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What You Admonish Can Come Back to Haunt You!

Anytime I hear a smug European pontificate on how it was a good thing that the Americans got hit on September 11 (as I did in January 2003), I think of Africa, where the United States enjoys relatively little presence. It should be remembered that the first attempt at crashing an airliner on a Western capital was carried out by Algerian terrorists wanting to blow up an Air France plane over Paris in December 1994. (It failed, thanks to a French anti-terrorist squad storming the hijacked plane as it waited to refuel on a Marseille runway.)

From French legionnaires to Swedish NGOs, Europeans have enjoyed everything from a military presence to a humanitarian one on the continent for decades. Supposedly unlike Americans, therefore, both Europe's military powers and its altruism specialists seem to have shown an obvious interest at listening to local voices (or at least to those of their corrupt leaders). But with African autocrats buffeted by foreign military might and/or by the ripples of redirected humanitarian grants (more international aid for the needy means less funds the ruler and his cronies need to spend on their constituents and more cash in turn in their own pockets or in those of the thugs defending them), the least one can say is that Africa is a success story neither in the economic sense nor in the area of human rights. Indeed, with many Africans worse off than they were before the end of colonialism, I usually tell the "progressive" Europeans making their ugly, self-serving comments about listening, understanding, and lesson-teaching that they would do well to think twice before opening their mouths.

For if it is true that poverty or living under a dictatorship are valid reasons for committing terrorist actions against richer nations, Western or other, shouldn't it be logical to state that the French and the Swedes deserve to have Tutsis and Tanzanians crash airliners into the buildings of Paris and Stockholm? In fact, with Western Europeans balking at providing more than the bare minimum of aid to their (poorer) Eastern European brethren wishing to join the EU, doesn't it stand to reason that Poles and Slovaks are entitled — maybe they should even be encouraged! — to set off bombs in Brussels and Berlin?

22 January 2003

© Erik Svane