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David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

American Weakness and North Korean Aggression



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The aggression by North Korea is further evidence that the United States is steadily losing power and influence in the world. Iran has led the way, developing its nuclear weapons under pretence of not doing so, while being met with repeated pleas from America and Europe to negotiate and the imposition of sanctions that at best are half-hearted. Following the shift in the regional balance of power, Turkey is Islamising, and Lebanon looks like doing so as well. Chinese leaders publicly oppose the United States. The Russians gobble parts of Georgia, oblige the United States to cancel proposed missile defences in Europe, and succeed in cutting the American stockpile of nuclear weapons even though the United States has responsibilities on a scale far greater than Russia. Let’s not even speak of Venezuela and the Latin Americans.

It is possible that domestic considerations motivated the dictator Kim Jong-Il: He may have thought artillery barrages on South Korea would encourage the military to back his son Eun, selected to be the next dictator. But obviously he took it for granted that the United States response would be limited and purely verbal. The heart sank when President Obama duly obliged by bloviating about North Korea as “an ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with,” while offering no measures that might do so. Worse still, he called on China to tell its little North Korean friend to “abide by the rules.”  The whole point of totalitarian countries is that they do not abide by the rules, and therefore democracies have to devise policies to find a way round that. If they are not to be hamstrung, democracies have to defend themselves with imagination and force.

South Korea and Japan have both been toying with the idea of going nuclear, and American weakness may now push them to it. The same thing is occurring in the Middle East, where several Arab countries are developing nuclear programs to defend themselves against Iran since the United States can’t be trusted any more to do so. Obama has declared a wish to have a nuclear-free world but the net result of his approach looks like being unprecedented nuclear proliferation.

The Privileges of Sellouts



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“After the strong man with a dagger follows the weak man with a sponge” is one of the memorable aphorisms of Lord Acton. It seems to be part of human nature that assorted ideologues and fanatics and Osama bin Ladens are deranged enough to kill their way to power. The use of the dagger, so to speak, appears to be habitual, ingrained. But essential to their success are the toadies who sponge away the crimes of the strong men by depicting them as national heroes, or, in plain language, telling self-serving lies.

A particularly egregious example is the Romanian Adrian Paunescu. Quite probably, he had talent as a poet. The Communists imprisoned his father, and he seems to have decided that he would escape such a fate by licking their boots. This was also the way to riches and privileges, of which he could not have enough. So he turned himself into an apologist for the megalomaniac Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu. He poured out pitiful tripe glorifying Ceausescu and his dreadful wife and children. I recall him being driven about in a huge black car in Bucharest, and how ordinary people were enraged by this prostitution of himself and his gifts. Ceaucescu was shot when Communism collapsed in 1989, and Paunescu was lucky not to have been put up against the wall too. Now he has died in a hospital bed.

Another man in the public eye who sold out quite as sickeningly is Tariq Aziz. More than anyone else, he tried to sponge away the brutal crimes of Saddam Hussein, thus making himself an accomplice to mass murder. He spoke reasonable English, and he liked to be seen before the cameras dressed in military fatigues and puffing a cigar, the picture of calm insolence. A court in Baghdad has just sentenced him to death by hanging. But Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, says that he will not ratify the sentence. He has his reasons: Christians are now being summarily massacred in Iraq by al-Qaeda; Tariq Aziz is a Christian; his execution would seem to the terrorists a license to go on killing yet more Christians.

So, like Paunescu, Tariq Aziz looks likely to escape his just deserts. What ought to be done to these sponge-wielding apologists for tyranny is really a difficult question, with arguments and counter-arguments that are equally valid. But they exploited their positions and their capabilities to support tyrants responsible for persecuting and killing people, a good number of whom were thrown into unmarked graves. Maybe they acted so vilely only because they were weak, but to be allowed to die tranquilly in bed seems like one more privilege that they really don’t deserve.

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Two Toadies



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“The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge” is one of the memorable aphorisms of Lord Acton, the great 19th-century historian. It seems to be part of human nature that assorted ideologues and fanatics and Osama bin Ladens are deranged enough to kill their way to power. The use of the dagger, so to speak, appears to be habitual, ingrained. But essential to their success are the toadies who sponge away the crimes of the strong men by depicting them as national heroes, in plain language telling self-serving lies.

A particularly egregious example is the Romanian Adrian Paunescu. Quite probably, he had talent as a poet. The Communists imprisoned his father, and he seems to have decided that he would escape such a fate by licking their boots. This was also the way to riches and privileges, of which he could not have enough. So he turned himself into an apologist for the megalomaniac Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. He poured out pitiful tripe glorifying Ceausescu and his dreadful wife and children. I recall him being driven about in a huge black car in Bucharest, and how ordinary people were enraged by this prostitution of himself and his gifts. Ceausescu was shot when Communism collapsed in 1989, and Paunescu was lucky not to have been put up against the wall too. Now he has died  in a hospital bed.

Another man in the public eye who sold out quite as sickeningly is Tariq Aziz.  More than anyone else, he tried to sponge away the brutal crimes of Saddam Hussein, thus making himself an accomplice to mass murder. He spoke reasonable English, and he liked to be seen before the cameras dressed in military fatigues and puffing a cigar, the picture of calm insolence. A court in Baghdad has just sentenced him to death by hanging. But Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, says that he will not ratify the sentence. He has his reasons, moreover:  Christians are now being summarily massacred in Iraq by al-Qaeda, Tariq Aziz is a Christian, and his execution would seem to the terrorists a license to go killing yet more Christians. 

