Thursday, March 31, 2005

EU "Fraud"-Fighter to Head UN "Watchdog" Agency?

Last week, I discussed the meager findings announced by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) following its two-year-long investigation into EU financing of the Palestinian Authority. David at Medienkritik appropriately labeled the OLAF announcement – which included such gems of evasiveness as “there are consistent indications to support the hypothesis that it cannot be excluded that some of the assets of the PA may have been used by some individuals for other than the intended purposes” – a “whitewash”. I did not mention that the Director General of the OLAF is one Franz-Hermann Brüner. Well, look here for who has turned up in the short list of four candidates to replace Dileep Nair, the embattled outgoing head of the UN’s internal auditing agency. (The list is given in the final paragraph of the article.) This provides yet further evidence that if the UN bureaucracy is left to reform itself matters will only go from bad to worse.

It also worth noting the nationalities of the four candidates: Claus Andreasen, Mr. Brüner, Rafael Munoz and Inga-Britt Ahlenius, from Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Sweden respectively. These are all EU member states and indeed representatives of the “old” pre-enlargement Europe no less. There are 25 states in the EU. The pre-enlargement EU consisted of 15 states. There are 191 member states of the UN. I have suggested it here before: the relationship between the UN secretariat and the EU is far too close for the comfort of the rest of the world.

Congratulations Arthur!

In reading this AP story on the falling number of "insurgent" attacks in Iraq, I immediately thought of Arthur Chrenkoff and his mammoth efforts to report on the "good news" from Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought of Arthur not for the reason that this was, after all, also "good news", but because the very second sentence of the AP piece reads precisely: "But the news isn’t all good." A news organization devoted to informing its public could be expected first to report some of the details of the "good news" announced in its headline - i.e., before qualifying it, if there was some reason to do so. But the AP's eagerness to find the dark cloud in the silver lining when it comes to Iraq and the repercussions of the American-led intervention was apparently just too great. This struck me as a perfect expression of the twisted genre of reporting against which Arthur has been battling. His blog has provided one of the most outstanding examples of how the blogosphere can serve as what the French would call a "contre-pouvoir" – literally, a "counter-power" - that challenges the power of the traditional media.

Today is the one-year anniversary of Arthur's blog. Arthur has been a good friend of Trans-Int - indeed, I think he was the first ever to link to it – and he has persistently displayed one of the most precious of intellectual and human qualities - one that I'm afraid is too rare even in the blogosphere: namely, an open-mind. He never hesitated to point to reports on Trans-Int even when they went against the current of opinion in our, so to say, “neighborhood” of the sphere and even when I knew that on certain points they were contrary to his own convictions.

So, in short: Thanks Arthur and Congratulations!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Small Pause

I should be back Friday with more.

Monday, March 28, 2005

More on France, Darfur and the ICC

I've added a long update to my previous post on "France, Darfur and the ICC". The update also touches on the issue of French military actions in the Ivory Coast.

See below.

France, Darfur and the ICC

According to various sources, last Wednesday (March 23), the French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Marc de la Sablière put forward a draft Security Council Resolution that would have suspected perpetrators of (depending on the source) either war crimes or crimes against humanity in Darfur charged before the International Criminal Court (ICC). (In international law, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not the same thing, though they are typically treated as such in the media and in certain cases they may fade into one another.) Under article 12 of its statute, the ICC would in fact need a referral from the Security Council in order to exercise jurisdiction in cases related to Darfur, since Sudan is not itself a party to the statute. Thursday's New York Times (March 24) observes that the French action “presented Washington with the choice of validating a tribunal it strongly opposes or casting a politically awkward veto.”

It is interesting to note how France itself has avoided such awkwardness. For despite the appearance created by France’s recent shilling for the Court, France was – along with the United States – one of the major opponents of the ICC statute as it came to take shape at the 1998 Rome conference where it was essentially finalized.

The United States, incidentally, had in fact long supported the project of creating an International Criminal Court, but has objected to the details of the final draft of the statute that emerged from Rome. This was also true under the Clinton administration. It was indeed Bill Clinton's envoy, David Scheffer, who voted against the final draft of the statute at the Rome conference. Nonetheless - in what can only realistically be seen as a kind of gift to his European friends - Clinton had Scheffer sign the statute on behalf of the US on 31 December 2000, the last possible date for signatures, thus putting the incoming Bush administration in the indeed awkward position of having to "unsign" it in order to be able consistently to defend the American position.

As for France, the French delegation to the Rome conference only dropped its opposition once a “transitional” article had been added to the statute that gives state parties the right to “opt out” of the court’s jurisdiction for an initial period of seven years. France made use of this article in submitting its instrument of ratification in June 2000. Thus, as I have noted in my article on the ICC, “A Lawless Global Court”, “France at one and the same time ratified the statute of the court and declared that it did not recognize its jurisdiction over war crimes — except when alleged to have been committed by non-French citizens or on non-French territories.”

