Wednesday, 7 August 2013

"London no longer needs to be tied to a stagnating EU" — Kwasi Kwarteng MP

An incisive piece by Kwasi Kwarteng in yesterday's London Evening Standard.

The structures that made the City prosperous — a stable political environment, the rule of law, a measure of self-government — existed centuries before the EU was ever thought of. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Grand Conclave of the Lizard Men

The Prime Minister, alongside such luminaries as Chancellor Osborne, Shadow Chancellor Balls, Lord Mandelson and the ubiquitous Kenneth Clarke, will attend a meeting of the sinister controversial Bilderberg Group today.

The North Briton
prefers not to sail the wild shores of Conspiracy Theory — too many voyagers lose their minds to cabin fever — but the odd pleasure cruise isn't too harmful.  Bilderberg attendees might not be space-faring reptoids, but the meetings do smack of the unhealthy intimacy between politicians of all persuasions which Peter Oborne warned against in The Triumph of the Political Class.

Anyway, here's some good, old-fashioned fuel for the fire, courtesy of JFK:

(True conspiracy buffs might be disappointed to learn that the late Mr Kennedy was, in fact, talking about international communism — not Bilderberg, the Council on Foreign Relations, or even the Bohemian Grove.  Something of a let down!)

Friday, 17 May 2013

With Friends Like These...

The black banner of al-Qaeda flies over rebel-controlled Raqqa
Another foreign policy gaffe this week, as a commander in the rebel coalition which William Hague recognised as Syria's "sole legitimate representative" last year releases film of himself pulling the entrails from a slain soldier, before sinking his teeth into the man's lungs.

In fairness to Abu Sakkar — real name Khalid al-Hamad — he thought the organ was a liver.  So an honest mistake, then.

Sakkar, who commands one of the "Farouq Brigades" implicated in the indiscriminate shelling of Shi'ite villages in Lebanon and the persecution of Syrian Christians near Homs, remains unrepentant: "[A]fter what I did", he told TIME Magazine, "hopefully [government loyalists] will never step into the area where Abu Sakkar is."

Sakkar was not at all shy about his ruthlessness, saying of the Alawite population who subscribe to same Shi'ite sect of Islam as President al-Assad, "Hopefully we will slaughter all of them."

"I have another video clip that I will send to them", he added darkly.  "In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [government militiaman] with a saw; the saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small pieces and large ones.”

Sakkar's antics co-incide embarrassingly with renewed efforts by our government to shore up the faltering insurrection, with David Cameron recently announcing his intention to double British support to the rebels.  Arms cannot yet be sent  the European Union does not permit us to take that decision independently — but "non-lethal" aid can, and the money, body armour and armoured vehicles being shipped are doubtless just as useful as rifles and rockets would be.

Is it wise to tread this path of ever-increasing intervention?  Ministers seem to have made up their minds that we "cannot stand idly by", but has anyone taken the time to perform an audit of previous foreign adventures where we were assured non-intervention was "not an option"?

Iraq, of course, is sliding deeper into the mire every day.  Senior politicians say "civil war has already started".  This has not been without consequence to neighbouring Syria, a popular bolt-hole for Iraq's Sunni insurgents.  Indeed, the Free Syrian Army has accused Prime Minister al-Maliki's Shi'ite-dominated government of sending warplanes to attack them and sworn vengeance; a development which could have far more disastrous consequences than Israel's recent headline-grabbing strike against a Hezbollah convoy in the country.
Fighters for the National Army of Cyrenaica, which
declared autonomy from Tripoli unilaterally this March

The uprisings we have sponsored or encouraged in North Africa are turning similarly sour, w
ith political killings in Tunisia, violent persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the desecration of British war graves amid escalating tribal warfare in Libya.

Even in Kosovo, where our decision to back the Kosovo Liberation Army against Slobodan Milošević marked the beginning of Britain's modern love affair with liberal interventionism, our efforts have borne rotten fruit: Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi — alias "The Snake" — has been exposed by the Council of Europe as the the kingpin of an international mafia network dealing in arms, drugs and human body parts.  Tales of the KLA murdering Serbs to sell their organs on the black market, which once seemed fantastic, have proved shockingly accurate.

However, our most extensive efforts have been in Afghanistan, where we have been trying to effect change for eleven long years. If the merits of liberal interventionism can be demonstrated anywhere, it should be there.

Some commentators have indeed expressed a cautious optimism.  The BBC's James Landale
, who has been accompanying prime ministers to operational theatres and hearing them briefed on "how well things are going" for years, hints that "there are straws in the wind that perhaps the mood is changing in Afghanistan."  Senior Afghan commanders tell him the bazaars are "buzzing".  The Taliban have been pushed into the desert.  The new authorities created by the West have "a sense of control".

Could Afghanistan be the success story the Free Syrian Army — and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — so desperately need? 

Well, VICE has just released a documentary examining at the results of our lengthy programme of nation-building in that country. A much-expanded version of the Panorama report Mission Accomplished? Secrets of Helmand, the documentary is presented by British journalist Ben Anderson, and titled This Is What Winning Looks Like:

(A video podcast of Mr Anderson discussing the documentary with Eddy Moretti is available here.)

