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David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

British Universities Go in for Censorship



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These are not good times for British universities. As from next year, it has been announced today, selection of students to be admitted will take into account whether or not their parents attended university. The intention, supported by the government, is to increase the number of students from poor backgrounds. The effect can only be to discriminate against those from educated backgrounds. In its early incarnation, the Soviet Union went in for this sort of social engineering, denying higher education to those defined ideologically as bourgeois. In the end, the damage to the nation became evident, and schools for the elite were opened, which was almost as iniquitous.

Free speech is also under attack. An Oxford professor, David Coleman, a demographer, has done research that suggests that mass immigration brings very little economic benefit to the country, if any. A petition has been got up to have him dismissed as a racist. Academics here and there, with the support of their trade unions, have attempted to boycott Israel and Israeli colleagues, purely on the grounds of who they are and where they come from. The cancellation of a lecture by Matthias Kuntzel at Leeds University is the latest step in making British universities irrelevant.

Kuntzel is a political scientist from Hamburg University, with an additional research fellowship at an institute in Jerusalem. An eminent authority on Iran, he has published a good deal about the messianic fervour of that country’s leadership. In particular, he has shown how Nazi propaganda and subsidies in the Hitler period laid the groundwork for modern Muslim anti-Semitism. And that was to be his subject at Leeds, under the title, “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic anti-Semitism in the Middle East.”

Ahmed Sawalem, described as president of the university’s Islamic society, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Leeds, Professor Michael Arthur, to complain officially that he had searched for Kuntzel’s writings on the internet, “and they are not very pleasant.” Kuntzel was shown this complaint, and one other apparently from a Muslim student, accusing him of doing this “to increase hatred as I clearly regard it as an open racist attack.” The lecture, and subsequent workshops, were duly cancelled on the grounds that the decision to cancel was purely a matter of bureaucracy. As a spokesman put it, the university had to protect the safety of participants in the event and to maintain public order. Which is worse, the cowardice, the mendacity, or the foregone assumption that Muslims were about to resort to violence and the authorities were helpless in the face of it?

Kuntzel had previously delivered this lecture at Yale. His comment was, “Nothing like this has ever happened before – this is censorship,” adding, “This is a very important subject and if you cannot address it on university property, then what is a university for?” We know the answer to that – to keep out the children of the educated, and to give the children of the poor the impression that they are being educated.

Honorable Voices



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St. Petersburg, Florida, has just been the host to a summit meeting of secular Muslims. They have put out a final statement of their beliefs and aims, and a resounding document it is too. They have been brought together, they declare, by “a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.” Right. True. Humanly important. They go on to insist that it is proper to criticise or condemn Islamic practices that violate human reason or rights. Finally they address Muslim believers directly : “there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine.”  They proclaim that they stand as free and equal citizens with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is and all non-Muslims. Right again, all of it, and humanly important too.

It is likely that this summit, its fine resolution and indeed its general significance, will not be recognized officially anywhere in the Islamic world. A ghastly combination of one-man rulers, clerics in turbans and secret policemen, will suppress all mention of the summit, not even allowing sarcastic or hostile criticism of it by paid hacks. Absolute power combines with bigotry to keep the teeming millions of Muslims in ignorance.

This will no longer work. The participants at this summit are comparable to the Soviet dissidents who once were also unknown and kept out of sight by the authorities until they were suddenly household names, playing a distinguished part in breaking tyranny. The influence of these free and secular Muslims is similarly spreading unseen but unchecked. In spite of the cruel and backward men who rule their lives, the Muslim masses know that they are oppressed, and they are listening to those who tell them so.

Men and women of high courage and resolution put their names to that resolution. Among them are Ayaan Hirsi Ali who was lately and shamefully driven out of the Netherlands; Nonie Darwish, founder of Arabs for Israel; Wafa Sultan, who scourged Muslim bigotry unanswerably on al-Jazira television; Magdi Allam, who writes in the Italian press; Mithal al-Alusi, the Iraqi legislator who visited Israel and whose two sons were murdered in reprisal; the American Iraqi journalist Nibras Kazimi. Let me further single out the Pakistani Ibn Warraq, author of the fine book Why I am not a Muslim, and  also Amir Taheri, the Iranian exile who is one of the best informed commentators on the Middle East. I am not a prophet, but I forecast with confidence that the day will come when the objectives of this handful will be accepted, and their names will enter the history books with honor.
  

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Too Much of a Gamble



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Aspinalls is a well-known gambling club in London’s Mayfair, and it specializes in separating foolish English upper-class chaps from the fortunes, the castles and the Old Masters their fond but equally foolish parents bequeathed them. A Syrian by the name of Fouad al-Zayat is perhaps an unusual punter at such a club, but he can hold his own with the native English when it comes to chucking money away. In March 2000 he lost at roulette and wrote bad checks. Nevertheless the club allowed him to play more, whereupon he lost heavily again and still failed to pay. To obtain their winnings, the club took Fouad al-Zayat to court.

