You have to climb high to see the border, any border. It’s fascinating to see how world affairs repeat themselves in circles. This picture of mine was taken by a dear girlfriend in Switzerland when I dealt with “Border Taxes” at the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in Geneva. How did I get there from Amsterdam? Because I was heading a Dutch delegation from the Ministry of Economic Affairs as the Netherlands’ Member of the GATT to the Border Tax Working Party.
It was a big issue around 1969/70. The GATT was established in 1947 to reduce and harmonize import tariffs to promote multilateral trade and encourage consumption. The GATT was part of the UN complex in Geneva as a Special Agency. Its meetings were held in the “Palais des Nations” which was built as of 1929 to serve as the home of the “League of Nations.” It is best known for “the Kennedy Round” (1964-1967), the sixth multilateral tariff negotiation named after President Kennedy, who was assassinated six months before the Round started in Geneva.
Photographs of the Palais des Nations from Wikipedia
Photographs of the Villa Bocage which housed the GATT Secretariat (Kris Terauds-krisageneve.wordpress.com).
From the terrace at the back, you could see the Mont Blanc, and we often had lunch outside in the spring and summer, enjoying the view. In 1975-77, the Gatt Secretariat moved to the historic building “Centre William Rappard” at the Lake of Geneva.
The Border Tax Working Party met regularly over a couple of years. Delegates from some eighty GATT Member States from all over the world descended onto Geneva to discuss the issue to abolish unfair taxes at the border to eliminate their nefarious impact on fair trade. (more…)
and Kathryn from Omaha TV
Kathryn of Omaha TV is on, Mars TV is connected, and Mars Man is with Barack Husain Obama in Honolulu in an undisclosed location under a coconut tree.
Kathryn: Go ahead, Mars Man, you are on!
Mars Man: Thank you, Kathryn. Viewers, we are here with the US President hiding in Hawai. Dear Mr. President, how does it feel to be on eternal vacation in your homeland?
BHO: I take the Fifth.
Mars Man: Excuse me, sir, but you are not in Congress. You can speak freely here, no fear. Your obedient servants in America must’ve felt that they needed that new car smell you talked about.
BHO: They’re misguided. My smell is pretty good. Just got half a gallon of aged Old Spice on sale in the drugstore. As for my eternal vacation, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Eric Holder will get me back soon.
Mars Man: But Holder has also been deposed.
BHO: He will find a subtle way, as he did with Fast and Furious. And there is still the Executive Order. And I have my pen and phone. And I still have a free Obama phone, and if they take that away, I have a few boxes of them left in my wine cellar here.
Mars Man: You must’ve heard that John Kerry went to Paris to apologize for your absence at the World Rally in Paris and that he was accompanied by a singer totally unknown in France nobody could hear.
BHO: We tried Beyoncé, but the Military blocked her from going. Joe Biden was willing, but he sings false.
Mars Man: You must feel pretty impoverished here in your new hiding space.
BHO: It’s no different from the White House. We were pretty broke, anyway. And have a lot of debt.
Mars Man: Something on the order of nineteen plus trillion, we hear. That’s a great legacy.
BHO: The same as other Presidents. Bill and Hillary were dead poor when they left. That freaky Bush had to sell his football club to pay off his. I’ll just write another book and get my money back.
Mars Man: Hillary’s publisher lost millions on hers.
BHO: Sure, but she kept the ten million dollar advance. I can write and speak a lot about my legacy, and they’re willing to pay me high fees in the millions, dwarfing Hillary’s extra fees for nonsense speeches about how poor she was. I grew up in the ghettos of Nairobi and Jakarta. I can talk about my birth certificate. Best hoax ever.
Mars Man: What legacy would you speak of?
BHO: I have many. Take Obamacare. Carries my name. Historical. Fast and Furious. To rub that silly nose of Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio in it. IRS Audits of those wealthy Republicans that yielded a lot of money from unlawful Cayman tax shelters, and stopped those subversive Tea Party extremists. Worth at least ten speeches at a million a pop.
Mars Man: But your Democrat party lost the elections.
BHO: You’re wrong. We won. Two-thirds didn’t vote because they supported my policies.
Mars Man: But the Republicans have the majority in Congress thanks to voters not supporting your policies.
BHO: All rubbish. What Republicans? They always cave when I raise my finger or call on Sharpton to blackmail them. Why do we need a Republican party anyway? One party, the Democrats, is good enough. Would save the taxpayers a lot of money.
Mars Man: What are the many other legacies?
