It seems the real action is on the eastern shore of the island — Hugo Chavez spoke to the UN General Assembly and called George W. Bush the devil. Daniel Trotta reported for Reuters —
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called George W. Bush “the devil himself” and told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday the U.S. president had left the smell of sulfur hanging in the chamber from his appearance the previous day.
The U.S. rival and close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro used his speech before the assembly to accuse the United States of myriad evils such as helping render the U.N. Security Council worthless by robbing small nations of power.
“The devil himself is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday. Right here,” said Chavez, who also called Bush a “world dictator.”
Speaking from the same podium from which Bush had addressed the assembly on Tuesday, Chavez said “it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.”
“The hegemonistic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very existence of the human species,” Chavez said. “We appeal to the people of the United States and of the world to halt this threat which is like a sword hanging over our heads.”
I can’t see how Chavez’s rhetoric helps anybody, but I thought you would get a kick out of it.
“We’re not going to address that kind of comic strip approach to international affairs,” said US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, as he adjusted his cape. Then Bolton leaped into the sky and flew across the East River, yelling “Your ass is MINE, Voinovich! Captain Zemo doesn’t forget!”
And here I am stuck in the basement of the Sheraton, blogging.
I am continuing this first-hand blog coverage of the “urgent issues and innovative solutions” panel at the Clinton Global Initiatives conference; see earlier post here. I’m spending so much time on this panel that I’m missing the afternoon working sessions, but there was a lot said that I wanted to be sure somebody wrote about.
Remember awhile back when ABC’s Brian Ross reported that Osama bin Laden had been offered sanctuary in Pakistan? Musharraf said this agreement was not made between the government of Pakistan and terrorists. Rather, it was an agreement between a jirga (consultative council) of tribal elders in North Waziristan and the Taliban. Government officials were represented in the negotiations, but it’s actually the jirga‘s agreement, according to Musharraf. The basic provisions of the agreement are these:
1. Members of al Qaeda may remain in North Waziristan as long as there is no al Qaeda activity either in North Waziristan or across the border in Afghanistan.
2. Same thing goes for members of the Taliban.
3. There must also not be attempts at “Talibanization” in North Waziristan. “Talibanization” was defined by President Musharraf as a mindset that rejects music and television and enforces strict codes of conduct and appearance, such as making all men wear beards. The Taliban may not force other people in a community to abide by their rules, in other words.
There were no follow up questions on this point, so one asked Musharraf if this agreement might give sanctuary to Osama bin Laden if he popped up in North Waziristan and abided by the rules.
Musharraf said this agreement is already working. Yesterday some Pakistani Taliban crossed the border into Afghanistan to do mischief. Local tribal leaders who were signatories to the agreement arrested ten of these Taliban and turned them over to the Pakistani government.
Musharraf spoke at length at what he called “misperceptions” about terrorism and Islam. The turmoil began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan joined the West in this fight against Soviet expansion. Pakistan’s contributions to the Cold War were critical to defeating the Soviets, he said.
But now we suffer from the fallout, he said. We helped the West, but in 1989 we were left high and dry to fend for ourselves. We took in 4 million refugees from Afghanistan, including Muhajadeen, and we got no assistance from the West. Then the Taliban formed. On top of this, he continued, we have problems on our eastern borders with terrorism in Kashmir. Our national fabric was destroyed by the fallout from Afghanistan, and we got no assistance whatsoever to rebuild it.
The real problem is not terrorism, he said, but extremism, and you can’t defeat extremism militarily. Instead, one must address problems in the “environment,” by which I infer he meant society and culture, so that the environment is no longer conducive to growing terrorism. Muslims feel they are being targeted by the West, which fuels alienation, which fuels extremism. Incidents like the infamous Danish cartoon flap only rubs salt in the wounds. Further, the extremists are convinced that modernization is westernization. Yet there is nothing in Islam that forbids modernization. And since Islam encourages making decisons by consensus, it is not in theory hostile to democracy.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban are very different, from Musharraf’s perspective, because the Taliban has its roots in the people of Pakistan, whereas al Qaeda are foreigners. This makes the Taliban a more intractable problem for Musharraf.
And the absolute foundation of Muslim unrest, said Musharraf, is the “Palestinian dispute.”