France did accept the jurisdiction of the Court for genocide and crimes against humanity: two categories of crime, as I pointed out in my article, under which its own military personnel would be far less likely to find themselves charged. Though, on the other hand, I wrote my article before French forces fired into a crowd of civilians in Abidjan last November. (For the complete coverage in Trans-Int of the so-called "Hotel Ivoire" incident, see the France and Ivory Coast file in the side-bar.)

According to a report in Friday’s Le Monde [link in French] and allegedly following a request from Condoleezza Rice, France agreed to postpone bringing its resolution for a vote until sometime this week.


If France does go ahead and bring the resolution for vote, there should be no doubt that this will be a matter of pure grandstanding, designed precisely to embarrass the United States and make it appear as somehow “soft” on war crimes – even though, in fact, the US government has taken a more severe line on the events in Darfur than both the leading European governments and the UN bureaucracy. There cannot be any serious prospect of the US not using its veto.

In conversation with the Times, de la Sablière

noted that a paragraph of the resolution specifically exempts from investigation or prosecution citizens of countries like the United States that are not ratifiers of the court treaty.

"We think that this paragraph meets American concerns," he said. "So we hope they'll vote for the resolution."

If Mr. de la Sablière sincerely believes that such a paragraph would “meet American concerns”, then he has not understood that the US and other opponents of the court – such as Japan and India, for instance – have principled reasons for rejecting it.

Although its name gives the impression that it is an “international institution” in the same sense as, say, the UN (of which all the world’s states part apart from the Vatican are members), in fact the ICC represents the international equivalent of a “private” court. It is “owned”, so to say, by just those countries that are its members. Not only does the ICC statute come nowhere near to meeting the due process standards of American law, but its mode of financing is such that its partiality is practically guaranteed. I again permit myself to quote from my article on the court:

It is a self-evident principle that the independence and hence impartiality of a court is only as sure as the independence of its financing. At the national or local level, adequate financing out of universal tax revenues is thus a sine qua non for an independent judiciary. None of us would put faith in the impartiality of a local or national court if it depended upon the largesse of private individuals or corporations, who, by definition, might have an interest in the outcome of particular proceedings. The only analogous safeguard available for an international court is financing from assessed mandatory contributions of state members. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is, for example, financed in this manner out of the general U.N. budget. Whereas all state members of the ICC are required to make assessed contributions to its budget, article 116 of its statute also provides for voluntary contributions “from Governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.” Thus, the ICC’s very statute openly invites contributions from a whole range of “entities,” any of whom could have an interest in the outcome of proceedings and some of whom, notably “Governments [sic — states are presumably what is meant]” might even have been parties to the hostilities in which the alleged crimes over which the court claims jurisdiction are supposed to have occurred. Apparently having been made aware that such a provision could provoke controversy, in September 2002 the ICC’s Assembly of State Parties passed a remarkable resolution “requesting” that all such “entities” making voluntary contributions declare that their contributions “are not intended to affect the independence of the Court.” Much in the spirit of the statute itself, verbal assurances were here offered as the equivalent of substantive protections.

It is presumably such provisions – reinforced by the expectation that EU states should act in concert – that have reassured the court’s wealthier European members that their own officials and military personnel will not become targets of the court and - not to put too fine a point on it - that it will strictly be used to prosecute their enemies.

Speaking of this, by the way, the November actions of French troops during the so-called “Hotel Ivoire incident” in Abidjan, to which I alluded above, could easily be construed as falling under the Rome Statute’s definition of “crimes against humanity”. Moreover, even if it should be conceded that they fulfilled some legitimate military objective – French officials, while admitting that civilians were killed, have claimed that the crowd contained snipers – they could still fall under the Statute’s definition of “war crimes” and, notably, Article 8.2.b.iv of the Statute, which refers to:
Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.

In January, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly [official report, link in French] quietly rejected a motion to set up a commission of inquiry into the matter.

For much more on the reasons why the American administration need by no means feel "awkward" about opposing the International Criminal Court, see my "A Lawless Global Court" from Policy Review. And on opposition to the ICC from African quarters, see the highly interesting article "Africa to world: We can handle war justice ourselves" from the Christian Science Monitor. (Thanks K.A.!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bush Wins Either Way!: François Baroin on the European “Constitution”

Last week, in “The European Constitution as American Plot”, I discussed the twisted idea circulating on parts of the French “Left” according to which the proposed EU “constitution” should be rejected inasmuch as...“too American”. I illustrated the discussion with a sticker from a generic leftist grouping that reads: “I want a Europe independent of Bush, I vote ‘no’ to the Constitutional Treaty”.

