Who says life never imitates art? I am currently working on a novel where a pair of Russian superheroes are being sued in federal court on civil grounds of wrongful injury.
Today's papers have suggested that relatives of those killed on Malaysian flight MH17 may sue Russian President Vladimir Putin(admittedly NOT a superhero, Russian or otherwise) for alleged support for the separatist "rebels" in the Ukraine who apparently shot down the jet in question in US federal court.
Although I personally would prefer to see Putin(along with crony Yanukovych) in the dock at the Hague based International Criminal Court, the alternative of a civil suit is not all that bad. Firstly unlike a criminal charge whereby the prosecutor/plaintiff must prove his/her case beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil suit relies on a balance of probabilities( ie has a lower burden of proof) and could tie up Putin(or his lawyers) in court for years- and if found guilty, he could have his assets(or those of the RF including his oligarch chums) ,seized, frozen and them distributed to the plaintiffs!
In a week in which ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) reportedly ordered Iraqi Christians(known as Chaldeans) who date back to Jesus's time to either convert to Islam, pay a prohibitively high poll tax(jizya), emigrate or accept martyrdom( to minimal comment from all save the Pope), it is salutary to reflect on the comparative Western media and official silence on the persecution of Christians in several countries of the world( apart from the "Bad Four" of officially Communist countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam, others such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan,Nigeria,Iran, Iraq and India also figure in this) By this I mean REAL persecution(in which priests and laypeople are arbitrarily thrown into prison on trumped up charges, churches are closed or permission for the construction of new ones refused and martyrdom-death for the faith is a real possibility).
There are many reasons why: firstly when the Cold War ended over a quarter century ago, many Western news agencies closed their foreign bureaux on the ground that "the end of history is nigh"( because we "won" the Cold War natch!), several of the countries mentioned above are majority Muslim and Western news agencies are mindful of the charge of "Islamophobia", secondly as Paul Vallely noted in today's Independent On Sunday (www.independentonsunday.co.uk, July 27, 2104), given the left/right ideological divide, Christians fall through the doctrinal faultlines- too religious for liberals and too foreign(presumably too black, brown or yellow as opposed to the comfortingly Caucasian Christians of the Cold War era I daresay) for conservatives.
Also any dwelling on their plight will lead undoubtedly to calls for some kind of military action- and given the unpopularity of both Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a "non-starter".
So what is to be done? Well for a start it would help a lot if conservatives quit belllyaching about faux claims of "persecution" and "oppression"( as if the positions of opponents of Obamacare could ever be really compared to societies in which Christians really ARE suffering for their faith) just as though it would help if liberals acknowledged that freedom to practice one's faith is a basic human right( irrespective of whether or not they themselves subscribe to any given faith) and is not some kind of "imperialist" or "colonialist" plot.
(NB this post was inspired by the "Law And Order "episode "Subterranean Homeboy Blues"(which in turn was evidently inspired by subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz. A white woman, Laura Di Biase( Cynthia Nixon) shoots two black youths on the subway, claiming that she feared being either mugged, murdered or presumably raped. At one stage Di Biase compares herself in effect to a woman of colour resisting racialized and sexist violence during the "Jim Crow" period of segregation and before that slavery in the old Deep South but ADA Paul Robinette-Richard Brooks- who is of course black, rejects this comparison. Despite this Di Biase is acquitted).
It has become the fashion in some quarters(not just avowedly white supremacist such as Stormfront but also conservative ones that "the wheel has turned full circle"- in effect white has become"the new black" (and a white person accused of killing an African American will receive no more justice than a black accused of murdering a white.(full disclosure: I am thinking of the prisonm drama "Orange Is The New Black")
In other words folks, the former oppressors and persecutors have become the persecuted and oppressed.
As with claims of "anti-Christian persecution " in America, to quote tennis star John McEnroe- "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!"
This claim is an insult to every member of a minority group that (pace African and Native Americans, to a lesser extent Hispanics and Jews) that felt the full force of a racially oppressive state- that was not only last hired but first fired and was the victim of unethical, inhumane and abusive medical experiments
(see "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History Of Medical Experimentation On Black Americans From Colonial Times To The Present" by Harriet Washington, Doubleday, 2007)!!!
