1996 L'année - the year


Clinton easily re-elected

With polls only changing the gap between the incumbent Bill Clinton and Bob Dole from double to single digits to double again, results from Tuesday's elections stood as a stark contrast to the previous vote; the status-quo reigned and this surprised no one. Less than half eligible voters in fact bothered to head to the polls, in a clear display of political apathy quite different from the "outrage" expressed just two years ago, when the Republican sweep into Congress gave all the impressions the voters' flirtation away from the GOP was temporary. Yet the underdog of '92 stayed faithful to his image of Comeback Kid, leaving hard right-wing Republicans to self-destruct to the point of offering very little as candidate leading up to the campaign, while he borrowed from the ideas of the GOP to move to the comfortable centre of American politics. Some analysts give Clinton a very mediocre first-term grade pointing to his failure to reform health-care, scares of starting trade wars with major economic partners and squandering attempted foreign policy peace efforts. It was indeed an electoral year which left many of America's allies bitter and impatient with the insolence of the campaign's hard-line external twist. But while some views hold Republicans responsible for giving Democrats a second wind in the latter half of Clinton's term, notably by shutting down government last year, others blame the GOP for Clinton's foreign policy and domestic ills. In both cases, Dole's camp was in the wrong and only one hard fact, a strong economic recovery leaving jobs from the top American concerns really mattered. Therefore Dole's claims the economy had never been worse, as those that he could balance the budget while giving a 15% tax cut, weren't convincing. Not only did Republicans shoot themselves in the foot and produce an unenergetic candidate whose bridge to the past was uninspiring and whose qualities as House leader weren't those required for presidency, but President Clinton once again shone as a brilliant campaigner, winning debates his opposition needed to win to survive, managed to unite the country in times of distress (Oklahoma bombing, Trade Tower bombing and natural disasters) and raised issues which touched home to the "silent minority": Women, whose support (54% of them voted for Clinton, who in total gathered 49% of the vote) was so overwhelming they sparked debate of a "gender gap" in U.S. politics. Addressing issues of top concerns to Americans such as education and crime (20% each, with only 9% expressing concerns over jobs, this captivated 46% of Canadians in comparison), Clinton touched home among Women in particular. In a recent polls 61% of them cited issues as being more important than character, which perhaps explained why attacks on the president over Whitewater proved fruitless. But while Democrats campaigned hard for their win, the little man from Texas - wooed by Republicans in the last stages of the campaign, in vain, before they became resigned to concentrating their efforts on Congress - managed to spoil the GOP run on the White House by dividing the right (even if Perot had lost many of its 1992 voters to the GOP). While they set their sights on the next Congressional vote, Republicans did manage to keep their hold on both Houses, gaining three seats in the Senate, and keeping Clinton in check. This seemed to be just fine with many Americans, 48% of whom said they preferred a Republican Congress to balance the president (vs 41% for a Democrat one) in a political system where everything in fact is resolved in the balance between executive and legislative (and where the Senate, unlike Canada's, wields real power). Some changes are in store in the short term, including a convincing Administration overhaul, leaving the State Department and Departments of Defence and Commerce in transition as well as shaking up Clinton's most immediate entourage. For his part Vice-president Al Gore can set his sights on the first elections of the new millenium which would again be helped if "economic and political cycles are coordinated." By then however some changes might come in place concerning campaign regulations after a year of unprecedented spending. Indeed both parties blew a total $650 million during the race, which for the most part left Americans unfazed: Clinton was elected with only 25% of the support of the eligible electorate; something which to many puts the world's greatest democracy to shame.


Villeneuve: jeune prodige

Au moins la dernière course de la saison de Formule 1, si chaudement disputée malgré l'écart entre les sept victoires du britannique Damon Hill et les quatre du Canadien Jacques Villeneuve (un exploit pour une première saison dans le circuit) ne laissa aucune ambiguïté. Malgré sa pôle position (partiellement à cause d'elle), Jacques Villeneuve accusa son pire départ de la saison, et ne put remonter la pente que jusqu'au quatrième rang, avant d'être sorti de la course en perdant sa roue arrière. Plus de peur que de mal (surtout dans les estrades), mais un pincement de douleur tout de même, puisqu'à l'envers du scénario rêvé par les Canadiens, le britannique remporta sa huitième course, et son premier titre, pourtant si mérité. Il s'agissait de l'envers de cette victoire au Portugal (NPU 456), elle qui avait permise tant d'espoir, et où Villeneuve avait loué la solidité de son bolide. Il y avait lieu de penser qu'en fin de saison, alors Jacques remporta trois des sept dernières courses, contre les trois succès de Hill aux quatre premiers dimanches du championnat, l'équipe Williams-Renault avait fait du jeune Canadien son favori, notamment après l'annonce à la mi-saison que Hill changerait d'écurie l'an prochain. Or l'état du bolide le 13 octobre élimina tout soupçon de mauvaise conduite du genre, et permis à celui qui avait tenu trois balles de matches de remporter son championnat avec près de vingt points d'avance sur son coéquipier, et rival. Les deux coureurs, malgré leur fiche combinée impressionante (qui ne laissait plus de doute quant au palmarès du constructeur à la mi-saison), se considéraient cependant déçus de ne pas avoir remporté leur Grand Prix (à Silverstone pour Hill et Montréal pour Villeneuve); Damon de ne pas avoir remporté son titre plus tôt... et Jacques d'avoir failli sur des pistes qu'il connaissait pourtant bien, comme Monaco et Suzura. La saison aura donc laissé quelques surprises, celle de 1997 pourrait y parvenir encore plus...


