Thoughts on “Darkest Hour”

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In 1934 there were two statesmen past their prime who warned of the danger of Hitler. One was Trotsky and the other was Churchill. They were both right. Churchill had actually read Mein Kampf, unlike the German newly-weds in the Nazi régime who were presented with a copy of Hitler’s treatise and who presumably discarded the unreadable tract. I think it was the historian of Hitler, Ian Kershaw, who pointed out that the diatribe prefigures all of Hitler’s decisions and acts. Churchill took Hitler at his word and he was right to do so.

The film Darkest Hour, written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Joe Wright, covers the period from 9th May 1940 to 21 days later. In other words, from the eve of Churchill being appointed P.M. until the evacuation of Dunkirk. It is not a war film. It is a movie about decisions and choice. And the moral agony of taking action.

The meat of the film centres on the dispute between the British war party, Churchill and Attlee – who is somewhat of a cipher, assumed, but not overtly presented, to be a backbone of British resistance – and the anachronistic but politically credible appeasers, Viscount Halifax and the still influential former P.M. Neville Chamberlain, whom the French wittily called “J’aime Berlin”.

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Churchill and Halifax: Photo courtesy Spartacus Educational.

Darkest Hour follows the disasters of May 1940: the invasion of France on the 10th, the surrender of the Netherlands on the 15th, of Belgium on the 28th and the near-extermination of the British Army in the Dunkirk pocket. Little screen-time is taken up with guns, bombs and planes: instead, the film effectively uses drone-like camera shots looking down to hint at how prone civilians are to the bomber. This vertical shot contrasts with the horizontal tracking shots of the workaday London street. Despite the shock of Guernica and the Japanese bombing raid on Chongqing in 1939, no government was sure about the psychological effects on civilians of those raids. Would morale collapse or not? If, as seemed likely, there was no prospect of beating the Germans in Europe, what was the point of Britain remaining at war with the Nazis? If Hitler was true to his word on his disinterest in the British Empire, why not let them have the continent? This, as the film has it, was the debate.

McCarten, the script-writer, has an ambivalent military, and Halifax and Chamberlain urging negotiation with Hitler in May 1940. He has the latter two this close to persuading Churchill: I do not know if that is true and mightily doubt it, but it makes for very good drama. There is a truth in McCarten’s interpretation, however. Had there not been a Churchill, it is possible that Britain would have negotiated in 1940 and left Europe to Nazism. Sometimes, as Trotsky pointed out about Hitler, individuals make all the difference in history. I think it was Richard J. Evans who averred that the holocaust could not have happened without the charismatic Hitler: even Himmler could not have set it in motion.

The French and British states were the only ones to declare war on Nazi Germany. One was defeated and the other, if it did not win in 1940, did not lose and was only capable of a battle victory over its enemy after three years, in El Alamein. Churchill, for all his faults, and they were many and egregious, was right about the most pivotal and consequential questions of the twentieth century. Should we live with Nazism? Or destroy it?

Darkest Hour addresses that conundrum in the position of a man who could only imagine what Nazism would become. It is about a man who takes another man who says terrible things at his word: and about other men, who do not have the imagination to believe that powerful men can do murderous things or who are happy to live in that world.  For that reason, it is better than most world war two movies you will see. It is about how to decide: and we face that every moment of our lives.

There is the old slogan, “Fascism means war”. Any glance at Hitler’s book will confirm that. Yet the war was there to install the slave economies and totalitarian empire state which was the Nazi ideal. It is by no means clear that Churchill’s refusal to submit was historically inevitable. There is no reason to believe that the comforting adage, “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” is necessarily true. One hesitates to compare every instance of horror with Nazism, but we can say that Ba’athism means mass-murder of one’s own people plus as a client state the submission to, and complicity of, the USSR or Russia. That experiment has been run twice, in Iraq and Syria. In only one case did a man – or even any international organization – cometh in time to halt the atrocities.

Darkest Hour teaches the capriciousness of history. The dice are cast and it is a matter of chance how they fall. Take the pivotal battle in the Pacific theatre, the Battle of Midway. The Americans won largely because of the inferiority of Japanese radar. Yet, German radar was as good as that of the US and UK: had the Germans and Japanese shared the technology, it is likely that the eastern Pacific rim and the hinterland would have been enslaved by the Japanese Empire for many more years. This looks like the arbitrary failure of Hitler and Tojo to coordinate their technologies and self-interests. Luck, in other words.

You can play the game further. Imagine if the UK and Hitler had come to an agreement in May 1940. Hitler would have been free to invade the Soviet Union without diverting resources against an attack from the west, and the Japanese could have resumed their war against the U.S.S.R coming from the East to ensnare the Russians in that huge pincer movement. And all the northern latitudes of the Eurasian landmass could have been under Axis control by, say, the end of 1942, with no prospect of a second front opening up from the Atlantic against the totalitarian states.  Britain would eventually have fallen as the sole potential problem for thousands of miles, the southern Asian landmass would have submitted to Japan, and the U.S.A. would have been left as an island of democracy fortifying its western coast against the Japanese Navy.

Perhaps it is too much to assert that the decision by Churchill and the majority of Parliament to continue defying Hitler turned the war but it does look like it was a necessary but not sufficient condition. War films, from Midway to Star Wars are usually tedious affairs: Darkest Hour is an intelligent attempt to analyse a crucial decision.

