Saturday, September 30, 2006

Islamic fear

A French high school teacher, Robert Redeker, 52, wrote an article in the center-right daily Le Figaro on September 19, 2006. Entitled 'What should the free world do while facing Islamist intimidation?', it had a short life, as is the way with these things. It was pulled down from the website the day after, and the editor of Le Figaro, Pierre Rousselin, then went on al-Jazeera to utter a craven apology. Redeker is now in hiding.

In the article, he likens Islam to Communism.

It prides itself on a legitimacy which troubles Western conscience, which is attentive to others: it claims to be the voice of the oppressed of the planet. Yesterday, the voice of the poor supposedly came from Moscow, today it originates in Mecca! Again, today, western intellectuals incarnate the eye of the Koran, as they have incarnated the eye of Moscow. They now excommunicate people because of Islamophobia, as they did before because of anti-communism.
He contrasts Christianity and Islam according to their founding values.
But what differentiates Christianity from Islam is obvious: it is always possible to go back to true evangelical values, the peaceful character of Jesus as opposed to the deviations of the Church.

None of the faults of the Church have their roots in the Gospel. Jesus is non-violent. Going back to Jesus is akin to forswear the excesses of the Church. Going back to Mahomet, to the conbtrary, reinforces hate and violence. Jesus is a master of love, Mahomet is a master of hatred.
More than this, it is his description of Mohammed that has been the lightening rod for the usual storm of threats and fury.
A merciless war chief, plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamist, such is the man revealed through the Koran.
Redeker describes his current situation in a letter to André Glucksmann
I am now in a catastrophic personal situation. Several death threats have been sent to me, and I have been sentenced to death by organizations of the al-Qaeda movement. [...] On the websites condemning me to death there is a map showing how to get to my house to kill me, they have my photo, the places where I work, the telephone numbers, and the death fatwa. [...] There is no safe place for me, I have to beg, two evenings here, two evenings there. [...] I am under the constant protection of the police. I must cancel all scheduled conferences. And the authorities urge me to keep moving. [...] All costs are at my own expense, including those of rents a month or two ahead, the costs of moving twice, legal expenses, etc.

It's quite sad. I exercised my constitutional rights, and I am punished for it, even in the territory of the Republic. This affair is also an attack against national sovereignty – foreign rules, decided by criminally minded fanatics, punish me for having exercised a constitutional right, and I am subjected, even in France, to great injury.
Michelle Malkin has a complete translation of Redeker's article plus one of an article by the German historian Egon Flaig, published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday the 16th of September. This last, a history of Islamic war and (in)tolerance, is fascinating reading; it is more scholarly, measured, but in the end, more condemning than Redeker's.

A summary from signandsight
Ancient historian Egon Flaig sees the Pope's speech in Regensburg as a justified reference to the martial-imperialist strains in Islam and gives historical precedent for his argument. "Since the beginning of the classical world between the ninth and the eleventh centuries Islamic jurists have divided the world into the "House of Islam" and the "House of War". This division is not dependent on where large numbers of Muslims live, or even represent the majority, but is made according to where Islam rules, in the form of Sharia, and where it does not rule. This dichotomy is therefore not religious but political. And war will reign between these two parts of the world until the House of War no longer exists and Islam rules over the world. (Verse 8, 39 and 9, 41)."
Several thousand miles away, the same forces are at work, though this time they have a legal system behind them. In Dhaka, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a Bangladeshi Muslim journalist, is to go on trial for sedition, the punishment for which is death. His most heinous crime is that he wrote and published articles that were not only critical of Muslim extremism, but favourable to Israel, a state that Bangladesh does not recognise. He compounded this by accepting an invitation to speak in the above-mentioned unrecognised entity. He did not get there.

(via Michelle Malkin)

Friday, September 29, 2006


Victor Davis Hanson

The West really is the world’s life raft, and that is why immigration—civilization’s precious barometer of men’s innermost thoughts—always flows from East to West, never vice versa.
The movement of people is surely an irrefutable argument for the destination and against the source. When the flow is of Amazonian proportions, there would seem to be little to argue about. But the educated mind is deceitful above all things.

Do you remember the "anti-fascist protection barrier", aka The Berlin Wall, with all of its defenses pointed east? Then there was the oppressive Roman Empire that would eventually sink under the weight of its barbarian immigrants. Without forgetting the million or so people who migrate to the United States every year, and the 1.4 million arriving in Europe. How many move in the opposite direction, towards Cuba, for instance, or the Middle East?

Job Ads

Nuclear scientists required

We are in dire need of you. The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases [in Iraq] are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them.
I can see why he'd need to advertise widely for them; it is not as if the Arab world is teeming with technical expertise and innovation. Perhaps this is just the stimulant needed.

Kidnappers required
I appeal to every holy warrior in the land of Iraq to exert all efforts in this holy month so that God may enable us to capture some of the Western dogs to swap them with our sheik and get him out of his dark prison.
Bit of a sellers' market, that one.

The significant worm turns

This is more than ridiculous, it's dangerous. The production wasn't calling for violence! It wasn't saying: go out onto the street and kill Muslims! Where is this all going to take us? As I was shooting my film about the sex publisher 'Larry Flint,' a lot of people said to me: No, that's too extreme, we've got to cut that. Extreme! Extreme! Once we start becoming afraid of the extreme, we'll all end up wearing Mao jackets! People are talking everywhere about how much freedom we need to give up in exchange for security. Okay, but once you start, where do you stop? Do we want 100 percent security? It does exist in one country in the world. There people are entirely protected against external dangers: North Korea!
Milos Forman, director of Amadeus speaking about the cancellation of Idomeneo by the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

This quote from an interview in Frankfurter Rundschau struck me because of that phrase, Mao jackets. Isn't it extraordinary? It isn't that long ago (is it?) that anything to do with The Great Helmsman was a signifier for the radical, the revolutionary, the extreme. It really hasn't taken so long for something truer to be attached to his name. Here it is suppression of vitality, of the spark of life under a suffocating conformity so aptly denoted by that boring little jacket.

The law of the human bomb

Andre Glucksmann in signandsight.

In the past, people used to stick dolls with pins to ward off bad luck and kill evil spirits. In our day we apostrophise the supposed master of the world, accusing him of abusing his "superpowers". He is the cause of all our evils. If he disappeared, universal harmony would be re-established. Our magical behaviour wins on two counts. While our finger points to the cause of world chaos, our angelic smile assures that once the evil power has been paralysed, everything – the dove and the snake, the lion and the lamb – will coexist in harmony.
Meanwhile back in the real world.
...[Iraq] is not a new Vietnam, but a new "Chicago", an ethnic-theological version of Mafia and gang war, laying claim to territories through ethnic purification.

... Who will take the day? The nihilistic combatants who practise homicide and suicide? Or the majority of honest people who aspire – as much in the slums as in the chic neighbourhoods – to live civilly? To accept, or not to accept, the law of the human bomb? That, I fear, will be the question for the children of the 21st century: the question of liberty, and of survival.
[All emphasis original]

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Who are we (relatively speaking)?

Nobody says it better than Mark Steyn. Excuse me if I just put this here and add nothing, but there's really nothing that needs to be added. (These are just excerpts.)

There's always been a market for self-loathing in free societies: after all, the most effectively anti-western idea of all was itself an invention of the West, cooked up by Karl Marx while sitting in the Reading Room of the British Library. The obvious defect in communism is that it's decrepit and joyless and therefore of limited appeal. Fascism, likewise, had many takers in those parts of the cultural West that were politically deficient--i.e., continental Europe--but it had minimal support in the heart of the political West--i.e., the English-speaking world. So the counter-tribalists came up with something subtler and suppler than communism and fascism--the slipperiest ism of all.

