A U.S. Ambassador criticizes the practice of paying ransoms — but why embarrass the French in Mali?
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In any case it appears unlikely, as well as anyone can gauge public opinion in this territory, that the Tuareg civic and religious leaders in the north who have some degree of democratic legitimacy would accept a regime dominated by the MNLA leadership. The non-Tuareg communities of the region certainly would not.
Against this background, it may be that Ambassador Huddleston was asked — by whom? — to undercut French efforts by bringing up the issue of ransom money. But is it in the U.S. interest to subvert France’s Sahel policy? What is the alternative? Only a week or so ago Mrs. Huddleston was writing in the papers that there was no alternative to helping Mali defend itself against the Islamist hordes and a damn good thing someone was doing it. Then why cast doubts on our gallant allies’ motives now, in their moment of need? Actually, the State Department sent a bill to the French for the cost of our shuttling some of their troops and supplies in on military transport planes. The French reportedly were not amused, and maybe this is a way of reminding them they should be more responsible in the way they spend money.
It is also possible the ambassador spoke entirely of her own volition. But then what is her narrow interest in this affair? If the French paid ransom money to such men as Moktar Belmoktar, the leader of the aptly named “blood brigade” that attacked the vast Algerian natural gas complex at In Amenas last month, resulting in the death of dozens of hostages, surely she knew about it. It is not public knowledge exactly when this money was paid to criminal gangs, with kickbacks to Islamist emirs and high Malian officials, by the French and other EU countries whose nationals had been grabbed, but the ambient corruption in Mali is not news. It was in full swing on her watch, in the mid-’00s, and she had nothing to say about it then. Why not? Is she trying to deflect the obvious criticism of our policy in the Sahel, a policy in the making of which she had an important role? Such criticism, which is direly needed as the administration rearranges its top national security team, can be constructive. We might as well review what we did or did not do, what we knew and chose to ignore, because these kinds of questions go to the heart of the frustrations and difficulties characteristic of the “savage wars of peace” that are a cruel but inexorable part of the world we live in.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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H/T to National Review Online