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol Service

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My local Protestant church held an evening carol service this week. My wife and I decided to go along. It is a Victorian Gothic pile, a slim steeple points to the heavens, several Byzantine-style icons, gold paint gleaming behind the saint. There the crowded congregation stood before the high iron rood screen, the lights lowered, the Christmas tree sparkled, many menorahs of candles glimmered along the aisles and colonnades. The worshipers, wrapped warm against a helm wind darkening, held their own candles in one hand, the order of service in the other. The audience itself helped create the theatrical tone. A middle-aged, middle class man, dressed in a frock padded the nave and transept, now smilingly benignly and now correcting minor scene-shifts, like an urbane and poised director touring a provincial theatre company.

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The Virgin and Saint Joseph register for the census before the Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople, 1315-20. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

The church was dark and full. One forgets how female the congregants are, perhaps two-thirds, and surprisingly many were in their 30s and 40s: the teenagers had occupied one pew and the odd pre-teen, a Christmas cracker primed to embarrass its parent, was dotted around the space. The choir began. The organ and mini-orchestra accompanied it. Here was a High Anglican drama, reasserting its plot to place itself at the centre of English culture, and narrating a pretty good case.

The service was made up of carols led by the choir stood before the rood screen facing the rest of us, readings from the Nativity story, excerpts from the poetic and socialistic part – if one is reading it anachronistically – of the Sermon on the Mount and a homily from the prelate delivered from the pulpit, set off to our left. We had the classic carols like “O come all ye faithful” and a disappointingly Cliff Richard happy-clappy swinging hymn, as melodically workaday as the dullest era of rock ‘n’ roll, say, between 1958 and 1962. My inner conservative bristled as the gaggle of teens whooped at the climax, such as it was, of the musical doggerel.

As a non-believer, I was obliged several times to suppress a gasp of shock at the nonsense to which intelligent people are expected to submit at church. Mark and John say nothing about Jesus’ birth. All we have comes from Matthew and Luke. Those two evangelists describe discrepant and sometimes contradictory Bethlehem stories. In the Gospel according to this church, we were repeatedly informed that Jesus was born in a manger. Not according to Matthew: Jesus was born at home. This church thinks that Jesus was born in the time of the Governor of Syria, Quirinius. That was 10 years after Herod’s death. That is because Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts differ in historically significant ways. So, Matthew thinks that Jesus was of Judean stock: Luke thinks his family was Galilean. We were told the story of the shepherds. This is Luke. Matthew does not mention shepherds, but kings. Luke does not refer to kings. Neither of them agree on when or where Jesus was born, nor on who was present. Yet, in a mish-mash of a Gospel which does not exist, the vicar presented this story as if all elements were true, and from one source. The service, in its liberal Christian fashion, emphasized the shepherds. This is the only claim in the New Testament to date the time of year of the birth of Jesus: in Judea, flocks were tended outdoors from March to November. It always surprises me that Christians celebrate the birth of their saviour at the one time of year when the New Testament says it did not happen.

Liberal Christians often object that one should not take these stories literally, that there is a poetic truth in the tale. Yes, we were invited into a theatrical space, the low lighting, the candles, the blackness of winter night through the stained-glass windows. Yet, we are never told where the poetry ends and the history begins. One cannot help but conclude that this is deliberate obfuscation on the director’s part. Imagine claiming, as the director-vicar did, that Judeo-Christian history is 4,000 years old. Had he claimed this at a Conference of historians or archaeologists, his every subsequent utterance would be ignored. It is not true. Written Jewish history is about 2,700 years old, with some fragments slightly older. This liberal Christian was asserting a more literalist interpretation to his flock, based on the chronology within the Old Testament of Abraham dating back to about 2,000 BCE. There is no evidence for that at all, and none for the emergence of a Jewish culture before about 1,200 BCE. The good prelate knows this. That is what divinity degrees cover. Yet he presented the nativity story as something true, occupying an ill-defined space somewhere between poetry and history. I wonder what the teens thought of the veracity of the whole charade.

As my wife and I left at the end, I remembered a family friend who once said to his Catholic priest at a similar service, “Long time, no see, Father!” I mumbled semi-deferential words of thank you and was surprised at the counter-stereotypical firmness of the cleric’s grip. Perhaps he thought how rare it is to see a Celtic ginger-nut at an Anglican gathering. I wondered how this intelligent man could spend his life lying about and for Jesus.

Lincolnshire Police produce video extolling Islam

On 20th October James Peck of Lincolnshire Live reported on the controversy generated by a video released by Lincolnshire Police. Apparently titled “British Muslims” it was a clumsy attempt by the Force to counter anti-Muslim bigotry which in the opinion of this writer crossed the line into promotion of Islam as an idea. You can view the 13-minute video embedded below in the “Lincolnshire Live” link.

 

I am unsure of the law in the UK, but had this video been produced in the US I believe it would almost certainly be illegal. Accordingly, I wrote the following letter to the Deputy Chief Constable of the Force, Craig Naylor who robustly defended the video. I have not received a response.

