Undiplomatic Banner
7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:55 pm

Controlympics: A Perfect Choice


Big news today, via The Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph (UK).  Let’s start with the LAT:

Lopez Lomong: US Olympic team appoint Darfur refugee to carry flag

Another stunning chapter was added to the incredible story of Lopez Lomong when his U.S. Olympic teammates chose the Sudanese refugee as the flag bearer in Friday’s opening ceremony at the 2008 Olympics.

Lomong, who made the Olympic track team by finishing second in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. track trials, spent a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya as one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” He resettled in the United States as a teenager with a family in Syracuse, N.Y.

“This is the most exciting day ever in my life,” Lomong said. “It’s a great honor for me that my teammates chose to vote for me. I’m here as an ambassador of my country, and I will do everything I can to represent my country well.”

Lomong, 23, was 6 when he was abducted from a Sudanese church by militiamen trying to turn children into boy soldiers. He and three other boys escaped and walked several days until they were arrested by Kenyan police because they had unknowingly crossed the border into Kenya.

And now the Telegraph:

His first taste of the Olympics was when he paid five Kenyan shillings to watch Michael Johnson winning gold at Sydney 2000 on a fuzzy black and white TV set, an experience which he says ignited his own Olympic dream.  “The American flag means everything in my life - everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a US citizen,” Lomong added.

What an amazing story:  a Sudanese Lost Boy** becomes an Olympic athlete and is chosen over thousands of his new countrymen and -women to carry their country’s flag into the Olympic Opening Ceremonies — which is hosted by a government notorious for its disregard for human rights and its sponsorship of the government of Sudan.

It’s nothing less than a Jesse Owens moment.  In the face of tremendous pressure by everyone from the ChiComs themselves to their craven corporate toadies to IOC Chairman Jacque Rogge and other obsequious IOC pond scum, Americans have stood up to to an odious dictatorship.

I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about our flagbearer dipping the flag when he passes ChiCom-in-Chief Hu “Is Lying Now” Juntao.

And it happens the day after the ChiComs denied a visa to Joey Cheek, the Olympic athlete and head of Team Darfur.  I don’t think that that was a coincidence.  The Times of London gets the contrast about right:

There are two pictures here. One comes slightly distorted and airbrushed and will be squeezed into a frame by the IOC and its Chinese hosts in Beijing. The other is a portrait of Lomong. Which would you rather have on the wall?

This is why I continue to be proud of this country, no matter what the Bush Administration does or who gets elected this fall.  It’s further proof that average Americans (take my word for it, even in this day and age, that’s what the vast majority of our athletes in Beijing are) care deeply about basic human rights and fundamental principles of justice.

And isn’t it nice to feel good about this country again?  And have it be not because we won an athletic competition, but because we stood up for what is right and decent?

Hooray for us.

Photo:  Associated Press via the Telegraph (UK).

**If you don’t know the remarkable story of the Lost Boys, do yourself a favor and go out and buy Dave Eggers most recent novel, What is the What, which is a fictionalized account of one of the Boys’ experiences.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, pop culture, war & rumors of war, world at home | 0 Comments

7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:00 am

Five to Watch: The Rest of the World


Between the U.S. Presidential election and the Beijing Olympics, there isn’t much space on the Intertubes or the cabletubes for other stories.  And I understand that The Washington Postdated is running a five-part series on McCain’s wacky aunt, so they’re not going to be much help either.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has taken a break.  Here are five stories worth watching in the coming weeks:

1.  Bolivia.  This Sunday, voters will go to the polls to decide whether to recall Bolivian President Evo Morales (an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez), the Vice President, and nine provincial governors — many of whom are Morales critics.  Originally envisioned as a way to end the political impasse between Morales and his opponents, the vote instead has exacerbated tensions, and could strengthen separatist sentiment in four provinces.  In the lead-up to the vote, Chavez and Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner had to cancel a planned meeting with Morales as a result of the unrest, and Morales had to relocate planned independence celebrations to La Paz from the opposition-controlled Sucre after opposition supporters blockaded the airport.

2.  Rwanda-France. On Tuesday, Rwanda issued a report formally accusing French government officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide.  Rwanda President Paul Kagame, who has steered Rwanda away from the francophone bloc and towards a closer relationship with the United States, cut ties with the French government back in 2006 as a result of a French judge’s efforts to have him charged for allegedly playing a role in the death of President Habyarimana — an event that either triggered the genocide or was used as an excuse for its genesis.  Two separate issues appear to be at play here:  questions about French complicity, which may have included training of and advice to the pre-genocide army, and the role of Kagame’s RPF movement, which human rights groups say is responsible for war crimes (albeit not genocide).

3.  Mauritania. On Wednesday, a group of Army officers seized power from the first-ever democratically elected government in Mauritania.  The coup took place after Mauritanian President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi attempted to fire four senior military officers — who instead led the coup.  The President and Prime Minister are both under house arrest, and while the new leaders have promised new elections, a history of coups and military rule make such an outcome unlikely.  The recent discovery of significant oil reserves further complicates matters.

