Diary

A happy Christmas to all my readers

25 December, 2007

There will be no posts until the new year.

So here we are again, Christmas Day is upon us and tis the season to be jolly! Unless, that is, you are one of the joyless officers of the PC brigade, desperate to stamp out the last vestiges of Christian culture in Britain. Take the zealous Puritans of Haringey Council who informed the Polish and Eastern European Christian Family Centre in 2006 that any mention of the word ‘Christmas’ could lead to the removal of its £7000 annual funding. Or Lambeth Council who, in a hissy fit of seasonal cheerlessness in 2005, opted to rename Christmas lights ‘festive’ lights. Camden Council had even less seasonal spirit when they banned state schools from putting up Christmas decorations in 1999.

You only have to glance at a paper nowadays to hear of schools banning Nativity plays, or celebrating some obscure and unholy event called ‘Winterval.’ How long will it be before even mentioning the C word gets you a fixed penalty notice or an appearance before a magistrate? Councils have to raise money somehow after all!

Of course, it isn’t just useless officialdom that attracts our ire. The Red Cross came under fire in 2002 after banning its staff from putting up Christmas trees and nativity scenes. And if recent surveys are to be believed, a majority of UK companies have followed suit with similarly draconian action. And that’s not to mention the issue of ‘Christmas’ cards, authentic versions of which scarcely exist in the shops.

So why this intolerant crackdown on Christmas? The usual answer is that celebrating Christianity ‘offends’ members of other faiths or, in the words of another dotty council official, that it does not fit in with ‘core values of diversity and equality.’ This type of attitude is part of a much wider assault on Western values and cultural traditions, the assumption being that they are something to write off with a shrug of embarrassment. Minority groups, by contrast, receive preferential treatment.

So here we have the zealous defenders of anti racism earnestly proclaiming that British, Christian culture offends members of minority cultures! In other words, that Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs (and those of no faith at all) are so intolerant that they will wish to see this country’s dominant religious heritage trashed purely to suit their narrow minded attitudes.

The funny thing is that whenever some local crackpot urges these ridiculous bans, it is the ethnic minorities themselves who are the first to complain. They usually argue, using the common sense that is so lacking in the do-gooders, that Christmas is a public holiday which is open to everybody, regardless of their religious background.

In fact by choosing to be the mouthpieces for self designated ‘victim’ groups, the PC brigade practise a particularly pernicious form of inverse racism. They make the worst assumptions about minorities without even bothering to consult them, while failing to realize that their vacuous mantra of multicultural diversity does not apply to Christians. So much for equality!

This is the season of good will to all. Let’s do away with all this PC lunacy and raise our glasses to a very British celebration! Happy Christmas!

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Phil Davis

   

25/12/2007

Merry Winterval, Jeremy!

Stop impersonating Dave, Mr. Clegg. We want policy.

21 December, 2007

The Liberal Democrats are hoping that Nick Clegg’s narrow election victory will transform their fortunes. Clegg is a youthful, telegenic figure, very much in the Cameron mould, and some of his advisers must be hoping for the kind of ‘bounce’ the Tories enjoyed in 2005.

The new leader seems to have lost no time exploiting his youthful image. In rather eye catching fashion Clegg has unveiled pop star Brian Eno as one of the party’s advisors. Eno’s brief is to advise the party on how to reach out to Britain’s disaffected youth, many of whom seem disillusioned with the world of Westminster politics. Eno's own comment on his appointment was hardly earth shattering stuff:

'I think they are the real opposition. I think they are the only opposition we have. The Lib Dems are the effective opposition and I hope that, the election after next, they will be the opposition and maybe the one after that they will be the government." (Quoted in The Guardian, 19th December).

Clegg’s ‘Eno moment’ has been followed by a flurry of visits to radio stations, where he has displayed his ignorance of pop music.

It is tempting to think that the Liberal Democrats are following a winning strategy. Lib Dem strategists have seen the Tories enjoy a resurgence of popularity under the youthful David Cameron, after the party suffered a trio of humiliating election defeats. Like Cameron, Clegg promises change and a new direction and uses many of the Cameron buzzwords, like aspiration and freedom. Nor will it be lost on Clegg’s advisors that Cameron struck up his own much publicized alliance with pop star Bob Geldof at the start of his leadership.

