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Goodness they do talk

Posted by Helen Thursday, September 23, 2004

In the wake of Secretary-General Kofi Annan declaiming that legality must begin at home (but not as far as the UN is concerned) and President Chirac once again calling for a tax to alleviate poverty in the Third World, caused to some considerable extent by EU policies whose reform is always undermined by France, we have Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain addressing the UN General Assembly.

Last heard, Spain had a number of economic problems and a few difficulties with its own terrorists, not to mention the various Al-Quaeda cells, in existence since long before 9/11, but, hey, what does that matter if you get a chance to pontificate in New York?

Zapatero’s big idea is perhaps less nauseating than either Annan’s or Chirac’s but equally daft. He wants Kofi Annan to set up a high level group to study an alliance of civilizations. Oh goody. Another high level study group to eat up the money that could be used to invest in all those poor countries to help eradicate poverty.

What’s the betting the group will travel round the world with large entourage, stay in the best hotels in the pleasantest spots, have lots of meetings, dinners, parties, receptions and decide … well, what? Probably that the West had better start sending a great deal more aid to the Muslim world (that, incidentally, contains some of the richest people, families and countries) to stop terrorists from feeling isolated and, therefore, murderous.

After all, if it is terrorism we are worried about, then it is not the Muslim countries that are the problem so much as the political system in them. Or is Señor Zapatero saying that all Muslims are terrorists? What is he saying?

"This alliance [of civilizations] would have as its fundamental objective to deepen political, cultural and education relations between those who represent the so-called Western world and, in this historic moment, the area of Arab and Muslim countries."
One does not necessarily need an alliance to deepen any kind of relations. More interestingly, one wonders which moment is not historic? Clearly Zapatero’s attitude to history is somewhat similar to Prime Minister Blair’s. Oh, and by the way, will this high level group discuss such problems as the murder and torture of African Muslims by Arab Muslims in Sudan? The UN seems singularly reluctant to do anything about it.

Will the group look at the oppression of Arab Muslims by their Muslim governments? Will it interview people imprisoned and maltreated by the likes of Chairman Arafat? Probably not. But it is fair to assume that some of the frustrations Arab young men feel has to do with the lack of any opportunity in their own countries, oppressed and robbed blind by their various rulers.

Will the group look at the way the EU undermines the economy of North Africa, by protective trade policies and heavily subsidized exports, with the result that hundreds are displaced from villages becoming either immigrants into European countries (to be derided and maltreated there) or drift into fundamentalist groups.

I suspect Prime Minister Zapatero did not mean any of that. He was just sounding off, as one does at the UN General Assembly.