Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Islamic pressures in Iraq
MEMRI (The Middle East Media Review Institute) has the complete lowdown on the state of Islamic groups and Islamic pressures in Iraq today. It explains how Islamic factions have blossomed since the fall of Saddam, and what that means for the future of Iraq.
"There are growing signs that Islamic extremism threatens to turn Iraq, or at least parts of it, into a repressive theocracy reminiscent of regimes such as those prevailing in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even the defunct Taliban regime of Afghanistan. If this were to occur, the result would be a regime in which self-appointed religious clerics would introduce a form of religiously-sanctioned repression in place of the old secular ideology."

"The state of lawlessness that accompanied the removal of Saddam's regime and the inability of the central authority in Iraq to enforce the law in many parts of the country has created a volatile situation. Various groups of thugs and vigilantes have exploited these circumstances to terrorize the largely secular educated elite into submission to rules of religious orthodoxy and Islamist norms akin to Saudi Wahhabism and alien to the historical Iraqi reality of ethnic and religious coexistence. An Iraqi writer, Nabil Yunis Damman, put it in these words: 'We do not wish to emerge from the cloak of fanatic nationalism only to enter into the cloak of religious extremism.'"

It's well worth a read...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Christian vote in US
The conservative Christian vote has been one of the key targets of the Bush campaign thus far, and they have been going to some extraordinary lengths to highlight the 'perils' of a liberal administration on Christian values. Have a look at this report from the NY Times, and view the mailer here. Meanwhile, Jimmy Swaggart gets in on the act...

Monday, September 27, 2004

SA's bid for the UN
Following on from Wednesday's critique of the UN, Friday was the perfect day to announce South Africa's bid for one of the proposed additional permanent UN security council seats. The mandate for the UN is that it has to offer a more representative forum than the prevailing group of nations (US, UK, France, China and Russia) which have been in place since World War 2. These five permanent nations have often hamstrung the UN's peace-keeping abilities with a collusioniary viewpoint that is often not in the best interests of the global population.

Under the premise that many of these decisions involve Africa, it seems that the UN should not deny an African voice on the security council, but morality does not often win over political clout. With the current system of five permanent seats and 10 revolving seats, one would think that the UN would only add three or four permanent seats and this is where it gets interesting. Europe is represented in the UK and France, so Germany getting a seat is, in my view, unlikely. India would seem a good choice, but with their relations with the pivotal Pakistan, their veto may be a dangerous tool. Middle East representation would seemingly be necessary, but would significant risks. With the fractitious relations in the region, as well as the 'tinder-box' situation along many of the borders, a Middle East seat may simply be too dangerous to select. An option would be to add both India and Pakistan, but this may further paralyse the council's activities. Asia requires a bulwark to the ever developing China, and Australia and Japan would be contestants, but I feel Japan should get the nod there. Then there's South American interests, which should naturally be given to Brazil.

That brings us to an African seat, which realistically lies between South Africa and Nigeria. South Africa's more international approach to foreign affairs would give us hope, but Mbeki's handling of Zimbabwe may detract heavily from our chances. However, when one considers Nigeria's troublesome human rights abuse record, perhaps South Africa should be a shoe-in. One also has to consider the value of Nigeria as an oil resource, as well as the country's ability to be sympathetic to Islamic needs. It's a tight race, but I think that South Africa's proactive and balanced approach to foreign affairs, as well as the penchant for always keeping dialogue open (think the recent Likud talks) will rub the UN the right way.

In summary then, I think that the UN should opt for safety rather than representation, and add Japan, Brazil and South Africa as permanent members. This group balances the First World power on the council and adds developing nation concerns to the decision-making process. Comments welcome...


I've thought about this a bit more, and I suppose Egypt would be a great challenger for the 'African' seat, should there be one, due to its links with the Muslim world. Egypt is a more moderate Islamic nation and thus more palatable and stable for many of the world's major powers. It is economically strong and close enough to Europe to be well positioned to speak for the African continent. The problem however, is that a credible representative for the continent would surely have to be drawn from Sub-Saharan Africa, given that the majority of the issues in Africa - poverty, genocide, and other major ethnic conflict - occur in this region. I'll keep my vote (patriotically) with SA, but will tip Egypt as a real challenger.