Not to be outdone, François Baroin, a prominent member of a somewhat less non-descript formation of the French “Right” – namely, Jacques Chirac’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) – and a partisan of a “yes” vote, had this to say in yesterday’s Le Figaro [link in French]:
Who is going to be happiest about a victory of the “no” vote in France? Le Pen? [French Socialist critic of the “constitution” Laurent] Fabius? Villiers? [Communist Party Chief Marie-George] Buffet? No. It’s Bush. To say “no” to the Constitution is to say “yes” to Bush.
It is interesting to see Philippe de Villiers in Baroin’s list, since the founder of the “euro-sceptical” “Movement for France” is perhaps the most prominent “rightist” voice to reject the “constitution” as a form of “vassalage” to the United States. The term “vassalage” will no doubt be richer in historical connotations for the aristocratic de Villiers – his full name is the Viscount Philippe Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon – than for the lefty youth who can be presumed to have plastered the streets of Paris with the less-than-elegant sticker. Nonetheless, the idea is much the same.

François Baroin was, incidentally, an advisor to Jacques Chirac’s 2002 presidential campaign. From February 2003 to April 2004, he was the UMP spokesperson. (For these and other biographical details, see here.) He is currently one of two “Political Advisors” in the UMP hierarchy, reporting, according to the UMP organigram, directly to current UMP President Nicolas Sarkozy. (Sarkozy should not, however, be presumed to share his views in the present connection).

The article from Le Figaro begins by citing an un-named source who is described as “close to the President of the Republic”: "We need to change gears. The 'no' is gaining ground using simple arguments. The 'yes' needs to do the same."

François Baroin perhaps?

And one more question: Does one win elections in France nowadays by showing contempt for the French people?

Monday, March 21, 2005

EU Funding and Palestinian Terrorism: The End of the OLAF "Investigation"

Last Thursday (March 17), the European Anti-Fraud Office, known by its French initials OLAF, issued a press release announcing the closing of its two-year-long investigation into possible “misuse” of EU financial contributions to the Palestinian Authority budget. According to the press release, OLAF investigators had found “no conclusive evidence of support of armed attacks or unlawful activities financed by the European Commission’s contributions to the budget.” At the same time, however, the OLAF concedes – in remarkably convoluted language displaying a rather unusual grasp of scientific logic – that

...there are consistent indications to support the hypothesis that it cannot be excluded that some of the assets of the PA may have been used by some individuals for other than the intended purposes.

Presumably the OLAF means to say that there are indications to support the hypothesis that the assets have been used by some individuals for other than the intended purposes – a fact that is, in any case, well known. So long as there is no positive evidence disproving it, one would not need “indications” to support the “hypothesis” that this hypothesis "cannot be excluded"! In any case, as the EU Observer notes: “OLAF declined to give more precise indications about what exactly ‘consistent indications’ or ‘other than the intended purposes’ meant.” No public report has been released that might fill in the details or, for that matter, clarify just what exactly the OLAF has been doing for the last two years in ostensibly investigating the matter. With charming redundancy, the OLAF press release also admits that “A number of factors remain unclear.”

On the occasion of the OLAF closing its investigation, I permit myself to quote what I wrote two years ago when the investigation was first opened:

...the OLAF investigators could spare themselves the trouble....[T]he disclaimers of European officialdom – massively reinforced by the pretense of opening an “anti-fraud” investigation – create the impression that the very shekels into which a euro contribution was converted would have to have gone to the purchase of the explosives used in an attack or to the payments of the operatives who planned it or of the family of the “martyr” who carried it out, before European responsibility could be established. But from an economic perspective it is self-evident nonsense even just to expect to be able to obtain such “proof.” It lies, after all, in the very nature of money – what economists call its “fungibility” – that even if a financial contribution to a given budget is ostensibly “targeted” to some particular expenditure, it necessarily frees up resources for all others. Given a range of expenditures, it is in fact meaningless to try to distinguish to just which of them a particular revenue went. If, then, the PA has been financing terrorist attacks, the EU has been subsidizing them. And, given the massiveness of the evidence that has surfaced, no one seriously denies today that the PA has been financing such attacks.

(A revised and updated version of the essay from which this quote is taken is available on Trans-Int here.)

For more on the winding up of the OLAF investigation, see the response by the Funding for Peace Coalition here. And for further background material, see the “EU and Palestine” file in the Trans-Int sidebar.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Weekend Policy

Just a reminder: I don't blog weekends.

Newcomers might find some items of interest in the sidebar.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


On closer look at the Le Figaro article cited in my previous post, the remark “Croatia has just shown that contrary to what it maintains it is still indeed part of the Balkans” is not attributed to Carla Del Ponte, but rather to an unidentified "European diplomat" who is seemingly responding to Carla Del Ponte's assessment of Croatia's cooperation with the TPIY. I have revised the post accordingly.

Insult Them and They Will Come

As has been widely reported (see, for instance, here and here), the European Council decided Wednesday to postpone the opening of EU accession talks with the Republic of Croatia. The decision follows the assessment by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that Croatia has not done enough to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, notably in the case of the Croatian General Ante Gotovina. General Gotovina has been indicted by the Tribunal but remains at large. I do not want to enter here into the complexities of this case, which involves the Tribunal prosecuting General Gotovina for his execution of an operation – the Croatian Army’s 1995 “Operation Storm” – that the leading western Powers involved in Balkan diplomacy, in effect, condoned at the time and even facilitated. Indeed, “Operation Storm” – during which some 100,000 to 250,000 Serbs were expelled from Croatian territory – would not have been possible had not UN peacekeeping forces shortly before been redeployed from the hypothetical cease-fire line between Croatian Serb and Croatian government forces to Croatia’s external border.

