WTF Friday, 12/9/2016

Everything is basically awful.

We’re rapidly running out of giraffes, American life expectancy dropped for the first time in over two decades, and 2016 continues its merciless extermination campaign against all the good celebrities.

Russia is moving new nuclear-capable missiles to the Baltic, hate crimes have replaced baseball as the new American pastime,  and atrocities continue unchecked in Iraq, Syria, Burma, and South Sudan.

On the bright side, though, against all expectations, Gambia’s lunatic dictator Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat in last week’s election. And somewhere, a lion cub and an otter are inexplicably living together in a people house:

WTF Friday, 6/5/2015

Yes, it’s technically Saturday, and we’re in the final stages of dissertation writing here at KCF HQ, but I couldn’t resist a very special tunnel-themed WTF Friday.

Item 1: The Egyptian military has discovered and destroyed 521 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza in the last six months. The use of tunnels to smuggle goods (most famously, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken) in and out of the Gaza Strip became common after the 2007 imposition of the blockade. The World Bank reports that the closure of the tunnels has had a significant negative impact on Gaza’s economy: together with the 2014 summer war accounting for “a 15 percent contraction of its GDP” (USD 460 million).

Item 2: Syrian rebels are using tunnels, built following the instructions in a helpful “how to” video from Gaza, where tunnels have also been used for years for military purposes, to attack regime positions. Meanwhile, back in Gaza, a tunnel collapsed yesterday, killing one Hamas fighter and injuring others.

And finally, Item 3, as reported by the WSJ: Rich people like houses with unnecessary tunnels in them. The article explains: “tunnels have emerged as a unique amenity with handsome décor, as high-end builders seek to set themselves apart at a time when every house seems to have a wine cellar and media room.”

Yes, tunnels are the answer to a whole host of problems, including restrictions on freedom of movement, military inferiority, and the mortifying possibility that your home might have the same number of wine cellars and media rooms as your neighbors’. Happy weekend, everyone.


My Head Asplode

Batten down the hatches and hunker down in your place of safety, because the end times are upon us.

Here’s the proof:

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the Washington Post, advocating for the establishment of a Syria War Crimes Tribunal. (The Bible is pretty clear that Republican Congresspersons proposing the creation of new international institutions is a sign of the apocalypse, right?)

Rep. Smith, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s human rights panel, believes that rather than approving a limited strike, or an International Criminal Court referral, or any of the other options currently on the table, the United Nations Security Council should create a brand spanking new war crimes tribunal, specifically tasked with bringing the perpetrators of atrocities in Syria to justice.

As evidence that this is a feasible proposition, he cites the Security Council votes to create the ICTY in 1993 (unanimous) and the ICTR in 1994 (China abstained).

Here’s the thing, though, Congressman: You know what didn’t exist in 1993 and 1994, when the Security Council decided to establish those ad hoc bodies? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with Shminternational Shriminal Shourt.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the ICC! And it is, in fact, a permanent international body set up to do EXACTLY the thing you would like your Syria War Crimes Tribunal to do. Isn’t that exciting?

And do you know why the ICC was set up? It was so that every (depressingly frequent) time some jackass dictator or rebel leader decides to mow down peaceful protestors, massacre villagers, or engage in a campaign of mass rape, the Security Council doesn’t have to go to the trouble and expense of creating a new court.

And that expense is not minimal. The ICTY, which you seem to be such a fan of, currently clocks in at $2.3 billion. The ICTR: $1.7 billion. Even the hybrid courts, which save costs by utilizing the judicial systems of the country where the crimes occurred, have already racked up price tags of over $200 million (Special Court for Sierra Leone, in place since 2002) and $350 million (Khmer Rouge Tribunal operating since 2006). And frankly, I just don’t see President Assad loaning his pet judges out to the effort to punish him. Do you?

Meanwhile, the costs to establish the ICC have already been paid. It’s there, lurking just outside of The Hague, waiting for someone to request that it investigate the command structure of the Syrian Armed Forces. All you have to do is ask.