How blogging has influenced political journalism in the US
Awesome article in the NY Times' Sunday edition about the impact of blogging on political journalism. It's a huge article, but well worth the read, even if it just puts some faces to the blogger's names we know so well. Read it here

Blogger engaged
Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days, I asked my girl to marry me this weekend (and she said yes) so politics have not been top of mind. Usual service will resume shortly...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The effect of the US election on the SA economy
Good article on Moneyweb about what the possible changes in the White House mean to SA and our economy. Read it here

Thabo slams the UN
I watched Mbeki's speech to the UN assembly live last night, and one could not help being impressed by his impassioned speech deriding the UN's focus on the war on terror against a backdrop of international poverty crises.

"The wealthy and powerful feel mortally threatened by the fanatical rage of terrorists, correctly," said Mbeki.

"What they will decide will translate into a set of obligatory injunctions, issued by this organisation, which all member states will have to accept and implement."

Impoverished countries, however, do not have the means to respond to the "present and immediate dangers" of famine and disaster, and lack the power to have their concerns translated into similarly binding UN resolutions, he said.

"We comforted or perhaps deluded ourselves with the thought that this organisation is 'the most universal and most representative in the world', afraid to ask the question - is it?" he said

Mbeki's speech was notable against a series of speeches by African and developing nation leaders (the worst surely being Namibian President Sam Nujoma) who laboured on with platitudes to the UN and the first world countries.

It's interesting that whilst the US/UK power block has largely written off the UN as a toothless assembly within the war on terror, Mbeki may actually be bringing the focus back to what the UN is traditionally a key player in - bringing international aid to impoverished areas. Perhaps this opens an opportunity for the UN to rebuild its credibility by throwing itself into a humanitarian focus, whilst it rebuilds its sorely needed stature in conflict resolution.

Either way, I applaud Mbeki for a great speech. Whether the rest of the UN - and the world - will do so too, is debatable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tsvangari back in the firing line
After announcing a few months ago that judgement had been indefinitely postponed, the Zimbabwean judiciary has stated that a verdict on Tsvangari's case will be delivered on 15 October 2004. The verdict in the treason case carries a possible death penalty, and one shudders at the thought of what would happen in Zimbabwe in that unlikely event. Tsvangari's lawyers have largely disproved the credibility of the state's witness, Ari Ben-Menashe, and it is more likely that he will be acquitted, as the allegations occurred in the run-up to the elections, and have widely been accredited as being part of Mugabe's dirty electioneering campaigns.

Updated Blogroll
I've updated my blogroll, which was looking a bit miserly...

Sibling rivalry?
Moeletsi Mbeki, Chairperson of the South African Institute of International Affairs, and brother of President Thabo Mbeki, made some very interesting comments yesterday regarding Africa and South Africa's place in it.

He commenced by stating that "Africa was experiencing a downward spiral, with its people worse off than they had been during the time of colonialism." This has been a point of view touted by a few commentators in the past few years, and it is still one which is highly debatable. It all comes down to the terms of reference of "better off". In relation to infrastructure, GDP and governing structures, African countries were probably better off under colonialism, but often to the detriment of the country, as much of the agricultural production and raw materials were largely exported to the colonial mother country. European skills, capital and machinery were typically leveraged by the colonist to maximise the plundering of the colonialised and whilst this assisted in enhancing GDP and building better infrastructure, the GDP per capita was still largely skewed toward the colonist 'pioneers' and away from the indigenous people. So if "better off" is referenced in terms of the colonised people's freedoms, pride and personal standards of living, then I would say that they weren't in such a stable position. However, one has to weight it against the corrupt and often violent leaders throughout Africa, and this is were the debate becomes fuzzy, because it is very difficult to measure the extent of personal suffering. Suffice to say that neither is a particularly attractive prospect, because this colonial merit debate will always remain just that, a debate.

However, Moeletsi Mbeki said something even more interesting in his speech.

What should South Africa do about this? "It should revisit issues and stop putting out fires in Darfur until we address this fundamental problem of power relations between producers and controllers of political power," Mbeki said.

On Zimbabwe, he said South Africa should intervene on the side of democracy and not back Zanu-PF. "Our intervention should be to support democracy and not tolerate use of violence, torture and rigging of elections and, if necessary, we should support the opposition," he said.