According to court reports, he seems rather larger than life, even genial. His nickname is “the Fat Man,” he lives in Cyprus where he operates a company, and has a private Boeing 747 and of course a Rolls-Royce as well. Apparently it is not unusual for him to tip a waitress $10,000 for bringing him a cup of tea. It came out in court that in the course of some 600 visits to the club over the last twelve years he had bet there about $200 million, losing about a quarter of that sum.

In more than one occasion in the recent past, Zayat escorted Republican Congressman Bob Ney from Ohio to exclusive gambling clubs in London, and gave him chips with which Ney won almost $100,000. Documents from the U.S Justice Department say that Zayat’s company paid for Ney’s “round-trip airfare, luxury accommodation, meal and entertainment.” Why so ? Because, The Observer newspaper reports, “Zayat wanted Ney’s help in getting his company an exemption that would secure a multi-million-dollar deal with the Iranians.”  The source of Zayat’s wealth, that report continues, is “something of a mystery” but he has been “an intermediary in a number of lucrative defence-related deals.” Say no more.

Syria today is a Sovietised slum in which the ruling Assad dynasty and their Baathist hangers-on monopolise such wealth as there is, and everybody else can do nothing to relieve their poverty. Those who know how to skim money off defence-related contracts and multi-million-dollar Iranian deals are helping to perpetuate the misery of these millions of helpless people, as well as making the world yet more unsafe.  The eagerness of clubs like Aspinalls for money from any source, no matter how suspect, to finish in their hands proves that corruption crosses cultures and frontiers with the ease and speed of an infectious disease.

Italian Games



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It’s business as usual in Italy. The government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi has fallen after a vote of no-confidence – the margin against him was no more than two votes, actually. In such circumstances, President Napolitano is empowered by the constitution to call on someone in a position to form a government, and he has duly summoned Prodi to do so all over again – in other words no-confidence is the same as confidence. Prodi is at the head of a left-wing coalition of nine parties, two of them Communist not on speaking terms with one another. Proportional representation reduces politics to a trivial game of musical chairs. Which is why since Italy was remade after 1945, governments on average have lasted less than one year.

Prodi was brought down apparently because Giulio Andreotti decided to vote against him. The octogenarian Andreotti is one of those leading European politicians – in the mold of the Frenchman Francois Mitterand or the German Helmut Kohl – who refuses to give up because there is always a little more damage to be done by the black arts of which such men are masters. His nickname as “the Prince of Darkness,” is well earned. Not long ago, he was charged with mafia connections and complicity in murder, but acquitted.

And what was the vote about? Under Nato auspices, Italy has a thousand troops in Afghanistan, and against all odds Prodi was asking for a commitment to keep them there. The no-confidence vote was driven by anti-Americanism, a card Andreotti and other leading European politicians love to play. Put another way, appeasement of Muslims brought down the Italian government as it did the Spanish government after the Madrid bombings.

I find I can’t get out of my head this bravura passage from John Stuart Mill, written long before the present moral collapse of Europe, but pertinent to it. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

The Mitford Sisters



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Decca was the nickname of Jessica Mitford, one of six sisters and daughters of an English peer, Lord Redesdale. In their various ways as Fascists, Communists, writers and society figures, they seemed to epitomise in one family the life choices and struggles of the Thirties and Forties. Decca was the Communist among them but very much a society figure as well, trading on her impeccable upper class credentials to get her way in whatever she wanted. Her voice and accent could cut glass, as they say. In Oakland, California, she married a lawyer, Bob Treuhaft, and settled down to a career of writing muck-raking books about the United States while greatly enjoying everything the country offered. Much as she pretended to be a rebel, her life was an exercise in privilege.

In 1972, teaching summer school at the University of California at Berkeley, I took the Treuhaft house, and very large and comfortable it was too. Very visibly on the desk lay their two Communist Party cards, no doubt left there deliberately to provoke me. In the library were the books of Unity, the Nazi sister who succeeded in picking up Hitler and hitting the headlines for it. Her personality came alive, as a study in fanaticism. Decca then helped me to write a biography of Unity, and much relished the row that followed with the other sisters who preferred to bury Unity’s wretched example – with the exception of Nancy Mitford, the novelist, who also supported me. In the book, however, I concluded that Unity and Jessica were two sides of the same totalitarian-minded coin and she angrily repudiated this. If I had lived before the war, I too would have been a Communist, she said, to which I answered that I hoped and expected I would have always supported democracy. Decca was that harmful but all too common a phenomenon, an intelligent fool.