Or rather: All you have to do is persuade Russia and China not to veto a referral. But you’d have that issue with your harebrained “chuck a new tribunal at the problem” scheme too. So yeah, maybe go back to the drawing board with this one.


*Facts and figures courtesy of the Leitner Center’s “International Criminal Tribunals: A Visual Overview.”

Today in Headlines We Thought We Misread: Zimbabwe Sends Peacekeepers To Syria

I learned today (h/t Peter Dörrie) that Zimbabwe is deploying military personnel to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).

Know what country’s soldiers you’re definitely not picturing when you hear the term “UN peacekeepers”? That’s right, Zimbabwe.

I would think this was just another item to be filed under “Confusing Choices Made by the International Community in Handling the Syria Crisis” (see, e.g., sending an accused war criminal to head the Arab League observer mission), but Zimbabwe currently has military personnel in the UN missions to Darfur (UNAMID), Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and Liberia (UNMIL), and police in South Sudan (UNMISS), Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and Liberia.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (a major opposition force in Zimbabwe politics) has called on the United Nations to stop using Zimbabwe’s armed forces in its peacekeeping missions on the grounds that their human rights record renders them unfit for service. The army has most recently been accused of abuses against miners in the Marange diamond fields, while the police are alleged to have beaten and tortured civil society activists who viewed a video of the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

So this should definitely help the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with that whole catastrophic image problem thing…


Takes One to Know One?

In a late entry for most absurd human rights story of 2011, the Arab League has appointed Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi to head their observer mission to Syria. As David Kenner points out in an article titled “The World’s Worst Human Rights Observer,” Dabi is implicated in the Bashir regime’s organization of atrocity-committing janjaweed militias in Darfur, making him rather an unconventional choice for a human rights observer mission.

An anonymous reader suggests that Dabi’s background as an (alleged) participant in genocide mean he’s overqualified to monitor mere crimes against humanity. But I’m kind of thinking the Arab League might be onto something. I mean, it’s like home alarm system companies using ex-burglars as “security consultants,” right? Who better to catch a war criminal?

WTF Friday, 11/18/11

“It’s an intriguing idea that oil can be ethical depending on where it’s extracted.” Yes, how novel. I’ve never encountered any situation like this ever.

Astute observation by Jenée Desmond-Harris: “Seriously, does even the most racist person in this day and age care about the color of the person bringing them the bar food and blue beverages?”

“The Thawra and Tishreen newspapers, both mouthpieces of the government, criticized the decision [to ban Syria from the Arab League] and suggested the organization should be renamed the ‘American League.'” Oh, so the National League wins two in a row and all of a sudden that’s a zinger? They hadn’t won since like 1996 before that!

WTF Friday, 6/10/2011

Big thanks to Tara for this gem. Gotta give credit to anyone who can give a humanitarian spin to sex slavery. Bravo.

Speaking of spin, three cheers for Syria’s state TV director, Reem Haddad, for making the country’s refugee crisis sound like a family reunion. I think it’s time for the UN to impose a “no spin zone” on Syria.

Hey, at least he didn’t just compare him to Hitler and take the easy way out. Ratko Mladic, the war criminal of choice for connoisseurs of hyperbole.

WTF Friday, 4/29/11

Uh, not exactly great timing, dude.

Invitations to the royal wedding appear arbitrary, but the feelings hurt are not!
Say it ain’t so, Egypt. Just when I thought I knew you guys…
This dudelaughs” at immunity deal for Saleh. This is such lazy journalism. Was it a belly-laugh, a snigger, a guffaw? The people have a right to know.

WTF Friday 4/22/11

Five out of the six men accused of raping a Pakistani woman, Mukhtaran Mai, were acquitted this week after being found guilty in 2002. According to Mai, “The release of the suspects has put [her] life in grave danger.”

Syrians enter Great Friday protests, are met with violence. Somebody’s getting their thunder stolen…

Lastly, what is it with these Cambodian divas?!?!