 

Craig Naylor

 

Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor of Lincolnshire Police (photo courtesy: https://www.police.uk/lincolnshire/team/deputy-chief-constable-craig-naylor/)

 

“Dear Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor,

 

I refer to your recently released video which I assume is titled “British Muslims”, about which I saw this report. http://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/local-news/police-heavily-criticised-social-media-655619

 

It is commendable that the Force should be addressing anti-Muslim bigotry yet I have criticisms of the video and would like you to address them.

 

At 1:03 we read, “British Muslims. How are they portrayed? Terrorists? Jihadis? Islamic State?” It’s true that they are portrayed like this because some British Muslims are as described. It does not seem to be a good start to imply that a plain statement of fact is not true. No data is shown as to how Muslims are portrayed. We are being presented with anecdote rather than scientifically-determined fact.

 

At 2:12, Hafez Abusammad Mulla claims that, “Coins from Muslim countries dating back to the C8th were used in Great Britain.” (sic) This is not true. He refers to a coin minted in England as the British Museum link shows. https://www.bmimages.com/preview.asp?image=00031108001&imagex=1&searchnum=0002 It does not inspire confidence when the first substantive claim made in the video is untrue.

 

At 2:46, much is made of Muslim membership of the modern British Army. It is a sad fact that more British Muslims (ca. 850) joined IS than the 600 or so in the Army. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985 This is quite a commonly-known statistic and it does no good to pretend that there is not a problem when quite clearly there is.

 

At 3:50 Hafez Abusammad Mulla states, “…’so-called’ Muslims have been responsible for terrorist attacks but these people do not represent the views of normal Muslims like me in this country or abroad.” There is no doubt that, say, IS are a Muslim group. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has a PhD in Islamic Studies and several Islamic clerics are embedded with their fighting groups. To call IS “so-called” is to privilege the wish over the fact. On terrorist attacks, according to Pew Research in 2013 8% of Muslims worldwide said that suicide bombing was often or sometimes justified: that makes about 128,000,000 worldwide. That is not insignificant. The numbers are here: http://www.pewforum.org/files/2013/04/worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-report.pdf

 

At 7:15 Yasmin Qureshi MP, states, “(I) try to disassociate these terrorist attacks away from Islam.” (sic) It is normal practice for IS terrorists to claim their allegiance to Islamic State and to give a Koranic verse as justification. There is no means in reason for asserting that they are any less Muslim than Ms. Qureshi. This is evangelizing on behalf of a religion.

 

At 7:59 Khalida Ashrafi says, “When the Charlie Hebdo attacks… happened, the number of hate crimes that were being talked about…were through the roof…” No statistics are produced to confirm the claim. This is anecdote. We know that TellMama’s statistics about serious hate-crimes following Islamist atrocities did not show spikes in the few weeks after. A professional approach to this claim would have detailed statistics, breaking them down into types: speech on social media, verbal attacks in the street, assault etc. A chance to produce firm data was lost.

 

At 8:30 Bana Kora of the Muslim Women’s Council declares, “For us our religion is a peaceful religion.” This may be a commendable wish, but it is not a statement of fact. Since 9/11 there have been approximately 31,000 jihadist attacks globally. As a matter of pure fact it is not true. The Koran itself contains at least 109 verses of violence and a distressing amount of anti-Semitic invective. Again, we have proselytizing on behalf of a religion.

 

At 11:45 Hafez Abusammad Mulla avers that “(Muhammad) said ‘The best of mankind are those who benefit mankind’”. A nice thought but again highly unlikely to be true. The quotation comes from al-Daraqutni who flourished in the tenth century, 300 years after Muhammad. Al-Daraqutni could not have known that Muhammad said it – and it sounds nothing like Muhammad as recorded in the Koran. Hafez Abusammad Mulla is making things up.

 

This was a most disappointing video. It features no statistics on anti-Muslim bigotry, no case studies apart from verbal anecdote, no numbers on the tolerance or otherwise of British society – nor does it compare it with other countries or with other groups such as Jews. It gives a platform to Muslims to deny the link between the scriptures of Islam and violence and to state historical untruths. I would suggest that it is not the role of the Police to produce, and presumably pay for, such da’wa – evangelizing for Islam.

 

I would suggest that you should make the case statistically and in a secular, professional manner for privileging the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry over other forms (anti-Semitism, anti-Polish, anti-Rumanian). The video does not address this. The case should rather be that one doesn’t attack Muslims because they are fellow humans, not because of any peculiarity of their religion. That is what equality under the law means.

 

I would be grateful if you could explain how this evangelizing on behalf of a religion is legal and what, if any, further research you have in place to measure the effectiveness of the video. While it is true that the role of the Police should be to promote cohesion, this should not be done at the expense of enabling groups to make up untruths on taxpayer-funded time. Social cohesion can only come if we talk openly and honestly about ideas. No serious security analyst on earth denies the link between Islam and violence: your video attempted to repudiate that. And there, I fear, is the video’s weakness: its editorial decisions render it untrustworthy in the public debate.

 

I invite you to comment, should you have the time to reply.

 

Yours sincerely etc….”

An ABC of Islamic State murders

I found this e-mail in my inbox: obviously, I got on some IS mailing list by accident. I think this guy used to run their European Branch from Syria.

