John Aspinall, England’s greatest gambler and wild animal breeder, gave a small dinner last week in honor of Henry Kissinger, the ex-Secretary of State having arrived in London to promote his third volume of memoirs. As we were only 12—Sir Denis Thatcher, Conrad Black, Lady Annabel Goldsmith…you get the picture—I had the opportunity to ask Henry the K about the Kosovo problem and the administration’s handling of it. As they used to say in Brooklyn, thank God I did not stood in bed.
As it was a private dinner, and the conversation off the record, I of course cannot give you any of the juicy contents, but what I can do is come to Kissinger’s defense following the outrage that took place the next morning. Start the Week is a very popular BBC program about current affairs. The show’s host, Jeremy Paxman, I can only describe as having been conceived by someone with a dose of the clap. He is an abusive bully of the leftie persuasion, a man who exults in his intellectual thuggery, especially when facing a civilized person like Kissinger, who refused to sink to Paxman’s level.
Paxman accused Kissinger of being a fraud for having accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, to which our Henry answered with admirable sarcasm: “I wonder what you say when you do a hostile interview.” What bothers me is the self-righteousness. Kissinger presided over American foreign policy during a very difficult period, inheriting the Vietnam quagmire from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Unlike today, the Soviet bear back then was no patsy. The Chinese were under Mao and eager to fight. Nixon and Kissinger played brilliant poker, losing Vietnam only because of the treason back home. If Congress had not cut off all funds, South Vietnam would still be free. Talk about a Fifth Column. The Frank Churches and Ted Kennedys, not to mention Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton, would have been shot in any civilized country for their efforts to undermine our troops. Treason, after all, is a capital offense, and no one betrayed Uncle Sam more than Clinton when he went to Moscow to organize resistance to the war.
Paxman’s stream of accusations against Henry Kissinger is nothing new. The left has always hated the good Dr. K for his “Realpolitik.” The Draft Dodger and the Grinning Hyena (Tony Blair) grew up thinking that America was run by cynical and basically evil men like Nixon and Kissinger. The real evil, of course, that of communism and of the Gulag, has always been brushed aside. Talk about principles and the lack thereof. Clinton recently made a speech explaining that the international
community had a duty to intervene all over the world to protect people from oppression. “Where is the principle?” asks Kissinger. “Why didn’t they do anything in Chechnya, or in Tibet? Why only where weak countries are concerned?”
Hear, hear! Once NATO began the war Kissinger proclaimed that “victory was the only exit.” But he has always claimed that the whole business was misconceived. Although everyone is bored with the subject, here is one last try: Madeleine Albright demanded that the Serbs admit NATO troops to enter not only Kosovo, but Serbia proper. In other words, surrender to NATO. No one, not even Jimmy Carter, could have accepted such a demand without at least firing a shot in anger. More important, 80 percent of the ceasefire violations between the KLA and Serb troops in the six months before the bombing were committed by the KLA. There was no ethnic cleansing going on, and it began only after we started to bomb.
What puzzles Henry Kissinger is Milosevic. If the Serbs had hunkered down and not gone after the Albanians, NATO would have looked pretty pathetic with its bully-bombing from afar. Kissinger thinks that perhaps Milosevic could not control the army once it began the cleansing. The whole mess started in the spring of 1998 when armed Albanian Kosovars raided police stations, killing and kidnapping policemen and Serb civilians. The subsequent reaction by Yugoslav forces was intended to seal off KLA rebels from their supply lines in Albania. In came Albright and we know the rest.
Clinton’s administration has politicized the NATO alliance, turning a defensive alliance into an aggressor on behalf of a Muslim drug cartel in Kosovo and Albania. The majority of the American media, starting with the big three networks and CNN, turned into Clinton enablers. In the meantime, the Paxmans of this world dress up as moralists and go after Henry Kissinger. Here is a man who has played a major part and has profound knowledge of almost every major world crisis during recent times, and the lunch-bucket pilferer that is Paxman can only think of abusing and insulting him on the air.
Top Drawer’s IPO
Judging from the media outcry over TopDrawer.com’s forthcoming IPO, anyone would think we’d just published an exposé of a prominent Republican congressman or something. TopDrawer.com is hardly the only online magazine to take advantage of the Internet stock boom. TheStreet.com, ZDNet.com and Salon.com have all held stock offerings this year. We may have come late to the party but we believe there’s room for one more guest at the 20th century’s last hurrah.
