Google+

David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Hari Returns Prize



Text  



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

Whither the ‘Arab Spring’?



Text  



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

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

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

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

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

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

ADVERTISEMENT

Fighting On



Text  



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

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

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

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

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

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

Scandalous Behavior



Text  



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

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

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

Turkey Expels an Ambassador



Text  



 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADVERTISEMENT

Islamic Honor and the Flotilla



Text  



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lauren and Unity



Text  



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

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

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

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

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

Where Stands the Arab Spring?



Text  



 

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

Lost in Translation in Tripoli



Text  



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

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

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

Where Responsibility Lies



Text  



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

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

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

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

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

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

A Frightening Spectacle



Text  



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

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

Will the Rebels Return Megrahi to Britain?



Text  



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

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

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

Smiling Rioters



Text  



 

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

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

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

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

Putin the He-man



Text  



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

Keep Your Eye on Turkey



Text  



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

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

The Wagner Taboo



Text  



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

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

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

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

More Dangerous Than Insane



Text  



Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer, the pundits and psychiatrists are quick to say, is insane. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and one of the most intelligent men in public life, considers that there is nothing to study in Breivik’s mind. That seems altogether too easy a dismissal. All the evidence is that Breivik set about this crime with unusual forethought and a thoroughness which the would-be bomber in Times Square, for example, or the man with explosives in his underwear on the flight to Detroit, were quite incapable of. Breivik is an educated man, he can make good use of a phrase of John Stuart Mill’s. For a long time he has been writing a document of 1,500 pages, a testament in which he lays out that he has enemies, in this case Muslims whom he sees taking over Europe, and the social democrat politicians, all traitors, who collude in their own downfall and the end of Christian culture in the West by encouraging Muslim immigration.

Comparison with the preoccupations of Mein Kampf leaps to mind. Bolstering the Nazi analogy is Breivik’s love of dressing up in bogus uniforms complete with orders and medals. The murderous premeditated attack on the island near Oslo seems his version of the 1923 coup which landed Hitler in prison but gave him the chance to broadcast his ideology. Insane mass killers usually turn their gun on themselves but Breivik has made sure to stay alive in order to oblige people to listen to his explanations of what he has done.

Coincidentally, that same week brought unexpected news of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. In May 1941, Hess flew to England on a mission that has never been fully explained. Captured, he was held for the rest of the war and tried at Nuremburg where he spoke and acted as though insane, much to the irritation of former colleagues in the dock with him. He spent the rest of his life in a Berlin prison. I once interviewed Frau Hess, herself an unrepentant Nazi, and she proudly showed me among other memorabilia a specially printed copy of Mein Kampf with Hitler’s dedication. Fanatics never give up.

Those executed after the Nuremburg trial were cremated and their ashes scattered. Hess was buried in a family grave at Wunsiedel, in Bavaria. Over the years neo-Nazis have treated Hess’s grave as a place of pilgrimage. Thousands of them parade there, sing their Party songs, give their Party salute, and threaten the peace. At last, the church authorities have cancelled the rights of the Hess family to their plot, and the corpse has been removed and cremated, the ashes now scattered in untraceable water.

Breivik fits into this neo-Nazi underworld now swarming in large numbers, and far more dangerous than insane. They are the mirror image of the militant Islamists busy building a society apart, and if really nobody can devise how this culture-clash should be dealt with, then Breivik may come to be a role model.

England’s Revenge



Text  



 

On one occasion in New York, I listened to a speech by Mr. Rupert Murdoch in which he said something to the effect that at Oxford he had received a second-rate education in a third-rate country. Quite a few in that audience had been to Oxford and thought well of England, so a sort of shudder went through the room. Success of course led him to talk like that quite often and openly, making him unpopular, the envy and the hatred all mixed up. Right now, England is having its revenge on the man.

A miasma of accusation is sweeping the country. Murdoch journalists evidently hacked into private telephones, which is forbidden by law. Money has passed between such journalists and the police, which is also forbidden by law. So far, ten journalists have been arrested, and two senior police officers have resigned. There seems to be evidence of lying and prevaricating. Gagging orders have been placed on lawyers to prevent them from revealing what they know. Two committees have been set up to investigate, and parliament was recalled for a debate. One of the arrested journalists was the chief of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron, and he was obliged to resign. The issue enlarges into party politics.

Mr. Murdoch may have been far and away the richest and most influential media baron, but his competitors are showing neither respect nor mercy.