 

Memo:

Subject: European bombing campaign

Status: Top Secret

From: al-Shami

To: External Ops Council Members

Date: 8-Shawwal-1435 (08-04-2014)

 

As-salāmu ʿalaykum,

 

ISIS is settling in to a good few years of European bombing campaigns. I thought I’d save PR a few minutes. The boys from Raqqa are welcome to copy and paste a few excuses for the latest atrocity. Stop the War contacts may consider several hundred words around these themes with the usual stuff – Sykes-Picot, Balfour Declaration, western guilt, blah, blah, blah. Allah (pbuh) willing, we’ll bomb the countries below. But hey, beyond, Muslim ghettoization, mental illness, naff jails and intimidation by the spooks there are always grounds besides killing them all wherever you find them. (pbuh! Lol!)

 

When we suicide bomb the following countries, this is the line. Cc. all IS and StW – and Simon Jenkins – oh, and Peter Hitchens. (Any other suggestions?). (Apart from the mass-murder quotations from the Koran or the Hadith). For administrative purposes, we present Europe in alphabetical order.

 

  • Decapitate a few Albanians – the ‘Tirana, sore as necks’ op – point out that it was the only European country occupied by the Nazis ending up with more Jews at the end of WW2 than at the start. Unacceptable. Obviously. Duuurrhh!

 

  • Blow a few Andorrans to bits, and here’s the rub. Payback for 5,000 of the imperialist bastards bigging up Charlemagne in 788 (171 Islamic Calendar) in his ruck with the lads in the Vall de Carol. In Andorra.

 

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Abderrahman Mechkah, suspect in the Turku stabbing attack with his lawyer (right). Photo courtesy  Newsweek.

 

  • Another Armenian genocide is a good idea. To encourage the others, as the old Islamophobe, Voltaire, used to say. Let’s have a few more of ‘em enslaved in our army. Just like the Ottoman Empire used to do. (Too serious? Tone?)

 

  • Austrian infidels stopped us conquering Europe at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Unforfuckingiveable. We never forget. (Won’t take comments on tone. This one’s serious).

 

  • Azerbaijani oil burning is gonna be apocalyptic: who founded the Caspian and Black Sea Oil Industry and Trade Society in 1883? The Rothschilds. Jews. Need I say more?

 

  • Run a truck down a Belarus High Street. The only country to jail a newspaper editor for publishing the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (pbu etc.). That’s our job. How dare they? (To discuss: maybe go easy on infidels doing our job for us? Come prepared with well-attested hadith, brothers. OTOH…jail?: bit liberal).

 

  • Belgian kufr. In 1974, they recognized Islam as one of the subsidized religions in Belgium. One of…? ONE OF…? Lob a Walloon off a roof-top.

 

  • Bosnian apostates: not acceptable. Too many Christianized after the Ottoman Empire was thrown out. Munafiq for youse lot: the kindling for the fires of hell. In the meantime we’ll help you along the way. Into the cage. Fire!

 

  • Bulgaria: this land is our land, as Woody Guthrie said. 5 centuries of Ottoman rule down the pan after the Russo-Turkish war. Choice: slavery, super-tax or a knife to the gizzard. (Video?)

 

  • Let’s bomb a few Croatian tweenies: settlement for all those Ottoman Croatian Pashas. Splitters.

 

  • Let’s rape a few Cypriots: the Prophet’s (pbuh) aunt fell off her mule and died there. Murdering bastards.

 

  • Wikipedia tells me that,” traditionally, influence of Islam on culture of Czech lands has been small.” This has to change. Bomb the Islamophobes.

 

(Discussion document: for Shura Council eyes only. Comments welcomed on excuses, pretexts, reasons). Remember, brothers, if you can’t think of a cover story, scripture will always provide. The brothers will provide alibis for Euro (E.) countries beginning with letters D to Z. Please come prepared with drafts for all countries. For list of E. states, Google is your friend.

 

Signed: Abu Mohammad al-Adnani (deceased) Chief of External Operations (IS).

WHY DOESN’T JEREMY CORBYN SUPPORT THE DUP?

From a certain angle, if Corbyn were being consistent, he might consider supporting the DUP. Yes, they are creationists, misogynists and have history in defending terrorism.

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Portrush, Northern Ireland, everyone smiles as the semi-naked bathers drift past the scriptures. Photo courtesy, Alamy.

 

Rather like JC did in the House of Commons when he defended Imam Suliman Gani of the Tooting Islamic Centre against Cameron’s wrong allegation that the good Imam was an IS supporter.

The facts on Gani, who was the centre of the London mayoral elections in 2016, are that he is a woman-hater, apocalypticist, theological liar, sectarian, creationist, evolution-denier, anti-Semite, Caliphate supporter, defender of ‘Lady al-Qaeda’, friend of Jihadi John’s advocate and AQ supporter. I know because I spent a week researching him.

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The Islamist al-Qaeda supporter Gani and Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Courtesy, Socialist Worker.

 

JC led the attack on Cameron as some Labour backbenchers, to their shame and mine, as I have never not voted Labour, yelled, “Racist!” at the PM in the chamber.

There was a lot in the media during the recent election about JC’s defense of terrorists and dictators (as Shi’a countries are mainly clients of Russia, he saves his ire for Sunni countries and his labour power for the media of Shi’a régimes). But even when I laid out the evidence to left-wing sites, commenters simply weren’t prepared to accept the evidence or would find the lamest of excuses, and worse. It certainly taught me a lesson in the power of the political lens, as well as the theological, to blind oneself to the evidence in front of one’s eyes.