I resent the suggestion that we’re just in this for the money. The $35 million we’re hoping to raise is going to be spent expanding our sales force and attracting more readers. “This isn’t about the moolah,” Taki reassures me. “I’m much more concerned with making a cultural impact.” For the record, Taki’s 15 percent of TopDrawer.com will be worth $25 million and my 3 percent a paltry $5 million. Russ Smith will be the big winner, but even his 30-percent stake, which should net him $50 million, pales in comparison to the $200 million Jim Cramer was worth the day after TheStreet.com went public last May.
Howard Kurtz has pointed out that, unlike most Internet ventures that have gone public in the past 18 months, TopDrawer.com’s IPO won’t be enriching the company’s second- and third-tier personnel. However, while it’s true that Taki, Russ and I will be the principal beneficiaries, the remaining members of the staff will be able to sleep soundly in their beds knowing that they’re working for a newspaper whose independence is guaranteed and whose future is secure. In this ever-changing industry, that kind of job security is worth far more than some nominal chunk of equity.
Admittedly, we haven’t yet launched TopDrawer.com, but at least we’ve registered the name. In any case, it’s not as if “Taki’s Top Drawer” doesn’t have a Web presence. If you go to www.nypress.com and click on “Top Drawer” you’ll find several of the articles that appear in the section each week. Since the launch of the site last May, Taki’s columns alone have received a total of 117 unique visitors! (I know this falls a little short of Yahoo!’s 30 million visitors a month, but it’s a start.)
Taki has soberly predicted that TopDrawer.com will begin making a profit as early as next year, and I take exception to Michael Kinsley’s suggestion in his most recent Slate column that this is “the ouzo talking.” Unfortunately, “quiet period” restrictions imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission prevent me from rebutting Kinsley’s charges here. However, I am allowed to point out that Kinsley is flat-out wrong when he claims “the print version of Top Drawer hasn’t sold a single ad.” We sold an ad to Elaine’s in our very first week of publication.
In the company’s filings with securities regulators we’ve disclosed a net loss of just under $100,000 in the first six months of this year. If you compare that with the cost of launching Talk—estimated to be at least $75 million—you’ll see that this is a remarkably low figure for a start-up. Salon, by contrast, had a net loss of $4.3 million in 1998 and yet, following its IPO last month, has a market cap of well over $100 million.
Some critics have accused us of jumping on the Internet bandwagon, but the most cursory examination of the record reveals that to be untrue. While employed as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair 1995-’98 I wiled away many a lazy afternoon surfing the Net, as Graydon Carter can testify. In the process I became a charter member of several cutting-edge websites, including ClubLove. com, AnimalFarm.com and—my personal favorite—Man-Boy-Love.com. While it’s true that Taki still doesn’t have an e-mail address, he assures me he’ll sign up with AOL just as soon as he buys a computer.
Much of the controversy surrounding TopDrawer.com’s IPO has focused on the unusual method of bidding on the company’s shares, the so-called “Greek auction.” According to this method, which has never been used before, only those who fall into the following categories will be entitled to bid on shares:
• Those who have beaten Taki at tennis, karate or backgammon.
• Editors who have spiked Taki’s stories or fired him from their publications.
At first, I thought this might be casting our net a little wide, but Taki assures me that the number is in the low six figures.
The Wall Street outfit that’s handling TopDrawer.com’s stock offering—the distinguished firm of Bait, Bilk and Bolt—informs me that the great advantage of a “Greek auction” is that it gives the little guy a chance to share in the Internet boom. “By extending the offer to all those people who have outsmarted Taki,” says Hiram J. Bilk, “we’re giving the ordinary person on the street a chance to get in on the IPO.”
It’s understandable that other members of our profession should question our motives and accuse us of cashing in on a trend. After all, it’s only human to be upset by the success of a colleague, however well-deserved. What was it Oscar Wilde said? Whenever a friend succeeds, a little part of me dies—and we’re going to make an absolute killing.
Those entitled to do so can place a bid by visiting our IPO website, PoorLittleGreekBoy.com. TopDrawer.com’s shares will trade on Nasdaq under the ticker SNKOIL. You can e-mail the author on firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LONDON DESK
The Victims Remain
It was a filthy war. Protestant and Catholic Irishmen planted bombs in each other’s neighborhoods, and they kidnapped innocents. Former convicts admit on television that they put revolvers to the heads of innocent people whose only relevant characteristic was their religion, and pulled the trigger without remorse. Both sides committed murder, as did the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Protestants and Catholics blew up one another’s, and sometimes their own, children. No one can look back on the last 30 years in the North with pride, least of all the British who were, after all, in charge.
Some of the freed Protestant and Catholic prisoners in the North of Ireland have come to regret their crimes. Many do not. I doubt the men who killed Jean McConville in December 1972 are feeling much angst. Otherwise, they might have returned her body to her children. When they supplied a list of nine names and where to find their corpses to the special Anglo-Irish Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, Jean McConville’s was on it. Seven others were not. The nine had, apparently, been buried secretly in the Republic. All were Catholic. Irish police, the Garda Siochana, found Eamon Molloy at a cemetery near Dundalk. They have continued digging for the rest for the past month and were about to give up when they found the bodies of two more, Brian McKinney and John McClory. None of the remains has been identified, but DNA analysis is expected to prove them to be who the IRA said they were.
Jean McConville, whom the IRA had denied for years it kidnapped, left 10 children. Her surviving nine (the 10th, Agnes, died in 1992 of cancer) went dutifully across the border to Templeton Beach near Carlingford Loch, County Luth, to watch the Irish police dig her up. One of the children, Helen McKendry, has moved to Carlingford with her husband Seamus to watch the dig.
They are still waiting. The commission had been told that Mrs. McConville lay under the space for one car in a parking lot that had been constructed years after they killed her. The police began with shovels, digging under one, then two car spaces.
Later, they brought the mechanical diggers, and the pit is now about 200 yards long and 15 feet deep. It seems unlikely they will find Helen McConville’s body there.
The McConvilles have been victimized by just about every faction in Northern Ireland. Their father, Arthur, was a Catholic, who in the early 1950s left the British Army with the rank of master sergeant. He married Jean Murray, a Protestant who converted to the Catholic faith and became far more devout than her husband. They had their 10 children. In 1969, their Protestant neighbors drove them out of their house in East Belfast. They took shelter on the west side, among fellow Catholics who were far from welcoming. Protestants were similarly forced to move east, although not as many. (The Irish were ethnic cleansers when Slobodan Milosevic was a boy communist in Tito’s multicultural Yugoslavia.)
The British then interned the oldest McConville son, as they did hundreds of others, on suspicion of involvement in republican activities. Arthur McConville died of cancer, and Jean had to raise the children in a two-bedroom flat provided by
the government to those who had lost their homes. Then came 1972. Bloody Sunday in Londonderry. Murders on the streets. Shootouts between the IRA and British troops.
One night in December, the McConvilles heard gunfire. Helen heard something fall against the door. “We then heard someone cry out, ‘Oh, God, somebody, help me. Please, help me.’ And that went on for a few minutes.” Speaking to me not far from the dig where she still hoped, after a month, to find her mother’s body, Helen said Jean went outside to help. She returned with blood all over her. “I think she just cradled his head and said a prayer in his ear. The way my mother seen it, you know, she didn’t see the uniform. She seen a person. She seen someone’s son. She had sons, and she wouldn’t like for them to die
like that and nobody go to his aid.” An ambulance took the soldier away. It is not clear whether he survived.
With the contempt for the public that characterizes British government officials, the Ministry of Defence and the army refuse to release the name of the wounded soldier whom Jean McConville helped. It would be interesting to know who he was, because her act of charity to him led to the demise of her family. A short time later, the IRA broke into the house. About 10 men and women, some armed and all with sweaters or scarves partially concealing their faces, terrified the children and dragged the mother out to a car.
The IRA announced Jean McConville had abandoned her children to live with a British soldier in Australia. The younger children grew up believing the lie and hated their mother for it.
The IRA’s crimes against the family were compounded by the Northern Irish government and the Catholic Church. Social Service officials took them out of their house and gradually sent them all to different institutions. They were rarely permitted to see one another, even though the youngest, twin boys, were only six. All were abused emotionally, according to their parish priest, and some physically and sexually.
None of them knew what had happened to their mother after the IRA took her away, until it included her name last May on the list of those it had made to disappear. “There are no words to describe the anguish that they suffered,” Father Patrick McCafferty, curate of Belfast’s Sacred Heart Church, said. He blames the church itself for adding to their anguish and has repeatedly called on the IRA to return Jean McConville’s body. Allowing the children to give her a funeral “to begin the process of healing for them in a very tangible way” is all he asks. The McConvilles hope to bury her in Milltown Cemetery on Belfast’s Falls Road, near the place where she was kidnapped and, as it happens, the resting place of many IRA volunteers.
Ireland’s peace is in jeopardy as I write this. Even those who understand why the IRA is willing to risk a resumption of war to keep its rifles and bombs, so long as the RUC remains an armed Protestant bulwark, cannot justify what it did to the McConvilles. Nor can many decent republicans excuse the fact that Jean McConville’s body has not, so far, turned up where the IRA said it was. The least they expect from the IRA is an apology.