Well, we all know how Thabo hates criticism from anyone and how he responds, but criticism on his foreign and domestic policy from his own brother? This should be very interesting. I don't know of the strength of the relationship between the Mbeki siblings, but it must have taken some guts for Moeletsi to make his views known.

More belligerence from Bush
Anybody watching President Bush's speech at the UN last night will be forgiven for thinking he was addressing a town hall in Texas. So clearly was it aimed at US voters, with a complete dismissal of those world leaders facing his podium. Following after Annan's rather aggressive speech about the illegality of the war and US abuses in Iraq, Bush stuck to his unilateral guns and gave no compromise to the gathering of leaders that used to be counted as US allies, further entrenching the division between the US and the world. It was remarkable to see how far he has shrunk from world opinion and international relations, and it is a very interesting prospect as to how history will judge his presidency.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Republicans proving themselves better at getting their hands dirty

The Republicans have fought the 2004 US Presidential election very intelligently thus far. They realised early that they would have difficulty fighting on the domestic issues (healthcare, jobs and the economy)and knew that their strength was to fight their campaign on terrorism. All of that is simple, and is no strategy for success, but what they have done so successfully is using sidebar players to keep Kerry off the front page at all costs, and keep terrorism on it.

The Republican party as a whole has got firmly behind the Bush Administration and has followed the party line and personally attacked Kerry and Edwards on every turn. In plain terms, they've fought real dirty, and the Democrats have had no answer. Whilst the Republican party has traditionally proven to be adept at gutterball politics, the usual Democratic strategy has been to remain out of the fray, and appeal to voters on the integrity or values platform. But this year, the level of the fear campaign driven into voters by the Republicans has meant that this using this strategy is impossible. The Republicans have made the stakes too high. If, as a voter, you are told that voting for a particular party could lead to a weakness in security that affects your family, will you accept a response from the other party on the integrity of the messenger? The answer, obviously, is no, you will expect a response refuting the allegation and highlighting what the 'weaker' party would do to fight terrorism. And this is the beauty of it. The Democrats are being forced to respond, and so are being sucked in to talking the Republican strategy - terrorism - and not about the domestic issues.

As a result of the Republican campaigns, US voters are not reading about healthcare and the economy every day, even though they are central issues to them, they are reading about commentary on the dangers of terrorism, the weakness of the Kerry-Edwards policies, and responses to personal attacks made on Kerry. In short, the Republicans have won the headline wars, even if the headlines are negative for them, they're keeping terrorism debate on the front pages, and domestic issues on page 4.

As an example, at a fundraiser in Illinois on Saturday, Dennis Hastert said al-Qaeda would seek to influence the November 2 election and added: "I would think that they would be more apt to go with somebody who would file a lawsuit with a world court or something rather than respond with troops." Asked if he thought al-Qaeda would prefer to see Kerry in the White House, he said: "That's my opinion, yes."

A case in point. It's a ridiculous claim, one that is almost libelous, and what is the Democratic response? "It is disgraceful. There should have no room for this in our political discourse," says Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe. True, but what are US voters talking about on Sunday? This election is fought in the middle, the undecided voters, and merely castigating the messenger is only going to leave doubt in the minds of the undecideds and is forcing Kerry off message. The Democratic campaign is largely rudderless at the moment, with Kerry fighting fires around him rather than campaigning on policies. He has to step away from the allegations, let Edwards handle the Republicans, bring the debate back to domestic issues and stay on message.

I'm starting to be convinced that this election will go back to Bush, because the Republican party has fought better in the trenches, and the Kerry campaign has been sucked in by all the red herrings.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The market knows the truth
With the second SNO announced by Communications Minister Ivy Matsepi-Casaburri today, there's a notable lack of excitement and optimism amongst the media or the public. The bottom line? We've seen it all before. And already we hear there's controversy, with one of the original SNO bidders bringing an interdict against Matsepi-Casaburri. As usual, the free market knows the truth, and it's with little suprise that we note the distinct lack of movement in Telkom's share price today.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Saudi takes a tentative step towards democracy
In my view, it has always been one of the US' greatest hypocrisies that their leadership incessantly castigates Middle Eastern countries for their lack of democracy, yet counts Saudi Arabia as one of its favourite allies. No prizes for guessing why, but the fact remains that Saudi Arabia holds one of the most totalitarian regimes in region. This has proved to be one of the main points inciting radical Muslim groups over the last decade, with Bin Laden including the destruction of the Saud regime as one of his objectives.

