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Damned Lies and ‘Fact Checking’ (cont.)

From The Scrapbook

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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This time, however, the rector of Trinity, the Rev. James Cooper, decided that enough had been done on behalf of OWS, and he refused to allow the squatters to occupy church property. Which produced the inevitable reaction: Occupiers have threatened clergy and parishioners, invaded the church precincts, held loud demonstrations, and even enlisted the rhetorical aid of friendlier clerics (“Trinity blew it,” says the Rev. Milind Sojwal of All Angels Church on the Upper West Side). Scrapbook readers will not be surprised to learn that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has weighed in, very publicly, on both sides of the issue: demanding that Trinity “find a way to help” the protesters while admonishing the protesters to behave themselves.

Good luck with that. In the meantime, however, and to The Scrapbook’s surprise and gratification, Cooper has not budged: “Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protesters than any other institution in the area,” he writes on the church website. 

Calling this an issue of “political sanctuary” is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petitions signatures, but doesn’t make it right.

To which The Scrapbook can only say, Amen.

Who’s Afraid of the Arab League?

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., is apparently surprised that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad won’t stop killing just because he’s been asked to cut it out. Reports of mass slaughter from Syria, Rice wrote last week on her Twitter feed, came “just 2 days after #Syria committed to the #ArabLeague initiative.” 

It is unclear what Rice expected. If a ruler is leading a bloody campaign against the people to whom he is supposed to be accountable, it is foolish to expect him to respect the diplomatic entreaties of foreign institutions. Rice merits some credit for her outspoken support of the Syrian opposition, and even more for her impassioned speech in October attacking Russia and China for blocking a Security Council resolution condemning Assad. But again, did she expect two notorious human rights abusers would pave the way for Western democracies to quash an authoritarian regime? And why does the Obama administration expect anything useful of the Arab League? This is the triumph of that hopey-changey stuff over experience. 

Founded in 1945 in Cairo, the Arab League showed its colors when it relocated to Tunisia from 1979-1989 to protest Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel. The last general secretary of this august body was Amr Moussa, now a candidate for the presidency of Egypt. In 2000, an Egyptian musician named Shaaban Abdel Rahim recorded “I Hate Israel, but I Love Amr Moussa.” The wildly popular response to the song so alarmed Mubarak that he removed Moussa, then his foreign minister, from his cabinet and emplaced him at the Arab League. This reshuffle indicated that Mubarak, like other Arab rulers, considered the institution weak, ineffective, and a dark closet where interlopers could be sent to spin their wheels.

It’s true that the Arab League’s condemnation of Muammar Qaddafi was something of a prerequisite for the NATO campaign in Libya, lending cover as it did to a White House that seeks legitimacy in the strangest quarters. But with the Syrian crisis escalating toward civil war, the White House has essentially farmed out its policy to an institution that many in the Middle East understand is a joke. 

Nonetheless, as Frederic Hof, the administration’s pointman on Syria, crowed last week, the Arab League initiative is “the main game in town”​—​suggesting that the White House doesn’t have its own playbook. The initiative calls for monitors who will bear witness to the violence and thereby, as administration spokesmen have explained, shame Assad from committing more violence. The game is silly enough​—​a regime that posts YouTube videos of its own atrocities to intimidate the opposition is incapable of being shamed by witnesses​—​but the game’s players are plain evil.

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