Photographers are sure to have caught him looking all his 80 years, badly dressed, harassed, past it. Questioned by one of the committees, he often hesitated, and of course the cameras dwelled on his apparent failure to find the answer he needed. At that committee some intruder threw a carton of some kind of cream in his face, and he could be made to look ridiculous for that — he seemed like some malefactor put into the stocks in a medieval village to be pelted with rubbish. He also apologised for his papers’ misdeeds, and the Daily Telegraph then ran the exultant headline in gigantic type, “Murdoch eats humble pie.” As for the BBC, it makes no pretence at objective reporting, glorying in one program after another in Mr. Murdoch’s predicament, exaggerating it with speculation that places him and all who come into this story in the worst possible light. Neither they, nor I, are in possession of enough hard facts on which to base a properly judged conclusion.

I have often wondered how people in the past joined in witch-hunts, suspending reason and passing sentence of death on the basis of prejudice and mass hysteria. Now I know how it happens.

Hari, Disgrace to the George Orwell Prize, Suspended



Text  



More news about Johann Hari, a journalist on the Independent, a British newspaper very keen to claim the moral high ground and to rubbish everyone else. This Hari has an outstanding reputation for trickery. On one occasion he joined a National Review cruise passing himself off as an ordinary passenger and writing it up as though he’d been behind enemy lines. If that’s not being an imposter, what is it? But his speciality is to do interviews and incorporate into the published article whole passages as though they had been spoken to him when actually they have been written elsewhere. The Daily Telegraph for instance singles out that in a nearly 5,000-word interview with Ann Leslie, a very experienced reporter, he took 545 words from an article she had written in the Daily Mail. If that’s not plagiarism, what is it? His editor has now suspended him “pending the outcome of an internal inquiry.” This Hari was once awarded the George Orwell Prize, and those judges are having an investigation into what he did. Orwell is known to have attacked nuisance-types with an uplifted chair, and that is what he’d have done to this Hari trading on his name and reputation.

Another Era of Peace and Justice for Sudan?



Text  



A Sudanese novelist by the name of Tayyib Salih has retired to London. I practiced my Arabic by translating his novel Season of Migration to the North. Here is a tragic story of a Sudanese who tries to live up to the standards of the British, fails to do so, and kills his English girlfriend and then himself. And this is also pretty close to the story of Sudan.

True, at the battle of Omdurman at the close of the nineteenth century, the British sealed their occupation by killing ten thousand Sudanese, the bravest of the brave, in the face of machine-guns. The young Winston Churchill rode in the decisive cavalry charge and remained proud of it for the rest of his life. But it didn’t take long for Sudan to become the outstanding example of enlightened colonialism. About 200 British officials administered this vast country with its 500 or so tribes of different religion and ethnicity and language, and brought them peace and justice. Tayyib Salih acknowledges it in his book.

The news that Sudan has just split led me to look again at the writings of some of these former governors and district commissioners, men of immense experience and devotion to Sudan like Sir Reginald Wingate and Colonel Hugh Boustead. Wilfred Thesiger, the great explorer, joined the Sudan Service and left an unforgettable portrait of his time there in the 1930s and the humanity that he learnt. “Ever since then it has been people that have mattered to me,” he writes in his autobiography.

How long ago that all was, and how much better that lost world seems than the ghastly murderous decades since then. The Sudanese have been fighting each other now for almost half a century, in a free-for-all of Muslims, Christians, and animists, tribe against tribe, with women and children raped and left to die, villages burnt, wells poisoned, anything cruel that the strong can devise to send the weak to the wall.

The criminals who did this will be remembered for a long time as the janjawid, a local version of the Gestapo. It is said that between two or three million defenseless Sudanese were killed, and as many displaced, but the real numbers will never be known.

Sudan has just divided with the Muslims keeping the north, and the Christians and animists forming a new country, to be known as the Republic of South Sudan. Having lived and suffered under the rule of Islam in the north, the southerners voted almost unanimously to secede and they are celebrating their independence accordingly. They have a president, a capital at Juba, a flag, and an anthem. There are about eight or nine million South Sudanese, most of whom live on one dollar a day, and are illiterate. When Libya became independent, that country had nobody with a Ph.D, and I wonder if South Sudan is any better off.

Just about fifty miles of roads are paved. The country is potentially fertile for agriculture, and it has oil. This may lead to extended warfare, since the boundary with the north is not yet properly demarcated and it is not clear to whom the oil money should go. Equally ominous, it is an article of faith in Islam that territory once held by Muslims cannot be given up. The likes of those English officials are required if there’s to be another period of peace and justice.

Pages

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review