August 28, 2009

GSTAAD: What I find quite fascinating is how Americans have a blind spot about their own flaws in the area of human rights, and how they feel they have a duty to lecture other countries on the issue. I am, of course, referring to the outrage over the Libyan deal, an outrage shared by most people who have not sold out to Big Oil. But successive United States governments have never had any qualms in maintaining close relationships with dictatorial regimes the world over, so suddenly why the screams? Didn’t the sainted Obama play footsie with Gaddafi in Rome some weeks ago at the G8 summit? And weren’t the first people to be flown safely out of the United States following 9/11 Bin Laden’s relatives? Who do they think they’re kidding?

Let’s face it, money comes first where human rights are concerned, and Big Oil money before any other kind. The Americans recently forced Switzerland to reveal their bank secrets to the IRS or else. The Swiss folded quicker than Saddam’s Republican Guard. Switzerland is my adopted country and the best place in the world to live. It is a real democracy starting at village level. Yet she threw in the towel when faced with sanctions that Uncle Sam refuses to impose on, say, Israel, for its possession of nuclear weapons and illegal occupation of the West Bank. Both Switzerland and Israel are democracies, but not all democracies are the same in Uncle Sam’s eyes. And it gets worse. Last week the Swiss President, Hans-Rudolf Merz, pulled down his lederhosen and humbly apologised to that arch clown and conman Colonel Gaddafi for the brief detention last year of Hannibal Gaddafi, the clown’s son.

Such, however, are the joys of Realpolitik. Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were arrested after a couple who worked for them managed to escape and report to the Swiss police how they had been beaten and held captive by the Gaddafi pair. After one or two nights in the pokey, the Gaddafis were allowed to leave the country after claiming diplomatic immunity, a joke in itself. Libya threatened an oil embargo against land-locked and oil-less Helvetia. For good measure, the Libyans then arrested a couple of Swiss tourists and held them on trumped-up charges. So the Swiss folded their hand, ate humble pie and the two hostages will soon be home in Switzerland’s verdant hills and mountains. But all’s not well. At the time, I wrote in these pages that Switzerland should have frozen Libyan accounts, made other arrangements for her oil needs — there is always Russia, not to mention Saudi Arabia, whose moolah is choking Swiss bank coffers — and hold Hannibal Gaddafi and wife for trial. But I’m a fool, a dumbo who believes that there is justice in this world, and that beating up a couple of poor Filipinos has consequences. There are consequences, but only for those without power and wealth. Gaddafi’s genius is for mischief-making and for making a mockery out of civilised behaviour. And we, the West, are responsible for letting him do it to us because Big Oil holds a gun to our temple. It also shows the total contempt our elected clowns feel for those of us stupid enough to vote for them. Blair, Brown, Miliband, Straw, Mandelson, Obama…I could go on for ever, liars and hypocrites all.

Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff’s feeders are back in the news. Some not-so-wise investors are suing the auditors of the feeder funds who made Madoff and his family very rich, and themselves eventually very poor. It’s about time. My special bad guy is Andres Piedrahita, the Colombian whose motto, according to the Wall Street Journal, was ‘As long as I make more money than those investing with me’. I’ve known Piedrahita for years but he was canny enough not to approach me. He’s a loudmouth braggart who still swans around in his yacht and private jet despite the misery of many of his investors.

My particular bone with him has nothing to do with Madoff. Years before he had taken down the Swanee Adam Shaw, son of that wonderful writer Irwin Shaw, a friend of mine and a very brave second world war correspondent. Irwin wrote some of the finest short stories ever, including ‘Girls in their Summer Dresses’, and good novels like The Young Lions, Two Weeks in Another Town, Evening in Byzantium, and Rich Man, Poor Man. Irwin had only one son, Adam, who went to school in Gstaad and turned out to be a fine writer as well as a tough guy, like his old man. I have not heard any news about him for years, but it seems he invested his inheritance with Piedrahita, who lost it all. After Piedrahita struck it very rich with Madoff, Adam Shaw should have tracked him down, beaten the crap out of him and demanded restitution. But that’s not the way of the world, is it? If he had, he probably would have ended up in jail, which is what this column is all about. Those who most deserve prison are running Western governments and getting fat on oil moolah.


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