Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Is to Blame for the Connecticut Shooting? Does the Blame Lie with the Right to Bear Arms Or Can It Be Found Elsewhere?

In the 18th century — the century at the end of which the Second Amendment was being passed in the newly-born United States — the biggest problem for the majority of the world's population was not the right to keep and bear arms.

It was the lack of the right to keep and bear arms.

In the 19th century, likewise, the greatest problem for most people on this planet was not the absence of gun control.

It was the presence of gun control.

In the 20th century, most people did not suffer from the right to keep and bear arms.

They suffered from the lack of the right to keep and bear arms.

As can be attested by the victims (assuming they could talk) of the likes of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Milosevic, along with the Hutus… As an aside, one of the first measures taken by each of the aforementioned (ahem) leaders after coming to power — for the good of the people, needless to say — was to impose or to tighten arms control.

And it is no different today.

Look at Saddam's Iraq, at Khadaffi's Libya, at the Assads' Syria…

(Would not the average Iraqi citizen, the average Libyan citizen, the average Syrian citizen over the past 30 to 40 years have been better off with the right to keep and bear arms?)

1. Has Anything Changed and, If So, What Is That Something?

Nothing has changed.

Or has it?

There does seem to have been one major change, at least in the West — has there not?

Let's go back into history again…

What do we see? Or rather… what do we fail to see?

Few, if any, school shootings in the 18th century — certainly not in the land of the Second Amendment.
(I originally wrote "no shootings whatsoever", but since I cannot be 100% positive — in view of the fact that it's hard to prove a negative — I changed the wording…)

Few, if any, school shootings in the 19th century.

Few, if any, school shootings in first half of the 20th century.

In arguing on French TV for Europe-like arms control in the United States, a guest on the iTélé news show made a point of enumerating "all" the shootings that have occurred in America — among them, the 1966 University of Texas sniper shooting, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the 2007 Virginia Tech slaughter, the 2011 Arizona shooting spree, and the 2012 Colorado movie theater killings. [This post has been slightly updated in the wake of the 2014 Santa Barbara massacre.]

Now — in the wake of the 2012 Connecticut elementary school massacre — she erupted:
What is wrong with Americans?! When are they finally going to come to their senses and impose gun control?! When will the NRA finally be silenced?! When will ordinary Americans, not least ordinary members of the Republican Party, stand up to the GOP leadership and demand that gun possession be banished, or at least, curtailed — and that, sharply?!

But there is a better question to be asked:
between the past and the present, what is the difference that we see?

Why no examples from the 1950s and from prior decades and centuries?

The deadliest gun rampages started in the 1960s and 1970…


I wonder what happened, or started to happen, in the 1960s and 1970s…

Oh — that's right: the left's youth revolution with the "victory" of more and more of the "modern" ideas of the progressives…

Now let's see — what did, and what do, these entail?

Well, among other things, the triumph of the ideas of compassion, of tolerance, of understanding…

Of empathy for all kinds of groups, not least the mentally ill — who turn out to be nothing more than merely misunderstood and who therefore deserve freedom from straitjackets

And the ensuing political correctness demanded the dismantling of mental institutions or the limiting of their use and refraining from confining mental cases (who of course turn out not to be mental cases) thereto. ("Guffaw! You want to keep insane asylums open?! How can you be so reactionary, so backwards?! It's everybody else who should be in a nuthouse! Snort!")

We should not judge these people, we can not judge these people; with some compassion and understanding, if only we are willing to make an effort, we can allow such people to live amongst us.

Rather than the judgments we pass on them, which show our cluelessness and — our hatred… (Maybe we — us "normal" people — are the mental cases! And maybe we need to be institutionalized!)

Mental cases are even given hero status in the left's narratives (winning several Oscars from Hollywood in the process) — as indeed are all the usual members of the left's victimhood brigade (women, gays, blacks, Indians, primitive peoples living close to nature, etc etc etc).

From Forrest Gump to John Coffey via Raymond Babbitt, these messiah-like beings turn out to be (far) more loving than us regular people, superior souls who touch everybody they meet, leading to miracles by helping "normal" (blinded) people to become better human beings and fulfill their destinies, if these saints do not healing said mortals outright, physically or otherwise.

In other words, what artists, and leftists, are basically helping to "prove", over and over again, is that the average American, the average citizen, the average human being (who is unlike themselves) is a clueless and/or bigoted moron (someone obviously in need of some sort of betterment treatment).