So, what do we find?

The Afghan National Army is viewed almost as a foreign force of occupation by southern Pashtuns, being comprised largely of the followers of Northern Alliance warlords like the dreaded General Dostum, who massacred up to 3,000 prisoners in the early period of the war.

The Taliban controls villages within walking distance of the Americans' main base in Sangin, though it is described in an ISAF press release worthy oSaeed al-Sahhaf as "transforming into a safe haven".

Worst of all are the National Police: corrupt, drug-addled and predatory; commanded by men who keep young boys as sex slaves while criminals use heroin money to build expansive villas worthy of Mexico's Narco Lords.

Is this the best we will be able to expect from the rebel coalition's cannibal commanders, after paying a price in blood and treasure our depleted armed forces and groaning Exchequer can no longer bear?

Burke warns us that those who do not learn from history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  Mr Hague, a historian who has written engaging and insightful biographies of Pitt and Wilberforce, would be well-advised to take a hard look at our more recent past before committing us fully to a Syrian adventure.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Power of Language (and Self-Delusion)

North Korean rallies have always been
 more Red Square than Third Reich
BBC reporter John Sweeney's highly controversial Panorama report, North Korea Undercover, proved to be a bit of a damp squib in the end.

This is not ground-breaking footage of the country's mysterious hinterland or the ever-expanding Gulag described in the bestselling Escape from Camp 14, where "babies are born to be slaves".

Instead, it is just another semi-covert recording of the standard Potemkin tour of monuments, memorials and public works projects which visitors to the Hermit Kingdom always receive.  A write-up of this surreal experience had already been ably penned by the notorious Peter Hitchens; folk devil to the Left and terror to Tories.

(In fact, Mr Sweeney seemed to ape Mr Hitchens very closely on occasion, even down to a roguish request for a copy of Orwell's 1984 at the Grand People's Study Centre.)

One striking innovation, however, was the early claim that this last great Marxist bastion is not a relic of the revolutionary Left at its 20th century worst, but "a far-right state; an ultra-nationalist state".

Many see North Korea as a communist state.  One year ago, [portraits of] Marx and Lenin still had pride of place [in Pyongyang's main square].  But this year, on our trip, they've gone. ... So what sort of system is this?

Professor Brian Myers, a contributing editor to the studiously left-wing magazine The Atlantic, justifies the characterisation of the DPRK as "far-right" with reference to the fact that it has more men under arms than Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy prior to the Second World War.

Where does this notion that large standing armies are exclusive to (or indicative of) right-wing regimes come from, though? Pronounced, strident militarism is a more or less universal feature in communist states; from the combat fatigues of the Castros to the parades of the People's Liberation Army.

John Everard, Britain's ambassador in Pyongyang from 2006-2008, is used to buttress Professor Myers's argument.  The late Kim Jong-il, he asserts, "was an unabashed admirer of Hitler and copied him quite consciously, down to details like the Nuremberg marches, which are staged in Pyongyang to this day."

The Dear Leader's true role models came from
places closer to home than Austria
How Mr Everard formed his impression is left unclear.  The ex-ambassador had previously acknowledged in a Korea Economic Institute podcast that contact with the North's leadership was well above his pay grade.  Whatever Kim Jong-il may or may not have felt about the Führer, however, it was the "Mao suit" made famous by the founder of the Chinese People's Republic he was always careful to be seen in, not a German greatcoat.

The Numeremberg connection is even more tenuous.  Vladimir Lenin institutionalised mass marches and rallies before Adolf Hitler was ever heard of, and they have long been used as tools of control and power projection in communist states.

The Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceaușescu famously met his end after losing conrol of a rally in 1989.  The Kims' paymasters in the People's Republic of China have been more successful, holding a particularly extravagant one for their state's 60th anniversay four years ago.

Curiously, Mr Everard had previously described North Korea as having been "created by Soviet Army officers".  It was the men of the Red Army, not the Waffen SS, who took Kim Jong-il's father and "built [him] into a leader, [and] when they found that he commanded insufficient public respect, they built up around him a Stalinist cult of personality so that the country ended up being ruled by a god-king".

This brings us back to the portraits of Marx and Lenin.  Their (very recent) disappearance co-incided with the removal of a third portrait.  This one depicted North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, the Great Leader who continues in the office of Eternal President within a glass coffin, modeled after the ones in which the corpses of Lenin and Stalin — his patron — were preserved.        

Mr Sweeney does not infer from this that Kim Il-sung's influence is at an end.  Indeed, he is at pains to stress the continuing importance of the deceased's cult of personality.  It seems more than likely that the removal of the three portraits was simply an aesthetic decision, with no wider significance.

In truth, however, it has never been common for foreign communists to be used in the propaganda of the DPRK.  It would run contrary to the spirit of Juche, the rather poorly understood governing ideology of North Korea adapted from the Soviet brand of communism by Kim il-Sung.

