Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
The stench of hypocrisy
Overshadowed by the events in New York on September 11 and President Bush's subsequent launching of war against everybody who is not "on our side", was the confirmation of Bush's nominee for US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte. Negroponte is your classic Republican Right choice for a sensitive diplomatic posting such as the UN, a career diplomat with strong links to the CIA. He was US ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, when he made sure that Oliver North's illicit funds for the Nicaraguan Contras — obtained from illegal arms sales to Iran — were channelled to the murderous thugs they were intended for. The Contras were actually the former "security forces" of the ousted Nicaraguan dictator. They waged a dirty war against the Sandinista Government of Nicaragua while Ambassador Negroponte bought off the military government of Honduras so that the country could become the Contras' base of operations, for terrorist excursions into Nicaragua, and for drug running into the USA. To keep the Honduran generals on side, Negroponte provided funding for their CIA-trained death squad, Battalion 316. This outfit killed a documented 184 Honduran trade union and other civil leaders, and even a US Jesuit priest, Joseph Carney. In a hard-hitting article in The LA Times on September 30, the paper's Associate Editor, Frank del Olmo, commented that "it is no exaggeration to say that Batallion 316's dirty work induced the same kind of terror in a small nation of six million people that the recent bloodshed in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania did in this country". Noting that Secretary of State Colin Powell is "Negroponte's good friend", Del Olmo points out how hypocritical it is for the US to "apply one set of moral standards to terrorists who killed thousands of innocent people in a few terrible hours while at the same time we use another set to judge a man who oversaw American aid to military thugs who did similarly cruel things to Central Americans. "Oh, the new US ambassador will get the UN's attention when he speaks up", says the LA Times. He represents a superpower, after all. But if and when Negroponte has the gall to lecture the world about human rights, no one could blame the UN diplomats for holding their noses. The stench of hypocrisy will be that bad."
* * *Kiss your allotment goodbye When Berlin was still a divided city, many of its inhabitants had allotments. They still have them, but not for much longer it seems. These small plots were mainly on land belonging to public utilities — the railway, the electricity authority or the city council — and they were rented to citizens for about 632 dollars a year. There they could grow vegetables, fruit or flowers, or just escape the city. As with English allotments, each plot has a small hut or cabin on it. West Berlin, the deformed result of joint US and British efforts to sabotage the implementation of the Yalta and Postdam Conferences, had considerably less land available for this purpose than did East Berlin. As a result, the greater number of these allotments are in the eastern part of the city. Members of West Berlin's artificially inflated population who wanted an allotment had to go on a six year waiting list. Now that the city is "free" and united, and West Berlin authorities are no longer obliged to compete with the superior social policies of their counterparts in East Berlin, Berliners are discovering that capitalism has no interest in providing ordinary people with cheap "rural" retreats in the city. The corporatised or privatised German utilities want to sell off the allotment land they own, as does the Berlin city authority, which is a whopping 84 billion dollars in debt. * * *A man of insensitivity NSW Premier Bob Carr, scion of the Labor Right, is also the ALP's leading poseur: if he's not posing as a Man of Culture then he's tramping through the forest as a Man of Nature; when he's not locking people up as a Man of Authority, he's posing as a Man of Sophistication and Erudition. But however much he tries, the oafish behaviour that is the hallmark of the Labor Right eventually comes to the surface and gives the game away. On his recent trip to Berlin, Carr bought an Order of Lenin from a roadside stall. The Order of Lenin was the USSR's highest Order, bestowed on renowned scientists, composers, academics, artists, engineers, designers, writers, both Soviet and foreign, what the October 12 Daily Telegraph sneeringly called "some of the former Soviet Union's favourite sons and daughters". Under the headline "Comrade scribe", the Telegraph gleefully reports what Carr did with the one he purchased. He presented what the Murdoch paper called "the dubious honour" to extreme right-wing Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman in a private ceremony at the launch of the NSW Press Forum at State Parliament House. Some people just can't help themselves.