry’s secret plan, it’s all being handled just right.

In Darfur, Arab killers, backed by the Sudanese government, are cleansing the province of blacks by attacking villages, where they loot, rape, abduct, then ride off. Meanwhile, the blacks, who survive on desert shrubs, run for their lives. This has gone on for a very long time. Although resistant to resolution, one of the few respites from slavery, rape, and cruelty the Darfurians, or whatever they call themselves, have enjoyed was in 1877, when a great Christian hero, Charles George “Chinese” Gordon, at the time the governor general of Sudan, arrived to suppress a conflict very much like the one raging there now. Except Gordon arrived alone on a camel, smoking a cheroot and demanding a prompt surrender. He got it.

Gordon was not French. He was, however, later killed at Khartoum by Islamic fundamentalists when the British government failed to find the nerve to save him. (He thus became an historical figure of such magnitude that it took Charlton Heston to play him). Darfur however instantly returned to its hellish ways.

About two years ago, this long-running conflict appeared likely to eventually morph into an Ethiopian-scale disaster, something that would require the intervention of, like, rock stars or something if disaster were to be averted. For months, NGOs and various U.N. agencies, along with the Bush administration, kept warning that things were going to go very south in Darfur.

When the number of displaced reached a million or so, and when the dead numbered in the tens of thousands, and when the victims of rape and mutilation could no longer be counted at all, and when the entire population stood at the brink of starvation, and when all the rock stars were busy planning to go out pimping for Kerry, the U.S. did what John Kerry says we should always in order to wage a more sensitive campaign for democracy and justice. America went to the U.N. The Daily Telegraph reported that the U.S. secretary of State stood in the middle of a big Sudanese nowhere, spoke softly, and threatened the killers with the big Nerf stick: knock it off, he said, or face the wrath of the U.N.

For weeks, while more and more people were being kicked and killed in Darfur, the Security Council debated just what should be done to convince the government of Sudan to stop supporting the Janjaweed militia, the band of Muslim brothers responsible for the slaughter. The U.S. wanted to move decisively, but the resolution offered by the Bush administration went off the tracks because it contained the word “sanctions.” “Sanctions” is not a sensitive word. The reporting in the French-leaning press–which would include theNew York Times and the Boston Globe, as well as the Times’s expat paper, the International Herald Tribune–was thorough enough. Reporters such as the Times’s Warren Hoge, whose piece ran in the IHT (now archived), covered the debate carefully–except for one stray fact that somehow escaped attention: Who on the Security Council had objected to the word “sanctions” and thrown the process into the slow lane? And why?

I’ll spoil the suspense here, because you already know the answer. It was the French, of course. To discover that fact on the same day Hoge’s piece ran, you had to catch a tiny (and alas now archived) item in the Frankfurter Allgemeine explaining that France, along with her allies, Russia and China, was guilty not just of trading blood for oil, as the French are always saying about the U.S., but trading “oil for corpses.” The Sudan sits on what some experts think is a pool of oil the size of Araby, practically. And, as the BBC later nearly misreported–and Instapundit explains here how–the French have an oil deal with Sudan, just as they did with the Iraqis. It took nearly a month–until July 30–for the Security Council to issue its toothless warning: The sanctions were removed and replaced with a threat to maybe impose them later. The government of Sudan dismissed the resolution as illogical and impractical. As Mark Steyn, writing in the Telegraph, had predicted, Sudan was “getting away with murder.”

And they’ll continue to get away with it, because the sanctions won’t happen. In fact, to make sure of that, the Guardian says, the EU looked into it, then announced that they’d thought it over and yes, things were not nice in Darfur, but despite what the U.S. Congress had said, what was happening in Darfur wasn’t an actual genocide. The EU would know. A genocide is the kind of thing the French helped engineer and arm and cover-up in Rwanda in 1994–merely to show support to a Francophone regime. If Darfur were a certified genocide, then international agreements would require the EU to actually do something. That is not the EU’s sensitive way. So, as of this week, as Donna Hughes wrote Thursday in NRO, nothing had changed in Darfur–and, as long as the French and the U.N. have a say, nothing will change there in the immediate future–unless it’s to make matters worse: As the BBC reports today, hepatitis has broken out in the refuge camps.

