The decline of the West

By Gwynne Dyer
All the countries whose troops fought in Normandy 60 years ago-the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Poland-are sending their leaders there on June 6 for the last big commemoration of D-Day. The soldiers who fought there and survived are entering their eighties now, and not many will be left in another decade. But it feels like the last time for a lot of other things as well.

Trinidad Express
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A very public tongue-lashing.

Bush takes a tongue-lashing from the Pope over Iraq

  John Hooper in Rome and John Aglionby in Singapore
Saturday June 5, 2004
The Guardian

  The Pope yesterday subjected George Bush to a very public, relentlessly critical assessment of the US administration’s performance in Iraq, attacking "deplorable" abuses of prisoners and calling for an international solution to the country’s crisis.,2763,1232050,00.html
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Sheikh Saud's London spending spree


posted Juned 2, 2004

Sheikh Saud’s London spending spree

With a seemingly limitless budget and five museums to fill, he bought 350 objects in the Islamic sales

By Georgina Adam and Lucian Harris

In April, The Art Newspaper brought you an exclusive interview with Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar. Now we reveal the voracity with which he is collecting for the five museums he is building in the Qatari capital, Doha.

A team of London agents working for the Sheikh bought 350 of the top lots in last months’ Islamic sales, spending well in excess of £15 million. The objects are all destined for the Museum of Islamic Art under construction in Doha to the designs of I.M. Pei, the Chinese-American architect coaxed out of retirement by Sheikh Saud.

With its completion scheduled for 2006, the Islamic museum will be the first of the five to open, and the Sheikh`s determination to buy the very best for its collection is having an extraordinary effect on the Islamic art market.

Currently, there is no other market in the world comparable to it. While auctions will always throw up sleepers and the occasional sale room tussle when two bidders go after one piece, recent Islamic sales have been an arena for regular head-to-head bidding wars between Sheikh Saud and his competitors, most prominent of whom is another colossally rich collector, Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah of Kuwait, who also has a keen eye for anything special in the field and buys to supplement his established collection of over 20,000 objects in the Kuwait National Museum.

With the auction houses bending over backwards to accommodate this demand, the latest round of Islamic art sales in London saw an unprecedented range of material on offer and fat catalogues all round. Even with this optimistic mood, no one had quite predicted the succession of gripping auction room battles that left Christie’s and Sotheby’s celebrating some of their best results ever and only Bonhams ruing the failure of its top lots to sell.

Sheikh Saud is currently dominating the top sales, and while underbidders such as Sheikh Nasser are contributing to the rocketing prices on many objects, in this particular round of auctions it seems that no one was prepared to match the astronomical sums paid by the man from Qatar.

In terms of spectacular lots, Christie’s undoubtedly had the scoop with a group of five imperial-quality Mughal and Nawabi objects brought back from India in the 18th century by Robert, First Lord Clive, the East India Company’s governor of Bengal whose victory at Plassey in 1757 laid the foundations for the British Raj. All but one had previously been on display in the Clive Museum at Powis Castle in Wales, and their loss depletes Britain’s oldest and most complete 18th-century collection of artefacts from India. In addition to these glamorous trophies of empire, Christie’s put on a combined sale of two of the world’s most important private collections of Islamic tiles.

While obviously disappointed to miss the Clive treasures, Edward Gibbs at Sotheby’s put together a smaller but more diverse selection from across the range of Islamic arts, with highlights that included an emerald inscribed with the name of the Mughal emperor Jahangir and an Anatolian gold cup from around 2500BC found on the island of Imbros, which despite having little reason to appear in an Islamic sale, looked certain to catch the eye of a sheikh.

So at Christie’s on 27 April, after a morning of mixed results in which a rare 16th-century cameo of Barbarossa more than doubled its high estimate at £128,000, and a giant folio from the Timurid “Baysunghur” Koran scraped in only just over its low estimate at £565,250, a packed room held its breath for the Clive of India treasures.

The action came sooner than expected, however, when a 17th-century Mughal dagger, from the 18th-century collection of Sir Charles William Rouse Boughton, ignited a frantic bidding war on the telephones, causing jaws to drop as the high estimate of £40,000 was left far behind for an eventual sale at £632,450. The buyer was Sheikh Saud bidding through an agent in the room.

With hardly time to blink, up came the top lot of the Clive collection, a unique 17th-century Mughal jade wine flask, lined with gold and inlaid with rubies and emeralds, which had been on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum since 1963. This time it was telephones against the book, with a beaming auctioneer William Robinson taking the prize at £2,917,250. Clearly impressed by the important historical associations of the Clive objects, the big hitters kept at it, sending a later Mughal agate-and-garnet fly-whisk handle rocketing to 113 times its high estimate of £8,000, eventually selling for £901,250. Once again, the winning bid was placed by an agent working for Sheikh Saud.