Opposition movements rise in Asia

Defined economically, the Third World (at times even divided in 3rd and 4th world) reunites a majority of the globe's nations, described as generally developmentally backward. Politically, however, the caption may not be enough, owing to the diversity of countries it encompasses; even when regimes may appear to be similar, their treatment of competing movements and parties, when allowed, makes it hard to picture all Third World nations under a similar heading. Even united by their geographical location, such as Asia, TW countries may display different approaches when dealing with various movements of discontent, usually put down unequivocally by countries such as China and Indonesia. Lately, developments in Cambodia, Indonesia, Bahrain, the Philippines and Burma - or Myanmar -, have made such comparisons possible; as governments have been confronted by a rising tide of movements or parties, either ethnic or properly political, sometimes both, operating within or without proper institutional channels. While these caracteristics vary, all cases brought out the ticking global issue of increasing discrepancy between rich and poor (as those countries rush to go up the economic ladder to leave the cellar of the Third World, on a continent where a number of countries have created a new club, that of Newly Developed Countries, or Asian Tigers...), while enabling us to assess differences using a simple technique: weighing government action against the nature of the rising movement. Government action may be viewed as repressive, such as in Indonesia, against a legitimate movement of opposition. In that case Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party; as the name indicates in its native language, a descendant of founding father Sukarno, who plucked the reigns of power after independence in 1945 until disturbances in the 1960s which ushered in present leader Suharto to power. Government action may otherwise be viewed as conciliatory (albeit, often after a regrettable past reminding democracy's hesitant or timid inroads in the region), such as in the case of the Philippines, where the world's least talked-about peace process towards an understanding between Muslim rebels seeking some sort of sovereignty, and Manila, has been ongoing. The nature of the movement may also be weighed against government action, putting the overall country situation in a different light. In the case of Indonesia, the opposition's use of political institutions to forward its message, in a country with some democratic tradition nevertheless, leaves analysts thinking the regime (thus actions) of Sukarno is in the wrong, drawing international condemnation against the multi-cleavaged country who is also the world's fourth largest in terms of population, a regional power and an important counterweight to Chinese influences in Asia (all points worthy of consideration). Closer to Europe however, Western condemnation of the Algerian government's often repressive stance, against equally vicious rebel forces, is much less vocal if not inexistant, in view of the nature of the opposition; militant fundamentalist forces vowing to turn Algeria into a Muslim power. In this sense, the government's repressive measures seem legitimized to the eyes of the international community which did little in the direction of slapping sanctions against Algiers for executing rebels, even without trial. Although Islamism is a recurring theme in many of these examples, such as Indonesia and the little Gulf state of Bahrain, it need not stand out as particularly relevant here in view of the differences in approaches between various opposition Muslim movements. One must only look at divergences between GIA's hard-line approach and that of the Mindanao rebels nowadays, who, granted, abandoned their bloody tactics of the past. Of course this may leave the rebels undefined in terms of "good" or "bad", despite their recent advances. It may take a while longer and actual implementation of agree-to pace accords to conclude the movement has indeed ceased to promote the use of violence to further its means. The PLO long kept the image of a terrorist organization even after it renounced the use of force against Israel. Some say its status today remains transitory owing to the treatment of Islamic militants captured by the Palestinian police; it may only be saved by the perception of being the lesser of two evils. What makes the nature of Bahrain's opposition movement uncertain is its alleged ties with Iran, a country accused the world over, but particularly and effectively by the United States, of promoting international terrorism. Caught in the middle of violent Shi'ite rebels and the Khalifa regime's oppressive stance is emprisoned Islamic leader Abdul Amir al-Jamri, who however has not been linked to plots to overthrow the government or recruit Shi'ites for that purpose. Here, again, the rebel cry is that of reform by the poorer Shi'ite population, including restoration of the parliament. Al-Jamri's plight may be compared to that of Megawati in Indonesia or that of pro-democracy Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose personal assistant was arrested by Burmese police in a crackdown aimed at blocking a meeting of the National League for Democracy under the pretense of protecting peace and security. In the equation under study here, only one combination is impossible, and that is that of a repressive government attempting to block a violent rebel party from power, because that would make one of the two seem in the right, the apparent necessity of world diplomacy where while both may be good, both may not be evil, because one has to be less so. This only further blurs the picture and can make present rebel forces, welcomed under conciliatory gesture by governments, much nicer than they really are. That is when the past counts, as in the Philippines, and certainly in Cambodia, where memories of the killing fields (1 million to 2 million victims) seem to spring up at the mention of the Khmer Rouge. Recent developments have spread talks of a split in these forces (reported to be 6000 strong before coming apart). In little time up to 1000 Khmer Rouge troops may have switched sides, enabling preliminary agreements to implement a ceasefire in the continuing guerilla war against the government Vietnam installed. In 1991 a peace agreement signed in Paris failed to halt the hostilities after the Khmer Rouge refused to disarm (a contentious issue in Northern Ireland as well), and they also refused to take part in the U.N.-monitored elections in 1993. What makes the defections genuine, if less surprising, is the knowledge that, as in all cases of rebel militants softening their stance or switching sides, major backers of the rebels ceased support. In this case China, in the Philippines' case Libya. Iran's influence in Bahrain is also unmistakable. In this light, Washington's sanctions against those countries may seem less condemnable.