Be that as it may, I want here merely to call attention to a remark attributed by Le Figaro in its Wednesday edition to an unnamed European diplomat and apparently made in response to Ms. Del Ponte's findings: “Croatia has just shown that contrary to what it maintains it is still very much part of the Balkans.”

The remark is symptomatic of a contemptuous attitude toward the inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula that I am afraid is all too common among European officials. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is racist. If a European diplomat had said, for instance, “Rwanda has just shown that contrary to what it claims it is still very much part of Africa”, no one presumably would have any trouble recognizing this. I am reminded of the German diplomat Hanns Schumacher, who in 1998, while a high-ranking official in the international administration in Bosnia, had this to say in conversation with the since defunct German weekly Die Woche: “Whatever has been achieved, we have had to beat the Bosnians to do it.... Humanity has evolved from one-cell organisms by way of reptiles to standing upright. This state [Bosnia] is still at the reptile stage.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The European "Constitution" as American Plot

"I want a Europe independent of Bush, I vote 'no' to the Constitutional Treaty",
Paris, March 2005

In fact, a large part of the "leftist" opposition in France to the EU's proposed "constitutional treaty" (the sponsor of the above sticker calls itself the "Committee for a Leftist 'No' to the European Constitution") - and some of the "rightist" opposition (see Philippe de Villiers) - has known of no better argument against the treaty/"constitution" than to say that it is too "American". To the degree that this charge is ever fleshed out, it typically makes allusion to one of two aspects of the treaty. The first is the treaty's alleged "neo-liberal" inspiration, i.e. inasmuch as "neo-liberalism" in this style of discourse is essentially reduced to the connotation of free trade and free trade is supposed to be either the cardinal sin of "the American way of life" or the secret weapon for establishing American hegemony or (confusedly) both. The claim that the treaty is "neo-liberal" in inspiration rests on a myth. The European Union has never constituted a free trade area and there is nothing in the "constitutional treaty" that will make it be one in the future. The EU involves rather a customs union and customs unions are by their very nature protectionist, i.e. with respect to third parties - as, for example, in the present case, the United States. So: no "secret weapon". The difference between a free trade area and a customs union and the relevance of the distinction to understanding the EU are discussed in this excellent post by Richard North on the EU Referendum blog. It would be more accurate to say that the EU project is moved by a decidedly il-liberal, namely “Listian”, inspiration – in honor of the 19th Century German economist Friedrich List, theorist of the German Customs Union or “Zollverein” of 1834.

It is true that on the internal market, per Article 1-3, §2 of the “constitutional treaty”, competition is supposed to be “free and undistorted”. “Leftist” opponents of the treaty never tire of citing this phrase and with evident horror. But, firstly: would they prefer a market characterized by constrained and distorted competition? And, secondly, if they would, their wishes might well be fulfilled – or rather, given the dubious record of the European institutions thus far on safeguarding competitive conditions, might continue to be so. Article 1-3, §2 forms part of what is essentially a laundry list of pious declarations without any obvious legal effect. Indeed, the relevant part of Article 1-3, §2 reads “The Union shall offer its internal market where competition is free and undistorted”, employing a constative formula that suggests that the Union “provides its citizens” the indicated “value-added” no matter what in practice the European institutions do or do not do. The ostensible “commitment” to “free and undistorted” competition will no more prevent the European institutions from constraining competition or creating or tolerating conditions of distorted competition than the ostensible “commitment” to world peace contained in Article 1-3, §1 and §4 (“In its relations with the wider world, the Union...shall contribute to peace”) will prevent European armed forces from going to war.

This brings me to the second element of the “constitutional treaty” that its would-be anti-American detractors tend to cite: namely, the provisions on a common security and defense policy and, in particular, Article 1-41, §2, the relevant part of which (reproduced from the Treaty of Amsterdam) reads as follows:
The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States, it shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, under the North Atlantic Treaty, and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework.

In short, for the “antis”, the provisions on the common security and defense policy are supposed to be too “American” merely to the degree that they permit NATO members -somewhat begrudgingly, it would seem - to fulfill their obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty. Incidentally, the conflicted tone of the concession is even clearer in the French version of this passage, which speaks of “certain states” that “consider that [my emphasis – JR] their common defense is realized within the framework of NATO” – a formulation that in the given context seems to imply that the certain states in question might well be wrong in their assessment.