The Sheikh refused to back down as the bidding escalated on another Mughal jade-hilted dagger, and he finally bought it for £733,250, 11 times its high estimate of £50,000. His agent swept in once again to pick up a carved green nephrite jade bowl for £53,775.

The final item in the sale, a Mughal sapphire and ruby inset enamelled silver huqqa set, sold for £94,850 to a different bidder in the room. But this fooled no-one who follows the Islamic market carefully. Once again, The Art Newspaper can reveal that the buyer was Sheikh Saud.

Islamic tiles are a particular favourite, and Sheikh Saud’s agent continued to buy energetically from the Theodor Sehmer and Heidi Vollmoeller Collections. A personal taste for modern design saw him go after two unusual Safavid tiles, both with low estimates of only £1,000, which after frenzied bidding were secured by the Sheikh for £94,850 and £31,070 respectively, setting the pattern for the rest of the afternoon session in which he secured almost everything he bid for.

The following day, at Sotheby’s, the Sheikh was represented by paddle number LO33, and scooped seven of the top 10 lots. These included the Jahangiri emerald, consigned by the family of the Khan of Khalat, which doubled estimate at £1.9 million; a very rare 16th-century dagger with a lapis handle estimated at £50-70,000, which despite oxidisation of the gold-inlaid blade, made £1.036 million after competition from no less than four telephone buyers; and a 14th-century Central Asian ceramic cenotaph, on offer from a Liechtenstein foundation, which tripled its “on request” estimate, selling at £1.46 million despite probably being a composite of two original tombs. The Imbros gold cup, meanwhile, went for £435,600, only just over its low estimate, while the unusual, early 17th-century Gujarati mother-of-pearl ewer with European mounting, which Sotheby’s had put on its catalogue cover, was bought in.

With Christie’s reporting its highest total ever for a sale of Islamic art, over £11 million, and Sotheby’s making over £7 million, Bonhams tried to get its own slice of the action, offering a pair of gem-set rings supposedly made for Muhammad Ghauri, the first Muslim conqueror of Delhi in the late 12th century. Though seemingly ideal for a museum of Islamic art, these and a number of other rings and seals grouped with them all failed to sell, leaving Bonham’s with only a good mark-up on some high quality Iznik to celebrate.

While Sheikh Saud’s limitless budget is transfixing observers of the Islamic art market and will make his Museum of Islamic art in Doha a treasure house of spectacular objects, the effect of this kind of bottomless buying power discourages smaller fry and other museums. Sotheby’s saw 37% bought in by lot, while Christie’s, which had the stronger sale, only saw 18% bought in. Manuscripts and miniatures had the most difficult time, with only the very best finding buyers, and the same fate befell much of the Qajar lacquerwork.

Note to Jay/programmers: I tried the code “UL” on the words “The Art Newspaper” in the text, presuming it meant “underline”, and what it did is make a space before and after, and indent as well; it did NOT underline.
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Police prowl square as muzzled survivors mark Tiananmen massacre quietly

This story was printed from

Police prowl square as muzzled survivors mark Tiananmen massacre quietly

04 June 2004 2339 hrs (SST)


BEIJING : Police swamped China’s Tiananmen Square, keeping dissent at bay on the 15th anniversary of a bloody pro-democracy crackdown as survivors and relatives privately mourned the hundreds who died.

With the event highly sensitive to the ruling Communist Party, few, if any, commemorations were taking place to mark the day when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protestors were killed by Chinese troops.

Police vans criss-crossed the vast square in central Beijing constantly Friday, while on majestic Chang’an Avenue — the main route used by tanks and soldiers in 1989 — uniformed People’s Armed Police and undercover teams were out in force.

All traces of the bullet holes and tank tracks that scarred the area have long since been erased.

One wheelchair-bound man dared to protest, wearing a headband with a slogan on it. He managed to unveil and hold up a slip of paper before security forces pounced and took him away, an AFP photographer witnessed.

A group of middle-aged men and women, meanwhile, were seen being processed in the courtyard of the Tiananmen Square police station where detainees are first taken, although why they were there was not clear.

Police refused to comment.

While few in the capital dare to commemorate the massacre publicly, tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong to light candles in an annual event to remember those who died.

In Washington, many of the student leaders of the 1989 protests who now live in exile in America held their own memorial in front of the Chinese embassy.