So, like Paunescu, Tariq Aziz looks likely to escape his just deserts. What ought to be done to these sponge-wielding apologists for tyranny is really a difficult question, with arguments and counter-arguments that are equally valid. But they exploited their positions and their capabilities to support tyrants responsible for persecuting and killing people, a good number of whom were thrown into unmarked graves. Maybe they acted so vilely only because they were weak, but to be allowed to die tranquilly in bed seems like one more privilege that they really don’t deserve.

Lies, Censorship, and Power



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Muslims who for one reason or another fall foul of the law in a Western society almost invariably claim to have been tortured. It’s standard procedure. I first came across it in Israeli military courts, where healthy PLO prisoners with broad smiles tried to explain why there wasn’t a mark on them when they’d just been hung by the wrists for twenty-four hours, or something equally physical.

The British government has fallen for it. It is paying out a million or more pounds to each of a dozen Islamists who say they were tortured in Guantanamo. As far as can be seen, there is no corroboration and not even checking of their stories. We, the public, are supposed to take it on trust. None of these men are in any real sense British, with among them an Iraqi, a Libyan, a Jordanian, and a Moroccan.  Several were in the country illegally. On the face of it, all were Islamist terrorists, usually with direct connection to al-Qaeda.

No British person could expect to receive a tax-free cheque for a million pounds for honest work. A soldier who has lost a limb in Afghanistan will receive annual compensation of £8,780, not enough to live off. Insane pursuit of human rights has thus reversed the roles of the criminal and the victim.  Nobody in public life seems prepared to address this monstrosity, and so the resentment it arouses is suppressed. One commentator, the spirited Douglas Murray, inescapably draws the conclusion that a society that behaves like this does not want to survive.

At the same time, the thirteen-year-old Darius Gill wrote on Facebook a Remembrance Day tribute to fallen British soldiers. He was a pupil in a school in Coventry where two-thirds of students are Muslim. A gang of Muslim boys his own age at once threatened to kill him, promising to “slit your throat so when you scream, only blood comes out.” They celebrate British deaths in Afghanistan. No prizes for guessing the consequences: The Muslim terror-juveniles have been suspended pending inquiries, but Darius has been removed from the school to keep him safe.

Also at the same time, the BBC announces that it no longer intends to show a three-part series, Murder in Beirut, about the death of the Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri when a bomb blew up the car he was traveling in. Either Syria or the Iranian proxy Hizbollah was responsible. A United Nations tribunal is about to report its findings, and Hizbollah is making it plain that it will go to any lengths to reject blame, if necessary overthrowing the Lebanese government of Saad Hariri, unhappily standing in for his father Rafiq. When a Hizbollah newspaper took the obvious propaganda step of attacking the BBC series before it was shown, the BBC instantly collapsed. So we have reached a stage when Islamist terrorists control what we may and may not see, in effect exercising the kind of lock on public opinion that they enjoy in their own Muslim society and which perpetuates violence.

Douglas Murray’s pessimistic conclusion can be taken further. The growing body of evidence shows that Britain won’t survive in the long run because it doesn’t deserve to.

The Decline of the Anglican Church



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The split in the Anglican Church has been a long time in the coming, but it has now become irrevocable. The turning point was a decision this July to support the ordination of women bishops. The issue, like the acceptance of gay priests, has been too much for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to handle. Instinctively a fence-sitter, he always manages to upset everyone and get the worst of all things. Earlier in the year, his astonishing support of sharia law destroyed what little authority he had left. Five bishops are now leaving the Anglican Church to become Roman Catholics. They are taking with them an unknown number of congregants, probably so far only in the hundreds. But whole parishes are likely to convert, bringing into question ownership of property, including church buildings and vicarages. Pope Benedict XVI has set up a mechanism known as an Ordinariate to receive them, which for instance allows married men to be Catholic priests.

Enthusiasts are claiming that the Protestant Reformation is reversing, and Catholicism will undo the work of Henry VIII and reclaim its status as the church in England. Not at all, according to an angry roar from the professor of Church History at Oxford, the departure of the bishops and their followers is good riddance to bad rubbish. Besides, the Catholic Church is in feeble shape. One of the few Anglican priests with intelligence and character is Nicolas Stacey, and he has pointed out that in the predominantly Catholic city of Liverpool last year, there was just one ordination to the priesthood and currently there are only nine seminarians.

The old institutions exist in name but no longer function. Last week the British Navy and the Royal Air Force were left unable to defend the country, and this week the national church hollows out. The country is dispensing with its beliefs and its purposes — fast.

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Sowing Dragon’s Teeth in Britain



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The ancient Greeks liked to make up myths by way of understanding the springs of human behavior. One of the most profound myths centers on Cadmus, the founder of Thebes and supposed to be the man who invented the alphabet. One day, his men had all disappeared. A dragon had devoured them. Cadmus kills the dragon, whereupon some sepulchral voice commands him to plant its teeth — in other words, he’s acting on instinct rather than reason. When he obeys, armed men immediately spring out of the ground, and then begin to fight each other. Moral: Thoughtless people raise up troubles for themselves, often in unexpected ways. 

