WTF Friday, 3/23/2012

Tell me this fool did not study marine navigation just so he could do this.

You know us folks at WR always get excited for a coup. Jk this is no good.

“Sirleaf came under fire after the Guardian published a video interview in which she is asked about decriminalising homosexuality and replies: ‘We like ourselves the way we are.'” I assume I’m not the only one who sees the irony of this statement.

WTF Friday, 11/19/10

In a shock move, Angelina Jolie has decided to cut short filming in Bosnia for her new movie due to pressure from The Association of Women Victims of War, a group apparently upset by the whole “rape victim falling in love with rapist” thing Jolie is going for. Who knew? Anyway, shooting is moving to Hungary, where I guess there is no rape so no one can be offended.

Cheers to alert reader Mimi for this one. James Blunt is claiming that he prevented WWIII when, as a British soldier in Kosovo, he refused orders from Wesley Clark to attack Russian troops. I’m also getting word that he saved Haiti by covering R.E.M’s “Everybody Hurts” for charity and saved the Swiss town of Verbier by providing a a new ski lift (he owns a chalet there). We should all be thanking our lucky stars that this man was born.
Former allies of Andry Rajoelina have attempted a coup in Madagascar. Col. Charles Andrianasoavin has claimed the nation. Rajoelina disagrees. But the real question is when are we gonna hear a DJ Rajoelina-produced diss track against the plotters? The world waits…

Fun with Google Alerts

After hearing about the coup in sounds-like-Nigeria Niger last Thursday morning, I decided to run a little experiment to see how many mainstream media sources would report a coup in totally-different-country-from-Niger Nigeria. I set up a Google Alert for “coup Nigeria” and waited to see how many hits it would return.

I was a little disappointed when the answer turned out to be only two* by the end of the day on Friday: Radio Netherlands with an article titled “Nigerian president held after coup” which began “In Nigeria, President Mamadou Tandja and his cabinet are being held prisoner by soldiers after a coup d’état” and Foreign Policy‘s The Cable, reporting “There was a coup in Nigeria, but Congressman Mark Grayson, who happened to be there, is safe.”

TexasinAfrica, who provides some useful background on the coup here, pointed out that the media probably got most of its Niger/Nigeria confusion out of its system during that whole yellowcake uranium fiasco, so I wasn’t too surprised when no more hits appeared.

But then I heard that oil prices rose to almost $80/barrel when the news of the coup first broke. Niger has no oil, but I think we all know which similar-sounding neighboring nation has tons.

*Google Alerts missed “Rebels seize president, power in Nigeria” from The Courier-Mail, probably on account of Australian-ness.

Breaking News: Simon Mann Released

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that Simon Mann and four of the other mercenaries convicted of plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea were freed today. Mann was sentenced last year to 34 years in the notorious Black Beach prison.

The Guardian, which describes Mann as “the Old Etonian mercenary,” reports that Mann is being pardoned in part due to his need for medical treatment and has 24 hrs to leave the country

Exciting TV Viewing Opportunity

Chris Blattman recently reviewed Nicholas Shaxson’s fascinating book “Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil.” His post reminded me how much I enjoyed Shaxson’s coverage of the 2004 attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea (I blogged last year’s trial of alleged mastermind Simon Mann here) and prompted me to record PBS’s Wide Angle episode about it. It’s called “Once Upon a Coup” and is available in its entirety here.

The details of the coup attempt remain shockingly ludicrous no matter how many times you hear them and the program includes the added entertainment of (1) EG President Obiang explaining that corruption is a purely European concept that holds no meaning for Africans, and (2) footage of the President of Riggs Bank being harangued by US Senator Carl Levin for kissing Obiang’s ass. It’s also chock full of (often hilariously frank – he asks us to forgive his use of the term “poncing around”) commentary from Simon Mann himself, who seems to be surviving Black Beach prison impressively well.

Check it out: Once Upon a Coup

Really? A "Coalition Government" for Honduras? Really?

We’ve written before about the ridiculousness of demanding that a legally elected government form a “coalition” with the opponents who are trying to take/keep power by force. Usually, this silliness is limited to the Land of Rape and Lions, but apparently the Obama Administration’s open-mindedness is now bringing it to our Central American friends as well:

“The United States and Europe stepped up pressure on Honduras’ de facto government on Tuesday as deposed President Manuel Zelaya and his supporters called on Washington to pave the way for his return. [...]