The great strength of "multiculturalism" is not that it's an argument against the West but that it short-circuits the possibility of argument. If there's no difference between English Common Law and native healing circles and Tamil Tiger fundraisers and gay marriage and sharia, then what's to discuss? Even to want to debate the merits is to find oneself on the wrong side--for, if the core belief of multiculturalism is that there's nothing to discuss and everything's equally nice and fluffy, then to favour honest argument puts you, by definition, on the extremist side.

I'm sure most of my colleagues at the Western Standard have found themselves in this situation on call-in shows or at public meetings. You point out, for example, that there are very few "free" Muslim societies. And your questioner retorts: "Well, that's just your opinion." And so you pull up a few facts about GDP per capita, freedom of religion, life expectancy, women's rights, etc. And she says: "Well, you're just imposing your values on them." And you realize that the great advantage of cultural relativism is that it renders argument impossible. There is no longer enough agreed reality. It's like playing tennis with an opponent who thinks your ace is a social construct.

... Bernard Lewis, the West's pre-eminent scholar of Islam, worked for British intelligence through the grimmest hours of the Second World War. "In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues," he told The Wall Street Journal a few months ago. "It is different today. We don't know who we are, we don't know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy."

... And the typical western education, even when it's not telling you that your country's principal legacy is racism and oppression, teaches history in a vacuum--random facts, a few approved figures, but no overarching heroic narrative. And, if the past isn't worth defending, why should the future be?

... The issue is self-defence. If you're a genuine cultural relativist--if you really believe our society is no better or worse than any other--you're about to get the opportunity not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk. Good luck.

What they could do that we can't (make Caesar smile)

James Lileks

Where was I? Right: 1893 Exposition. It was lovely, then it closed, and then it burned. It has a sense of confidence our betters could not muster today; the unicultural implications would paralyze them, and they’d be compelled to unmoor everything from its historical antecedents. But in 1893 the archaic forms were used to make a claim for America – we weren’t here to supplant the past but add to it. Adapt, adopt, improve, profit. The imperial vocabulary looked apt, much more so than the humid crawling designs of that Sullivan fellow. If nothing else, it’s all a chest-thumping hymn to Reason as well as power, and it would have made a Caesar gasp. (And smile, to know his culture’s effect had lasted this long.)

Historians are better served studying the 1893 and 1939 fairs than any presidential convention. Elections are about what just happened; the buildings of the fairs are the collective dreams we will into existence somehow, if I can channel my inner overwriter, and say far more about where we want to go, or where we’re willing to be led.

The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation 3

As in ceramics, so in coinage and roof-tiles, the late 5th Century sees a dramatic fall off in quantity, quality and in social diffusion. The roof-tiles are a useful indicator; even modest farm sheds would be protected by them, as state of affairs not to be attained again for several centuries. The lack of coins, however, bespeaks a multi-faceted collapse. Coins are the great facilitators of development. Coins tell us that goods move from place to place, and are exchanged by people who do not know each other and who would otherwise have no dealings. An economy with coinage can afford to specialise, and thus improve techniques in one area so as to produce more. The population can then grow, cities expand and a leisured class come into existence to create demand for luxuries that might soon become staples. After 476, Europeans became villagers, peasants and barterers again. I recently visited Tintagel, that evocative detached headland on the Cornish coast, an important seat of power of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia in the 5th and 6th Centuries, long before the Arthurian stories were attached to it. Though there have been found some relics of pan-european exchange, not a single coin has emerged. Yet a 4th Century farmstead in Somerset yields 68 copper coins.

There are many other indicators of the sophistication of the Roman economy, some of them double-edged. There's the waste mountain of Monte Testaccio, where smashed amphorae and diotae (oil and grain containers) were tossed and gathered until they become a geographical entity. And (most contemporary of all, perhaps) there are the ice layers of the Arctic. Atmospheric pollution blows where the wind goes, and in the far north is collected in the snow, which falls, freezes, thaws in the summer before freezing once again. It can thus be dated. Lead and copper pollution from smelting lead, copper and silver, high during Roman period, fell dramatically not to rise again until the 16/17 Centuries.

Ward-Perkins, for the most part, has eyes for the objects of daily life, the objects bought, used and thrown away by ordinary people. They're the ones who felt most severely the limitations and privations of the new peasant economy after the passing of Rome; they were the most exposed to the prevailing conditions. This is especially so in those countries where economic sophistication came with the legions; areas such as Northern Europe and Britain. Here the blow was crippling - the British economy regressed far beyond the developing Celtic system of Britain BC; it was hurled back to the early Iron Age. The degree of regression was similar in Southern Europe, though there the starting point had been far more advanced, so they sank, but not so low.

Ward-Perkins does venture away from basic economic issues to deal with literacy, though always with regard to its social diffusion. Here Pompeii is a cornucopia of the minutia of ordinary life. He starts with this effusive piece of graffiti, “Here Phoebus the perfume-seller had a really good fuck”. There are many similar items of ephemera including electioneering posters and parodies of same, marks of ownership on household goods, the many remnants of Vindolanda with the handwriting of 100s of different people, and vast quantities from Egypt, including the papyrus receipt for payment of duty on 6 amphorae for entry into a small settlement in the Fayum. There is circumstantial evidence that most legionaries could read and write, and similarly that people in low-status rural sites had use for a stylus.

The point is always the same: that the material comforts of life were spread far more widely before Rome's demise than after. Ward-Perkins is conscientiously, fixedly materialistic in his analysis. He does not pronounce on the moral qualities of the Romans, on their spiritual status. He does not say that they were better people than the Celts, or the Visigoths, or the Alani. He does not reiterate what the Romans left behind for us to make use of, or laud the cultural achievements of their culture. This last is obvious, or should to anyone who doesn't a contemporary target to aim academic darts at. However, he demonstrates that the available evidence all points towards an economic cataclysm for ordinary folk like me and you. That what the Roman economy attained for its people is comparable to what our economy has given us. That its decline was no smooth transition to another, different, but not inferior, culture. It was a disaster, but would be as nothing compared to what would happen if we threw away what we have now.

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

Geography: Dogma vs Desire

A familiar story.

AS part of a geography assignment studying the effects of pollution on the environment, a group of primary schoolchildren from Brisbane headed off to photograph the damage to Moreton Bay. But when they arrived, the waters of the bay were relatively pristine and there was no pollution to be seen.Undeterred, the children carefully set about creating their own polluted part of Moreton Bay, photographed it and just as carefully cleaned up the mess they had made.
Kids usually know what they're 'meant to say'. If that's the only only way to make the grade, then they'll say it. This article from The Australian is about Geography, its transformation into "studies of society and environment" and its corruption into a vehicle of transmission for the dogma of environmentalism. Far from teaching children what its proponents called "skills and knowledge in the integrated way they would need to apply them in the real world", it inculcates a view of the world without demanding the effort of attaining that view. They do not learn to sift evidence, to synthesise their raw material, to think. Why would they need to think when their teachers already know the truth and need just bang on about it enough so that no other point of view becomes possible.

Nonetheless, the human spirit is irrepressible.
He tells the story of students at a girls school where the "very feminist geography teacher" was appalled to find her students were using computers to identify where in Australia was the greatest concentration of young professional men with high incomes who owned their own home.

"That's where they wanted to go to university, so they could find wealthy husbands. The teacher was so appalled that she banned them from the computer room. We might not agree with the topic but these girls were using geography and geographical skills to find the answer to a question that was important to them."


Reaction after Blair's speech
From Labour

One minister was so distressed, he blubbed, "We're f****** mad. What are we f****** doing?"
From the Conservatives
One Tory texted a colleague of mine during the speech to say, “Thank God he’s going.”
They are both right.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A fully paid up member of the human race

This morning, the news was that the production of Mozart's Idomeneo, which features in one scene the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad and Poseidon, had been cancelled. Now, the launch meeting of a "dialogue forum" made up of government ministers and the usual "Muslim representatives" has "spoken out unanimously" that the performances should go ahead in November.