Peter Y. Sussman has recently edited Decca. The Letters of Jessica Mitford, and a monstrous volume of 744 pages it is too. In it, the story of my biography of Unity, and the quarrels with the sisters afterwards, are reported rather fairly. Something quite else caught my eye. In 1980 Decca is writing to Hillary Clinton as wife of the governor of Arkansas to plead the case of a man convicted for murder in that state, but escaping from prison only to be re-arrested in California. To another correspondent Decca later reveals the connection to Hillary, namely that Hillary had worked for Bob Treuhaft as a student intern while at the Yale law school. She fears that the White House of the first President Bush has discovered this strange fact, and will use “to dig up dirt.” At the close of her letter, she judges that Hillary “seems to be an excellent person.” The Treuhafts and their colleagues delighted in flaunting their Communism, and I have yet to hear of anyone insisting that Mrs Clinton explain how and why she came to choose for an internship this particular politicized firm out of the many thousands in the country.

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The Debt Owed the Brits



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Outside my window at the moment is the Matterhorn, a huge and imposing spike of rock that rises some 15,000 feet, as high as any mountain in Europe. Its peak looks sheer, unclimbable, yet people do go up all the time,  and accidents are rare.

One of the local hotels has a plaque commemorating a famous mountaineer, the Englishman Edward Whymper, who earned immortality as the first to climb the Matterhorn in the late 1860s. One dreads to think of the antique equipment he must have used. But while Whymper was taking his life into his hands and popularising mountaineering, other British people of that day were launching and standardising association football, rugby football, lawn tennis, golf, skiing, hockey, lacrosse, croquet, cricket, horse-racing – in fact polo seems to be the only sport that did not originate in Britain.

What is the explanation of the fact that British sportsmen spread their sports so swiftly and acceptably to the rest of the world? No doubt the supremacy in the nineteenth century of the British Empire played some part – people wanted to be doing what the British were doing. William James, brother of the novelist Henry James and a better psychologist than Freud, held that sports were valuable because offering what he called “the moral equivalent of war.” That’s convincing, but doesn’t explain why the British were pioneering in this respect, while the French or Germans, say, were stuck with war and revolution, contributing no sports.

The British were – at least till recently – rather good at war. They were also early to suffer the consequences of civil war. They developed sports, it seems to me, because they knew what they were capable of, and so devised ways of managing conflict, ways so varied that there was an outlet for everyone, whether as a team player or an individual. And maybe this is an indispensable feature of a civil society.  In any case, millions indulge in sports without awareness of what they owe the British. This has  surely been a more successful colonization even than the adoption of the English language.

Putin on the Same Old Threads



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Investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko has simply run into the sands.  British detectives in Moscow were not allowed to work freely there, and the Russians in retaliation are pushing to send their detectives to London to build the case they make that Boris Berezovsky ordered the murder – he is a former oligarch who befriended Vladimir Putin but began to oppose him politically and therefore had to flee for his life. In the gathering circle of Russian exiles in London, he befriended and employed Litvinenko, and the idea that he wanted a hit on Litvinenko is on the face of it absurd. But not a surprise. An old Leninist trick, perfected by Stalin, is to displace on to someone else, preferably the victim or his associates, the responsibility for the crime you have yourself just committed. This worked well throughout the Soviet era.

But there are indications of a psycho-political change of climate in the Kremlin. Take Nashi, which translates more or less as “For us.”  This is a movement of young men, outwardly civilian, but evidently Kremlin storm-troopers. One of their standing orders is to picket and intimidate the British ambassador, Anthony Brenton. They harass him wherever he goes. One reason is because the British are trying to pursue the Litvinenko case, and also refuse to extradite Berezovsky. And take the row that has blown up in Estonia. The Soviets invaded that Baltic country in 1940, were driven out by the Germans but returned in 1944. By the time the Soviets had fully swallowed up the country, they had killed somewhere between a third and a half of the population, and installed large numbers of Russian colonizers. In the centre of beautiful and historic Tallinn, the capital, they erected an outsize bronze statue of a Soviet soldier, supposedly a liberator to them but in the eyes of the locals a real killer. Estonians have a very strong and patriotic national identity, they are free people, and their parliament voted to remove the statue to a war cemetery. This perfectly polite compromise has prompted Kremlin shrieks that the Estonians are neo-Nazis, and Putin is threatening sanctions.

Same old trick. Who is closer to Nazi practices here, the Estonians or the Kremlin? In any case, other cities in eastern and central Europe have been getting rid of similar mendacious and forcibly imposed public symbols ever since the Hungarians in 1956 destroyed the gigantic statue of Stalin that disfigured Budapest.  (In contrast to the Estonians and everyone else, the Austrians are too lily-livered to take down the statue of the Soviet soldier that remains one of the tallest and most visible monuments in central Vienna, and their abiding badge of subservience.)