As with everything else the Left touches, slowly, one brick at a time, common sense is overturned, and normal, regular law-abiding, citizens are demonized and made to be those who obviously ought to be the true outcasts of society (among other things, these bigoted oafs obviously ought to be without weapons or the rights thereto).

2. What, for Ideological Reasons, the Left Ignores

But back to the massacres of the past half century:

Unless I am mistaken, there was not a single occasion of a shootist over the past 50 years, whether underage kids or grown-up adults, who did not previously show warning signs — if only the fact that they were described as "remote" — warning signs that were deliberately and repeatedly ignored, by family and friends as well as by professionals and people in authority; and that, for fear of the left's PC police.

(This is true even in the military; think only of the warning signs concerning Major Nidal Hassan, universally and persistently ignored, prior to the Islamist's 2009 Fort Hood massacre.)

Indeed, writes Dr Keith Ablow, in Adam Lanza's case, there is every probability that he expressed very concerning thoughts or feelings to more than one person before Friday.

After a shooting spree, as William S. Burroughs once said, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it and who, (not at all) incidentally, would never do anything remotely like it.

Of course, contrary to what the iTélé guest said or implied, the presence of guns alone does not ensure that massacres such as that in Sandy Hook will become more and more common or simply commonplace.

Indeed, had an armed American — had the average armed American — been present at the school or at the university, he (or she) would have used his (or her) weapon to start firing back at Adam Lanza or Elliot Rodger, and either hit the gunman or forced him to take cover, preventing him from continuing his deadly spree. (Could an armed teacher or an armed firefighter from the fire station next door not have intervened much earlier?) Besides writing (in The Atlantic) that "We must find a way to make it more difficult for the non-adjudicated mentally ill to come into possession of weapons,"Jeffrey Goldberg points out that
Mass shootings take many lives in part because no one is firing back at the shooters. The shooters in recent massacres have had many minutes to complete their evil work, while their victims cower under desks or in closets. One response to the tragic reality that we are a gun-saturated country is to understand that law-abiding, well-trained, non-criminal, wholly sane citizens who are screened by the government have a role to play in their own self-defense, and in the defense of others … it seems fairly obvious that there was no one at or near the school who could have tried to fight back.
(Goldberg develops this issue in a separate, longer article, replete with examples of armed citizens putting a stop to killing sprees: "in other cases, massacres were stopped early by the intervention of armed civilians, or off-duty or retired police officers who happened to be nearby.")

Indeed, what the news services rarely tell you — because the statistics, deliberately or otherwise, are simplified or skewered — is that the gun-free zones, whether a nation like Britain, a state like New Jersey, a city like Chicago, or a campus or a school like Sandy Hook Elementary, are oftenest (if only by comparison) the deadliest ones. Indeed, adds Glenn Reynolds,
One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc.
For instance, the murder capital of America turns out also to be… the capital proper of America. When foreigners hear that unpalatable fact about Washington, they often shake their heads: How scandalous! Shouldn't Americans at least make their own capital secure?! What they do not understand is that it is precisely — precisely — because Washington (already) has the most draconian gun laws in the nation — and because its law-abiding citizens therefore have no weapons, i.e., no means of defending themselves — that (law-breaking) criminals (scofflaws, they were referred to under Prohibition), who also read the newspapers, choose DC as their place of predilection.

So, as the Blogfather notes on Instapundit, Gun-free zones provide a false sense of security, and as Dr Keith Ablow adds, they do not therefore provide a solution. Adds the Tennessee law professor, it is "an insult to honest people":
Gun-free zones are premised on a lie: that murderers will follow rules, and that [ordinary people with permits to carry guns] are a greater danger to those around them than crazed killers.
(Incidentally, I am wondering whether the gun laws in Connecticut, although far from the strictest in the nation, similarly seem to have been tweaked, if not broken, by the 20-year-old gunman ("It is unlawful to sell or permanently transfer a handgun to any person who is forbidden to possess a handgun, or to a person under 21"). Indeed, if Drew Zahn is to be believed, Adam Lanza broke "a half-dozen laws in his crime," including "at least three" of Connecticut's gun-control laws. "Of course, these laws were violated because Lanza did not own any of the firearms in question, but rather stole them, and he clearly had no regard for the law in committing his crime.")