They certainly should. However, if they do, it is a good bet that there will be trouble in November. And the effect will be the same - anything that a super-sensitive victim mentality might find offensive to the core of its being will just be that much more difficult to do in future. It is hard to see how the circle can be broken, especially given the effect a very few people can have on so many. Those few become the voice of 'their people'; their very extremism is a surety of their sincerity and dedication; the volume generated by their actions overwhelms any other voices that 'their people' seek to make heard. For the rest of us, they become not just an isolated bunch of nutters, but the avantgarde of a mass of (you unthinkingly assume) nutters, in the same way that certain feminists erected themselves onto the platform of wimin and socialists spoke for all the working class. The Muslims who just want to get on with their lives are not allowed to do so because they are painted as, and often feel, traitors to the cause, unworthy of their faith and their co-religionists. As such, they are not able to do what liberal democracies allow more than any other system ever created: live as if politics didn't matter.

This is something that Tony Blair understands and the poor activist will never get his head round. Blair said it yesterday,

When I went to Sedgefield to seek the nomination, just before the 1983 election, I was a refugee from the London-based politics of that time.

I knocked on John Burton's door. He said "come in; but shut up for half an hour, we're watching the Cup Winners Cup final".

I sat in the company of the most normal people I had met in the Labour Party.

They taught me that most of politics isn't about politics, in the sense of meetings, resolutions, speeches or even Parties. It starts with people.

It's about friendship, art, culture, sport. It's about being a fully paid up member of the human race before being a fully paid up member of the Labour Party.
It's a sort of warning really to those for whom politics is everything, or for whom their religion is everything. They will never really understand the rest of the world and will do more harm than good precisely because they battle for a good that only a tiny number of damaged minds ever see or desire. Most people would gladly leave them to it, if only these superior souls could keep it to themselves. Of course, they can't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


A bit of background for the Pope's quote, coutesy of The People's Cube.


God, they're going to miss that man.

I don't like a lot of his policies; I don't like the growing weight of the state or the bloated public sector or his pandering to the tabloids. But Blair is a mensch. I have a weakness for people who can speak well, but an even bigger one for people who can do that and actually say something. When you hear him and compare it to those that are continually burnishing their Old Labour badges and taking the moral high ground - it's men and boys.

From the Land of the Pure to Canada

Fear and Loathing in The Land of the Pure by Isaac Schrödinger: An Apostate and a Blasphemer

Isaac Schrödinger is a Pakistani asking for asylum in Canada. His post begins

I was born in an Ahmadi Muslim family in Pakistan. I’m a Pakistani citizen. The attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 and the reactions of Muslims to it changed my mindset. I left Islam in January of 2002.
All the best to him.

(via Samizdata)

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Muslim Dead

Israeli blogger, Imshin, has rendered us a great service. She has translated a long article from the Hebrew newspaper, Maariv, in which Ben Dror Yemini has taken the trouble to do some counting. Rather unpleasant counting it is, too. The dead. The Muslim dead. Those dead at Israeli hands, and those at the hands of fellow Muslims, and of others, as well (see below).

60,000 Arabs have died in the Arab-Israel conflict since 1948 — a few thousand were Palestinian. In that same period, the lower-end estimate of Muslims killed by Muslims (in Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, etc) is 8.67 million.

Ben Dror Yemini concludes:

Obviously, in recent years, the Palestinian victims have received most of the attention of the Media and the Academia. In actual fact, these make up just a small percentage of the total sum of all victims. The total sum of Palestinians killed by Israel in the territories that were conquered is several thousand. 1,378 were killed in the first Intifada, and 3,700 since the start of the second Intifada.

This is less, for instance, than the Muslim victims massacred by former Syrian president, Hafez Assad in Hama in 1982. This is less than the Palestinians massacred by King Hussein in 1971. This is less than the number of those killed in one single massacre of Muslim Bosnians by the Serbs in 1991 in Srebrenica, a massacre that left 8,000 dead.

At least half a million Algerians died during the French occupation. A million Afghanis died during the Soviet occupation. Millions of Muslims and Arabs were killed and slaughtered at the hands of Muslims. But all the world knows about one Mohammed al-Dura [on which, see this].

The genocide that Israel is not committing, that is completely libelous, hides the real genocide, the silenced genocide that Arabs and Muslims are committing mainly against themselves. The libel has to stop so as to look at reality. It is in the interest of the Arabs and the Muslims. Israel pays in image. They pay in blood. If there is any morality left in the world, this should be in the interest of whoever has a remaining drop of it in him. And should it happen, it will be small news for Israel, and great news, far greater news, for Arabs and Muslims.
(via Pajamas Media)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The righteous cometh

Niall Furguson cites President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations.

I emphatically declare that today's world … longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real saviour who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet. O, Almighty God … bestow upon humanity … the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.
It puts the Chomsky-flourishing Chavez in a new light, doesn't it? He's the sort of maniac we can cope with; the 20th Century had a gaggle of them; there are squawking squads of them embedded in our universities. But the "real saviour" who will "establish justice, peace and brotherhood"? Please, please! Anything but salvation! Please!

Dancing in the air

Simon Schama interviewed in The Times.

His own favourite story is Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s great novel The Leopard, about the attempts of an old Sicilian prince to “change in order to stay the same”. On the last page, after the prince has died, the body of his dog, Bendico, is flung from a window. For a moment, in midair, the corpse looks like the living, barking Bendico.

“That’s what history is!” Schama cries, now passionate, not campy. “That moment when he is a barking dog again, just before he becomes dust.” In other words, the individual story is as fleeting as anything else, but infinitely more true than any timeless theory.
Here is the passage, the last paragraph of The Leopard.
As the carcass was dragged off, its glass eyes stared at her with the humble reproof of the things that you throw away, that you wish to be rid of. A few minutes later what remained of Bendicò was tossed down into a corner that the dustman visited every day. As he sailed down from the window, he seemed for a moment to take shape again and you could have seen him dancing in the air, a quadruped with long whiskers and his right forepaw raised as if cursing. And then he too found peace in a pile of livid dust.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation 2

This is the second part of a review of The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation by Bryan Ward-Perkins. The first part is here.

Ward-Perkins asks a simple question of the archeological evidence: what was the effect of the collapse of the Roman Empire on the lives of ordinary people?

The evidence is obviously limited to those things that last. In this case, that means: pottery, roof-tiles, coins, buildings. To which he adds some other data: population density, literary ephemeria; evidence of exports and imports.

Roman pottery had 3 important features: high quality and standardisation; huge quantities; high diffusion both geographically and socially.

The third feature is particularly important as it is germane to his entire argument. High-quality ceramics were available to even humble householders far removed from the centres of power. Ordinary people benefited from the industrialisation of the industry in the same way, if to a lesser degree, to us humble folk of today. And it is a feature that is present in the other areas of his study.

The contrast with what followed is notable. Whereas high art remained possible in a very different form and available to the rich and powerful, even the wealth at the disposal of kings could not buy them what ordinary people had had a few years earlier. The finds at Sutton Hoo showed that an East Anglian king could acquire from home and abroad luxury items of exquisite craftsmanship, but couldn't buy himself a decent jug. [I have struggled to provide an image. For obvious reasons, it is not a first choice. It is to be found in the British Museum.] This last was certainly imported since it was shaped on a wheel, a tool that had disappeared from these shores. Even so, the quality is poor, the fabric porous and the finish crude, inferior to objects found on British farms of 2 centuries previous.

The contrast is reinforced at la Graufesenque in Southern Gaul, a centre for the ceramics industry. Archeologists have uncovered the factory refuse pit, which contains the remains of 10,000 vessels, 1,000 of which are undamaged. They are all seconds, thrown away to maintain standards. There they rest with their makers' stamps, vastly superior to anything an Anglo-Saxon king could obtain for love, fear or gold. (cont)

Part 1 is here.
Part 3 is here.