This is best summed up in the following passage from the Great Leader's seminal 1955 speech On eliminating dogmatism and formalism and establishing Juche in ideological work:

[T]he form of our government should ... be fitted to the specific conditions of our country.   Does our people's power have exactly the same form as in other socialist countries?  No, it does not.  They are alike in that they are based on Marxist-Leninist principles, but their forms are different. ... Many comrades swallow Marxism-Leninism whole, instead of digesting and assimilating it.  It is therefore self-evident that they are unable to display revolutionary initiative. ... Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, it is a guide to action and a creative theory.  So, Marxism-Leninism can display its indestructible vitality only when it is applied creatively to suit the specific conditions of each country. 

In short, Kim il-Sung believed that his Propaganda Department was too slavish in its imitation of the USSR and Maoist China.  It would promote Soviet Five-Year Plans and hang paintings of Siberian landscapes, while local strategies and familiar scenery went neglected.  He warned that if Koreans were not taught to admire their own leaders, educated in the history of their own revolution and inspired with an affection for their own particular homeland, the Party would not be able to carry them with it.  

"If we mechanically apply foreign experience," he said, "disregarding the history of our country and the traditions of our people and without taking account of our own realities and level of preparedness of our people, dogmatic errors will result and much harm will be done to the revolutionary cause."

"To do so is not fidelity to Marxism-Leninism nor to internationalism; it runs counter to them."

So, was it failure on the part of Professor Myers and Mr Sweeney to appreciate these subtleties of Juche that explains their mischaracterisation of the DPRK as an "ultra-nationalist", "far-right" state?

I suspect not.  It seems instead to be a consequence of the peculiar tendency of those with left-wing sensibilities disavow any regime with negative attributes.  They use the Right as a sort of political dumping ground, into which they can deposit mercenary, laissez-faire capitalists, intolerant religious fanatics and atheistic totalitarians alike, despite their having nothing in common besides their obvious wickedness.

This control of the Left over political terminology is incredibly powerful.  It leaves the public with the impression that the Right is defined solely by aggression, bigotry, dictatorship and selfishness.  The widespread delusion that state socialism is "a good idea — in principle" has thus survived the depredations of  its practical application in a way that fascism has not, because people like Mr Sweeney can always rationalise that far-left regimes like North Korea's are not really left-wing.

Some on the Right have begun to resist this paradigm, thankfully: Lord Tebbit has pointed out the absurdity of the BBC describing of hardline Marxists within the Chinese Communist Party as "conservative".  Daniel Hannan has explained how the BNP's advocacy of state-ownership of industry and hatred of "banksters" makes it far-left, not far-right 
— and their leader agrees:

And what of that terrible exemplar of right-wing extremism, the National Socialist German Workers' Party?

One suspects that conservatives in the cast of Edmund Burke would reject its one-party dictatorship and its revolutionary character.  Modern libertarians, meanwhile, might take issue with its anti-capitalism and maintenance of strict gun control laws.

Perhaps it is significant that Sir Oswald Mosley progressed from Conservative backbencher to Labour Party minister before blossoming into leader of the British Union of Fascists?


For a more in-depth, rough-and-ready undercover documentary than Panorama's, try VICE Media's Inside North Korea:

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice in one of the videos that, somehow or other, North Korea has been penetrated by Teletubbies merchandise.  Clearly, there are some Western evils even the Bamboo Curtain is not proof against.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Hatred of The Left

What happened to that "innate sense of compassion"?
So much for the Tories being "the Nasty Party".

The passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher this Monday has generated a great upswelling of bile from the political Left 
— that supposed font of compassion, fairness and equality.

"Rejoice!" rang the headline of the Socialist Worker, which also advertised a "Thatcher's Dead Special Pull-Out".

"Tramp the dirt down", tweeted Bradford MP George Galloway, ironically of the 'Respect' party.

David Hopper, the general secretary of the Durham Miners' Union who turned seventy on the same day, took to the airwaves to let viewers know he was "having a drink to it right now".

"It's a marvelous day", he added.  "I'm absolutely delighted.  It's my 70th birthday today and it's one of the best I've had in my life."

Meanwhile, the tasteless 
— someone has actually taken the trouble to shell out for this domain name — has been amended to read simply YES, in towering letters.

"The lady's not returning", it gloats, before asking "How are you celebrating?"

"Everything you need to celebrate the big day!"

Some people, it would seem, are celebrating in the streets.  Public parties dominated by twenty-something students and petty criminals  who have never seen so much as a hard day's work, never mind a coal pit  have now descended into violence, with at least six police constables injured (one seriously) and a charity shop in Brixton raided and vandalised.

(With the late Baroness's funeral still some time away, and revellers determined to mark the the occasion in their own, hateful way, it seems likely that the worst is yet to come.)

Can all this venom be attributed purely to the "divisive" nature of Baroness Thatcher's premiership, or is it indicative of a broader left-wing psychosis? 

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has recounted, in a piece titled 'Memo to my Leftie friends: you'd feel better if you tried not to hate us so much', how Conservative Home editor Tim Montgomerie once attempted to put this challenge directly in the pages of the desperately unpopular (but highly influentialGuardian newspaper:

"Do you really think", he asked, "that Tory politicians take some sort of sadistic pleasure from inflicting pain on public sector workers and benefit claimants? I ask because I'm encountering a large number of people in the Labour movement who are determined to peer into Conservative souls and find the blackest of motives." 