But this is somewhat dicey reasoning. Cameron flirted with gimmicks because it gave him media exposure and allowed him to ‘prove’ how different he was to his predecessors. His much publicized trip to the Arctic, his overtures to Geldof and Polly Tonybee and his insistence on women and ethnic Tory candidates certainly produced a feeling that the Tories had changed their emphasis and direction.

But an obsession with change and photo ops, at the expense of policy proposals, gradually marked him out as an insincere opportunist who would do and say anything to win popular support. Confronted with mixed messages or with no messages at all, people were left confused about what Cameron actually believed. This was entirely Cameron’s fault for he styled himself the ‘heir to Blair.’

But in the last few months, ‘Dave’ has been replaced by a more straight talking David with a serious policy agenda. There are commitments to cutting inheritance tax, reforming the welfare state and limiting non EU immigration. Yes, the I (and E) word is back on the table. Iain Duncan-Smith has also been busy tackling Britain’s ‘broken society’ and making some eminently sensible suggestions in the process. So after articulating the deepest concerns of ordinary folk, Cameron’s poll ratings have understandably shot up.

Clegg should think twice about putting image before substance. He needs to realise that success (defined by their being enough MPs to create a hung Parliament) will be elusive as long as the Lib Dems remain a protest party, launching ad hoc diatribes against their rivals on purely ‘protest’ issues. In other words, he has to articulate a coherent set of policies with a distinctly Liberal twist.

In the best traditions of British liberalism, this could easily include a commitment to open markets, lower taxes and personal choice in using public services while his social agenda could emphasize the defence of individual liberties against the encroachment of the state. Much of the social agenda is in place, such as the staunch opposition to ID cards, but it requires more filling out. Clegg needs to tell voters where he would draw the line between protecting the public (security) and defending freedom (liberty).

Whether this is Clegg's direction remains to be seen. But he must stop patronizing Britain’s youth by talking about pop music and trendy culture when his brief is to engage with serious policy.

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The Diana files will never satisfy Al Fayed

18 December, 2007

Did she love him or didn’t she? Just as in life, so now in death, Diana’s intimate secrets have been laid bare for the nation. An inquest that was supposed to determine her cause of death has been turned into a courtroom version of the Oprah Winfrey show. One minute we are privy to racy love letters between one joyous ‘chick’ and her lover, the next we read of her musings on wedding rings. Like the good voyeurs we are, we wait on tenterhooks for the next startling revelation from the Diana files. Perhaps you can now understand why she was called the ‘People’s Princess.’

But I am left wondering how any of these romantic secrets are remotely relevant to the inquest. Does it really matter that Diana was intent on marrying Dodi, or that she was about to dump him for another man? If we suddenly discovered that this was all a meaningless fling, would it give us any special insight into her manner of death? Above all, would it persuade Mohamed Al Fayed, and the legion of frenzied conspiracy hunters, that Diana and Dodi were not victims of an elaborate MI6 murder plot? Don't bet your mortgage on it.

The crackpots who insist that Diana was bumped off by MI6 or Prince Charles or the Loch Ness Monster will continue to be immune to the facts. They will probably denounce this inquest’s conclusions as just another establishment cover up designed to protect a corrupt House of Windsor. Mr. Al Fayed will continue to play the part of the embittered father railing against the establishment, a part he plays very well.

When you examine the evidence in a rational light, you have to conclude that the bleeding obvious has always been the bleeding truth. Diana and Dodi were the tragic victims of a drunk, drugged up driver who lost control of a car while speeding, a crime exacerbated by a chasing pack of reckless papparazi. There is no credible evidence to suggest otherwise.

If we are really honest, this whole process has been a monumental waste of time and money.

In the meantime those folks who remain hard wired to reality can only scratch their heads in disbelief and ask why this daft conspiracy theory has such seductive power. Why does it persist and mutate, like a virus, despite the accumulating evidence that it is false.

Well, let’s face it, what can be more boring than to believe that a glamorous, fabulously loved celebrity like Diana met her end because of a speeding drunk driver? The incongruity seems altogether too stark and surreal. How can a relative nobody like Henri Paul have the power to alter human history and deprive the rest of us of a Princess? How, we might add, could Lee Harvey Oswald destroy a President, or James Earl Ray snuff out Martin Luther King, or 19 puny Islamists strike at the heart of American power on September 11th?