On a wider scale, Putin is proposing to found a cartel of gas producers on the lines of OPEC. He protects North Korea and Iran, providing the latter with nuclear scientists and anti-aircraft missile defences. Evidently the hope is to build another anti-democratic bloc. The size of the country, its immense natural resources, and perhaps some sense that the task of evolving a decent civil society is for ever beyond reach, seems to impel whoever is in the Kremlin to resort to naked power. The rest of us had a respite after the fall of Communism, but this was evidently too good to last. 

Saintliness and Show



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Abbé Pierre who has just died at the age of 94 was perhaps a good, and even a saintly, man. Certainly he looked the part, a white-bearded sage, habitually wearing a comforting French beret and a dramatic black cape. He started Emmaus in 1949, a movement to provide shelter for the homeless, and now an organisation in some 30 countries. That is to his credit.  Hearing of the death, Jacques Chirac called him, “an immense figure, a conscience, a man who personified goodness.”  And that’s quite enough to make anyone have second thoughts.

Abbé Pierre was born Henri Grouès, one of the numerous children of a well-off family in Lyons. As a teenager, he felt he had a vocation, and duly became a Capuchin monk. It is not clear quite how he left the order at some point before the war, nor how he lived, but he always had family money and a large house. Everyone who writes about him copies repetitively from each other that during the war he was a resistance hero, adding that he saved the lives of some Jews either by forging papers or by smuggling them into Switzerland. To my knowledge, nobody seems able to verify this, neither grateful Jewish survivors nor Yad Vashem, the organisation in Jerusalem that awards the title of Righteous Gentile to any Christian who saved any Jew. All that is known beyond doubt is that Abbé Pierre turned up at General de Gaulle’s headquarters in Algiers well into 1944, in other words turning his back on the real resistance to the Germans that was then really starting in France. So he might qualify for the sardonic title ascribed to thousands of his compatriots as “un résistant de la dernière heure,” or a last-minute member of the resistance.

For a while he was a Gaullist politician and member of parliament.  His flair for self-dramatising was genuine, and it became a familiar feature of French life to discover this former monk and sometime priest swooping down in his black cape on poor down-and-outs, grabbing headlines for his charity. And certainly again, he made many French people feel good about themselves, regularly putting him at or near the top of polls of the greatest Frenchmen.

Then in 1996 he came out to endorse a book called “The Founding Myths of Israeli Policy.”  Its author was Roger Garaudy, a veteran Stalinist, who after the Soviet collapse converted to Islam (what else?), moved to Cairo, and became a Holocaust denier. Nobody who had ever saved Jews from Nazism could conceivably have come to the support of the disgusting Garaudy. But the Abbé did. Proud to claim fifty years of friendship with Garaudy, he compared the Holocaust to what the ancient Israelites had done, and referred to Zionism as an American-based worldwide plot.

Perhaps he was in his dotage. And perhaps in his case, as in so many in a century that smoothly converted morality into a branch of public relations, the distinction between a good man and a charlatan is too fine to be perceptible.

Debating Clash



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Michael Wharton, a satirist of genius who wrote under the pseudonym of Peter Simple, liked to describe some of the people about whom he fantasised as “genial, unpopular.” Such a fellow is Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London. He specializes in being genial and unpopular, probably attracting more general hatred than any other politician in Britain. Not at all the tribune of the people he pretends to be, he is an old-style Communist or more exactly Trotskyist, who never passes up the chance to wage class war, to slam the United States, to swipe at Israel and Jews, and to promote today’s hard Left. He is planning a festival in honour of his hero Fidel Castro, and lately visited Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in search of cheap oil. He also supports anything and everything on the Muslim agenda, for instance inviting the egregious and retrograde Sheikh Qaradawi, spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamists and the hard Left in fact have nothing in common except hatred of the West, and their alliance is unnatural on both sides.

It must have seemed a good idea to this sinister clown to hold a conference sponsored by London, and to participate himself in a debate on whether or not there is a clash of civilizations. He no doubt saw his chance to make more anti-American mischief, and perhaps pin the blame for everything on the “neo-cons,” a portmanteau phrase for everything the hard Left hates. Inviting Daniel Pipes to come from Philadelphia and fit the role of scapegoat, he in fact got more than he bargained for.

This morning, the large hall and two overflow halls were filled. Many in the audience were Muslims. As expected, Livingstone praised multi-culturalism as the source of peace, love and (Muslim) brotherhood. Here was really an updating of the old Comintern doctrine of internationalism whereby the Soviet Union waged war on everyone and called it peace. The Cold War was all the fault of the West, and he charged that we were making the same mistake with the Muslims. A young lady in a hijab seconded him, shrilly repeating that the real terrorists were America and Britain.

Scholar that he is, Daniel Pipes explained that the war is actually between civilization and barbarism. Carefully he distinguished the religion of Islam from Islamism, a totalitarian ideology with which there could be no compromise. He was looking for victory over it. He and his seconder, Douglas Murray, a brilliant young British intellectual, made the point that moderate Muslims had to be supported against extremist Islamists. And suddenly their arguments began to shift the audience away from Livingstone, and to attract a lot of applause. The war on terror has a long way still to go, but victorious battles like this one in a debating hall may mean fewer, or even no, future battles in the field or on the streets.

