Paris The impish headlines in Le Canard enchaîné, the satirical weekly that happens to be the most informative newspaper in France, rarely translate well. An exception might be the recent front-page lead: “SARKO EST D’UNE RUMEUR MASSACRANTE.” This play on the expression être d’une humeur massacrante—roughly, “angry enough to kill”—concerns the distemper of Nicolas Sarkozy over a certain rumeur massacrante (“foul rumor”) swirling around the French president’s two-year marriage to former supermodel Carla Bruni.
In the run-up to the first goal in the recent game between Real Madrid and Barcelona—known around the world as El Classico—Lionel Messi, currently the best player in the world by a long shot, was fouled and knocked down, only to get up quickly, receive the ball, and pass it on to Xavi, who returned it with a sublime chip over the hapless heads of Real’s defense—and while Raul Albiol* thrashed around as though about to speak in tongues trying to stop him, Messi scored with a shot that simultaneously looked clumsy and exactly perfect.
In memory of Tomasz Merta (1965–2010) The event known as Katyn began when the Red Army invaded Poland, along with the Wehrmacht, in September 1939. The Soviets took thousands of Polish officers prisoner and held them in the ruins of Orthodox monasteries. When these men were allowed to leave the camps, 70 years ago in April 1940, they expected that they would be returning home. Instead, they were taken to Kharkiv, or Tver, or Katyn. Over the course of a few days, 21,892 of these prisoners were shot in the base of the skull.
I don’t know whether I should have ended the headline above with a question mark or an exclamation point. The first of my options would suggest that the president might actually learn from his palpable mistakes. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, to tell you the truth, I felt that would be playing with my readers. My alternative would hint—more than hint, I suppose—at my utter exasperation with Obama’s foreign policy. I don’t really want to go there. Still, are you not really exasperated with him and with it? Or are you one of those who care only about domestic affairs?
Sometimes a journalist grasps an intricate situation and explains it in just one simple sentence. Here is what the distinguished Timesman John Vinocur has to say in today’s International Herald Tribune about Obama’s policy of sanctions: The United States’ notions of U.N. sanctions on Iran have devolved over the past months from crippling ones to ones that bite to the currently described smart ones, which, although packaged with the words tough and strong might not be hard-nosed enough to give the mullahs a half-hour’s lost sleep. Now what? As it happens, more of the same. David E.
Almost before the celebrants at Barack Obama’s inauguration had gotten over their hangovers some 15 months ago, the president designated George Mitchell as his special envoy in the Middle East. I wrote then and several times since that he would be a flop, poor man. After all, it’s not the case that he had been a great success in any of his other high-minded missions, including the investigation into steroid use by baseball heroes.
So the Obama administration seems to believe. It has not, at least in my memory, been struck by anything the P.A. has done or said that is inimical to negotiations and to peace. While it commands this and then that from Israel just to get the Palestinians to sit down and talk, the talking will not be between the parties at all but a three-way process with George Mitchell shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and back.
The government was Russia’s. So it shouldn’t be derided entirely. But its importance shouldn’t be exaggerated either. After all, Washington and Moscow are not currently in any world historical conflict—at least not one likely to lead to a nuclear standoff. There were several of these during the Cold War. But I conclude in retrospect that they were mostly bluffs. This is even true of the Soviet threats to Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973. It is probably true about John F. Kennedy’s warnings to Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, as well.
Earlier this week, the small Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence. Days after protests broke out in a few small towns, thousands of people opposed to President Kurmanbek Bakiev's corrupt regime took to the streets of Bishkek, the capital city, and clashed with government forces. At least 75 people have died and hundreds more have been injured. Several government buildings have been set on fire, and countless businesses have been looted.
In February, as part of a delegation from the Save Darfur Coalition, I met Mustafa Ismail in Khartoum. Ismail is the country’s former foreign minister and current presidential adviser to President Omar Al Bashir. He thanked us for our “timely visit,” then proceeded to speak almost uninterrupted for close to an hour about the Sudanese regime’s new commitment to democracy, peace, and development.