Commentaries on the Global Events of Our Times
In the year 2011, the world witnessed many historical events. Whether these events were joyful, catastrophic, or simply annoying, seasoned political observer Anthony Hall once again shares insightful commentary designed to spark lively discussions and challenge personal opinions.
In his seventh collection of thought-provoking essays, Hall shares an outsider's glimpse into global events-from the sublime to the ridiculous-that include the Obama presidency, the marriage and divorce of Kim Kardashian, the Arab Spring, the Penn State child-sex scandal, the royal wedding of William and Kate, and the killing of Osama bin Laden. From the historic earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the career implosion of Charlie Sheen, Hall encourages others to reinforce, refute, or reverse their thoughts as he provides fodder for enlightenment. Quotes from various sources including world leaders and international publications are intertwined with Hall's entertaining opinions.
The iPINIONS Journal offers an accessible resource for news junkies everywhere who are ready, willing, and able to open their minds to new perspectives about today's world and our future.
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The iPINIONS JournalCommentaries on the Global Events of Our Times: Volume VII
By Anthony Livingston Hall
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Anthony Livingston Hall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAFRICA / MIDDLE EAST
* * *
Where students do more in a few months
(During the Arab Spring)
Than Western governments did in fifty years
To advance the cause of democracy
South Sudan Secedes
The upcoming referendum is a choice between being a second-class citizen in your own country, or a free person in your independent state.
(BBC, January 5, 2011)
This was the rather loaded way Salva Kiir, the presumptive president of Africa's newest state, framed the choice that the predominantly Christian-animists of South Sudan faced in last month's referendum on secession from their Muslim compatriots in the North.
Kiir is a very charismatic former rebel leader who fancies himself more John Wayne than Nelson Mandela—complete with his decidedly un-African penchant for wearing cowboy hats. And, evidently, he had little to worry about. For according to the final results of this referendum, which were published on Monday, 98.83 percent of his fellow Southerners voted to become free persons in their own independent state. This effectively ratifies the 2005 peace treaty that ended Africa's longest civil war (of 22 years), during which two million Sudanese were killed and four million displaced.
Indeed, one cannot help but be encouraged by the grace with which their erstwhile oppressors in the North are accepting the South's decision to secede. For here is the official reaction Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir offered in an address to the nation on state TV:
Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people.
(Tehran Times, February 9, 2011)
In fact, the results are being welcomed worldwide. President Obama heralded the outcome by announcing that the United States intends to recognize South Sudan as a sovereign nation in July, noting that:
After decades of conflict, the images of millions of Southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world and another step forward in Africa's long journey toward justice and democracy.
(whitehouse.gov, February 9, 2011)
What looms, however, may turn South Sudan's Independence Day, which they will mark on July 9, into a pyrrhic celebration. Because, even though both sides are expressing words of mutual recognition and respect, lingering enmity and mistrust are bound to rear their ugly heads over the next five months as they negotiate national borders and terms for sharing Sudan's all-important oil revenues.
Not to mention that, just as Tunisians inspired Egyptians to launch their own revolution (giving rise to the Arab Spring), these southerners might inspire Darfurians in the west to seek independence too. What's more, this budding "African Spring" might lead to sectarian and religious conflicts all over the Continent, which could result in redrawing borders to status quo ante the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 when European powers carved Africa into colonies.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting head of state to have a warrant issued for his arrest. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued it pursuant to an indictment against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, all stemming from the atrocities Arab Muslims perpetrated against Black Africans over the past six years in the Darfur region of Sudan.
("Arresting Bashir?" The iPINIONS Journal, March 5, 2009)
But any further reference to Darfur and other looming conflicts might risk raining on South Sudan's parade. Therefore, I shall suffice to join the chorus of those heralding this formation of an African state—not by European colonial powers, but by Africans themselves. (In this respect, they are following the path pioneered by Eritreans in 1993 when 99.83 percent of them voted to secede from Ethiopia and founded the independent state of Eritrea.)
I just hope and pray these Southerners—who are comprised of all kinds of Black tribes—can avoid the tribal conflicts that continue to beset so many other countries in Africa.
Fighting in South Sudan
Well, that didn't take long. Just days after celebrating their historic secession from their Northern oppressors, 105 Southerners were reportedly killed today when fighting broke out between the regional army of South Sudan and rebel forces.
What can I say: plus ça change, plus c'est pareil.
Despite ongoing skirmishes, South Sudan celebrated its Independence Day today with no less a person than Sudanese President Omar al- Bashir, from whose dictatorial rule these Southerners seceded, attending as guest of honor.
Therefore, I welcome South Sudan into the global family of nations, and I wish it well.
Noose Tightens on Gbagbo in Ivory Coast
This does not bode well; not least because Gbagbo now has an even firmer grip on the military and police forces than his dubious mentor, Kibaki, had on similar forces in Kenya. Moreover, if it persists, he seems quite prepared to order them to squash this unrest by any means necessary.