The U.S. government threw its weight behind Arias’ proposal that Zelaya, who was toppled in a June 28 coup, be reinstated to set up a coalition government.”

Yeah, that’ll teach them a lesson.

(The lesson in question being: “Kids, don’t feel sad if you can’t get into power through legitimate means. Just threaten to destabilize your country, and the international community will give you some for free!”)

Sucks To Be You, Simon Mann

I was on vacation last week and missed the opportunity to liveblog (or Time-Delay BlogTM) British gun-for-hire Simon Mann’s trial on charges arising out of a 2004 abortive coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.

I’m going to write about it now though, because E.G. president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is by far my favorite overlooked crazy-ass-dictator, and I think he deserves more media attention. He made it to #13 on Parade Magazine’s “World’s Worst Dictators” list this year, but I feel like a guy who has publicly proclaimed himself a god with accompanying divine right to kill whomever he wants should at least clear the top 10.

Anyway, last Monday a court in Equatorial Guinea sentenced Simon Mann to 34 years in jail for his role in the World’s Most Ill-Conceived Coup Attempt on Record. He, along with roughly 70 other foreign nationals, had been arrested in the Harare (Zimbabwe) airport on March 7, 2004 and accused of being mercenaries on their way to E.G. to overthrow Obiang’s government.

It later transpired that in the first week of March Spain had decided that a whole bunch of their warships were extremely bored and needed a change of scenery and moved them to a new location just off the coast of E.G. And, as it happened, an unusual number of exiled Equatorial Guineans seem to have been spotted hanging around the State Department building in Washington D.C. during the end of 2003/beginning of 2004. Unfortunately for Mann, though, it turned out that, despite these coincidences, the Whole Thing Was Definitely Mann’s Idea and No One Else Was Involved.

Mann was sentenced to 4 years of jail time in Zimbabwe for unlawful helicopter purchase. (For serious.) He was released after 3 years on good behavior, which included implicating Mark Thatcher, son of the Iron Lady herself, as a major financial backer of the coup plot. Thatcher eventually pled down to house arrest for his “unwitting” involvement. (Does anyone else think this sounds like a corollary to that old joke about the difference between heaven and hell? You know, in heaven the French are the chefs and the Germans organize everything, but in hell the British and Spanish plan the coups??)

In May of 2007, Zimbabwean officials agreed to extradite Mann to E.G. in exchange for (1) a promise to waive the death penalty; and (2) a generous helping of the sweet light crude that E.G. produces at a rate of half a million barrels per day.

Nobody seems to think Mann will actually serve out his prison term. -Not least because it would be a rare feat for anyone to survive 34 years in Black Beach prison, which is known for militant neglect of prisoners’ health. Meanwhile, Obiang has recently installed a new government, having decided that his feelings were too hurt by the old government’s potential involvement in the coup attempt to keep it around. He also announced that he definitely, absolutely, probably, maybe plans to give up power one of these days, he just can’t say for sure exactly when.

East Timorese President José Ramos-Horta Back Bigger, Better, Stronger

Remember when there was a coup attempt in East Timor a few months ago and everyone pretty much ignored it? Well, nearly-fatally-shot President José Ramos-Horta is back with a new ploy to get the western media’s attention. This time it’s a heartfelt op-ed explaining his surprise that he survived an assassination attempt when men like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were not spared, and detailing his renewed commitment to helping his people and all of the world’s poor. So yeah, it’s not actually funny, I just think you should read it.

Update: CNN Is Unimpressed By Your Little "Shooting," East Timor

CNN has now put the East Timor story on its front page, under “world.” Except it’s not a coup attempt. It’s a “shooting.”

That it happened to be a “shooting” of the President and Prime Minister, and happened to be committed by “rebel troops” is obviously pure coincidence.

Oh, and Americans should “use extreme caution and limit movements as much as possible.” Glad we got that message out there! I know that I, for one, could never have figured that out on my own. Thanks, CNN! You’re a real pal.

BREAKING: East Timor Suffers Coup Attempt, Western Media Continues Policy of "Don’t Pay Attention, You’ll Only Encourage Them"

The adolescent state of East Timor has become increasingly violent in its bids for the attention of older, more mature nations. The western media, wary of rewarding such bad behavior, continues to adhere to its policy of ignoring the outbursts.

P. S. There was a coup attempt this morning.