3. And What If the U.S. Were to Emulate Europe?

Some readers, particularly on the East Coast and in Europe (and wholly lacking in racism, naturally), may protest that the modern-day examples given (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, etc) concern Arabs and Africans and so on, and not people in the West, a civilized place where gun control should be a given.

Some of them would hope that, on the subject matter of gun control and others (health care etc), Barack Obama would bypass Congress and simply get some laws passed by diktat. As Harry Belafonte said (echoing words by Woody Allen) — i.e., some of the above-mentioned Hollywood artists — the "only thing left for Barack Obama to do is to work like a third world dictator and just put all [his GOP opponents] in jail."

Adds Michael Moore, The NRA hates freedom and obviously ought to be outlawed, meaning that, there too presumably, jail time is appropriate for any of its proponents who do not give in (and who do not give in their weapons).

As I've written before, that's a whole hell of a lot of people that need to go through jail or, failing that, some sort of reeducation camps.

In any case, the people, from Europe or elsewhere, suggesting that mass killings inspired by the state are no longer operative in the modern West seem to be forgetting where Dolfi, Uncle Joe, and Slobodan hailed from.

Don't you think, for instance, that the French citizens of Oradour-sur-Glane (civilians all, naturally) would have been grateful to have had the right to keep and bear arms (and the concurrent weapons training), along with the concurrent weapons that that right entails?

Before we close this post, let us give a look at the old "violent nature of America" legend.

Take a good look at the entire globe, as well as the history of the globe, and the "violent nature" of America, as well as the "America's love affair with guns", turns out to be pretty much artificial.

Just like the least racist place in the world seems to be America, one has to wonder if one of the least violent places in the world does not seem to be America as well…

Because of course there is violence in many other places, such as Great Britain and France. And how about neighboring Mexico? While we decry "America's love affair with guns", Mexico is rent with violence (and was so far before the recent development of the narco-trafficking problem). Indeed, while America's Wild West is decried for bloodshed (in fact, fewer people were killed in the West between the Civil War and the year 1900 than in one single year in New York City), people, American, Mexican, or other, downplay the innumerable 19th-century deaths in Mexico, even finding such things as the country's executions romantic (ah, señoritas, sombreros, Mariachi bands, and firing squads). Mexicans routinely put whole garrisons of captured rebels to death — not just Anglos, famously, at the Alamo and Goliad but fellow Hispanics in places like Zacatecas as well — or, when they were in a more generous mood, "only" shot one prisoner at random out of every 10.

To return to the present, it is easy for leftists, American or foreign, like the iTélé guest, to tout the success of the gun control laws in the rest of the Western world when you (or they) ignore the 1996 massacre of 16 children at a Scottish primary school; the 2000 killing of eight kids in Japan; the 2002 deaths of eight people in Nanterre, France; the 2002 killing of 16 kids in Erfurt, Germany; the 2007 shootings to death of eight people in Tuusula, Finland; the killing of 10 people at a Finnish university less than a year later; the 2009 killing of 15 people in Winnenden, Germany; and, needless to say, Anders Breivik's 2011 mass murder of 77 Norwegians, most of them teenagers.

(Is it unrealistic to wonder whether the tolls would have been lower had a few of the adults in each place — as well as at Paris's Bataclan in 2015 — carried a weapon and tried to shoot back at the respective killers?)

But, of course, t'is easier to condemn gun violence in America when you ignore, or downplay, gun violence in your own country, including not giving a second thought to the widespread presence of Kalashnikovs.

What criticism regarding "America's love affair with guns" amounts to is that gun violence involving uncontrollable private citizens is ghastly — while that initiated by the state, and by authorities, somehow seems much less of a big deal. ("Sure it's horrible that the communists killed millions of people, but, y'know… at least they had good intentions!") That indeed turns out to be the only way to support the United Nations system, where diplomats and the media alike ignore or downplay violence ignited by governments (unless they're Western), while focusing on violence against a government by the West (Bush's outrageous war against Saddam Hussein).

Update: Instapundit links a must-read article from National Review's John Fund:
A few things you won’t hear about from the saturation coverage of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre:
Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.
In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.
The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.
Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.  
… We would be better off debating two taboo subjects — the laws that make it difficult to control people with mental illness and the growing body of evidence that “gun-free” zones, which ban the carrying of firearms by law-abiding individuals, don’t work.
… Gun-free zones have been the most popular response to previous mass killings. But many law-enforcement officials say they are actually counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone,’” says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me earlier this year at the time of the Aurora, Colo., Batman-movie shooting. Indeed, there have been many instances — from the high-school shooting by Luke Woodham in Mississippi, to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. — where a killer has been stopped after someone got a gun from a parked car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.
Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.
… Lott offers a final damning statistic: “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

 Update 2 — by Ann Coulter:
All these shootings are united by one clear thread: They all were committed by visibly crazy people, known to be nuts but not institutionalized.