Against this backdrop, Saudi Arabia has announced that, for the first time in 41 years, it will allow local elections which will fill half the seats on 178 municipal councils.

According to the Washington Post, "the ruling family's goal, political analysts and diplomats here say, is to determine whether a more open government might help defuse a rising armed threat by Muslim militants in the kingdom or merely inspire reform advocates to push harder against the princes' long hold on power."

This would have been done under intense pressure from the Bush Administration who are patently searching for examples of success in the Middle East to counterweight the damage done by Iraq in voter's minds. Whatever the reasoning, whether it be from a Bush election strategy or fear of extremists, a little democracy in a country where women still do not have the right to drive is definitely a good thing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Florida back in the headlines
It just wouldn't be a US presidential election without some controversy in Florida would it? The state is back in the headlines as a senior Republican-appointed official has ordered the radical campaigner Ralph Nader's name reinstated on the ballot for the crucial presidential vote. The Telegraph reports that after Ralph Nader was ruled out of the Florida ballot last Thursday by a state circuit court judge, "Mrs Hood, who was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother, said she was obliged to overrule a judge's preliminary court ruling because Hurricane Ivan might prevent the judge from holding a final hearing."

The great thing is, that Hurricane that Ivan is not even due to strike the state capital, Tallahassee, where the judge sits! We've all heard the reasoning, whether it's a Democratic crutch or not, that Bush won by 500 votes in Florida in the 2000 election, where independent Nader won more that 100 000 votes. Naturally then, the Democrats are incensed, with Florida Democratic chairman, Scott Maddox, saying the decision was "blatant political manoeuvring by Jeb Bush to give his brother a leg up on election day" in November.

Forget Survivor, better reality TV you could not find for love or money...

The Silent WMD Case
I have to commend South African investigators for the way they have gone about the ongoing WMD case. The investigation has potentially explosive international conitations, and there has been a notable level of professionalism about the case, with none of the usual media leaks and no members blabbing too much to get some TV airtime. In fact, there's almost been a veil of secrecy thrown over the whole affair, with even the lawyers for the accused saying they're confused.

Meanwhile, internationally, the investigation has been seen as so important that US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher commended South Africa for "its efforts to act against the A.Q. Khan network. We think that the activities that they have undertaken are an important contribution to international efforts to shut down this network," he said. The UN has also stated that the investigation "may shed light on both Libya and Iran's nuclear programmes."

This is the kind of publicity South Africa needs. A professional investigation into a potentially large nuclear weapons issue that highlights our contribution to the international community.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hands up who's experienced great public service
It's a given that we all have differing experiences in dealing with public services in South Africa, but I've recently been very impressed by how far we've come. In the last two months I've had plenty of dealings with home affairs, with CIPRO, Telkom and the electricity services, all of which have been fantastic. I've found all who I've dealt with to be very professional, courteous and timeous, and I must say, my expectations have been exceeded on each count. We love to bitch and moan in SA, and public service is usually our favourite bugbear, but if we consider a few years ago, trying to renew a passport, or trying to sign up for a Telkom account, the level of service has improved dramatically.

Public services are obviously top of mind at present with the looming national strike tabled for Thursday. Whilst the public services unions are looking for 7%, government is offering a 6% increase and a further perfromance clause 1%. So why are they fighting over 1% here or there? Well, there are around 1.1 million workers in the public sector, so if you extrapolate the numbers on that 1%, it's a scary burden on government's budget, let alone a dangerous prospect for the government's 6% inflation target. (The actual figure in the 1% difference is R1-Billion for those who want to know) Some in the media are already suggesting that government will need to raise taxes to fill the shortfall.