No matter how horrendous the crimes for which John Woods was convicted
(a double murder I think) and executed for in Arizona, few people(irrespective of their stance on capital punishment) can be comfortable with the fact that due to the botched nature of his mode of execution(lethal injection) he expired not within minutes but after an agonizingly protracted TWO HOURS.
Some will argue that who cares, he got what he put through his two victims though?-let him suffer, it's no more than the(insert insult here) deserved in the first place!
The reason his execution( or torture to death if you like) was so protracted was because due to an EU wide ban on chemicals being assoicated with lethal injection in the US being sent to death penalty jurisdictions in America(which include Pennsylvania where I spend Thanksgiving with my cousins every November). The EU argues that chemicals like sodium thiopenthal should be used to ease sufferings and prolonge life NOT end it( I agree entirely) which has led to capital punishment states such as Arizona, Missouri(and possibly Pennsylvania) using weird and untested cocktails of drugs upon their executees- shades of Mengele or Unit 731!
Personally given that there are laws(including federal ones) in most US states forbidding wilful cruelty to animals(whether wild or domesticated) but NOT death row inmates, perhaps anti-capital punishment groups should campaign for abolition on the grounds of "equal rights with animals!"( or maybe death row inmates are considered to be beneath even cattle, pigs, sheep or household pets!)
Long time readers of this blog will be aware that I am pointedly no fan of Vladimir Putin(or the "fish eyed Chekist" as I have been referring to him) any more than I was of George W.Bush,'s Administration, the Democratic Republic of North Korea, the State of Israel ,Castro's Cuba or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so why does the news that Putin's daughter Maria has fled Holland after a mayor called for her deportation and some intemperate comments about her on social media sites make me feel profoundly uncomfortable?
Let's look at things in perspective- the Dutch people have EVERY right to be angry with her father and his self-serving(if not manifestly absurd) claims that pro-Russian separatists(widely seen as being tacitly supported by the Kremlin) had nothing to do with the shoot down of MH17(the vast majority of whose victims were of course Dutch) what they do NOT have is the right to take out their anger on someone who bears no responsibility( save by one of blood) for the shoot down. Maria Putin has no more to do with the shootdown of MH17 than Chelsea Clinton or Sasha/Malia Obama has to do with THEIR fahter's administration's policies.
"Kick the bitch out!" "It's just as well as that she lives not far from the Hague- she can watch her father's triall!" ( a reference to the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice, both of which are located in the Hague).
Whilst I acknowledge that feelings are running high in the Netherlands, I would remind the Dutch people that ultimately two wrongs do NOT make one right and what we are talking abiout is the victimization of a woman based not simply on her nationality but equally beyond her control- her filial relations and that said victimization based on ethnicity and blood is the hallmark of tyrannical regimes that we in the West rightly abhor- Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Saddam's Iraq and Kim Jong Un's DPRK( as proto-Stalinist North Korea calls itself in true Orwellian style) rather than a liberal democracy like the Netherlands. Said mayor who called for her deportation( presumably to punish her father) should be ashamed of himself!
In what can be only be seen as a decided hardening of official and public attitudes(at least in The Netherlands) vis a vis the recent shootdown of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, it has been announced that Dutch prosecutors have opened a war crimes case regarding the matter( Dutch law permits war crimes charges to be filed when citizen(s) of the Netherlands are killed in circumstances that justify the charge no matter where or how they died). This in itself means that it is unlikely for the Hague based International Criminal Court to begin its own case(at least until the local prosecutors close their cases), although several of the victims of the shootdown( now all but certainly the handiwork of the "little green men"- Russian forces in mufti as NATO anlaysts call them contrary to Putin's propaganda) were nationals of countries that had signed and/ or ratified the ICC Convention- Australia, UK, the Netherlands- true, Russia has signed but not ratified the Convention and Ukraine has not signed at all(but may do so in the months ahead), but at the very least, the plot thickens!
Now that it is generally accepted(except by some conspiracy theorist junkies and professional America haters and of course the "lamestream" Russian media) that MH17 was shot down by a missile fired by so-called"rebels"( of whom it is an open secret that they are tacitly supported by the Kremlin), where do we go from here?
