Will There Always Be Dictators


Who Is This Famous Man?

We have it.  The smoking gun.  The evidence.
The potential weapon of mass destruction we have been looking for as our pretext of invading Iraq.
There's just one problem - it's in North Korea.

- Jon Stewart

Answer at the bottom of the page...

Report: Syrians, "Equipment" Were in North Korea Train Blast

Syrian technicians accompanying unknown equipment were killed in the train explosion in North Korea on 22 April, according to a report in a Japanese newspaper.  A military specialist on Korean affairs revealed that the Syrian technicians were killed in the explosion in Ryongchon in the northwestern part of the country, according to the Sankei Shimbun.  The specialist said the Syrians were accompanying "large equipment" and that the damage from the explosion was greatest in the portion of the train they occupied.

The source said North Korean military personnel with protective suits responded to the scene soon after the explosion and removed material only from the Syrians' section of the train.  The technicians were from the Syrian technical research centre called Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche Scientific (CERS).  Although CERS was established to promote science and technology development, it has been viewed as a major player in Syria's weapons of mass destruction development program.  The source said it was not known whether the cargo was the source of the explosion or whether it had exploded following a separate explosion on another section of the train.

As many as 10 Syrians and accompanying North Koreans were killed, according to the report.  The bodies of the Syrians were taken home on 1 May by a Syrian aircraft, which had come to Pyongyang to deliver aid supplies.  The Syrians and North Koreans who transported the victims were also reportedly wearing protective suits similar to those worn by the North Korean military figures who arrived on the scene immediately after the accident, the source said.

The United States and other countries have expressed concern that Syrian and North Korea are developing Scud-D missiles, as well as chemical and biological weapons.  Concerning the cause of the explosion incident, the DPRK has explained that a train carrying fertiliser containing ammonium nitrate and a railroad tank carrying petroleum were being shunted, and, in the process, came into contact with electrical wires, due to carelessness.

Source: worldtribune.com Sunday 16 May 2004 © East West Services, Incorporated


Ryongchon Explosion Eight Times as Great as North Claims

Tokyo - Japan's Kyodo News, citing numerous diplomatic sources in Vienna, reported Saturday that the force of 22 April's train explosion at the North's Ryonchon Station was about that of an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, which would have required about 800 tons of TNT - about 8 times that officially announced by North Korea.  The sources referred to earthquake figures gotten by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation.  The North's official Korean Central News Agency had previously reported that the destructive power of the blast was that of 100 tons of dynamite, and explained that the accident was caused by "the electrical contact caused by carelessness during the shunting of wagons loaded with ammonium nitrate fertiliser and tank wagons."

The CTBTO feels that the cause of the explosion may differ from the North's explanation, and noted the explosion might have been caused by highly-explosive materials like military-use fuel going off.  Officials at the CTBTO plan to look into the causes of the accident.  The CTBTO said the explosion at Ryongchon was observed using seismological observation stations in Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia.  The stations were built to detect nuclear tests.  In Japan's case, seismological observation stations in Nagano, Oita and Okinawa picked up the Ryongchon blast.  The CTBTO collected data from various observation posts, analysed the data at its International Data Centre and estimated the size of the blast.  About a week after the explosion, it provided the data to CTBT member states.

The CTBT, written in 1996, has to be ratified by all its signatories for it to be effective, but 44 nuclear and potentially-nuclear states like the United States, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea have put off ratifying the document, which is now on the verge of collapse.

Source: english.chosun.com The Chosun Ilbo 20 May 2004 © Digital Chosun all rights reserved

Still more...

North Korean Rail Explosion Foiled Missile Shipment to Syria

A North Korean missile shipment to Syria was halted when a train collision in that Asian country destroyed the missile cargo and killed about a dozen Syrian technicians.  US officials confirmed a report in a Japanese daily newspaper that a train explosion on 22 April killed about a dozen Syrian technicians near the Ryongchon province in North Korea.  The officials said the technicians were accompanying a train car full of missile components and other equipment from a facility near the Chinese border to a North Korea port.  A US official said North Korean train cargo was also believed to have contained tools for the production of ballistic missiles.  North Korea has sold Syria the extended-range Scud C and Scud D missiles, according to reports by Middle East Newsline.

