We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Understatement of the year

I nearly spilled my tea when I read this:

Western countries are concerned about the expected appointment of Zimbabwe to head a key UN body, the Commission on Sustainable Development.

“We don’t think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of this body”. (A US state department spokesman, Tom Casey)

Concerned?! Particularly effective?!!

So this is what they mean by diplomatic language… I think I shall start interpreting people’s remarks about my need to be more ‘diplomatic’ in an entirely different manner. Or is the term ‘reality-challenged’?

FYI: Zimbabwe is enduring the world’s highest inflation, at more than 2000%, mass unemployment, and there are widespread accusations of civil rights abuses.

28 comments to Understatement of the year

  • Oh, I don’t know. In terms of taking the world
    back to a bleak, pre-industrial existence (which is what many people in favour of “sustainable development” seemingly want) the government of Zimababwea is doing a good job of leading by example.

  • Paul Marks

    The government of Zimbabwe is a good example of everything that the United Nations Organization stands for. It is ideal for this post – of for any other at the U.N.

    As for the State Department, some of the political appointed people at the top may be O.K., but the professional staff contains many socialistic world government fans.

    Indeed such ideas go back a long way in the United States. President Wilson, in his time as an academic at Princeton was very sympathetic to socialist ideas. And his chief of staff and “other self”, E.M. House, produced the novel “Philip Dru: Administrator” with the hero as a administrator of socialistic state.

    Comrade Bob from Zimbabwe would firmly approve.

    The Prussian philosopher Kant supported world government (as a federation), but with this government rather limited in powers (by modern standards). Woodrow Wilson and many (although by no means all) modern Democrats would go much further.

  • Midwesterner


  • Mugabe’s no more a socialist than Hitler was. He’s a plain old dictator, with no real ideology other than power: I want it.

    Whatever you think of the state department, the West’s deafening silence over the Zimbabwe situation is the height of hypocrisy after the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia and the Iraq fiasco. The lesson is evidently “tolerate hideous dictators no matter what they do, unless of course they have oil or are on our doorstep or are in a region we wish to destablise for strategic reasons.”

    In fact a number of Mugabe’s children are living in Britain and Australia as we speak, and the Australian cricket team is actually considering touring in the near future.

  • nick g.

    Patrick- Mugabe IS a socialist! Most socialists also seem to be nationalists, who believe the nation can best ‘be served’ by their politicians having more power. We have a socialist commentator called Phillip Adams, and he comes across as very nationalistic when complaining about American content on Australian TV, though he would always call himself a socialist. The NAZIES were both rabid Nationalists and rabid Zocialists (Hence NAZi), who felt that socialist equality should be reserved for and within the german nation.
    Even if they don’t realise it, many nationalists have similar programs to socialists, and the differences are small. Small, but they deem them vital. Hitler and Stalin were both members of the Big-Government Faith, who fell out over points of doctrine, such as which language would be the big-government world language.
    If either had actually won, it would have been Hell here on Earth for the rest of us!!!

  • Phil A

    It’s long past April the first so I guess it is not a trick, though it is clearly a joke, in the sick sense of the term.

    The only current connections I can see between the word ‘development’ and Zimbabwe are things like, ‘unfortunate development’, ‘sinister development’…

  • Sunfish

    The lesson is evidently “tolerate hideous dictators no matter what they do, unless of course they have oil or are on our doorstep or are in a region we wish to destablise for strategic reasons.”

    Christ, do you read the stuff you post?

    What do you expect “the West” to do about Zimbabwe? That is, knowing full well that nothing short of military intervention will do a damn bit of good. There are only two powers on the Atlantic with any ability to mount a credible expeditionary action, and we’re both busy right now. France and Germany are both tits-on-a-bull, militarily, and France doesn’t even have the excuse that we made them be militarily worthless after WWII. None of the other NATO powers have any real ability to sustain major operations in a non-permissive environment on another continent by themselves.

    And then there are the “Patrick Batemans” who would insist that US/UK troops pacifying Zimbabwe, or ten thousand Samizdatistas going for Rhodesia II, would be racist genocide. There’s just no pleasing some people.

    So, if you have anything useful to contribute, then by all means. It’ll be refreshing to hear you do something other than sounding like “Mary Ayn Rand” only with better grammar and less depth.

  • Sunfish

    So this is what they mean by diplomatic language… I think I shall start interpreting people’s remarks about my need to be more ‘diplomatic’ in an entirely different manner. Or is the term ‘reality-challenged’?

    Isn’t understatement supposed to be a common English characteristic? Embrace it! It’s all around you!

    Besides, public officials aren’t supposed to say “He’s a gosh-darn fornicating waste of life” in front of cameras. Remember when George Bush pointed out the NYT reporter to Dick Cheney back in 2000? “There’s Adam Clymer. He’s a major-league asshole.” He said that in front of a live microphone.

    I knew that America had a huge cultural divide then, when the media acted as though it was a scandal, and nobody else really cared when they heard the President talking like a normal human being.