The Sunday Telegraph gives a contemporary rendering of this myth and its moral. In two semi-related articles, the newspaper shows how several British institutions have been sowing dragon’s teeth by thoughtlessly backing militant Islam. Cageprisoners purports to be a human-rights organization set up to lobby on behalf of suspected terrorists, especially prisoners at Guantanamo. The organization’s moving spirits are former Guantanamo detainees. At fundraising dinners, the most recent of them only a year ago, the organization opens a video link to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist who influenced the Fort Hood killer and is behind the recent plot to blow up cargo planes with bombs addressed to Chicago synagogues. The murder of Americans, he thinks, is so overriding a duty for Muslims that it requires no fatwa or clerical authority. To avoid being brought to justice, he has fled to Yemen to lead a branch of al-Qaeda there.

Obviously committed to apologizing for Islamism, and promoting it as far as the law allows, Cageprisoners is nevertheless funded by two British foundations. One is the Joseph Rowntree Trust, based on a fortune from chocolate, always aggressively left-wing and the inventor some years ago of the bogus concept of Islamophobia; the other is the Roddick Foundation, set up by the founder of Body Shop. (One wonders what Islamists make of the fact that their financing depends so significantly on such infidel commodities as chocolates and cosmetics.) The secretary of the Rowntree Trust, one Stephen Pittman, is quoted saying that he has spoken to Cageprisoners and has “a commitment that they are opposed to any form of the use of terrorism aimed at civilians.” Is he taking them on trust out of naivety or irresponsibility? The formula evidently allows them to use terror against anyone they define as not civilian.

It further turns out in the Telegraph that the official education watchdog, known by acronym as Ofsted, and the Charity Commission are busy approving hard-line Islamic schools radicalizing young British Muslims. The Ofsted inspectors, Michele Messaoudi and Akram Khan-Cheema, are both Muslims with links to Islamist organizations. Again, was it naivety or irresponsibility to hand them this important supervisory task? Needless to say, they approve and justify the faith schools they are supposed to be investigating, even when the headmistress of one of them criticizes attempts to integrate Muslim children into British society as teaching them to reject Islam.

 What can possibly explain the intellectual failure of the trusts and commissions and officials who are encouraging and financing separatism? They are planting dragon’s teeth.

Farewell to the British Navy



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The end of the Royal Navy has provoked little or no interest. Of course, it has been a long time since Britannia ruled the waves and Britons were never, never, never to be slaves. All the same, Britain is an island. In 1940, the last time invasion was a likelihood, the Royal Navy was at least as significant as the air force in holding the Germans off. At that same moment, the Royal Navy had to destroy large parts of the French navy anchored at Mers el-Kebir to prevent it falling into German hands.

David Cameron is consulting at present with French president Nicolas Sarkozy on ways to merge the navies of the two countries. The British have got themselves into the ludicrous position of building two aircraft carriers with no planes to go on them. What’s more, there won’t be any planes until 2020 — in other words, don’t look to that area for defense. The French do have an aircraft carrier, but it has technical troubles and, with apt symbolism, happens to be out of service right now. In the first Gulf War, moreover, that carrier was deployed but the French government refused to allow on board its Super Etendard aircraft, thus prompting Jean-François Revel to make the memorable quip that the Blue Belle girls should be sent to dance on the empty deck. Political postures trump everything else, and always will.

The minister nominally in charge of defense is Liam Fox, also nominally a Conservative. He has evidently folded. Ministers have underlings to ghost their articles, and in the Sunday Telegraph a really creepy ghost-written specimen has been published under Fox’s name. You’d never know from this article that cuts to the defense budget have put national security at risk. This apology for the end of the Royal Navy opens with the staggeringly nonsensical assertion that “defence must be a sovereign, and therefore an inter-governmental issue.”  How, pray, is sovereign to be inter-governmental? Another equally staggering contradiction follows: The British and French navies are to train together and cooperate in acquiring equipment, technology, and information, but this has nothing to do with the EU. In fact, it marks the moment when navies cease to be national, exactly as Brussels would wish.

By coincidence, I happen to be reading a classic, Robert Southey’s life of Admiral Nelson. In these sad times of degeneracy and closure, the recall of the past is about the only stand-by available. Southey was a leftist, a Jacobin enthusiastic about the French Revolution, who came to see how mistaken he’d been and turned his literary talent to patriotism. Nelson was an anti-Jacobin, with the imagination to understand what defeat would entail, and the genius to achieve victory. Southey records how Nelson once gave junior officers the advice they would need for their careers in the service: They were to obey orders implicitly, to consider as an enemy every man who speaks ill of the king, and finally, “You must hate a Frenchman as you do the devil.”

Pure escapism, of course.

British Justice Put to the Test



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Compare and contrast the case of 34-year-old Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud, a grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia, with the case of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the imam who injured and blinded himself in some incident of terror and who is therefore fitted with steel claws instead of hands. Both Arabs are putting Britain and its law to the test.

Prince Saud recently stayed in an expensive London hotel. With him was a man called Bandar Abdulaziz, described as his slave and lover. Security cameras in the hotel show the prince hitting and kicking Bandar, who made no effort to protect himself. When Bandar was then discovered dead, the prince admitted to killing him but not to murder. The distinction is not clear. In the trial that followed, it emerged that the prince had about forty thousand dollars in cash in a safe deposit box, that he was in the habit of taking Bandar to restaurants, bars and gay clubs, as well as involving him and a range of other men in homosexual practices.

