William Shawcross

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George Orwell is usually a footsure guide across political battlegrounds. In late 1943, when the tide had turned in the Allies’ favor, he wrote about postwar trials. Oddly, he advocated Hitler and Mussolini slipping away. His verdict for them would not be death unless the Germans and Italians themselves carried out summary executions (as they eventually did in Mussolini’s case).

He wanted “no martyrizing, no St. Helena business.” Above all, he disdained the idea of a “solemn hypocritical ‘trial of war criminals,’ with all the slow cruel pageantry of the law, which after a lapse of time has so strange a way of focusing a romantic light on the accused and turning a scoundrel into a hero.”…  Seguir leyendo »

The weekend's elections in Iraq were a huge success for the Iraqi people. The remarkably peaceful day of voting on Saturday - and the interim results - give good reason to hope Iraq really is on the way to building a decent society.

These provincial elections were held in 14 of the country's 18 provinces (Kurdistan will hold separate elections, and the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk was deemed "too hard" at present). This was the first post-Saddam election that the Iraqis handled themselves. Iraqi soldiers protected the polling stations. It was also the first election to have international observers in all 712 constituencies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

We beg to differ. Many years ago, the two of us clashed sharply over the wisdom and morality of American policy in Indochina, especially in Cambodia.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Killing Fields illustrates brilliantly part of the long disaster that has been Cambodia over recent decades. It is a compelling film that follows the story of a young Cambodian, Dith Pran, who worked for the New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg in Cambodia during the brutal five-year war that resulted in the communist Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975.

At that moment all the foreigners and their Cambodian friends took refuge in the French Embassy, hoping for safe passage out of the country. They had not reckoned with the horrific total revolution that the communists planned to impose. They demanded that all the Cambodians, including Pran, surrender, while the foreigners were trucked out of the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kofi Annan deserves a good sendoff. For 10 years he has persevered with unfailing grace in what really is "a job from hell."

I am biased -- I've admired Annan since the early 1990s, some years before he became secretary general of the United Nations. Like the U.S. government, I welcomed his replacing Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1996. Annan had been the one U.N. official brave enough to give Washington the green light to bomb the Serbs to the negotiating table in the summer of 1995. His intervention then was crucial.

It is easy to forget now that Annan's first five-year term was widely seen as a great success.…  Seguir leyendo »