Here’s some nooz for you, and maybe news, also: This morning’s “urgent issues and innovative solutions” panel here at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference featured an interesting exchange between Thomas “My World Is Flat” Friedman and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
This is from my notes, and the quotes may not be exact. Musharraf was asked to speak to the situation in Afghanistan. The increasing power of the Taliban, said Musharraf, has a lot to do with the presence of foreign troops; the people of Afghanistan feel antipathy toward foreign troops.
Including U.S. troops, Friedman asked. Yes, said Musharraf.
So, we are part of the solution and part of the problem, said Friedman.
Part of the problem, said Musharaff.
(Scattered applause from audience.)
Jude Nagurney Camwell of Iddybud had the sense to bring a recording device, so she’s got an audio of the whole thing. Maybe one of us can figure out how to post an audio link to selected portions of the program.
Javier Solona, who is Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, inspired another nooz zinger. He was speaking to the work he did to diffuse tensions surrounding the Danish cartoon flap. Of course we respect free speech, he says, but if we are serious about reducing the divides that exist in the world, we need to exercise some responsibility and prudence in the terms we use to talk about Islam
Is one of those terms Islamic fascism? Friedman asked. Solona sort of nodded and shrugged, but I didn’t catch an audible answer.
Did I mention First Lady Laura Bush was there?
The Clinton Global Initiative is, basically, a big whoop-dee-doo conference of heads of state and other big shots of business and religion to address global challenges. There are working sessions in four general areas: (1) energy and climate change; (2) global health; (3) poverty alleviation;and (4) reducing religious and ethnic conflict. I plan to listen in to these from the press room. What makes CGI different from other big whoop-dee-doo conferences is that people are challenged to make specific action commitments, and if they don’t keep their commitments they don’t get to come to next year’s CGI. In this way, people can’t just show up for the free buffets and not think about global challenges until the next conference.
The commitment process is vaguely similar to accepting Jesus at a revival; some people who have made commitments come up to the podium and publicly sign their agreement, then get their picture taken with Big Bill. You can browse commitments here. Last year’s was the first CGI conference, at which 300 commitments worth $2.5 billion were made.
Now, back to the nooz.
The plenary session took place in huge conference room at the Sheraton on the Upper West Side. Some of us bloggers planted ourselves on the edge of the platform built for the television cameras. We had a line of tripods in back of us and a line of very large security guys — Secret Service, maybe — in front of us. You can spot the security guys because they all have plastic coils coming out of their ears and running down the back of their coats. As I couldn’t see much else, I watched the back of the coat in front of me. It was black. Sometimes the security guy would shift his position a bit, and then I could glimpse one of the big screens or even the actual person speaking.
President Clinton spoke first and talked about how CGI is about tackling big global challenges in bite-size pieces. Then Laura Bush spoke about how her husband’s administration wants to build partnerships between governments and business to address poverty. These transactions must be transparent, Mrs. Bush said, and government must invest in their people. Wow sounds like the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, huh? Oh, wait …
Then Steve Chase and Jean Chase and some other guy accepted Jesus and signed their commitments, and we crashed ahead to the above-mentioned panel.
Beside Friedman, Musharraf, and Solona, the panelists were President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and President Alvaro Uribe Velez of Colombia. President Velez emphasized his country’s need for reduction in violent crime and the need for agrarian reform, notably reform that would prevent so many farmers from growing coca. President Johnson-Sirleaf wants to help her people grow beyond subsistence farming and help young people develop the job skills that would attract capital investment in her country.
Musharraf provided most of the morning’s juicy bits. He discussed the difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban, from his perspective — al Qaeda members tend to be foreigners who move into Pakistan, but the Taliban takes root among the local folks. According to Musharraf, Mullah Omar (remember Mullah Omar? I haven’t heard his name in quite a while) still runs the Taliban.
I’m going to come back and add to this in a bit; let me get this much published while the wireless connection is working.