The allegation that the proposed EU “constitutional treaty” is too “American” is so obviously preposterous that one is left wondering if it does not in fact form part of a clever campaign to encourage a “yes” vote.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Return of Ruder Finn (Background on a "Pro Bono" Advisor to Kofi Annan)

A few posts ago, writing about the Al-Dura/France 2 affair, I cited James Harff, an American public relations expert, to the effect that “What counts is just what is said first. Subsequent denials are completely ineffective.” The quote comes from an interview that Harff gave to the French journalist Jacques Merlino in 1993, when as the director of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, Harff’s clients included, notably, the newly independent and embattled Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Here is an extended excerpt from Jacques Merlino’s interview with James Harff. The interview was published in Merlino’s 1993 book Les vérités Yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes à dire. The translation is mine.


But in all of this work of what are you most proud?


Of having succeeded in getting Jewish opinion on our side. This was a very delicate business and the dossier included a very great danger in this respect. Because President Tudjman had been very imprudent in his book The Wastelands of Historical Truth. On reading these writings, he could be accused of anti-Semitism. From the Bosnian side, things didn’t look any better, because President Izetbegovic, in his Islamic Declaration published in 1970, had taken a very strong position in favor of an Islamic fundamentalist state. Moreover, the past of Croatia and Bosnia had been marked by a real and cruel anti-Semitism. Several tens of thousands of Jews had been done away with in the Croatian camps. There was every reason then for Jewish intellectuals and organizations to be hostile to the Croats and Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this state of things. And we succeeded in masterly fashion. Between the second and the fifth of August 1992, New York Newsday came out with the affair of the camps [the reference is to Newsday reporter Roy Gutman’s allegations concerning Serb-run concentration camps in Bosnia - JR]. We pounced on the matter immediately. We brought around [avons circonvenu – note that in French this expression has the strong connotation of “tricked”, though, of course, the original interview was presumably conducted in English – JR] three important Jewish organizations: the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them that they publish an advertisement in the New York Times and organize a protest demonstration in front of the United Nations. That went perfectly. The entry into the fray of Jewish organizations on the side of the Bosnians was an extraordinary move. All at once, we were able to make public opinion equate Serbs and Nazis. The dossier was complex, nobody understood what was going on in Bosnia. To be frank, I would say that the great majority of Americans wondered in which African country Bosnia was to be found. But in one stroke we were able to present a simple matter, a story with good guys and bad guys. We knew that t
he business would be played out on this terrain. And we won by targeting the right audience, the Jewish audience. All at once, there was a very clear change of language in the press with the employment of terms with a very strong emotive value, such as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc., all evoking Nazi Germany, the gas chambers and Auschwitz. The emotive charge was so strong that no one could go against the dominant current, except on pain of being accused of revisionism. We hit the bulls eye.


Maybe. But between the second and the fifth of August 1992, you didn’t have any proof that what you said was true. You only had articles from Newsday.


Our business is not to verify information. We’re not equipped to do that. Our business, as I’ve already told you, is to accelerate the circulation of information that is favorable to us, to aim at targets judiciously chosen. That’s what we did. We didn’t assert that there were death camps in Bosnia, we let it be known that Newsday asserted it.


But that’s an enormous responsibility. Are you aware of the responsibility?


We’re professionals. We had work to do and we did it. We’re not paid to practice morality. And even if the discussion was put on this terrain, we’d have a sound conscience. Because if you want to prove that the Serbs are poor victims, go ahead: you’ll be all alone.

An article published in Wednesday’s New York Sun under the title “Advisor to Annan Triggers Concern” now reveals that David Finn, the chairman of Ruder Finn, has served as a “pro bono” advisor to Kofi Annan since he became UN Secretary General in 1997. Furthermore, the article reveals that Kofi Annan’s nephew Kobina was employed as a paid intern at Ruder Finn – “Kofi Annan asked David Finn if he would give some guidance to his nephew, Kobina Annan,” a Ruder Finn spokesperson is quoted as saying – and that “Ruder Finn's publishing arm is selling Mr. Annan's 2001 Nobel Peace Prize lecture as a hardcover book”. “At the same time that Ruder Finn employed Mr. Annan's nephew,” the article notes,
two senior Ruder Finn officials, Anne Glauber and Dena Merriam, who is Mr. Finn's daughter, were hired as outside contractors by the U.N. Development Program to revamp its communications office. They were paid $30,000 for two months' work, according to a UNDP spokesman, William Orme.

I do not want here to discuss James Harff’s assessment of the relative responsibility of the warring parties for the ravages of the Bosnian Civil War. But I will recall that it was in Bosnia that the UN essentially lost its innocence and, for better or for worse, abandoned the impartiality among warring parties that had hitherto been the sine qua non for UN peace-keeping operations. The most spectacular event in this process of transformation was the 1995 bombing of Bosnian Serb positions by NATO forces in connection with – though in fact not quite under – a UN mandate. The go ahead for the operation on the part of the UN bureaucracy – which was supposed to hold one of the two “keys” that had to be “turned” to initiate NATO air strikes in Bosnia – was given by none other than Kofi Annan in his capacity as then Under-Secretary General. Richard Holbrooke, in his notably self-aggrandizing account of the Bosnian conflict To End A War (New York: Random House, 1998), goes so far as to claim that it was thanks to this act of indulgence toward NATO that Annan would later become Secretary General: “in a sense Annan won the job on that day” (p. 103).