Explosion au parc du centenaire

Les organisateurs des jeux d'Atlanta auront pour le moins gardé leur souffle jusqu'au dernier éclat musical de la clôture des jeux du Centenaire, des jeux marqués par la crainte du terrorisme inspirée par l'explosion d'un 747 de la TWA, l'explosion du parc du Centenaire, et de plus petites bévues de sécurité, dont l'accès aux cérémonies d'ouverture d'un homme armé. Lors de la cérémonie de clôture, le président du CIO, Juan Antonio Samaranch, qui quelques jours plus tard avait critiqué l'inefficacité organisationnelle de ces jeux, ponctua son discours final d'un moment de silence ainsi que le souvenir de jours pénibles, dont ceux de Munich en 1972. Du fait, Israel semblait obtenir la reconnaissance qu'elle cherchait depuis la tuerie de ses athlètes lors de ces jeux, une question sensiblement liée à la controverse étant donné la première participation officielle palestinienne aux Olympiques, où 197 nations furent représentées. M. Samaranch avait tout de même entamé son discours avec un <<well done, Atlanta>> qui semblait indiquer que malgré certains déboires, les 100 ans avaient bien été célébrés. Malgré le haut degré de sécurité, rien ne pouvait empêcher un acte isolé de barbarie, dont l'explosion du parc du Centenaire, symboliquement, le seul lieu à la fois gratuit d'accès, et peu surveillé par le dispositif de sécurité. À la clôture des jeux encore, on doutait de la culpabilité du seul suspect dans l'attaque qui fit deux morts dont un indirectement, un agent de sécurité initialement loué pour avoir détecté le sac abandonné à l'origine du désastre. De leur côté, les enquêteurs chargés de l'explosion du TWA ne parvenaient toujours pas officiellement à qualifier l'accident près de New York (NPU 451) d'attentat à la bombe, n'ayant pas trouvé de trace chimique révélatrice sur les parties du fuselage remontées à la surface par les équipes spéciales. D'autre part la boîte noire semble n'avoir révélé rien de concret, sinon quelques indices auditifs encore faibles, mais permettant une certaine comparaison avec l'explosion d'un 747 de la Pan Am au-dessus de Lockerbie en 1988. Cette année-là neuf jours avaient été nécessaires avant de déterminer avec certitude la nature de l'incident - une bombe - mais autant dire que les mêmes problèmes opérationnels ne se posaient pas; le TWA ayant explosé au-dessus d'un espace marin. Les théories de l'attentat voudraient que le vol ait été condamné à exploser en pleine mer, rendant la recherche aux indices plus difficile, puisque le vol 800 accusait déjà un certain retard au décollage. Les groupes terroristes principaux revendiquent très rarement leurs attentats et veulent garder une anonymité opérationnelle parfaite, même si les coupables sont bien souvent découverts. Ce fut le cas de l'explosion du Air India en provenance de Toronto en 1985, mais là les indices obtenus de la boîte noire avaient été plus clair, et la revendication de l'attentat par téléphone avait éliminé tout soupçon. Aucune revendication du TWA n'a jusqu'à maintenant été déclarée crédible. À l'époque les services de renseignement avaient laissé entendre que le terrorisme Sikh, auteur de l'attentat, avait des fondations solides au Canada, où certains groupes trouvaient propice de s'entraîner. Dix ans plus tard, à nouveau, au lendemain d'une réunion des envoyés du G-7 pour discuter de terrorisme à Paris, l'actualité laisse entendre de pareilles opérations au pays où jusqu'à 10 000 rebelles de la guerre civile au Sri Lanka se seraient infiltrés, servant de base opérationnelle. L'assistance financière de ceux-ci aurait aidé à élaboré de nombreuses attaques terroristes, dont cinq attaques qui firent 200 victimes selon le magazine Maclean's. Le Canada serait aussi en partie responsable du financement du mouvement Fondation pour l'Unité, qui, d'un coup d'état, vint rétablir le major Pierre Buyoya au pouvoir au Burundi, un pays dans le creux d'une sanglante guerre civile entre Hutus et Tutsis. Il ne s'agit pas de terrorisme en tant que tel mais la non-reconnaissance du nouveau gouvernement risque de donner lieu à un boycott commercial des pays africains avoisinants. Il s'agit d'une méthode qui fut également employée contre le Nigéria après l'exécution d'un activiste l'an dernier, et une des méthodes employées par certaines puissances, notamment les États-Unis, pour enrayer le terrorisme international, qui malgré sa faible importance relative, mérite encore les mesures les plus importantes. C'est ainsi que le Congrès américain décida d'isoler l'Iran et la Libye, reconnus coupables de terrorisme dans le passé (dont l'explosion du Pan Am, une piste iranienne n'a pas été exclue sur celle du TWA); employant des mesures familières à celles dressées contre Cuba, qui ne cessent de susciter la controverse dans d'autres pays. À la fois le Canada et l'U.E. érigent des mesures pour contrer l'initiative commerciale unilatérale américaine. Cette dernière prévoit des sanctions contre ceux qui investissent en Iran et en Libye. La semaine dernière, le Congrès américain adoptait des mesures anti-terroristes additionnelles, un peu à la manière de gouvernements ailleurs faisant face à une reprise d'hostilités terroristes: fin du cessez-le-feu en Irlande du nord et série d'attaques de l'ETA contre des sites touristiques en Espagne. Dans le second cas une entente sans précédent entre la police française et espagnole aurait permise la mise en arrestation du numéro trois de l'ETA, responsable pour au moins sept meurtres et 30 attaques terroristes. C'est le genre de coopération que prêchent les réunis de Paris, prônant prévention et coopération contre le terrorisme, mais ces mesures sont-elles applicables? La censure de l'internet recherchée par certains serait impraticable selon certains experts. Par ailleurs le Canada songe à l'envoi de ses premiers agents d'intervention à l'étranger, mais le service de renseignement canadien ne promet pas d'engager plus de personnel pour autant, faisant face à des coupures budgétaires comme tous les autres départements. Peut-être les États-Unis offrent-ils la solution? En effet les services de renseignements n'ont dans ce pays aucune objection à ce que des journalistes jouent aux espions à l'étranger. Les services de renseignements israéliens pour leur part, dépendent en général de leur population sur place pour certaines missions à l'étranger. Le reseignement, et la coopération entre les diverses agences, coordonnées difficilement par l'agence mondiale Interpol, représente pour plusieurs la première ligne de défense contre le terrorisme. Sur le plan technique, la lutte est avant-tout financière, et la faiblesse du dispositif de sécurité des aéroports américains se doit entre autre au peu d'argent que l'on engage pour fins de sécurité, qu'il soit question de salaire ou de dépense technologique. Pendant ce temps, le Hamas réussit des prouesses financières brillantes aux États-Unis même, un pays pourtant déterminé à l'anéantir....


