Charlie Hebdo

PCFR speakers from far and wide

  Speakers at the 2014-15 season of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations ( were:

Anders Corr, a geopolitical analyst and former Defense Department official in Afghanistan, on Chinese expansionism.

Richard George, former high National Security Agency official, on international cyber-security.

Prof. Evodio Kalteneker, on the Brazilian economy and politics.

Professor and journalist Janet Steele on democratic Indonesia.

Jennifer Yanco, a public-health expert and a director of the West Africa Research Association, on the Ebola crisis.

Australian Consul Gen. Nick Minchin, on his nation’s relations with Asia and the U.S.

Delphine Halgand, a high official of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, on threats to free speech and journalism. (She spoke a few days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.)

Amir Afkhami, M.D., a psychiatrist, on dealing with mental illness in war zones, particularly the Mideast.

Military historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich on why America should stop fighting wars in the Mideast.

Famed Canadian journalist Diane Francis on why the U.S. and Canada should consider merging.

International landscape architect Thomas Paine on making cities more humane, especially in China.

Admiral Robert Girrier, deputy chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on countering Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

Gary Hicks, deputy chief of mission in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack and now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on lessons for the U.S. in Libya and the future of international trade.

The new season looks exciting too. (And maybe even useful for investing decisions.)

We’re still penciling in speakers and dates, but we can say that Cuban-American businessman and civic leader Eduardo Mestre will speak on Sept. 30 about the reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the land of his birth.

Mr. Mestre is a member of the boards of the International Rescue Committee and the Cuba Study Group.

He’s also a senior adviser at Evercore and was previously vice chairman of Citigroup Global Markets and chairman of its Investment Banking Division. Before then, he headed investment banking at Salomon Smith Barney and its predecessor firms from 1995-2001 and was co-head of Salomon Brothers' mergers and acquisitions department in 1989-1995.

Skedded for Oct. 22 is Scott Shane, the New York Times reporter who wrote the new book Objective Troy, about  Anwar al-Awlaki, “the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, but a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens’’ and was eventually killed by an American drone. Among other things, he’ll discuss the moral issues raised by the increasing use of drones.

Some of the people we have on the drafting board for the rest of the season:

A U.N. expert on international refugee crises; a journalist or diplomat who will discuss the Greek crisis; a member of the Federal Reserve Board who will discuss international financial-system challenges; a Japanese journalist to talk about that nation’s increasingly muscular regional posture; an expert on international shipping in light of the widening of the Panama Canal; a status report on Mexico; a Chinese philanthropist; a member of the Ukrainian Congress Committee; (we have been trying for some time to get a Russian official or journalist to give Moscow’s side of the war in eastern Ukraine), and the director of the Aga Khan University Media School to talk about training journalists in the Developing World

All subject to change. We frequently repeat Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s purported response when he was asked what he most feared:

“Events, my dear boy, events.’’

Members should feel free to chime in with suggestions.

Also, we’ll strive to frequently update the PCFR Website with supplemental news and commentary on international matters that may be of interest.

Please consult or message for questions about the PCFR.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Robert Whitcomb, chairman


Beyond Charlie Hebdo: Freedom of expression besieged in much of the world

  Delphine Halgand, who runs North American operations for the global organization Reporters Without Borders,  gave a terrific talk the other night at the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations.  She, of course, talked about the terrorist murders  in France.   But she also reviewed the condition of freedom of expression and information around the world. Her maps expressed the fragility of  freedom of expression, upon which many other freedoms depend. That fragility includes the United States in some ways, she said.


The PCFR, created in 1928 under the aegis of the Council on Foreign Relations, but these days completely independent of the council, has monthly dinners with speakers from  many walks of life. Past and present political leaders,  diplomats, military officers, physicians, historians, theologians and many other fascinating people  from around the world have spoken over the years.


Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organization perhaps better known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières,  promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press. The organization has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders has two major activities: one is focused on  censorship, and the other on providing material, financial and psychological assistance to journalists assigned to dangerous areas.

The link to the U.N. is somewhat ironic since so many U.N. members are corrupt dictatorships that enthusiastically suppress freedom of expression, sometimes using imprisonment, torture and murder to do it. Still, we must have something like the U.N.  It's perhaps just a reflecti0n 0f human nature so that so many members are so bad, and hypocrisy so entrenched.

The American abolitionist Wendell Phillips said:

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either form human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

The PCFR (,  founded in 1928 under the aegis of the Council on Foreign Relations, but these days completely independent of the council, has monthly dinners with speakers from  many walks of life. Past and present political leaders, from around the world,  diplomats, physicians, historians, theologians and many other fascinating people have spoken over the years.