Reading the replies in the 'Comment is Free' thread is instructive:

I suspect Osborne views public sector workers and benefit claimants in much the same way as I view livestock.

[H]ave you even met any Tories? They're like a cross between Fagin & Goebbels...

I don't belong to any party, but i can draw real comparison between Conservatives & Nazi's [sic].

"The idea that Conservatives want to take Britain back to a world of the Victorian workhouse ..." is absolutely correct.

[L]etting miners starve and hunger strikers die plus systematically decimating the working class doesn't quite compete with a bit of saliva on your blue rosette. [This in reference to Mr Montgomerie describing how a Labour activist spat in his face during the '92 election campaign.] No matter how many doors you open or how politely you eat your fucking soup.

I have always found [Conservatives] to be nasty, selfish, lying, despicable, evil, grasping, ignorant, duplicitous wastes of oxygen.

If the disgusting morons in the Tory party don't want people to think they take pleasure in stamping on the hopes of decent folk maybe they shopuld stop looking as if they're enjoying it all quite so much and start apologising for their rich city scumbag masters.

And, finally:

The Tories have opposed every progressive policy that sought to relieve the plight of the poor. If the Tories had their way we’d still have children working down the mines. ... Tories are only happy if they have some poor clod to look down upon and whom they can treat like shit. ... Tories are spivs by definition and are ruled by the motto - "I'm all right Jack - fuck you.

This last comment is particularly interesting insofar as it betrays a gross ignorance of history; it was in fact a Conservative government under Robert Peel which put an end to the practice of employing young children (and women) underground in the mines in 1842.

(The celebrated Tory reformer who had led the commission recommending the mines legislation, Lord Shaftesbury, would strike another blow against child labour in Britain with the 1875 Climbing Boys Act, piloted through Parliament by another Conservative government 
 this time under Benjamin Disraeli.)

For a more general flavour of the historic reforms in Britain pioneered by conservatives, one could do worse than to give this video a few minutes of their time:

"Who controls the past controls the future", however, and "Who controls the present controls the past".

None of this information is helpful to the ideological adversaries of conservatism who dominate the social narrative, so it disappears down the memory hole.  Crude smears such as "If the Tories had their way we'd still have children working down the mines" would no longer be possible if it did not, after all.

Of course, these 'Comment is Free' remarks date from late in 2010.  The Left was still downhearted (and, up to a point, rightly shamefaced) following the end of New Labour's thirteen-year reign; their usual rhetoric had lost much of its fire.

It has been rekindled in time for Baroness Thatcher's passing, three years later:

This is just a modest sampling of the rancour which has been offered up on social media, and relatively mild.

It comes as no surprise.  While the conservative, broadly speaking, views opponents as mistaken but ultimately well-meaning on a personal level, the Leftist seldom seems able to see anything in his enemies but sheer malevolence.

Those with opposing views are not simply people who view the world through a different lens, they are demoniac — and thus in need of either exorcism or eradication.

It is this small kernel of unreasoning hatred 
 or "liberal bigotry— at the heart of Leftismwhich accounts not only for sadistic, outspoken pleasure taken in the death of frail, sickly grandmother over these past days, but which leads, wherever the rule of law cannot restrain it, to its high-minded designs for egalitarian utopia always transforming into something monstrous.

Comrades!  The insurrection of five kulak districts should be pitilessly suppressed.  The interests of the whole revolution require this because 'the last decisive battle' with the kulaks is now under way everywhere.  An example must be demonstrated.

  • 1. Hang (and make sure that the hanging takes place in full view of the people) no fewer than one hundred known landlords, rich men, bloodsuckers. 
  • 2. Publish their names. 
  • 3. Seize all their grain from them. 
  • 4. Designate hostages in accordance with yesterday's telegram. 
  • Do it in such a fashion that for hundreds of kilometres around the people might see, tremble, know, shout: "they are strangling, and will strangle to death, the bloodsucking kulaks". 

Telegraph receipt and implementation.

Yours, Lenin.

Find some truly hard people

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Willful Ignorance?

"I'm having a drink to it right now."
"It's a marvellous day", declared David Hopper yesterday, in an extraordinary display of bad manners and spite. "I'm absolutely delighted."

For the cigar-puffing general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, the late Baroness Thatcher "perpetrated more evil in the north-east than anyone before or since."

"It isn't just about the coal mines. She set out to destroy unions. She decimated the industry, she destroyed our communities.”

A damning legacy, to be sure, if we we could confirm the veracity of Comrade Hopper's charges.

But do they stand up to scrutiny?

This PDF from the 'Durham in Time' website provides us with a helpful timeline of pit closures in the region, from 1950 all the way to 1993.  Surprisingly, given the strength of the prevailing narrative, it does not reveal a great 1980s holocaust of the Durham mines.  