"The way it was supposed work was that the train car full of missiles and components would have arrived at the port and some would have been shipped to Syria while others would have been transported by air," an official said.  Officials said the North Korean shipment to Syria was not meant to have contained chemical or biological weapons.  They said foreign rescue crews summoned to the train explosion did not report any chemical contamination.

The explosion was said to have been caused by a collision of two trains.  The collision downed an electrical power line, the sparks from which detonated the fuel from the train.  On 4 May, the Tokyo-based Sankei Shimbun quoted a military source that reported the death of the Syrian technicians.  The newspaper said North Korean military personnel, wearing protective suits, removed the vestiges of the destroyed equipment meant for Syria.  The technicians were representatives of Syria's Centre for Scientific Research, which has been cited for helping develop that country's weapons of mass destruction program.  The technicians were said to have been trained in North Korea to operate the equipment.

Sankei said the bodies of the Syrians were flown home by a Syrian aircraft, which had arrived in Pyongyang to deliver aid supplies.  The newspaper said North Korean personnel were also killed in the explosion.

Source: worldtribune.com 18 May 2004 © East West Services, Inc.

But some people view things differently?  (Or so they say...)

N Korean Security Believes Ryongchon Explosion an Assassination Attempt

by Kang Chol-hwan

According to a source, North Korea's State Safety & Security Agency concluded that the massive explosion that occurred in the North Korean city of Ryongchon on April 22 had been conspired by anti-North Korean government forces to harm North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

A North Korean official who was recently on his business trip to China said, "The North Korean National Security Agency has investigated the incident since it took place and concluded that rebellious forces had plotted the explosions targeting the exclusive train of Kim Jong-il.  The security agency, in particular, gained evidence that cell phones had been used in triggering the explosion and reported to the North Korean leader that the use of cell phones should be banned for the sake of the leader’s safety, the official said.

Accordingly, it was learned that North Korea prohibited the use of cell phones across the nation on May 19.

An officer working with a North Korean border guard unit, which is in charge of guarding the border area between the North and China, said in a phone call with this writer that the use of cell phones was banned in Pyongyang first on May 19, and then prohibited in other regions on May 20.

A North Korea defector who crossed the border a few days ago said, "It doesn’t seem to be a temporary measure, because even handsets have been conscripted following the cell phone use ban.  The Postal Service, which manages the cell phone business, has unilaterally conscripted handsets without offering any compensations.  It's a typical example of a dictatorial state," the defector pointed out.

North Korea began to use European-type GSM phones in August 2002 and started cell phone service in Najin and Sunbong, the North Korean special economic areas, starting November that year.  However, in areas bordering China, an increasing number of North Korean people have already used cell phones with handsets made in China since the end of 1990s.

Reach Kang Chol-hwan at nkch@chosun.com

Source: english.chosun.com 24 May 2004

North Korean Wildfires

Heat signatures and some wisps of smoke from wildfires burning in Korean Peninsula are seen in the photo created by American commercial satellite, GFMC.  While two forest fires and a normal fire have broken out in South Korea, it appears about 130 fires - possibly forest fires? - are visible in the North.

Source: english.chosun.com The Chosun Ilbo 20 May 2004 via marmot.blogs.com "The Marmot's Hole" © Digital Chosun all rights reserved.

Indifference to Death: Ignoring the Voices of Our Brothers' Blood

The Holocaust deprived millions of people "not of good race" of their civil rights, their property, their hope, and, finally, brutally, their lives.  Gypsies, Jews, Freemasons, most Slavs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, blacks, political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, criminals, some Catholics and members of various other groups were persecuted to death by the Nazis.  Even so-called "ugly people" lost their lives because Nazis deemed them unworthy to live (Hilberg 643).  Afterward, the world emphatically said, "Never again."  Yet when ethnic cleansing threatened Rwanda, attempts to stop the killing were ineffectual.  Now, new problems have arisen in North Korea.  Are we doomed to repeat the flaws of World War II and Rwanda?