    I got stepped on once for expressing what a reasonable person would say about Mugabe. I was talking to a shift partner about a visit to a regular customer. I described him by saying “He shoulda been a [sex act which, though highly pleasant for men, does not result in conception]” and was overheard by a member of the public, who complained. The moral of the story is to stick with inoffensive euphemisms.

    Perhaps he should have called Mugabe an “oxygen thief?”

  • “tolerate hideous dictators no matter what they do, unless of course they have oil or are on our doorstep or are in a region we wish to destablise for strategic reasons.” And what is wrong with that, besides forgoing the enticing prospect of being the world’s (only) policeman?

  • I vote for “not particularly effective”, in the full TomCaseyan sense, as the epitaph of the UN.

  • deltawingman

    On the contrary, it would be the best thing for the UN. the more tyrants and heads of failed states that are on the UN committees the less credibility the UN will have, even amongst the most die-hard supporters of the body.

  • Michiganny

    This diplomatic langauge may be inflammatory to some, but it is the smart move. Causing a row over rhetoric would do nobody any good. And it would limit the range of actions available to the US to show (deserved) hubris.

    What I am wondering is, why does the rest of Africa support Zimbabwe for running a council on sustainable development? They expect something in return. As I am unfamiliar with this entity, I do not know. Can anybody enlighten us?

  • Jack Coupal


    When the smoke clears, South Africa may be interested in annexing the very fertile southern Zimbabwe.

  • The US goes into a starving Somalia with food. Things get complicated and messy. We leave. The usual suspects scream we never should have so offended their autonomy; the usual perps laugh at us for being a weak horse.

    Pretty much the same in the Balkans, except the usual suspects have enough of the deed on their hands they’re a bit reluctant to scream.

    Afghanistan? How come you haven’t caught Osama? (And never mind that catching Saddam or Zarqawi was really, after all, irrelevant.)

    Iraq? Bill Clinton and his Congress vote for the Iraq Liberation Act (not sure of the exact term). Everybody and their dogs were sure Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and was ready to use them. We go in, catch Saddam with a much smaller fuss than the naysayers predicted, find some nerve-gas shells but no massive stocks of atomic bombs. Bush lied! Quagmire!

    Why would any sane government want to fix things in Sudan or Zimbabwe? We’re going to get screamed at anyhow, but it’s cheaper and a lot less work to get screamed at for doing nothing.

  • Paul Marks

    Comrade Bob is indeed a lifelong socialist (indeed a Marxist – not all socialists are Marxists, for example Hitler was not a Marxist, but all Marxists are socialists).

    Slobo and his wife in Serbia were also socialists (although they actually belonged to different factions for a time) – and there was not oil in that area. As for “destabalize the region” – when was the Balkans “stable”, under the Roman Empire?

    What to about Zimbabwe – nothing much can be done, it is landlocked and the various African countries (including South Africa) would go nuts if the West went in.

    “But the vast majority of Comrade Bob’s victims are black” – yes, but the various African governments (and Western academics media people and other such) do not care. They would soon attack any intervention as “racist”.

    It is much like the Sudan – the Hollywood crowd, and others, who are now demanding that “something must be done”, would soon be chanting “Bush baby killer” if the military went in.

    They even do that on that on sactions – before the “600, 000” were supposedly killed by the evil United States in the Iraq war “600,000” had already supposedly been killed by the evil sactions (the “Independent” newspaper published both claims at different times – my guess is that the evil Bush practiced necromacy, bringing the locals back to life so they could be killed again) – the left could not even be bothered to think up a new number for their propaganda.

    And, of course, the Sudan does have oil (a supplyer of China).

  • Kurt

    FYI: Zimbabwe is enduring the world’s highest inflation, at more than 2000%, mass unemployment, and there are widespread accusations of civil rights abuses.

    Sounds to me like the perfect candidate to head another worthless UN body.

  • Michiganny


    That is an interesting point.

    I met a Zimbabwean last fall and he had some very interesting takes on politics there.

    One, he thinks that the tribal connection between Mugabe and SA ministers has not been covered much at all. He also thought that the lack of tribal connection between Mugabe and Mandela was a reason why the latter was more vocal in highlighting the former’s misrule than Mbeki does.

    He also said he thought the MDC were just as bad as Mugabe. I figured that a guy getting an MBA in the US was just a likely apologist for the regime, since his parents in Harare were paying US tuition at a time when many of their countrymen cannot even afford bread, but I read this week in the NYT that there has been all kinds of violence between MDC factions.

    Dr. Ellen has an excellent post–the west will get nothing but heartache and red ink intervening directly in Zimbabwe or Sudan. It appears the US has concluded that as well. That would explain our semi-covert support for Ethiopia’s occupation of Mogadishu.

  • Michiganny

    Since this discussion is opening up to Darfur, what should be done there?

    It is interesting that for all of the hand-wringing, there appears to be no voice calling for supplying arms to Khartoum’s victims.

  • Sayeth the Diplomat: “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity and a chase after the wind. We don’t think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of this body,” which being translated, signifieth “What art thou smoking?”