Iran way ahead

Iran seems to be walking away with the palm in its fight to have the 'nuclear option.' If the summary given by Amir Taheri is even just close to the truth, it looks all but certain that Tehran's big player status is assured for a long time to come.

Main points:

Chirac dropped the only condition that the 5+1 group - the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany - had demanded of Teheran as a prelude to negotiations [that Iran be asked to stop uranium enrichment as a precondition].
In any case, the Iranians
have been relocating Iranian assets in places where they cannot be seized or frozen
have been stockpiling dual-use products likely to be denied to Iranian importers when, and if, sanctions are imposed.
have already won the express support of no fewer than 116 of the 192 members of the UN for its position regarding the nuclear issue.
The consequence of such preparedness may, parodoxically, be sanctions because
Iran's friends on the council, especially Russia and China, might decide that it is not worthwhile to pick up a quarrel with Washington to stop sanctions that would not hurt the Islamic Republic in any case.
Another consequence may be war for
if sanctions prove useless from the start, the US and its closest allies might decide that the only effective move against the Iran is military action. In other words, Teheran's success in countering possible sanctions may render a military clash inevitable.
And even this would be victory
"A limited military clash would suit Ahmadinejad fine," says a former cabinet minister. "The Americans would appear, fire a few missiles, bomb a few sites and go away. Ahmadinejad would show on TV some old ladies and babies killed by the Americans, declare victory and pursue his grand plans with renewed vigor."
I would love, at this point, to set out the strategy to defeat all this. Yes, well, ...

Passing it on

Gerard Baker begins his article on an airfield in Afghanistan waiting for a German aircraft that will not come. The sun is going down, and the German government has fobidden its airmen to fly at night. He is back in Europe then to watch European governments wriggle out of any real commitment in Afghanistan before hopping over to New York to see Jacques Chirac break the European front against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

He concludes:

Opposing the war in Iraq was one thing, defensible in the light of events. But opting out of a serious fight against the Taleban, sabotaging efforts to get Iran off its path towards nuclear status, pre-emptively cringing to Muslim intolerance of free speech and criticism, all suggest something quite different.

They imply a slow but insistent collapse of the European will, the steady attrition of the self-preservation instinct. Its effects can be seen not only in the political field, but in other ways — the startling decline of birth rates across the continent that represent a sort of self-inflicted genocide; the refusal to confront the harsh realities of a global economy.
Norm finds this step from practical political questions to issues of civilisational life and death 'bizarre' and 'excessive'.
Declining birth rates are nothing whatsoever like genocide of any sort, and in my book not even a matter for mild concern; the world isn't short of people.
The use of the word 'genocide' does seem a little over the top, but I think I can guess why Baker used it. It was not that he was imagining that Germany would have no Germans, or Italy no Italians, though the projected decline in those populations is verging on catastrophic. I'd say he had in mind the enfeeblement of a culture so that it is no longer capable of sustaining itself, or even grafting itself onto new stock.

There are several ways in which this can happen. Firstly, the group (be it a social class, or ethnic group, country or alliance) that is the originator of that culture no longer believes in it, has little knowledge of it or confidence in it or themselves. A vibrant culture is one that is transmitted to others, especially the succeeding generations. Though it is mainly children for whom and by whom this transmission is made, it is by no means the only way. Other groups and classes can join or be 'converted'. A huge example of this is the technology created in these islands in the 18th and 19th Centuries and the philosophy that went with it, adopted to some degree all round the world. Or Italian music of the 17th and 18th Centuries. There are many examples, going under various names, such a cultural influence, imperialism or progress.

But what if on the part of the 'transmitter', there is a lack of belief, knowledge and confidence (potency), while on the part of the potential 'receiver' reception is blocked? Is this not the danger that Baker is referring to? Not to mince words, the presence in the most important European countries of a sizeable group, Muslims, that rejects the fundamental tenets of those societies?

A group that is, moreover, gaining rapidly in demographic terms on the host group. This is the importance of population decline in the current context. A twentieth of the country's people that reject its laws and customs is a social problem. A third or a half that do so is a completely different country. Quantity becomes quality.

It is about survival, one of those basic questions that progressives always assume to have been resolved and conservatives always end up sounding silly about. The question is not just, what do you leave behind? It's also, who do you leave it with? Those who will/can develop and pass it on in their turn (firstly to their children, then to others), or those who will only abuse it or are incapable of using it. It's like not being able to defend yourself - others may do it, but only for as long as it suits them. What suits you has become irrelevant. You can't be counted (on) any more. You don't count any more.

Friday, September 22, 2006

18 Doughty Street

18DoughtyStreet Talk TV will be "Britain’s first political Internet TV Channel".

At the heart of the station will be a website of blogs and daily votes. Comments left on the blogs will shape the content of the programmes. The daily votes will help determine which news stories headline every programme.

We’ll be talking about what’s really being discussed in the pubs and clubs, not what the metropolitan elite think ought to be discussed. We’ll be using our blogs to set our agenda, not focus groups.
I must confess I find this difficult to imagine, and the trailer's attempt at slick slogany presentation doesn't help in the least. I'm not sick to death of TV news; I don't watch television, and it is difficult to be fed up with something for which you feel only indifference. Nevertheless, 18 Doughty Street may be the start of something new. Blogs have already broken the grip on news-delivery of a generation inculcated with the prejudices and vices of the Left. The same should happen for TV and it is entirely fitting that it happen via the Web.

18 Doughty Street starts broadcasting for 4 hours a night, Monday to Thursday, on the 10th of October. Programmes will be streamed and then available for download.

Books for Iraq

This seems a place worth sending your pennies to. To finance the purchase and delivery of pharmaceutical books for Iraq. One of the founders is Anthony Cox of Blacktriangle.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Al-Dura trial

Nidra Poller gives a detailed report of the Al-dura trial in Paris. I wrote about this here.

Big no-news event in New York

2,000 people march against the Iraq War. Big news. Big coverage.

35,000 march against Ahmadinejad and for Israel. No news.

Meryl Yourish has the story that doesn't make the news. Atlas Shrugs has the photos.

(via Instapundit)

Perspective on Iraq (from Italy)

Below is a translation of a post from the forum 'Italians' on the Corriere della Sera site. The writer, Alex Garattoni, addresses his thoughts to Beppe Severgnini, a famous journalist and writer, ex-Italian correspondent of The Economist and moderator of the forum.

In your reply to MTC, you maintain that the Italy of 1945 was different from the Iraq of today because then "there weren't Shi'ites and Sunnis mauling each other". Humph, technically, bang on, there were no Shi'ites and Sunnis around then...but, we had communists, ex-fascists, partisans, whites, Actionists, Titoist partisans, monarchists, republicans, etc. And they weren't mauling each other? I beg to differ.

Until 1948, Italy was much worse than today's Iraq, with many more deaths. Just think of the foibe [sinkholes in the Kras region, shared by Italy and Slovenia - Tito's forces when they entered Venezia Giulia and Dalmatia in 1943 slaughtered an unknown number of people (from 2,000 to 20,000) and threw the bodies into the foibe], or what my region (Emilia-Romagna) did to deserve the nickname Triangle of Death. This went on at a lower level of intensity, what with a fascist outrage here and a communist reprisal there, a murder or three ... you could say it went on until the fall of the Berlin Wall. It took 8 years, from Italy's entrance into the war in 1940 to the elections in 1948 for some degree of public security to be attained and we'd only had 20 years of dictatorship and had already lived through a form of democracy before that. It's been 3 years in Iraq, after how many years of dictatorship - 30 for Saddam, but he only dethroned another dictator. What would they even know of political pluralism? Without considering the natural aversion of Islamic cultures to any tolerance of those who think differently about anything? If we look at things as they are, we realise that it would have been impossible to pacify Iraq in 3 years. How long have we got there?