Ina Friedman, writing in The Other Victims: First-Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis, states: "...six million Jews and five million others were scientifically, deliberately murdered …  Millions of other lives were disrupted, either physically or mentally" (205).  Germans who spoke out against the Nazis often joined the ranks of the persecuted.  Conversely, guards who cooperated with official policies were actively rewarded for their brutality; punishment and executions of inmates brought guards brandy, extra food rations, and cigarettes (Hilberg 577).  Many of those guards thought the rape of young pretty girls who were going to die anyway might not be such a horrible crime; meanwhile, their commanders chose the most beautiful young women of each newly arrived transport as personal housemaids (Ofer and Weitzman 291).  However, any babies born to them (or to any of the inmates) were drowned or suffocated (355-56) because they, too, were considered unworthy of life.

Many people knew about Hitler and his policies and were alarmed.  On 10 May 1933, more than a hundred thousand people gathered in Madison Square Garden in New York City to take part in an anti-Nazi protest march.  Yet nothing was done about Hitler for many years, perhaps because most ordinary citizens around the world knew little about events in Germany.  When General George Patton's Third Army entered the Ohrdruf concentration camp, they discovered over 3,000 corpses.  As they inspected gas chambers, crematoria, and torture rooms, Eisenhower turned white; Patton vomited.  Eisenhower ordered every American unit in the area to visit, saying, "We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for.  Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against" (Friedman 204).  It was thought at that time that prevention of further such situations would always be just cause for intervention.

But is there any practical way to prevent such atrocities from occurring or to easily stop them once they begin?  In 1992, at the height of the ethnic cleansing underway in Bosnia, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel spoke out in London at a press conference, denouncing detention camps so eloquently that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic promised to empty Serb-controlled camps immediately.  But in the remote country of Rwanda a mere two years later, it took Hutu death squads only 100 days to slaughter an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus while the world averted its eyes.  "The international community didn’t give one damn for Rwandans because Rwanda was a country of no strategic importance," Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the beleaguered UN peacekeeping force at the time, publicly opined in Rwanda 10 years later.  Almost alone among representatives of the international community, Dallaire worked incessantly, but in vain, to prevent the massacres.  "Denied authority by the United Nations to intervene, Dallaire tried to broker a cease-fire, protect the innocent, [and] prick the world's conscience through the media" (Lawson 24).  According to Rory Carroll writing in The Guardian Unlimited online, the US "did not want to repeat the fiasco of […] intervention in Somalia."

Today, the world faces a very similar situation in North Korea.  In a remote corner of that country, close to the borders of both Russia and China, is the country’s largest concentration camp, Camp-22.  Here thousands of political prisoners, including women and children, are held and, as Antony Barnett writes in The Guardian Unlimited online, "[I]t is also where thousands die each year and where prison guards stamp on the necks of babies born to prisoners to kill them."  Barnett continues, "[F]irst-hand testimonies from […] defectors [detail] execution and torture [and now] chilling evidence has emerged [of] gas chambers where horrific chemical experiments are conducted on human[s]."  He says witnesses describe seeing whole families gassed in glass chambers while scientists take notes.  According to dictator Kim Jong-il, not only are all dissidents punished, but three generations of their families are killed as well to "root out the bad blood."

Using information obtained by a South Korean human rights group, William Triplett writes in Rogue State that beauty in North Korea’s camps has proven to be no asset to young women, as ranking Communist Party officials regularly troll the camps for sexual companions.  If any of the women should become pregnant, an abortion without ænesthesia is their fate.  Later, the women are invariably murdered, and their deaths recorded as "shot while trying to escape."  This is reminiscent of the practice of Josef Mengele, the Nazi "Doctor of Death," who often checked arriving trains for attractive evening companions which were shot the next morning (137).

Philip Gourevitch, writing in The Guardian Unlimited online, quotes Lee Young-suk, a former nurse:

I drank a lot of alcohol in front of the graves of my children.  I want to tear Kim Jong Il to death.  My eldest son's wife and two of their children died of hunger.  Their father had been working at a chemical-weapons factory, and they were starving.  Two grandsons were starving - 8 and 10 years old.  They went to a noodle seller, and begged.  The noodle seller gave them some noodles.  They ate and fell asleep on the shop floor.  Then the owner killed them with an axe to put their meat into the noodles, because pork was very expensive at the time.