So where do I stand? I suppose I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, because I do think that public services have been radically improved in the last five years, but I also don't like the implications on the economy of that additional 1%. I like the performance clause in the Public Services Minister Fraser-Moleketi's proposal, so I'll side with government and say that the unions should agree to it. We can certainly do without 800 000 public servants on the loose...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Thabo has a crack at Anglo American
Thabo Mbeki never ceases to amaze me with his penchant for personal attacks. In his latest letter from the president, ANC Today, Mbeki starts of with a favourite subject of mine, those who continue to bad-mouth SA 10 years after democracy, bleating that it will follow Zimbabwe into the African abyss etc, and rightly assails their reasoning for doing so.

However, Mbeki also speaks about an article from London's Financial Times in which Mr Tony Trahar, CEO of Anglo American plc which is listed on the FTSE, is quoted as saying: "I think the South African political-risk issue is starting to diminish - although I am not saying it has gone."

Now this is a fairly innocuous comment. It was in response to a question about whether Anglo would be moving its HQ back to South Africa, and is a non-descript answer. The political risk in South Africa is always evident, as it is throughout all of Africa and many other continents. Whilst political risk has been markedly reduced, Mbeki cannot possibly conclude that there is no semblance of risk.

But Thabo launches into a tirade about the unpatriotism of Trahar and Anglo, questioning his motives, his leadership and his business decision-making, even insinuating racism on his part.

Mbeki continues:

"Both the ANC and the government would not know what political risk Mr Trahar is talking about. When foreign business people have told us about South African business people 'bad mouthing' our country, is this what they were talking about? Have our business people been going around the world talking about a persisting political risk in our country? And what have they said is the cause and nature of this risk?

The poor and the despised who worked for Anglo American and other companies that made it during the years of white minority rule, paid a pittance for their labour, are today's voters. For ten years they have made the point clearly and firmly that they care too deeply about the future of their children to allow their own painful past and the instincts it invokes, to determine that future.

Is it moral and fair that these [Anglo American workers], who daily bear the scars of poverty, should suffer from the guilt of their masters, who are fixated by the nightmare of a risky future for our country, which derives not from what the poor have done and will do, but from what the rich fear those they impoverished will do, imagining what they themselves would have done, if they had been the impoverished?"

I'm not even sure I understand what he means. You can almost see him sitting with his laptop, enraging himself in his words, wiping sweat from his brow and spit from his screen.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. These personal attacks are unfitting for a president, and unacceptable for a world leader. Attacks on a CEO of one of South Africa's largest businesses is hardly comforting to the larger business community. Mbeki admonishes local business for holding too much in cash reserves and not investing it in the local economy, but it is exactly these kind of public attacks that makes the business sector jumpy. The fact that the president of Africa's regional power writes an entire article attacking a business leader partly vindicates Trahar's concerns anyway.

There are other channels to address these issues through, not least of which would be addressing the entire business sector rather than attacking an individual. These diatribes paint Mbeki into a corner of paranoia. First the media, and now it seems, South African business...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

US death toll in Iraq hits 1000
With the death of more US soldiers in Baghdad yesterday, the US death toll hit the pivotal 1000 mark. Watch the sparks fly between Bush and Kerry...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Mbeki's meeting with Likud
I wholeheartedly commend Mbeki on welcoming the Likud delegation to South Africa. The ANC stance has been to assail Israel at any opportunity and support the Palestinian cause against "Apartheid-like oppression", and to meet with the Likud delegation, who epitomise everything that the Mbeki administration stands against, is an act of a secure leadership that is sincerely intersted in contributing to international affairs. Many world, and especially African, leaders that have taken a similar stance against Israel would distance themselves from Likud, but Mbeki has embraced them in the interests of Middle East peace.

According the the Dept. of Foreign Affairs "The South African delegation hopes to share its experiences with members of the Likud Party about the transformation process that led to the dawn of democracy, peace and justice in South Africa."

I wish the South African and Likud delgations the best of luck in any attempt to difuse this incredibly complex situation in Israel and the Palestine.

Hamba Kahle Oom Bey
Farewell to anti-apartheid champion Beyers Naude. I echo Farrel's comments and salute an incredibly brave man. It took great courage for an Afrikaner to take a stand against his community, and he did it with pride and dignity. We need more people like him...

Monday, September 06, 2004

The politics of Bin Laden
A while ago the New Republic reported that high-ranking Pakistani officials being pressured to capture Bin Laden and other high value targets on a Republican political timetable. Bin Laden's is back in the political path this week with the Pakistani's upset about comments made by US State Department counter-terrorism affairs head, Joseph Cofer Black, who kicked-off the traditional Labour Day final campaign phase by claiming that he is about to be caught.