Taiwan, which split from mainland China in 1949, used the occasion to attack China’s poor human rights record and urge its leaders to move towards democracy.

And in India, Tibetans in exile voiced solidarity with the Chinese pro-democracy movement, using the anniversary to urge greater freedom for Chinese-ruled Tibet.

The only candles being lit in Beijing were behind closed doors, and even then it was far from safe.

“They threatened to take me away if I lit a candle,” Hu Jia, a leading Tiananmen and AIDS activist, told AFP from his Beijing home where he is under house arrest.

In the lead-up to the anniversary, China’s secretive state security police placed known dissidents under house arrest and even forced some from their homes to hotels outside the Chinese capital.

Universities were monitored by a state security police taskforce to prevent commemorations taking place, academics said.

“The Chinese government is trying to wipe out the memory of Tiananmen Square, but the horror of what happened still resonates inside and outside China,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

“We don’t even know exactly who died in the massacre. The Chinese authorities need to punish those responsible, compensate the victims and allow those who fled the country to return home.”

Qi Zhiyong, who lost a leg when he was run over by an armed personnel carrier on the night of June 4, said he would mark the event mourning for those who died.

“My heart feels very grieved. Democracy has eluded us for such a long time,” he told AFP.

Many people in Beijing are too scared to talk about those fateful events, while others are more concerned with jobs and money in a country where economic reforms have rapidly transformed lives.

Some though refuse to forget.

“The police came to warn me and told me not to leave my home and not to invite friends to the house,” Zhou Duo, a former economics professor at Peking University who took part in the 1989 demonstrations, told AFP.

“But this year, like every year on June 4, I will make a hunger strike during the day.”

The Chinese leadership has shown no signs of changing its position on the crackdown, defending its actions this week as necessary for economic growth and China’s emergence on the world stage.

State media, which is banned from using the phrase “liusi” or June 4, predictably made no mention of the anniversary.

Analysts said Beijing was unlikely to change tack any time soon.

“This is still a taboo subject,” China specialist Joseph Cheng from City University in Hong Kong said.

“This can be very controversial and this can create a lot of divisions within the leadership. That’s why the subject must be suppressed, must be hidden from the public.”


Copyright © 2003 MCN International Pte Ltd
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U.S. court dismisses 1991 POW suit versus Iraq

04 Jun 2004 20:55:21 GMT

(Adds plaintiff’s reaction, paragraphs 10-12)

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday threw out an award of more than $959 million in damages against Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Intelligence Service and dismissed a lawsuit by 17 American prisoners of war held during the 1991 Gulf War.

The three-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs, who also included relatives of the prisoners, were not legally entitled to the judgment and that the law at issue does not allow for such lawsuits.

The lawsuit had been filed in April 2002 by 17 of the American troops held captive by Iraq during the war and by 37 of their immediate family members.

They sued Iraq, Saddam and the Iraqi Intelligence Service, claiming personal injuries caused by torture during their captivity and citing the suffering by their family members.

Iraq never responded to the lawsuit. The judgment was awarded by a federal judge in July last year, several months after U.S.-led forces had ousted Saddam.

“We are mindful of the gravity of (the plaintiffs’ allegations) in this case,” Judge Harry Edward wrote in the ruling. That they “endured this suffering while acting in service to their country is all the more sobering,” he added.

He called the circumstances of the case extraordinary in considering what was at stake — a nearly billion-dollar judgment against a foreign government whose stability has become a central preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy.

Edwards said the court cannot ignore the magnitude of the judgment and its impact on the U.S. foreign policy when the law is “indisputably clear” that the plaintiffs “were not legally entitled to this judgment.”

He said the law on foreign sovereign immunity and a previous ruling by the appeals court in another case make clear such lawsuits are not allowed against a foreign state or a leader who acts in an official capacity. He said the lawsuit does not state any claims for which relief may be granted.

Retired Col. David Eberly, one of the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed in the decision.

“This is difficult to take. We served without question and withstood the worst the Iraqi torturers handed out,” Eberly said in a statement.

“On behalf of all those who have suffered, I am disappointed in the legal system of this country. I am also concerned for those who serve our country in the future, as future torturers may now believe that the United States will not stand behind its servicemen and women,” he said.

Saddam was named in the lawsuit as acting in his official capacity as Iraqi president, rather than in a personal capacity for which he could be sued.

The federal judge who awarded the damages later sided with the U.S. government in ruling that seized Iraqi assets could not be used to compensate the plaintiffs. (Additional reporting by Deborah Zabarenko)
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