No, we demand that the great and good bow out of this world courtesy of some devilish plot, the machinations of which are worthy of Moriarty himself.

When the conspiracy hunters return to Planet Earth, they have to face facts. Even the most revered mortals meet their end in humble fashion. Diana and Dodi died needlessly because their driver was intoxicated and they refused to wear seatbelts. Yes, history really can be that boring.

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The police in crisis? You bet, and it has little to do with pay.

16 December, 2007

Not content with presiding over the catastrophe of mass immigration and overcrowded prisons, the Home Office is now set for a collision course with the police over pay. By rejecting the advice of an independent tribunal to backdate a 2.5% pay award to 1st September, the police are rightly outraged by the below inflation pay rise on offer.

On the face of it, the government’s justification is weak. Ministers have tried to justify their decision by saying it is essential to curb inflation but this is as shoddy an argument as you could get. Gordon Brown has presided over a decade of profligate public spending with vast sums of public money wasted in the process. The extra £30 million in question is a mere trifle compared to the billions spent on futile quangos.

However, while officers are rightly up in arms, this crisis is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The truth is that British policing has been in crisis for years over issues that have little to do with pay.

The most obvious manifestation of crisis is the lack of police on our streets. The Conservatives recently obtained figures that showed that in 2006/07, British police officers spent on average less than 14% of their time on the beat while nearly a fifth of their time was accounted for by paperwork. Despite government promises to cut red tape, the average bobby is now more of a bureaucrat than a crime fighter.

The result is that local communities remain blighted by the threat of tearaway gangs and feral violence. This was certainly the case when Garry Newlove, a 47 year old father of 3, was battered to death by a drunken mob outside his home. For weeks, angry local residents had appealed in vain for police intervention to protect them from drunken youths.

Last year another young father, Peter Woodhams, was shot dead by a gang after confronting them outside his home in Canning Town. Weeks before his death, his fiancé had reportedly contacted police about an earlier incident in which he had been stabbed, yet the police failed to take a statement or deal with the problems on the estate. No doubt, these cases could be endlessly multiplied across the country.

Second, the police appear to be a willing arm of a sanctimonious, humourless PC movement that seeks to eradicate intolerance through social engineering. How else does one explain the treatment of author Lynette Burrows in December 2005? One day on radio she spoke of her concerns about homosexual couples adopting children. For committing such an ‘appalling’ thought crime she received a visit from the police who claimed they were investigating a ‘homophobic incident.’ But where is the crime in expressing one’s opinion?

This has been rendered worse by a paralyzing obsession with minority rights and Britain’s victim culture. The worst manifestation of this came earlier this year, following a Dispatches documentary that showed clear evidence of extremism in British mosques. The West Midlands police, in response to the documentary, decided to focus their investigation on the ‘Islamophobic’ Channel 4, rather than the preachers of hate. No doubt they were following the advice of one Brian Paddick who, in a fit of political correctness on 7th July 2005, decried any link between the words ‘Islam’ and ‘terror’. On a day of potential national emergency, Mr. Paddick went overboard to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities.

Third, the police have slowly succumbed to a human rights culture that appears to favour criminals at the expense of their victims. In October 2006 Derbyshire police initially refused to release the photographs of two murderers who had escaped from prison. They were concerned for protecting the criminals’ human rights and the Data Protection Act, a decision branded ‘absolute nonsense’ by Lord Falconer. In the same month the police told jeweller Isabel Kurtenbach that she could not release CCTV images of a thief who had stolen £2000 of goods on the grounds that it would breach the thief’s human rights. The fact that the Human Rights Act itself stipulated that public interest would allow the release of such information was missed on both occasions.

Perhaps these cases unfairly represent the majority of police investigations but in a sense, that scarcely matters. What does matter is a growing perception that the police are no longer on the side of the law abiding citizen, a view that can only undermine the credibility of the force in the eyes of the public. A lethal combination of government red tape and a self imposed post McPherson malaise is having a toxic effect.

Yes, the police deserve due reward and public recognition for their sterling efforts. But they should never forget that their primary purpose is to protect and serve the public, not to uphold the shoddy mantras of conventional morality.

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The Retreat of Reason

13 December, 2007

If you have heard of euphemisms like ‘wheelchair users’ and ‘the horizontally challenged’ you will be familiar with the world of political correctness. Every year there are more words that ‘you can’t say’ for fear of offending someone. But while ‘being PC’ frequently invokes howls of derision, some recent books have examined its more sinister side.