BHO: Stopping the Keystone pipeline. After all, I have a lot of shares in Buffett’s railcars transporting oil. Solar energy, called Obamasun. Millions of acres covered with solar panels. All made in China. Biofuels. Windmill farms.
Mars Man: But we are told Solyndra went bankrupt with five hundred million taxpayer money gone down the drain, the electrical car got busted, and wind farms kill the American Eagle, your treasured national symbol.
BHO: In any war, be it drones or fossil fuels, we face collateral damage. An unintended consequence we shall have to accept as the cost of doing business. As for the national symbol, too bad for the bird, but Obama’s face would be good enough, especially because it’s black. And black is beautiful.
Mars Man: Benghazi was a major failure of your Administration. Four brave Americans dead among which your Ambassador. Why was that poopoed by your underlings?
BHO: I’ve said many times before that Benghazi was Hillary’s Department. I can’t help her three o’clock phone was off the hook. I tried my best to help her out by sending Susan around the Sunday shows and because Susan loves me she did a fabulous job. Everyone believed she told the truth, as we always do.
Mars Man: But you said you could keep your doctor, your insurance plan and pay much less premium, and none of that proved true.
BHO: That’s old hat. We’ve explained all that. Sometimes the truth is better not told.
Mars Man: What is your view on Trumps’s take-over of your Government?
BHO: It’s illegitimate. They won’t get away with it. My underlings have launched an appeal to the High Court.
Mars Man: Judge Roberts may not be as friendly to you this time as he was with Obamacare. Both of you seem to have peculiar views on what is legitimate. But the way we see it on Mars, things will be a lot better in the USA, even the world. Your trillion foreign debts are going to be paid off; demonstrations will stop, and Russia and China will shut up. The IRS will be abolished, and taxes will be greatly reduced. Americans believe in themselves again. People say they’re relieved not to see you on TV anymore with your hands wobbling while you’re running down the steps of Air Force One.
BHO: Don’t ridicule my daily exercise. I can’t play golf all the time. As for Russia, we made rubble of it. China needs our money for our Solyndra panels. Iran will get their bomb regardless, so why bother. Not even the military can do anything about that. It will put the Shiites and the Sunni Muslims on a level playing field. Israel has the bomb already, so why not Saudi Arabia, too.
Mars Man: People on Mars are glad we are away far enough when it all blows up.
BHO: That’s how it is said in the Scripts: doomsday is here. I said I would fundamentally transform America and I did. Even the world. You can’t take that away from me. That’s my greatest legacy. I have to go back to Michelle now. She promised me a dinner of suckling pig if I voted for her Senate seat.
Mars Man: Fair enough, Mr. President. Greetings from Mars…..
The TV screen goes blank because a bomb went off somewhere. We are trying to fix the connection.
To Cecil: You are my biggest regret. When you drove me in your yellow BMW to the Alps near Geneva I knew I loved you dearly. When you slapped me softly on my cheek because I said I wanted to stay with you, you hurt me badly, even though you were right: you were engaged to marry. I had an on-and-off girlfriend but when I met you – and your sweet and funny sister – I knew you were the one. Then you said your father was only a train conductor. So what? OK, my dad was a beer brewer and my mother from nobility. But who cares? You were IT, and it would have been beautiful. For me, you were just the most beautiful and most lovely girl I ever met, and you had this great stamina and presence.
That’s why I wrote Ingrid the Magnificent Viking. Of course, it’s imagination of what could have been. But you are still in my mind. When I met you again at the coffee bar down at your Norwegian Embassy in Geneva, you seemed less happy than I would have thought, after your marriage. Well, I hope you had a beautiful life with lovely children, as you were the most beautiful girl I ever saw.
You will remember that tape with the Beach Boys, Good Vibrations. You loved that tune so much that I left it in your car.
I was at a diplomatic party in Geneva and they said, “We hear you are going to marry a Norwegian girl. Who is she?” I don’t know who spread the rumor. Maybe my boss did because he was Norwegian too. He naughtily told you I was “in love” with his secretary, but I was not. We liked each other, but not for life.
I wish I could have said, ” Yes, I am going to marry Cecil.” I would have learned to speak Norwegian. It can’t be more difficult than Dutch.
But you were already taken and I had to leave you behind.
Kiss-kiss, my dear: my greatest wish is to see you again before I die.