Instead, it reveals that Margaret Thatcher closed a mere 15 mines 
— while Labour's Harold Wilson shut down 58.

Durham is not an exceptional case.  In fact, the Labour governments of the '60s and '70s closed down a substantially greater number of mines than Margaret Thatcher ever did, and put tens of thousands more miners out of work.

Indeed, they would have done more, but the Cabinet feared the electoral consequences.  Labour chose, in the words of one senior figure, "political sanity over economic madness".  The really dirty work, then as now, would be left for the Conservatives.

Was Harold Wilson's death marked by callous, vindictive jeering and lawless street parties, with the BBC taking every available opportunity to describe his disastrous, revolutionary premierships as "divisive"?


We should not really wonder at this apparent cognitive dissonance, however.  It finds an almost exact parallel in the legend of "Thatcher the Milk Snatcher".  This is used as a rod for Conservative backs to this daydespite the fact that it was Labour which began the process of "snatching" free school milk in 1968 — and from more pupils than the then late Baroness ever did, too.

We should instead wonder that the Left has made such an excellent job of conquering the past, with the Right acquiescing to be robed in the mantle of perpetual villainy with no more than a sigh of resignation.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Chávez: A Retrospective

Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías; patron to the Castro dictatorship, shill for the Chinese Communist Party and enemy of Britain and the Falkland Islanders, has died.  

The following comment, posted in response to a CNN article reporting the announcement, seems a fitting eulogy: 
Rest in peace, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.  As a Venezuelan, I didn't agree with most of your policies and politics, but I do not rejoice in your death and I do respect the pain of your family and supporters.

In 1998, when you campaigned for the presidency 
— and promised to end corruption  despite my disappointment with the traditional parties, I did not support you because you had led a coup against president Carlos Andres Pérez.  I didn't like Pérez, but he was elected by our people and attempting to overthrow him was proof that you did not respect the will of Venezuelans.

I didn't oppose 100% of what you did.  I was grateful, for example, that you placed the issue of poverty on the table and you put the spotlight on millions of Venezuelans that until then had been excluded.  
I knew that the Cuban doctors in the slums were unprepared and unequipped, but I understood that they meant the world to the mother that knocks on their door at 3am. 

I was also happy of the way most Venezuelans started to care about politics again (some because they supported you; others because they opposed you).  The anti-politic feeling we saw in the 90's was precisely what got you elected.  And I also kept in mind that a majority of Venezuelans did support you, so you certainly had a right to be in office.

These are my 10 reasons why I will not miss you:

1. Your authoritarian manner (which reflected a flaw probably most Venezuelans have), and your inability to engage in an honest dialogue with anyone that opposed you.  Even from your death bed, you had a Supreme Court justice fired because she didn't agree with your politics.

2. Your disrespect for the rule of law and your contribution to a climate of impunity in Venezuela.  In 1999, you re-wrote the Constitution to fit your needs, and yet you violated it almost on a daily basis.  With this example, it is no surprise that crime exploded in Venezuela.  In 14 years, our homicide rate more than tripled from 22/100K to 74/100K.  While judges were busy trying to prove their political allegiance to you, only 11% of homicides led to a conviction.

3. Your empty promises and the way you manipulated many Venezuelans to think you were really working for them.  In 14 years you built less public housing than any president before you did in their 5 year periods.  Hospitals today have no resources, and if you go there in an emergency you must bring with you everything from medicines to surgical gloves and masks.  The truth is that you were better at blowing your own trumpet than at getting things done.

4. The astounding level of corruption of your government.  There was corruption before you got elected, but normally a government's scandals weren't made public until they handed power to the opposing party.  Now we've heard about millions and millions of dollars vanishing in front of everybody's eyes, and your only reaction was to attack the media that revealed the corruption.

The only politicians accused of corruption have been from parties that oppose you, and mostly on trumped up charges. For example, Leopoldo Lopez was never condemned by the courts but you still prevented him for running for office.  His crime?  Using money from the wrong budget allocation to pay for the salaries of teachers and firemen 
— because your government withheld the appropriate funds.

5. The opportunities you missed.  When you took office, the price of oil was $9.30, and in 2008 it reached $126.33.  There was so much good you could have done with that money!  And yet you decided to throw it away on corruption and buying elections and weapons.  If you had used these resources well, 10.7% of Venezuelans would not be in extreme poverty.

6. Your attacks on private property and entrepreneurship.  You nationalized hundreds of private companies, and pushed hundreds more towards bankruptcy.  Not because you were a communist or a socialist, but simply because you wanted no one left with any power to oppose you.  If everyone was a public employee, you could force them to attend your political rallies, and the opposition would not get any funding.

7. Your hypocrisy on freedom and human rights.  You shut down more than 30 radio and television stations for being critical of your government, you denied access to foreign currency for newspapers to buy printing paper (regular citizens can't access foreign currency unless you authorize it), you imprisoned people without trial for years, you imprisoned people for crimes of opinion, you fired tens of thousands of public employees for signing a petition for a recall referendum and you denied them access to public services and even ID cards and passports.