Tammy Bruce’s ‘The New Thought Police’ and Patrick West’s ‘The Poverty of multiculturalism’ have both examined the corrosive effects of political correctness on Western thought and behaviour. Anthony Browne’s latest book The corruption of debate offers a similar analysis.

Browne provides convincing evidence that political correctness has corrupted public debate in Britain and elsewhere. The issue that best demonstrates this, and which led him to write the book, was Britain’s growing HIV epidemic since the 1990s.

The government’s own figures showed that the rise in infections was being fuelled by African immigrants who arrived with the infection. Yet when Browne went to print with this analysis, he was greeted with accusations of ignorance and racism.

As he says in the book: ‘The only people who phoned me up to thank me about it were HIV doctors, who lived in the real world, not the politically correct virtual one.’

In another chapter, he destroys the myth that teenage black males underachieve at school because of their ‘racist’ teachers. This simplistic analysis, as he convincingly shows, overlooks the contribution of Afro-Caribbean culture and, crucially, the greater proportion of absent fathers in black families. The former often devalues academic attainment.

In another fascinating section, Browne takes apart the notion that women’s relatively lower pay (compared to men) over a lifetime results from sexist discrimination. He provides convincing evidence to show how lifestyle choice, principally the demands of motherhood, has reduced career opportunities and pay for women.

When women take time off work to have children, they invariably sacrifice the prospects of future promotions. Thus their reduced pay, in the long term, is less likely to result from their employers’ deliberate discrimination.

Browne is at his best in explaining the ideology of this movement. In passing moral or intellectual judgments on people, what matters for the politically correct are relations of interpersonal power. Black children, women and African immigrants are often seen as ‘victim groups’ who deserve special protection from the majority culture.

Blaming them for their ill fortune, regardless of the factual truth, leads to accusations of racism and sexism. But the people who suffer most from this reasoning are the victim groups themselves who are encouraged to blame others, rather than alter their behaviour.

Political correctness, as Browne shows, has got its claws into most areas of sensitive public debate. For years it has scarcely been possible to criticise immigration or asylum policy without being accused of being a Little Englander. Indeed after writing a critical analysis of asylum and immigration policy in 2003, Browne was branded a ‘closet fascist’ by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary.

Browne’s analysis is most pertinent in the current struggle with jihadist Islam. The British government now refuses to acknowledge that terrorism is an ‘Islamic’ issue, pretending instead that it must confront a more generalised threat of ‘extremism.’ Ministers want to work with all communities to extirpate the menace of ‘fundamentalism’, rather than concentrating on the one community which is most seriously blighted by it.

Faced with insurmountable evidence of extremism in some of Britain’s mainstream mosques, the West Midlands police choose to investigate Channel 4, rather than the preachers of hate. In both cases, the authorities want to avoid offending the sensibilities of British Muslims, even though genuine moderates clamour for effective intervention.

Browne marshals considerable evidence to support his thesis and by the end of the book, it is hard not to be convinced by his cogent arguments. Even his fiercest critics will admit that this is a highly engaging work by a penetrating critic of modern culture.

If you are easily offended or addicted to being PC, this book may not be for you. But if you want to see conventional thinking turned on its head, it is a must read.

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The threat from unintelligent intelligence

10 December, 2007

Concerns about the NIE’s woeful intelligence assessment have now spread beyond the Israeli authorities. According to a report in ‘The Sunday Telegraph’, British spy chiefs also have grave concerns about the latest US intelligence, believing that the CIA has effectively been hoodwinked by the Iranians. They believe the release of this report has ‘undermined efforts to impose tough new sanctions on Iran’ and made an Israeli unilateral attack more likely. So how has the CIA been hoodwinked so spectacularly?

‘The report used new evidence – including human source, wireless intercepts and evidence from an Iranian defector – to conclude that Teheran suspended the bomb making side of its nuclear programme…’

According to one senior official, ‘British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation.’ The same official also confirmed that a number of CIA veterans believed Iran was ‘still committed to producing nuclear weapons.’

This farce has hardly come about in a vacuum. 4 years ago, the CIA gave a thumbs up to the Iraq war, describing the case for WMD as a slam dunk. The agency was effectively hoodwinked by a Republican administration that was hell-bent on toppling Saddam Hussein. During a short period of indelicate subservience, they fatally compromised their credibility and independence.

