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In this week's Sunday Independent (March 3rd) Brendan O'Connor bemoaned the reception laid on for Cork's recent 'distinguished guest', former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. O'Connor was upset at the peculiar Cork habit - 'you know how it is in Cork' - of inviting a 'distinguished' person into your home and then calling him a 'bollix'. Much worse, seemingly, than having electrodes wired to your 'bollix' in a torture chamber run by a 'cultured' crony of the 'distinguished guest'.
Of course, we are assured, matters such as torture aren't really the issue for the inhabitants of Cork. It is more a question of their 'funny attitude towards posh people'. Meanwhile, those who intend becoming posh themselves, the MBA's of Cork, know the colour of money in the real world and were subsequently praised by O'Connor for being eager to brush aside the questioning of Kissinger by Olivia O'Leary which centred on the illegal bombing of Cambodia.
Kissinger was then praised for batting off such funny Cork attitudes quite nicely while expressing a wish that the knowledge of the people holding them equalled their passion. Perhaps to facilitate this wish O'Connor could have pointed out that a developing equilibrium between the two would be assisted somewhat if Kissinger's passion for releasing confidential documents was as great as his knowledge of what they contain.
But no - in place of that or any similar such advice, some 'Lois Lane' from the Evening Echo was ridiculed in the O'Connor invective for asking Kissinger about 'war crimes in France'. Yet the article failed to explain why Kissinger declined to make himself available - which would hardly have inconvenienced him as he was visiting France at the time - for interview by French authorities who merely wished to ask some questions in relation to the murder of French citizens in Chile in the 1970s. Is that not what governments are supposed to do? If Mohammed Bazi, the alleged killer of Irish Army soldiers Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne in Saff al Halla, South Lebanon, in 1980 - decided to visit Cork should the Justice Minister bid him 'top of the morning' and allow him to go on his merry way, cautious that if he does anything else somebody might remind him of the precedent demanded by Brendan O'Connor - that such 'distinguished' guests should pass through Ireland unmolested by do-gooder 'Clark Kent' types?
For O'Connor, allegations of war crimes are to be treated as seriously as those charges pertaining to responsibility for the rise in price of gin and tonic. Kissinger was 'one of the great brains of the 20th century, a man who had aided in ending communist totalitarianism and who had brought China in from the cold'. Vietnam and Cambodia were mere strategic pawns in a wider global struggle and why should we concern ourselves with the significance of pawns in the new post-communist chessboard? Whatever untoward happened took place thirty years ago. Why should anyone have to answer for it now?
Of course, those with funny attitudes who disagree with such a stance are not restricted to Cork. There are misguided idiots all over the world. Perhaps Cork could help further globalise idiocy. There are already other fools waiting to join in the spread of funny attitudes. Even celebrity fools. After all, it is not only great brains that can win the Nobel Peace Prize. For example, Guatemalan indigenous leader Rigaberta Menchu and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner has lent her support to court action seeking to try Henry Kissinger along with former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet for torture, disappearances and murders in South America in the 1970s. Menchu alleges that declassified CIA documents can demonstrate that the 'distinguished' duo co-sponsored and designed the murderous Operation Condor as part of a broader drive to subvert democratic elections which may have produced governments of the Left throughout South America. Condor's purpose was to stamp out any potential opposition to the region's oligarchies.
If funny attitudinising people are encouraged to behave like this and dissuade others from listening to their betters who knows what Cork may get up to next. Perhaps that other idiot with a funny attitude, Sheila Cassidy, will come to the city and tell of her experiences in Chile. And then in a bid to have her most funny account ridiculed and refuted the MBAs of the city - the people with proper attitude - might have to give up a day's wages to stand with projector linked laptops and mobile phones alongside Brendan O'Connor to proclaim the innocence of both Kissinger and Pinochet.
Henry Kissinger hails from the realist school of politics. Given Brendan O'Connor's approving comments about the 'global struggle, in which Vietnam was a pawn' it seems clear that he sits morally and intellectually snug in a realist framework. George Kennan, former Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, aptly summed up the realist worldview as early as 1948:
We have about 60% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
Faced with such an outlook, the only problem with the humanitarians of Cork and their funny attitudes is that there are not enough of them. Their small placard proclaiming, Emile Zola like, J'accuse, shall cause more discomfort for the war criminals of this world than the columns of the Sunday Independent can provide succour.
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