8. Your hypocrisy on the issue of Venezuela's sovereignty.  You kicked out the Americans but then you pulled down your pants for the Cubans, Russians, Chinese and Iranians.  We have Cuban officers giving orders in the Venezuelan army.  Chinese oil companies work with a higher margin of profit than any Western companies did.  And you made it clear that your alliances would be with governments that massacre their own people.

9. Your hypocrisy on the issue of violence.  You said this was a peaceful revolution but you allowed illegal armed groups like Tupamaros, La Piedrita and FBLN to operate.  You gave them weapons.  You had the Russians set up a Kalashnikov plant in Venezuela.  You were critical of American wars but yet you gave weapons to the Colombian guerrilla, whose only agenda is murder and drug-dealing.

10. Your hypocrisy on democracy.  Your favorite insult for the opposition parties in Venezuela was "coupists", but you forgot you organized a coup in 1992, and the military that was loyal to you suggested they would support a coup in your favor if the opposition ever won the presidential elections.

There was no democracy in your political party: you chose each of the candidates for the National Assembly and for city and state governments. When the opposition won the referendum that would have allowed you to change the Constitution in 2007, you disavowed the results and you figured out a way to change the articles and allow yourself to be reelected as many times as you wanted.

You manipulated the elections in 2010 to make sure the opposition didn't get more than a third of seats in Parliament even though they got 51% of the popular vote. Your democracy was made of paper, you made sure there were no meaningful checks and balances and all institutions were your puppets.

So no, Hugo I will not miss you. Rest in peace now, while we try to rebuild the mess of a country that you left us.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

In Defence of Narrative History

Michael Gove's draft History syllabus has been published, greeted with praise by popular historians and predictable scorn from academia's "Oxonian spires".

Historian Niall Ferguson, who advised on the new syllabus, offered a defence of the reformed curriculum in The Guardian, building on arguments first advanced at Jesus College in a debate with Richard Evans:

"Why do critics feel obliged to defend a status quo that so many teachers, parents and pupils agree is indefensible?"

"From Cambridge no less a personage than Richard Evans, the Regius Professor of History, condemned Gove's attempt to restore "rote learning of the patriotic stocking-fillers so beloved of traditionalists".

According to Evans, the new curriculum was "a Little England version of our national past, linked to an isolationist view of our national future". It constituted "a mindless regression to the patriotic myths of the Edwardian era".

From Oxford came the echo.  David Priestland said it was a "depressingly narrow … resolutely insular … politicised and philistine" document. "We are … firmly back in the land of the Edwardian bestseller Our Island Story."


Quite why the professors feel obliged to defend a status quo that so many teachers, parents and pupils agree is indefensible I cannot work out. Is it sheer ignorance? Or partisan prejudice?

Surely they can't sincerely think it's acceptable for children to leave school (as mine have all done) knowing nothing whatever about the Norman conquest, the English civil war or the Glorious Revolution, but plenty (well, a bit) about the Third Reich, the New Deal and the civil rights movement?"

Well, indeed  but Professor Ferguson has missed a trick here in his failure to take the anti-British "progressives" to task for their unjustifiable denigration of H E Marshall's wonderful Our Island Story.

This classic and beautifully illustrated masterpiece of the once-proud narrative tradition puts the drab and colourless style of most modern British historians to shame — devoid as they are of any true affection for their subject; adopting a slavish deference to "academic impartiality" wherever opportunities for modish, contemporary judgement do not present themselves.
I could not recommend the volume more highly 
— nor its companion volumes Scotland's Story and Our Empire Story.  

(Click on the images above for links to the books' Amazon pages.)

An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to organisations such as the 
Civitas Institute, which have worked to keep these marvellous books in print.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

"Many a truth is told in jest."

It has been interesting to discover, following yesterday's post, that Keith O'Brien and Jimmy Savile really were connected, and had been since the 1970s.

Monday, 25 February 2013

First Minister "Saddened" by Jimmy Savile Keith O'Brien Revelations

Pictured: Not Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Alex Salmond has expressed his sadness at recent events surrounding the late Top of the Pops presenter Sir Jimmy Savile Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.   

Sir Jimmy Cardinal O'Brien, accused of abusing young fans abusing young priests in his care, is to be posthumously stripped of honours forced to resign, prompting the following statement from Bute House:

"I hear the news of accusations against Sir Jimmy Savile Cardinal O'Brien's resignation with the greatest sadness.

"In all of my dealings with the DJ Cardinal, he has been a considerate and thoughtful leader of charitable causes the Catholic Church in Scotland, stalwart in his eccentricity faith but constructive in his approach.

"The hugely successful fundraisers Sir Jimmy organised in Scotland visit of Pope Benedict in 2010 was a highlight of his charitable career Cardinalship and symbolised the key role of voluntary work the Catholic Church in Scottish society. 

"It would be a great pity if a lifetime of positive work was lost from comment in the circumstances of his disgrace resignation.

"None of us know the outcome of the investigation into the claims made against him but I have found him to be a good man for his causes church and country."

Given the seriousness of the accusations, many were surprised by the First Minister's outspoken sympathy for the shamed celebrity clergyman.  Some observers have even suggested that this very public support might originate in a cynical desire to curry favour with Roman Catholic voters.