Your loving John
INGRID THE MAGNIFICENT VIKING : http://amzn.to/2jZf6Is
I still remember sitting in front of the TV looking at the “Shock-in-Awe” images in 2003, seeing explosions like you see in movies or now on your tablet playing one of those silly war games. Then we saw how the US implemented the invasion thereafter. In my long-time project management experience at the World Bank, my immediate impression was, as it so often happened with well-intentioned projects in my Institution, it is very easy to start something on paper, but getting it implemented well is a wholly different ball game. And so it went: very bad. It had not been thought through. Though I was on the fence on the rationale for invading Iraq, after the surge in 2007 a noticeable improvement occurred in our project management (this will be a repeat of a previous post next time). Perhaps in hindsight, it was a strategic mistake to go after Sadam Hussain, but once that was done, it was even a greater mistake to withdraw from Iraq all together in 2011, without leaving any protection on site. And so, my deepest frustration was that with American foreign policy management, national politics and partisan ideology often screw up world affairs. The hearings brought this out.
That’s why I posted this blog in 2014 and I consider it still very relevant today.
“With respectful reference to Tom Rice’s lyrics and Andrew Webber’s fabulous musical, Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, I just wonder how it would look like if Saddam Hussein rose from his grave and gave a speech to the Iraqi populace from the statue from which he was toppled, “Don’t Cry For Me, Iraq.” Saddam would sing it with his heavy baritone (he could surely not sing it like Madonna, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Spy3Nd2D6w):
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
“And as for fortune, and as for fame I never invited them in” (meaning the Allied forces…)
“Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired” (to show them how he had “no WMD”, just to ridicule “Bush”)
“They are illusions” (Western propaganda about his cruel rule)
“They are not the solutions they promised to be” (my hanging on the gallows)
“The answer was here all the time”(I could do much better than they)
“I love you and hope you love me” (Don’t I look much better now?)
“Don’t cry for me, Iraq.”
Well, with medieval ISIS on the attack, Nouri al-Maliki letting it all happen, and the brave Kurds squeezed, we are all in tears, crying for Saddam, the “good old days”.
Sure, Saddam was a ruthless tyrant. Iraq suffered huge crimes under his reign. Shiites and Kurds got emaciated on various occasions.
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
Iraqis were hard-pressed and frequently mistreated. But is Sunni ISIS not infinitely worse? At least under Saddam, Christians could live relatively undisturbed, though forced to pay the minority taxes. Even Jews originally lived relatively well among the Iraqi Arabs until Palestinian partition occurred in 1948, when some 150,000 Jews lived in Iraq. From then on, they suffered harshly and left, and in the seventies, the UN forced Iraq to let the remaining Jews emigrate. Saddam tried to make Mosul more Arab by moving Arabs into Kurdish areas and chasing out the Kurds. Now ISIS is beheading, killing, and torturing infidels on a large scale.
However, there seems some similarity with Eva Peron’s love for Argentina and Saddam’s love for Iraq: he wanted to keep Iraq wholesome with his despicable mixture of Marxism and Nazism that his Baath party emulated, and he felt he had to do so with an iron fist because of Iraq’s multiple religious scissions and millennia-old tribal differences.
Despite the fact that Iran provoked him into it, fighting an eight-year long war with Iran did not achieve anything.
Still, it might have proven to the West that having Iraq doing the fighting was better than having the West to confront Iran. Then the allies came in to punish Sadam for attacking Kuwait and Israel, and later because he was developing and hiding WMD. He had used them against Iran and the Kurds, and to hide them stored them in bunkers, or shipped them to Sunni tribes in Syria or back to Russia where they came from using unseated commercial airplanes (with the help of “Chemical Ali”; remember that weird general jumping on TV?). This in anticipation of UN-resolution 1441 that sent UN “Inspectors” to Iraq as of 2002 but who could not find them anymore. (Remember also the desperate Hans Blix, who was accused of being “pro-Saddam”, finding only empty warehouses?). Proof: Syria used them in their current war with their rebels (or the rebels found them and used them to terrorize Syrians).
Recently, after ISIS metastasized, ISIS occupies the Al Muthanna Chemicals Weapons Complex, Saddam’s ultimate chemical weapons facility, located less than 50 miles from Baghdad. Apparently, a lot of that material is still left in spite of what leftist pundits and commentators wanted us to believe that they did not exist during the Bush presidency. And what about Saddam’s nuclear program that was “dismantled”? All that uranium, bought from Niger, which was said to have been shipped to the USA?
How eager were the “mainstream media” in the USA and Europe at the time to fall into the trap of the “non-wmd” propaganda! Only to pummel “Bush” who defeated their favorite global warming enthusiast Gore, as eager as they are now to support Hamas in its attacks on Israel. But “mainstream media” pundits are known to disregard history if they ever studied it, or facts when they don’t like them. They go by the emotions of their equally uninformed audience. What a carnival of animals (apologies to Camille Saint-Saens).