Many deaths in North Korean camps are due to malnutrition-related diseases and others are attributable to the rigors of being locked for days in tiny "punishment cells" which are too narrow to allow inmates to lie down and too short for them to stand, or even sit, upright.  Further, public executions are regularly carried out in front of the assembled prison population — usually of men who break under pressure and curse or defy the guards, but also of women who are overheard expressing complaints.  The other prisoners are required to file by the executed corpses, a practice that causes some prisoners to lose composure and scream.  Many of these prisoners are then punished with solitary confinement.  The solitary-confinement cells are always filled following public executions (Hawk 45).

The potential political consequences in terms of US relations with South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China make US military strikes against North Korea an unattractive option compared to a diplomatic resolution of the crisis.  Even if such strikes were successful, North Korea would still have the capability to inflict massive damage against South Korea and the thousands of US troops based there.  The South Korean capital of Seoul is within easy artillery range of the North Korean border.  North Korean leaders would have many military options and could decide to escalate attacks over time.  An invasion of South Korea by the North is possible and the damage to that country would be tremendous, despite US troops, who may be distracted by conflicts in the Middle East.  Although the South Koreans (with US backing) would likely win an all-out war, their forces would sustain large casualties - one military estimate considered military casualties could reach as high as half a million within the first 90 days of fighting, in addition to many hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.  With estimated costs so high, it is easy for potential saviours of the North Korean people to find other, safer targets for their attentions.  Meanwhile, the camps kill an estimated twenty to twenty-five thousand per year.  "Never again"?

Would a look at the past provide answers?  What should have been done to rescue Jews from the Nazi Holocaust?  Many historians have made proposals, but none is generally considered practical or to represent a likely way to save the lives of more than a few hundred thousand Jews, even had the proposal been promptly acted upon by the Allies.  There were no easy answers then; there are none now.

However, we do not escape reality by thrusting it to the backs of our minds - we have a responsibility for what goes on around us.  He who commits wrong bears guilt, but so does he who fails to prevent it.  False pity is what the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig defined as "the heart's impatience to rid itself as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by another's misfortune" (Myers).  Yet if we simply ignore the plight of the North Koreans and other peoples like them, avoiding the painful emotions that knowledge of their suffering causes us, are we still human?  What if, as may be the case in North Korea, we are not just unwilling to help them (as in Rwanda), but are unable?  What then?

Are we doomed to repeat the flaws of World War II and Rwanda?  The world today abounds with examples of wrongful imprisonment, torture, oppression and racial or religious intolerance.  Too many people are willing to shut their eyes if an argument can be made that what is happening is in the best interests of the state.  Too many people are indifferent to what is happening outside their own borders.  It is therefore the case that the world will likely continue to experience situations where little is done help those being persecuted and desperately in need of outside intervention.  But this does not mean that those who do care should cease trying to work out the problems involved in deciding how and when to intervene.  The last word is that we owe one another some degree of effort to slow or stop the suffering of our fellow men, wherever they may be.

Works Cited

Barnett, Antony.  "Revealed: The Gas Chamber Horror of North Korea's Gulag."  The Guardian Unlimited 1 February 2004.  26 March 2004.  <www.guardian.co.uk/korea/article/0,2763,1136483,00.html>

Friedman, Ina R.  The Other Victims: First-Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis.  Boston: Houghton, 1990.

Gourevitch, Philip.  "The Madness of Kim Jong Il."  The Guardian Unlimited 2 November 2003.  27 March 2004.  <www.guardian.co.uk/korea/article/0,2763,1077559,00.html>.

Hawk, David.  The Hidden GULAG: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps.  Washington: US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 2003.

Hilberg, Raul.  The Destruction of the European Jews.  Chicago: Quadrangle, 1967.

Lawson, Guy. "The Rwanda Witness."  The New York Times Online 4 April 2004.  9 April 2004.  <www.nytimes.com/2004/04/04/magazine/04Rwanda.htm>.

Myers, B. R.  "Nasty, Brutish, and Short."  The Atlantic Monthly Online April 2004.  20 April 2004.  <www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/04/myers.hrm>.

Ofer, Dalia, and Leonore J. Weitzman, eds.  Women in the Holocaust.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1998.

Triplett, William C.  Rogue State: How a Nuclear North Korea Threatens America.  Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2004.


Rubinstein, William D.  The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis.  London: Routledge, 1997.

Saunders, Phillip C.  "Military Options for Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Program."  Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.  North Korea Special Collection 27 January 2003.  26 March 2004.  <cns.miis.edu/research/korea/dprkmil.htm>.

