Tuesday, November 13, 2001

So Gore won Florida after all. Bush is so protected from the press, and the press so lapdoggy, that I wouldn't be surprised if we never hear his reaction. (Several good pieces of analysis in Slate)

Speaking of democracy, Israel decided to strip an MP of immunity and prosecute him for speech-crimes. I wish they'd stop pretending to be a democracy. By the way, the deputy is not only an Arab, as the American media seem to be willing to report, but a Christian, which for whatever reason they are not.

Still speaking of democracy, Nicaragua obeyed American instructions and did not return Daniel Ortega to the presidency. You did know that the US had been threatening reprisals if the Nicaraguans made the wrong choice, didn't you? If you didn't, thanks again to the American media, which will also shortly forget that there was ever a country named Afghanistan.

Congratulations, on the other hand, to John Simpson, who marched into Kabul and claimed it for the BBC. Simpson earlier snuck into Afghanistan in a burka. He was also the one in Baghdad 10 years ago who was reporting while outside his window a cruise missile took a left turn at a stoplight, and generally has this incredible deathwish that's made him so interesting to watch. Evidently he started out his career in 1970 by being hit in the stomach by Harold Wilson. The Guardian ran a bio in tomorrow's paper (grammatically incorrect, factually correct, sorry) as well as stories of war reporters past, the ones who went onshore in Normandy, the first reporter into Paris in 1944 (Ernest Hemingway, who liberated the Travellers Club, the Ritz and 50 martinis), and Marguerite Higgins of AP, who liberated Dachau in 1944, literally, she arrived before any troops and got 22 SS to surrender to her.

It seems that Kim Philby was originally recruited by the KGB to
assassinate Franco.

Well, I said that the last thing Bush wanted was what he insisted two months ago was the only thing he wanted, the trial of bin Laden. I was wrong, but only because I was thinking of a trial as something that involved evidence, a jury and rule by law. Silly me. He actually plans military tribunals behind closed doors and preferably in some foreign country, with evidence kept secret (if there is any). Evidently military tribunals have been used before, for example to execute 8 German saboteurs put ashore in 1942, and to execute the alleged accomplices of John Wilkes Booth. The latter is generally considered to have been a travesty of justice, so it's probably about right. By the way, the criterion for somebody having to go before a military rather than a real court is a "finding" by the president that they are a member of a terrorist organization. In other words, they have already been found guilty without a trial, by a process that violates the separation of powers.

Time will tell what really happened in Afghanistan this week. Rout, or strategic retreat? The Northern "Alliance" now occupies too much territory, too many cities, and has nothing to spare to go on the offensive. It has also shattered the international "alliance" which opposes the Taliban but doesn't think much of them. Still, did anyone really think there was going to be a broad coalition in power? About as likely as the plans being floated by the US and Britain for occupation of Kabul by the UN or by Muslim nations only. And the Taliban still have those US missionaries. The one thing Bush has done right is not to talk about them at all. Maybe he learned one thing from his father about not paying off kidnappers.

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