Heraclitus meets Donald Trump

From one of the awesome Victor Davis Hanson‘s outstanding and very readable history meisterwerks,   Ripples of Battle. Trump gets this, Hillary doesn’t, and nor does the UN. I think the US electorate are with Trump (and Heraclitus) on this, one of the reasons for my prediction of 6 months ago. Hanson, I should add, published it in 2003, two years after 9/11, and long before the Daeshbags of ISIS. A prophetic piece of work

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#NeverHillary
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Blair: batten down the hatches

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My thanks to the wonderful @smithsky1979 for her #blairroll

The spectacle of Tony Blair as an apparently sincere penitent – albeit one still laden with his predictable list of hubristic justifications –  doesn’t surprise me at all, at this stage. The very first post on this blog, back in 2010 was about Blair’s apparent search for atonement in the truest sense. At that time I was confidently expecting Chilcot to report within the next year. It does surprise even me though, that Blair has ended up in quite such an abject state, when seen from the perspective of 1997.

A little context. Back in the time of  John Major’s government in the early 90’s, the UK was doing quite well. After Major’s appallingly selfish and ideological pursuit of the deutschmark (a folly which doubled my mortgage briefly, in 48 hours, not that JM cared about such things), the economy was booming, relatively. It was to be a golden inheritance for Labour, the exact opposite of the scorched earth bequeathed by Brown in 2010.

In about 1993 I began to notice Blair as an unctuous and slightly cocky Shadow Home Secretary, popping up on the TV. I’d seen Gordon Brown in action at the Commons as Shadow Chancellor under John Smith, and for all his faults, he seemed then a far more substantial figure than the glib Blair. After Smith’s death it became rapidly apparent that, under the youthful Blair, Labour were going to win the next election, irrespective of the economy.  I remember on election day in 1997 sitting in the operating theatre coffee room saying that Blair appeared to me to be a flighty and unserious chancer, albeit an ambitious one. The uniform response was “you can’t possibly want the Tories back in”. Nobody except me seemed to have any concerns about Blair**.

That election night I stayed up till two watching it unfold,  and by then the enormity of Blair’s majority was already apparent. He would clearly be in power for years. The phrase that kept going through my head was “batten down the hatches, this will take a long time to get through”. The next day at work everyone was delighted that the groovy young Tony was in and everything would be fine.

My concerns, which were pretty much completely borne out, related to the very clear message that this administration would intentionally change the social, cultural and moral fabric of the country, and eventually, through the timeless expedient of spending money they didn’t have, they would wreck the economy too.

I  usually date the completed initial phase of the first of these malign objectives to the release of the worst film ever made, Love Actually ( I’m serious), in 2003, which was basically a New Labour 90’s zeitgeist epic of the worst kind. The second objective was apparent by the financial crisis of 2008. It took them 11 years to destroy a booming economy, but they managed it. In case anyone is still spinning the line that it was all secondary to American subprime mortgage lending (Brown’s favourite excuse), then I would direct you to a prophetic book by two British hacks – the esteemed Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson – called Fantasy Island, which was published in 2007. If you don’t believe me, read the synopses (1, 2 and 3). Truly the Blair/Brown government was a disaster on a huge scale, despite their aggressive and largely successful debasement of the government spin apparatus under the enduringly loathsome Alastair Campbell, which subjugated an already enthralled media.

So I wasn’t remotely surprised by all this, it was obvious to me when I first set eyes on Blair, and I took a lot of shit for it. The endless supply of people all willing to slag Blair off now, and over the last few years, are mainly the people who voted for him in three general election victories, a point made eloquently by James Kirkup. What a bunch of hypocrites.

That said, I never thought he’d become the crazy and infantile warmonger, which role has now, finally, skewered him.

Which is why I have to laugh at the endless bleatings (eg: 1, 2, 3) from Guardian writers and others now, post-Chilcot, who spent the period from 1997 to 2008 drooling over Blair and Brown. I don’t remember too much genuine opposition from them to the Iraq debacle back then. Jeremy Corbyn, Ming Campbell, the late Charlie Kennedy and Robin Cook all take credit for their stance at the time. A special mention goes to the routinely reviled George Galloway (see below), the only person who predicted in detail the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. Their  reasons for opposition varied, but they have the moral high ground today.

