Daily Archives: August 17, 2008

Sydney Antique Centre

163 Sydney Antique Centre is where Sirdan and I finished a lovely Surry Hills afternoon. Lots of beautiful things there.

Previously we had had lunch at the Strawberry Hills Hotel in Devonshire Street.


So beautiful, Surry Hills, sometimes…

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Posted by on August 17, 2008 in local, Sirdan, Sunday lunch, Surry Hills


The Fascist Impulse « Jon Taplin’s Blog on Georgia, and Vanity Fair on Mugabe

I haven’t said much about the Russia/Georgia thing. Truthdig’s Robert Scheer is on ABC’s Unleashed with a conspiracy theory which grossly overestimates the importance of the USA, paradoxically. Sure, the US has had a role here, and Russian paranoia about US-NATO missile shields and the sense of encirclement generated by this and US support for Georgia have played their part in what otherwise is an old-fashioned, but very dangerous, bit of territorial/nationalist brinkmanship, as has the world’s addiction to oil. But I really don’t buy the “it’s all about the US elections” line Scheer takes. The Fascist Impulse « Jon Taplin’s Blog offers another take, and he discusses the matter on a number of other posts as well.

…I have always been fascinated by the bully boys who are attracted to the military solution to every problem, but would never think of joining the Army themselves. The British historian Hobsbawm described them as ” a relatively small, but absolutely numerous, minority for whom uniform and discipline, sacrifice-of self and others- and blood arms and power were what made masculine life worth living.”…

…Russia, like almost every country in the world (including Iran) relies on the international capital markets to finance it’s growth. The power of the West to modify Russia’s behavior lies in it’s willingness to impose capital sanctions, not in the fools errand of starting a new war in the Caucuses.Russian companies and individuals have billions stashed in Western banks and they need Wall Street and London financing desperately…

I am well aware that John McCain and his handlers think that all this saber rattling plays to his advantage. But once the Berlin Wall fell, Russia became as dependant on the capital markets as the U.S. The bully boys don’t want to think that their simplistic solution (send in the Marines to Georgia) is not the smart solution.

The discussion in the comment thread which follows fully justifies your visiting.

And yes, I think we have all been wonder-struck as Len in Texas was on his Quote of the day on Friday:

“Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.” — Republican George W. Bush, August 15, 2008.

Meanwhile an issue I do visit here from time to time: Robert Mugabe. There is an excellent article in Vanity Fair, again offered in the Arts & Letters Daily: “Day of the Crocodile” by Peter Godwin.

Mugabe’s party is divided now between hawks and doves, between hard-liners and conciliators, and it is riven as well by rival succession candidates. Mugabe’s clan totem is Gushungo—meaning “crocodile” in Shona, the language of most Zimbabweans—and on the occasion of his 83rd birthday, last year, a giant stuffed crocodile was presented to him as a symbol of his “majestic authority.” But even the wiliest crocodiles eventually tire and die, and the word on the street was that he had been stung by the extent of his defeat, and that his young wife, Grace, had urged him to step down and enjoy his last years with their three children in his 25-bedroom mansion. The mood in Harare was expectant, even giddy.

I grew up and was educated in Zimbabwe, served as a conscript, and maintain close ties to the country. Because of these roots I have been able to live and travel there even at times, such as the present, when other foreign journalists have been expelled. In Harare that afternoon I spent time with friends as the hours wore on. Finally an old school chum called to say that “the General”—his uncle, a politburo member and a former guerrilla commander—had at last emerged from Jongwe House, and that the meeting was over.

The General, Solomon Mujuru, is now considered a “moderate,” but he was not ever thus. Twenty-five years ago, not long after the end of the war of liberation, the General had once put a gun to my heart and threatened to kill me. The gun was a Russian-made Tokarev with a mother-of-pearl handle. Odd how you remember such details. The General had been working his way through a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label at the time, but his grip was steady.

This was in 1984, during the Matabeleland massacres, when Mugabe unleashed his fearsome North Korea–trained Fifth Brigade into that southern province to crush the opposition. I had written about the massacres for a British newspaper, which is what prompted the General to draw his gun when our paths crossed.

But now, on April 4, the General had bad news to report. In the end Mugabe had decided that he intended to do everything necessary to retain his powers. Behind the scenes the presidential ballot boxes would be effectively stuffed to indicate that Morgan Tsvangirai, though still winning more votes than Mugabe, had not achieved the 50 percent threshold necessary for election. (This was possible because there had been a third candidate in the race.) Further, in the weeks leading up to the runoff, Mugabe would wage a campaign of bloody intimidation to ensure that Zimbabwe’s voters understood where their self-interest lay. Indeed, a secret battle plan was actually drawn up, in detail. A leaked copy dated April 9 was shown to me; the key section carried the heading “Covert Operations to Decompose the Opposition.”

Do read it. Just in case the link ceases to work, I have uploaded a PDF copy: Day of the Crocodile.

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Posted by on August 17, 2008 in Africa, America, current affairs, Europe, magazines, other blogs, politics, USA