Found guilty, Prince Saud was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years in prison. No doubt prompted by officialdom, the media at once put it about that the Saudis are likely to make diplomatic moves to bring him home, stifling the facts about his conduct for which an ordinary Saudi would pay with his life. A Saudi source is quoted, “If it is still the wish of the father and the king, the prince will be brought home. It will be very quiet.”

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza arrived in Britain on a student visa in 1979 and was granted British nationality in 1986. The London mosque where he preached was a rallying point for jihadis. He sent some young men, including a step-son, to fight for al-Qaeda in Yemen, others to Afghanistan. Convicted on multiple charges of terrorism and hate speech, he is currently in prison. The law stipulates that he cannot be sent to the United States where he is also wanted on charges of terrorism and might face the death penalty. He is further claiming that he lost his original nationality when he became British, his native Egypt disowns him, and anyhow to send him there would breach his human rights.

So the Saudi is likely to escape justice by hitting on a privileged way of vanishing surreptitiously from the country, while on the contrary, the Egyptian is likely to escape justice by hitting on a privileged way of staying in the country.

Dutch Absurdity



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The trial of the Dutch politician Geert Wilders is descending into muddle and farce. The idea was to fine him and even send him to prison for inciting hatred by comparing Islam to Nazism and the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. No more free speech, in short, at least as far as anything to do with Muslims was concerned.

The trial has collapsed for the time being. The judges appeared to be rigging it when they refused to recall a witness for Wilders. Another witness for him was supposed to be Hans Jansen, a well-known Arabist professor. He revealed to a newspaper that he had had dinner with one of the judges, and in the course of “ill-mannered and unprofessional” exchanges this judge had tried to put pressure on him. A specially convened judicial panel agreed that “an impression of partiality” had been created, and therefore dismissed the present judges, postponing the trial to a later date with different judges.

The absurdity of these proceedings is wonderful to behold. It is inexplicable that in the Netherlands of all places — the country of Erasmus and Spinoza — the authorities should be trying to make political correctness legally enforceable. They have made themselves a laughing stock, and given Wilders the reputation right across Europe of an honest politician who comes out with what people in the street are thinking but don’t like to say.

Uncomfortable Budget Trade-offs in Britain



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For weeks, the Conservative and Liberal coalition in government has been making the British shiver with warnings that the economy is in so frightful a mess that savage cuts will be necessary in practically every area of public spending. £83 billion was the magic figure for these cuts. Everybody, every budget for entitlements, welfare provisions that make it financially more rewarding to be unemployed than in a job, every special interest was to suffer. Trade-union leaders representing the work force and their benefits have been promising to let none of this through. Why, in France the mere proposal to raise the age of retirement from 60 to 62 has been enough to cause riots and mayhem in 300 towns and cities. British unions are positively itching to show they can do the same.

Well, George Osborne, the man supposed to be wielding the knife as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has spoken, and it turns out that the cuts will return the country’s public spending to the level of 2007. Moreover, by 2014–15, public spending is projected actually to have risen. There are areas of Britain where two-thirds and more of the population is employed by the state, which is close to a sovietized command economy. The National Health Service is the biggest employer in Europe, so sacred a cow that its budget and indeed the whole collective system is beyond the root-and-branch reform it requires. (Rather inspirationally, I originally mistyped this as “rot-and-branch.”) Socialism is a fool-proof agent of general impoverization, and once it has entered the society’s bloodstream, disinfection is practically impossible short of a Gorbachev-type collapse.

A very uncomfortable trade-off is that the defense budget is being cut while foreign aid is actually increasing. The details of the defense cuts seem to be drawn straight from Lewis Carroll. For instance, there are to be two aircraft carriers but no aircraft to put on them. One of the carriers will be moth-balled as soon as it is launched. In future, Britain would be unable to recover the Falkland Islands, or repeat the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The moment seems to have arrived when Britain has accepted that steady decline and political ineptitude have left it a second-rank power.

Such a decline places Britain on the same footing as every European country. The entire continent sees no need to have real means of self-defense, as though no other countries might ever create a genuine security crisis. Iran, Turkey, Russia, could probably invade almost unopposed. Given the feebleness, the money spent on foreign aid openly serves the purpose of buying friends. Recipients of aid, however, are never grateful. Maintaining foreign aid while cutting defense is only glorified appeasement, and it will rightly earn international contempt.

The Ahmadinejad Puzzle



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How to do justice to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran? That so contradictory and malevolent a character should have pushed his way to the front of the world stage is truly bizarre. Who, or what, is the real self? If he chooses, he can deal rationally with journalists at a press conference in New York while indulging in mystical reveries at the United Nations. It is rational to have a policy of evicting the United States from the Middle East, and setting up Iran in its place as the power controlling the region and beyond as far as possible. It is rational to build a nuclear weapon and delivery system as the instrument to cement future power.

But to enlarge the quest for regional power into a clash of civilizations between so-called “Crusaders” and Islam serves no useful purpose; it is simply false, as well as counter-productive because it warns his enemies that they have no way of becoming friends. He’s able to combine belief that the Hidden Imam of the Shias is on the point of reappearing with a conspiracy theory about 9/11. Bin Laden and other Muslims take the greatest pride in it, but the Iranian president tells everyone that the United States actually destroyed its own monuments. This is on a par with his nonsense about the Nazi Holocaust, which he thinks never took place — but meanwhile he’s going to wipe Israel off the map.