Max Hastings neatly outlines the stage on which Blair played out his monumental and ego driven disaster: “What took place was only possible because in 2002-3 Blair was an immensely popular Prime Minister with a personal dominance that enabled him to persuade or conscript the rest of Westminster and Whitehall to support an Iraqi adventure overwhelmingly driven by his own hubris and moral fervour.”

I doubt that there will be any article written in the aftermath of Chilcot that expresses the tortuous hypocrisy  of the British public and media in all this, than Brendan O’Neill’s, in Spiked. As he rightly puts it:

The important, humane task of understanding the history and politics of that calamity in 2003 has been sacrificed at the altar of allowing a needy elite the space in which to say: ‘Blair is evil, and I am good.’

I can already sense a neat dividing line developing when considering Blair’s legacy: Iraq bad/all else good. For the purpose of clarity – and going back to where I began this post – I would refine that to: Iraq bad (Blair sort of penitent)/most of his other stuff also bad (Blair unrepentant).

The criticism rightly heaped on him for Iraq, and on his many, many aiders and abetters  should be spread around on most of his other endeavours too. A messiah complex unburdened by caution and intelligent reflection is unlikely to come good at any point. This was a truly awful government, lead by a figure who since then has become more and more unhinged.

I should leave the last word to the hated yet prescient George Galloway, confirming what Chilcot meant when he pointedly said “We do not agree that hindsight is required.

 

** as Stephen Glover puts it ” Only a hard core of widely disbelieved critics saw him as an untrustworthy fraud”

John Stuart Mill considers ISIS

Hilary Benn’s recent Commons speech has received many plaudits, and also a few cautionary comments regarding its essential obviousness. Is this what it’s come to that a basic outline of how bad ISIS are is regarded as shining political rhetoric in the remains of the Labour Party? All the same, it was a necessary moment.

Here, in a real flight of eloquence from 167 years ago, in Principles of Political Economy, is John Stuart Mill:

“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 a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

Which seems pretty clear. In a week where ISIS are promulgating killing Down’s Syndrome kids, amongst other things, opponents of military action – however principled in theory –  begin to look more and more like Mill’s ‘miserable creatures’, likewise those such as Obama, who adopt a studied indifference and occupy themselves with ludicrous displacement activity.  Mill and his wife are described as follows:

they lived in a society where bold and adventurous individuals were becoming all too rare. Critics have sometimes thought that Mill was frightened by the prospect of a mass democracy in which working-class opinion would be oppressive and perhaps violent. The truth is that Mill was frightened by middle-class conformism much more than by anything to be looked for from an enfranchised working class.

That was written in the middle of the 19th century, and it’s exactly what we face now.

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The great man

Three Scots tell the tale

Everyone is rightly going on about Andrew Neil’s glorious trash talk takedown of the ISIS nerds, and here it is as a handy reference:

My only criticism is that he didn’t namecheck Alkan, who is buried in the Cimitiere Montmartre, along with Berlioz, who did get a mention. Neil is a classic example of the gifted Scottish man of the world, a beneficiary of a superb Scottish education (now on its knees).

On the same show there’s the highly intelligent, less formally educated, (and occasional idiot), George Galloway, Dundee’s finest, with a magnificent answer on shooting the bad guys, as well as various other pieces of smart thinking:

 

Good on you George, whose Middle East knowledge and sympathies are well known. He’s often right, despite the anti-Israel whining. See this brilliant prophetic comment.

Then, inevitably, there is Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond, who has been parked by Sturgeon, bafflingly, as the Nats’ foreign affairs spokesman. Eck now lives primarily in his own world of pompous declamatory self serving tripe, whether it’s his lousy economic predictions (see the mighty Chokkablog), or in this case, a completely out-of-step reliance on the embarrassingly discredited UN. It’s entirely in keeping with his ludicrous attempts to patronise combat veteran Johnny Mercer, on Channel 4 recently.

Eck is not just misjudging the mood of the UK, as usual, he’s carrying on with his entertaining mission to estrange himself from his own party. Eck’s closest pal in politics is going to end up as comedic convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan. For both of them the mythical Indyref 2 is becoming the only way to grab the limelight, something even the SNP are dodging now, apart from the dwindling band of ’45 zoomers.

Galloway and Neil are great adverts for the ongoing independent spirit and intellectual bite of the Scottish Enlightenment. In fact, Neil looks more and more as if he could have stepped out of a Tobias Smollett novel, a writer who in some ways he resembles. These men are the best of Scotland, in their different ways. The ISIS crisis has perhaps given an unexpected boost to the process of putting Salmond into his cul-de-sac of history.

