Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I have just finished reading 'Berlin' by Antony Beevor, which documents in horrific detail the last rounds of the worlds greatest ever grudge match between two evil dictators - Hitler and Stalin. Slaughter, rape, starvation, pillage and betrayal upon betrayal upon betrayal - the Soviet treatment of their own soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Germans was particularly shocking, as was the systematically ignored (by the leadership) abuse of women.

Hitler's complete lack of touch with reality in the last months is also incredible.

All in all, I have to agree with Jeremy Paxman's quote on the inside front cover "If you ever needed reminding why war is something we should move heaven and earth to avoid, this will do it". Given this, the current events in Haiti are fairly depressing, particularly when you look at the deeper background. See, for example, this article: Hell in Haiti, Part 1 and Part 2. Given the misery the past involvement in this little country has wrought, and the mess they are currently stirring up in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am not very hopeful.

In some places there is hope, though - as I write this I remember that Mozambique went through 28 years of civil war with lots of unwelcome external interference, with horrendous effects on the civilian population. Yet now it has had over 11 years of peace and at least in Maputo people have a very consensual approach to resolving problems. I can't help noticing that this all started happening once the USA stopped being in interested in Southern Africa (with the end of the Cold War and the consequent end of American support for Apartheid in South Africa). In fact their only significant involvement here appears to be trying to stop AIDS without condoms, by teaching abstention to teenagers. Hmmm....

Let's hope that they keep on forgetting that this little ( well, 800,000 square kms!) corner of south-east Africa continues to get forgotten about by thick-necked policymakers inside the Beltway.

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