Mental illness was blindingly clear in the cases of Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Maj. Nidal Hasan (Fort Hood), Jared Loughner (Arizona shopping mall), James Holmes (Colorado movie theater), and a dozen other mass shootings in the past few decades.

But in every instance, Democrats’ response was: Let’s ban high-capacity magazines! Let’s limit private gun sales! Let’s publish the names of everyone who owns a registered gun!

Mass shootings don’t correlate with any of these things. They correlate with not locking up crazy people. We’re not worried about school kids being systematically gunned down by angry husbands, gang members or antique gun collectors. We’re worried about a psychotic showing up in a public place and shooting everyone in sight.
 … In every one of these mass shootings, there was someone in a position to say before the attack, “Trust me, this person is a psycho.” Try getting Jared Loughner or James Holmes through any mental illness hearing in which they’re required to speak. (Though both might end up being offered their own shows on MSNBC.) 
If someone was brought back from the 1950s to today, he’d tell us: “I couldn’t help but notice that all the people who committed mass shootings were batsh*t crazy. Why were they not locked up or forced to take medication?”
We’d have to say, “Because some people — we call them ‘liberals’ — get a warm feeling of self-righteousness by defending the right of the deranged to crap in a shoebox, carefully label it and put it in a closet.” 
Democrats absolutely will not address the one thing that was screaming out from all of the mass shootings: a crazy person committing the crime. We can’t medicate them and we can’t lock them up because the ACLU has handcuffed society’s ability to deal rationally with the mentally disturbed.
Not only will Democrats refuse to address the problem of the mentally ill on their own, but they will fight to the last ditch to protect any crazy person’s right not to take his medication.
At some point in the 1980s, not being “judgmental” became the highest form of virtue — although the left is plenty judgmental about things they don’t like, such as white males, smokers, Christianity, Wal-Mart, Fox News, talk radio and NASCAR.
Liberals are so determined not to stigmatize anybody that their solution is always to make all of society suffer instead:
– To avoid hurting Muslims’ feelings, everyone has to strip to his underwear at the airport.
– So no one feels excluded, we’re not allowed to say “Merry Christmas!”
– To avoid singling out gays, the government and media lied to Americans for a decade about the coming explosion of heterosexual AIDS. (We’re still waiting.)
– To stop people from noticing patterns, the media bend over backward to avoid telling us the race of dangerous criminals on the loose.
– To prevent hurt feelings, everybody gets an “A.”
– And to avoid “stigmatizing” the mentally ill, society has to live with the occasional mass murder.
These anti-stigmatization rules don’t even help the people they claim to be protecting. But defending ridiculous rules that ruin things for everyone else makes liberals feel heroic.
Update 3: Everytown for Gun Safety's list was compiled to give the public an exaggerated impression of how many school shootings have taken place. Notes Glenn Reynolds:
Update 4: In 2015 alone, France suffered more casualties from gun violence than the U.S. has suffered during Obama's entire presidency

Update 5: a brief outtake from this post was published three years later in the New York Times in response to their front-page editorial on the "Gun Epidemic"

Update 6: Re the BBC's statistics behind gun violence —
Mass shootings in the U.S. have fallen so much in the past century
that the political left has had to redefine what a mass shooting is

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obelix to Flee Gaul and Caesar's 75% Super Tax for the Fiscal Paradise of the Belgians

Plantu comments on Gérard Depardieu's Decision to Flee France and Its 75% Supertax for a (Relative) Fiscal Paradise 1 KM From the French Border.

In Plantu's Le Monde cartoon, we see a cigar-chomping movie star in his recurring role as the Gaul Obélix carrying his safe with the French and Belgian flags (in the same manner that the Astérix series character carries his favorite menhir standing stone around behind his back) during a period of "record unemployment in December" while a film director shouts:

Concentrate some more, Gérard. One can tell that you are not feeling involved!