After the Iraq war they must have had an epiphany, deciding never again to replicate such a shamefully slavish attitude. An intelligence agency is not supposed to be politicized after all! While this is a laudable aim, they have responded with an equally politicized report authored by people with no taste for a showdown with the Iranians. In other words, in their desire not to be seen as the poodle of militarists, they have been transformed into naive peaceniks.

This misguided report will make it harder to argue for a tougher line on Iran and leave open the path to an Israeli air strike, carried out unilaterally. Perhaps this is what President Bush wanted after all.

One suggestion doing the rounds is that Bush did a quid pro quo with the Saudis at Annapolis. In return for stabilising Iraq and seeing off insurgents from neighbouring countries, Bush et al would call off a military strike against Iran, something that the ‘moderate’ Arab countries had never really warmed to in any case. With Iraq at peace, Bush could claim that his Middle East strategy against Islamism was working. But to justify this stance, Bush needed some form of political cover, which he received on a plate courtesy of the NIE. Of course, for those living on planet earth, this makes no sense. Iran has always been the prime centre for the spread of radical Islam, not Iraq.

If this theory is true, it sounds like the tragic final act of a President desperate to secure his legacy before history. A peaceful and secure Iraq may indeed be the price for ignoring the Iranian bomb. But as history reminds us, the price of appeasing tyrants is usually a heavy one.

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An intelligence community at war with the government

7 December, 2007

It is hard to know exactly what to make of this week’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report on Iran’s nuclear programme. The report, a brief version of which can be read Here makes the following highly tendentious claims:

‘We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.’

These words have been seized on with glee by all those who demonize Bush’s neocons as the greatest threat to world peace. On the face of it, the report appears to offer a damning verdict on the Bush administration. Take this statement from the report:

‘Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged.’

This is a key sentence. It suggests that the way forward with Tehran is the normal process of diplomacy, rather than the imposition of economic sanctions or the use of military force. A clear slap in the face for Wolfowitz, Cheney, John Bolton and the Israelis, no?

Well if you are not sceptical after reading the report, you certainly should be. This is the same NIE that in May 2005 declared ‘with high confidence’: ‘Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons.’ If they got that assessment so badly wrong, can we really trust their sudden volte face? The Washington Post summed it up well:

One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these “estimates"–the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies–are conducted and accorded gospel status.

In any case the report hardly gives Iran a clean bill of health as some have suggested.

We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon.

Indeed. Given that Syria appeared to be on the receiving end of North Korean nuclear technology, no one can rule out the possibility of an Iranian connection. Now add this:

Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example, Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

Iran is an oil rich, energy rich nation. It has no need to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, hence the obvious inference that its clandestine enrichment of uranium is designed to create nuclear weaponry. Surely we can assess this with high confidence!

Now take this conclusion:

‘We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons.’

So even if Iran has halted its nuclear programme (which is highly questionable), the document clarifies the other problem here, namely that stopping Iran’s long term quest for nuclear status will be very difficult. It is more a question of when we have to deal with the Iranian threat, not if.

But the overall impression left by the report’s authors is to downplay the Iranian threat considerably. A clue to why was given by the New York Sun on December 4th:

The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran… One could call all this revenge of the bureaucrats. Vann Van Diepen, one of the estimate's main authors, has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium. Mr. Van Diepen no doubt reckons that in helping push the estimate through the system, he has succeeded in influencing the policy debate in Washington. The bureaucrats may even think they are stopping another war.

This is pretty damning stuff. America’s intelligence departments, chastened after their humiliating failures over Iraqi WMD, are effectively at war with the government, advancing their own dubious political agenda at the expense of national security. All of which shows that Mr. Bush and his team have been sidelined in the making America’s foreign policy. In time, we may learn the repercussions.’

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Robert Fisk in delusion city

5 December, 2007

Robert Fisk is well known as one of the most trenchant critics of Israeli policy working anywhere in the British media. In yesterday’s Independent he offered a scathing analysis of last week’s Annapolis farce – but for mostly the wrong reasons.

Take this initial statement:

‘Jerusalem and its place as a Palestinian and Israeli capital isn't there… how can the Palestinians have a state without a capital in Jerusalem?’

