A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

King Lear and the Oil For Food Scandal


Now that Goneril, King Lear's eldest daughter, has just finished tearing the Earl of Gloucester's eyes out of their sockets (no, really), she sets her own eyes on Edmund, Gloucester's second son. The villainous Edmund has willingly dispossessed his blinded father of his earldom. (Gloucester's eldest son Edgar remains loyal to his father and flees for France). Naturally, Edmund's cold-hearted ambition is attractive to Goneril who, having blinded the father, is now intent on marrying the son. But an obstacle remains in the form of her existing husband, the Earl of Albany, a gentle and virtuous soul who is having a bit of trouble accepting his wife's behavior. (After all, he must be thinking, women if they pluck anything are supposed to pluck eyebrows):

Albany: "……..O Goneril,
You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
Blows in your face. I fear your disposition;…

Gon: "No more. The text is foolish."

Albany: "Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;
Filths savor but themselves. What have you done?
Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?"

Well, every relationship has its ups and downs. If you think Goneril and Albany are having troubles, take a look at America's rocky connection with the United Nations, an institution appealing in its idealistic promise of world peace, but appalling in its corruption and mismanagement. The UN was recently shown to have participated, in actuality to have engineered, the diversion of stratospheric quantities of Oil For Food revenue away from Saddam's impoverished population and into the pockets of the evil Goneril and Edmund, I mean of Russia and France, who received the money in exchange for plucking out the eyes of Gloucester; I mean in exchange for turning a blind eye to Saddam in UN security council deliberations.

Just before the UN's squabble with America, I mean before Goneril's squabble with her husband Albany, she had met with France and Russia, I men with Edmund, and had promised him rather more than a married woman should (the servant refers to Oswald, who is to carry her letters to Edmund):

Gon: "………This trusty servant
Shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear,
If you dare venture in your own behalf,
A mistress's command. Wear this; spare speech.
Decline your head. (Kisses him) This kiss, if it durst speak
Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.
Conceive, and fare thee well."

Edmund: "Yours in the ranks of death."

Gon: "My most dear Gloucester!
O the difference of man and man!
To thee a woman's services are due;"

Goneril next sends her servant Oswald off with a love letter for Edmund that would do Lady Macbeth proud, since among the perfumed X's and O's is an assurance that she will assist him in murdering her husband at their next convenient opportunity. Oswald is killed by Edgar, Edmund's virtuous older brother. On Oswald's cold, dead body is discovered the documentary evidence proving the Oil For Food scandal, I mean Goneril's letter:

Edg: "Let's see these pockets; the letters that he speaks of
May be my friends……………………………
Leave, gentle wax, and, manners, blame us not.
To know our enemies' minds we rip their hearts;
Their papers is more lawful. (Reads the letter.)
'Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. You have
many opportunities to cut him off; if your will want
not, time and place will be fruitfully offered…..
Your – wife, so I would say – affectionate servant,
- Goneril.'"

Speaking of that documentary evidence, it turns out that the papers provided by the UN to the Oil For Food investigation conducted by Paul Volcker were in a sense only loaned to his investigation. At the end of this month, the UN will reclaim this key historical record. The extraordinary groundbreaking journalism of Claudia Rosette has already revealed a three-year paper-shredding carnival on the UN's 38th floor. To lose these documents as well would be something even worse, even lower than a tragedy – it would be a pathetic failure on the part of those nations who finance the UN and who did not participate in its corruption.

To his great credit, Representative Henry Hyde (who happens to share with King Lear the venerable age of 80), has introduced a bill that would withdraw $100 million a year of UN dues for four years, unless the UN releasesGoneril's letter to Edmund, I mean the Oil For Food-related archives, into a third party's custody. My betting is that even if Mr. Hyde's bill becomes law, Mr. Annan will elect to forego the $400 million and keep, or rather shred, the documents. Here Annan, I mean Goneril, is confronted by the world, I mean by Edgar, with the documentary proof of his corruption, I mean with her own conspiratorial letter:

Albany: "Shut your moth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stopple it. – Hold, sir, -
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
No tearing, lady, I perceive you know it."

Gon: "Say if I do, the laws are mine, not thine.
Who can arraign me for 't?"

Albany: "Most monstrous! O!
Know'st thou this paper?"

Gon: "Ask me not what I know."

Goneril's and Annan's shamelessness must not be our own. And so let standards be set, malefactors prosecuted, the rule of law maintained, and historical records preserved from revision.

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