The political mind is still a powerful tool enabling one to ignore facts, to reconcile inconsistencies of principle and to project onto the leader the heroic purity one would wish to see in oneself. JC captures that essence rare.

Is Jeremy Corbyn a ‘Man of Peace’?

Michael Rosen, great children’s author, supporter of Stop the War even though he wishes to deny it, and former candidate for RESPECT, the party of George Galloway, who called Saddam Hussein ‘indefatigable’, posted 5 interesting questions tonight. Rather in the style of the conspiracist who asks questions (to which the answer is always ‘No’), he sought to affirm the Christ-like purity of Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity and ability to save lives. It’s part of the ‘always-on-the-right-side-of-history’ narrative. The problem is that one needs to look at the facts. These were my responses.

‘Good questions.

Rosen: How many lives lost because of who Corbyn met?

Me: Question 1 is almost impossible to answer but it is unlikely that it would have been less than it otherwise would have been because we have no record of JC ever brokering a peace.

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Jeremy Corbyn, founder of Stop the War. Photo courtesy The Independent.

 

Rosen: How many lives lost from wars started or supported by the Tories?

Question 2. Let’s start at 1991, the Iraq War 1 which JC opposed. It is difficult to estimate how many Kuwaitis would have died had Saddam been allowed to annex the country. Based on his previous war and genocide records it would have been some large percentage of Kuwait’s 2 million population.

1999 Kosovo intervention, which JC opposed, stopped the genocide. 1.8 million lived in the area.

2000, Sierra Leone, which JC again opposed saved that country of 4 million from further civil war. Figures on how many lives were saved are hard to come by.

2001 Afghanistan which JC opposed. Had his advice been taken, the Taliban would still rule the country and AQ would have had a secure base from which to grow, train operatives, launder money and organize world-wide terrorist attacks in complete security.

2003 Iraq. Violent death figures are disputed between 100,000 and the high and generally disregarded estimates of 1 million. The war itself was very short and relatively low in death figures. The insurgency, organised by ex-Ba’athists and the precursor group to IS, then loosely linked to AQ, was the cause of the brutality which followed: Pilger said that western leftists had ‘no choice’ but to support the insurgency. The population of Iraq in 2003 was 26 million: today it is around 34 million. So, many more Iraqis are alive, highly likely because better conditions have been created in which Iraqis can live. The size of the diaspora pre-2003 would account for only half the rise in population. Violent deaths pre-2003 outnumber by an order of magnitude those after 2003.

2011 Libya I don’t have figures.

2013 Syria. JC opposed the no-fly zone suggestion for safe areas for civilians. Assad has since killed his own people in the hundreds of thousands. Exact numbers again are difficult in the fog of war. Ca. 500,000 is often quoted but the methodologically conservative SNHR numbers about 200,000. This is not to mention the internally and externally displaced who number ca. 10 million. It is highly likely that the no-fly zones would have saved Syrian lives, cowed Assad and deterred Iran and Russia from helping Assad and his Chemical Weapons and bombing of medical facilities campaigns. JC repeats the mantra of calling for ‘talks’, yet he knows that whenever Assad and Putin agree to them, there are spikes in Assadist violence and killing of the population. JC deliberately obfuscates this recurring fact.

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Homs, ‘capital’ of the Syrian revolution: not CGI but obliterated by Assad. Photo courtesy BBC.

 

Rosen: And Corbyn is the one who is supposedly ‘dangerous’?

On question 3 given that record, yes, there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands and more who would not exist if JC had been the decision-maker.

Rosen: How many dictators or terrorists have the Tories one moment been against, the next moment been for, the next moment against again! (sic)

On question 4, I can’t think off-hand of 1 terrorist group which the Tories have supported, although I am happy to be proved wrong. Repulsive régimes, yes. Yet instead of grandstanding in such a morally easy way about how revolting, say, KSA is, one does have to conduct a rational, informed discussion about the implications of withdrawing arms sales. Who would KSA go to for their arms? China, Russia, USA, France, Italy? What would be the foreign policy and balance of power implications, as well as those for the UK in terms of jobs and energy security?

Rosen: And Corbyn is the one who is supposedly dangerous?

On question 5 it is not fake news to describe JC as a fellow traveller with the IRA, a shill for Iran and a man who equates the murder of 3,000 people with the lack of a trial for Osama bin Laden. He does not, or pretends not to, understand the degrees in a moral compass. Nor does he comprehend that intention with regard to action tells us what we need to know about the actor. It is an awful fact that in the world bad people will continue to do appalling things if you leave them be. And their intention will be to continue killing because, weak as their polity is, that’s what they’re good at. Sometimes terrible things have to be done to them in order to stop them, but also in order to produce a better society. It’s a simple fact that the replacement of Assad with, say, Emmanuel Macron as President of Syria would immediately lead to better outcomes for Syria. Methods and intentions matter: JC always obfuscates them.’

I could have been harsher. I could have pointed out that JC always considers who has been murdered before determining his political response to it. But that would have been blindingly obvious. Perhaps I should have. If you have the misfortune to be tortured, killed or a member of a genocided group which is tortured, killed or genocided by a client of the Soviet Union, Russia, an Islamist or anybody vaguely anti-democratic, you are not worthy of effective support. It’s a pattern of behaviour and it’s as simple as that.