Black stated on Saturday that the forces pursuing the al-Qaeda chief had got closer to him in the past two months and that "What I tell people, I would be surprised but not necessarily shocked if we wake up tomorrow and he's been caught along with all his lieutenants. That can happen because of the programs and infrastructure in place."

This is a pretty substantial statement given the lack of any evidence to support it, and the Pakistani's have seen through the charade, denouncing it as US pre-election 'politicking'.

But it highlights the critical importance that Bin Laden holds for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. Capturing Bin Laden in the final lead-up to the November election would undoubtedly propel the incumbent to the much trumpeted "four more years". Conversely, I'm sure Kerry will be prodding the Bush presidency in the ribs about its failure to bring Bin Laden, the face on terrorism, to US retribution. The irony is lost on noone, and it is perhaps apt that in the full circle of Bush's first term, he is again inextricably linked in fate with the object of his 'war on terror'.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Travelgate shambles
It is with some relief for the state of our democracy that the Scorpions today confirmed that National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete was not under investigation for defrauding parliament.

However, this ongoing saga illustrates a weakness within the ANC in dealing with the media. The relationship between the ANC and the country's media has denegrated markedly in the last year, with Mbeki growing increasingly intolerant of media criticism. But the ANC has to take blame in this area. Here we have a situation where it was common knowledge that the media had the investigative list of the target MP's. By continually fighting for the quashing of the release of the report and castigating the media for discussing it, the ANC threw petrol on the media's flames, and created a groundswell of public interest in the listed names. When the list was released by ThisDay, and the overwhelming majority of those names belonged to ANC MP's the party immediately looked like a corrupt, guilty group who were surpressing the list's introduction for good reason, which may not have been the case.

The ANC has no rival in this country, as much as the DA would have it otherwise, but it is building a powerful nemesis. The media can be a steadfast friend, or a ferocious opponent, and many arrogant governments have been brought down by media focus. The ANC has to come to terms with the fact that it needs the media to carry its message to its voting base, and it cannot continue to treat them as a necessary evil. Crisis management has been one area that the ANC has failed to deliver upon, and I think that in the next few years, with the party's 'struggle star' waning, it may prove to be an Achilles heel.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Iraqi Catch-22
John D. Negroponte, US Ambassador to Iraq, has just requested that the billions of US dollars earmarked for the upgrading of infrastructure in Iraq should rather be put to improving the security situation. The problem is that it is a viscous circle. Many of the Iraqi nationals that have been encouraged by Islamic insurgents to take up arms against the US and Iraqi soldiers have undertaken to do so because of a distinct lack of improvement in the standard of living a year after the US-led invasion. These nationals are incredibly frustrated by the lack of improvements in infrastructure, which makes it all the more simple for insurgents to recruit new blood. The US has to find a way to build infrastructure and security at the same time.

Gadaffi celebrates 35 years
Enigmatic leader Mohammad Gadaffi held celebratory rallies in Libya yesterday to mark his 35th year in power of the Arab nation. If anybody had told you 10 years ago that Gadaffi would be invited to the White House, they would have been led away in a straight jacket, yet under the shifting winds of political necessity, here stands a leader heralded by the Western powers.

This has never ceased to amaze me, even more so the fact that the US politicans fail to appreciate it's transparency to the rest of the world. Gadaffi made some remotely conciliatory gestures made purely out of intense economic strain leading to the need to remove economic sanctions against the country. Has the man changed at the root? One would hardly think so. I doubt that the CIA is following Gadaffi's money trail which would no doubt remain in place with many covert terrorist organisations. The Bush administration required a hero, and if they could find no-one else, Gadaffi would do. Never mind his alleged dabblings in Saudi assassination attempts. Or his continued rantings against Western powers. Gadaffi is a sad old man looking for an old age home.

So now we have one of the Arab world's leading exponents of terror, shaking hands with the Western world's leading exponent of the 'war' on terror, and all is forgiven. Political expediency is a neccessary evil in modern politics, but that does nothing to remove the sour taste it leaves in my mouth.