These were the last words in Saddam’s letter to his people, issued by his lawyers upon his execution: “Dear faithful people, I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any faithful, honest believer … God is Great … God is great … Long live our nation … Long live our great struggling people … Long live Iraq, long live Iraq … Long live Palestine … Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.”
It’s doubtful that Saddam’s merciful God is helping much in current Iraq or what Saddam thought should be Palestine in spite of UN resolution 181 of 1948. For Arab dictators, it is difficult to accept a majority vote in the UN if they don’t agree. (Today, UN-membership has changed totally and, with it, its political colors. Anti-Israel majority votes are happily agreed.) But it’s also doubtful that Saddam’s “long live jihad and the mujahedeen” would have welcomed ISIS.
Truth be told, the Bush Administration could have found out that most of the WMD had been removed but they did not: they, the allies and Congress wanted to get rid of Saddam as he was a pest in the region. In hindsight, Saddam could possibly have been contained at that time, leaving it to him to deal with the Iranians. The West could have continued protecting Israel with overwhelming military aid while maintaining tough sanctions on Iraq. Too bad hindsight never catches up with actuality. It would have saved many lives, including Iraqis, as well as so many soldiers maimed for life, and trillions of dollars gone up in smoke.
The name “Iraq” was drawn from ancient Sumerian history dating back to the Sumerian civilization in the “Uruk” (“Ur” meaning ” city” in Sumerian) period that reigned that area some 4000 years BC! The 600-year Ottoman Empire (“caliphate”) which supported Germany and included millennia-old Mesopotamia, was dismantled upon Germany’s defeat in 1918 after World War I. The then League of Nations, established under the aegis of Woodrow Wilson, turned Palestine, Transjordan and the three Mesopotamian Ottoman provinces (Mosul, Baghdad, Basra) into British protectorates.
Churchill and his “40 Thieves” (see Churchill’s Folly by historian Christopher Catherwood, 2004, Carrol & Graff) drew up “Iraq”, ignoring tribal regions. In fact, at the time of the British protectorate, the southern Shiites near Basra tried to form their own regional sovereignty as they were suspicious of the Shiites in the north. For a well-researched article on the creation of Iraq in 1922, read Don Chapman’s interesting 2007 piece on http://archives.midweek.com/content/columns/Print_Story/following_churchills_folly_in_iraq/
Past caliphates show the surface they occupied.
Under the Ottoman empire, “Iraq” comprised three provinces Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.
Several upheavals occurred in the Iraqi part, forcing the British to send troops in 1943. Sixty years later American and allied troops, including the British, invaded once more. The never ending story of the Middle-East.
In Iraq’s new Constitution, under American pressure, Iraq was divided into 18 “States”. Federalism, let alone democracy, is an unknown form of Government in the Middle-East and it never worked in Iraq or anywhere else (except for democratic Israel). A unified Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish government is a pipe dream. Now we are dealing with an Iraq shattering back into several pieces, mostly according to religious and tribal adhesion, amidst ruthless intolerance and genocide of religious minorities.
I am sure that Saddam would not have let ISIS cross his border. Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army seemed totally impotent and, like the White House – although warned by its intelligence services that knew of ISIS in Syria -, it was taken by surprise. Maliki being a Shiite politician with strong Iranian ties – after all, he lived in exile in Iran for some eight years during Saddam Hussein’s regime – was unable or perhaps unwilling to form a unified Shiite-Sunni-Kurd government, which created deep Sunni resentment. The USA having withdrawn its troops left a terrible vacuum. Again it shows that short-sighted local American politics based on polls only bring havoc. With some greater effort in trying to convince Maliki, the USA could have left troops to support fledgling Iraq, but Iran told their ally to keep the USA out, and Obama (happily) caved. Saying now that keeping troops would not have prevented ISIS from entering Iraq is trying to justify irresponsible inaction, surely on the side of Maliki but also the USA.
What remains to be seen is what local Iraqi Shiite politicians and activists like Mukthadar Al-Sadar with his Mahdi army and the Grand Ayatolla Ali-al-Sistani will do when ISIS approaches Baghdad, and if Iran will intervene when the Shiites are threatened.