Labour’s glorious 13 years in power: an appreciation

Right then, what should we wreck first?
Right then, what should we wreck first?

Labour were in power for 13 years: 1997 to 2010, mostly under Tone, of course.

I used to argue with friends on the topic: what genuinely good things did Labour actually achieve, with the massive power to be wielded after their landslide? Bear in mind we can agree on most of the bad things, Iraq being no 1, and we probably can, however grudgingly, agree on what Maggie achieved in many key areas, as a handy comparison.

Happily, Labour Uncut, in the course of considering a Corbyn leadership, have offered their own carefully considered list. Remember, they all voted for Blair etc, and they still keep the Labour flame burning. Here is their list, with my comments. I’m pretty sure they haven’t missed any opportunities to big up the New Labour legacy:

…all the time Jeremy has been in parliament he has had a Labour party that either was in government or acted like it wanted to be in government. So his, and other constituents benefited from the minimum wage, 78,000 more nurses, devolved power in Scotland, a Welsh assembly, the overseas aid budget doubled, 30,000 more teachers, winter fuel payments to pensioners, halved waiting times in the NHS, free school milk and fruit, the Disability Rights Commission, free entry to museums and galleries, the Good Friday agreement, paternity leave, civil partnerships, to name but a few.

Hmm. Is that it?

the minimum wage

OK, not bad in principle, as a safety net. But it does distort market forces, which can be very damaging. Already Osborne has been fiddling with it, to his peril. as the FT says “As for working people, many will thank the chancellor as their wages rise. Others will become unaffordable and will lose their jobs”.  A mixed blessing, at best.

78,000 more nurses

Well, as a full time NHS worker, I would say firstly, it’s not that many, and secondly, putting nurses in non-jobs, which is a lot of it, is of no use. The problem, if there is one with hospital nursing, is attitudinal, and the changed nature of the job.

devolved power in Scotland

Tam Dalyell would have been proven right, if the oil price (and industry) hadn’t started collapsing. Basically a short term bit of meddling with terrible consequences. The only plus point is that despite the extremely low calibre of Holyrood MSP’s, the devolved chamber means that public spending is protected in Scotland by a nervy Westminster, whatever the Nat morons claim to the contrary. See Chokkablog on all this.

a Welsh assembly

What can I say? The Welsh NHS?

the overseas aid budget doubled

Like the minimum wage, in theory it’s a humane approach. The reality is a bit different, and being in government really shouldn’t be primarily gesture politics. It’s also spending money we don’t have.

30,000 more teachers

Another numbers game. What did the OECD find when it assessed Labour’s legacy on this? Try visiting any country in Europe, even crisis hit Spain and Greece, they seem pretty well educated and mostly fluent in English.

winter fuel payments to pensioners

Another blunt instrument, does it actually work in practice?

halved waiting times in the NHS

Ah yes, waiting times. I am part of this one. Fine concept for cancer, good for A&E, but very difficult in that service due to Labour’s destruction of GP out of hours services. However, the politicians are obsessed with waiting times for non-urgent elective surgery, over almost anything else. This distorts NHS provision, damages staff, wastes money and creates unmeetable expectations. There is no evidence that it gains votes, and all this when huge swathes of elective surgical practice are, embarrassingly, of uncertain value and unknown outcomes. Not everything is as good as a cataract op or a hip replacement.

free school milk and fruit

It’s not ‘free’. Do they actually consume it?

the Disability Rights Commission

OK as far as it went, now unfortunately swallowed up in the potentially tyrannical megabureaucracy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a classic politicised quango

free entry to museums and galleries

Gold star, we can all agree on this one

the Good Friday agreement

Well, I have to admit that peace in Northern Ireland – for the most part – is better than the bad old days. I’m of the view however, that letting unrepetentant thugs like Adams and McGuinness swan around in government and being lauded has its down side. A lot of crimes have now gone unpunished, a lot of people feel very bitter, but powerless. A genuinely tricky one. Read this

paternity leave

Otherwise known as extended annual leave. A nightmare for small businesses and running essential public sector services. Of no proven advantage, as compared to the old days, when we just took annual leave. Actually, a pathetic development in the true sense of that word.

civil partnerships

Fair enough. Not to be confused with ‘gay marriage’.