Guardian of the Hard Left



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The Guardian is a very special newspaper, the voice of the Left and therefore the voice of self-righteousness. It has just pulled off a characteristic trick. One of its reporters joined the British National Party, pretending to share its beliefs but actually to expose it. Not that there is much to expose. The BNP consists mostly of working-class people who are natural Labour Party supporters but fed up with Labour’s betrayal of the national interest, mainly through support for the European Union and the collapse of immigration policy. Thanks to a xenophobic and nasty component, the BNP will never become more than a fringe group, but of course people like the Guardianistas love to set them up as the fascist enemy.

After seven months of intrepid activity, the undercover journalist was able to reveal that Simone Clarke was a member of the party. Scoop! The lady is a premier ballerina with the English National Ballet company. Her view is that “immigration has really got out of hand,” adding that lots of people think like her. So a body called Unite Against Fascism disrupt her dancing in Nutcracker and demonstrate outside her house, having clearly studied fascism and learnt its tactics. Someone with the glorious title of “equalities director for the mayor of London” has called for her to be sacked.

A good many members of the British government are former Communists. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, persistently attacks Jews in spite of his equalities director, and is planning a festival in honour of his hero Castro. George Galloway, a member of parliament, praises Saddam Hussein.  Thanks to freedom of speech, all such hard Leftists are able to have their misdemeanours and outrages addressed solely at the level of argument and debate.

Not long ago, the Guardian carried an article by one Richard Gott, shrilly accusing President Bush of running a real evil empire. The Guardian did not see fit to explain that in Soviet days Gott had taken money from the KGB, in effect a Communist stooge. Why is it all right to persecute Simone Clarke for her views but to give Gott the privilege of a platform without explaining who he is and what he stands for ?  Why the double standards ?  Guardian, thy name is hypocrisy.

What in the World Is Going on with Israel and Iran?



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The Spectator is a serious weekly magazine, and Douglas Davis is a serious journalist who now and again contributes to it on Middle Eastern topics. The cover of the current issue has a big bold headline: “The nuclear option: how Israel can stop Iran.” Slightly smaller type-face below continues, “Douglas Davis says that Israel is likely to launch a nuclear attack this year.”

Strong stuff indeed. Davis makes clear in his article that he has been talking to “a senior Israeli source,” whom of course he does not identify. There follows some discussion of centrifuges, hardened facilities, the neutron bomb, but nothing too technical. Davis concludes that the Iranians may be flaunting their nuclear programme to goad the Israelis into a pre-emptive attack. In which case, their own nuclear response might already be prepared, and the world would see it as justified.

Now the day after Davis’s article appeared, the Daily Telegraph, a serious newspaper, ran an article by Michael Burleigh, a serious academic and author of several books of great insight into the totalitarian movements of the 20th century. Burleigh made exactly the same point that the Iranians hope to provoke Israel into setting a course that leads to its own destruction.   

And the day after that, the Sunday Times, another serious newspaper, ran a front-page story that splashed, “Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran.” These plans were said to have been “disclosed” and refers to “one of the sources” who did the disclosing. This article was more circumstantial in detailing possible air-paths, targets and operational methods.

What on earth is going on? “Sources” are at work manipulating the press. Israel put out a rather angry denial, but then it would, wouldn’t it? Unless the intention is to frighten the Iranians, but that would be pointless as this confrontation is entirely of their own making. Could it be a double bluff? Having leaked what they about to do, that is to say, the Israelis will expect the Iranians to conclude that this is exactly what they will not do.  In the Second World War several intelligence master-strokes operated on these lines.

More unidentifiable “sources” have gone further, suggesting that these stories have a sinister inspiration, in short that the Iranians originated them. It is hard to see how this could be possible, as it would involve conspiring with the quoted Israeli “sources” and that is not credible. We are in that famous hall of mirrors where intelligence and politics criss-cross and distort what the public gets to hear. The only reliable conclusion is that this particular crisis is moving irresistibly forward, and its resolution will have an immense impact on the future of the world. 

Milestones for Humanity



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In 1962 I attended portions of the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann. The experience was bewildering. There, behind bullet-proof glass, sat Eichmann, intently listening through headphones to the ghastly evidence, and adding to it with every interjection he made.  Apparently sane and self-possessed, he had no idea of the enormity of his crime, talking about it as though mass murder were a part of everyday life. The sight and sound of the man encased in bullet-proof glass misled Hannah Arendt into coining the phrase “The banality of evil.” This has a journalistic ring about it, but it has consistently irritated me. There was nothing banal about Eichmann and the solemnity of his trial was a milestone for humanity.

