no smoke without firing,

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 9, 2003
    No smoke without firing, By Mark Steyn

    The European Union ground to a halt last week because the Italian prime minister said a German parliamentarian would make a good Nazi.

    We are all Nazis now. Well, okay, not all of us, but George W. Bush is, and so's Don Rumsfeld, and Ariel Sharon, and I must get an average of 30 e-mails a day headed "More Nazi hate from Steyn."

    The German Euro-MP offended at being called a Nazi by the Italian prime minister had himself just denounced the Italian government as neo-Nazi. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the goosestepper, one would have thought. But call a German a Nazi and the Continent reacts like a dowager duchess coming across the footman in cutaway breeches.

    In The Daily Telegraph Alexander Chancellor thought Germans calling Italians Nazis was okay, but not vice-versa. "It is a sign of how much Germans feel liberated from guilt about their Nazi past that they now feel free to accuse others of Nazi leanings," he noted approvingly.

    That said, he couldn't agree that Silvio Berlusconi was the new Hitler. Rather, he was the new Mussolini. Others were less sanguine. According to the Irish fellow who runs the European Parliament, Berlusconi's ghastly breach of etiquette has plunged German-Italian relations, the European constitution and even the Middle East peace process into crisis.

    Really? I would say the strategic interest of the rest of the West lies in the EU becoming as big a laughingstock as possible, so I enjoyed the week immensely.

    At such moments one turns naturally to the UN. While the EU can descend into trivia, the UN bears the great weight of the world on its shoulders. Last week, they finally found a smoking gun - or, at any rate, a smoking Hun. Don't worry, that's not another Germanophobic crack. The UN has decided to get tough with Cambodian strongman Hun Sen. Not because he scuppered the UN's plans for Khmer Rouge genocide trials, or because he deposed his co-prime minister Prince Ranariddh and tore up the UN-backed political settlement in Phnom Penh.

    No, as Agence France Presse reported, on Tuesday Hun Sen was "told by the United Nations he was the biggest smoker among world leaders."

    THE PUFFING authoritarian himself revealed in a national broadcast that "the UN also urged him to quit. 'Hun Sen is the biggest smoker among the leaders of the world'" he said, quoting the UN letter. "The UN has asked the prime minister to stop smoking. I am checking to see whether I can do that or not."

    Kofi's enforcers are trying to strongarm Hun into signing the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, the Kyoto Treaty of the anti-smoking crowd.

    Cambodia has a very high smoking rate. Only the other day a bunch of elderly Khmer Rouge bigshots were seen openly standing around smoking Pot. Well, to be more precise it was Mrs. Pot who was smoking. Khieu Ponnary, Pol's late wife and Sister Number One of the revolutionary movement, was publicly cremated last week, but it's a safe bet her old comrades enjoyed a cigarette during the show.

    Had the UN held firm on its genocide trials those chain smokers would now be behind bars in the Hague. Had the UN not allowed Hun Sen to topple Prince Ranariddh, Cambodia might now have a nonsmoking prime minister. There'd be no smoke without that firing.

    Are the UN's smoke detectors its version of arresting Al Capone for tax evasion? Were they ready to nail Saddam for some tell-tale ash on his tie when it turned out to be merely anthrax? Were they set to move in on Mullah Omar after they got him on tape telling his child-bride, "come over here, luv, and light my fag," only to discover it was just another Gay Execution Day at the Kandahar soccer pitch?

    Hard to say. But, as a general rule, whenever a great international crisis runs up against an anti-smoking policy, bet on the latter. That's been true ever since Yitzhak Rabin was at the White House for tense negotiations over Oslo and Hillary Clinton made him go outside to smoke.

    This doesn't sound exactly helpful to the situation, but after Rabin's murder Clinton recalled her house-rules sadism as an example of how close she and the prime minister had been. (The First Lady's husband remained in compliance with her smoking policy by keeping his cigar famously unlit.)

    A COUPLE of years later, Kosovo refugees arrived at military bases in Canada to discover that, although 98% of Kosovars are smokers, the Canadian Red Cross refused to provide them with cigarettes (a breach of the Geneva Convention far crueler than anything Rummy's doing at Guantanamo).

    When tales began to leak out of uptight, nervy, twitchy refugees prowling the perimeter fence in search of a sympathetic passer-by who could nip down to the supermarket for a pouch of Balkan Sobranie, the editor of Tobacco News Online, Stan Shatenstein, responded that what's happening in Balkan villages and what's happening in Balkan lungs aren't so very different: "The tragedy of Kosovo is near unspeakable, but so is that of tobacco. Little bombs explode, one lung at a time, one coronary artery at a time, in one family at a time," said Stan.

    "The Kosovars are here seeking refuge from quick, ghastly means of annihilation. The Red Cross should not be the agency of a slow, horrid death for the scarred survivors."

    Likewise, after all they've been through, the Cambodians deserve better than to be left to the agony of the killing fields of tobacco.

    There was, of course, an admirably anti-smoking political leadership active in Europe 60 years ago, but after the last week one feels the N-word has perhaps become somewhat devalued. Still, Nanny Bloomberg, New York's control-freak mayor, is an awfully tempting target.

    Musing on the Republicans' antipathy to gay marriage the other day, Nanny told reporters: "I have always thought that people should be allowed to go about their business themselves. I don't know why any of these platforms should deal with issues like that."

    People should be allowed to go about their business? As The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto remarked, try going into a Manhattan gay bar and asking for a cigarette. Male life expectancy in Nanny's antiseptic city is 74.5 years. In Albania, where many of those Kosovar refugees lucky enough to escape Canada wound up, smoking's gone up 20% in recent years and the nearest available cancer treatment program involves swimming to Italy. Yet life expectancy is 73.

    The New Yorker lives an extra 1.5 years, but loses all of it sitting in the Holland Tunnel going to New Jersey to buy cheap smokes. Maybe the UN could do something about that.

    The writer is senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc.
arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch. arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch.