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David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

The Targeted Killing of a Formidable Enemy



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Anwar al-Awlaki had attributes that made him a serious enemy. A promoter of Islamist fanaticism, he had become the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen, and was set for greater things in the jihad against the West.

Granted the limitations of his intellectual horizon, he was intelligent and certainly capable. Born and brought up in the United States, he spoke fluent English and could give the impression to his acolytes that he knew from experience how decadent and wicked the ways of the West are. The Fort Hood murderer, the underpants bomber, and the Time Square fire-raiser are evidence that he had the power to persuade people that killing is a God-given task.

His death while on the road in Yemen is obviously the result of first-rate intelligence. Somebody must have got close enough to discover his movements and then be able to pass the information on to controllers of the Predator that then took Awlaki out. Three other Islamist fanatics are said to have died in this targeted killing.

The Israelis have similarly killed Hamas leaders in Gaza and Hezbollah sheiks in Lebanon, and the threat of repeating such attacks constrains the movements of some major enemies, for instance keeping the Lebanese Hezbollah Sheikh Nasrallah in permanent hiding. Contentious as it is sometimes made out to be, targeted killing is a war measure. In the Second World War, the Allies made deliberate efforts to take down everything and everyone military or civilian contributing to the German cause. Some are delving now into all sorts of legalisms to make targeted killings illegal on grounds of nationality or the absence of declared war. That is the way to ensure that the present civilizational and cultural confrontation is extended indefinitely.

Dictators’ Options Narrow



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A BBC documentary about the uprising in Syria brought out very clearly the plight that Bashar Assad has brought on himself. The uprising began in Deraa when boys painted graffiti on walls. Assad’s security forces rounded up the boys, tortured them, and returned to his family the mutilated corpse of one of them. A confident regime would never have resorted to brutality like that. After that, the regime’s fear of dispossession dictates the policy of violence now in full spate. There can be no going back for Assad or his goons, they have so reduced their choices that they have to kill or be killed. In any case Syria is a country in which the consent of the ruled is of no account to the ruler. It will be a matter of luck if civil war is avoided.

Palestinians are not yet in such desperate straits, but getting there gradually. Mahmoud Abbas should have held elections two years ago, but postponed them from the all too well-founded fear that Hamas, his implacable rivals in Gaza, would win. Throughout the West Bank his own Fatah are loathed and despised for their corruption and arrogance. So Abbas rules by decree, a dictator although on a smaller scale than, say, Assad. The decision to ask the United Nations to endorse a Palestinian state was his and his alone. The Palestinians were not asked for their opinion. A number seem to have backed him, but a silent majority is apprehensive. Abbas cannot really have thought he would succeed in obtaining a state by refusing to make the least concession to Israel. He will never acknowledge a Jewish state, and his assertion that no Jew will be allowed to live in a Palestinian state is racism. So the United Nations delegations gave an ovation to someone without legitimacy, riding roughshod over the concept of consent or representation, and making proposals so one-sided that nothing constructive could come out of them. It will be a matter of luck if this peace process does not end in war.

Perhaps the temptation is always there to rule without the consent of the ruled. The European Union is another example of it. I woke up one day to discover that I had a president, a Belgian, of whom I had never heard. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy take decisions for whole populations like the Greeks who are expected to obey. Such figureheads have no legitimacy to be acting for people who are not their constituents and never will be. It is painfully plain that those who set up this EU made a historic mistake. It will be a matter of luck if the world gets out of it without a major crisis.

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The French Farce



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Since I am in Paris, I couldn’t help watching Dominique Strauss-Kahn answering the questions put to him by a television journalist, Claire Chazal. He had not spoken before because he wanted the French to hear him out first. To do a DSK has entered French slang for making a pass, and it is not a compliment. He’d been running the International Monetary Fund and might very well have been elected President of France, and now he’s a bad joke with sexual innuendoes.

Here’s a man who destroyed himself, and that is one of the great themes of classical drama, and that is what he aimed to convey, unsmiling and harsh. At the outset he claimed to have used no violence or constraint. What he’d done, he said, was inappropriate, it was a weakness, or worse than that, a fault, a moral fault. He had wronged his wife and all the French too, coming out with grandiloquence, “I missed my rendezvous with France.”

And what was his opinion of American justice? “I was afraid, I was very afraid.” Legal machinery caught him and might have crushed him. This was too severe. If he hadn’t had money and a rich wife, injustice might well have been done. Which led him to say that the hotel maid kept on changing her story, and was a liar. Chazal mentioned the French novelist Tristane Banon who claims that DSK attacked her like a “rutting chimpanzee.” Did DSK realize how he had shocked women? He had a passage about how he’d never abused the power that went with his position.

He expressed regret when it was obvious that he didn’t feel it, but had the inner conviction that he was someone who was entitled to do exactly as he pleased. Chazal allowed him to end up with a lot of hot air in praise of the Left and socialist candidate Martine Aubry in the presidential elections he won’t be running in. Television exposes character remorselessly. This isn’t a classical drama at all, just a French farce.

Who Is Deceiving Whom



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Muslims in France take over whole streets and hold open-air prayers in them. This began some years back when Muslims gathered at the spot where Princess Diana died in the car accident, and prayed there as though at a shrine. If you happen to live in such a street and want to leave or enter your house, or if you need to drive a car there, bad luck, the weight of numbers makes it impossible. Muslims in this way are asserting that they already have a space of their own and the local French can do nothing about it. Marine Le Pen, daughter of the founder of the National Front, has a chance of doing well in next year’s presidential elections, and she called the street prayers an “occupation.” The word recalls the Nazis taking over the country after 1940.

Claude Guéant, the Interior Minister, has made a political issue of it. “Street prayers must stop because they hurt the feelings of many of our compatriots who are shocked by the occupation of a public space for a religious practice,” he says, bringing in that useful word “occupation.” From today, Muslims are banned from praying outdoors. The police may arrest any who persist. 

The French are fighting back, then, pushed too hard by immigrants with different values and customs. Except that on that very day President Nicolas Sarkozy had a triumphal tour of Libya. While he was talking up the glories of France, whole brigades of anti-Qaddafi rebels were prostrate praying in the roadway in front of television cameras. Hasn’t Sarkozy helped to make possible here exactly what he is forbidding at home? Who knows who is deceiving whom.  

Hari Returns Prize



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Remember Johann Hari, a journalist who writes for The Independent? He crossed our path when he came on an NR cruise under false pretences, always intending to write it up with a sneer. Under the false name of David Rose, he edited Wikipedia entries about people he had clashed with, and in his own admission he did so “in ways that were juvenile or malicious.” Another of his habits has been to pretend that he was providing original quotations from people when actually he was lifting them from other sources: The word for that is plagiarism. A prize exists in commemoration of George Orwell. When the judges in their innocence awarded it to Hari, a storm of protest led to the exposure of his various tricks and fakeries, so that today he has been obliged to admit his guilt, apologize, and return the prize. The next winner ought to be someone having a shot at writing the essay that George Orwell would have written about Hari.

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Whither the ‘Arab Spring’?



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The Israeli ambassador to Cairo and about eighty other Israelis flew out of Cairo to Tel Aviv on a military plane under cover of darkness. They were lucky to escape with their lives. A huge crowd had attacked the Israeli embassy, overpowering the ninety police on duty, storming into several rooms and throwing files out into the street. The military officers now ruling the country have declared an emergency.

Some days ago, Palestinian terrorists from Gaza disguised themselves in Egyptian uniforms and crossed Egyptian territory to attack southern Israel. In the firefight the terrorists and eight Israelis were killed, but so were five Egyptian border guards whom the Israelis identified wrongly. The Muslim Brothers refuse to accept this as the sort of mistake that occurs all too easily in such circumstances, and they have whipped up this crisis in order to break off the treaty that has kept the peace with Israel since 1979.

This is a repeat of the earlier row that also originated from Gaza. Turkish Islamists were determined to run the blockade imposed by Israel to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas. Israeli commandos boarded the incoming ship, and in the ensuing fracas killed nine Turkish Islamists. The Israeli government refused to apologize for this act of self-defense, whereupon Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan declared the Israeli ambassador to Ankara persona non grata.

Two major Muslim countries have simultaneously experienced, or engineered, a diplomatic confrontation with Israel. On another front, Hamas has its headquarters in Damascus. In the light of the massacres committed daily by the Syrian security forces, Hamas seems to be about to move its headquarters to Cairo. In that case, Hamas may be able to mobilize popular support in Egypt for future terrorism against Israel, greatly inhibiting Israel’s counter-terror options.

Later this month the United Nations will be pursuing a two-track anti-Israel policy, voting on the establishment of a Palestinian state, and on a resolution that Israel is uniquely racist. Iranian President Ahmedinejad has promised that he will be attending in New York to make his familiar speech about the imminent genocide of all Jews.

Quite possibly all this is posturing, but it is beginning to look as if the Arab Spring is the fancy description of another dire round of self-destruction.

Fighting On



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Some years before the September 11 attacks, I was invited to talk to a private group about Muslim fundamentalism.Such a way of thinking, I said and I believed, might last for a time but in the end must die away because it is irrational, and reason in the end comes to compel human behavior everywhere. In the audience was Frank Johnson, one of the clearest-minded journalists of the day, and he asked, “But are we going to have to fight them?” He had put his finger on it.

An effort of imagination is required to accept that people will kill you for no better reason than that you are who you are, and not because of anything you might have done. Of course Hitler and Stalin ordered the killing of millions on just these grounds, and many lives were lost in order to remedy the consequent breakdown in civilization. September 11 heralds another such breakdown, and it too will be hard to remedy.

In the manner of a Hitler or a Stalin, Arab and Muslim leaders day in and day out are calling for the murder of those they think are in their way, or whose deaths will somehow bring political advantage. President Ahmedinejad, for instance, Sheikh Qaradawi, or Saudi clerics and Palestinian imams are in the habit of promising genocide as though this were normal and not just a primitive response. Besides, they aren’t primitive, but educated, yet still condemning their subjects to injustice and a dangerous fate.

So the question becomes: Are the masses really convinced that they must do as they are told and become murderers of Westerners, or is the apparent hatred part of a strategy to protect themselves by pretending to hatreds they don’t feel? There is a paradox: Muslims who have come to have some experience of the West are the likeliest to hate it and resort to war against it. The majority who remain in their own countries are getting on with life like everyone else.

Intellectual and emotional separation has occurred, it seems to me, between Arab and Muslim leaders and those they claim to be leading (and this seems to be a factor in the uprisings of the Arab Spring). The leaders well understand that hatred of the West serves several expedient purposes, notably relieving the inferiority complex arising from comparisons between civilizations and also deflecting attention away from their own deficiencies. Islamists in general, the September 11 attackers, al-Qaeda itself, figures like Anwar al-Awlaki or the Fort Hood killer, are ideologues, brainwashed as the S.S. and the KGB once were to obey what is dictated to them from above.

In the last ten years there have been a number of Islamist outrages causing death and injury and many more that have been thwarted by good intelligence. Powerful voices in Washington and London argue that Islamist terrorists should be considered ordinary criminals, and therefore dealt with exclusively by the law. The numbers of such men, and their education, tell against a comforting interpretation of this kind. Islamists are never going to accept that they are mere wrongdoers unless they suddenly start conducting themselves as Westerners would like. September 11 was a declaration of war, and it will have to be fought to the finish.

Scandalous Behavior



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Documents discovered in Libya cast light on the sordid behavior of people supposedly acting in the name of Britain. MI6, the British secret service, evidently struck up a cozy relationship with Libyan opposite numbers. The British have not only hounded Libyan dissidents in England but handed them over to Libya where they were certain to be tortured. These dissidents were held to be active Islamist terrorists, who therefore deserved whatever was coming to them.

The outstanding example of what is now euphemistically called extraordinary rendition occurred in 1940 in the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Soviet secret police handed to the Gestapo a number of prominent German Communists who had sought refuge in the  Soviet Union. Margarete Buber-Neumann, one of the few who survived, has left an unforgettable description of this frightful betrayal. Now it turns out that one of the Libyans betrayed by MI6 is Abdul Hakim Belhaj, certainly an Islamist, possibly a terrorist, but presently a senior military commander of the anti-Qaddafi rebels. MI6 couldn’t have guessed that this man treated as an enemy would emerge a few years later as a hero they were sponsoring. It is uncomfortable to have to admit that the secret services of a democracy operate by the inhuman logic of a totalitarian state.

These documents also reveal correspondence from Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, to Colonel Qaddafi. At the time, Blair delighted in playing up to this monstrous dictator and embracing him for photo-ops. Supposedly this was a reward for the abandonment of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction. Blair was abasing himself voluntarily. In private, he was addressing letters to “Dear Muammar.” In one letter dated 28 December 2006 he wishes his dear Muammar “Eid mubarak,” or the Muslim equivalent of Happy Festival. MI6 was nasty but at least not creepy like this.

Turkey Expels an Ambassador



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To declare an ambassador persona non grata is a serious step, signifying that relations with that ambassador’s country are in crisis. The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken this serious step, declaring hostility to Israel by demanding the recall of the Israeli ambassador by next Wednesday. What’s been happening is worth studying as a prime example of values within the Muslim world that compel foolish and dangerous behavior.

Turkey and Israel had long enjoyed a good relationship. Trade and tourism have prospered. The two armed forces held joint exercises, and Israel sold advanced weaponry, including drones, to the Turkish air force. In office for almost ten years now, Erdogan has been undermining the secular state by degrees, and imposing his version of Islamism. The break with Israel was implicit in such a policy. Erdogan calculated that the Arabs would then look to him and his so-called neo-Ottoman Turkey for leadership.

Last year, the Erdogan government hit upon a pretext to bring about the reversal of alliances. Israel maintained a blockade of Gaza to stop the smuggling of arms to Hamas, an openly murderous enemy. Turkey admitted to sponsoring a ship to sail to Gaza. The declared purpose was to bring humanitarian aid (although there was no need of that), but the reality was to engineer the desired quarrel with Israel. Israeli commandos duly boarded the ship, and in the ensuing fracas nine Turks, all of them known anti-Israeli Islamists, were killed.

Erdogan demanded an apology. This at once triggered the calculus of shame and honor that runs throughout the Muslim world. The Israeli government expressed regret and willingness to pay compensation, but refuses to apologize for exercising its legal rights in self-defense.

Worse still, the United Nations investigated the incident, only to conclude in a report published this week that Israel was indeed within its rights. Demanding an apology that it cannot receive, Turkey has manipulated itself into a position of shame in full public view. To throw out the Israeli ambassador is an attempt to recover honor.

Over the past 30 years, Turkey has killed about 45,000 Kurds and displaced at least 2 million more. Shortly prior to the dismissal of the Israeli ambassador, Turkish armed forces shelled and bombed the Kurds in Iraq, announcing that they had killed up to 160 of them. In the Turkish town of Cukurca, Kurds then held a peaceful protest. The police fired tear-gas cartridges at them, and one hit Yildirim Ayhan in the chest, killing him. He had been a Kurdish member of parliament. Another Kurdish parliamentarian, Sebahat Tuncel, risks her life by organizing Mothers of Peace, a group prepared to be human shields against Turkish soldiers.

Turkish anger over nine men killed by Israelis and pride over their massive killing of Kurds is plain hypocrisy, of course, but responses of shame and honor energize and certify it. It is shameful to have your men killed — especially if they are evidently wrong-doers — but honorable to go killing people who are making unwanted demands on you.

This way of behaving is a mechanism of violence in perpetual motion, as everyone seeks to acquire honor and avoid shame at the expense of everyone else.

Islamic Honor and the Flotilla



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To declare an ambassador persona non grata is a serious step, signifying that relations with that ambassador’s country are in crisis.

The Turkish government of Tayyip Recep Erdogan has taken this serious step, declaring hostility to Israel by demanding the recall of the Israeli ambassador by next Wednesday. What’s been happening is worth studying as a prime example of values within the Muslim world that compel foolish and dangerous behavior.

Turkey and Israel had long enjoyed a good mutual relationship. Trade and tourism have prospered. The two armed forces held joint exercises, and Israel sold advanced weaponry including drones to the Turkish air force. In office for almost ten years now, Erdogan has been undermining the secular state by degrees, and imposing his version of Islamism. The break with Israel was implicit in such a policy. Erdogan calculated that the Arabs would then look to him and his so-called neo-Ottoman Turkey for leadership.

Last year the Erdogan government hit upon a pretext to bring about the reversal of alliances. Israel maintained a blockade of Gaza to stop the smuggling of arms to Hamas, an openly murderous enemy. Turkey admitted to sponsoring a ship to sail to Gaza. The declared purpose was to bring humanitarian aid, although there was no need of that; the reality was to engineer the desired quarrel with Israel. Israeli commandos duly boarded the ship, and in the ensuing fracas nine Turks, all of them known anti-Israeli Islamists, were killed.

Erdogan demanded an apology. This at once triggered the calculus of shame and honor that runs throughout the Muslim world. The Israeli government expressed regret and willingness to pay compensation, but refuses to apologize for exercising its legal rights in self-defense.

Worse still for the Turks, the United Nations investigated the incident, only to conclude in a report published this week that Israel was indeed within its rights. Demanding an apology that it cannot receive, Turkey has manipulated itself into a position of shame in full public view. Throwing out the Israeli ambassador is an attempt to recover honor.

Over the past 30 years Turkey has killed about 45,000 Kurds and displaced at least two million more. Shortly prior to the dismissal of the Israeli ambassador, Turkish armed forces shelled and bombed the Kurds in Iraq, announcing that they had killed up to 160 of them. In the Turkish town of Cukurca, Kurds then held a peaceful protest. The police fired tear-gas cartridges at them, and one hit Yildirim Ayhan in the chest, killing him. He had been a Kurdish member of parliament.

Another Kurdish parliamentarian, Sebahat Tuncel, risks her life by organizing Mothers of Peace, a group prepared to be human shields against Turkish soldiers.

Turkish anger over nine men killed by Israelis and pride over their massive killing of Kurds is plain hypocrisy, of course, but responses of shame and honor energize and certify it. It is shameful to have your men killed — especially if they are evidently wrongdoers – but honorable to go killing people who are making unwanted demands on you.

This way of behaving is a mechanism of violence in perpetual motion, as everyone seeks to acquire honor and avoid shame at the expense of everyone else.

Lauren and Unity



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Lauren Booth is a well-connected woman, as her sister Cherie is married to Tony Blair. In the premiership of her brother-in-law she visited Downing Street and on the strength of her social standing now and again had an article published in the press. Hatred of Israel is her topic and so she is a standing embarrassment to Tony Blair as he tries to create a Middle East peace process.

Lately she sailed with the Islamist flotilla to Gaza. Now she has taken part in a demonstration in central London. Listen to the report of her words: “We say here today to you, Israel, we see your crimes and we loathe your crimes. And to us your nation does not exist, because it is a criminal injustice against humanity.” She finished by appealing to Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt to invade Jerusalem. And just to make sure we get the point, a man and a boy are shown in a photograph standing by the speakers’ platform with placards that read, “For World Peace Israel Must Be Destroyed” and“Israel Your Days Are Numbered.” This is a call for mass-murder.

For Lauren Booth, Jews are all criminal, a nation that deserves to be killed. It is pointless to wonder whether she has had an experience of Jews, and equally pointless to wonder if she has any idea what her desired genocide would look like in practice — Jerusalem burning, piles of corpses, many of them Palestinian as the Jews go down fighting.

We have been here before. Lauren Booth startlingly resembles Unity Mitford, the Nazi whose biography I once wrote. She too was well-connected and could get the occasional anti-Jewish article into print. She attended demonstrations. At one of them, in Germany in 1935, she took the microphone to express solidarity with Germany and the struggle against the Jews. Jews, she thought, posed a danger to all the peoples of the world and the world would have to be rid of them. Her sentiments and her wording are absolutely interchangeable with those of Lauren Booth, and vice versa.

Lauren Booth and Unity Mitford are a pair of dizzy females, mere social oddities of no real interest, but in a context where the political process has broken down, their fanaticism becomes a danger to other people.

Where Stands the Arab Spring?



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 “A hundred years of tyranny is better than a day of anarchy,” is one of the innumerable proverbs that have always reconciled Arabs to daily reality. Under a tyranny you have some stability, some certainty about where you stand, and you can always negotiate and bribe to find a way through the obstacles. You have to be very trusting, or a devout believer that Allah wills everything, to put up with today’s Arab tyrants, one and all greedy and selfish brutes indifferent to the masses. The educated, the young, have shown themselves willing to demand something better, hence the Arab Spring.  What might look like a protest against injustice and lack of opportunity is taking place in settings without a real political alternative to the discredited tyranny.  This results in the anarchy of sects and tribes and ethnicities struggling to keep their identities afloat and even on top in a free-for-all. What you would expect in a situation as dire as the present is a Bonapartist solution, namely the emergence of a general or strongman who will refashion tyranny in his own image, and call it reform to keep outsiders happy. Islamists are so hungry for power that it is possible they will succeed in taking over.  Muslim clerico-fascist regimes might even be welcomed as putting a stop to anarchy, but they would also guarantee at least a hundred years of tyranny.

Lost in Translation in Tripoli



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Muammar Qaddafi’s disappearing act shows that he had prepared for the worst, as dictators do. Rumors have always said that he had prepared miles of underground tunnels. There may be an underground bunker too, set up more operationally than the hole out of which Saddam Hussein was hauled. In that case, he is likely to try to initiate civil war. A spokesman of his on television has been making that threat.

The pertinent question then becomes: What fate do Libyans want for Qaddafi? Reporters are indeed asking that question, but the limitations of language then crop up. They interview only those who can speak English, and many of these have so small a vocabulary that they are unable to express themselves. A conclusion of sorts can be drawn from these unsatisfactory speak-to-the-microphone moments. The wild men make it plain that they expect Qaddafi to be shot down, and his sons with him. They talk repeatedly of making him pay for the 42 years of dictatorship. Those with better English hope to bring him to court, either in Libya or the international court in The Hague. Again the expectation, often left in the air, is that he and his sons will be shot, but legally.

For centuries a tension has existed in the Arab world between freedom and justice, and here it is brought to the surface of the Libyan uprising. Traditionally justice has been a real and vital concept in Islamic societies, and the ruler is expected to enforce it. Freedom does not exist, has never existed in Islam in any shape or form that corresponds to the Western idea of freedom. Freedom there means justice, nothing to do with parliaments, pluralism, free speech and free assembly, and all the features that allow Westerners to see themselves as free. Those Libyans in front of camera exclaiming about freedom and a trial really mean that justice consists of killing Qaddafi with the certificate of approval that a legal process gives, in other words, having revenge cold rather than hot. The question for Qaddafi wherever he is, then, is whether he can mobilize enough people to believe that freedom means fighting for the continuation of injustice.

Where Responsibility Lies



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At this moment, the downfall of Moammar Qaddafi seems a certainty. Two of his sons and possible heirs, Seif al-Islam and Muhammad, have been taken into custody. The fate of all of them remains to be seen. Libya spokesmen appear on our television screens to talk about democracy and freedom and decisions to be taken in due course about the Qaddafis.

The spokesmen are dignified and mostly elderly but the worst is to be feared. The sight of the pick-up vans pouring into Tripoli is more frightening than encouraging. Here are milling crowds with weapons but no training in how to handle them, and no discipline. Unlike the spokesmen, wild and angry men are firing guns, shouting about what they are going to do to Qaddafi and how great the future will be.

Circumstances like these have ended down the centuries in revenge and murder. It is pointless to speak of law and order. After 40 years of one-man rule, there are no institutions or personalities with the authority for even minimum control. Those milling crowds look like anarchy.

I could not help noticing that the pick-up vans had Islamist slogans painted like graffiti on their sides. That may well be the future.

Tunisia is turning into an Islamist state, and Egypt might well down that path in a few months’ time. So might Syria if the Sunni rebellion succeeds there.

NATO alone is responsible for mobilizing those milling crowds in Tripoli and handing them success. Without NATO, Qaddafi would have slaughtered the people in Benghazi where the rebellion began. That would have been a dreadful outcome, to be sure. It would be an even more dreadful outcome if all we have done by intervening militarily in Libya is to advance the Islamist wave now sweeping the Arab and Muslim world.

A Frightening Spectacle



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The spectacle of the United States unable to deal with Syria or Libyaor even the Palestinians is not just humbling but frightening.President Obama seems to have no sense of Arab reality, and no will todo anything except moan. The Europeans are no better, I hasten to say.The EU official in charge of foreign policy is Catherine Ashton,pitifully out of her depth, bleating the Euro-cliché that Bashar Assad is in the process of losing his legitimacy, as though he had ever had ashred of legitimacy.

Bashar Assad has a strategy that is working. He waits fordemonstrations to build up in one city or another, until the point whenthere is a risk that he loses control of the street thereirrecoverably. Then he sends the security forces in to make an exampleof that city. A nation-wide onslaught might well be more than hisforces could handle. Therefore he picks his targets one by one. Latakiais the latest city to be suppressed. The security forces have turnedheavy machine-guns on it, killing Alawis and Sunnis and driving largenumbers of Palestinians out of their homes and corralling them in astadium. So much for the “experts” who tell us that every Arab isdedicated to the Palestinian cause. Latakia now joins Deraa, Hama,Homs, Jisr al-Shughour and other cities and towns that have beencrushed. Moreover Obama was pontificating that Bashar Assad must go atthe very moment when the machine-guns were opening fire down thestreets of Latakia. The timing is a disaster.  Obama’s speech exposesthat he offers no deeds to back up his words. In the Arab proverb, thetongue pays no tax, which is the very opposite of sound policyexpressed by “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Bashar Assad knowsthat he has nothing to fear, and probably is now poring over maps todetermine where his men go murdering next,

Will the Rebels Return Megrahi to Britain?



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Two full years have passed since Abdulbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, was reprieved from prison in Scotland and allowed to return to his native Libya. The Scottish authorities released him allegedly on compassionate grounds. The man had cancer, it was said, and would supposedly be dead within three months at most. Statements from the cancer specialists who pronounced this opinion are fishy, and it has long been clear that the Scottish and indeed British authorities were played for suckers — or possibly had reached some underhand deal with Qaddafi concerning profitable oil contracts. Megrahi has been received as a national hero in Libya, and has been supervising the building at the expense of the state of a splendid villa for his old age.

The rebels in Libya are poised to close in on Muammar Qaddafi in Tripoli and bring his regime to an end. Hitherto hardly more than a mob untrained in the use of weaponry, the rebels are showing signs of greater professionalism, deploying captured tanks and artillery. The presumption is that officers from NATO countries must be responsible for these improvements. In any case, earlier NATO intervention alone saved the rebels from certain extermination by Qaddafi’s loyalists.

Should the rebels take Tripoli, an immediate test of their character and purposes will be their handling of Megrahi. He should be returned to Britain, and the proposed tribunal should be held to determine his guilt or otherwise — lawyers say there is new evidence. Yet a spokesman for Prime Minister Cameron bleats, “I don’t think there is any mechanism by which he can be brought back.” If that is so, the British in NATO will have been simple mercenaries acting on behalf of the rebels, happy to accept the standards of the Third World as their own.

Smiling Rioters



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The prolonged rioting in England has evidently been the greatest fun to those participating. While they were smashing up shops and stealing whatever they could, the young rioters often found time to tell astonished reporters that they didn’t have any cares or worries about what they were doing, and they would carry on until caught. All the while they kept smiling because they knew they wouldn’t be caught.

Presumably from fear of being accused of overreacting, the police often stood by and took no action even when they could see the smashing and stealing in the street they were in. The rioters seem sure that they are in their rights to help themselves to whatever they want, to wreck shopkeepers, and set fires that burnt out homes and forced one woman to jump out of a blazing upper-floor window (she survived traumatised but miraculously unhurt).

After this party comes the hangover. Those caught looting are a cross-section of the population, they range in age from children to forty-year-olds; one is the daughter of a company director, another is a teaching assistant. What unites them is the sense that they were doing no wrong, and were entitled to take possession of desirable goods. The fact that the police didn’t or couldn’t prevent them but merely watched reinforced the sense of entitlement, as though they were tacitly being allowed to get on with it.

And that is the core of these events. Decades of misconceived social engineering by liberals has caught up with the country, and hit it in the face. Everything and anything that might have provided these rioters with grounds for respecting themselves and others has been systematically undermined by the they-must-be-free-to-express-themselves brigade of liberals. Post-1945 England has been remodeled to be rid of the values that made the country what it had been, and introduce new dogma. No family solidarity, no discipline, no culture, no education, no concept of law, no patriotism: Heavy-duty social engineering of the kind ends in a Hobbesian freedom that self-destructs. Politicians and intellectuals lost in ideological fantasies have made these rioters the pitiful mindless creatures that they are.

