Friday, 3 June 2011

To clean up a mess, a pair of dirty hands may be what you need

There will be an anniversary later this year which few in the media and probably no-one in government will mark.

On 12 November, it will be forty years since then US President Richard Nixon told the world ‘there are no American combat troops in Cambodia. There are no American combat advisers in Cambodia. There will be no American combat troops or advisers in Cambodia.’ By then the US had been waging its covert war in Cambodia for eighteen months.

It actually caused me to laugh out loud when I saw four former US Presidents and the incumbent – Ford, Carter, Reagan, the elder Bush and Clinton – attending Nixon’s funeral with its orations in memory of a great statesman. Tricky Dicky set the bar so high when it comes to mendacity in public office that no-one has come near him since. Why, even Tony Blair, a byword in Britain for the crooked politician with his on-air ‘I’m a pretty straight sort of guy’ and his deceptions over the Iraq War, isn’t remotely in the same league as Nixon.

The President didn’t do it all on his own. He was ably assisted, in particular by his his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, another man who could look straight into a TV camera and come out with a string of bare-faced lies. Kissinger was untiring in his efforts to prevent any news of the Cambodia bombing getting out, so when there were some leaks he moved vigorously against their suspected source Morton Halpern, an adviser to the National Security Council. Kissinger persuaded the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, hardly a paragon of transparency himself, to put a wiretap on Halperin’s phone. An illegal wiretap.

Amusing, isn’t it? It was illegal bugging that spelled the end of the Nixon Presidency. But it was Kissinger who started the practice.

Now scroll forward through the decades to the present day.

An extraordinary amount of newsprint and air time has been devoted to the troubles of FIFA, the world governing body of football. I have ambivalent feelings about the organisation: some of its decisions strike me as completely reasonable. For example, although it put a lot of noses out of joint in England, denied the opportunity to host the world cup itself, I can’t help feeling that the decision to award the cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 was entirely right. Neither had ever previously hosted the competition. And there was something squalid about the cosy old arrangement whereby the honour alternated between a set of usual suspects in Europe and another set in Latin America.

However, even if the decisions are right, the process by which they’re reached is hardly edifying. It seems that the way is always littered with grubby little cash payments, and some that are far from little. Even the election of the organisation’s President, Sepp Blatter, to a fourth successive term of office this week was an ugly spectacle: he was unopposed, his nearest rival eliminated just days before as a result of an investigation into corruption. That investigation, run by Blatter loyalists, also exonerated the President from any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Not so much the Thomas Jefferson standard of democratic practice, more Robert Mugabe.

Blatter has promised to turn FIFA into an honest and transparent organisation. A ‘Solutions Committee’ will look into any shady dealings and propose means to prevent them happening again.

And here’s where that forty-year anniversary becomes so significant.

Blatter and Kissinger: made for each other?
Who’s been pencilled in to head that committee? Why, none other than Henry Kissinger.One day FIFA will get its house in order, I’m sure. But I suspect it may take a while yet.

P.S. A footnote on Morton Halperin. He once summed up NATO policy as follows:

‘The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional forces until we are losing, then we will fight with tactical weapons until we are losing, and then we will blow up the world.’

No relevance to the stuff about Blatter. Just seemed worth quoting.

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

Yes, when I first heard this on The News Quiz, I thought it was a joke!