Well, for a start if Putin and Co refuse to hand over the flight recorders of the shot down airliners and prove generally uncooperative I think that not only should the sanctions imposed so far between tightened still further but that Ukraine should sign and ratify the International Criminal Court Convention- Putin may not be overburdened by scruples but the prospect of becoming a virtual pariah internationally due to harbouring those guilty for such an atrocity will concentrate even his mind- to quote my countryman Samuel Johnson- "when a man is due to be hanged in fortnight it concentrates his mind beautifully!".
An unintended bonus of the shootdown of MH17 has been the wleocme silencing of Putin's "useful idiots" in the West such as paleocon pundit Pat Buchanan and UKIP leader Nigel Farage who since this matter hit the headlines have been maintianing a decided(but thankful) silence.
All in all, this whole matter sums up a long standing view of my own that those who for whatever reason play with the fires of racial, religious and ideological extremism, usually narrow partisan advantage( as the GOP did with the Tea Party in the 2012 US Presidential elections and as PM David Cameron is doing with not just his own Eurosceptic backbenchers but with UKIP in the run up to next year's General Elections) almost invariably end up being badly burned by them- as they DESERVE to be!
An upcoming film due to be released later this year -"Persecuted"- sums up what I for one consider to be a dangerous myth- that Christians(esp conservative ones) are being actively persecuted in America by the US Government. Not only is this Constitutionally absurd- as by the first Amendment, Government may not activley favour or disfavour any religion or religion in general and of all the forty men who have held the US Presidency from George Washington to Barack Obama, NONE has every expressly claimed to be anything other than an avowed religious believer- none have declared themselves to be atheists or agnostics, but this distracts from bona fide concerns about religious oppression and persecution in societies such as Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Vietnam, Cuba,China and North Korea.
Real persecution includes arbitrary arrest of clergy, closure or refusal to permit construction of churches and other places of worship( North Korea, Saudi Arabia et al), censorship of sermons- sorry boys, your claims of "persecution" to quote John McEnroe "CANNOT BE SERIOUS!"
By now, it is obvious that several Britons were aboard the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 shot down by a missile yesterday. Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I am no fan of President Vladimir Putin( or "the fish eyed Chekist" as i have taken to referring to him- I usually dislike ad hominem references to politicians but in this case I make an exception- "Chekist" being slang for a KGB operative), but I must confess my dismay at the "sentence first , verdict afterwards" afterwards of sections of the British press- see today's Times editorial).
Some of the worst miscarriages of justice or injustice( be they the forced relocation of Japanese Americans by FDR during WWII or the Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings in 1974) have occurred when we let popular sentiment overcome our desire for justice.
First let us find out who in reality fired that missile- the pro-Russian "rebels" or the Ukrainian military- and then let us proceed from there!
( It is unclear whether the shootdown amounts to a war crime or crime against humanity and if so comes under the jurisdiction of the ICC(International Criminal Court) but the idea of Putin as well as his Ukrainian crony/stooge hypothetically sitting in together in the dock at the Hague based Court is an intriguing one)
I recently read a Captain America story in which he reprimands his then partner Nomad(Jack Monroe) for using excessive force to subdue a stick up man-pointing out that with his enhanced strength he could easily have have maimed or even killed the hoodlum.
Given that not just Cap or Nomad but Spider-Man, Wolverine and other heroes could easily kill(albeit unintentionally in the first three cases, but quite deliberately in Wolverine's case given his adamantium claws) not just "ordinary" criminals( muggers and purse snatchers) but also their super powered enemies such as Magneto or Dr Doom, I am amazed how rarely the whole issue of "unnecessary force" is raised in regards to heroes and their powers- true, they are not cops who in real life can be brought up on charges of brutality or unnecessary force by Internal Affairs , disciplined and even not just fired but prosecuted criminally( pace the LAPD officers who were photographed beating Rodney King in 1991), but shouldn't be some kind of peer review for these cases?- "quis custodiet, custodiet?" as Juvenal would have put it- translated from Latin this means "who guards the guards or polices the police?"