--- Robert Whitcomb










Chris Powell: Charlie Hebdo, multicultural immigration and Islamic killers

One of the offending Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Even the mass murder in Paris  last week, Islamic fanaticism's latest assault on liberty, may not be enough to awaken Europe. For the political correctness of the European Union's multiculturalism has already filled the continent with millions of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa who have no allegiance to the countries they now inhabit and only contempt for democratic secularism. Europe has become Eurabia.

Vile as it is, Islamic fanaticism is just 600 years behind what used to be Christian fanaticism, whose own wars devastated Europe for centuries before people began to suspect that God might not be worth such bloodshed and oppression and that government might best be separated from religion. The line between religious faith and superstition, bigotry, and murder is a thin one, because for the self-righteous, God is always available as absolute license.

That is what has made religion such a target for satire, including that of the French political weekly Charlie Hebdo, whose editors and cartoonists were massacred this week by those who see themselves as the soldiers of Islam, though the newspaper often ridiculed not just Moslems but Christians and Jews as well. It just has been a while since so many Christians and Jews rationalized murder in pursuit of religious imperialism.

The murder of the French journalists by the religious crazies will be a monument to the power of ridicule, a power Mark Twain may have described best: "For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon -- laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution -- these can lift at a colossal humbug, push it a little, weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."

Yet of course this week it was the ridiculers who were blown away while their murderers shouted "God is great" and fear of more such attacks increased as the entire West, not just Europe, began to face the frightening consequences of a policy of uncontrolled immigration.

While the West halfheartedly wages war against the religious crazies in the Middle East, it has allowed entry to many people who, if they have not yet resolved to subvert democratic institutions, are enormously susceptible to such appeals.

The United States is lucky that, unlike Europe, most of its immigrants, legal and illegal, are only Central and South Americans of no particular ideology, merely economic refugees. But the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were largely the result of the failure of immigration law enforcement, a failure that has only worsened. Even now most illegal immigrants caught in the United States are not deported but only given summonses to appear in court -- and the Department of Homeland Security admits that 70 percent fail to report and simply disappear into the country, whereupon states like Connecticut make them eligible for driver's licenses and other benefits, exercising a liberal form of nullification of federal law.

Nullification is what a half century ago Southern states sought to do to to thwart federal civil rights law. That was disgraceful, but somehow liberal nullification has become respectable.

Admitting people who can show they want to live in a secular democracy, who appreciate the country's history and objectives, and who would assimilate into its culture is one thing. Such people likely would become better citizens than many of the native-born. But admitting anyone in the name of multiculturalism is treason.

For defending the country requires fearlessly defending the culture, as the journalists of Charlie Hebdo did, if only inadvertently, even at their most offensive -- especially at their most offensive.

France is being tested now. But our turn is coming.


Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, C0nn.

More Islamic murders



La Nouvelle Angleterre est Charlie.

Christophe Deloire, who runs  the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, will no doubt address the latest Islamic terrorist murders of journalists when he speaks next Tuesday at the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations ( (See link  to Charlie Hebdo cartoons  and to Reporters Without Borders petition below.)


Meanwhile, for those who say the problem is not Islam itself: A violent, bigoted and misogynistic strain of Islam goes right right back to Mohammed.  Read about it in the Koran and other Muslim writings, which  have plenty of savagery used as an excuse by today's Islamic murderers.  Indeed, Islam spread across much of the world through violence.

There are also peaceful, kindly and highly charitable strains of Islam -- most notably the Ismailis, part of Shia Islam. The vast majority of the violence is perpetrated by Sunni Muslims.

There's an old, violent and bigoted strain of Christianity, too, but nowhere near the strength  anymore of Islam's. The still besieged Jews,  whence came the other two religions, long ago cast off most of their Old Testament love of violence against their enemies.

Concessions to Islamic threats just embolden the terrorists further. The West must show more backbone in defending its values, which are so fundamentally more alluring than other cultures' that the West is where people still most want to come. Many Muslims risk life and limb to escape the corrupt dictatorships that characterize most of the Muslim world and move to Europe, where, sadly, some of the more perverse and deranged of these immigrants seek to destroy the very refuge that has protected them.

More profiling is needed at the borders, and considerably more controls on immigration from Muslim nations, lest Western culture be overwhelmed. As Llewellyn King noted of a group of Pakistanis in Washington: "They did not want to know about the values of the country that had given their brethren sanctuary, education, healthcare and a decent life.'' And freedom.


See  some Charlie Hebdo cartoons  in this link. They are  copyrighted so we can't just put whole cartoons up on this site.

Here is  a link to a Reporters Without Borders petition.