Doubtless such speculation is as unfounded as it is scurrilous.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Mr Galloway Turns Up His Whiskers

Respect MP George Galloway — the Westminster Village's proverbial Idiot — has caused a bit of a stir at Oxford University's Christ Church, flouncing out of a debate on Israel's presence in the West Bank on discovering his opponent was an Israeli.  

"I don't recognise Israel," he declared, "and I don't debate with Israelis."

A low moment for Britain's adversarial tradition  particularly given Mr Galloway's regrettable status as a Member of Parliament  and, perhaps worse, just plain bad manners.  Doubtless better men than I will take the time to explain why this is no way to debate, if they have not already.

I simply take the opportunity to remind people again why Mr Galloway is not a man to be taken seriously in the first place:

Why anyone at Christ Church should take an interest in this deviant character's thoughts on geopolitical matters is beyond me.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Gun Control: By the Numbers (Part 2)

View Part 1 here.

Requiem for a Baccalaureate

The otherwise consistently outstanding Michael Gove attracted heavy criticism for his decision to leave music out of the proposed English Baccalaureate.  With the EBacc now abandoned, however, fears have been allayed.

Though in many ways disappointing, this about turn offers hope for those who had reservations about the EBacc's neglect of the arts that the promising new National Plan for Music Education might now be embedded more firmly in the new curriculum.

Having expressed his hope that musical education under the new regime achieve "a balance between performance and appreciation", Mr Gove could do little better than to consult the thoroughly inspiring Benjamin Zander, who has that particular talent down to an art form:

You know, I have a definition of success.  For me it's very simple: it's not about wealth and fame and power; it's about how many shining eyes I have around me.  

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Jesus College History Debate

Niall Ferguson (author of Empire: How Britain made the Modern World) and Richard J Evans (author of In Defence of History) debate 'What History should British children be taught?' at Oxford University's Jesus College:

Professor Ferguson was recruited by Michael Gove to help overhaul the History syllabus in England when the latter was appointed Secretary of State for Education in 2010.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Curious Case of the Britam E-mail

"They were nicknamed
memory holes..."
For conservatives who appreciate their philosophical roots in Edmund Burke's writings on the French Revolution, the present government's enthusiastic embrace of liberal interventionism in foreign policy has been a cause for some concern  particularly given the country's straitened financial situation and the diminishing condition of the armed forces.

With political killings in Tunisia, violent persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the desecration of British war graves amid escalating tribal warfare in Libya, such concern can no longer be dismissed as heartless isolationism  North Africa's Arab Spring has indeed given way to a Winter of Discontent.
For this reader, at least, the provocative headline U.S. 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad's regime' was therefore the most disturbing to appear on yesterday's Mail Online.

The story reported on a leaked e-mail exchange between executives at the British "private security company" Britam Defence.  Seemingly, the e-mails reveal a Qatari plot to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria and blame it on Bashar al-Assad's government.  The Obama administration, which has been recently conspicuous in warning that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government will not be tolerated, was alleged to support the scheme.

Could it really be possible that Western governments were actively seeking to fabricate a pretext for direct military intervention in Syria?  Such accusations are generally considered the preserve of the tinfoil hat brigade, but we've seen it before.

New Labour's most dangerous foreign policy adventure was the ill-starred, largely forgotten NATO intervention it masterminded in Yugoslavia at the close of the 20th century, supported by a Clinton administration eager to find a distraction from its president's ongoing impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice.  
Remains of an F-117 Nighthawk shot down over Serbia,
 used in the development of stealth technology
by China's communist regime

An ultimately ineffectual bombing campaign which proved, with both embarrassing and tragic consequences, to be a remarkably blunt instrument, few people now remember just how close Operation Allied Force brought Europe to the brink of a general war.

In fact, one of the great forgotten turning points in history may have come when America's Wesley Clark, the prickly political general acting as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, ordered Britain's General Sir Mike Jackson to confront Russian forces occupying Priština Airport.  General Jackson's resolute answer, thankfully, was "Sir, I'm not going to start World War Three for you."

Support for this most potentially disastrous of conflicts was, as with Syria, drummed up with reference to the most unspeakable atrocities.  The American Defense Secretary feared 100,000 ethnic Albanians dead; our more circumspect Foreign and Commonwealth Office advertised a butcher's bill of 10,000  though ministers warned the "true figure" could be far higher.  (This disparity should probably have given more people pause for thought at the time.)

The most gruesome tales centred on the enormous Trepča mining complex, "now dubbed Death Valley", where the Serbs were said to have immolated the bodies of some 1,500 victims.

"In the dead of night," reported a credulous Mirror,  "lorries poured through the rusting gates of the Trepca mine - believed to be owned by Slobodan Milosevic himself behind a web of companies - to get rid of the evidence of mass slaughter."

"TREPCA - the name will live alongside those of Belsen, Auschwitz and Treblinka.  It will be etched in the memories of those whose loved ones met a bestial end in true Nazi Final Solution fashion."