Gérard Depardieu as Obelix without the Gaul's moustache in the company of an extra playing a viking (1:20) during the filming of Astérix et Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté (check out the parody of "300" (barely 1 second in the trailer))

Update: Asking a socialist to embrace austerity is like asking a prostitute to embrace chastity

Depardieu Flees France and Its 75% Supertax for a (Relative) Fiscal Paradise 1 KM From the French Border

 Where, on the American continent, have we been seeing something similar for some years?

Hm. I wonder…

After passing a 75% super-tax on the richest Frenchmen (it's for patriotic reasons, they claim haughtily, so the rich ought to feel… privileged), the socialist government is becoming irritated that some of the latter — the most recent and the most famous of whom is none other than Gérard Depardieu — do not want to be milch cows and are emigrating to Belgium or Switzerland — in Gégé's case, to a village (Estaimpuis) less than a mile from France's northern border (and where a fourth of the population is composed of — rich — Frenchmen)… 

The lesson the left takes from this?

Re-think their punitive policies? Pas du tout

It is to try and strip said rich capitalist pigs of their French nationality!

Meanwhile, the mayor of Estaimpuis explains facetiously the reason why Jayrahd Deepahdyew (merci, Hervé) has moved to Southern Belgium: "the landscape."
Daniel Senesael, le bourgmestre (PS) d'Estaimpuis, a lui-même confirmé l'installation de Gérard Depardieu qui faisait, lundi, la "une" de tous les quotidiens populaires. La rumeur courait depuis des semaines et, dans l'intervalle, les services de police ont vérifié sa domiciliation. "L'acteur a promis de vivre six mois par an dans cette maison ", affirmait, lundi, le quotidien La Province, en montrant l'austère façade grise de la maison acquise par l'acteur.
Selon M. Senesael, celui-ci "voulait surtout quitter la ville et il a apprécié le paysage (...) ainsi que le contact avec la population". Une affirmation qui fait sourire. "Car ce n'est pas uniquement par amour de la région que la star a décidé de s'installer en Belgique, relève Le Soir. Il est plutôt question pour lui de fuir la super-taxe [de 75 % des revenus au-delà d'un million d'euros] imposée aux plus riches par M. Hollande", note le quotidien.
No word on whether Nounours ("Teddy Bear" has been Depardieu's nickname since the actor started gaining weight many years ago) plans to acquire the Belgian nationality — which would make the socialists' attempt to strip the star of his French citizenship somewhat moot — as is being sought by the previously most famous expatriate, LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.
Update: Plantu's Le Monde cartoon shows Depardieu
as Obelix fleeing Gaul with a safe on his back
Gérard Depardieu as Obélix without the Gaul's moustache in the company of an extra playing a viking during the filming of Astérix et Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté

Update: Offended by Taxes and Government Insults, Depardieu Goes a Step Further and Returns His French Passport

Update 2: Asking a socialist to embrace austerity is like asking a prostitute to embrace chastity

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Dirty white! Dirty Frenchman!" Anti-white racism has become a fact of French life

A FEW weeks ago, an esteemed civil rights organization asserted that anti-white racism has become a fact of French life
writes John Vinocur in his International Herald Tribune column.
The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism said that this did not involve specific discrimination of the kind confronted by Arabs and blacks, but held that anti-white racism “exists, and there are no taboos or hesitation about saying so.” 

The organization has become a co-plaintiff in an apparently racially motivated aggravated assault case involving an attack on a white male. According to press reports, the suspect was shown on a video surveillance tape wielding a broken bottle and shouting, “Dirty white, dirty Frenchman,” in French and Arabic. 

“Today,” wrote Pierre-André Taguieff, a sociologist and historian, “in certain ‘difficult neighborhoods,’ so-called poor whites are the primary victims of a majority of so-called poor non-whites. The rejection of whites is, in turn, encouraged by Islamist propaganda that is hostile to Muslims’ integration.” 

Obviously, the majority white population in France is not under siege. And the Muslims here (an estimated five million people, including citizens and the country’s largest immigrant group) continue to face various forms of prejudice and exclusion. 

But the anti-racism league’s stance gives substance to an intensifying antagonism at the heart of French society from years of failed integration — and to what is seen by large segments of French society as Muslim unwillingness to accommodate the law, customs and lifestyle of the majority

A survey published Oct. 25 by the Ifop polling organization underscores the clash. It reported that 60 percent of the French consider that “the influence and visibility of Islam in France” is too great, 68 percent believe that Muslims’ nonintegration is their own fault, and that refusal of Western values, fanaticism and submission are the words that best correspond to the idea they have of Islam. 