Ask yourself what would have happened, in 1945, the war barely over, if the Anglo-American forces had abandoned us to our fate. My hypothesis: after years of civil war, we would have ended up in the hands of the Soviets.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Male Restroom Etiquette

This is essential viewing. What's more, it's educational. Watch, memorise and put into practice. (If you are female, instruct, test and regularly review with him.)

(Thanks to Bercepundit)

No more war on terror

I have only now got round to reading the cover article from the September Atlantic Monthly in which James Fallows tells us that it is time for the US to "declare victory" in the War on Terror. Not that he thinks that terrorism is done for. It is rather that he thinks that it can be better fought and at less loss for ourselves if we cease to look upon it as a war.

I have always thought that was the wrong word to use - it gave too much credit to the enemy. They are neither the Nazis with their military might nor the Soviets with similar muscle and a seemingly viable social alternative. The Jihadis are misfits, inadequates, carriers of a mentality that cannot adjust to modernity and so resort to crime. And that's how they should be treated, a social problem that requires every now and then (armed) 'police' action. However, the biggest push should be on other fronts: the intellectual, the political and the other 'soft' arts of domination. In the meantime, we could get off the train that is hurtling through our social space, accept that there will be further outrages, but not live our lives just to avert them.

In any case, I'll just reprint here Fallows' main points (given in an interview).

First, what we went to war to avenge—and prevent—was a large-scale, devastating, indiscriminate, civilian-slaughtering attack on our homeland. Al-Qaeda's errors and internal friction, along with the efforts of the U.S.—yes, the Bush Administration—and its allies, have made this kind of attack much less likely. (The exception, of course, is the risk of rogue nuclear weapons—but we can undertake an all-out effort to contain that specific risk.) Therefore, the U.S. could plausibly declare "mission accomplished" about the original cause of war.

Second, the real strategic threat from al-Qaeda is its ability to provoke us toward actions that hurt us in the long run. (See: war in Iraq.) This, by the way, was a point I had not focused on before doing the reporting, but which ran through many of the interviews.

Third, we are most likely to avoid overreaction—and to continue the long-term efforts to win the "war of ideas"—if we move off a wartime footing. For reasons I lay out in the piece, an open-ended war makes it harder to do a lot of things we should do, and makes it more likely that we'll make strategic mistakes.

While I'm not sure that the war in Iraq was entirely a mistake, I certainly do agree that al-Queda's (or the Islamists') only real weapon is what they can provoke us into doing. This is probably the maim point of Fallows' article.

One further point he makes.
The attack of 9/11 cost at most $500,000 to launch and provoked more than $500 billion in military and security spending by the United States; a million-to-one “payoff” [to al-Queda].

The life of Lieuwe, the son of Theo Van Gogh

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another reaction

From Spiegel Online.

Consider an example from Denmark. Recently, a paper there published a number of rather tasteless Holocaust cartoons which had been shown in Tehran. The reaction of Copenhagen's rabbi was instructive when considered against the bloody response to the Muhammad cartoons -- outrage which ended up costing lives. When asked if he would call for protests, the rabbi merely said: "You know, I've seen worse."

Maddy points the finger - away from the culprit

Madeleine Bunting on Pope Benedict. Precisely. On the Pope. And not a single mention of the argument he presented, nor the reaction of Muslims throughout the world or the relevance of that reaction to the argument. She runs through a list of episodes that are supposed to demonstrate the Pope's 'bad faith' and evil intentions, blames him for the way that other people behave (it's the Pope's fault that a nun was killed in Somalia and that churches were attacked on the West Bank). And she finishes with this gem:

...the Catholic church could be failing - yet again - to deal with the challenge of modernity. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it struggled to adapt to an increasingly educated and questioning faithful; now, in the 21st century, it is in danger of failing the great challenge of how we forge new ways of accommodating difference in a crowded, mobile world. The Catholic church has to make a dramatic break with its triumphalist, bigoted past if it is to contribute in any constructive way to chart this new course.
The Catholic Church is not dealing with the challenge of modernity! But at least its way of not dealing with modernity does not involve regular bouts of adolescent hysterics, threats to all and sundry, bombings, shootings and riots. But for those who do deal with not dealing in this way, Maddy has only this to say: It's someone else's fault. (cf Andrew Robb)

Materazzi's Treasure Chest

Materazzi and Nike make play with an infamous incident.

The slogan is, "Every athlete has a secret weapon".

The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation 1

The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation by Bryan Ward-Perkins is politically important to us now. It may seem strange that a study of (mostly) Western Europe between 400 and 800 should be 'topical'. The Roman Empire fell and things went dark, and that's it. Roman Empire, then Dark Ages. Right? Isn't that how everone sees it? Well, no, actually. That is not the view in Academe.

One of the most popular and flourishing areas of classical studies in recent decades has been what is termed Late Antiquity, applied to the years between 250 and 800. Historians of Late Antiquity prefer not to speak of 'decline', 'fall' or even 'crisis' with regard to Rome, but rather of 'transition', 'change' and 'transformation' and the rise of Christianity, Islam and Medieval civilisation. It is "a distinctive and quite decisive period of history that stands on its own" rather than "the unravelling of a once glorious and 'higher' state of civilisation". Not only that, but they downplay the idea of invasion and conquest on the part of the barbarian tribes. Instead they talk about the barbarian desire to be included in the Roman Empire and Rome's attempt to accommodate them, or even make use of them for defence of the Empire itself. Thus was Rome not destroyed but transformed into another type of civilisation, not inferior, only different. In the words of two American historians, this transition occurred in a "natural, organic and ierenic manner" and we should not "problematize the barbarian settlements". (Does that last verb sound a warning to you? Is this beginning to sound familiar?)

At the same time, the 'objects' under study have changed. Instead of political, economic and military developments, historians of Late Antiquity are more interested in the life of the mind and the spirit. Ward-Perkins notes that in the series published by the University of California Press, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage, 30 volumes discuss mind and spirit, 5 or 6 are about politics and administration while there are none on the details of material life. A cynic might put down this change of focus to the lack of material worthy of study, that in the absence of the sophisticated Roman Empire capable of producing and recording this type of history, there is little else that can be studied. However, practitioners prefer to speak of their subjects making a 'cultural choice' for other areas of life, such as the spiritual instead of the political, or clothes and jewelery instead of great buildings. It is not that they were incapable; it is just that they chose not to.

So we don't talk of the fall of a civilisation, but of the rise of a different culture. We don't talk of agression, victory or defeat, but of accommodation and transformation. Above all, we don't make value judgements and claim that this or that civilisation was 'better' than another. In fact, we don't talk about civilisation at all with its connotations of superiority and exclusion; we talk about cultures, and we start from the assumption that all cultures are equal, if different, and must be viewed from their own perspective. (I'm sure this is starting to sound very, very familiar.)

Think about the Romans, and you're thinking about now. Neil Faulkner in The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain likens the Roman influence on the island as comparable to the worst effects of imperialism and capitalism. He goes on to say that the period after the Roman evacuation in the early 400s was a "short golden age" of a people finally free of exploitation. In the popular realm, there's Terry Jones telling us that the much-maligned barbarians were so much more than "the Roman killing-machine that marched out to rob and ruin them". Julius Caesar "makes himself 'Protector of the Gauls'. And by the time he's finished protecting them, he's killed or enslaved two million and he owns the whole of Gaul." Of course, both Faulkner and Jones are really talking about something else: "It's the same as Bush and Blair saying that they're going to rescue the Iraqis from that dreadful leader and killing a quarter-million in the process."

For Faulkner, Jones and their ilk, the Romans are the real 'baddies', and the others by consequence are the 'goodies'. However, there's no need to indulge in this kind of childishness to end up in just as absurd a place. If you take the multi-cultural view propogated by scholars of Late Antiquity, and view what happened in the 5th Century as merely an accommodation and transition to one culture to another of equal status, then you are led into a sort of quietism. If nothing was really lost, what is there to regret? If it is just a smooth change of state, why not just go with the flow and adjust your tastes accordingly? If the first is not preferable to its successor, why bother defending it? It just doesn't matter because they're all equal anyway.