Ahmadinejad is now in Lebanon, and the contrast between the rational and the irrational in his conduct comes into play. Iran has financed and armed Hezbollah to the point where it is now the decisive factor in the country’s political existence. Institutions representing other national or religious elements are effectively at the mercy of Hezbollah and Iran. By means of this proxy, Ahmadinejad is in a position to launch war or civil war, or simply to take over the country in partnership with his sidekick Syria at a moment of his choice.

And what is on the program of this shah on his imperial tour of a conquered province? He intends to go to the border with Israel, and throw a stone across the fence. Edward Said, the foremost Palestinian propagandist of his day, once made the front page when he was photographed doing just that. In fact, the stone-throwing made Said appear childish and ridiculous, and that will also be the reaction if Ahmadinejad really follows his example. It may even be more destructive just to laugh at the man and his preposterous fantasies than to send some F-15s over at ground level.

A Long-Overdue Nobel



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Mario Vargas Llosa has been touted as a possible winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature these many years, and now he’s won it. He’s that rare creature, a worthy winner. The Swedes who run this prize are generally on the look-out for someone quite the opposite of him, i.e. a radical, if possible someone with a Marxist background, and best of all anti-American. Günter Grass who hid his S.S. membership by being anti-capitalist, poor bemused Harold Pinter, Elfriede Jelinek (whoever is she?), Gabriel Garcia Marquez who dearly loves a tyrant — that’s the sort of ideologue they like to go for. I once met some of the men on the award committee, and a weirder bunch you couldn’t hope to find. They are paid a fortune, and the money is tax-free by kind permission of the Swedish state, so of course they never think of retiring.

It isn’t compulsory for the committee members to have a beard but it helps them pose as profound academics and masters of world literature. In that mode, they praise Vargas Llosa for “his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”  True to form, these chaps are chucking about meaningless language. Structures of power have a cartography, do they? And how exactly does the word trenchant fit images?

I first was aware of Vargas Llosa years ago when he attacked ex-S.S. man Grass for following the fashion of that moment and saying that Latin American countries would not solve their problems until they followed “the Cuban example.” What might be good for Germany in Grass’s view wasn’t any good for Vargas Llosa’s Peru and he was advising it instead to be subordinate to the Soviet Union. Vargas Llosa stood firm against the crazed Peruvian terrorists of the Shining Path and he’s been trenchant in the proper usage of that word in attacking the international soft Left. Out of a sense of civic responsibility, he ran for the presidency of Peru.

Grass was a natural for the Swedish prize committee, and it is a wonder that Vargas Llosa has eventually caught up. His novel, The War of the End of the World is long, slow to start, but it captures the South American experience like no other book. Its central figure, the Governor, is treated with understanding, even pity. I well remember the shock it gave me that here was a South American writer who must be a conservative, therefore practically unique.

Geert Wilders Is Not Alone



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Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician, is in court on trial for his opinions. He leads the Freedom party, known by its Dutch initials as the PVV, which in the general election this June won 24 seats in the parliament. Dutch politics is confusingly too fragmented to throw up a clear winner. Wilders and the PVV are lending their support to the Conservatives, and can expect to be in a government coalition with them. I can’t recall any other elected politician in a democracy being put on trial for anything he’s said. No matter what, they’re supposed to debate issues and ideas, are they not?

Wilders likes to repeat that Islam is as dangerous as Nazism, and that the Koran is comparable to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He’s also made a short film bringing out anti-Jewish verses in the Koran, and hilighting terrorism in New York and London as an Islamist phenomenon. Quite likely, this was electioneering and he knew the appeal his words would have. The Dutch, hitherto famously tolerant, have experienced Islamist acts of terror. The murder of film director Theo van Gogh, related to the great artist, and the flight to the United States of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a very public critic of her Islamic faith, in order to escape death threats, have changed attitudes radically. Muslims are probably about 15 percent of the population, and immigration is a very immediate issue in the Netherlands. The PVV got 1.5 million votes, and Wilders is evidently right to say in court, “I am on trial, but on trial with me is the freedom of expression of many Dutch citizens.”

This case might seem to be about hate speech and therefore some sort of jamboree of political correctness. The underlying question, though, has a far greater implication: On what terms are the Muslims going to settle in our midst? Every country in Europe is looking for its solution. The Danes, an even softer touch than the Dutch on handing benefits to all comers, have elected politicians more determined than Wilders to restrict immigration. Thilo Sarrazin, an eminent German banker, has gone just as far as Wilders, stirring up his country with a book criticizing Islam as a source of violence and blaming Muslims for their refusal to integrate. Bans on burkas and minarets reveal how attitudes are changing everywhere.

In Britain, it turns out, lamb sold in a number of supermarkets is halal, that it is to say slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. New Zealand provides much of the lamb for sale, and it is almost all halal. The Daily Mail has revealed that schools are serving halal meat. Halal meat has not been identified as such, in other words, customers cannot know that they are having to integrate with the practices of Muslims, and not Muslims with their practices. Food suppliers are making special concessions to Muslims in secrecy, just as special concessions permit Muslims to go to sharia courts where Islamic law applies and they avoid English law.

The estates of the Prince of Wales supply lamb to Waitrose, a chain store, and its spokesman says this will no longer be halal. Well, that lacks the in-your-face thrust of the Wilders trial, but it may signify that the fight for identity is happening even in supine Britain.