With Eichmann in front of me, I questioned the death penalty. To take a person’s life, even after due process and a fair trial, is a fearful deed, seeming to overpower taboo and the instinct to respect one’s fellow men.  A day came when his appeal was heard. I was in court. The judge was quoting this and that precedent in international law, and suddenly, without ceremony or pause, he rejected the appeal. Eichmann was escorted away. Everyone else gathered in the small square outside the court, all of us silent, a few in tears. After quite a short time, the news came through, again without ceremony, that he had been hanged. To my surprise, the sun immediately seemed brighter, the sky more blue, the earth cleaner, and I realized that I do not in fact question the death penalty for mass murder.

These responses resurfaced this morning with a surge of emotion at the news that Saddam Hussein has gone to the gallows as once Eichmann had. In the course of his trial, he too had condemned himself with every word he spoke, equally oblivious to the enormity of his crimes, as though mass murder answered to his job description. Anyone who holds that such men really are banal, and shouldn’t pay with their lives for the evil they do, must further explain how justice is to be done to the victims. 

A New Testament



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British Midland is an airline second only to British Airways in size. It has just ordered its air crews not to take the New Testament with them on flights to Saudi Arabia, “so that they don’t enrage the Muslims.” According to the company, the British Foreign Office made this recommendation. This is only too probable. It displays the pre-emptive cringe so typical of the Foreign Office, coupled with stereotyping Muslims as irredeemable anti-Christian bigots. But if really Muslims are nothing but anti-Christian bigots, enraged by someone with a New Testament, why ever should they be placated ? On the contrary, their bigotry must be exposed and confronted.  A move like this otherwise takes its fateful place in the lengthening series of cultural suicide bombings in which we ourselves are the bombers.

Insanity in Libya



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A court in Libya has convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian of deliberately infecting over 400 children with the AIDS virus, and passed a death sentence by firing squad on them all. A crowd outside the court shouted “Death for the children killers.” Needless to say, the case was a judicial travesty – a sort of insanity.  The court disregarded the testimony of experts, specialists, Nobel prize-winners, all providing evidence to the effect that the AIDS virus had been present in the hospital in question some years before these health workers were employed there.

A striking precedent is to be found in a book published in 1974, The private life of Islam, by Ian Young, an Englishman. Young had worked as a junior doctor in an Algerian hospital, and several of his colleagues were Bulgarian, sent to Algeria out of Communist solidarity with the Third World, as was the fashion at that time. The standards of medicine were appalling. Simple hygiene was absent. Young refers continually to the ants all over the place. There were tragically unnecessary deaths. The Supervisor was a total ignoramus, appointed because he had played a political role in the war to gain independence. Finally Young could stand no more bad, and often lethal, medicine, and complained. The Supervisor’s response was to lose his temper, and grapple with him physically, while beginning to rant about “white-coated saboteurs passing their hands from vagina to vagina, infecting my heroic people with syphilis.”  Finally he gave the order, “leave this hospital immediately! Leave this country!”  More than just ignorant, the Supervisor indeed sounds insane, as does the court in Libya now – but there is a logic to it.

Young’s experience was an early example of the cultural clash now pre-occupying the world. That Algerian Supervisor had none of the qualifications needed to run his hospital, and he was excusing himself by blaming others for his defects. It’s the same in the Libyan example.  AIDS has replaced syphilis on the charge sheet, but the refusal to face reality remains constant. Westerners are to be held responsible for the bad things Arabs and Muslims do, although this involves inventing conspiracies as wild as they are ludicrous. This mind-set conditions Islamist anti-Westernism. The condemned six in Libya are really victims of a very sad and debilitating inferiority complex which neither pity nor protest in the West can do much to change.

Byran Budd, a True Hero



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The Victoria Cross is Britain’s supreme medal for gallantry in action, and it is not awarded lightly. Corporal Bryan Budd of the Parachute Regiment has just received it in the course of fighting in Sangin, a Taleban stronghold in Helmand province in Afghanistan — fighting so severe that he himself was killed and his VC is therefore posthumous. In a first action, he stormed a house to kill the Taliban firing from it, while also rescuing a wounded colleague. In another action, his section was out in the open when it came under fire from Taliban. Budd set his weapon at automatic fire, and charged, killing several Taliban and assuring the safety of his section. This is true heroism.

The SAS is Britain’s elite Special Assault Section. Handpicked commandoes, all of them. Most of their feats are unpublicised. Their headquarters is not so far from where I live on the Welsh borders. Word crept up my hilltop that the SAS a few days ago gave a seasonal party, and had various exhibits on show, among which were the boots once worn by Uday, the late and very unlamented son of Saddam Hussein who was caught in a shoot-out in Iraq.