Never Again

by Tacitus

"Never again," of course, is the post-Holocaust vow supposedly taken by the civilised world: genocide will "never again" be allowed.  Mass slaughter will "never again" be allowed.  "Never again" is a cruel joke to those who have called upon its promise: genocide has visited the human race again and again and again since the Nazi death camps were overrun and their pitiful survivors discharged to gnaw the world's conscience to the ends of their days.  The Chinese in Tibet, protected by their immense size and power; the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, protected by a world's weariness and later, shamefully, by American diplomacy; the Turks in Kurdistan, protected by NATO allies more concerned with the southeastern flank; the Iraqi Ba'athists in Kurdistan, protected by a West and their fellow Arabs more fearful of Iranian Islamism; the Serb nationalists in Bosnia, protected by entrenched European behaviours and Western leadership failures; the Hutu genocidaires in Rwanda, protected by the armed forces of the French Republic; the Taliban slaughterers of the Afghan Hazara, protected by a complacent world: these savage killers all mocked "never again," and rightly so.  They exterminated and pillaged, and their depredations only ended once their work was done, or once they sufficiently antagonised a foreign power, or once their victims found the means to stand up for themselves.  (In China, of course, the creeping genocide of Tibetans continues apace.)  In not one instance was the genocide stopped on the grounds that there was genocide.  The closest we get is Kosovo - a dubious case, half-done, half-won, and still a violent mess.  "Never again" is, in fact, many times again, and it is to our eternal disgrace that this is so.

To the roll call of dishonor and massacre, we must add Darfur.  There ought to be little need to recount the horrors there.  You can read the Human Rights Watch report; you can read the United Nations report; you can read the endless news reports of genocide.  But because nothing is being done - again - there is a need.  The outlines of the killing are knowable and known: the Islamist Khartoum regime is at war with two local rebel groups, one Islamist itself, one not, who claim to fight on behalf of the black populace against the Arab rulers of the Sudan.  History is on their side: Darfur was indeed an independent "caliphate" (so many African self-styled caliphates were dismantled by colonialism) until the British forced it under Sudanese administration in 1916.  Decades later, resentment at chronic neglect and ill-treatment by the central government has blossomed into revolt, and revolt is being crushed with nothing less than wholesale eradication of the people of Darfur.

The pattern is all too common: Arab raiders, the feared and savage janjaweed, encircle a village.  They are specters of a bygone age, armed with rifles, swords and knives, mounted on their camels and horses as they pass through a settlement.  Occasionally they are supported by uniformed soldiers of the Khartoum regime.  Occasionally they are supported by that regime's helicopter gunships.  They burn, they rape, they take the occasional slave, but mostly they destroy and expel: the hapless blacks, their fellow Muslims, are told to go west.  To "their" country, Chad, where their Fur kinsmen live.  (Yes, "Darfur" is an Arabic concatenation of "dar al-Fur," land of the Fur.)  Calling it mere expulsion, though, is to fail to convey the enormity of what happens.  Precious few make it to Chad.  The victims are forced to trek across the pitiless arid waste of the Sahel without animals, without carts, without possessions.  They perish, as the janjaweed know they will, of thirst and exposure.  Mothers watch their children stagger and wither.  Fathers watch their families go mad with deprivation.  Thus thousands die.  Those few that remain, by chance or by a questionable mercy, are condemned to suffer the same fate in their own homes: Khartoum forbids cultivation, and the janjaweed, themselves pastoralists with no need or regard for agriculture, burn what crops exist and kill those who dare to plant.  The basic pillars of human existence are knocked out from beneath the Fur, and the lucky ones, it seems, are the ones who survive the harrowing desert trek to reach their ethnic kinsmen in Chad.

The horror does not end there.  Extermination has its own logic, and so we see that the janjaweed, and the Khartoum regime, have moved of late to attacking Fur within Chad itself.  The coming-to-blows of Chad and the Sudan over this is part of a long pattern of low-level Sudanese aggression against its neighbours.  Whether it's harassing nationals of neighboring states, serving as a way station for guerrilla attacks, or actively harbouring some of the most cruel guerrillas on the planet, bordering on the Sudan is a historic guarantee of trouble.  The difference in the conflict with Chad, of course, is the element of genocide.  It rises above matters of regional stability, and becomes a matter of plain humanity.