Darfur is the kind of foreign policy the United States would have if it followed the “secret plan” of John Kerry and catered to the French and German politicians who seemingly crave Bush’s defeat. If the French and the U.N. had had their way in Iraq, Saddam Hussein would still be tossing his people to his hungry wolf-boys and looking for a way to get back at the U.S. And who knows? Perhaps by now he would have been successful.

The French-tastic press in New York and Boston, like the actual French press in downtown France, obviously prefers the U.N.’s Darfur solution over Bush and Blair’s Iraq solution–just as the French and the Germans, reports the IHT, prefer Kerry to Bush. The French certainly want no more Chinese Gordons–or even Colin Powells, for that matter–running around Sudanese oil fields making trouble. They know what they do want, and what they want is what they know.

‐In Darfur, they want everybody to chill. Thus, Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, plays the humanitarian poseur in the pages of Le Figaro today. His four action items: Look for an African way to fix it [sic], encourage dialogue, encourage more dialogue, congratulate France for its forward-looking policies.

‐In Iraq, they want quagmire. Thus, French-ish correspondents, like one named Anne Barnard, writing for the Boston Globe (and carried in the IHT) hang out, turn up their Jimi, and send back stories straight out of Da Nang, ‘68–just like in the movies.

Here’s a secret plan: Every time you think it can’t get worse in Iraq, take a look at Darfur.


More secret plans. The U.N.’s Oil-for-Food scam that made Saddam ridiculously rich while the U.N. looked on has finally come to the attention of the IHT, via the New York Times. My favorite quote: “Everyone said it was a terrible shame…”

More blight, please. We’re British! You probably think demolition derbies–where otherwise normal men drive machines into each other with the intention of inflicting maximum damage–are a purely American pastime. But that would be to forget the first World War and all the flying bits and pieces of hardware, cultural and otherwise, that have followed in its wake.

Demolition derbies are a sort of visual aid, a performance-art approach to post-Thatcher British history, as one Katy Lewis, a BBC correspondent, discovered when she attended her first bang-’em-up: “It was hilarious! I just couldn’t stop laughing although I don’t know why because it was a mass car crash! We even cheered the best crashes–what on earth does that say about us?”

Katy! It says you love Dame Edna and Jeremy Clarkson, who are the same person! It says you despise the navigational qualities of religion so much that the best your national church can do, as the Daily Telegraph reported, is produce crazy bishops who say crazy things in empty buildings! It says you have a dwindling, often fleeing, native population who are often drunk and, if sufficiently adolescent, pregnant! It says you have an opposition party so bankrupt of interesting ideas that, as the Guardian reports, the only significant notion advanced by the Tories in the last six months is building lots of gaols, as you spell them! It says that your educational system is so lousy, that, according to the Telegraph, a sizeable number of your children think the Spanish Armada was defeated by Gandalf! That will not disturb you, however, because, as the Observer reports, you live in a sea of drugs so deep that researchers have found Prozac in your drinking water.

And thanks to the drinking water and the educational system, it says you also now have somebody named Suzi Leather telling you, by way of the BBC, that cloning human embryos “is an important area of research and a responsible use of technology”!

You may even say, “One thing leads to another.” But you’ll say it all in that charming accent. And, blimey, jolly well said, too!

Still on the skids. In a recent number of the formerly interesting magazine called The Spectator, columnist Rod Liddle wrote that as part of a prank, ten tons of manure were to be delivered to the magazine’s offices–but, he writes, “but we’ve seen no sign of it in Doughty Street.” It’s the oldest trick in the book, Rod: Hide it in plain sight.

The talented Mr. Levin. On the editorial table of weights and measures, 1 Bernard Levin=4 Rod Liddles. But according to the Guardian, one of the last great British newspaper columnists, the terrifically contrarian Mr. Levin, has died. And so has French soccer. Libération reports the retirement of Zinédine Zidane.

Barroso rules. Jose Manuel Barroso has appointed new EU commissioners, and, reports Le Nouvel Observateur, many familiar faces are gone. New EU member states gained key posts.

Bamboo shoots under nails, please. Medienkritik, the cantankerous German blog site, has been slowly torturing ZDF, the German broadcaster, who has been trying to run a poll on its website showing just how despised Bush is. It isn’t working–and Medienkritik’s Ray D., has a good idea why.

Being Left means always having to say you’re sorry. The Guardian shares the suffering of the dizzy Washington Post which has joined the New York Times and The New Republic and apologized for not being antiwar pre-war.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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