In his book Dubious Mandate: A Memoir of the UN in Bosnia, Summer 1995 (Durham and London: Duke, 1999), Phillip Corwin has written on the developments in question as follows:
If NATO wanted to declare war against one of the parties to the conflict in Bosnia, then it should have done so under a NATO flag, not under a UN flag. It was disingenuous to enter a country as a peacekeeping force and then to wage war against one of the parties.

Corwin was the UN’s chief political officer in Bosnia. In his book, he also recounts, incidentally, how a Bosnian government official “threatened his life” when he proposed to visit Srebrenica following its fall to Serb forces in July 1995. Shortly after the meeting in question, Corwin would be the target of sniper fire that, he claims, came from Bosnian government positions.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld and “Old” Europe’s Fabricated Outrage

Published in The New York Sun, March 9, 2005

Fabricated Outrage

by John Rosenthal

If one is to judge by the pronouncements of certain European commentators or Europhile American ones, the path to transatlantic reconciliation passes through the repudiation – and preferably dismissal – of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Apart from the President himself, Mr. Rumsfeld is unquestionably the member of the current American administration who is most vilified in the mainstream media in the would-be Franco-German “heart” of Europe. What has earned him this distinction? Well, in this connection too, judging by the frequency with which the matter is mentioned, there is not any doubt. It is not his resolute advocacy of the Iraq War in the face of Franco-German opposition, nor even his presumed chain-of-command responsibility for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. No, Mr. Rumsfeld’s greatest offense is to have uttered the words “old Europe” to refer to France and Germany at a news conference on January 22, 2003. Time seems not to have calmed the wounded sensibilities. On the contrary, during President Bush’s recent European tour, as during Condoleezza Rice’s visit shortly before, the editorialists of major German and French publications missed no occasion to bring up the episode and contrived more than a few, displaying a degree of persistence reminiscent of a neurotic disorder.

Back in 2003, the outraged reaction was virtually instantaneous. In a “response” published in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the late French philosopher and doyen of “deconstructionism,” Jacques Derrida, claimed to find Rumsfeld’s remark both “shocking” and “scandalous,” not to mention “symptomatic” – namely, of Mr. Rumsfeld’s alleged ignorance. From the semantic register chosen by Derrida, one might have thought he was commenting on the statement of a Holocaust denier. But showing a gift for dialectic, the philosopher managed, nonetheless, to derive an edifying moral from the “ignorant” American’s vulgarity, which, he concluded, “makes clear, albeit involuntarily, just how urgent the task of European unification is.”

Nearly two years later, soon after the American presidential elections, French President Jacques Chirac’s consternation was still so great that in an interview with British journalists he could not bring himself to utter the Defense Secretary’s name, referring instead to “that nice guy in America — what’s his name again? — who spoke about ‘old Europe’.” Echoing the condescending tone of the philosopher, he added, “It has no sense. It’s a lack of culture to imagine that.”

But what was it exactly that Mr. Rumsfeld said in using the infamous phrase?

It should be recalled first that he was responding to a question from a reporter about “the European allies,” who, the reporter’s assessment suggested, were reluctant to support the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. The reporter mentioned France and Germany. Mr. Rumsfeld replied: “Now, you're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east. And there are a lot of new members....and all of those who have been invited in recently.” And he continued: “you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this, they're with the United States.”

Mr. Rumsfeld was right. As subsequent events would make abundantly obvious, the “European allies” – an expression which clearly implies NATO members – were divided on the Iraq issue and the “vast number” would indeed side with the United States. Of the 22 European members of the NATO alliance (not including Turkey), 17 would openly support the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy and contribute troops to the Coalition.

In a recent op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune, Joseph Nye claimed that Mr. Rumsfeld’s “jibe about old and new Europe” was an ominous “sign” of the Bush Administration’s inclination to adopt a policy of “divide and rule” toward Europe. In an article on the President’s European tour in the influential German weekly Die Zeit, Josef Joffe echoes Nye’s interpretation, suggesting hopefully that by his recent initiatives the President “seems to have renounced the ‘Old Europe/New Europe’ strategy, that is to say the diplomacy of divide and rule.” But if such a division existed, how does it constitute a “policy” or “strategy” to have taken note of it? Should the Administration have not sought the support of favorably-disposed European countries just because the German and French governments had made known their objections? To imply as much is to make precisely the sort of conflation of France and Germany with “Europe” as such that Mr. Rumsfeld was justly criticizing, if not indeed tacitly to recognize the French-German partnership as an EU directorate whose wishes the smaller EU nations ought not to oppose.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s assessment of the distribution of American support in Europe was, moreover, also essentially correct. It was indeed among the “new” members of what he called “NATO Europe” that the Administration policy would enjoy its most solid support. Of the ten Eastern European countries that either joined NATO in 1999 or were scheduled to accede (and would do so in 2004), only Slovenia did not actively contribute to the Coalition. It was explicitly by contrast to these “new” and prospective NATO members that Mr. Rumsfeld described Germany and France as “old” Europe. The adjective “old” in his usage thus clearly bore the connotation of anteriority, not those of aged or antiquated, as one would be led to believe by the scandalized coverage in the French and German media, as well indeed as in parts of the American.