Lately I have been perturbed because so many thoughtful commentators now take decadence for granted in Europe, Britain included. Evidently Corporal Budd VC and the SAS prove that some — and hopefully all of us when we have to — can still praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

The Enemy Is at Home



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Two quite exceptional and significant events have just occurred in London. The police arrived in Downing Street to interview Tony Blair over his party’s awarding of honours in return for huge donations and loans to the party’s funding – which is forbidden by law. Blair’s chief fundraiser has already been arrested. No British prime minister in or out of office has ever been subjected to police questioning. Just imagine what a long way this is from Gladstone or Churchill.

On the very same day, the government announced that the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into bribery of influential Saudis in order to assure large defence contracts – in particular one for 72 Tornado aircraft – is to be called off “in the national interest.” The Serious Fraud Office was on the trail of a vast slush fund, and other unexplained accounts and companies in the British Virgin Islands, while also obtaining key information from Swiss banks. Tens of millions of pounds were evidently slipped to Saudi princes and they resented and feared what the repercussions of their revealed corruption and debauchery would be in a country supposedly a model of Islamic virtue. They have been threatening to cancel the contracts. The government pretends that “No weight has been given to commercial interests,” thus adding mendacity to venality and immorality. In effect, the Saudis have successfully blackmailed Britain.

We have been here before. In the early 1980s, the Saudis in public cut the head off a young girl in the ruling family who had eloped with the man she intended to marry. He too was killed. A British television company made and showed a documentary film of this atrocity. The Saudi rulers threatened dire vengeance on Britain, and the Foreign Secretary of the day flew to Riyadh to apologise for the film. The Saudis thus have a record in successfully blackmailing Britain as and when they like, in effect obliging the British to drop their moral standards and wallow in Saudi sleaze.

In his forthcoming and hard-hitting book The Enemy at Home, the social commentator Dinesh D’Souza speaks of the decadence of Europe as though this were a well-known given fact. I confess I was jolted to see this judgement on the page, stark and menacing as it is. But the police in Downing Street and this abject surrender to the Saudis are evidence of nothing less than decadence. The only consolation is that Saudi Arabia is a society in which the qualities needed to be a pilot, a controller, and in particular an aircraft fitter, are so thoroughly despised that they have to call on foreign mercenaries to do the work. These defence contracts are primarily ways for the Saudi royals to skim money off for themselves. The expensive planes and missiles stay in hangars, largely unserviced, hopefully rusting.

Serious Fraud



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The Serious Fraud Office exists, as its name suggests, to detect and prosecute fraud in Britain, but satirists like to say that its initials, SFO, really stand for Serious Farce Office. For three years it has been conducting investigations into allegations concerning Saudi Arabia, with many fateful repercussions, if proved true. BAE (British Aerospace)  is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of advanced military equipment including aircraft. For years it has been the leading defence contractor to the Saudis, supplying fighters and missiles worth tens of billions of pounds. In pursuit of another profitable contract for 72 Typhoons, otherwise known as Eurofighters, BAE supposedly set up a slush fund of sixty million pounds, and with this money it has been providing bakshish, apartments, Rolls-Royces and call-girls, to those Saudi princes who need such sweeteners before they unscrew their pens and sign contracts. Swiss banks are providing further evidence of corruption. Saudis habitually plead that such transactions are not in the least corrupt, but just the way they do business, a nice native custom. But several BAE executives have actually been arrested.

The SFO investigation seems to be coming to a head at last, and the Saudis are very far from pleased. To prevent exposure, they threaten to suspend all contracts, and not to sign new ones. More than that, and virtually substantiating that there is much to hide, one of the multifarious Saudi princes has rushed to Paris, where a slobbering Jacques Chirac is already drawing up a contract to replace the Typhoons with French-made Rafales. European Union means less than nothing; when money on this scale is at stake, here’s another Serious Farce all its own.

The British Attorney General, a cabinet minister and lawyer by the name of Lord Goldsmith, has the power to call off the investigation for the sake of the national interest. Not long ago, he was subjected to great pressure to give a favourable judgement on the legality of going to war in Iraq – which he duly did. Now BAE, the business world, the unions worried about British jobs, the media, are similarly pressuring him to let the Saudis have the Rolls-Royces and call-girls apparently so indispensable to them. In that case, Serious Farce Office is a description that serves its purpose. And Eurabia, here we come.

Putin’s Polonium



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At least we now know that Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-KGB officer murdered in London, died through somehow ingesting polonium 210, a rare radio-active material.  This is not among murder weapons in everyday use,  as it has to be produced in highly sophisticated laboratories, of which there are few, and all of them under the control of one state or another. It is of course possible that criminals bought or stole it from one such laboratory.

Everyone concurs that the murder serves only the hierarchy ruling in the Kremlin. A law was passed last June authorising Russian secret services to kill people abroad. In a statement made just before his death, Litvinenko directly accuses President Vladimir Putin himself of responsibility for the murder. Unless the Russians do everything possible to help investigation, the assumption has to be that Putin indeed inspired the killing. So far Putin prevaricates.  Bizarrely he has described the murder as a non-violent deed and uttered what used to be the standard Soviet riposte that here is a “political provocation.” Further, the Russians claim that Litvinenko was murdered by his friends as “a pawn” in their games.  Which has to be nonsense.

