the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world











2002 March 10


Dr. Rhodes, I presume

In Zimbabwe, longtime ruler Robert Mugabe has done virtually everything to assure his continuation in office after this weekend’s elections. He cannot truly manufacture a victory, but he has done much to set the stage for a claim of victory. He has altered election laws, curbed the media and election monitors, and murdered and terrorized opposition supporters. If with all of that the actual number of votes cast for his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, is greater than those cast for himself, Mugabe is hardly likely to admit to such a thing. He is no longer the intellectual dissident in arms against white Rhodesia. He is, rather, the tyrant who was responsible for the slaughter of twenty thousand presumed sympathizers of an old political rival in Matabeleland. Recently he has loosed thugs on the supporters of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. Adventurists on Mugabe’s payroll have accused Tsvangirai of hiring them to assassinate Mugabe. They have produced an altered videotape as evidence. Tsvangirai was arrested (as he has often been, once for possessing what children here call a walkie-talkie), charged with treason, and then released. If Tsvangirai were truly planning an assassination, he would be in jail now; Mugabe’s apparent intention is to set the stage for some sort of action after the vote. It has been justly pointed out that at the same time, Congo-Brazzaville is holding show elections, where military dictator Denis Sassou Nguesso is running essentially unopposed, having excluded any serious rivals, and yet no one is paying attention. But Congo is not salvageable at this point. Zimbabwe is. The people of Zimbabwe are operating to overthrow their tyrannical government by peaceful means, and doing so in courageous defiance of the possible consequences. And the world is watching. If we let a mass murderer steal an election in full view, then the trial of Slobodan Milosevic is empty geopolitical theater, a pony show for the world’s ruling class.

Taking sides

Coming from the same force of history, Madagascar has, for the present anyway, divided into two states. The recent presidential election led to disputed results. The incumbent, strongman Didier Ratsiraka, claimed to have forced a runoff. The challenger, Antananarivo mayor Marc Ravalomanana, claimed to have won a majority in the first vote. Of course, Ravalomanana, who scored a decisive plurality, knows the pattern: Ratsiraka sets up the runoff, noting that Ravalomanana has not won a majority; in the runoff, all of the remaining votes are said to go to Ratsiraka, and he “wins” with a slight edge. Would Ratsiraka have done this? It is at this point impossible to tell. After many weeks of effective strikes, Ravalomanana declared himself president, and successfully took power in the capital, where his strongest support lies. Ratsiraka declared martial law, but soldiers have not enforced that in Antananarivo, and have even allowed Ravalomanana’s alternative government to take the ministry offices. Meanwhile, Ratsiraka has withdrawn his government to Tamatave, and has secured the support of the remaining five regional governors. Tamatave, a key port, is withholding fuel supplies to its rival capital. It is noted by many commentators that Ravalomanana’s measurable support does not extend past the capital; that may be true, or it may not. But if it is not true, then we are doing a disservice to the entire population of Madagascar by allowing Ratsiraka to maintain his status as ruler of the whole island. And if it is true, then we are doing a disservice to the people of Antananarivo at least. They wish to live free from the rule of Ratsiraka. They have voted to do so, and have now risen up to take that freedom. We should airlift supplies to Antananarivo if necessary, and allow the people there to live out their choice without interference from Ratsiraka. If the rest of Madagascar wants him (which I doubt), then fine, but we should stop scolding Ravalomanana and his many supporters just because they have made the world a slightly-more-complicated place.

Trigger fingering

The Los Angeles Times has reported on the Bush administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. The administration has drawn up military plans for nuclear strikes on China, Russia, Syria, Libya, and of course the Axis of Evil ― Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. While two of the possible criteria, use of weapons of mass destruction and imperviousness to non-nuclear attack, are consistent with established doctrine, the third, “surprising military developments”, could mean anything. To think that George Bush and his gang are if not intending then at least planning to bomb China and Iran as a sort of Oh-Jesus response if something unexpected happens is more than enough to justify investing in Easter Island real estate and several years’ supply of preserved food. Anyone up for a little holocaust?


Original version


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