And what has happened?  Chad has fought back.  The Khartoum regime, seeing that there are few Fur left to kill, has agreed to a ceasefire with the rebel groups, and to furthermore "suppress" the janjaweed whose purpose has been fulfilled.  It is an empty promise: the reality is that nothing will happen to the foot soldiers of the Fur genocide, and certainly the masterminds of the massacres will not punish themselves.  Kofi Annan writes letters.  The United States promises relief supplies.  Hordes of dispossessed Fur live in fear in Chadian refugee camps, jobless, penniless, starving, thirsty, sick, and stricken with images of horror no man ought to see.  Rhetoric abounds.  Justice does not.

The solution to this genocide is pathetically easy.  It is a solution tried before, and it is a solution whose elements are already in-place.  Moreover, it is a solution that the United States and Chad can execute alone, if need be.  There is a tendency, particularly within the humanitarian and self-styled "international" communities, to look at genocide as a sort of natural disaster: causeless and unstoppable, a thing to be alleviated rather than thwarted.  The ludicrous extreme expression of this came to fruition in Rwanda, where the United Nations and relief agencies from around the world chose to expend massively more effort assuaging the plight of fleeing Hutu Power genocidaires than that of the scarred survivors of murder, rape, and devastation in Rwanda itself.  It is as if the Red Cross set up safe zones for unrepentant Germans in 1945.  True justice, and true reconciliation, would of course have come with a ruthless uprooting of those responsible, and a deliverance to judgment of the peoples culpable.  Instead, we see that the problem was merely prolonged, rather than resolved - the Hutu Power mini-state in northeastern Congo still threatens as a cause of war and rebellion.  This is the future being slowly charted for Darfur: no return of refugees, no justice for the victims, no punishment for the killers, and no consequence for their leaders.  A festering grievance develops, a product of foolish reliance on process and diplomacy (with genocidists, whom one would think would be ipso facto outside the bounds of human discourse), and, yes, cowardice on the part of those who could act but do not.

But as I said, the solution is pathetically simple: the United States and Chad can and should facilitate an invasion of Darfur.  Is this madness in the face of ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Hardly.  The test cases - the Afghan campaign of fall 2001, and countless French interventions in the region over the past half-century - have already been fought and won.  This is an altogether simpler case: while the geographic area is truly huge, the terrain is easier, and the determination of combatants - black Africans versus Arabs - is as clear-cut as could be.  The manpower - legions of angry, organised, determined Fur - is present.  The infrastructure, in the form of US-Chadian military cooperation, is in place.  (As an unrelated aside, the reactions to that cooperation here are instructive.)  The allies - every state, group, and militia ever brutalised or alienated by Khartoum (among whom we can count not just Chad, but Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea, and of course the SPLA) - only lack a unifying force.  What remains is, on our part, a comparatively light burden of commitment: supplies and the airlift to get them there; tactical air power we can easily spare; Special Forces teams for communications and coordination; and forcible rhetoric from Washington, DC.  It would truly be a war in the service of humanity: politically, just what is needed to demonstrate core American ideals, and a stark differentiation between our willingness to venture abroad in the service of freedom, and the desire of the wider world to ignore the most egregious of horrors.  Pragmatically, it is an engagement we could afford and win (especially against the medieval janjaweed throwbacks) in comparatively short order.  No need for an occupation of Khartoum, nor even an aggressive push for regime change there: it would be enough to secure the de facto independence of Darfur, and its establishment as a sort of Sahelian Kurdistan.

This is not, assuredly, what will be done.  But it is what can be done, and it is what's right.  I hold little brief for those who gripe overmuch about sins of omission, but when it comes to genocide, that most capital of crimes, omission is commission.  We ought to have learnt that by now.  We have not.  Never again?  Talk is cheap: after half a century, the phrase is a cruel joke, resounding down the ages and spat in the face of a dying African, alone with the corpses of his children in the vast desert.