The relationship of Russia and the West now hangs in the air. This is not some lurid incident suitable as background for a thriller; instead it is a serious test of the balance of forces in the world today. Should Putin and the Russians maintain their attitude of indifference and dismissal, their contempt for the West will be unmistakable. Opportunity calls: they may well be prepared to square up to Muslims in the belief that ultimate supremacy over Europe will fall to them. The British authorities so far give every indication of wishing this murder would just go away. Should they maintain this craven attitude and fail to confront Russia, then they will deserve the contempt – and worse – evidently coming to them. 

“foul, strange, and unnatural”



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“Murder most foul,” as Shakespeare put it, going on, “foul, strange, and unnatural.” That is what we are seeing in London today. Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB colonel and declared enemy of Vladimir Putin, has died in hospital. Everything about the unfortunate man’s fate is indeed strange and unnatural. Scotland Yard, investigating the case, is treating the death as “unexplained,” rather than a murder inquiry. This suggests that the authorities may try to sweep it all under the carpet.  But shortly before he died, Litvinenko is reported to have told a friend, “The bastards got me.”

To confuse the issue further, the doctors now say that they can’t be sure what poison was used to kill him, but talk of cyto-toxic drugs that kill cells and cause a rapid decline of the kind Litvinenko suffered. The KGB has a laboratory that experiments along these lines. On the day of his death, Litvinenko met in restaurants one Andrei Lugovoy,  a former KGB officer like himself, as well as an Italian by the name of Mario Scaramella, a shadowy figure said to work for one or more intelligence agencies. Both proclaim their innocence.

To cap it all, Moscow now declares that Litvinenko was too unimportant to kill. The implication clearly is that important people may expect to be killed. Those who know the Kremlin – and first and foremost among them is Oleg Gordievsky, himself a one-time KGB defector – think that Moscow totally misjudged the effect that this murder would have, in the belief that it would pass unnoticed. Actually the murder reveals that the Soviet Union is arising, vampire-like, from its grave.

A Death in Lebanon



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The murder of Pierre Gemayel is a very serious threat, carrying the risk of bringing down the Lebanese government, with the prospect either of civil war or the seizure of power by Hezbollah, the agents sponsored to regain control of Lebanon on behalf of Syria.  A member of one of the most influential Christian families, Gemayel was firmly anti-Syrian, and the Syrians have previously murdered several relations, including his uncle Bashir, the president of Lebanon in an earlier crisis. This latest murder in the series comes right from the top of the Syrian regime and its ruling Baathist party. The timing is most exactly calculated. What everyone is able to deduce from the departure of Donald Rumsfeld and leaks of the Baker-Hamilton commission is that the whole American position in the Middle East is unravelling fast, and now is therefore the moment to strike. In a real sense, Gemayel is a prime victim of a perceived change of direction arising from the American midterm elections. Damascus of course denies culpability, which is brazen effrontery, and wholly unbelievable. That is how they do things there.

At the same time, in London some unidentified murderer used the sophisticated tool of radiated thallium to try to kill Alexander Litvinenko, and he may well have succeeded – Litvinenko is at death’s door in a London hospital, speechless and poisoned. A former colonel in today’s KGB, he was in exile, and moved in the circle of other Russian exiles, notably some oligarchs fleeing for their lives from the ever more tyrannical regime of Vladimir Putin. As a freelance with good neo-KGB contacts, Litvinenko was investigating the murder of Anna Politovskaya, the courageous journalist who exposed Putin’s brutal policy towards the Chechens. He also published fierce anti-Putin articles in the Chechen press. One friend of Litvinenko’s is Oleg Gordievsky, himself a senior KGB officer before he defected to London in Soviet days. Gordievsky thinks that the KGB once attempted to kill Anna Politovskaya by poisoning and most probably shot her in the end.  Of this latest outrage he says, “Of course it is state-sponsored. He was such an obvious enemy. Only the KGB is able to do this.”  Moscow is silent so far, which is its form of effrontery. That is how they do things there. 

These two disgusting acts of violence are not in the least coincidental, but parallel events that tell us all we need to know about absolute regimes. Killing people is the preferred means to their simple end of acquiring and holding power.  The repetition is as horrible as the deeds themselves. The Soviets used thallium to poison its victims abroad, and so did Saddam Hussein, and all such regimes are only gunmen in uniform or in disguise. The moral is very clear: the United States must concede nothing to Russia and especially not to Syria. Talks, negotiation, compromise, the kind of overtures the Baker-Hamilton crowd are seemingly working on, will really condemn the American position everywhere to unravel.  To go along in any degree with the way Russians and Syrians do things disastrously combines moral disgrace with political suicide.

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