With the spectre of the National Socialists' infamous crematoria thus raised, the word on the lips of the interventionists was "genocide".

After the dust settled, however, it became readily apparent that reports of an orchestrated campaign of ethnic cleansing had been grossly exaggerated.  It was true that some terrible crimes had been committed, by both sides, but on nothing like the scale reported.  The Trepča mines  later seized from their Serbian workers in a whirlwind of tear gas and plastic bullets  — proved to contain no human remains whatsoever.

(Lurid and seemingly unlikely reports of our allies in the Kosovo Liberation Army murdering dozens of Serbs and harvesting their organs for sale on the black market, on the other hand, have proved shockingly accurate, with the Council of Europe recently unveiling Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi as the kingpin of an international mafia network dealing in arms, drugs and human body parts to a storm of outrage shrug of indifference in the press.)

"I'm confident that when the Iraq Survey Group
has done its work we will find what's happened 

to those weapons, because he had them."
Understandably reluctant to expose just how easily it had been gulled, the media made little effort to take Labour to task over Kosovo.  One would have thought, however, that it would have been less eager to be used as a foreign policy tool a second time when introduced to the elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction starring in Anthony "I'd do it all over again" Blair's notorious dodgy dossier — "fool me once, shame on you,"after all, but "fool me twice, shame on me."

Did the Britam e-mails now expose Western governments encouraging another ill-advised rush to judgement, this time in an area of the world which makes the internecine bloodshed in the Balkans look like a schoolyard brawl?  I shared the article with a few select fellow-travellers, hoping to hear their thoughts, but too latethe page was gone.

Conspiracy seems highly unlikely, but the fact that the story disappeared so swiftly does suggest that someone was leaned on.  (Granted, the person doing the leaning was likely a junior editor at the Mail rather than a grim-jawed agent of the New World Order.)  

Fortuitously, the internet is chock-full of conspiracy buffs who were on the story faster than white on rice, and finding a copy to reproduce in full for readers' appraisal has thus been a fairly simple matter.  (As mixed martial arts colour commentator Joe Rogan once put it, "You can't stop the internet, baby!")

U.S. 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad's regime'

Leaked emails from defense contractor refers to chemical weapons saying 'the idea is approved by Washington'

Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that use of chemical warfare was 'totally unacceptable'

By Louise Boyle

PUBLISHED: 14:16 EST, 29 January 2013 | UPDATED: 14:16 EST, 29 January 2013

Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad's regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.

A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme 'approved by Washington' is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.

Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the U.S. would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.

According to, the December 25 email was sent from Britam's Business Development Director David Goulding to company founder Philip Doughty.

It reads: 'Phil... We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.

'We’ll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.

'They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.

'Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?

'Kind regards, David.'

Britam Defence had not yet returned a request for comment to MailOnline.

The emails were released by a Malaysian hacker who also obtained senior executives resumés and copies of passports via an unprotected company server, according to Cyber War News.

Dave Goulding's Linkedin profile lists him as Business Development Director at Britam Defence Ltd in Security and Investigations. A business networking profile for Phil Doughty lists him as Chief Operationg Officer for Britam, United Arab Emirates, Security and Investigations.

The U.S. State Department had not returned a request for comment on the alleged emails to MailOnline today at time of publication.

However the use of chemical warfare was raised at a press briefing in D.C. on January 28.

A spokesman said that the U.S. joined the international community in 'setting common redlines about the consequences of using chemical weapons'.

A leaked U.S. government cable revealed that the Syrian army more than likely had used chemical weapons during an attack in the city of Homs in December.

The document, revealed in The Cable, revealed the findings of an investigation by Scott Frederic Kilner, the U.S. consul general in Istanbul, into accusations that the Syrian army used chemical weapons in the December 23 attack.

An Obama administration official who had access to the document was reported as saying: 'We can't definitely say 100 per cent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23.'

Mr Kilner's investigation included interviews with civilians, doctors, and rebels present during the attack, as well as the former general and head of the Syrian WMD program, Mustafa al-Sheikh.

Dr. Nashwan Abu Abdo, a neurologist in Homs, is certain chemical weapons were used. He told The Cable: 'It was a chemical weapon, we are sure of that, because tear gas can't cause the death of people.'

Eye witness accounts from the investigation revealed that a tank launched chemical weapons and caused people exposed to them to suffer nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, delirium, seizures, and respiratory distress.

The symptoms suggest that the weaponized compound Agent-15 was responsible. Syria denied using chemical weapons and said it would never use them against citizens.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters at the time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said his biggest concern was how the U.S. and allies would secure the chemical and biological weapons sites scattered across Syria and ensure the components don't end up in the wrong hands if the regime falls, particularly under violent conditions.

Government forces and rebels in Syria have both been accused by human rights groups of carrying out brutal warfare in the 22-month-old conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Read more:

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The evidence presented is not definitive, by any stretch, but there is one fragment of the original article the Mail has forgotten to scrub from its servers: a disturbing video released by uniformed Syrian rebels, showing footage of chemical agents being tested on live rabbits.

It would appear, then, that the alleged scheme is at any rate possible.