In short, far from being the “provocation” or “insult” it has been made out to be, Mr. Rumsfeld’s remark was entirely banal. Why then the outrage?

Well, perhaps because a provocation was wanted. Indeed, the indignant response to Mr. Rumsfeld’s phrase among specifically French public opinion was fueled by a dubious translation. Mr. Rumsfeld was said to have dismissed France and Germany as “la vieille Europe” – with the adjective “vieille” here having a distinct whiff of decadence. But the “old” versus “new” – rather than “old” versus “young” – distinction that Mr. Rumsfeld was making is usually signaled in French by the adjective “ancien”.

As Mr. Derrida’s remarks illustrate, moreover, many French and German intellectuals and politicians have known of no better way to promote closer European integration than by brandishing the supposed menace of a hostile and ill-intentioned America. The German language has a word to describe this sort of procedure – because German history, unfortunately, has been marked by its consequences. The word is hetzerisch, meaning that which is designed to incite hatred. If it is fear or hatred of the United States that is supposed to make the formation of an “ever closer” European Union a matter of urgency, one can well wonder if the advocates of further integration lack more intrinsic arguments to convince their fellow citizens and European partners.

Mr. Rosenthal writes on international politics and has taught at New York University, Rutgers University, and the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Update on the Al-Dura/France2 Affair

A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers who follow the French media to notify me of any uptake of the Al-Dura/France2 affair in the French media that I may have missed. As I have noted, and contrary to what one might be led to imagine by some coverage of the affair in the American medias, both old and new, the coverage in the French media has in fact been remarkably scant. Now a reader brings to my attention what is indeed a major breakthrough: namely, the February 26 broadcast of an episode dedicated to the affair [link in French] on the weekly radio program Premier Pouvoir. Premier Pouvoir [The First Power] is broadcast on France Culture, an important and influential public radio station. Mind you, it is broadcast from 8:10 to 9 am on Saturday morning (sic.). So, there will not have been a huge audience. Nonetheless, this is something. It is not too surprising that France Culture would have broken the wall of silence surrounding the affair in the major French media, since it typically presents a wider array of opinions than the French public television channels. It is even less surprising that in particular Elisabeth Lévy, the host of Premier Pouvoir, would have done so, since Ms. Lévy has long been a critic of the conformism and political correctness (or “bien-pensance”) that reigns in the French media and in French political life more generally. She has even authored a book on the subject titled “The Master Censors” [Les maîtres censeurs]. Ms. Lévy interviewed Daniel Leconte for the program. As discussed here on Trans-Int, Mr. Leconte firmly rejects the claim that Mohammed Al Dura was killed by Israeli bullets. But from what I have been able to gather from an account of the program on the site Media-Ratings [link in French], not even Ms. Lévy was willing to broach the hypothesis that the alleged shooting was staged. Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this for myself, since the audio clip of the program is no longer available on the Radio France site.

(Thanks Freddy!)

Update: One other detail of the Media-Ratings report caught my eye: namely, the fact that France2 refused to permit their colleagues at France Culture to view the unedited rushes of the alleged Al-Dura shooting. France Culture, nonetheless, forms part of the public Radio France group, the sister organization of the public France Television group, of which France2 forms part. By contrast, France2 did grant this privilege to the NYTimes/International Herald Tribune. This choice speaks volumes about the confidence that the France2 directors must have had in the NYT/IHT not to report on the content of the rushes in a manner that might cause them duress. As I have shown in "Seeing, but not Seeing the Rushes: The NYTimes on the Mohammed Al-Dura Affair", this confidence was amply rewarded.

Friday, March 04, 2005

"Paradise Now": More Evidence of the European Commitment to Combat Terrorism

Last Friday a suicide bomber blew himself up in Tel Aviv killing four Israelis. This was the first suicide attack in Israel since November. Five days before, on February 20, the Berlin Film Festival or “Berlinale” came to a close with the awarding of its coveted prizes. The “Blue Angel” Award for Best European Film went to what was undoubtedly the most talked about film in the competition: Hany Abu-Assad’s “Paradise Now”, a by all accounts – including the director’s – sympathetic portrayal of two young Palestinian men recruited to carry out a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. The description of the film in the Berlinale program notes that on the day of the “operation”, things do not go according to plan. “Separated from each other and left to their own devices,” the program comments, “it’s up to them to face their destiny and stand up for their convictions.” As “destiny” would have it, one detonates, the other does not. It is not clear from the program notes if thereby both “have stood up for their convictions” or only the bomber has done so.