Miliband Family Values



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The Labour party in Britain has a new leader, one Ed Miliband. You don’t recognize the name? Nor do 99 in a hundred people in Britain. This unknown quantity is 40 years old, and he’s done nothing in his life except politics. There is another Miliband, first name David, who was expected to become the Labour leader. His experience is similarly narrow, he too has done nothing except politics, but at least he was foreign secretary in Gordon Brown’s government, now mercifully defunct. There were moments when Miliband D was being encouraged to rise up and stiff the disastrous Brown, but he funked it every time. If he’d had the guts, he might have replaced Brown, won the election, and been prime minister today.

Actually the two brothers are best described by words in the idiom of today, like nerd or geek. They both seem to lack whatever it is that makes real human beings. But there it is, we electors aren’t really choosers any more, as our politicians seem self-selecting. Miliband D and pretty well all the smart money thought that he was a shoo-in to become Labour leader now that Brown has lost the election and vanished in a puff of smoke. He ran the rather regal campaign of one expecting his due. And then Miliband E, his younger brother, suddenly, unexpectedly, decided to run against him. Fratricide! Cain and Abel! They made a pretense of brotherly love, though the masks kept slipping. The crunch came when Miliband E said that the Iraq campaign had been a regrettable mistake. Miliband D had backed it and his anger at this attack was at last something real. It is of course now dogma in Labour circles that Blair lied about Iraq’s weaponry, groveled to George W. Bush, and he and everyone associated with him are no better than criminals.

The voting system of this leadership election is manifestly unfair, so that Miliband D actually got more of the significant votes from colleagues but Miliband E won on account of block votes from trade unions. That was accidental, so to speak. What is purposeful about the winner is that he has become the Labour leader only by stiffing his brother. When the result was announced, Mrs. Miliband D was seen on television to weep. The poor woman was also wearing an outfit chosen for victory. They hastened away home, and after a suitable pause Miliband D has announced that he is retiring to the back-benches at Westminster and will not serve under his brother.

What kind of men can they be to have got themselves into this confusion and rivalry, protesting love while each promoting personal ambition at the expense of the other? The answer may lie in their background and upbringing. Their father, Ralph Miliband, was a hardline Marxist and Stalinist, one of a group of academics who in Cold War days were saying that every crime and brutality was right if it was in the Soviet interest. On meeting him, I recall that I was horrified. The boys’ mother, Marion, happens to be in the news too. She belongs to a group of left-wing Jews who have sent nine of their number on a yacht to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver aid to Hamas. The Israelis have taken charge of the boat.

The whole Miliband family performance, in my view, is a throwback, yet another attempt to practice socialism and discover how far they can push it.

Diana, Dodi, and Dawa



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When I was in Paris years ago, I happened to drive along the Left Bank of the Seine, emerging at the underpass where Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, had died in an accident. There I saw dozens of Muslims aligned in the prayer position, turning their backs to the traffic and perilously close to being run over. Islam prohibits worship of that kind, considering that it smacks of polytheism. All over Muslim Africa, for instance, there are tombs of marabouts, holy men and saints, where the pious come to pray, but Islamists under the impulse of strict Wahhabi doctrine attack them and destroy any monuments if they can.

Poor Lady Diana was going out with a Muslim, one Dodi Fayed, when she was killed. Conspiracy theories at once sprang up that the mother of the future King of England was pregnant, and malign forces therefore murdered her rather than have to tolerate her giving birth to a Muslim child. A Muslim group in England published a pamphlet about the death of Lady Diana, and I couldn’t resist writing off for it. It proved innocuous. But I was entered as Brother Jones on their mailing list.

The latest catalogue from this group has reached me. This astonishing document of 48 pages advertises a website and what must be several hundred books and several hundred DVDs and CDs covering every aspect of Islam. Scores of these items refer to the Prophet with the regulation Peace Be Upon Him attached to his name as PBUH. The authors are Arabs or Pakistanis, with only about three or four having English surnames. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a title, How to Protect Yourself from Jinn and Shaytaan, I see, and also Ma’roof and Munkar, Enjoining What Is Right and Forbidding What Is Wrong, and of course The Power of Israel in the United States. No guesses about the contents.

Here is a completely self-enclosed world, with instruction on how to think about everything from spiritual matters to the treatment of women and the education of children, banking, language, superstition, history, and 9/11 (no guesses about those contents either). A flyleaf enclosed with the catalogue publicizes, in large letters, “The Greatest Weapon of a Muslim is not the Sword, the Gun, or the Bombs but Dawah [which means outreach]. We must train people to present true and balance [sic] Islam and open up the doors of our Mosques for Non-Muslims.” But there is no sign of outreach to others. The appeal is strictly to the faithful. This operation must be quite expensive, and they claim to be relying on voluntary contributions. Perhaps some Wahhabi or Islamic benefactor is paying for the outreach, but I imagine them to be sincere, with real dedication to propagating Islam and therefore keeping Brother Jones on the mailing list. A quite distinct and separate culture is taking root in the country.

The Pope in Britain



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Catholic popes are a rarity in Britain. It is my impression that no pope ever came to the country before the Reformation, and certainly none after, until Pope John Paul II thirty years ago, and he was on a pastoral mission. Pope Benedict XVI is on a state visit, a very different thing. As head of state, the Queen received him, which is more than a symbolic gesture, as she is also Defender of the Faith. The Catholic and Protestant traditions acknowledge one another.

