Robert Mugabe at the 58th session of the General Assembly in 2003.
By Chris Thompson
Village Voice Staff Writer
Now that everyone’s finished live-blogging and hyperventilating over Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Columbia address, maybe New Yorkers can finally notice that a gen-yoo-wine, Pol-Pot-ain’t-got-shit-on-me monster is walking the streets of our fair city.
Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who has spearheaded a genocidal starvation campaign against his political opponents and murders tens of thousands of his own people every year, has arrived in the city and plans to address the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow. The aging, cynical despot, whose wife shopped for shoes in European capitals while his soldiers forced 1 million people to flee Harare and starve in the countryside, will reportedly argue that American and European sanctions are illegal and have—get this—caused terrible deprivation in Zimbabwe.
But so far, only the New Republic’s James Kirchick has noticed that one of the worst human beings on the planet is browsing the aisles at Bloomingdales. “What’s going on in Zimbabwe, in genocidal proportions, is worse than Darfur,” says Kirchick. “It’s unfortunate that people don’t care about it. But that’s the way it’s always been.”
In fact, New York has a sordid history of accommodating Mugabe, thanks to everyone’s favorite race-baiter, City Councilman Charles Barron. Four years ago, Barron led a “fact-finding mission” to Zimbabwe and returned with a report that exonerated Mugabe as much as the English language will allow. (“Zimbabwe remains one of the most stable countries in Africa,” read the report’s conclusion.) Barron even invited Mugabe to speak at City Hall, where roughly a dozen councilmembers applauded and fawned over Africa’s worst dictator.
Pundits around the country have filled their gullets with the easy satisfaction that comes with denouncing a Holocaust-denyin’, terrorist-financin’ demogogue like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to confronting people who have refined the art of deliberate mass starvation, no one seems terribly interested. When Bill Bennett learned that President Bush planned to use his time at the General Assembly to denounce Myanmar—which rivals only Zimbabwe and North Korea as the worst place on Earth—he went on his radio show and sighed, “I’m for democracy in Burma, but do we have to talk about that today?” National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez echoed Bennett’s sentiment, as if presiding over a regime of fifty million slaves was somehow less odious than a Persian nutjob trying to lay a wreath at Ground Zero.
Fortunately, Mugabe has finally done something every American pundit will find truly monstrous—he met with Ahmadinejad this morning.