Politics & Policy

Soiled Rotten

Forget ideology. The new divide is between the corrupt and the clean.

I should have been an interior decorator because I just adore patterns. Check out these sweet accents:

In France, a French court let stand thef conviction of Alain Juppé, Jacques Chirac’s loyal sideman, for fraud. But, according to Libération, his sentence was cut in half because the court thought it was unfair for Juppé, a member first-class of the French ruling élite, to have to wait more than a year before returning to the public trough. According to an earlier report in theGuardian, 12 more Chirac cronies may soon be charged with vote-rigging. Juppé resigned as mayor of Bordeaux–but according to the BBC, Nicholas Sarkozy moved one step closer to Chirac’s instep by taking over as head of his party.

In the eastern Congo, scene of an operation that began as an EU military display under French leadership and is now one of the U.N.’s biggest peacekeeping missions ever, the blue helmets have apparently been routinely sexually abusing pre-pubescent refugee girls, creating a camp full of 13-year-old mothers. Months ago, the U.N. promised to issue a report on the situation. It was finally released two weeks ago, according to the BBC. The outcome: Kofi Annan released a statement saying “it is vital that the investigations be speeded up.” Meanwhile, according to Le Nouvel Observateur, an effort to investigate the atrocious killing of at least 20 civilians in Ivory Coast by French soldiers operating under a U.N. mandate is being opposed by a member of Chirac’s party. Bruno Jose Lebeau’s blog draws the instructive parallel between what the French army did in Abidjan and what went on in Abu Ghraib.

In New York, Kofi himself is the star of the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food scandal, of course. The world’s biggest humanitarian heist is playing to amused readers in Paris. Le Monde reports that every European’s favorite bureaucrat (along with the sacred bureaucracy for which he works) was under fire from the likes of Sen. Norm Coleman, National Review, and a roster of conservative allies. Since the French role in the scandal has been largely unreported, Le Monde’s story has a taint of the witch-hunt about it. Besides, according to an AFP report on expatica.com, Chirac and Schroeder are behind Annan 100 percent. (Annan is frantically looking for his wallet.)

In Brussels, fraud is, as always, on the rise in the EU, according to the EU Observer. The report glosses over the EU’s detention of Stern investigative reporter Hans-Martin Tillack and the seizure of his files. Tillack’s reporting focuses on EU corruption. Two weeks ago, I noted here news reports that showed that almost none of the EU’s spending could be warranted to be fraud-free.

In Germany, the International Herald Tribune is reporting that the abuse of German army conscripts is part of a widening scandal. “The accusations involve stories of instructors dressed in Arab costumes beating recruits, giving them electric shocks and dousing them with cold water,” the paper reports, even though none of the recruits are Iraqis. The report comes after scandals surfaced in German defense spending. Meanwhile, Spiegel reports that a couple of U.S. leftists have been welcomed into German courts to file a suit against Donald Rumsfeld for “war crimes” committed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

I haven’t even gotten to the EU-Palestinian money scam and all the rest, but I just can’t go on–mostly because I’m not paid by the word. The point is you could be forgiven for thinking that opposition to U.S. policies in Iraq and elsewhere is a consequence of ideological or strategic disagreements. But there is no ideology any more. There’s only anti-Americanism, scandal, and corruption. And of course stupidity: According to a survey of 4,000 Britons under the age of 35 reported in the Independent, 60 percent of them have never heard of Auschwitz, and of those who thought the name was familiar, three quarters really didn’t know much about what had gone on there. At least they’ll never forget.

ITEMS

Speaking of corruption: In the rubble of Baghdad, David Blair, a Daily Telegraph reporter of unquestioned repute, found a bunch of documents suggesting George Galloway, a notorious and rather permanent member of the British parliament and a champion of Saddam Hussein and the U.K. antiwar movement, belonged on the long list of people and companies we now are told were on the take from the Iraqi Baathists.

It was a familiar kind of story. If for example the papers had been forgeries and if they had been about, say, George W. Bush, a network like, say, CBS, would have trumpeted in prime time, maybe even teaming up with a newspaper, like, say, the New York Times, to further corrupt journalism and ambush a presidential election. But the documents containing Galloway’s name were not forgeries (they were, said the Telegraph’s executive editor, “genuine documents that emanated from the highest levels of the Iraqi government”), so the paper not surprisingly rushed into print with its discovery. Galloway sued. Yesterday, according to the Telegraph, a British court found that Galloway had been libeled when the paper “not merely adopted” the allegations in the documents but had “embraced them with relish and fervour.” In other words, the problem was the condiments, not the weenie–who by the way was awarded about $290 grand.

The paper plans an appeal, of course, and of course Galloway now plans to run for reelection from his unfortunate Glaswegian bailiwick. The court offered no finding as to the authenticity of the papers or whether or not Galloway had indeed pocketed any Oil-for-Food loot. In fact, according to the Guardian, in addition to the documents, Galloway’s name, along with those of his associates involved in a confusing “charity” operation, has appeared on a list of people who were offered valuable oil vouchers in exchange for their cooperation with Saddam. Just one of those crazy coinkydinks. The always clever “Beeb-bash blog” at Talking Hoarsely offers help in putting the whole thing into perspective.

Constitutional difficulties. The French Socialists, to almost no one’s surprise, fell in line behind their monochrome leader, François Hollande, and gave their support to the EU constitution in advance of a national referendum on the ugly thing next year. The IHT carried a round-up of the Socialist vote. But, say the wise bloggers at Eursoc, even if the constitution is embraced by every Euro from Calais to the Belarus border, nothing seems likely to encourage the British to jump on board the EU’s square-wheeled bandwagon as it gathers steam and rolls toward oblivion.

The Outhouse. According to a report in the Guardian, a survey asked “500 artists, curators, critics and dealers” to name the “world’s most influential piece of modern art.” Those are not red-state voters, so naturally, they said a urinal. Explains the humorless correspondent: “Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, created in 1917, has been interpreted in innumerable different ways, including as a reference to the female sexual parts.”

Future French. According to Libération, the French government is trying to take back the license awarded to Al-Manar, the Hezbollah television channel. The government had awarded the broadcaster the permit a couple of weeks ago with the understanding that anti-Semitism would be verboten. (The decision was noted by the Wall Street Journal under the headline “Crazy in Paris.” Some have suggested the deal was part of a bribe to free the two French journalists held hostage in Iraq; an editorial in Le Monde explains that the kidnapping is America’s fault.)

Well, what with Hezbollah being Hezbollah, it just didn’t work out. So now Raffarin is trying to cobble together a law that will keep terrorist TV off the air. Al-Manar is calling the whole thing a Zionist plot. But not to worry! According to La Nouvelle République, an Algerian daily, Chirac has authorized the official publication of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, in Arabic. Might as well. When the fat lady finally sings on the Fifth Republic, she’s sure not going to be singing in French. Or, zut-damn, English! She’ll be doing that yodel thing in pure Parisian Arabic. Ma as-salaamah, mes amigos.

Denis Boyles writes the weekly EuroPress Review column for NRO.

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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