With the possibility of France entering recession next year, and alongside recent cases of murder and alleged plots by Muslim extremists, this amounts to real grief and tension.

Despairingly, both are compounded by the incapacity of successive governments to deal with the Muslims’ role in France with anything like decisive engagement.

First, no president here has ever made a priority of massive investment — call it high dosage affirmative action — in the newcomers’ future education and employment.

Second, no leader has ever sought to enforce specific standards for Muslim assimilation.
Those standards are not a vague, nonintuitive notion in France. They correspond to the secular character of the French republic, which promises freedom of religion for all, but also demands a complete absence of religion from the activities of the state — and bars the insertion of religion by anyone into those activities.

… Coming on top of greater Muslim alienation and more complaints about Islam from the white majority, the current government effort is the rough equivalent of the denial that often has been the reflexive response to issues involving everyday racism here since the end of French colonialism in the 1960s

Clearly, mumbling that the automatic equality attached to French citizenship and the fairness of French society are sufficient guarantees for Muslim integration is a dead incantation in 2012

It’s hard to be optimistic about France buying or charming back an estranged community that in some neighborhoods lives life as a partially parallel society. Many Muslims might ask, Why should I accept the values of the republic when I believe they function mostly in theory? 

An extensive affirmative action program, with clear school and job entry quotas might work, but it cannot come now without an accommodating and assimilating new face offered as a quid pro quo from the Muslim side.
 More Vinocur on racism in France

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Kremlin’s willingness to employ aggressive — even illegal — measures to suppress the political critics of Putin

For two and a half days in October, Leonid Razvozzhayev, a little-known leader of the Russian political opposition, moved furtively from one part of Kiev to another, meeting with political allies and human rights experts about seeking asylum in the West. At times, he was sure he was being followed. He was right.
Thus writes David M Herszenhorn in the New York Times as the mainstream media again ignores Barack Obama's infatuation with Russia (see third debate with Mitt Romney) and his willful ignorance of the Kremlin's hostility to human rights and to the United States itself.
On a Friday afternoon in clear daylight, masked men grabbed Mr. Razvozzhayev and shoved him into a black van outside the office of a lawyer who was preparing his asylum application on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The van sped away. Mr. Razvozzhayev’s personal belongings were left behind. More than the prosecution of the punk band Pussy Riot or the criminal inquiries into numerous opposition figures, the abduction of Mr. Razvozzhayev has showcased the Kremlin’s willingness to employ aggressive — even illegal — measures to suppress the political critics of President Vladimir V. Putin

It also fits a pattern of recent cases in which people seeking protection in Ukraine were instead returned to the countries they fled, in violation of Ukrainian law as well as international laws and treaties that protect asylum seekers.

… “We see a problem of disrespect for international law on the part of Ukraine,” said Maksim Butkevych, a rights advocate with Social Action Center in Kiev.

… “If any government was complicit in the abduction of Leonid Razvozzhayev, that government committed a grave violation of Mr. Razvozzhayev’s right under the 1951 Refugee Convention to be protected from involuntary return,” said Mark Hetfield, the interim president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit group whose lawyers in Ukraine were preparing Mr. Razvozzhayev’s asylum application.

After Mr. Razvozzhayev resurfaced two days later outside a Moscow courthouse in Russian custody, Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia’s top federal investigator, insisted that he had “turned himself in” — an assertion flatly contradicted by interviews with Mr. Razvozzhayev’s wife, lawyers and associates who saw him in Kiev. While Russia could have requested his extradition legally, international rights monitors say Ukraine routinely flouts normal procedures. 

… Mr. Butkevych said that kidnappings were rare but that asylum seekers were routinely deported or extradited from Ukraine in violation of their rights. “In general terms, Ukraine is not a safe country,” Mr. Butkevych said. “For some people, especially those people who are actually wanted by their countries of origin, it can be dangerous.” 

  That certainly proved true for Mr. Razvozzhayev, a former amateur boxer and native of Siberia who has long been a close associate of Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front, a radical socialist group that is at the core of the Russian political opposition. 

Mr. Razvozzhayev’s lawyers say that after he was abducted, he was driven across the Russian border, held for nearly two days in the basement of a house, denied food and subjected to what has been described as psychological torture, including death threats against his family. 