I note that they didn’t include banning fox hunting. Is this a secret pleasure for the Labour Uncut staff? In any event, does the thin gruel outlined above even come close to outweighing the Iraq War, the institutionalisation of lying to voters, the destruction of the economy, the issues with immigration, the bizarre relationship with the worst of the EU, the explosion in unaffordable freebies by abusing Bevan’s concept of the welfare state, the subtle and not so subtle attacks on the teachers, the doctors and religion, the witless nurturing of violent Islamism in the UK?

I think the answer is no. And remember, the above is the Labour supporters‘ list of achievements, not mine. Also, bear in mind their indirect responsibility for the worst film ever made, Love Actually.

No wonder they are, happily, self-destructing.

The Blair legacy: a snapshot

Great geopolitical thinking in action
Great geopolitical thinking in action

The Knife has complained in the past about people whose words or actions proclaim that they’re ‘strategic not operational’, particularly as it pertains to the NHS. Operational is tough, strategic can mean almost anything. It’s usually bullshit.

So it comes as no surprise to read that  Tony Blair suffers from this malaise. In a perceptive piece in the Mail, these paragraphs stand out:

However, there is little doubt that his predecessor in the job, James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, spent much more time in the region. He told us that to do any good for the peace process, you have to put in a lot of time. ‘It is a full-time job and you cannot do that on a timetable of two or three days. You cannot do anything in a rushed manner in the Arab world.’

Those in the know say Wolfensohn was in non-stop negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, shuttling between Gaza, Jerusalem and Ramallah. He got involved in nitty-gritty issues, such as organising openings at road crossings so there could be free movement of buses for the Arab population and goods between the West Bank and Gaza.

Blair, on the other hand, with his once-over-lightly, butterfly approach to diplomacy, prefers great geopolitical thinking and high-flown rhetoric rather than detailed on-the-ground negotiations.

The considered view is that in one of the most turbulent times for the Middle East, he has done little or nothing to bring Israel and Palestine together through economic and security co-operation, apart from occasionally turning up at the region’s most exotic hotel and consulting with a few local leaders and journalists.

I don’t begrudge Blair a few quid and a nice retirement, it’s just the need to pretend that he’s doing something noble and selfless, tinged with the wisdom of Solomon, that gets me.

The ascent of the ‘strategic’ NHS manager, and numerous gruesome self-appointed health experts like the pompously named Kings Fund neatly parallels the rise of Blair, and his relentless dilution of substance with superficial style. The surprise is how permanent is the damage done to institutions by that once-over-lightly, butterfly approach‘.

 

ISIS morons empower women…

real feminists
real feminists

…well, in reality they kidnap them, rape them and sell them, as the first order effect, but the secondary consequence is more unwelcome to these jihadi misogynists, whose behaviour is uncannily mirrored by Boko Haram in Africa.

Take, for example, the now famous peshmerga female soldiers. This is no token gesture. They have their own battalion, their own officer ranks, and they can really fight. They have a wonderful degree of contempt for ISIS, To quote the splendid Colonel Nahida Ahmad Rashid:

‘I find them indescribably disgusting. How would you feel if it was women living near you who were being married off by force by ISIS? How would you feel? They are doing the most disgusting things I have ever seen in my life.’…

‘I have told all my frontline soldiers to keep one bullet in their pocket in case they are captured. I never want any of them to be captured by ISIS.’

They’re not a last minute reaction to being under the threat of ISIS slaughter, the Kurds have been giving women equal status as fighters for years. To add to their value, although the claim is disputed, there seems to be something in the story that if you’re a jihadi killed by a woman, don’t expect the legendary (and in itself, more than a bit strange) reward of 72 virgins, or as the Al-Arabiya network called it, their “virgin-fuelled utopian rest”.

So good for the Kurds. The Iraqi Kurd who sells me kebabs had his peshmerga brother killed a month ago, fighting ISIS. The ramifications of this brutal pseudo-caliphate reach our streets quickly, one way or another.