Shortly before the Pope arrived, an interview given by the German cardinal Walter Kasper in a German magazine was picked up. It is safe to say that nobody except leading churchmen have ever heard of the cardinal or the magazine. But he is quoted saying, “When you land at Heathrow you think at times you are in a Third World country.” Uproar. Consternation. The cardinal has had to drop out from the Pope’s tour and pretend to be ill. The media, in particular the BBC, wallow in excitement that the tour is going to prove a disaster. The director general of the BBC, one Mark Thompson, has just admitted that the BBC used to have a left-wing bias, and Sherlock Holmes himself couldn’t detect anything different now.

We don’t know if the Cardinal was referring to the scummy canteens, filthy lavatories, and tacky tourist shops of Heathrow. Perhaps he was commenting on the social composition of those flying in and out of the airport and by extension the country. One characteristic of Third World countries is the inability to accept criticism, and the reaction to the cardinal’s words proves that he is right.

The media managed to create the impression that the Pope’s tour would be strongly opposed. The Catholic Church was presented as reactionary, out of date, wrong about contraception, the home of paedophilia, etc. But when the Valiant-for-Truth mustered, they turned out to be a pretty small and ragged crew of actors, one very self-satisfied female journalist with answers for everything, a couple of homosexual activists, a professional atheist or two, a writer of children’s books, some young lad from the Humanist Association (whatever that may be), all in all carrying no weight. Alongside them is Ian Paisley, the self-appointed cleric who claims to speak on behalf of Northern Irish Protestants and likes to bellow “No Popery!” whenever he can. So a few leftist atheists and a few Protestants form an alliance of the narrow-minded, and prove yet again the fascinating political phenomenon that extremes invariably manage to meet.

As for the public — surprise, surprise — they have turned out in much larger numbers than anyone anticipated, to listen to an mild-mannered and thoughtful old man telling them that human beings need both faith and reason. The message seems to be: It is late in the day, but the decline to the Third World can be halted.

Micky Burn, 1912-2010



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Michael Burn, always known as Micky, has just died at the great age of 97, and he ought to be celebrated. His life is a kind of shorthand for the whole twentieth century, and absolutely unrepeatable, since he was in turn a Nazi sympathizer, a commando captain who stormed the Germans at the famous raid on St. Nazaire in 1942, a prisoner of war in the fortress of Colditz, a Communist sympathizer, the lover of the shameful traitor Guy Burgess (it took more courage to admit that than to shoot it out with the Germans), married to Mary, one of the great beauties of her day, a writer and an anthologized poet, a Catholic convert — I have probably overlooked some of his incarnations as he tried to give answers to the question of how a complete human being ought to live.

I met him when I was researching a biography of Unity Mitford. She had gone to live in Munich in the hope of being picked up by Hitler. This was a lady’s version of a street-corner pick-up. Amazingly, it worked. Micky also came to Munich, and Unity introduced him to Hitler. There can’t be many people still around who shook hands with Hitler and received a signed copy of Mein Kampf, as Micky did. He told Hitler that he, Hitler, was very popular with the young in Britain, and Hitler was pleased, commenting on Micky’s good manners and seeing to it that Micky was officially invited to the Nuremberg rally. Micky also took in his stride a visit to the Dachau concentration camp — he used to reflect with horror that he had believed the camp was a positive part of the new Germany. A couple of years later, he realized how mistaken he had been, and became a soldier. The purpose of the St. Nazaire action was to deny the French port to the German battleship Tirpitz. Several commando units took part, and five men were awarded the Victoria Cross. Micky was the sole survivor of his unit. Captured, he was interrogated by a man he recognized from the Nuremberg rally.

In Colditz, he wrote his first novel and switched to Communism. As a special correspondent for The Times after the war, he covered the show trials that Stalin instigated throughout the Soviet bloc at the start of the Cold War. He thought that Laszlo Rajk, the Hungarian Communist, really was guilty as charged and deserved to be executed — and that too made him look back with horror at his gullibility. He almost ruined himself by setting up some sort of communistic cooperative in the splendidly named town of Penrhyndeudraeth in North Wales, where he lived (and was a friend and neighbor of Bertrand Russell). Luckily, he wrote some successful books, including Mr. Lyward’s Answer, about reclaiming juvenile delinquents. In 2003, he published Turned Towards the Sun, his thoughtful and fascinating autobiography.

In the end, Catholicism gave him the inner solace he sought, I think — but what life choices, and what experiences! R.I.P.

Tony Blair’s Memoirs Make Him More Hated



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Tony Blair has just published his memoirs, a 700-page slab with the title “A Journey.” Since leaving office, Blair has been giving lectures here, there, and everywhere, taken on consulting jobs, been busy solving the Middle East dilemmas, and been photographed on vacations, so when did he find time to sit down and write? I know it takes me two years to write a book, not counting time on research.

Anyhow, one always wonders who really has written the books of retired politicians. There is usually some poor ghost toiling in the background. I have only dipped into this one, but the tone of voice is Blair’s and I guess that he may have dictated it. However, Craig Brown, a brilliant parodist, has just rewritten Little Red Riding Hood as told by Blair. What Blair says he also unsays, and Craig Brown gets this style of canceling himself out with a pitch that is perfect.

Of course, Blair must have expected that the reception would be stormy. The point of the book is to praise himself by denigrating his successor, Gordon Brown, long-time colleague and rival. Brown is quite probably the worst prime minister Britain has ever had. Not that he is stupid. Far from it. He is quite a substantial figure, informed in several fields. What’s wrong is his character. Blair sums this up in three words: “Emotional intelligence, zero.” Brown proved unable to communicate with either individuals or the collective electorate. His unhappiness at having to show himself a human being was painful.