In addition to the “Blue Angel” Award, “Paradise Now” won the “Audience Prize” sponsored by the Berlin newspaper the Morgenpost and intended to capture the sentiments of the public as opposed to the supposedly expert opinions of the jury. The latter, incidentally, was headed by none other than German director Roland Emmerich of “The Day After Tomorrow” fame and included would-be starlet Franka Potente, whose bitterness over a failed attempt at jump-starting a Hollywood career was recently documented on Medienkritik. “Paradise Now” also won a special “Amnesty International Film Prize” sponsored by the German section of AI.

The distinguished members of the jury (jury president Roland Emmerich, far right)

Hany Abu-Assad says that he would like his film to be shown in Israel, since, according to him, in the perception of Israelis “the Palestinians are invisible or they are terrorists”. Just how a film about two Palestinians preparing a suicide attack is supposed to alter this perception is unclear. Or perhaps Hany Abu-Assad does not consider suicide bombers to be terrorists? Well, perhaps not. At a press conference in Berlin with the filmmakers and actors, Hany Abu-Assad acknowledged that a scene of the two would-be bombers, Said and Khaled, dining together the night before the attack is meant to invoke Da Vinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper of Christ. If this is so, is Khaled, the recruited bomber who does not detonate, the equivalent of Judas? “We made the film from their point of view”, Abu-Assad says, and from their point of view “they are going to sacrifice in order to [save]”. Note that there is no consideration of the Israeli victims in these remarks. It is as if they did not exist. Just whom, after all, did Jesus kill “in order to save”? Indeed, during the entire nearly sixty minutes of the Berlinale press conference with Hany Abu-Assad and his collaborators, virtually no mention was made of the Israeli victims of suicide attacks – neither by the filmmakers, nor by the assembled representatives of the media. The one oblique reference involved an academic discussion of why Abu-Assad had chosen to place soldiers on the bus targeted by the assassin – and apparent “Christ figure” – Said: this made it “easier”. (The press conference can be viewed here.)

It is symptomatic of the increasing symbiosis between the Palestinian “cause” and European institutions and personalities that “Paradise Now” should have won an award for specifically the best European film. While Abu-Assad is an Israeli Arab – though one who speaks of “Israelis” as if he was not one himself – “Paradise Now” it is indeed a European production. It was financed by, among others, the German Film Foundation, the Dutch Film Fund, the German “Land” of Nordrhein-Westphalia, and...the German-French public television channel Arte. (Regular readers of Trans-Int will be highly familiar with Arte. For earlier posts on Arte, see here and here.) It also received funding from the Council of Europe program Eurimages. German co-producer Bero Beyer also wrote the screenplay.

For a detailed treatment of “Paradise Now”, see the review “The Suicide Assassin as Mythical Hero” by Tobias Ebbrecht.

Hany Abu-Assad, by the way, explicitly denies that there is any ideological component to the motivations of the suicide bombers. Waving his hands, he referred dismissively at the Berlinale press conference “to the whole discussion like, oh, maybe it’s Islam, maybe it’s I don’t know what.” “For me it’s very clear,” he concluded, “the occupation is the cause...[that] force these people to do it”.

For a rather different view, see Matthias Küntzel’s excellent new essay “Abbas and Hamas”.

And for earlier posts on Trans-Int concerning Europe and the Middle East conflict, see the contents of the "EU and Palestine" file in the sidebar.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Stéphane Juffa on the Al-Dura Affair and the French Media

Stéphane Juffa is the director of the Metula News Agency (MENA). Based in Israel and publishing in French, the MENA is the organization that has undoubtedly done the most over the last four years to expose the inconsistencies involved in France2’s report of the alleged shooting of Mohammed Al-Dura at the Netzarim junction on September 30, 2000. Despite this fact – or perhaps indeed because of it – Stéphane Juffa and his collaborators in the investigation of the alleged Al-Dura shooting (most notably, Gérard Huber and Luc Rosenzweig) have been essentially boycotted by the French media during the recent flurry of attention to the affair.

Here [in English and here in French] is Stéphane Juffa’s analysis of the current state of play of the Al-Dura affair and the attitude of the dominant French media to it. For background on the Al-Dura/France2 affair and the ambiguous – as Stéphane Juffa puts it “third way” – role played by journalists Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte in it, see here [on Trans-Int] and here [from the media watch group CAMERA], as well as the other articles devoted to the affair listed in the Trans-Int sidebar. Incidentally, the MENA is also presumably the principal intended object of France2’s legal complaint “against X” - France2 has not yet specified the object or objects of their complaint - in connection with the Al-Dura affair.

On France2's seemingly half-hearted attempt at legal action, Juffa writes the following:
As for the police file, constituted by complaints against “X”,...that I consulted last Wednesday, it reveals a vacuity that shows up the paucity of the plaintiffs’ accusations. An empty file that makes the French police wonder where the plaintiffs find any characteristic of an act of defamation. And yet if these people consider that “there was no staging on their part (or broadcasting of a staging) of a war event”, and that we are smearing them by claming the contrary, they only have to choose in the abundance of our texts — this one, to start with — to engage coherent judicial action.

As Stépane Juffa indicates at the close of his article, the MENA is now apparently contemplating legal action of its own.