Bailey is King of Games

It was perhaps fitting that the 100m final hadn't had such a buildup for the Games since Seoul '88. Once more a timid Canadian born in Jamaica was involved, a newcomer who had made his mark the previous year but who already had to face a tall order given the impressive American competition. Once more, as in '88, up until that blast lasting under ten seconds, Canadians had fared rather disappointingly at the Games, and the team looked to track and field to set the pace for the second week of competition. It all too easily fits Bailey's image; call Canadians slow starters. Once again the glory... minus the scandal. The heavily sponsored Donovan Bailey, who laughed his way throughout the preliminary races, did not disappoint his fans, the world. Funny he looked so relaxed on the track given the hours of therapy he had needed all week long, consulting friends, specialists, and oh yes, "people who had been there", including Ben Johnson. With yet another Canadian set to win in the 100m finals, the world media could not help but comment a nice clean win here would rid the nation of its track malaise, highlighted by the everlasting Dobbin inquiry and the new rigours of the Canadian testing program, "anytime, anywhere". Even as the Games were nearing their close, Canadian scientists were credited for bringing the latest batch of drug-users, five Russian athletes (doubling this Olympics' total) to justice. Away from all the controversy, despite the "stygma" shadowing Canadian track athletes since Seoul, Bailey exerted all the confidence of a champion, relaxed, and certainly calculating, slowing down at the end of every qualifying race so as not to spend useless energies he would need to keep for the Finals; even looking at his opponents at the 70 meters mark in Johnson-like fashion, minus the finger. For now. At 70 meters, Bailey excelled and accelerated, while most if not all others started losing steam. Many specialists contend the Canadian Sprinter, as a matter-of-fact the third Jamaica-born 100 meters Olympic champion in a row (counting Johnson), would possibly never have the capacity to sustain such a late charge, exploding somewhere between 40 and 50 meters where he set a pace front runners could never suspect, if he possessed the talents of an early surge, a great start: "How can someone with such a lousy start display such a finish?" asked one commentator. Other sports analysts meanwhile calculated that if Bailey improved a little on his starting reaction time, which was the worst of all starters in the final, he wouldn't lose any steam down the stretch, easily beating even Johnson's 9.79" mark in Seoul. Of course even Ben had slowed down towards the end; his steroid-aided burst could have given him a 9.72" mark according to some estimates. Bailey knows it, and in his mind keeps Ben's mark as a record to beat claiming he hasn't reached his peak yet. His slow starts are a surprise in addition when measured against his success in shorter distances, such as the 50 meters, where he also holds the current record. And that grin, in the semi-finals, on the podium or at the pre-Olympic track meet in Montreal, seemed to put to rest all the ghosts of the past, as it would put away two U.S. sprinters in the Finals, and two in history; until then holding the best mark for the Games (Carl Lewis' Ben-induced second-place finish in Seoul...) and the record (then 9.85"). It also put away the defending Olympic champion, Britain's Lindford Christie, ousted for two false starts, in Games the Brits haven't had much to cheer about, except perhaps the official opposition in government which claims years of Tory cutbacks have killed Britain's competitive spirit (familiar?). The U.S., who failed to win the relay for the first time, and the 100m. for the second, were not badly represented, having won the silver in the 4X100m., but mostly, having trained all three 100m. finalists. According to Bailey, Americans owe this to their boisterous approach to the Games, always expecting to win, an approach perhaps exaggerated in front of the home crowd where Canadians and others were expected to fight hard... for second place. To Canada's track team it was just a matter of gaining proper respect. For its part, Jamaica, although finishing 5th in the 100m., has obviously nothing to be ashamed of as a sprinting nation. It represents roots Bailey himself hangs onto strongly, asking the media not to make him choose between the two countries. The European press did not fail to point out remarks Bailey had made to Caribbean TV in an interview following his 100m. race where the champion exclaimed "Hey, I'm Jamaican!". Earlier in the week he had had to clear some controversy concerning comments he had made on race relations in Canada where he claimed a certain degree of racism existed, even if he inisted he was misquoted into saying it was as bad a racial climate as the U.S. Controversies aside, it is for Canada that Bailey defied athletic explanations as well as he did the odds. Call it the rule of instinct over rationality, the dream to perfect a God-given ability when his career and fortune were already made. Could it be the spirit of de Coubertin? Don't let the sponsorships fool you, Bailey just gave the Centennial games something many thought had been lost after 100 years. The fabulous four gave us something Canada thought had been lost forever.