Come again? Jerusalem was never the capital city of Palestine, indeed there never was a state called Palestine in the first place. When Jordan annexed the West Bank (with little international protest) between 1949 and 1967, Amman was its chosen capital, not Jerusalem. And let us not forget that while the Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem, they desecrated synagogues, demolished buildings and denied religious freedoms to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in violation of the 1949 armistice agreement. By contrast, Israel guarantees religious freedoms to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

What the Palestinians could reasonably claim is ‘autonomy’ in East Jerusalem, the freedom to organize some of their affairs in areas where they are a majority. But Jerusalem itself should remain an undivided city under Israeli control. The Jews, after all, have been a majority there for over 150 years.

Fisk goes on:

‘And if Israel receives acknowledgement that it is indeed an Israeli state – and in reality, of course, it is – there can be no "right of return" for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled (or whose families fled) what became Israel in 1948…’

Firstly, it is absurd to suggest that Israel needs acknowledgement that it is a sovereign state. The United Nations confirmed that 60 years ago! Secondly, Israel is absolutely right to insist that the right of return for Palestinians should be to a state called Palestine, not Israel. The Jewish state would be finished the moment it allowed vast numbers of Palestinian Arabs to settle in their former towns.

Besides, the majority of those claiming refugee status today are merely the descendants of the original refugees, not those who left Palestine. So the refugee claim is a largely bogus one. Finally, would Fisk consider the right of return of more than a million Jews to Arab countries, that is those people who were unceremoniously slung out of anti Zionist regimes after 1948? He does not mention it.

He continues:

‘Yes of course, we all want an end to bloodshed in the Middle East but the Americans are going to need Syria and Iran to support this – or at least Syrian support to control Hamas.’

This must be the most farcical part of his entire analysis. Why would Iran have any interest in regional stability, or any desire to control its blood thirsty and murderous proxies, without at least a guarantee of non intervention in its nuclear programme? Iran has no interest in regional stability, period. But even if Ahmadinejad wanted to rein in the extremists of Hamas, it is hard to see this militant Islamist group softening its apocalyptic, racist demands, which include the expulsion of the ‘infidel Jew’ from the Holy Land.

Fisk then says:

‘For more than two years, the Saudis have been offering Israel security and recognition by Arab states in return for a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories. What was wrong with that?’

Quite simple really - the Saudi plan was a non plan. It called for a complete Israeli pullback to the June 4th 1967 (Auschwitz) borders and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. And just what security guarantees could the Saudis possibly offer when they continue to propagate a militant Wahhabist doctrine that sees the elimination of Israel as a prime religious duty?

Fisk is mired in the popular delusion that this conflict is about local and specific grievances which only persist because of Israeli and American intransigence. As I have tried to argue repeatedly, these issues (while pressing) are subsidiary to a larger one, namely the Arab and Muslim world’s continuing and wholly unreasonable rejection of Jewish sovereignty. This rejection, lest we forget, is often based on the most insidious forms of anti Semitism.

Still, not everything that Fisk says is unreasonable.

‘Reading the speeches – especially the joint document – it seems like an exercise in self-delusion. The Middle East is currently a hell disaster and the President of the United States thinks he is going to produce the crown jewels from a cabinet and forget Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran – and Pakistan, for that matter.’

At last, Fisk has got it spot on.top

What we can all learn from the teddy row

3 December, 2007

It really comes to something when an Islamist group is more forceful in condemning extremism than our own government. Take these two responses to the Sudanese regime’s treatment of Gillian Gibbons. “This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Muhammad Abdul Bari of the MCB.

Compare David Miliband on the day of her trial: ‘The British government fully respects the faith of Islam and Britain has a longstanding tradition of religious tolerance…Britain has also enjoyed close relations with Sudan for many years based on our mutual respect for each other's religious and cultural values.”

Faced by such an abject and craven display of appeasement, don’t you feel like reaching for the sick bag? What ‘respect’ for Sudan’s religious and cultural values can possibly exist when an innocent teacher, whose only crime is a simple misunderstanding (at the very worst), is arrested, imprisoned and threatened with death by a frenzied mob? What values can Britain have in common with Sudan when its government backed Janjaweed commit genocide and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in Darfur?

