A Review of Year's Personalities
The dawn of the 21st Century was supposed to have been a time of great and noble happenings. But much ballyhooed 2000 turned out to be a year with few heroes or heroic acts. On the bright side, at least the world didn't end.
*Pope John Paul II - Once again, this remarkable pope set a world standard for humanity, compassion, and personal courage. In spite of fast-failing health and crippling infirmities, this warrior pope has soldiered painfully onwards, travelling without relent to deliver his message of morality and decency to a world that badly needs it.
The Polish Pope continues his crusade against moral relativism, reminding that right and wrong still exist, even in our permissive age. He reinvigorated the Catholic Church and repaired the damage done to the faith by his weak, overly liberal predecessors. Equally important, Pope John Paul II, having played a key role in the destruction of modern history's greatest evil, communism, keeps reminding the world of the plight of people who have no voice: the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten. History, this column believes, will record Pope John Paul as one of the greatest popes. He will likely certainly be canonized.
*Mexico's President Vicente Fox - This amiable businessman came from
almost nowhere to mount an historic, free-enterprise revolution that
toppled Mexico's supposedly unbeatable PRI party, an entrenched, deeply corrupt socialist oligarchy that misruled, looted, and bled the nation for over 70 years. Whether Fox realizes his goals of reducing endemic corruption, building effective, clean government, and uplifting Mexico's poor through the free market, remains to be seen. But he clearly means business and has infused long-cynical, dispirited Mexicans with hope and pride. Socialist-lite Canada could use a Fox-style revolution. Viva El Presidente!
*South Korea's Kim Dae Jung - Skeptics, this column included, long doubted that Kim's `Sunshine' policy of luring dangerous North Korea out of its shell would work. But this old battler for human rights and democracy was right, at least so far. Kim, and his northern counterpart, Kim Jong-il, have taken a few steps to reducing the extremely dangerous tensions on the Korean Peninsula that made it the second most likely place, after Kashmir, for a nuclear war to erupt. Hopefully, we are seeing the beginning of the
reunification of the hard-working, patriotic, long-suffering Korean
people. But caution is still advised.
*Aslan Meshkhadov, President of the Chechen Republic - In a forgotten war, in a forgotten land, a forgotten people, the Chechen, battle on against impossible odds. Some 5,000 courageous Chechen fighters, led by field commanders Shamil Basayev and Khattab, have fought a 120,000-man Russian occupation army to a bloody standstill, continuing the Chechen people's epic 250-year struggle against brutal Russian rule.
Surrounded, short of munitions, food, and supplies, with almost no medical support, cut off from the outside world and ignored by all, even their so-called Muslim `brother nations,' these lions of the Caucasus wage a jihad, or holy struggle, against Russian oppression, colonialism, and attempted genocide. Human rights groups charge Russia with mass murder, torture, operating concentration camps, rape, pillage, razing entire cities, and showering millions of mines on tiny Chechnya. Shamefully, the world watches Russia's frightful crimes in silence, or even calls the heroic Chechen `Islamic terrorists.' Canada just invited Russia's Putin as an honored guest: nothing was said about war crimes, mines, or torture. This writer, who has covered 14 wars, has never seen braver or more skilful fighters. Freedom for Chechnya in 2001.
*George Papandreou of Greece - Greece's youthful, Canadian educated, foreign minister leads a new generation of Balkan leaders who put common sense before emotion. Papandreou is trying to lead the feisty Greeks away from traditional, knee-jerk anti-Turkish reactions, forging better relations with Greece's old foe and most important neighbor. Papandreou has also helped calm the turbulent Balkan diplomatic scene and taken a lead in developing adult relations between the often squabbling nations of East Europe. By treating Turks with respect and basic decency, Papandreou has done more for Greece's security than all previous Greek governments, his father's included.
*Policemen, Firefighters, Nurses and Paramedics- The three unsung,
neglected heroes of our society. These frontline troops of civilization
battle every day to protect the public. Many pay a heavy price in broken personal lives, exhaustion, depression, even death. Their pay should be tripled; those of politicians and bureaucrats halved. This column gives them its highest award for courage and dedication.
*Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh - Sankoh, Issa Sesay, and the other leaders of the murderous rabble called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), responsible for atrocities that shock even violence-numbed Africans. So too their ally, Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, who forced his predecessor, President Samuel K. Doe, to eat his own ears. Sierra Leone's long civil war has become one of the world's primary horror scenes. Gangs of teenage RUF `soldiers,' crazed on pot and palm beer, routinely chop off the arms or legs of civilians, babies included, to create terror and obedience. This diamond-rich, but ruined little nation has sunken back into Africa's heart of darkness. Its only hope: recolonization by Britain.
*Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic - Now in temporary `retirement' after being removed from power by a national uprising, this communist and indicted war criminal, who ignited four Balkan Wars and has the blood of nearly 300,000 victims on his head, continues to plot his return, so far untouched by the arm of justice. Milosevic, and his fellow war criminals, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, must be brought to trial for committing the worst crimes against humanity in Europe since Stalin and Hitler. Serbia says it will try them at home. Instead, they should be turned over to the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague.
*Romania's Corneliu Vadim Tudor - Just what the world does not need, a new Balkan racist demagogue. At least Tudor, who was recently defeated by an old communist in Romania's presidential race, hasn't the brains or skill of Serbia's Milosevic. Tudor was once in-house poet to Romania's late, lunatic dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Now, this dangerous windbag and clown leads the `Greater Romania Party.' Romania is a total wreck: it needs decent government, not more Romania. Tudor blames his nation's poverty on `dirty Jews,' recalling the fascist Iron Guard of the 1930's. And on Hungarians, particularly those in Romanian-ruled Transylvania, that was historically part of Hungary until handed to Romania after WWI. Dump him in the Danube along with Milosevic.
*Israel's Ariel Sharon - The general who presided over the massacres at
Shatilla and Sabra camps in Beirut that left over 1,000 Palestinian
civilians dead, barely escaped being indicted for war crimes. Sharon
recently bulldozed his way into Israel's political spotlight by making a
provocative visit to Jerusalem Al'Aksa mosque, purposely igniting a
explosion of rage among Palestinians, who saw peace negotiations going
nowhere and Jewish settlements expanding. Sharon staged the ugly incident to thwart his political rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, from regaining control of the rightwing Likud Party, and to scupper any move towards peace.
Adored by the fanatical Jewish settlers who are blocking the road to
Arab-Israeli peace. This brutal, far-right extremist may soon become
Israel's next prime minister.
*Osama Bin Laden - Seen as a hero across much of the Muslim World for his David v. Goliath struggle against US Oil Raj in the Mideast. In fact, Bin Laden has hurt his people's cause by getting involved with bombings, or at least openly supporting them, and pouring forth fiery, frenzied invective against the US, convincing most Americans that anyone who opposes American hegemony in the Mideast is a terrorist. Bin Laden is merely the latest of a long line of Muslim big mouths, like Libya's Khadaffi or Iraq's Saddam, who play right into the west's need to demonize its opponents.
* Madeleine Albright - The lackluster US Secretary of State showed twice this year how unworthy she is of her high office. First, when queried about UN charges that 500,000 Iraqi children had died because of the decade-long US-British embargo of Iraq, she replied, `it is a price worth paying.' This cruel idiocy will come to haunt her, and the United States. Now, the Clinton Administration has joined with Russia to inflict the same punishment on starving but defiant Afghanistan.
Second, when the `Intifada-II' erupted in Palestine after Sharon's Temple Mount provocation, she claimed `Palestinians placed Israel under siege,' a ludicrous and biased statement from the State Secretary of a nation supposedly acting as `honest broker' in the Mideast. In fact, the violence was almost totally confined to Palestinian towns and villages surrounded by Israel tanks and troops. If Mrs Albright thinks teenage boys throwing rocks at armored vehicles constitutes a siege of Israel, a leading world military power, she needs help. Gen. Colin Powell you're needed ASAP at State!
*Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe - This fading African chief is trying to save his political skin by launching a race war against Zimbabwe's embattled white farmers, who produce most of the nation's vital crop exports. Whites are being murdered and assaulted in a government-led campaign to drive them from their property. In South Africa, almost one white farmer is being murdered each day by blacks, while the government does nothing, or even encourages such crimes. In both cases, the world watches silently.
*Peru's Vladimiro Montesinos - Former intelligence chief of Peru, this
shadowy, sleazy figure, who once worked for CIA, was caught on red-handed on film bribing a legislator. Montesinos was involved in buying arms for Colombia's vicious marxist rebels, importing contraband, including thousands of designer t-shirts and jewelry, and suspected of being in league with drug barons. Montesino's illegal activities brought down the government of his former patron, the tough, capable president, Alberto Fujimori, known to one and all as `el chino'(though he is of Japanese descent). Full-of-surprises Fujimori now says he will settle in Japan as a Japanese citizen. Montesinos is on the lam.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis, December 2000
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