Terreur à la veille des JOs

Quelques semaines après que Bill Clinton ait détourné l'agenda de la réunion du G-7 quelque peu pour se concentrer sur le terrorisme, l'attention du monde, rivée sur Atlanta, fit détour sur New York et au large de Long Island, où flottaient les corps des 229 victimes de l'accident encore mal expliqué du vol 800 de la TWA vers Paris. Du coup, le dispositif de sécurité à Atlanta se resserra d'avantage, et malgré le refus de Washington de spéculer, officiellement, la machine internationale anti-terroriste de la CIA était en branle pour rechercher les coupables de ce possible attentat, à deux jours de l'ouverture des Jeux. Cela faisait bien depuis 1972 que l'olympisme n'avait pas été si lié au terrorisme. Un été de détournements en 1985 avait suivi les Jeux de Los Angeles, sans lien, impliquant entre autre un avion de la compagnie TWA ayant décollé d'Athènes. La même année (RÉTRO 450), un 747 d'Air India ayant eu comme origine le Canada tombait également proie au terrorisme, faisant cette fois comme victimes la totalité de ses passagers. L'année des Jeux de Séoul, l'explosion d'un 747 de Pan Am au-dessus de la ville écossaise de Lockerbie (NPU 289) en décembre ne laissa aucun survivant non plus, et la nature du désastre, une bombe, ne fut élucidée qu'après plusieurs jours de précieuses recherches. (les coupables, qu'après quelques années) Aussi la tension, face à une telle incertitude, ne peut-elle qu'atteindre un certain paroxysme lors de la tenue des Jeux, donnant au village olympique, pour le meilleur comme le pire, toutes les apparences d'une forteresse. Déjà à la veille des Jeux le dispositif semblait être le plus sophistiqué, et le plus massif, renforçant le pouvoir des techniques de détection les plus modernes avec un chiffre record de 7000 gardes nationaux, 5000 agents privés et 10 000 militaires; 100 organismes de sécurité en tout pour protéger les 50 chefs d'états attendus parmi les 2 millions et plus de visiteurs. Alors que les forces de réaction ont été préparées pour faire face même à l'éventualité d'attaques d'armes biologiques, chimiques et nucléaires, la prévention a aussi été à l'ordre du jour car on a procédé à l'arrestation de 700 sympathisants de sectes ou de milices paramilitaires, rappelant le potentiel domestique du terrorisme. Le potentiel international n'a pas été écarté non plus, puisqu'on est même allé jusqu'en renforcer la sécurité des installations militaires en Arabie Saoudite, (il s'agit d'une piste de sabotage) pendant que plusieurs menaces terroristes étaient proférées par des fidèles de chefs islamistes incarcérés aux États-Unis (on craint d'ailleurs que la spéculation ne rende impossible la tenue du procès de deux accusés dans l'affaire de la bombe des tours du World Trade center il y a deux ans). Ce sont celles-ci qui retinrent l'attention du FBI, chargé de l'enquête de l'incident du vol 800, alors que sont peu à peu exclues les théories d'accidents techniques, même si un incident avait retardé le retour vers l'Europe de cet avion qui avait parmi ses villes d'origines, Athènes. Tout comme il y a dix ans, l'aéroport de la capitale des Jeux (faut-il y voir un lien?) accuse une bien mauvaise réputation dans ce domaine; faut-il seulement se rappeler l'été chaud de 1985 où deux vols détournés par pirates avaient eu comme origine Athènes. Voilà une spéculation qui n'est pas encore permise par les autorités, officiellement, bien que celles-ci donnent des signes de posséder des renseignements et indices assez utiles pour cesser de procéder par élimination dans leur enquête. Il faut dire que plusieurs indices contredisent encore la théorie de l'explosion, sans contre-dire celle du terrorisme toutefois. Un point lumineux sur les radars se dirigeant vers l'aéronef quelques secondes avant la disparition du TWA sur les écrans était-il le fait d'une erreur technique comme il s'en produit parfois, d'un second avion comme le voulaient les premières hypothèses, ou d'un missile sol-air comme le veulent les spéculations les plus osées? Les débris ne permettaient pas de laisser croire à un second avion. D'autre part certains gilets de sauvetage trouvés gonflés dans l'eau n'excluent pas la possibilité que certains passagers aient eu le temps de réagir. Parmi les autres interrogations, on n'arrive pas encore à être certain si un faible signal de détresse perçu vers les moments de l'incident était bien celui du Boeign 747. La recherche de la boîte noire transmettant les derniers moments du vol paraissait comme toujours primordiale. Le climat d'incertitude à la veille des Jeux n'est pas bienvenu et rajoute à une tension relative à la sécurité qui fait partie intégrante de l'olympisme depuis 1972. En 1976 et jusqu'aux derniers jeux de la guerre froide à Los Angeles, les boycotts en faisaient une menace constante. À Séoul, la peur d'une attaque du Nord tenait les forces en présence en alerte, alors que la menace terroriste basque pesait sur les Jeux de Barcelone. Peut-être les Jeux d'Été sont-ils trop gros par rapport aux plus paisibles jeux d'Hiver tenus dans des villes aussi paisibles qu'innoncentes: Lillehammer, Albertville... Peut-être est-ce sinon un moyen sordide de nous faire partager le trac des athlètes avant le coup d'envoi.