If a man, even before he obtains state power, is capable of thinking that, then he is capable of thinking anything. And that is why I cannot, and I hope you should not, support Jeremy Corbyn.

Orwell and how Iraq changed the left.

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I have a memory that Marx once said that all his work was a footnote to Rousseau. Reading, D.J. Taylor’s ‘Orwell The Life’, I could conceive that all western political and moral thought is a footnote to Orwell: or rather a conversation with him.

Whether or not Marx said it I don’t know and have never bothered to find out. In much the same way, it is some 30 years since I read most of Orwell, his novels, essays and journalism, yet he remains, at least to me, the slave whispering in the triumphant Roman General’s ear, “Remember, you are mortal.”

We describe as ‘Orwellian’ any régime or movement of political terror which induces a dazed, mute numbness in its victim. It is a cliché which the best, and sometimes the worst, writers avoid. Yet the problem with them is that they are often true, just as stereotypes can be. Indeed, that benoughted destruction of resolve has another Orwellian sense: in 1937 we see his first wife Eileen in Barcelona abstracted from her ability to think by the menace of the Communist Party.

However much the ‘Orwellian’ epithet resonates around public discourse, one is reminded of one’s core impression of the man as in a most awkward way plain honest. His criticisms would not baulk at political or moral inconvenience. If one could compare the methods of the CP and Fascists, then it wasn’t decent to overlook the CP’s crimes; and of course it meant that they shared some mind-set. One thinks of the minute flaring of Orwell’s nostrils as he observed the grime-strewn floors of his working-class hosts in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. Did he recall his Burmese days when he chucked his fag butts around his living-room? Still, to marmalize the spirit of a people is not the same as inattention to the chores.

It was Orwell who pointed out, a tad embarrassingly for the head of the British CP in the 30s, Harry Pollitt, one of a long line of UK Stalinists who sound as if they formed part of a Middlesbrough centre-back partnership, that slatternliness could be ouvrierist: as if Marx was slapping his party descendants in the face with his favourite, and Terentian, aphorism, “Nothing human is alien to me” – or you or anyone.

If Terence and that anonymous Roman slave could susurrate our little and big temptations, surely Orwell was on to something when he spotted that obscure writers and clever proles, if unchecked, could transform a righteous battle into a Triumph of the Will. Christendom, smithereened by the Great War, fell to strong men, mini-gods of weedy totalitarianisms which lasted only from 12 to 72 years, naked apes who befoul drains just like the Wigan proletariat. Their Palme Dutts did not stamp on our faces forever but they did substitute the worship of God with that of a set of commonplace humans, often festooned in martial paraphernalia hinting at the loving God’s reversion to Yahwist psychopathy. Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Mussolini.

Orwell marked out the sado-masochism of the dictators’ rule. The sadism of the ruler: the masochism of the ruled. Yet he added love to it. Not only does the torturer need to be loved but he also ‘loves’ his victim object. There is more. The tormentor is not psychologically profound, the persecuted is. The problem is not that the species harvests so many who want to order but that there is a super-production of those who wish to obey. In the literature on business leadership there are about 3,000 titles: on followership, a handful. We still take for granted the urge to submit.

And submission – in Arabic, ‘Islam’ – remains a ubiquitous impulse in the political animal. As well as the refusal to recognize one’s own Janus face. For we all think that we stand for the good: liberals, socialists, communists, islamists. If I do not think that I am moral, my own inner conversation is irreparably divided against itself. Not only can my centre not hold, I do not even have one.

Orwell, in the semi-hysterical reaction of the left to Brexit and Trump’s presidency, has returned to the top of the best-seller lists. ‘1984’ rules. In the ever-so-slightly smug and definitely self-righteous response to the election of an Apprentice President, the left declares fascism imminent. Equality under the law has gone, a dark age beckons, all social norms discarded, I am the arbiter of the just. All bets are off and I fucking hate Big Brother. Let’s punch a Nazi.

Of course, Blair’s ‘1984’ was written just after the midnight in the twentieth century and it is suffused with the horror of one of the top 20 most destructive wars in history. How could it not reflect Eric’s awareness of human depravity?

Is Trump as depraved as Hitler and Stalin? Of course not. And nowhere near so: sooner or later, the left has to identify the spectrum of politicians with whom it disagrees. And to respond to them in a manner which does not mulishly and inaccurately lump them under the playground taunt of ‘fascist’. Remember, Lenin did differentiate between capitalists: why else write a pamphlet titled, ‘Left Wing Communism: an infantile disorder’, an uncharacteristically polite way of informing his followers of their relationship with guano and mental well-being?

Are we living in ‘1984’? No, we’re not, at least in the west. Culturally, the left has won, and enacted, all the moral arguments: the idea of equality under the law, the democratic impulse, respect for ideas – and those who propose them – in the public sphere, the irrelevance of one’s appearance or essence to the persuasiveness of your case. It’s over. In the future, the right might try, but will probably fail, to overturn that. In fact, a lot of the North European right agree with those ideas. In this sense, Orwell was wrong, but that is not what he was trying to forewarn in ‘1984’.