Sources say the Iranian Qud is already there, assisting Nouri al-Maliki. Sadar, a Sunni Imam, is against US forces propping up Maliki to protect Baghdad, so is Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the main Sunni states in the Middle East. Sunnis are 90 % of the Islamic population, Shiites only 10 percent (mostly in Iran, Iraq and Oman). Egypt’s role has substantially strengthened politically in its mediation between Israel, the Palestinians, and Hamas. How will they react to Sunni ISIS?
Inaction in Syria helped create ISIS and allowed it to grow from a small force to some 10,000 fighters (many more now in 2017), many of whom are radicalized Islamists from Western nations. It is being said polls reveal Americans are sick of fighting other people’s wars. But don’t they realize that rats take vacant territory? Is it not lack of leadership to hide behind that so-called sickness of the American people and do nothing? Should the leadership not point out the dangers of not willing to fight? And that, if you don’t, these rats may finally end up in New York port? Individual Islamists in the US may already have contact with ISIS through cell phones and e-mail and can rapidly be radicalized. Remember the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston bombing.
Why did Hamas come to power in Gaza? Because the Palestinian Authority was unable to manage Gaza after Arafat was gone. What ISIS is doing in Iraq is worse than what Hamas is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas and ISIS are both Sunnis. The danger of them connecting is clear. ISIS wants all, and “Levant” includes Jordan and Lebanon, both bordering Palestine and Israel, the reason why ISIS calls itself ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A dire prospect.
Unfortunately, for Western countries, they must defend their comfort at the cost of losing it, but tell that to the comfortable TV-looking beer drinking Westerners who imported millions of Islamic people to do work for them they don’t want to do, and who are now protesting in their streets. It takes good leaders to wake up their citizens, and good leaders are rare today. Beware whom you invite into your house!
The origins of World War II stemmed for a good deal from wishful pacifism, cowardice, procrastination, and collaborators (!), in the hope that it would not be all that bad as some were convincingly predicting. Suddenly Europe was run over and America and Canada had to help to protect themselves. Now America and Canada have large Islamic populations with no sense of assimilation with the history of their hosts, and the pride that goes with it, and, with their open borders, the potential for terrorist attacks is plenty, even more than was the case with 9/11.
As long as the West has been involved in the Middle-East, it has been unable to implant its “rational renaissance” thinking that began in the Renaissance and overtook Islamic reactionary thinking, despite its past wealth of scientific, medical, and artistic creativity. Oil made it worse. Many different peoples in the Greater Middle East, including Iran, are ruled by religious mantras, outdated historical principles, and an unstoppable array of new masters of intolerance and cruelty, such as ISIS.
My fear is that ISIS is just one more ugly Middle Eastern sore but the most vicious so far that will run its course causing many deaths and suffering, until its dreadful barbarity is eradicated by the Middle East itself, when it finally realizes that the 21st century has arrived and they must adapt to modernity rather than creating outdated caliphates, yelling with rockets to throw the Jews into the sea, screaming fatwas about planting Allah’s flag on the White House, and propagating that Islam is the only true religion.
No US and European pacifism will help. Peace through strength will. It had better start now.”
Next time: a soft-pedaled effort by the UN and World Bank to steer Iraq toward economic development.
Below follows a column I wrote in 2014 at the time of the Hamas intrusion into Israël, which I am repeating now in view of the recent anti-semitic resolution adopted by the UN Security Council which was orchestrated by the outgoing Obama Administration and enhanced by a most disturbing John Kerry speech. Though this latest UN Security Resolution does not deal with the Hamas terrorism, as it should have, it clearly shows how biased the UN has become when it deals with Israël. Instead, the Husain Obama/John Kerry duo slaps Israël on settlements in East Jerusalem which from millennia times was in Jewish hands and only became “Arab” in 1949 when Jordan’s King Husain’s superior army overpowered the small army of the just established state of Israël (1948). Jordan annexed it thereafter. Since then it has remained a contested area, which Israël “occupied” when it took it back in the 1967 six-day war. The UN Security Council condemned this in the famous Resolution 242 which required Israël to “withdraw from the territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
As a WW II kid who has seen his Jewish playmates in Holland hauled away by the Nazis never to return, this resolution and the US involvement was way over the top, extremely biased and against the American spirit, which was instrumental in assuring the Jews a State of their own in 1948: ISRAEL, in the lands where Jews had lived for thousands of years and long before Islam emerged in the year of 630 a.d.
“Let me tell you that ENCHANTÉ is for Israel, but has good ties with Arabs too. Let me also tell you that ENCHANTÉ has Palestinian and Islamic friends and that we sometimes agree to disagree but remain good friends. At a personal level, it works. At the political level, the Israeli-Arab conflict seems insoluble. (more…)