("Africa's Democratic Despots Now Includes Gbagbo of Ivory Coast," The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2010)
This was the ominous note I sounded four months ago when it became clear that it would take military force to get rid of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. Regrettably, I was right.
Recall that Gbagbo was just the latest African leader who refused to cede power after losing a free and fair presidential election in November to challenger Alassane Ouattara. More to the point, despite ultimatums from the UN, EU, AU, and former colonial power France for him to step down or face military action, Gbagbo did exactly as I predicted: he unleashed still loyal military forces to defend his illegitimate regime. A full-scale civil war is now underway—with UN and French forces aiding those loyal to Ouattara. Reports are that over 500 have been killed and one million displaced.
Meanwhile, Gbagbo is proving every bit as uncanny as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in his ability to survive against overwhelming odds. Moreover, his forces are proving equal to Gaddafi's in fending off a formidable coalition of opposition and international forces. To be fair, though, Ouattara claims that his forces now control most of the country and are surrounding the presidential palace where Gbagbo and his family are reportedly hunkered down in an underground bunker.
Whatever the case, I think it's only a matter of time before Gbagbo's forces tire of defending him and the bombs begin landing too close for comfort. Besides, he must know that French forces are far more willing to assassinate him than U.S. forces are to assassinate Gaddafi.
Reporters saw the helicopters take off from the French military base followed minutes later by explosions coming from the direction of [Gbagbo's] residence. Successive waves of French helicopters took off from the base in the following hours and additional bombardments could be heard.
(London Guardian, April 11, 2011)
Frankly, Gbagbo only has two options: he can surrender and be hauled directly to The Hague to face charges for crimes against humanity; or he can try to escape to a friendly country like Angola. If he chooses the latter, however, he would do well to remember that fellow despot Charles Taylor of Liberia still ended up in The Hague after escaping to what he thought was the friendly country of Nigeria.
When I surmised that it was only a matter of time before Gbagbo was ousted, I had in mind days. But reports are that, just hours after publishing my commentary above, French Special Forces (with Ouattara forces in tow) stormed his residence and took him into custody.
Of course, to avoid Ouattara looking like a stooge of former colonial masters, the French are downplaying their involvement—insisting that they only played a supporting role, and allowing opposition forces to take Gbagbo and his wife to be held at the hotel in Abidjan where Ouattara set up his headquarters after the election.
Now the question is what to do with him (i.e., whether to try him in local courts or just hand him over to The Hague?). Ouattara would be wise to opt for the latter.
Later same day
To The Hague
A week ago today Gbagbo was flown off to face a battery of crimes against humanity (including mass rape and murder) before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague:
There are reasonable grounds to believe that a plan existed between Mr. Gbagbo and his inner circle [his co-perpetrators]. There is a sufficient basis to conclude that the pro-Gbagbo forces that put the policy into effect did so by almost automatic compliance with the orders they received.
(London Guardian quoting the ICC prosecutor, December 6, 2011)
Sadly, it looks like Gbagbo is going to end up just like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic: dying in his cell a broken and forgotten man.
'Betraying Its Values'
I am acutely mindful that my commentaries on the growing pains of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are taking on the specter of beating a dead horse. This is why I am loath to write yet another one on the following regressive phenomenon that is now unfolding there:
African leaders once personified unbridled despotism. Now they're personifying the metastasizing spectacle of leaders [plunging their countries into political violence by] refusing to give up power after losing free and fair elections; ergo, their oxymoronic designation—democratic despots.
("Africa's Democratic Despots Now Include Gbagbo of Ivory Coast," The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2010)
This has played out recently in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and (as indicated) Ivory Coast. Now it's playing out in Uganda....
Far more troubling, however,are the equally regressive developments that have beset South Africa, the beacon of hope for the region, ever since Nelson Mandela retired as president. Most notable in this respect was Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, staking his entire presidency (and the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Africans) on the fatuous notion that HIV does not cause AIDS. But this was soon surpassed in its utter stupefaction by the election of the alleged rapist and fraudster Jacob Zuma to succeed Mbeki. I felt constrained to herald this development by warning that Zuma would do for/to South Africa what Mugabe has done for/to Zimbabwe....
But I've become distressingly aware that South Africa has a rather robust cadre of Internet trolls who are every bit as zealous in their defense of Zuma's flawed character and venal policies as others were in defense of Mbeki's discredited views on HIV/AIDS. This is why I began citing the unimpeachable views of native South Africans to support my contentions.
Apropos of this, when I lamented two years ago the wayward path the country was veering towards, I cited the following national plea by none other than the Nobel Laureate for Peace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We're very worried that this leader [Jacob Zuma] had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent and, although he is very likeable, we have to ask ourselves: 'What is happening in the ANC?'