Most views of Orwell post-1945 see him as the voice of good old-fashioned, decent British common-sense socialism. His biographer, Taylor, as far as I recall, underplays his fascination, and intellectual argument, with the ex-Trotskyists Burnham and Shachtmann. In 1946, Orwell reviewed Burnham’s theories a mere 6 years after this conversation: in 1940 Hitler asked the Norwegian ambassador who he thought would win the war. The brave legate replied, “Trotsky”.

Orwell’s intellectual atmosphere reeked under Trotsky’s miasma: that’s why ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’ are a conversation with, and, frankly, apology for Snowball/ Goldstein/Bronstein/Trotsky who could write like Shakespeare but act like Richard III.

Natheless, we all know that Orwell was a morally serious person: and so was Trotsky. One cannot possibly say the same about huge swathes of the modern left.

The most egregious example is the Second Iraq War. It was trivially simple to oppose it. The sole argument against it was the possibility of a bad outcome: which one can say about any war. The left – and it was the left in general – opposed it on the basis that it was imperialist, mainly because they, irrelevantly, thought that Dubya was a klutz: exactly how most British workers thought of Winston Churchill in 1939.

The 2nd Iraq war was obviously not an imperialist war and it differs from most other US interventions in that it attempted to, and did, install democracy in Iraq. The western left has utterly failed to notice this, preferring instead to focus on the trivial issue of George Bush’s rhetorical skills. That war ended disastrously, largely because of Bush’s hopeless Stage IV planning, and Saint Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American troops from the nascent Iraqi democracy.

If I were to turn the mulish leftist allegation-filled mind-set on its head, I’d point out that Obama left Iraqis to stand up for their own democracy. Let’s give Iraq 6 years to build a functioning democracy. While the US, 72 years after WWII and stationing troops in their countries, can’t rely on the Germans and Japanese to guarantee their own. This looks like US anti-white and anti-those-damned-clever-East-Asians racism. Any consistent western leftist might consider calling that racism – and they would still be wrong. Of course it ain’t true, but the thought could never even cross the mind of the bubble-primed modern western leftist desperate to spot US racism against a brownish Middle Eastern person.

Now we are left with the collapse of confidence in universal human values, largely as a result of the anti-Iraq war critique by the western left. What is noticeable is those critiques’ massive ignorance of the nature of Saddam’s régime. Largely, the left does not know anything about, or refuses to acknowledge its unfamiliarity with, Iraq 2003. And that is precisely the point that Orwell made about the USSR in 1948.

Of course, the big problem is that leftists think that any western intervention anywhere is immediately bad. Iraq is the go-to example. They fail to observe that Obama, by prematurely withdrawing US troops, sabotaged any possible good outcome in Iraq. They allege that the lesson is that the west – and the UN, which has played possum for 2 decades – should not intervene anywhere.

The word ‘Iraq’ is a short-hand for the unnecessary prosecution of a fight which should never have been started: it has become axiomatically the definition of a bad outcome. Yet, look at the statistics on Iraqi deaths pre- and post-2003. Saddam Hussein’s murderous efficiency makes IS look like amateurs. It outperforms IS by a magnitude of 10s or 100s.

As one tweeter expressed it, the left is suffering from “the awful ripple effects from the stigmatization of the Iraq intervention…” and particularly from its refusal to face Obama’s disastrous Middle East policy: his enabling of the growth of Iranian Shi’a theocracy and Ba’athist rule-by-torture.

In the short term this refusal by large swathes of the left has become a type of decadent grande bouffe at which it eats itself. Turn insular and isolationist and identify an identity from which you can indulge yourself in telling off the members of another group whose ideas, contrary to the rigour-free claims of your own ideology, you present as biologically determined: all white men are the same.

More seriously, in the medium and long term, the western left must take up a rigorous analysis of the Iraq war and its aftermath. I only see it being done to any extent in the security analysis sphere, among whom the facts really matter. We have a catastrophic long-term effect: the tiresome knee-jerk short-hand of ‘Iraq’ – all of it – being the definition of predictable failure.

If universal human rights are not worth defending everywhere and we become obsessed by who can have a dump where, this is the trivialisation of the left. This is how the useless western leftists – as Lenin said, useful idiots – enable theocracies, genocidalists and kleptocrats to determine the world order for the next generation. Because they have retreated from any beliefs without borders not even into the boudoir, but to the bathroom. And they are reduced to scuttling around in New York sucker-punching obscure, irrelevant and ineffective neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer and claiming world-historical class victory through a righteous clocking. How low and pathetically thuggish.

In some mood of exasperation, Marx once exclaimed, “Then I am not a Marxist.” In a zeitgeist where western leftist leaders openly excuse Islamo-fascists and others wibble on about punching right-wingers they don’t like, I know how he felt.

I will defend to your death your right not to say it

When rucking Nazis it’s good to see that the ‘left’ no longer draws the line at a punch. Why not a kick in the head? A knee-capping? Castration? Both sexes? Young and old? Time to bring back the Rack, the Judas Cradle, the Wheel, Dunking, Boiling, Exposure, Live Burial, Bastinado and the Iron Maiden.

Why not? All that Nazis need is public humiliation. That’s the argument.

We could add nunchucks, the axe, the long bow, the bodkin point, the mace (the modified grain flail), the lance. Sod it, let’s chuck in a few swords.

What about trepanning? I am told that the scraping sensation of the skull being cut away would be pretty scary, but apparently it’s not particularly painful.