 

Then along comes this remarkable old lady, who confronts a couple of the thugs in the street in Syria,  in this now famous video. She doesn’t let them off the hook, and they have no answer to her. Brilliant:

 

 

Lastly there are the journalists. The Sunday Times’ superb Hala Jaber (@HalaJaber) completely understands the mentality of ISIS, and indeed the rest of the Middle East, and her Twitter feed is quite brilliant, attracting the enmity of what she refers to as ‘ISIS fanboys’. The Kurdish journalist Shler Bapiri (@shlerbapiri) is another tireless advocate for the truth against Islamic female genital mutilation, and the fight to the death with ISIS. These fearless women – who are not remote from danger themselves – are very much in the noble tradition of people like the superb Veena Malik and the legendary Oriana Fallaci, both previously featured in this blog. Here is Veena eloquently putting the boot into an absurd imam on Pakistani TV:

 

Her confident outspokenness has just earned her a 26 year jail sentence in Pakistan. Luckily she lives in Dubai. The late Oriana Fallaci was the Italian powerhouse who famously gave the Ayatollah Khomeini a lesson in practical feminism. As it turns out, she was something of a prophet herself, and her best-selling post 9/11 polemic The Rage and the Pride remains a much needed counterblast to the situation we find ourselves in today.

When the British idea of feminism seems often to revolve around a privileged pink bus idiot like Harriet Harman wearing an inane sweat shop produced T shirt in parliament, you can only stand in awe of these women who are out there, in the real world, dealing with unimaginable problems that men don’t have to suffer. As the reliably funny and controversial Gavin McInnes writes, Harman’s kind of feminism is basically  “women doing what they’re told”.

...really, I don't know what to say about this image
…really, I don’t know what to say about this image

 

France, know thyself

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To paraphrase PG Wodehouse, it’s never difficult to distinguish between a Frenchman with a grievance, and a ray of sunshine. Admirable though the protest for freedom of expression is in France, following recent events, there is a tinge of hypocrisy in all this, both in recent times and historically.

We need not worry too much on behalf of the unappealing Front National, that Charlie Hebdo campaigned to have them banned in 1996, but the fact is, they did. Voltaire might have baulked at that one. Similarly, there is no reason other than prissy lefty sensibilities to have failed to invite the current (and widely supported) Front National from the big rally for unity. It just makes it about 75% unity. Even at a time of great seriousness, calling for greatness of spirit, these morons get all huffy and party political. None of this is to support the Front National, who are a legal organisation, just to note the inherent divisiveness, precisely the wrong message.

Not particularly my business , I suppose, much as I like France.

However, let us go back, not that long ago, to examine the living history of this bastion of free expression and tolerance. Look at this picture:

The monks being thrown out of La Grande Chartreuse in 1903, by the government
The monks being thrown out of La Grande Chartreuse in 1903, by the government

Nothing wrong with separating Church and state – in fact the two are usually inimically opposed on numerous issues – as the French law of 1905 put on the statute books, but in fact it went a lot further than that. The monks only returned in 1940, to their rightful home. The Jesuits were also kicked out of any teaching role, and in shades of Henry VIII, had much of their property ‘confiscated’ by the state. Whatever your view of allegedly subversive Jesuits – a very intelligent and formidable group  – the blameless Carthusians were outrageously treated.

Bizarrely, these church groups had committed no crimes, this was just state approved anticlericalism, a recurring feature of French history, most famously the era of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ in 1789. Only as far back as 1871, the short lived Communard revolt was busy executing Jesuits for being Jesuits. These were clergy, we’re not talking homecoming jihadis here.

A number of writers**  have in the past few days***  attempted the delicate task of unpicking support for the principles of freedom of expression from uncritical support for the French state, and for the genuinely offensive – to everybody, the Muslims got off lightly – and even worse, genuinely unfunny Charlie Hebdo.  Stephen Glover did a good job:

Whether in the case of Islam or Christianity — and the magazine sometimes also extends its animus towards the Jewish faith — the purpose is to shock and dishearten those of religious persuasion. There is no pity or respect or kindness. Charlie Hebdo hates all religion, and mocks all its adherents. I can only imagine how ordinary Muslims feel when they see everything that they hold most sacred being held up for ridicule. As someone who calls himself a Christian, I can sense some of the pain and outrage that Christians much more devout and holy than me must experience when they see or read about these appalling images, which are intended to cause pain.

