‘Get Out Of Jail’ Card
Evidence that the Iraq War is receding into the history books came with the release from prison of Mahmoud Diab al-Ahmed, Saddam Hussein’s interior minister, who had been locked up (deservedly) in 2004 for his role in the “eco-cidal” draining of Iraq’s southern marshlands in the early 1990s—a reprisal against the Shiite Marsh Arabs who’d risen up in revolt against Saddam’s regime. Under the gaudy propaganda methods deployed by the U.S. in the first flush of the war in 2003, Diab was dubbed “Seven of Spades” in the deck of cards that identified the Most Wanted Iraqi Ba’athists. (Saddam, of course, was the Ace of Spades.) “We asked the criminal and the federal courts if they have anything else against him and they said no, so we let him go,” said Busho Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.
HSBC, a bank that has been more scandal-free than most in an industry that has turned bright scarlet with turpitude, has finally earned the right to be disparaged like all the rest. In a self-flagellatory memo to HSBC’s employees, Stuart Gulliver, the CEO, wrote that “our anti-money-laundering controls should have been stronger and more effective, and we failed to spot and deal with unacceptable behavior.” The infractions in question—prolonged failures to crack down on laundering linked to terrorism and drug deals—occurred not on Gulliver’s watch, but between 2004 and 2010. The man in charge at the time was Stephen Green—Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint—who has laundered himself as minister of state for trade in the present British cabinet.
Jesse Norman is a Conservative member of the House of Commons who was once so close to David Cameron that he wrote a whole book on the British prime minister’s woolly and grandiose pet idea, “the Big Society.” But Norman blotted his escutcheon by leading a revolt of conservative Conservative M.P.s that tried to torpedo Cameron’s bill to reform the House of Lords. This bill is a favorite of the Liberal-Democrats, who are in coalition with Cameron. Norman’s friendly fire irked Cameron so greatly that he shouted at him (a fellow Old Etonian) outside the Commons lobbies. There is ruthlessness beneath the charm of Etonians, the result, no doubt, of six centuries of flogging, “fagging,” and Greek verse. One onlooker described the censure as “the full Eton hairdryer treatment.” Cameron prefers the version that he spoke to Norman “in forceful terms.”
That’s “revolving door” in Urdu, a useful phrase to memorize if you wish to discuss politics in Pakistan. The latest news from the only country in the world where the judiciary is the strongest branch of government is that the Supreme Court has given the neophyte Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf two weeks in which to write to prosecutors in Switzerland requesting them to reopen a long-dormant corruption case against Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president. A failure to write to the Swiss will result, the court has warned, in Ashraf’s dismissal from office for contempt. His predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was ousted by the court just weeks ago for refusing to obey a similar court order. The Zardari-led government’s term ends in eight months. Assuming Ashraf thumbs his Punjabi nose at the court, and assuming that the men who are sequentially appointed prime minister after him thumb their noses too, we could be looking at a cavalcade of eight more prime ministers of Pakistan by March 2013.
R.I.P., Dara Singh
India is in mourning after the death of one of its genuinely popular—and larger than life—heroes. Dara Singh, a wrestler who wore the title Rustam-e-Hind, Champion of India, like a bright, brash coxcomb, was an exponent of the Indo-Turkic pehelwani style of wrestling. For much of his life, he pursued lurid bouts against puffed-up champions from other domains, most notably vanquishing King Kong (the nom de guerre of a giant Hungarian wrestler, Emile Czaja) in December 1956. In later years, he became a hulking, handsome staple of Bollywood B-movies. Singh was 83.
With Luke Kerr-Dineen