Image result for the wheel torture device

The Wheel: dissatisfaction guaranteed. A splenetic time is guaranteed for all. Courtesy: http://www.medievalchronicles.com

 

In that spirit, I have a serious proposal. Why not hire a school playground and invite the All-Star Righteous Clockers of Nazi Scum for a good punch-up? Dan Arel and his co-slugger Lexi Alexander can use either fist. Given our new familiarity with feudal torture implements and my willingness to undergo trepanning for the team, I invite anyone to bagsy me as tag-partner. You’d like a man like me on your side. Someone who won’t shy away from getting medieval on their asses, nor on mine.

Samuel L. Jackson will be umpire. Cheerleaders to dance ‘The Blair Peach Memorial Goose-Step’ and sing, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” To the winners, the Gold Medal in the Moral High Ground.

While we’re at it we can award Owen Jones of the Grauniad a Special Award for Services to Moral Contortionism.  He it was who joined Linda Sarsour’s DC March for Women and then whined, as is his wont, that he would not join an anti-Trump London march since it was organized by the Socialist Workers’ Party who condone rape within their organization (true). Owen would never march with promoters of rape culture: Sarsour, of course, being a Muslim ‘leftist’ and believer that Ayaan Hirsi Ali does not have a right to her own vagina, could not possibly fit that description.

Hell, it looks like young Owen is an apologist for crypto-Fascists like Sarsour. Why not pile in on him as well?

You have to get your laughs where you can nowadays: but they’re all bittersweet.

h/t gravelinspector-Aidan for the technical advice on 700 year-old evisceration techniques.

WILL

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We, the people of Birmingham in England, ask the world to save us. Theresa May’s régime barrel-bombs our houses, our streets are rubble: her helicopters destroy our hospitals. These are our last moments. This is our last testament.

There is no way out. Our roads are cut off. May’s army, backed by US military might, and the militias of nine Western European countries have forced their way in to ninety per cent of the city. Dismembered bodies lie everywhere, limbs scattered, heads off, blood awash. Our heroic St. John’s Ambulance people describe it as ‘hell’. They have lost count of the dead. 

We have rebels and internal refugee civilians kettled in to 2 square kilometres of our ruined city. We await our death. The régime is murdering the men who leave: they accuse them of terrorism. May’s rape-and-death squads violate our women, they go among the refugees to pick out pro-democracy leaders.

The US planes bomb our suburbs, the régime drops chlorine gas on us, we flee to cower in bunkers. Our children wail in dust and dried blood. They don’t understand. They have no food. We have no medicine. We have nothing to give them.

We call again on the UN, on anyone, to help our women and children get out.  They must live. We have asked for this aid for five years. There has always been too little. President Putin, we wanted you to protect us: it was always too little. Now you say not a word as we see the end. Have you given up on us?

We face our midnight and close our eyes. This is our witness to those who closed theirs.

Things that the everyday folks leave behind

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Jeremy Corbyn is a womble.  He recycles speeches rejected by the 5 Labour leaders since Kinnock.  The current US Vice-President Joe Biden notoriously borrowed word for word from a speech of Neil Kinnock.  Corbyn, rummaging in the former Labour leader’s bin, plagiarized his cast-offs.  Any old rubbish will do for Jeremy.

Yet that speech, from the 2015 Labour Conference, also contained Jeremy’s stirring call-to-arms for a kinder, gentler politics.

corbynpresstv2010

Let’s see how that worked out.  How do his followers, cult-like in their idolization of the worst speaker in British politics – reminiscent of Trotsky’s aghast opinion of the mundane Stalin – respond to criticism of the honest and principled JC?

From the Jeremy Corbyn for PM Facebook page, 01-07-16.

MR: And if he’s bullied into resignation, how many of us will leave? I know I will…I could never support a party of backstabbers, liars and bullies.

SLHB: Deselect all those self-serving MPs who stabbed him in the back and hold by-elections in every constituency.

RDH:  Another Murdoch parrot.

JG: You’re clearly very stupid, right-wing or racist or all of these.

BS: They (the PLP) are just a bunch of scheming bullies. Put up your candidate or crawl back into the shadows.

LT: First thing you do is get rid of all those backstabbing ministers.

PC: Behind you all the way Jeremy Corbyn, you can lead us out of this conspiratorial mess, keep going!

BQ: JR been trolling this page for days ………….That is an absolutely DISGUSTINGLY LOW DIG !!! Admin of the page need to remove this person !!!

JW: Traitor Eagle…

JW: lets get rid of the traitors now!

RM: Paxman is a tosspot.

GW: If you could come out of the fantasy place that you are and make a viable statement, maybe just maybe you could learn something. Until then keep quiet.

GJ: Why don’t you just run along and post on the UKIP, or other ultra-right wing pages where your comments will be appreciated?

CH: Don’t let the self-serving bastards bring you down Jeremy.

FD: The monster! Pathetic woman! (Referring to Jewish Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth)

LT: Better than his backstabbing comrades methinks, and the positively evil Tony Blair.

This is the standard of rhetoric on a page which calls for JC to be the Prime Minister of the UK.  Presumably, those are the norms they wish to see as Jeremy bestrides the world stage.

Well, you can include me out on that.

h/t Michael Wilkinson & timesofisrael.com