8 september 2005

The world keeps turning (De andere kijk)

The media, but also many citizens, have voiced criticism of president Bush’s handling of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I will spare myself the trouble of dissecting all those opinions. Others before me have done that far more eloquently than I probably ever can. Just browse through my blogroll and you will find all the information you want. I just want to make the following two points.

In a democracy, criticism is allowed, I would even say that it is necessary, provided it is based on sound arguments and made regardless of whom it is directed at. I think everyone can agree about this principle. But why do many people, mostly of the left, don’t seem to know how to put this principle into practice when it concerns president Bush and America in general? The past few days have, there has been a flurry of baseless and one-sided attacks on the president. I just can’t stand the ignorance or worse, the intellectual dishonesty or even the malice that characterizes them. In that case, the ones being attacked deserve to be defended, even if, in this particular case, "the one" is the most powerful man of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.

Besides that, an important lesson that we can learn from the tragedy is that we cannot afford to rely on the government alone for our safety. We have to take responsibility for our own lives and can’t simply blame others or society as a whole for our own misfortune.

In the meantime, do not forget to make a donation to the relief effort.

But amid the devastation created by Katrina, the world hasn’t stopped turning. Here are some highlights you may have missed.

Flanders/Wallonia: µ
The Walloon government has disclosed yet another “plan de relance”. While some commentators are sympathetic to or even enthusiastic about the plan, some criticism is in order (fellow blogger Xavier Meulders has a good post on the plan):
1. Why the focus on a few sectors, risking a return to the scenario of the seventies and eighties of bailing out the “national sectors” which has cost the Belgian taxpayer billions of old Belgian francs.
2. It wouldn’t be logical for the Walloon politicians to start a plan at the regional level if the same politicians block complementary measures at the federal level.
3. The amount put aside for the plan is peanuts compared to the billions that flow annually from Flanders and the EU.
4. Could it be then that the plan is aimed at countering the recent deteriorating image in Flanders of Wallonia as a dead weight, as Elio Di Rupo, president of the French-speaking socialist party, seems to imply in his notorious interview in the Flemish weekly Humo?

While the US has been debating the teaching of the intelligent design theory, the weekly Knack is reporting that a similar debate is emerging in Belgium as well, this time instigated, not by conservative Christians, but by Muslims.

War on Terror: Flemish daily De Morgen quotes a German investigative journalist saying that Al Qaeda has acquired enough enriched uranium from Pakistani sources to assemble an operational nuclear weapon that can slip through undetected in a container and that can be detonated from a distance with conventional explosives.

Iraq: Coalition forces, with an increasing role for Iraqi forces, are continuing to step up the pressure on the ‘insurgency’; further, this unreported story about the recent stampede in Iraq that claimed about a thousand lives. Update 08/09/05: Meanwhile, security responsibility over Najaf has been transferred to the Iraqi government.

Iran: The newly elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, will visit the US to attend the UN’s general assembly meeting of September 12. It is a disgrace that an individual who is suspected to be involved in the Iranian hostage crisis and in the assassination of dissidents, can come to New York under the cover of diplomatic immunity, one day after the fourth commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; further Iran is not happy with the meeting between the Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers; finally, an intriguing post on Iran’s strategy in the standoff about its nuclear program.

Syria: the US and France seem to be coordinating their efforts to put pressure on the Syrian government regarding the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Israël/Palestine: remember the Palestinian boy and his father, who were caught in a crossfire at the start of the second intifada. The boy, protected by his father, was reported to have been killed deliberately by Israeli forces. Could it be that it was all staged (hat tip: LGF)?

Venezuela: While Flemish weekly Knack is heaping praise on Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, confiscations continue and the helpless are more and more neglected.

Before I finish this post, I want to say another thing about Katrina: some may gloat now about America’s misfortune or its handling of the disaster, but maybe they should keep in mind that its repercussions may affect Europe more than it would want to.

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