Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Ridi Pagliaccio

It's official. You may now laugh. Even the Europeans can hardly keep a straight face. "This is the most cynical military briefing I've read in my entire life. Everybody is just laughing at it.", said one European military planner according to the Guardian. He was referring, of course, to the shambolic UN-EU mission to restore peace in the Congo and end the bloodshed that has cost millions of lives.

A brief patrol by the French troops yesterday made the mission's modest ambitions apparent. Four jeeps packed with infantrymen drove 200 metres through the town centre, accompanied by as many western journalists. For 20 minutes groups of children sang for the cameras, then the troops rolled back to their airport base.

CNN described the mission more tersely: "Outside of Bunia, the force has no mandate and no means to secure the country," Col. Dubois said." Not inside Bunia either. From the Guardian again.

There was no patrol on Saturday during a gun battle in central Bunia. "We are here to secure the airport for the arrival of the international force. It is not our mandate to intervene in fighting between armed groups, only in direct attacks on civilians," the colonel in command said.

The Belmont Club has repeatedly assessed the entire mission as a sham, based on the miniscule size of the force, its restrictive terms of reference, the 3-week duration of its mission, the obvious lack of logistical effort, the absence of credible support firepower and the reliance of the Europeans upon bases in Uganda, which is one of the neighboring countries fueling the civil war and the direct patron of the bloodthirsty Hema milita. Do you know what French jets and Cannibals have in common? They are both based in Uganda. Now you know why the European military planner was laughing.

Unfortunately the suffering Africans are convulsed by things other than laughter. The International Herald Tribune reports:

They had walked through the banana groves and up the empty red dirt roads. Among them was a mother of two, clutching a child at her breasts, a pregnant woman holding her belly, a girl in a tattered blue school uniform skirt.
By any measure, the war in this country is among the cruelest in the world, and these are the survivors of one of its cruelest weapons. They and countless others have been raped by soldiers spreading terror through the countryside. Of this group, only the 13-year-old girl, who screamed with all her might as her attacker grabbed and tore at her clothes, had been spared.

If you still have a sense of humor, go to the Vesti la Giubba page, where you may hear Puccini's famous aria sung by a selection of tenors.

Put on your costume and mask your face with powder.
The people pay and come here to laugh.
And if Harlequin steals Colombina from you,
laugh, Pagliaccio, and everyone will applaud!