It is unusual, nevertheless, for an ex–prime minister to cut his successor off at the knees. Edward Heath resented Margaret Thatcher. He let it show in the scowl on his face but didn’t openly campaign like this in print. The timing of the publication is also fraught, since the Labour party is in the process of selecting a new leader. Blair’s book makes for divisiveness and faction. Brown’s revenge will come, and it will be cold.

The consequence of publishing this memoir is that Blair is hated with an intensity that I can’t recall any previous politician arousing. It is an irony, seeing that he sold himself as “a pretty straight kinda guy.” He’s so hated that he has had to cancel book-signings. People sound willing to rough him up. He’s perceived as a liar who made up reasons to go to war in Iraq because he was sucking up to George W. Bush. I am virtually the last person left in the country to defend Blair’s decision to participate in the overthrow of Saddam. I have just found myself in the company of undoubted conservatives, some of them with military backgrounds, and they could hardly believe their ears when I said that the campaign opens up the Middle East. The Arabs are taking themselves down, and taking us with them. If they can’t help themselves, then we have to help them. Everyone in the room, like everyone in England, was too busy hating Blair to be bothered to answer.

There may be nothing else for it — he’ll be the first British ex–prime minister to have to go hide in Florida.

Harris vs. Naipaul



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It’s instructive to watch mainstream opinion-makers dealing with matters of which they disapprove — they don’t examine the parties’ opinions but select personal details that make the author out to be a most unpleasant individual, if possible with implications that he is an imperialist, racist, fascist, etc., and he and his work are therefore beyond the pale. A splendid example of such smearing is the review by Robert Harris in the Sunday Times, Britain’s leading Sunday newspaper, of V. S. Naipaul’s new book, The Masque of Africa. And before I go any further, I should like to declare that I have known Naipaul since the days when he was beginning his career, and have always appreciated the open mind and intellectual curiosity that won him the Nobel Prize.

Harris has reached only the second sentence of his review when he is telling us that Naipaul has been knighted (very bad) and has “increasingly reactionary views” (deplorable) and though in the past he may have written great books set in Africa, he has moved on from the continent socially, meaning he knows people like Conrad Black and the Rothschilds (shocking beyond belief, eh?). Next up comes the comment that this book may well be the most “mordantly unsympathetic account of Africa” since Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief — the linkage implying that Naipaul is poking fun at serious things (disgraceful, inexcusable). Failing to prove what a bad book this is by supplying evidence from the contents, Harris simply comes out with the word, “repulsive.” (Cue for applause from the gallery.) By then, I was anticipating that Harris would go for the grand slam, and sure enough, he ends the review by saying that Naipaul reminds him of Oswald Mosley, the pre-war British fascist leader. (Bravo, ovation, all stand.)

This book is about to be published in New York. For many years, Naipaul was one of the star writers of the New York Review of Books, doing it the favor of publishing some of his most original work there. In keeping with its impeccably correct political correctness, the NYRB might do a Harris now. The sole alternative tactic available to liberals is to pretend not to notice, passing over the dreadful book in silence. From personal experience, however, let me reassure one and all that Naipaul lets his work speak for itself, and has almost certainly never heard of Harris or given a thought to the NYRB.

Mark Steyn Weathers a Storm



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There is nobody quite like Mark Steyn, which is why he’s worth following. How the Left hate him. Ian Buruma, for instance, your pocket all-purpose lefty, has tried to dismiss him in a footnote merely as a humorous writer. (In a recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, Paul Berman goes to some lengths to show thoughtfully and fairly how Buruma attacks the worthy and defends the unworthy — but that’s another story.) Mark Steyn is a humorous writer, but he has a serious purpose, namely to point out that the Western world has Islamist enemies who wish it ill. We could deal with those Islamists except for one thing: A large segment of our fashionable opinion-makers, so to speak the Burumas of this world, think that Islamists aren’t as bad as all that; and if they are, then we are still worse, and what we stand for isn’t really worth defending. So the public doesn’t know what to think, and a few self-appointed custodians push them into all manner of doubt and guilt by accusing anyone who criticizes, or — horrors! — laughs at Islamists of Islamophobia, racism, fascism, etc. etc.

That’s what happened to Mark. Maclean’s, the prestigious Canadian magazine, published an extract from his well-known bestseller America Alone — there’s no doubting that he criticizes and even laughs at Islamists in the book — whereupon assorted Human Rights Commissions in Canada fell on Mark and Maclean’s: There’s a code with a Section 13 that prevents free speech, and there is someone called Richard Warman, a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission who has been a plaintiff on every single Section 13 case in the last six years. Where did this lord of the printed word spring from? He and several others badly wanted to suppress Mark, and they had Muslim accomplices.

Mark tells the whole extraordinary story in his latest book, Lights Out, whose subtitle is “Islam, Free Speech and the Twilight of the West” (the implication should provide Buruma with another scornful footnote).

Free speech is indispensable to freedom and a civilized society. If the Warmans and Section 13 busybodies have their way, then indeed Mark will be proved right and the lights will go out eventually. As far as I can judge, Mark has won his case at whatever financial and personal cost; he has certainly made the Canadian would-be censors look ridiculous. On the NR cruise earlier this year, he refused to let me buy a copy, but has sent me one instead, with a dedication to my wife and me as fellow cruisers “on a sea of despair.” No, no, he’s riding the waves.

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