Source: tacitus.org posted Friday 14 May 2004

Hitler Reappears in Berlin - in Wax

Photoshop allowed me to give Hitler longer hair, a different hairstyle and a better moustache.  With glasses, he would resemble John Lennon...

by Ernest Gill

A wax dummy figure of Adolf Hitler has caused a furore around the world, with authorities calling for its removal from a wax museum in the heart of Berlin.  Following a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, complaints have come in from Britain, France, Israel and other countries about the audacity of placing the figure near a fourth-floor window in the Friedrich Strasse overlooking the former site of the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing.

"We can't understand the uproar," said Sabine Vollstaedt said a spokeswoman for the Galerie Art'el museum.  "All we are doing is showing art work figures depicting historical personalities," she said.  "We're not doing anything illegal.  We determined that there is nothing wrongful about displaying a wax image of a figure out of history," she said.  "Wax museums in London and even here in Germany in the city of Hamburg also display wax figures of Hitler."

The Nazi dictator stands at the window with outspread arms and a somewhat glazed look in his eyes.  Stands there for hours, oblivious to the tourists filing past his vantage point.  Passers-by on the street below can glimpse the Fuehrer (if they look carefully enough) peering at them from his window.  But as a mark of the sensitivities still surrounding Hitler in Germany, Vollstaedt said she initially moved the wax figure to the back of the museum before receiving legal advice that there was nothing wrong with displaying the former Nazi leader.  Then the publicity about the wax Fuehrer resulted in her landlord cancelling her lease.

For a while it looked like her museum might be forced to close.  However, the interest generated by the wax Hitler figure meant she has now secured new premises for her museum.  Prior to the dpa story, few people were aware that a likeness of Hitler could be seen in Berlin.  Only 20 or 30 people a day manage to find their way to one of the most remarkable wax museums in the world.  The wax figures outnumber the tourists by far.  There are over 100 of them.  Even Berliners were generally unaware that the city has a wax museum at all.  "We just opened in January and not too many people know about us yet," says Ina Vollstaedt, Sabine's mother and a Russian-born Berliner who assembled the 100 or so wax figures from a number of sources.

Some had been on display at the old Panoptikum Wax Museum in the Kurfuerstendamm in west Berlin until that museum was forced to close when its premises were torn down for a new shopping arcade.  That was 8 years ago, and Princess Diana and Mikhail Gorbachev and all the rest have been cooling their heels - literally so, in refrigerated storage - ever since then.  Now they are all back on view at Friedrichstrasse 45, up on the fourth floor.  Unlike many other wax museums, the figures are not roped off and out of reach.  Instead, they are arranged throughout the exhibition space.  You can stand right next to them, though you are discouraged from any "hands-on" experience with them.

"The ground floor space was too pricey for us, so we're a bit out of the way up here on the fourth floor," says Vollstaedt.  "But we feel we're worth the effort.  And fortunately, a number of guided tours feel we are too, and have included us on their tours."  The museum's glassy-eyed long-dead statesmen include Churchill, Stalin, Lenin and Napoleon.  East German strongman Erich Honecker is also on hand to greet visitors wearing his trademark hat and eyeglasses and with his right arm raised in a wave, as it was so often in real life during military reviews along Unter den Linden.  Michael Jackson is here, as is Charlie Chaplin, racing car driver Michael Schumacher and Russian President Vladimir Putin, all of them sharing exhibition space with scores of German politicians and celebrities.

Honecker and Princess Diana are the most popular, attracting groups of school children who pose with them for souvenir photos.

The location in the Friedrich Strasse is highly appropriate.  This north-south thoroughfare through the heart of Berlin was the primary shopping and entertainment street in Berlin prior to the Weimar Republic, when the Ku-damm rose to fashionable ascendancy.  Friedrichstrasse a century ago was the Times Square of Berlin - the city's theatre district was centred here, as were numerous nickelodeon parlours, magic-lantern shows, dioramas, vaudeville and burlesque theatres, hotels, bath houses and countless taverns, tea rooms and nightclubs - all catering to gullible tourists.  There was even a hippodrome, featuring horse and pony acts, supplemented by exotic creatures such as big cats and elephants.  And, of course, there was a famous wax museum, founded in 1873 in the Friedrichstrasse by Rudolf Virchow, one of the city's pioneering showmen.  It featured the crowned heads of Europe plus scores of celebrities of the era.

"We're proud to carry on that tradition," Vollstaedt says.

Source: expatica.com April 2004 copyright Expatica

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