("Hail Zuma ... Big Dada," The iPINIONS Journal, April 27, 2009)
Alas, Tutu's plea fell resoundingly on deaf ears. Consequently, what has happened to the ANC since then is that Zuma has transformed it from a party that championed democratic freedoms into one that enforces party loyalty—whether right or wrong. Even worse, it is deploying many of the same tactics of political intimidation and repression that the Apartheid regime deployed during its rule. Put another way, instead of emulating Barack Obama of the United States, Zuma is emulating Vladimir Putin of Russia, thereby turning South Africa into a de facto police state where a few oligarchs thrive with his sufferance at the expense of the poor masses.
Of course, I knew it would be thus—as the following attests:
Zuma's efforts to silence Zapiro [a critically acclaimed political cartoonist who revels in caricaturing Zuma's political shortcomings]—aided by the rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) who have turned the ruling ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers—should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.
("Zuma Issues Fatwa against Cartoonist Zapiro," The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2008)
But, as indicated earlier, I don't want you to take my word for it. Instead, here is what no less a person than the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nadine Gordimer, is saying about what Zuma and the ANC are doing to South Africa:
The original values of the ANC are being betrayed in many areas of our social life and our political life... I maintain the right to criticize my own party. I feel it's a duty that we who are in the ANC must say what we think when the ANC does wrong....
(HARDtalk, BBC, May 10, 2011)
Hear, hear comrade!
And, lest Zuma's defenders attempt to dismiss Gordimer's lament as well, just bear in mind that only Mandela himself has greater moral authority than she to speak about the state of affairs in South Africa today. After all, it's arguable that she did more with her writings and political activism to bring about the fall of Apartheid than any other Black South African living today, including Jacob Zuma.
That said, some might argue that the 87-year-old Gordimer is waxing a little too idealistic in her dotage. And to support their contention they might cite her proselytizing interracial marriage as the best way for the country to deal with its lingering racial problems. But I submit that her prescription for racial healing and reconciliation is just as unassailable as her indictment of Zuma and the ANC.
Zuma Snubs Obama (Michelle that Is)
President Zuma is raising eyebrows here in Washington, DC, after refusing to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama during her current, week-long visit to South Africa and Botswana. Some are speculating that he intended to convey a deliberate slight by arranging only for his female minister of prisons to greet her at the airport on Monday and for one of his three wives to meet briefly with her on Tuesday.
But, when placed in proper context, there's nothing surprising or inappropriate about Zuma's behavior. After all, Zuma is not only culturally disposed to male chauvinism; he's also personally disposed to raping women. (I couldn't resist.) Therefore, nobody should be surprised that he dissed Michelle in this way. Mind you, she could not have hoped for any greater honor than being granted a private visit with Nelson Mandela. Never mind that, at 92, he's more of a tourist attraction these days (like the Statue of Liberty) than an elder statesman.
Of course, if not out of respect for Michelle, you'd think Zuma would be wary of doing anything that could even be perceived as a slight against the mighty United States. I am convinced, however, that he has made the strategic calculation that—just as the Soviet Union was the patron of choice for many African countries during the Cold War—China will prove a far more beneficial patron for South Africa than the United States in the years to come. Not to mention that China's largesse does not come with any of the situational morality that now impinges on America's bilateral relationship with countries within its sphere of financial influence. And, given the ostentatious way China has been buying up political influence throughout the continent, Zuma's behavior seems more shrewd than rude (i.e., dissing America pleases, or curries favor with, China).
In a similar vein, there's probably merit to claims that Zuma snubbed her to register his pan-African opposition to the ongoing, U.S.-led military strikes against Libya: an opposition no doubt informed by the support Gaddafi gave the ANC during its struggle against the Apartheid regime:
We strongly believe that the (UN Security Council) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations, and foreign military occupation.
Excerpted from The iPINIONS Journal by Anthony Livingston Hall Copyright © 2012 by Anthony Livingston Hall. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
AFRICA / MIDDLE EAST....................5
Afghanistan and Iraq....................23
Israel and Palestine....................32
The Arab Spring....................42
AMERICAS / CARIBBEAN....................93
Haiti, Haiti, Haiti....................111
China, China, China....................131
Britain's Royal Wedding....................183
Britain's Phone-Hacking Scandal....................189
Budget Deficit and Debt Ceiling....................275
Trump the Clown....................286
Republican Nomination Circus....................292
Casey Anthony Murder Case....................304
The Killing of Osama bin Laden....................322
Arrest of IMF Head DSK....................333
Miami Heat & Pursuit of NBA Championship....................413
Child-Sex Scandal at Penn and Syracuse....................419
DEATHS OF FAMOUS PEOPLE....................499
Bibliography: Notes on Source Materials....................521