4.  Iraq. Think everything in Iraq is peachy?  Think again.  The Parliament recessed on Wednesday without passing an essential provincial elections bill, hampering further efforts at reconciliation dependent on the vote’s outcome.  The sticking point is Kirkuk, which the Kurds want to annex but other factions want to keep separate.  Once again, oil is playing a role — Kirkuk has lots of it.  Perhaps the worst news is that the Iraqis decided the best course of action at this point is  to appoint yet another commission to study the matter while the rest of the Council of Representatives went on vacation.

5.  Pakistan. Perhaps the biggest mess in the world today, Pakistan continues to find new ways to destabilize itself.  As a result of the secret police’s (and perhaps the military’s) role in the bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, U.S.-Pakistani relations are the worst they’ve ever been.  The military’s accomodation of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province hasn’t helped much either.  Meanwhile, Parliament is debating whether to impeach President Pervez Musharaf at the very moment that Musharaf has headed to Beijing for the Olympics.  With no one apparently in charge and the ISI and military facing increasing calls for reform, another coup is a real possibility.  This time, however, the generals are unlikely to continue to pursue policies favorable to American interests.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:15 am

Mbend It Like Mbeki


I bet that if Thabo Mbeki were to have a Facebook page, he would be one of those people who friends everybody, but who has almost everyone ignore the request.  Everyone except dictators, that is.

We already knew that the MBekster had a soft spot in his head heart for Zimbabwe President-for-Life-of-Misery Robert Mugabe.  It turns out, however that no dictator is safe from this guys warm embrace:

South Africa’s president has called on the International Criminal Court not to prosecute Sudan’s leader for war crimes in case it upsets Darfur’s peace talks.

Thabo Mbeki told South African TV that Omar al-Bashir’s continued presence as head of state was also needed to assist the country’s post-civil war security.

Maybe Radovan Karadzic can get Mbeki to put in a good word for him at his upcoming trial.  I understand that Mbeki feels he’s essential to peace and reconciliation in Bosnia.

UPDATE: So I just checked.  The MBekster does not have a Facebook page.  But here are some of the groups others have created to express their feelings about him:

  • South Africans Embarassed by Thabo Mbeki (233 members)
  • Leave Thabo Mbeki Aloooooooooone!! Alone He is the Best President Ever! (174 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki — Africa’s Newest Dictator (59 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki is on Mugabe’s Payroll (62 members)
  • I Hate Thabo Mbeki (43 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Sucks…. (35 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki:  South Africa’s Downfall! (15 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki “I am Not Useless” (11 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki is a Coward and a Danger to South Africa (9 members)
  • Rein in Thabo Mbeki (7 members)
  • Remove Thabo Mbeki from Office Now! (7 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Go to Hell (2 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Is Spineless (2 members)

Come on, folks, how do you really feel?

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

26 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:45 am

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others


Let’s play compare and contrast for a moment, boys and girls.  Today’s topic is U.S. Government support for international justice.  See if you can find which of these things is not like the others.

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war, world at home | 0 Comments

26 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:56 am

The Arrest Everybody Missed


It’s been a good week for international justice, with the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb President indicted for genocide as a result of his actions during the seige of Sarajevo and the massacre in Srebrenica; the ICC’s indictment of Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir for his role in Darfur; and the the UN Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda through 2009.

Amidst these good tidings, another story got lost:  the arrest of Sylvere Ahorugeze, who is wanted in Rwanda for genocide.  From the AFP:

A Swedish court has ordered a Rwandan man suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide remanded in custody pending a possible extradition request from Kigali, the judge said Friday. The man [was identified] as Sylvere Ahorugeze, aged 52.  According to public broadcaster Swedish Radio, Ahorugeze is suspected of murdering 25 Tutsis in a suburb of Kigali in April 1994.

Like Karadzic, he was hiding in plain sight.  He was arrested after going to the Rwandan embassy in Stockholm, where employees recognized him.

The number of people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda boggles the mind.  It runs to the tens of thousands, if not more.  How do you heal a society when so many are responsible for so much suffering?

I cannot help but think of Eleanor Roosevelt, who once said that human rights begin “in small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”

Sometimes, the same is also true of genocide.


| posted in none of the above | 0 Comments

21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:40 pm

White House Responds to Karadzic Arrest


For once we don’t need the diplospeak translator:

We congratulate the Government of Serbia, and thank the people who conducted this operation for their professionalism and courage. This operation is an important demonstration of the Serbian Government’s determination to honor its commitment to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate, as there is no better tribute to the victims of the war’s atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice.

Imagine the impact were the White House to say something similar about the ICC indictment of Bashir….

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:59 pm

About Damn Time


Reuters is reporting that former Bosnian Serb Republic President Radovan Karadzic, was arrested today in Belgrade today. Reuters is also reporting joyous celebrations on the streets of Sarajevo.  I wish I could be there with them.

Karadzic , along with General Ratko Mladic, was responsible for authorizing and overseeing the murder of 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men at Srebrenica in 1995, among other crimes.  He faces two counts of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia — one for his role at Srebrenica and the other for authorizing the shooting of civilians during the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Kudos to Serbian President Boris Tadic for making this happen.  Now let’s hope he can finish the job and grab Mladic as well.

Photo:  Remains of some of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, via Solidarity Srebrenica

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

  • Podcast Player

  • Podcast Feeds

    • View in iTunes
    • Any Podcatcher

  • Archive