Putin the He-man



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At this time of year Vladimir Putin likes to play the he-man. Usually he has himself photographed, stripped to the waist to show off his pectorals. Sometimes he poses as a sportsman with his rifle — at least he appears to be generally in a wood. Now he has been at a summer camp engaged in arm-wrestling with abashed teenagers, and bending something that looked like metal or reinforced plastic as though he were thestrong man in a circus act. As if this wasn’t preposterous enough, he had a comment to make on the debt-ceiling crisis in Washington. America, he said, is “acting as a parasite.” In the KGB-Stalinist vocabulary of abuse, “parasite” is a much-loved term, applicable to capitalists, Jews, dissidents, and those generally opposed to Communism. The term encapsulates a lifetime’s indoctrination. Just imagine Cadet Putin learning how to think in the compulsory Marxist-Leninist mode andpassing the lesson on now he is the Kremlin boss. A well-known psychological development is to accuse others of the misdeeds you yourself are committing. According to reports, Putin enjoys something like eight palaces, one on the Black Sea built to his specification for housing art collections that he has somehow acquired, and a fortune in the order of forty billion dollars. Which of the classic Soviet labels fits him better, proletarian or parasite?

Keep Your Eye on Turkey



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The power struggle under way in Turkey is a vital issue for the rest of the world, potentially as important as the outcome of the uprisings in the Arab countries all around. Since his election in 2002 as Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been engaged in fashioning what had been a secular state and a Western ally into an Islamist state taking the lead in the Muslim and especially Arab world. According to the previous constitution, the army had been guardian of the secular state, and Erdogan therefore had to break it. In time-honoured style, he declared that the army had been plotting a coup, whose code name is Ergenekon. Since 2007 something like 270 senior officers have been arrested and some of have faced fantastic charges in court though so far none has been convicted.

Bringing matters to a head, fourteen more active-duty generals and admirals have been forced to resign. Another 22 senior officers have just been arrested.  At present, half of all Turkish admirals are under arrest. In response, General Isik Kosaner, head of the Turkish armed forces, has resigned. This may mean that the armed forces have decided to surrender their role as upholders of secular values, and Turkey will emerge as an Islamist power to emulate and rival Iran.  President Obama is a great self-proclaimed friend of Erdogan’s but will in return have been given only a head-ache. Alternatively, the armed forces may have had enough of being pushed around and are preparing to turn the Ergenekon fiction into a real-live coup. Watch this space.

The Wagner Taboo



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The Israeli Chamber Orchestra has just given a concert playing music by Richard Wagner, and what’s more in Bayreuth, the town where he lived and which has been a shrine to him ever since. There’s been a general but unwritten agreement in Israel that Wagner was such a rabid and stereotypical anti-Semite that his music should not be played there. Self-respect came into it. Some are rejoicing on the grounds that this concert breaks a taboo. But taboos arise for the very good reason that they define and protect civilized behavior, and it is a sensible precaution to examine the whys and wherefores whenever someone claims that it is right to be breaking them.

Every year in the 1930s the Wagner festival at Bayreuth was a leading fixture in the Nazi calendar. Adolf Hitler was the regular guest of honor. Of course Wagner cannot be blamed for the fact that Hitler adored his music. But he can be blamed for the fact that his music, even or especially at its most grandiose, promotes a vision of myth and myth-making, so to speak Harry Potter with a full orchestra attached. A kindred spirit, Hitler’s view of the world was also dependent on myth and myth-making, especially where Jews were concerned.

My father could have been a professional musician, and he took me as a teenager to the Bayreuth festival. We met Winifred Wagner, born Williams, whose marriage to Siegfried had made her the composer’s daughter-in-law. On her desk were signed photographs of Hitler and Goebbels. She paid them compliments, and regretted that they could no longer be patrons, they had so loved the arts. Myth-making was everywhere. Quite as creepy is Haus Wahnfried, the family house-cum-museum, where in one gloomy room after another the past of the composer is treated as holy and everything associated with him preserved like relics in a cathedral. Wagner himself has been captured as in a myth of his own making.

Wagner’s music is played everywhere, of course, and so it should be — except in Israel or by Israeli orchestras. More than a taboo, the Wagner boycott in that country is by consent a standing reproach to the fantasies about Jews common to him and to Hitler. That’s not a taboo at all, but a way of saying that some things are so evil that they can’t be normalized.

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