Yeltsin's new mandate

The size of Boris Yeltsin's victory against the Communists in the second round of the Presidential elections, by nearly 15 percentage points, defied the most optimistic predictions of analysts, but indications were clear something was up when early showings in the Eastern portions of the country gave the incumbent unexpected levels of support. Liberals feared low participation rates would hamper Yeltsin's re-election chances because his electorate was deemed less driven to go to the polls than the more ideological-minded Communists. But 65% of eligible voters did cast their ballots for the eight time in seven years, slightly above the calculated 60% threshold analysts said was needed to ensure a Yeltsin victory. If voter participation is a testimony of democracy's strength in the country, so is the incumbent's victory, especially to Western analysts who insist voting for "the lesser of two evils" at least gave Russia the glimpse of hope of carrying on with reforms and saving the former superpower from its economic morass. But how these reforms will be carried out (and some seven ask by whom) promises to be just as contentious an issue. Although Communists seemed to be conceding defeat in the last days of the campaign, by suggesting a coalition government no matter the outcome, they did manage to gather 40% of the vote, while remaining strong in the parliament where they have the power to reject the forming of the new government by returning prime minister Chernomyrdin. Analysts therefore contend, despite a defeat anticipated by the Communists' failure to gather support from other candidates after the first round, the old guard will remain something to be reckoned with, threatening to slow down the pace of reforms in Russia, not speeding it. For a vote expected to choose not only a presidential candidate but a path for Russia, Wednesday's outcome may in fact turn out to be much less than an overwhelming vote of confidence for Yeltsin in this respect. If Yeltsin indeed remains the man of the hour: he wasn't seen in public during the entire last week of the campaign and even failed to show up to vote in front of the cameras, giving opponent Zyuganov a moment in the spotlight he claimed the Communists never enjoyed owing to Yeltsin's domination of the mass media. Alas it was perhaps his last shining moment, while Yeltsin backer Gen. Alexandr Lebed had all the looks of a right-hand man, multiplying apperances, and statements (some controversial) in the final week leading to the vote. In fact some of these statements showed signs of future division among the winners. The chosen head of the security council, amongst things, reiterated his claims the economy had been mismanaged in view of an "unjustifiably accelerated" privatization program and stated his support for a larger government role in the economy while limiting Russia's reliance on foreigners, even slapping restrictions on foreign visitors. This could prove fundamentally in opposition to Yeltsin's efforts to lure back foreign investors made edgy by the possibility of a Communist return in Russia. In addition, despite Lebed's dislike of Communists, he may appear more open to a coalition government than many of Yeltsin's advisors, some of whom explained "coalition government is normal for parliamentary republics, which Russia is not." Analysts see a clash between Lebed and Yeltsin in little time, particularly since the candidate who came in third in the first round has been showing signs of power-hunger, after ruffling many feathers since joining Yeltsin's team, and claiming he expected Yeltsin to create a vice-presidential, post guaranteeing his successorship in the event Yeltsin fell ill (which in the present state of things would go to Prime minister Chernomyrdin). Oddly enough, the threat seems to be coming from within rather than without, if it does indeed exist. Communists, who claimed they accomplished a certain victory because Yeltsin borrowed many of their ideas, mostly on foreign policy, have accepted the results of the vote (without necessarily praising Yeltsin's campaign tactics) calming fears of massive and violent protests in the streets: "Today you cannot rig elections," said Marxist and Zyuganov ally Viktor Anpilov, "Besides, after 70 years of Soviet power it is impossible to provoke a civil war." Instead Communists will further more embrace democratic ideals by looking forwards to regional elections later in the year. Despite the hard work ahead, particularly on the economy, Russia has indeed succeeded in its latest test, in a string of long and often painful post-Soviet challenges.


Netanyahu and the peace process

After the months of anticipation and a number of political and electoral moves, some explosive, carried out in an environment of international attention, one could not expect the Israeli election to yield any less emotion on voting day. Election night in Israel brought back all the intensity, uncertainty and ups and downs of last year's Quebec referendum, and it was probably fitting given the undeniable consequences of the two-part vote. In the final weeks of this mostly security-oriented campaign, practically turned around by a vengeful campaign of terrorism against Israel, aggressive television campaigns upped the ante leading to the vote expected to pass a judgement on the handling of the Middle-East peace process. The thin Benjamin Netanyahu victory will attempt to allay the fears of nationalists that Israel has given too much to the Arabs, by considering policies of the past, such as settlements in the territories. But the Likud party leader admitted even in the last stages of the campaign that there would be no going back on Israel's early international commitments in the peace process, which is why Arab leaders weren't expecting to lose sleep over the vote. But any further progress beyond the initial stages would however be more than just a matter of degree. On the matter of Jerusalem, Labor and Likud have clearly opposing views on the future of the already split city. The Likud leader stressed a united Jerusalem would remain the state's capital under Israel's sovereignty forever, while he claimed Peres had already divided the city by allowing Orient House to operate as Palestinian foreign ministry and making the town part of the autonomous region by allowing its easterners to vote in Palestinian elections. Both parties also stand on opposite ends on the issue of the Golan heights, which Netanyahu said he would not give up to satisfy the neighborly outsider in the peace process, Syria. In an interview for the Jerusalem Report, Netanyahu described these divergences as "proceeding toward peace but with a different policy" and said "we have to proceed from the fact of Oslo toward peace, carefully and responsibly, but in a more prudent direction." There could however be enough differences to set the peace process back enough and stall its drive, prolonging the threat of further terrorist attacks in the mean time; ironically, Netanyahu's favorite attack subject during the campaign. Meanwhile in the final weeks leading to the vote, Arafat attempted to boost Peres' sagging figures by securing a deal with Hamas on admitting members of the previously persecuted organization as into his Palestinian cabinet, cooling tensions after earlier crackdowns on Islamic militants. Arabs were indeed not indifferent to the outcome of the election, and supported Peres despite his attack on Lebanon a month ago. Arabs had other options to vote from during this election where 21 parties were running, of which 11 were expected to win seats; including the United Arab List, calling for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as it capital, comparable to the goals of the Progress Party. In the other end, extremist Jewish parties such as Moreshet Avot called for the rejection of the peace agreement altogether, opting for a Greater Israel including the West Bank and Gaza ruled according to the law of the Old testament; it gives ultra-orthodox Shas party supporters all the looks of gentle boy scouts. More specialized parties called for the equality of the sexes (Men's Rights) and limiting the power of big banks (Settlement Party). Under this two-vote election procedure, voters divided their votes between choice for prime minister and seats in the Jewish parliament, giving rise to a number of third parties, including the Shas party and Yisrael Ba'aliya, the party which seeks to fight prejudices against Russian immigrants who moved to Israel in great numbers since the breakup of the USSR. The party of Natan Sharansky can count on a pool of successful emigres, as 70% of those who have been in Israel for five years or more have bought homes, even if their unemployment rate in general (which dropped dramatically) remains higher than the national average. Economic issues were not totally disregarded by politicians during this campaign. Peres' vision is that of a Middle-east dominated by commerce not war, wrote the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile in the Jerusalem Report interview, Netanyahu said he intended to double Israel's population and per-capita GNP within a decade and turning Israel into a free market economy; claiming it currently had "one of the most controlled economies." He also planned to privatize 50% of public companies in his first term. Peres meanwhile, stressing the fight against fundamentalists as his main priority, blamed poverty of feeding Islamic terrorism poverty of feeding Islamic terrorism; he also made a "mission" out of creating "better economic conditions in the region." But nobody doubts the fate of the peace process indeed hung heavily in the balance of the vote, and now in the intricacies of coalition government forming. Even initial success is no guarantee, as was reminded by the latest election in India, which saw three cabinets in the last two weeks. The Indian analogy isn't as far-fetched as it may seem after the resignation of the Hinduist BJP for failing to gain the confidence of the 545-seat lower house. Netanyahu's party not only lost Knesset seats (from 40 to 31) to rising religious parties, but still remained second to Labor (with 33) in the parliamentary count. Analysts expect Likud will however have no trouble forming a coalition with religious parties, who at one point or another criticized Peres' peace strategy, as had disgruntled members of his own party who went on to create the middle-way Third Way party, which gathered 4 seats. In a bloc, the strong winners were religious parties, who gathered an unprecedented 25 seats, reminding some that national divisions didn't only emerge on peace lines, but religious ones also. Other divisions were also marked, such as voting tendencies between Jews and Arabs, the former supporting Likud by 11% and the latter throwing their votes overwhelmingly behind Peres, albeit representing much smaller numbers (once again bringing some comparisons with the October vote where Anglos overwhelmingly supported the No side...) These divisions however don't reflect those between tension and peace, after all Likud has in the past made many of the initial peace offerings possible, leading to peace with Egypt, a country, along with Jordan, with which Netanyahu promised strengthened peaceful relations. Allaying the fears of Palestinian leaders somewhat, the new prime minister also went back on earlier insistences he would never talk with Arafat. All may not be lost after all in the Middle East.