It is to oppose this view that Ward-Perkins wrote The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation.

Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It is your problem

I meant to put this up yesterday, but got distracted by the many colourful items that our Muslim friends fill the news with.

Once again, an Australian minister says it clear.

The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams who address Australia's mosques that these were tough times requiring great personal resolve. Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference.

"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem.

"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others.

"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."
[My emphasis]

Fatuous comment - BBC highlights it

One minor curiosity about the BBC's online coverage of the Pope Benedict affair.

The BBC makes great efforts to encourage user interaction and feedback, one way being the reader comments. To make it an obvious and easy task, they plonk one reader's comment in the middle of the page under the banner 'Have your say' and provide the link to do so.

Normally, as stories develop, and new articles are posted, the comment displayed changes as well. For a story like this, they would have no end of choice, and it's hardly an onerous job. In fact, I would have thought there would be some nifty little JavaScript program to do it automatically. Or maybe not, because you would want to be a little bit careful, wouldn't you? Just in case there was an important point to make.

Strangely, on all the BBC reports that I have seen about this affair, they have displayed only one comment of the hundreds that they have received. It is the following:

Pope Benedict probably should self-criticise Christianity's violent past before commenting on the other faith
John Lin, Illinois
Examples here, here and here.

There are several things to note about this, though it hardly seems worth the effort.

First, it's the argument we learn first; before even setting foot on the school playground, we've mastered the finger-pointing, "You, too!" Mind you, it's not as if it grows out of its usefulness: it's what passes for political debate between heavyweights on 'Flagship' news programmes, and it's certainly a perrenial favourite in the listeners'/readers' comments.

Nevertheless, it is only an effective counter in the most blantant examples of hypocrisy for the obvious reason that it avoids the point of the argument entirely. It's ad hominem. It adds nothing. Besides, if it were taken seriously, no-one would be able to use the word 'should' to anyone else. 'Don't hit your sister, Junior.' 'Ha! That's rich coming from you, Dad. There are 7 documented cases of you hitting yours between the ages of 4 and 10. And as for your treatment of your girlfriends, ...'

Secondly, John Lin is obviously not well informed. The Vatican has been almost embarassing in its confessional profusions in recent years, in particular with regard to the very point that the Pope was raising here: the relationship between the faith and violence/coercion. Pope John Paul's 'apologies' to the Jews and for the Inquisition are the two most notable instances. More importantly, there is no part of Catholic theology or approved practice that allows for violence for just the reasons that the Pope gives: it would be against the nature of God.

Thirdly (and this is the most interesting), note who the comment is addressed to: the Pope. It turns the reader's attention not to the important point that the Pope was making, nor to those who are demonstrating its importance by their acts and words. It makes the question, "Did he have a right to say that?" more important than the real question(s): "Is he right in 'his' interpretation? What to do?"

So why does the BBC continue to highlight this fatuity?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More reason

Muslim protest outside Westminster Cathedral
Meanwhile in our own quiet corner of the world...
Joee Blogs took this photo today coming out of Westminster Cathedral after mass.

To save your eyes the effort, a selection of the banners:

Jesus will rise [sic] the sword of Islam
Trinity of evil.
Pope go to hell!
Trinity of evil. Western crusade against Islam
Trinity of evil. Christian crusade against Islam
May Allah curse the Pope
Islam will conquer
Anjem Choudary, at the Muslim protest on Sunday outside Westminster Cathedral.
The Muslims take their religion very seriously and non-Muslims must appreciate that and they must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the prophet. Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.

I am here to have a peaceful demonstration. But there may be people in Italy or other parts of the world who would carry that out. I think that warning needs to be understood by all people who want to insult Islam and want to insult the prophet of Islam.

The reaction says it all

What they say:

Afghanistan's Taliban on Saturday demanded Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for remarks linking Islam with violence, adding the comment showed the Christian West was waging war against Muslims.
We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion. Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim. We call on all Islamic Communities across the world to take revenge on the baseless critic called the pope,” said [Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, a hardline cleric linked to Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement, speaking to worshippers on Friday at a mosque in southern Mogadishu].
We want to make it clear that if the pope does not appear on TV and apologize for his comments, we will blow up all of Gaza’s churches,” said the group [The Sword of Islam, claiming the firebombing of the Greek Orthodox church, one of five attacked in Gaza City and the West Bank].
A poster has been placed in many Baghdad mosques for the previously unknown group, Kataab Ashbal Al Islam Al Salafi (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions). This group threatens to kill all Christians in Iraq if the Pope does not apologize in three days in front of the whole world to Mohammed.
(via Tim Blair) In addition,
Op-Eds published in the Arab newspapers slammed the pope even after the Vatican’s apology. The most extreme opinion was voiced by Hani Pahas in the London-based Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Hayat, who wrote “the pope’s comments may lead to war; we fear that the pope’s statements may lead to a war that we, Muslims and Christians alike, are trying to prevent through dialogue between East and West. Hussein Shabakshy wrote in an article published by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat “It is clear that such remarks only contribute to the fueling of the fire raging between Islam and the West. There is no difference between Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri speaking from their caves in Tora Bora and the stage of an important Christian saint. Both parties contribute to the world verbal weapons for mass destruction. These are ignorant comments previously made by Adolf Hitler, who spoke of a supreme white race against all the other races, especially the African race."

The spiritual leader of Lebanon's Sunnis, the Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, said the pope's remarks emanated either from "Ignorance and lack of knowledge or were deliberately intended to distort Islam.""Reason is the substance of Islam and its teachings ... Islam prohibited violence in human life. Anyone who wants the truth (about Islam) must take it from Islam's holy book, the Koran, rather than from a dialogue or excerpts," he said.
(via Jihadwatch)

What they do:
Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, following remarks by Pope Benedict that angered many Muslims. No injuries were reported in the attacks, which left church doors charred and walls pockmarked with bullet holes and scorched by firebombs. Churches of various denominations were targeted.
(via Ninme) Furthermore,
According to the website Islam Memo, one Christian was killed in Baghdad after the Pope's speech two days ago. The speech created a wave of anger throughout the Islamic world, including Iraq.
Our reactions:
(A New York Times editorial) [t]he world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
This is obscene. Apart from its factual inaccuracy -- there is no evidence that any of the enraged Muslims "listened carefully" to the words of the pope -- this is like blaming a beaten wife for provoking the bastard who throttles her. It is the leaders of prayers in the mosques of the Muslim world who call on their faithful to riot in the streets. It is they who sow pain and incite violence, and anybody unburdened by a loathing of Western civilization knows it. Pope Benedict has nothing to apologize for. The leading clerics of the Muslim world have a great deal to apologize for.
David Warren sums up:
The manufacture of grievances, to justify strident demands for their redress, is the tyrant's stock-in-trade. It is what took Adolf Hitler to power over the Germans, and it is what today's Islamic fanatics depend upon to control the Muslims, and push them towards an apocalyptic jihad against the West. Moreover, the basic tactic of bullying is to demand apologies for exaggerated or imaginary offences. It is to make the decent kneel before the indecent.
(via Dinocrat)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope apologises, but ...

The Pope has apologised for the effect that his words have had; he has not retracted them, nor has he given any further opinion on the contentious quote from the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. His fundamental point (in relation to Islam) remains valid; his basic question remains unanswered.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature...
Benedict's speech is about the place of reason. With regard to the secular West, he is saying that we have narrowed the field of reason, constrained it within the bounds of science and therefore excluded not only God, but also Philosphy and Ethics. With regard to Islam, he is saying that, for the Jihadist, reason has been disavowed and that this cannot be pleasing to God. However, there is a further, more general point, one that seems to go to the heart of Islamic doctrine.
But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.
Here is the question. If this interpretation of the Islamic view of God is correct, how can there be discussion either between the faiths, or between Islam and modernity? The question is unanswered; or rather, the answers so far received would seem to indicate, as things stand, there is little (I'm an optimist) possibility of discussion between any of those parties.