Here, of course, we come to a parting of the ways. Christians and, I believe, most Muslims, recognise that as we live in a free society we are required to put up with even the most hurtful insults to our faith. The Kouachi brothers (who committed the Paris murders) and their deluded supporters think otherwise, and many innocent people, including the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, have paid a terrible price. It’s obviously insane and immoral to kill someone because one is offended by an image and I abhor what happened in Paris in the name of Islam. But it’s not insane or immoral to be offended by an image whose purpose is to vilify our beliefs and make us unhappy. It’s simply natural and human…

….The militantly atheistical Charlie Hebdo cannot grasp this simple truth. Convinced that all religion is a form of deviance, it lacks the imagination or human sympathy to understand the value of the sacred for religious people, of whom there are thousands of millions on this earth. Far from being sophisticated or enlightened, in some respects the magazine resembles a narrow and monomaniacal sect that actually works against the precepts of freedom. Ironically, in this it is more similar to its blinkered Islamist opponents than it could ever dream — though, of course, without the violence.

As the Pope said, in a remark better understood abroad than in the UK (and not speaking ex cathedra): ‘If you insult my mother you can expect a punch.’

But France specifically, and its ‘tradition’ of being obnoxious to sacred values is in a mess on this stuff. It always has been. I am indebted to the great (and very witty) @BruvverEccles, for highlighting GK Chesterton’s musings from The Ball and the Cross, in one of his more pointed blog posts:

“Yes, France!” said Turnbull, and all the rhetorical part of him came to the top, his face growing as red as his hair. “France, that has always been in rebellion for liberty and reason. France, that has always assailed superstition with the club of Rabelais or the rapier of Voltaire. France, at whose first council table sits the sublime figure of Julian the Apostate. France, where a man said only the other day those splendid unanswerable words”—with a superb gesture—”‘we have extinguished in heaven those lights that men shall never light again.'”
“No,” said MacIan, in a voice that shook with a controlled passion. “But France, which was taught by St. Bernard and led to war by Joan of Arc. France that made the crusades. France that saved the Church and scattered the heresies by the mouths of Bossuet and Massillon. France, which shows today the conquering march of Catholicism, as brain after brain surrenders to it, Brunetière, Coppée, Hauptmann, Barrès, Bourget, Lemaître.”
“France!” asserted Turnbull with a sort of rollicking self-exaggeration, very unusual with him, “France, which is one torrent of splendid scepticism from Abelard to Anatole France.”
“France,” said MacIan, “which is one cataract of clear faith from St. Louis to Our Lady of Lourdes.”

...but I was only praying
…but I was only praying

** This, from Rex Murphy, is a brilliant polemic:

Let’s put it plainly: The solidarity would have been a lot more impressive, more persuasive, some time before this week’s mass butchery….All of which makes this hashtag war, all the We are Charlie Hebdo manifestations, so very, very hollow. If we will not speak for free speech when it is shut down by special interests, protestors of the politically correct, on campuses and in newspapers, we manifest that we are not serious about free speech. There is no “we” after the killings. There are very few worthy of that claim … and, alas, under the shout of allahu akbar, 12 of them are now quite dead.

*** and Christopher Booker, who actually does know his satire

Oskar Dirlewanger and the Islamic State

ISIS or the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger?
ISIS or the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger?

The ISIS people would like you to think that they are motivated by intense religious belief. It adds a certain integrity to their monstrous antics, I suppose, however alien it seems to us effete Westerners.

No doubt that is true of a number of them, foot soldiers, suicide bombers etc, however misguided they are. They are the mugs who will die, and who aren’t living it up.  Like nearly everyone, I have no time for Islamic militants, for whom Nazi comparisons are not far-fetched, but I don’t for one moment think that the real bad guys, including the moronic mumbler Jihadi John, are motivated by religious belief. They are simply indulging an appetite for violence, sadism, misogyny and notoriety without, as yet, personal risk to themselves. Islam does provide a very handy cloak for their actions, though.

More accurately, there is another neat comparison with the Nazis, and that is in the form of Oskar Dirlewanger.

Dirlewanger was an intelligent and educated man, with a very impressive record for bravery in WW1. He was also a violent psychopathic rapist and paedophile, who eventually got locked up in the interwar years. He ended up joining the SS and leading something akin to the penal battalion described in Sven Hassel’s entertaining, if historically confused novels. These were battalions composed of convicts, unstable people, criminals on the run and seeking a way out etc. They got the most unpleasant and dangerous jobs much of the time.