A l'assaut du terrorisme

Arrangé un peu précipitamment mais avec l'intention de montrer l'unité à un moment de crainte générale internationale, le court sommet sur le terrorisme de la semaine dernière a peut-être pu paraître, aux yeux de certains analystes, comme rassemblement de haut niveau visant à remonter quelque peu la cote de popularité du candidat Shimon Peres à quelques mois des élections israéliennes. Mais ces dernières semaines le détournement d'un avion par terroristes tchétchènes, les récents soubresauts de l'ETA à la veille de l'élection espagnole et de l'IRA à Londres, ainsi que les menaces kurdes de passer à des mesures similaires afin de mettre un terme aux offensives turques dans l'est du pays, justifiaient tout de même un certain rassemblement d'envergure afin de condamner ces moyens extrêmes d'exprimer le désaccord. Un rassemblement certes un peu précipité, mais sans accroc de sûreté, un peu à l'image de l'entêtement de la GRC en Égypte qui employait les mesures les plus strictes afin d'assurer le déplacement du premier ministre Jean Chrétien lors de son arrêt pour la conférence (Elle ne s'est pas gênée à ce sujet de contredire le code de conduite de la police locale. La GRC a redoré son image quelque peu après le coup de filet immédiat d'un second homme pénétrant le domaine du 24 Sussex à Ottawa). . Mais cette rigueur, une fois appliquée sur le terrain, ne fait pas le bonheur de tous. La fermeture des territoires palestiniens suite aux récents attentats qui ont coûté la vie de plus de 60 personnes a déjà eu des répercussions à court-terme importantes dans la bande de Gaza et la Cisjordanie, et tout semble indiquer que les mesures prises, loin d'être des demi-mesures, resteront en vigueur jusqu'à l'élection en fin mai (à moins d'un étonnant coup de filet de la police palestinienne qui cherche désespérément à démanteler les réseaux terroristes du Hamas islamique tenus responsables des attentats, même si les auteurs de ceux-ci pouvaient parfois être basés dans des zones de contrôle encore israélienne dont Hebron où le contrôle est mixte). La pression sur Yasser Arafat, récemment élu avec 90% des voix, est telle que pèse sur lui la menace de faire entrer des troupes israéliennes dans les territoires déjà passés sous contrôle palestinien, si les efforts de la police locale s'avèrent insuffisants. La police a déjà procédé à plusieurs centaines d'arrestations, mettant également sous arrêt famille et amis d'accusés terroristes, dont le domicile était aussitôt barricadé et détruit. En fait, c'est les territoires entiers qui sont barricadés, par un blocus total, et qui sont peu à peu anéantis par cet étouffement commercial: le chômage atteignant les 70%, le système de santé et éducatif aussi durement touchés. C'est donc avec raison que M. Arafat craignait que ces mesures draconiennes ne jouent justement dans les mains des responsables des attentats, du moins l'aile militaire du Hamas, qui semble aller à l'encontre de l'opinion publique dans le territoires. Ceci est un phénomène courant dans le monde du terrorisme international, puisque des divisions similaires se retrouvent entre les diverses factions du FIS en Algérie, parfois se livrant la guerre, et d'une moindre mesure, entre l'aile politique Sinn Fein et l'aile militaire IRA en Irlande du Nord. Les terroristes au Cachemire responsables de la mort de touristes occidentaux l'an dernier pour leur part étaient également isolés des forces politiques du territoire responsable du contentieux entre Inde et Pakistan; la population rejetant les méthodes violentes menant aux exécutions. C'est une division également retrouvée dans le pays basque, où l'aile politique et militaire de l'ETA ne voient pas nécessairement tout du même oeil. Des manifestations en Angleterre et en Espagne ainsi que dans les territoires ont condamné les attaques récentes, mais les dirigeants trouvent que seules des mesures sévères peuvent mettre un terme à ces attaques, même si leur pause se doit plus souvent à la volonté ou au changement de tactique des sections armées (ou, comme au sein du FIS, à une division interne portant au conflit fratricide). Israël n'a donc pas limité ses efforts en dressant des plans créant une zone neutre de séparation, renforcée de fils barbelés et tours de garde, mesures qui coûteront près de 300 millions de dollars. Le tiers du coût pourrait être financé par l'aide américaine prévue à cet effet, même si l'administration rejette tout plan de séparation permanente des territoires, de quoi donner un aspect permanent au blocus actuel (malgré les allègements périodiques pour raisons humanitaires). Autant dire que ceci ne ferait que renforcer le mécontentement en rendant plus dépendante des services sociaux assurés par le Hamas dans les territoires la population palestinienne. Ayant prévu cette délicate situation, le dirigeant israélien Peres tenait au développement d'un fond de soutien en fin de semaine, qui aurait comme but d'assister les Palestiniens dont l'emploi aurait été perturbé. Bien que l'appui du Hamas ne dépasse guère 10%, la population des territoires apprécie grandement les mesures sociales et médicales ainsi qu'éducatives assurées par le Hamas, qui doit son financement à deux pays justement absents au sommet - l'Iran et la Syrie - mais également à la Grande-Bretagne, aux États-Unis et même au Canada. Dans ces pays les contributions sont moins controversées puisqu'elles sont déstinées à <<appuyer le peuple palestinien>>.