Indeed it is precisely because the West has criticised the abuses in Darfur that the authorities are flexing their muscles. One way they do this is by attacking Western targets, hoping thereby to stoke up anti Western feelings among the public.

According to BBC Correspondent Jonah Fisher, who lived for over 2 years in Sudan, British expatriates ‘were regularly targeted by the authorities.’ Aid workers who reported on human rights abuses in Darfur ‘were often arrested or expelled as spies.’

This has happened while the government in Khartoum has blocked international solutions to Darfur, merely perpetuating the misery in that blighted region. Gillian Gibbons appears to have been a hapless pawn in Sudan’s power struggles with the West.

Some might argue that Miliband had little choice but to win over Sudanese hearts and minds. As the argument goes, any assertiveness by our government might only have encouraged a more aggressive response from Khartoum. But this is a tragically misguided view. It is our weakness, rather than our strength, that gives strength and succour to our extremist enemies. When we refuse to defend our way of life and our values, it is as good as hoisting the white flag in front of the Islamists.

But then appeasement has often been the government’s default position, whether over Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan or on the home front. How disgusting.

FOOTNOTE: By arguing that Ms. Gibbons was a pawn in a power struggle, I did not seek to minimize the influence of religious extremism. Of course the regime will stop at nothing to spread its fascistic, lethal brand of Islam and it is this Islamist doctrine that has been used to devastating effect for many years against Christians and others. We are seeing a deadly fusion of religion and politics.

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Gordon's sterile vision makes him so easy to ridicule

01 December, 2007

All politicians should be familiar with the Peter Principle. Roughly translated, it means that employees in a hierarchy ascend an organizational hierarchy until they reach their natural level of incompetence. At this point, any further promotion sees them perform in an incompetent manner.

It is a principle that applies with particular force to the current occupant of no. 10. While he was Chancellor, Brown was viewed as a safe pair of hands, presiding in Olympian fashion over a department called Prudence. He claimed credit for the good times but when the going got tough, he slipped away from public view. How poor old Macavity Brown must be missing those days now.

Right now he is a leader at the mercy of events. First we had Northern Rock, then the government screwed up its estimates of foreign immigrants, next we had the revelations of illegal workers in the security industry, then diskgate and, to top it off, the current allegations of dodgy party financing. These disasters have seen the PM transformed from a solid pair of hands to a laughing stock. The opposition now relish Prime Minister’s Question Time, heaping ridicule on the Prime Minister with consummate ease.

In truth, Gordon is little responsible for most of these disasters. Northern Rock had its origins in the purchase of risky debts while the loss of data a fortnight ago could have occurred under any government. The funding scandal involving Mr. Abrahams seems to reflect New Labour’s obsession with dodgy financiers, thus predating Mr. Brown’s premiership.

So why is the Prime Minister so vulnerable now? In a sense we have to go back to the wildly exaggerated expectations when he took over from Tony Blair. Much of the media, and the wider public, assumed that because he lacked the showmanship of his predecessor, he would offer Britain something better. People took him at his word when he declared that he wanted a new style of consensual politics, free from party rancour and bitterness. We were promised that this bookish, cerebral politician would lead Britain into happier waters.

All of a sudden reality got in the way. We had the farce of the election that never was and an Iraq electioneering stunt that would have left Alistair Campbell breathless. Both of these showed him up for the divisive, cynical, control freak that his critics always claimed. But he still had to maintain the pretence that he was different to Tony Blair. Thus he promised that, despite all mishaps, he would deliver his ‘new vision’ for Britain.

Yet in the last 5 months, most of what we have been offered is an extension of Blairism with worse spin. It is the same old set of tired solutions (high tax funded public services, tired promises of welfare reform, more centralisation in education and health) that were the hallmark of the last decade. There is largely no new vision, with the exception of a cooler relationship with George Bush’s Republican Party.

This is what makes it so hard for Gordon Brown as he tries to battle back against opposition taunting. Without a new vision, it is difficult to know what he is actually ‘for.’ All he can fall back on are promises to rectify whatever current disaster has befallen him. Even there, he is hardly coming across as the image of decisiveness and competence.

Gordon Brown privately revelled in Blair’s poor judgments, the worst of which was a premature announcement not to stand as leader for a fourth election. No doubt, many Labour MPs were delighted to see the back of Teflon Tony. They must be anxious now that in ridding themselves of a liability, they may have been landed with a catastrophe.

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