They said he was also forced to write and sign a 10-page confession, admitting to allegations first raised in early October in a documentary on NTV, a government-controlled television channel. The film showed Mr. Udaltsov, Mr. Razvozzhayev and others, in what was said to be a meeting in Minsk, in Belarus, appealing for financial assistance from a political operative from Georgia, the former Soviet republic.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

French Foreign Minister: France must "be able to remain an 'influential power' that is expected to speak out and is listened to and respected"

AT the last NATO summit in Chicago, very soon after he took office, President François Hollande set out his vision of our country’s place in the Atlantic alliance
writes French foreign minister Laurent Fabius (as he congratulates Americans for reelecting Barack Obama):
France is an ally that exercises its responsibility as a founding member and is committed to promoting common values but does not hesitate, if necessary, to air its differences honestly. This position is in line with the one the Socialist Party took in particular during the debate in 2009 on France’s return to the integrated command: allied yes, aligned no.

… In 2009, we [French Socialist Party members] did not support a return to the integrated command, but there is no question of organizing a permanent to-ing and fro-ing, and there would be little point in leaving it again today. However, we must ensure that our return, now officially endorsed, does not result in a trivialization of our foreign policy or a deterioration of our ability to make decisions and act, but on the contrary, in the growth of our influence and capabilities

In this way, France will play its full role in an organization whose chief mission is to enable democracies with shared values and interests to organize effectively their armed forces’ interoperability while guaranteeing their collective defense. 

The report [pdf] that the former foreign minister Hubert Védrine has just presented to the French president on our country’s role in NATO is a highly useful contribution to the work of the White Paper Commission tasked with considering our defense and security policy agenda. 

The report shares the same agenda. In particular, it emphasizes a twofold need: to strengthen our influence within the alliance by showing ourselves to be vigilant there, and to be more proactive in building a European defense. 

These recommendations are pertinent. In order to implement them and optimize NATO’s role in the new world around us, our policy must set itself at least three goals. 

1) For France, NATO must remain a special instrument of the trans-Atlantic relationship for the sake of values and interests we share — Europeans on the one hand and Americans and Canadians on the other. NATO is the natural framework for our forces’ joint engagement with the Americans. 

In this context, France will act to pursue the reform of the alliance in order to make it more effective. It will continue to shoulder its responsibilities, while preserving autonomy in its fundamental choices: to implement its nuclear deterrent; to withdraw its combat troops from Afghanistan, as it has now done; to develop a NATO anti-missile defense mechanism — for which, at the alliance’s latest summit, President Hollande set out his conditions, endorsed by the other 27 heads of state and government; and more generally, to retain freedom in the use of its forces and develop Defense Europe, which is an integral part of the project of political union. 

France will also continue working to strengthen all areas of cooperation between NATO and Russia, which in our eyes is a vital partner in different fields, such as Afghanistan and the fight against piracy and terrorism. 

2) There must be calm discussion — facilitated by President Obama’s re-election — of a new sharing of security and defense responsibilities between Europeans and Americans. The United States needs a reliable European ally capable of shouldering all its responsibilities. 

The Libya crisis showed that Europeans could play their part in dealing successfully with a conflict. We took on the bulk of the risks, responsibilities and military contributions. But the crisis also showed that we still need the support provided by the United States. Insofar as it has the necessary capabilities — as is not sufficiently the case today — it should be the European Union that acts when Europeans’ security interests are primarily at stake. 

In a few months’ time, for example, the E.U. will have to play its full role supporting the United Nations in helping Mali regain its sovereignty and fight terrorism. For the same reason, it would be good to start thinking about the responsibilities it will have to take on alongside the future Syrian authorities. 

3) The efforts initiated for Defense Europe must be pursued. NATO can make its contribution, but it is up to the Europeans first of all to work on it among themselves. 

This project is consistent with what we are doing to ensure that the European Union has a coordinated foreign policy with the means to make and implement decisions. We must act now toward this end, whereas our country, mobilized these past few years by its return to NATO’s integrated command, has been rather sparing when it comes to the resources devoted to Defense Europe.

We are going to continue working to build support for this project among European institutions and all our European partners, including the British. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and I recently hosted a meeting with our German, Italian, Spanish and Polish colleagues in order to make progress, calling on all the member states to join us in developing this project in cooperation with our main partners, who obviously include NATO. 

All these approaches must allow France to guarantee its independence and its capacity for action in a new world and at a time when we are facing strong budget constraints. We shall thus be able to remain an “influential power” that is expected to speak out and is listened to and respected.