Military: the Somalia bind

The inquiry into the Somalia affair has given more indications that intolerance and racism were widespread among the Airborne regiment and that this was well known by senior officers prior to the dispatch of the paratroopers to the African country in 1992. Trying to explain why the Airborne regiment was specifically asked to go to Somalia, retired general and chief of staff de Chastelain explained it was because the regiment had been passed over again and again for United Nations missions, which resulted in slumping morale. Following the killing of a Somalian held in Canadian custody, the regiment was found to have contained "a few bad apples" resulting in court martial. An NPU report earlier in the year disclosed earlier signs of racism later confirmed during the Somalian inquiry. The release of footage of military hazings last Winter further tarnished the army's image and particularly that of the Airborne, advancing notions of disturbing army subcultures among the regiment. There are many reasons to believe that this was not limited to Canada's armed forces however. Depiction of supremacist symbols in the hazings, including the use of the Confederate flag (whose representation atop State legislatures enraged Blacks in America) gave some indication the nation's soldiers were looking south to find the influences fueling their intolerance. This month a report by NBC's Inside Edition revealed widespread intolerance, hate and racism in the ranks of the U.S. military, particularly on bases of the South where Aryan supremacists are said of being constantly, and successfully recruiting among military ranks. According to one clansman, it is the belief of such organizations that the battle techniques gained from army training would help certain groups in an "armed struggle". The bombing of the Oklahoma building a year ago further placed the national focus on fringe military groups and paramilitary organizations claiming to defend constitutional law from the policies of the government and its agencies; the target of the Oklahoma blast. Racism and the military or racism and law and order? The O.J. Simpson trial revealed with some clarity indications of widespread racism among the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department during the lengthy, often bogged down, procedures. This month a commission looking into charges of racism into the London police force will conclude that although there have been improvements from the past, City police remains tied to a record of wrongful behavior toward minorities. The accidental shooting death of Blacks in this city also fueled accusations of racism and use of excessive strong-armed tactics in Montreal, to which this week's Hour magazine adds that an MUC police surveillance report gives some indications law enforcement officers may be spying on and intimidating political groups and active organizations. Why would these forces be any different from the societies they claim to protect? And what can be said of the images they portray of these institutions? The image of the Canadian Armed Forces was put into question a few years ago during the transition to democracy in Haiti where it was feared, despite their knowledge of French, that Canadian troops could act in less than exemplary fashion. The question is raised again this week as Canada considers taking over the reigns of the Haitian operation from the withdrawing United States, as the U.N.'s mission of transition continues in the Caribbean country. Canada has in principle agreed to send 750 combat soldiers to Haiti for a six-month mission by the end of the month. But the move is being bogged down by the Security Council, delaying the green light to send the troops in. Canada has generally been going the other way around in more recent years, after withdrawing its troops from Cyprus where they had been stationed between Turks and Greeks for decades, and after announcing troops will be removed from the ex-Yugoslavia terrain of operations by the end of the year. The Balkan withdrawal is particularly significative in that it will mark the first time in the post-war era and since the creation of NATO that no Canadian troops will be stationed on European soil. When Canada closed its bases in Germany in the beginning of the decade there were widespread fears that it would diminish Canada's say on European affairs, something which was to some measure avoided with our military's participation (and during Lewis Mackenzie's reign, direction) in operations in the ex-Yugoslavia. But even there, where mediation failed until American involvement in the Balkans, Canada did not play a significatively influential role, the kind officials say it may just play in Haiti. The Balkan mission was in addition bogged down by the issue of war crimes, one which top commander in Bosnia, Bruce Jeffries, would not let interfere with Canada's primarily military goal in Bosnia. Canada's pending withdrawal from the Balkans and Europe will not go unnoticed by NATO's new Secretary General Javier Solana, who said Canada's continuing contribution to let NATO troops train on its soil, although very appreciated, is "not comparable to having troops deployed on the ground." But the military may only be wallowing in the misery of its own morale crisis, particularly after top commander General Jean Boyle's scathing assessment that the Armed Forces were unfit to fight a real war: "If the government asked me to go into a high intensity theatre with the equipment that I have today, I'd have to say I can't do it." This was vaguely reminiscent of times during the Gulf war when navy vessels had to be fitted with guns taken out of war museums. But again this seemingly typically Canadian malaise is not solely ours, at least not according to French President Jacques Chirac who, because he claims the army can't send more than a few thousand soldiers on its own in missions across the world, has decided to end conscription (active since the Revolution) and turn the former imperial power's military into an entirely professional institution. If lack of morale among our military is the sign of the times, let it at least not be so because of the impression it is alone to face these kinds of difficulties.