Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Hitch's crazed-loon rantings on Iraq were about to reach ear-splitting levels when, thankfully, the war ended. He spat out one quicky I-was-right-all-along column, and now he's sounding much calmer and saner, while at the same time drawing our attention to the under-reported removal of the barrier dividing Cyprus. As he points out, this is the *true* Berlin Wall flashback. The Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been separated by a barrier across the island for nearly 30 years.

Without any warning, this forbidding obstacle was thrown open by the Turkish Cypriot authorities, and it was announced that any Cypriots could travel freely on the island as long as they were back at the frontier by midnight. Since Cyprus is about twice the size of Long Island and has a population of no more than 800,000, this meant that almost anyone could get to almost anywhere within the allotted time. About 200,000 Greek refugees have not seen their old homes for almost 30 years, and about 45,000 displaced Turkish Cypriots come from places that lie to the south of the partition line, so there have been plenty of applicants.
The sense of exhilaration and liberty was extraordinary, as if people indefinitely confined in a cramped cell had suddenly been allowed to stretch and exercise. And also as if a "no talking" rule in a barren jail had suddenly been relaxed: Conversation that had been impossible for decades was suddenly and volubly resumed.

Good for them. And welcome back, Hitch.


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