He ended up mainly in Poland and Byelorussia, with his zenith of evil in Warsaw in 1944. For Dirlewanger things couldn’t have been better. He got to murder, rape, torture and profiteer as much as he liked, with exceptional brutality.  Exceptional that is by Nazi standards, to the point where his own bosses, all the way up to Himmler, were uneasy with his behaviour, useful to them though he was. One extended quote gives you the idea:

In Warsaw, Dirlewanger participated in the Wola massacre, together with police units rounding up and shooting some 40,000 civilians, most of them in just two days. In the same Wola district, Dirlewanger burned three hospitals with patients inside, while the nurses were “whipped, gang-raped and finally hanged naked, together with the doctors” to the accompaniment of music. Later, “they drank, raped and murdered their way through the Old Town, slaughtering civilians and fighters alike without distinction of age or sex.” In the Old Town – where about 30,000 civilians were killed – several thousand wounded in field hospitals overrun by the Germans were shot and set on fire with flamethrowers. Reportedly, “the Dirlewanger brigade burned prisoners alive with gasoline, impaled babies on bayonets and stuck them out of windows and hung women upside down from balconies.” SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, overall commander of the forces pacifying Warsaw – and Dirlewanger’s former boss in Belarus – described Dirlewanger as having “a typical mercenary nature”; von dem Bach’s staff officer sent to summon Dirlewanger before him was driven off at gunpoint.

Not much different in nature to what these Yazidi girls reported. Or here, though don’t follow the link if you’re easily upset. It is the unvarnished truth however.  As General Guderian, an able commander, said of the Dirlewanger Brigade:

“What I learnt…was so appalling that I felt myself bound to inform Hitler about it that same evening and to demand the removal of the two brigades from the Eastern Front.”

So, fast forward 70 years and we find that even though the Pakistani Taliban have explicitly affirmed their support for ISIS, they’re a bit worried about their methods. The original bad boys Al Qaeda have also objected. Even terrorists have their limits. Hezbollah as Shi-ites call for Sunni/Shia unity in the fight against Israel, but they’re fighting ISIS too.

There is no moral to this, really, except that all this  evil, including the methodology, is nothing new. However, just as you couldn’t negotiate with men like Dirlewanger, you shouldn’t bother trying with the current incarnation of irredeemable badness. Even ‘routine’ bad guys think it’s beyond reasoning.

It’s Santayana redux: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”, or as Edmund Burke said before him: “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors”

'John', even the poses are similar
‘John’, even the poses are similar
Dirlewanger on the right, having a day off

 

 

 

The Alex Salmond reader. We shall not see his like again.

The Knife’s objections to Salmond and his crony government are on record back to 2010. This blog doesn’t get high traffic, but it does alright. One of the single most read posts is The second Lockerbie Disaster, which is not about parochial Scottish politics as such, but it includes Salmond due to his role in the release of a mass-murderer, convicted by a Scottish court. The complexities of pragmatically dealing with international issues can’t hind the moral vacuum in which that decision was taken, and in which Salmond and his still extant idiotic colleague Kenny MacAskill, were key players. It was followed by reams of misleading rubbish about a serious subject – prostate cancer – to cover their tracks. Dismal.

So, long before the referendum we were on Eck’s case, and much more so in the prolonged and frequently tedious build up to the day itself.

For my own purposes, as much as for any passing readers, the following is a compilation of The Knife’s Greatest Hits, as applied to our lost leader. Most of the predictions came true, and some of it is still worth reading, I hope.

Tripoliticking

The Second Lockerbie Disaster

Buffoon of the decade

The Megrahi Miracle

Scotland in crisis: SNP in charge!

Gaddafi escape plan: world exclusive!

Lockerbie, Lockerbie, Lockerbie

King Eck

In other news (Libyan edition)…

New lottery winner!

How to patronise an entire nation (Scotland)

Alex Salmond: my part in his downfall

Megrahi still alive, Salmond stunned

Alex Salmond – a nation mourns

Tales of the Unexpected: the Alex Salmond episode

Knifonomics (part 36): skewered Salmond

China: our new friends in the East

Salmond: phone tapping revealed

Alex Salmond – you can’t take him anywhere

Salmond: roll on 2014

Comrade Salmond

Alex Salmond: three years…three months, what’s the difference?

Alex Salmond – Smug Bawheed on back foot shocker!

Alex Salmond: may you be stewed and boiled by a high fever, you son of a dog

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation...
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation…