Dot com is over. Well, sort of. The internet’s ‘governing body’ has decided to add new, customisable suffixes (other than .com , .org , .net, etc) to web addresses. Soon we will no doubt be seeing www.playboy.xxx (well, maybe not we) or (and this is my personal favourite) www.eastenders.cottongeddit? But when considering last week’s news, some other potential government and media addresses present themselves. For instance: www.despoticregimes.com-plicit , www.doublestandards.net-profit or the less catchy: www.officalattititudetozimbabwe.selectivemorality .

Robert Mugabe is again behaving like a lunatic and doing reprehensible things in Zimbabwe. News commentators have rightly condemned this, the Queen has withdrawn his knighthood and various politicians have started floating the idea of an ‘intervention’ in a manner that is eerily similar to the earliest calls for interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We can accept such suggestions with short memories and light hearts, happily lathered into a receptive state by the pleasant sensation of finding someone we can legitimately hate. On Radio 4 last weekend I heard a Christian suggest that God kill Robert Mugabe and encourage others to pray similarly.

But let’s pretend, just for a moment, that we are Christians (in the sense that we take at least some of what Jesus said relatively seriously). Forget that our master never told us to kill our enemies, render unto Caesar a crack SAS unit or to pray for death for those who despitefully use us (or Africans we suddenly started caring about a few years ago). Let’s just go on a plank-hunt in our eyes.

We’re appalled at Thabo Mbeki’s failure to publicly condemn Mugabe (‘it’s important that African leaders do this,’ we say, ‘because it doesn’t mean anything coming from former colonial oppressors,’ and then we demand a former colony do what we tell them to). We presume its efficacy as well as its morality. But is Mbeki’s ocular health really in a worse state than our own?

Last week an MP pointed out that while we’re condemning Zimbabwe, we’ve said quite a bit less about the government of Ethiopia. That’s the state that has invaded Somalia and whose army, according to Amnesty International and aid agencies, is guilty of large-scale killings and human rights abuses there. We are funding their leaders’ salaries. A week after we and the US gave Ethiopia $90,000 for famine relief, they raised their military budget by $50,000. That strongly-worded denunciation is coming any day now.

Or why don’t we look at a country regarded by many as perpetrator of some of the worst human rights abuses and civilian massacres of the 20th century: Indonesia. Since we take our moral duty to condemn injustice and violence so seriously that we expect it from others, I assume Britain has cut ties with Indonesia? Oh, no, sorry. My mistake. The FCO website tells me that ‘The UK has strong bilateral relations with Indonesia,’ and details our significant trading relationship with them.

No strong condemnations there then. What about for the USA, since it has been accused of war-crimes recently not just by the former PM of Malaysia, but by one of its own retired generals? Hmmm… not so much. Perhaps we’ll encourage Mbeki by making our own strong statement about Israel in Gaza? No?

Perhaps, then, we’ll just apply anti-terror standards to Zim and freeze the assets of British companies (like mining giant Anglo American), who we read last week are propping up Mugabe’s regime with investment. Or maybe not.

None of this makes what Mugabe is doing right. But it makes our disproportionate rage at a man who has done only as much harm as many of our ‘friends’ and our presumption of moral high-ground as laughable as African leaders see it. www.moral-outrage.hypocrisy , anyone?

To watch our allies, Indonesia, talk about human rights to comedian Mark Thomas, watch this (genius!):


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