  • John Rippengal

    I often think that the proper behaviour towards Africa would be to leave it alone – totally. I mean no aid or interference of any kind. Colonisation at the beginning of the 20th century improved the standard of living of the Africans so much that their population exploded. For instance in Kenya at the turn of the century the population was just under a million in total. At independence at roughly mid century it was just under
    ten million. It is now 35 million and Nairobi has turned from a fine city of the fifties to a ghastly slum.
    The African people in many countries have not the cultural resources or skills to develop an economy to sustain them. In many cases the land can no longer support the population however well farmed. Darfur is a prime example.
    In Kenya the cry was for ‘land’. In Zimbabwe it’s the same.These people want to go back to their subsistence farming which cannot support current population levels. Every do gooder that provides for a further expansion of the population is in fact adding to the misery.
    Time to get out totally. The Africans will have to solve their own problems. They never will while they get handouts.

  • Paul Marks

    “What should be done” (says Mitchiganny).

    Well Louis the Saint (King of France) tried to cut through the Muslim government in Egypt in order to link up with the Christian kingdoms in the Sudan (which still existed in his day). Indeed there is still coptic Christian style art in some French churches, which goes back to the time of French desire to liberate the area.

    The effort did not turn out too well.

    “Not relevant to Darfur – the people being raped and murdered there are Muslims”.

    And the people who were being murdered in Iraq by Saddam were Muslims to Mitchiganny (and terrorists are still murdering civilians there every day – but the world, and part of America, blames the United States for their deaths) – but that has not stopped the left (and elements on the right) attacking America in general and George Bush in particular.

    So one can only conclude that nothing can be done – for the West is too full of self hatred to unite in the effort to do anything.

    The enemy know well that efforts at sanctions will not work (the effort against Saddam was a joke – just a chance for the U.N. people to gain more bribes, “oil for food” turning into oil for anything).

    And as for war to save the people of Dafur – there will be no “Chinese” Gordon (by the way he got the nickname “Chinese” by fighting against a egalitarian movement that operated in China a century before Mao) giving his life to bring the horrors of the Mahdi (also mostly committed against Muslims) to the attention of the world – just representatives of the P.R.C. buying oil and training the locals. And these days the battle of Omdurman would be presented as a Western “atrocity against the national liberation struggle of the Dervishes”.

    For example, I am sure that Robert Fisk (who wrote about how right some people were right to beat him in punishment for the wickedness of the West) would say all sorts of say all sorts about the new Dervishes – at least till they removed his tongue.

    “But you are still ignoring the plight of the innocent men, women and children”.

    And whilst academia, the mainstream media (and so much else) is under the control of people who will turn on any effort to help (as soon as the body bags start comming home) – what indeed “can be done”?

  • Jack Coupal

    Paul Marks,

    The white-owned farms of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe were productive. They provided foodstuffs for other countries in Africa.

    When Mugabe decided to transfer ownership of farms to ZANU-PF thugs, production dropped. Making revolution is not a daily task for farmers.

    Return of private property to Zimbabwe is the only way to return that country from its place in Hell.

  • Reid of America

    Zimbabwe has had the best record on sustainable development of any nation the last few years. Their carbon emissions have been reduced more than any other nation. They have abandoned unsustainable inorganic corporate farms and replaced them with sustainable indigenous collectivist organic farms.

    Any nation can reproduce Zimbabwe’s success. Just follow the progressive geniuses at the UN.

  • Paul Marks

    Jack Coupal.

    I agree with what you say in your last comment – what gives you the impression that I do not agree?

    The only thing that I would add is that there are some good black farmers in that part of the world – although, of course, these are not the sort of people that Comrade Bob would favour (or who would accept his favours).

  • Michiganny


    You have a point. None of us care about what Saint Louis did. But here is why: technology has changed somewhat since he died in 1214.

    We could just airdrop the supplies these days. Should we?

  • Paul Marks

    Michiganny – do you mean “drop in supplies of food and meds”?

    How would this stop the local bad guys raping, enslaving and murdering?

    Anyway they would just steal the supplies you would drop in.

    “No I meant drop in weapons and ammo”, well if that is what you mean, I still think the local victims would lose, but you may have a point. Although not one that will be popular with the Hollywood crowd, or with the rest of the media/academia – they would find someway to blame the whole situation on the United States (specifically the evil Bush, or whoever the new hate figure was).

    Nor is such “blame America” stuff just on the left.

    I have just watched the Republican debate. Congressman Ron Paul claimed that 9/11 was caused by the United States “bombing Iraq whilst it was under sanctions”. I assume he means the attacks on Iraqi antiaircraft sites after they opened fire on Western aircraft who were trying to enforce the “no fly zones” (i.e. the effort to reduce the number of Kurds and southern Shia that Saddam was murdering).

    In an interview just after the debate Congressman Paul (when questioned about the gassing of the Kurds) said “we gave them the gas”.

    This was a lie. Indeed it is a special type of lie, I will not say what sort of lie it is (as a lady wrote the posting this thread is about) but it starts with the letter “f” and is a verb.

  • I knew there was something fishy about this guy – thanks, Paul.

  • Midwesterner

    I saw those remarks picked out and highlighted in news reports. As a known ‘hood ornament’ for libertarians, Ron Paul has just done huge damage to our credibility. Can he possibly believe what he said?