Sunday, December 19, 2004

The tycoon, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the Secretary General 

A farce in three acts. It can't get any more surreal than this:
"Sir Richard Branson tried to stop the war in Iraq by hatching a secret plan with Nelson Mandela, it emerged today. The Virgin chief reportedly wanted to send Mr Mandela to meet with tyrant Saddam Hussein to persuade him to go into exile. The aim was for the former South African leader to fly out of Baghdad with Saddam in tow."
On Virgin Air, perchance?
"Multi-millionaire tycoon Sir Richard even got approval for the plan from United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, despite fears the Nobel Peace Prize winner might be kidnapped. Sir Richard, who was prepared to go to Iraq with Mr Mandela, believed the war could be prevented if Saddam was given an escape route - but coalition forces invaded Iraq before his plan was able to proceed."
How could we have risked somebody of Nelson Mandela's stature being kidnapped and forced to appear in humiliating videos broadcast over all the major networks, promoting the Virgin group of companies? (then again, Gorbie did it for pizza).

You certainly can't deny Sir Richard a quirk for high-profile publicity stunts, from cross-dressing to circumnavigating the globe in a balloon. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall improve their name recognition.

But wait, it gets better:
"The invasion of Iraq has inspired Sir Richard to set up a group of non-political figures called the Elders to help avert future conflicts. He added: 'ItÂ’s in its infancy but Mandela has agreed to be the founding father'."
Better not involve any Jews in the project so that no one can use this "group of non-political figures" of being the Elders of Zion.

One would have thought that since there's already a major international organization working - albeit not very successfully - to help avert future conflicts, a group like the Elders would not be necessary. But Sir Richard has a long history of taking on the monopolistic market leader (like the British Airways) to cut out a profitable niche for himself. The United Nations, beware. A smarter choice, though, might have been a new group of prominent figures working to spread freedom and democracy around the world, but I guess it's easier to compete against a sclerotic multinational bureaucracy than the Bush Administration.


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