Protesting Muslims burn the Pope's effigy in India

Friday, September 15, 2006

Orianna Fallaci dies

Orianna Fallaci
When in 1943, the Allies were bombing Florence, Orianna Fallaci and her family took refuge in a church. She started crying, at which her father slapped her and told her never to show her tears again. She didn't, but learnt how to give vent to her feelings with the pen.

She saw herself as a voice for the silent and oppressed, as did and do many. However, she never allowed a party or political creed to make use of her voice. During the Vietnam war, she labelled the regime in the North as Stalinist; she swanned in to interview Khomeini wearing vibrant make-up and told him what she thought of the chador; she lured Kissinger into embarassment by admitting that he saw himself as a lone cowboy. She had a tempestuous affair with the Greek agitator Alekos Panagoulis, imprisoned and tortured by the Colonels for his part in an assassination attempt on Papadopoulos. And she adored the United States, where she lived most of the year.

In the meantime, she interviewed most of the major political and cultural figures of the 60s and 70s.

The 11th of September roused her into a passion. She believed the West was betraying itself as a culture, mind-fogged by Political Correctness and weakness of spirit into accommodating an alien and dangerous presence: Islam. She wrote a rambling, but vitriolic attack on Islam and the European response to it in Corriere della Sera, articles which she then expanded into a book, The Rage and the Pride. Her greatest scorn was poured on Western politicians and intellectuals whom she blamed for forgetting and devaluing their own culture and thus surrendering to an invasive and aggressive, but culturally inferior, Islam.

She seemed a very lonely figure in her last years, though that may be a mistaken impression. While an Italian judge saw fit to bring her to court for 'defaming Islam', a trial which started in June, but will never be concluded, 75,000 other Italians signed a petition that she be made a Life Senator.

Her anger did her credit. She loved a Europe that is threatened and she did her best to defend it.

A recent interview with Fallaci in The New Yorker.

Intolerent? Moi?

"The Pope has dishonoured our Prophet. He said our Prophet was a terrorist and he had used sword. Those who say such things whether they are in India or abroad should be punished," said Syeda Tasnim Hasan, a protestor in Jammu.

"His statements have hurt our sentiments. If such statements are repeated the followers of Islam across the world would launch an agitation against Christians," said Mohammed Farooq, a protestor in Varanasi.
In Kashmir, dozens of lawyers wearing black court robes marched Friday through the streets of the summer capital Srinagar, shouting, "Those who dare to target Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) will be finished".
"We have heard about your extremism and hate for Arabs and Muslims. Now that you have dropped the mask from your face we see its ugliness and extremist nature," Syria's top Sunni Muslim religious authority, Sheik Ahmad Badereddine Hassoun.
The Pope's comments were a hot topic on a pro-Hamas radio show for children.
"What do you say about the man who said some bad words about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad?" the radio host asked a 8-year-old Hanin.
Hanin answered: "He is ugly and his words are ugly."

Change is a constant

Change happens no matter what you want or do. Except, sometimes, it ... doesn't.

James Lileks (scroll down) on the impact of 9/11.

The good news? We returned to our norm: cheerful industrious self-directed Americans who think in terms of fiscal quarters, not ancient grievances, and trust in Coke and Mickey to spread our message of tolerance and prosperity. The bad news? Same as the good. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Al Durah - Bloggers on trial

In early October, 2000, France2 released some footage of events in Gaza that had been filmed and sent them by a Palestinian cameraman in their employ. The footage, which had been edited by France2's Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, showed a Palestinian father, Jamal al Durah, and his young son, Muhammed, sheltering against a wall. It showed dust ballooning from the wall, the boy crumpling and curling into his father's arms, and dying. The Israelis had shot down an innocent child, one obviously unarmed and no threat to them or anybody else. World opinion expressed its outrage. Muhammed al Durah became a symbol of Israeli oppression, an icon of Palestinian and Islamic resistence that even rated a mention in the speeches of Mr bin Laden. The death of Muhammed al Durah at the hands of Israeli soldiers was a turning point in the Intifada, reinforced Yasser Arafat and was played and re-played on Al-Jazeera, on French television and all round the world. But did it happen?

There is some doubt. This video (almost 14 minutes long) gives a summary.

This six-year-old story is once again actuelle. As from the 14th of September, 2006, there will be a series of three trials of individual French citizens who used internet sites to publish criticism of France2’s coverage of the Muhammad al Durah affair. They will be charged under a 1881 law on press freedom that legislates against words that sully “the honor and consideration (reputation) of the individual or institution in question”. In this case, France2 and Charles Enderlin.

Richard Landes of Augean Stables will be covering the trials. He and others have a site entirely dedicated to the al Durah affair at Second Draft. There you can see a detailed and documented history of the iconic 59 seconds of news dynamite.

Faith, Reason and Holy War

What the Pope's been saying in Munich. Full speech available here.

He quotes a dialogue carried on "perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. "

He continues. According to one article I read, when he came to the quote that has caused the fuss ("Show me just what Mohammed brought ..."), he said, "I quote." And then again, "I quote." Thus showing a certain love of life.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".
Later on, he speaks about the 'faith' that Christianity shares, in a certain sense, with science. (This bit is me, not the Pope.) Just as science must take it as an article of faith that matter has a structure that is discoverable, amenable to the instruments at our disposal, so too "the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy". However, before he gets to this article of Christian faith, he has this to say with regard to the theme of violent conversion in the paragraph above.
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
That is pretty strong. I can understand why Muslim clerics have got mighty exercised about it, especially if it's true. That is what 'submission' is, the surrender of your will to that of another, no matter what that other will may impose. Even so far as the most unnatural act a living creature can commit (one always expressly forbidden by the Church): self-inflicted death.

I should add that most of the Pope's speech in actually aimed at us in the secular West and at our restriction of reason to the scientific method.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Caption fraud

It ain't new, but then again, what is? Just came across this less recent example of the high standards that our major news media set themselves. The photo below was published on September 30, 2000. Read the caption carefully.

Unsurprisingly, the photo enraged public opinion against Israel and even made its way into a campaign against Coca-Cola and Israel's "killing of innocence". In fact (slippery concept), the bloodied face in the photo belonged an American Jewish boy called Tuvia Grossman who had just been beaten up by a gang of Palestinians. The cop was trying to protect him. Honest Reporting has the full story, and Tuvia Grossman's own account of the incident is here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What the hell happened?

Kevin Michael Cosgrove speaks to 911 and the Fire Department from the 105th floor of number Two World Trade Center. You can listen to this at Michelle Malkin. Nothing Hollywood about it. No heroics. No poignant last words. Kevin Michael Cosgrove has about five minutes of life left and nothing he or anyone else can do will change that. He is confused and scared and can't understand why nobody's coming to rescue him and his colleagues. The 911 operator is marvellous. It's as if she knew there was no hope (but she can't have, right?) and has decided to stay with him just so that he can hear another voice right up to the end.

9-11: What's the telephone number I can tell FD to push up? What's the telephone number you're calling from?
KC: I can barely see.
9-11: You can barely see?
KC: 4-4-1... .
9-11: 4-4-1... .
KC: 2-6-2-3
9-11: That's on the 105th floor of the Northwest corner, right?
KC: Right.
9-11: At number Two World Trade Center?
KC: Right ... Lady, there's two of us in this office. We're not ready to die, but it's getting bad.
9-11: I understand, sir. We're trying to get all the apparatuses there. I am trying to let them know where you are. Stay on the line
KC: Oh, please hurry.
Fire Department: Let me talk to the caller please ... Let me talk to the caller. Where is he?
9-11: He's on the line.
FD: Let me talk to him ... Where is the fire, sir?
KC: Smoke really bad. 105 Two Tower.
FD: Alright. Sit tight. We'll get to you as soon as we can.
KC: They keep saying that, but the smoke's really bad now.
FD: That's all we can do now.
KC: What floor are you guys up to?
FD: We're getting there. We're getting there.
KC: Doesn't feel like it, man. I got young kids.
FD: I understand that, sir. We're on the way.
9-11: He's on the 105th floor in the Northwest corner.
KC: He hung up on me ... Hello, operator?
9-11: Yes?
KC: Come on, man.
9-11: We have everything we need, sir.
KC: I know you do, but doesn't seem like it ... You got lots of people up here.
9-11: I understand.
KC: I know you got a lot in the building, but we are on the top. Smoke raises, too. We are on the floor. We're in the window. I can barely breathe now. I can't see.
9-11: Okay, just try to hang in there. I'm going to stay with you.
KC: You can say that, you're in an air-conditioned building. What the hell happened?
9-11: Okay. I'm still here ... still trying ... The Fire Department is trying to get to you.
KC: Doesn't feel like it.
9-11: Okay, try to calm down so you can conserve your oxygen, okay? Try to ...
KC: Tell God to blow the wind from the West. It's really bad. It's black. It's arid. Does anyone else wanna chime in here? We're young men. We're not ready to die.
9-11: I understand.
KC: How the hell are you going to get my ass down? I need oxygen.
9-11: They're coming. They're getting you. They have a lot of apparatuses on the scene.
KC: It doesn't feel like it, lady. You get them in from all over. You get 'em in from Jersey. I don't give a shit. Ohio.
9-11: Okay, sir. What's your last name?
KC: Name's Cosgrove. I must have told you about a dozen times already. C.O.S.G.R.O.V.E. My wife thinks I'm alright. I called and said I was leaving the building and that I was fine and then -- bang ... Cherry. Doug Cherry. Doug Cherry's next to me. 105. Whose office? John Ostaru's office?
9-11: That's where he said? That's the office?
KC: We're in John Ostaru's office. O.S.T.A.R.U.
9-11: A.R.U.
KC: Right. That's the office we're in. There are three of us in here.
9-11: Ostaru. Hello?
KC: Hello. We're looking in ... We're overlooking the Financial Center. Three of us. Two broken windows. Oh God. Oh ... (The tower collapses.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

River Tam Sessions

For fans of Serenity and Firefly, a treat. Evidently, this is a teaser put online by that teaser, Whedon, who here interrogates River. I've just noticed that his voice sounds like Orsen Welles', as I'm sure he knows.

(Thanks, Alex)

Epiphany and piffle - An Islamist's journey

An extraordinary piece of writing by Martin Amis mostly about the irrationalism of the Jihadi and his ideology of death. Impossible to summarise (it is very long and enamoured of digression), but here is a paragraph about Sayyid Qutb (Osama bin Laden's favourite writer) and his formative sojourn in the United States in 1949.

During his six months at the Colorado State College of Education (and thereafter in California), Sayyid's hungry disapproval found a variety of targets. American lawns (a distressing example of selfishness and atomism), American conversation ('money, movie stars and models of cars'), American jazz ('a type of music invented by Blacks to please their primitive tendencies - their desire for noise and their appetite for sexual arousal'), and, of course, American women: here another one pops up, telling Sayyid that sex is merely a physical function, untrammelled by morality. American places of worship he also detests (they are like cinemas or amusement arcades), but by now he is pining for Cairo, and for company, and he does something rash. Qutb joins a club - where an epiphany awaits him. 'The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone,' he wrote; 'the dance-hall becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold hips, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust.' You'd think that the father of Islamism had exposed himself to an early version of Studio 54 or even Plato's Retreat. But no: the club he joined was run by the church, and what he is describing, here, is a chapel hop in Greeley, Colorado. And Greeley, Colorado, in 1949, was dry.
A little later on, he comments on the philosophy of the above-mentioned international traveller.
The emptiness, the mere iteration, at the heart of his philosophy is steadily colonised by a vast entanglement of bitternesses; and here, too, we detect the presence of that peculiarly Islamist triumvirate (codified early on by Christopher Hitchens) of self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred - the self-righteousness dating from the seventh century, the self-pity from the 13th (when the 'last' Caliph was kicked to death in Baghdad by the Mongol warlord Hulagu), and the self-hatred from the 20th. And most astounding of all, in Qutb, is the level of self-awareness, which is less than zero.
There's a lot more, including a marvellous verse from Philip Larkin.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Left and the Islamists

The 'this' in the first sentence refers to the identification in the parts of the Left with Islamism.

All of this is – at least to those with historical awareness, sceptical political intelligence, or merely a long memory - disturbing. This is because its effect is to reinforce one of the most pernicious and inaccurate of all political claims, and one made not by the left but by the imperialist right. It is also one that underlies the US-declared “war on terror” and the policies that have resulted from 9/11: namely, that Islamism is a movement aimed against “the west”.

This claim is a classic example of how a half-truth can be more dangerous than an outright lie. For while it is true that Islamism in its diverse political and violent guises is indeed opposed to the US, to remain there omits a deeper, crucial point: that, long before the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis and other Islamic militants were attacking “imperialism”, they were attacking and killing the left - and acting across Asia and Africa as the accomplices of the west.
From 'The Left and the Jihad' by Fred Halliday.

Does this argument remind you of others? For example, the 'deeper, crucial point' that Al-Qaeda, when it was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, was financed by the CIA? Or 'deeper, crucial point' that Saddam was armed by the US when he was slaughtering Iranians? Oh, the unfathomable hypocrisy of the perfidious Yankees!

It is a simple point: times change. As do people, political systems, economies and enemies. For how long was France the Great Enemy of Britain? 500 years? Did anyone point to the hypocrisy of fighting by their side during WWI? Halliday goes on to list the occasions on which the Islamists were 'used' to fight the Left (there have been a good number)and to conclude that the "modern embodiments of this left have no need of the 'false consciousness' that drives so many so-called leftists into the arms of jihadis". This he counts as "disturbing", but does not seek to explain why it is happening. It may be that he suspects the truth: that the Left is now nothing more than a cracked sounding brass that may deafen but will never again ring.

Everything is politics (if that's all you've got)

An attitude born of a successful political system. Charles Moore in The Telegraph speaking (well) of Tony Blair.

No political party should ever be anyone's life. Its value is only instrumental – that it can mobilise enough people, ideas, money and interests to run things that need running and get things done that need doing.
And further, I just came across this.
For the essence of totalitarianism is contained in the great helmsman's injunction to "put politics in command". This is not just Communist Chinese baby talk. What it means is this: that you are to take over every institution, whatever it may be, and empty out everything which distinguishes it from other institutions, and turn it into yet another loudspeaker for repeating "the general line". Destroy the specific institutional fabric of -- a university, a trade union, a sporting body, a church -- and give them all the same institutional content, viz. a political one. Contrapositively, the essence of resistance to this process by liberal-democrats must consist in trying to maintain the specific institutional integrity of different institutions.
-- David Stove, "Santamaria and the Philosophers", Honi Soit, 43 (32), 29 October 1970, p 11

Boris apologises

I meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea, who I'm sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity in common with the rest of us.

My remarks were inspired by a Time Life book I have which does indeed show relatively recent photos of Papua New Guinean tribes engaged in warfare, and I'm fairly certain that cannibalism was involved.

I'd be happy to show the book to the high commissioner but I'm of course also very happy to take up her kind invite and add Papua Guinea to my global itinerary of apology.
Boris Johnson's official apology for implying that cannibalism is still praticed in Papua-New Guinea. Long may he offend.