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The Iconoclast

Friday, 17 October 2014

Burke on Powell, here.

Neither reviewer, nor reviewed, is able or willing to discuss, head on, without tortuous evasion, Islam, and why there is no "talking" or "negotiating" with those who are Believers, following the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira to the letter.

Posted on 10/17/2014 5:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Posted on 10/17/2014 5:05 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield

Friday, 17 October 2014

From the Telegraph

Police officers or soldiers were to be shot by British Isil terrorists in attack on the streets of London, it is alleged.Four men have been charged over the alleged plot which included keeping images of two police officers, two community support officers, and the reconnaissance of a police station and Territorial Army Barracks.

The plot was allegedly to include the use of a moped and a handgun with a silencer and the men are accused of planning to follow a fatwa by a senior Isil terrorist who called for followers to kill “disbelievers” in their home countries. The four were arrested during a series of raids across London earlier this month and are accused of swearing an “oath of allegiance” to Isil. 

Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, Nyall Hamlett, 24, and Momem Motasim, 21, all of London, have all been charged with intending to committing acts of terrorism or assisting others to do so. A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, also of London, was charged with unlawfully passing on a handgun and ammunition.

District judge Emma Arbuthnot remanded the men in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on October 27.

A lengthy charge sheet against the four men charged under the Terrorism Act said the allegation include taking an oath of allegiance to the group IS (Islamic State) and conducting hostile reconnaissance of Shepherds Bush Police Station and White City Territorial Army Barracks. They also allegedly viewed and retained an image sent via Instagram of two Metropolitan police officers and two Metropolitan Police community support officers.

They are accused of giving instructions on the use of secure communications, setting up methods of secret communications and entering in to covert discussions. They allegedly demonstrated trade craft by the use of code words for money, mopeds and firearms and discussed and agreed the sourcing of a firearm, Scotland Yard said. They also discussed the sourcing of, and suitable make of moped and it storage, it is alleged.

They are also accused of downloading and circulated the “fatwa of Al Adnani” and considering or deciding to act up on it. They allegedly conducted research into makes of handguns and arranged for the procurement of a Baikal handgun and ammunition before entering in to an agreement to procure one.

A 19-year-old woman has been released on police bail until next week pending further enquiries. 

Posted on 10/17/2014 4:31 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

Friday, 17 October 2014

Victims of Sarin Gas attack in Ghouta, Syria vicinity, August 21, 2013

Source: Reuters

When we posted on the special MERIA report by Jon Spyer on the probable ISIS Chemical Weapons  (CW) attack that killed Kurdish YPG fighters in the village of Avdiko near Kobani, Syria, we referenced the mid-2013 gassing that killed 1,500 in the suburbs of Damascus “by the Assad regime”.  However, there is evidence indicating that the horrific sarin attack in August 2013 may not have been perpetrated by the Assad regime at all, but rather it may have been the work of ISIS.  Recent experience with ISIS demonstrates their willingness to behave far beyond the capabilities of any other terrorist organization. Moreover, the situation in Syria is complex, to the point of being bewildering to the Western mind. To oversimplify the events that take place in this strange and deadly war is both foolish and dangerous.

ISIS began operating in Syria quietly, using the fighting of other groups as camouflage. But over time, they systematically took over large portions of northern Syria. Crimes of extreme barbarism and mass murders, also attributed to Assad, were clearly the work of ISIS, who particularly targeted Christians, Alawites, Shia Muslims, and other minorities. Women and children were viciously tortured and murdered and men were systematically shot, beheaded, or crucified.  These are the hallmarks of ISIS, not Assad. From there, the short steps to acquiring, and deploying chemical weapons were a logical progression.

There are scores of fighting groups participating in the Syrian war. All are ostensibly there in Syria to fight the Assad regime, but they frequently change names, alliances, and even their missions. They fight Assad’s military and they fight each other. So understanding the situation clearly and fully is a daunting task. Not all the groups have the capability or the interest in engaging with chemical weapons. But ISIS has shown a clear interest. In fact, of them all, ISIS has proven to be the most effective and the most deadly.

It has been fashionable throughout the Syrian war that began in 2011 to attribute all the atrocities of the war to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and it is certainly true that his forces have been responsible for many of them. But the easy explanation may not always be the true story.

On March 19, 2013, Assad blamed an alleged chemical attack against Khan Al-Assal near Aleppo on the rebels. He immediately called for a UN investigation of the attack. However he changed his mind when other CW attacks were reported by the US, Britain, and France and the UN decided to expand the investigation. After several months of negotiations, UN inspectors received permission to go to the sites of Khan Al-Assal and two other alleged attacks.  At Syria’s insistence, their mandate was limited to reporting only on whether chemical weapons were used and not on who was responsible.

Many stories about the gas attacks abounded in 2013. According to sources in Syria, the perpetrators may well have been ISIS, which was known to be operating in both northern Syria and the area around Damascus, although al Nusrah, another al Qaeda affiliate , took credit for the Damascus attack. The various reports which both appeared in the media and through private channels were at once confusing and enlightening.

The US administration immediately adopted the position that Assad was responsible for all the gas attacks. In referring to the August attack, US UN Ambassador Samantha Power said “only the regime could have carried out this large-scale attack.” According to Power, the quality of the sarin was higher than that used by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein against Iran, and there was no evidence that the rebels possessed the nerve agent or the ability to deploy it. But lack of evidence is not proof, and the reference to Saddam Hussein’s old store of CW was a red herring, since it was likely that the gas came from Syria.  Syria was known to have an active program of developing and storing large stores of chemical and biological weapons.

On May 6, 2013 the Washington Times reported, “Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation quoting a UN source.”

Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, added in an interview with Swiss TV, that her commission had not found evidence of Assad government forces using chemical weapons.  They were referring to an earlier attack for which critics of Assad were already holding him responsible.

The Washington Times article featured videos of terrorist forces preparing and then firing what they claimed were chemical weapons which they referenced to specifically as “sarin gas”. One of the weapons was clearly marked in English “Saudi Factory for Chlorine and Alkalies”. The evidence presented in the article is compelling proof that they were not perpetarted by he Assad military.

Reports from sources on the ground in Syria indicated that a Syrian army base near Damascus had been overwhelmed by terrorists, who had stolen chemical weapons and rocket launchers from the stores there. There are a number of stories regarding what happened next. 

According to media reports, there were several attacks from rocket mounted chemical warheads against the Ein Tarma, Moadamiyeh and Zamalka neighborhoods of Ghouta near Damascus. One report was that the weapons exploded prematurely as they were being transported through a tunnel, killing and wounding several of the terrorists.  Another report that the weapons were in fact fired from an area close to Damascus was released at the same time. Both are consistent with what we have been told by other sources and the stories are not mutually exclusive.

Finally, there is the question of what happened to the Syrian chemical weapons stores that the UN was tasked to destroy. On September 4, 2014, the Special Coordinator for the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN) reported to the Security Council that 96 percent of Syria’s declared stockpile had already been destroyed and preparations were underway to destroy the remaining 12 production facilities. The operative word in that sentence is “declared”. The report flies in the face of our sources, who report that in fact only 11% of the CW stores were actually destroyed. Much of the remaining weapons were moved into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (Hezbollah territory) and into the many caves located in the mountains that flank the valley.

The remaining chemicals were hidden in secret locations in Syria. On October 14,  2014  according to the Associated Press and  reported by Israel National News, Syria revealed the existence of four secret chemical weapons facilities, locations that had been previously hidden from UN inspectors when they were destroying what they thought was Assad’s complete chemical weapons stores. No doubt there are more, and whatever Assad’s reason for revealing these sites now, his announcement raises far more questions about Syria’s CW program than it answers.

Prior to the UN involvement in shutting down the Syrian CW program, some CW were undoubtedly stolen by ISIS as they continued to take over territory in the north. The capture of the al-Saphira chemical plant near Aleppo in December 2012 was an early sign that chemical weapons were a clear target of the al Qaeda-linked groups, al Nusrah and ISIS. Connect that to the latest reports from Kobani and a starkly graphic picture emerges of how freely ISIS has been willing to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. Their latest has been what appears to be mustard gas against the remaining citizens of that Syrian city. Combined with their total lack of constraint on the use of CW, the former Hussein Ba’athist commanders who have joined ISIS have the necessary experience and knowledge to enable ISIS to use them without compunction. The mix is lethal and barbaric.

The Daily Mail reported that Iraq officials had CCTV pictures of ISIS fighters loading equipment from the abandoned Hussein era Al-Muthanna complex in June 2014 with an estimated 2,500 rockets containing Sarin gas.  The Daily Mail reported:

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said remnants of a former chemical weapons program are kept in two bunkers there.

'The project management spotted at dawn on Thursday, 12 June 2014, through the camera surveillance system, the looting of some of the project equipment and appliances, before the terrorists disabled the surveillance system,' Alhakim wrote in the letter dated June 30.

'The Government of Iraq requests the  Member States of the United Nations to understand the current inability of Iraq, owing to the deterioration of the security situation, to fulfill its obligations to destroy chemical weapons,' he said. 


The last major report by U.N. inspectors on the status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program was released about a year after the experts left in March 2003. It states that Bunker 13 contained 2,500 sarin-filled 122-mm chemical rockets produced and filled before 1991, and about 180 tons of sodium cyanide, 'a very toxic chemical and a precursor for the warfare agent tabun.' 

Regarding the potential of ISIS’ ability to use captured former Hussein era CW caches, the National Post reported a former British Colonel who suggested that it may be capable of using them to make dirty bombs, ISIS could make dirty bombs with CW, former British Colonel says.  The NP special report cited the British expert saying:

Hamish de Breton-Gordon, a former colonel, issued the warning after it was found that two large stockpiles of shells filled with mustard and sarin gas had not been made secure, either under the American occupation or when Iraqi forces controlled the areas north of Baghdad before this summer.

Mr. Breton-Gordon said ISIS had shown it was determined to use chemical weapons in Syria and its advance in Iraq had put dangerous material within the group’s grasp.

“These materials are not as secure as we had been led to believe and now pose some significant threat to the coalition in Iraq fighting ISIS,” he said.

“We know that ISIS have researched the use of chemical weapons in Syria for the last two years and worryingly there are already unconfirmed reports that ISIS has used mustard gas as it pursues its offensive against the Kurds in Kobani.”

“They certainly have access to the Al-Qaeda research into chemical weapons and will want to use the legacy weapons in Iraq.” ISIS seized the Muthanna State Establishment, where Iraqi chemical agent production was based in the Eighties, this summer.

The New York Times (NYT) reported Wednesday that last year, two contaminated bunkers there containing cyanide components and sarin gas rockets as well as other shells which had not been encased in concrete and made safe.

It also reported that another large bunker where U.S. Marines found mustard shells in 2008 was overgrown and abandoned during the same visit.

The NYT reported that the US Army recovered more than 5,000 abandoned CW shells over the period from 2004 to 2011.

Watch this NYT video of the special CW report.

Connect the dots.  Was ISIS involved with gas attacks in spring 2013 and the August 2013 sarin attacks in Damascus?   In addition, there is Spyer’s MERIA report of a mustard gas attack that killed Kurdish YPG fighters in July 2014.   Did the ISIS attackers used Mustard gas looted from the Al-Muthanna complex as cited in the NP report by a British expert?

Whatever the history of ISIS’ learning curve, it is clearly rapidly becoming  a force to be reckoned with. In only a few short years, ISIS has acquired a formidable capability to undertake genocidal attacks in both Syria and Iraq akin to that perpetrated against Kurds in Halabja in 1988.  The choice which now faces the West is not whether to stop ISIS on its deadly rampage against civilization, but how to do so effectively and permanently? To do otherwise will be to unleash ISIS against targets worldwide and put our civilization as we know it at terrible deadly risk.



Posted on 10/17/2014 2:53 PM by Ilana Freedman and Jerry Gordon

Friday, 17 October 2014

From a news item in a small-town paper:


Tuesday, October 4

CONCORD at the Concord Library, 129 Main St., 9:39 a.m., discussion of Mark Twain's life. Mark Twain, the man Time Magazine called "our original superstar," despite being one of the funniest men of his time, wore white the last three and a half years of his life as he grieved the loss of his wife and daughter. Whether you have read Michael Shelden's "Mark Twain: The Man in White," watched the Ken Burns documentary, checked out Hal Holbrook or just read some of Twain's novels, you are invited to join in the discussion of this great man's life. Cost: free. Info:

Posted on 10/17/2014 11:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014


Suppose we pretend that climate change does explain the Islamic State. And that the Islamic State has "nothing to do with Islam." And then assume, further, that climate change explains what has been happening in Libya, in Yemen, in Egypt, in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, among the Muslims in southern Thailand and southern Philippines, and among the Muslims -- the open Jihadists, and the slyly hidden ones --all over the Western world. But then, since climate change occurs all over the world, affecting non-Muslim countries and peoples just as much, why have they not created anything like the Islamic State, or any of the other upheavals in the Muslim and Arab lands that are obvioius to all,  since apparently Islam is neither necessary nor sufficient to do so?

A puzzlement.

Posted on 10/17/2014 10:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014


Now the British government says 50 people a week -- 2600 a year -- are sent for "deradicalisation." What can that program in "deradicalisation" possibly do? Can it undo the words of the Qur'an? Can it undo the Hadith and the Sira, that is the words and acts of Muhammad, considered as the Model of Conduct (uswa hasana) and the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil)? How exactly -- people want to know, people need to know, what those who presume to instruct and protect them understand of the matter -- will this "deradicalistion" work?

It's nonsense and lies, it's a waste, it's an avoidance of recognizing what someday, under much more painful and dangerous conditions, will have to be recognized -- what any Believer, already half-idiotized by Islam, will believe if he reads, and takes to heart, Qur'an and Hadith and Sira. He may not, for now, act on those beliefs. He may wish even to put them aside for a while, wanting instead to protect his position, and that of other Muslims, in the West. He may practice Taqiyya, and deny what he knows perfectly well to be true about Islam itself, and about his own beliefs. But it can't go on forever. The expense of spirit, however, and the waste of action, dealing with those who are permanenly savage, rude, not to trust -- that can go on for a long long time.

Posted on 10/17/2014 9:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014

Political decline and economic degringolade and cultural incoherence, now so obvious as not to be denied, may -- must, writes Ivan Rioufol -- lead to something better in France, and not only for France, but by its example, possibly for the other nations of Western Europe that also noware beside themselves with problems, the large-scale Muslim presence being the most upsetting and delirium-inducing and  most dangerous of all of Europe's woes.  France, le phénix des hôtes de ces bois? Wait to see how many copies Zemmour sells, and the results, and not only in France,  of the next French election.


Posted on 10/17/2014 8:27 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Karl Marx was not as funny as Groucho, but he made at least one amusing quip. It occurs in his critical comparison of Louis Bonaparte, the French ruler in 1848, with his uncle Emperor Napoleon. In his essay, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon." Marx wrote, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all world-historic facts and personages appear so to speak twice. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Although 130 years apart, there is an uncanny resemblance between the foreign and military policies and actions of the political leaders William Gladstone in Britain in the 1880s and President Barack Obama in Washington today. Both leaders were (and are) characterized by their reluctance or hesitation to become involved in international affairs. Both were more concerned and interested in domestic than in foreign affairs.

Both can be characterized as more anxious to construct alliances and partnerships to meet common challenges and confront common threats than to act unilaterally in their leadership roles. Both engaged in careful deliberation of issues and displayed caution before acting, but both are seen to suffer from weakness, indecisiveness, and slowness or unwillingness to act as a result. Neither can be said to have applied any strategic calculation to world affairs. Both refused to make total commitments or permanent alliances. Both claimed to avoid needless and entangling engagements, and both intervened militarily after reluctance to do so in order to counter threats by extremist Islamist groups.

In Britain, two brilliant men, William Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal (Whig) Party and Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative Party leader, differed in personality, character and political policies. One was magisterial, austere, self-righteous, and a deeply religious pious Christian. The other was mercurial, flamboyant, opportunistic, cynical, and son of an Italian-British Jew who baptized Benjamin to help his future career. Both were ambitious and successful. Gladstone, reasonably rich, educated at Eton and Oxford, became a cabinet minister at age of 33. Disraeli, who never went to university, was a personal and political adventurer who climbed what he called “the greasy pole” of politics.

As political rivals, the two political giants differed in their approach to foreign policy. Disraeli, who had been prime minister in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880, was not uninterested, for political or other reasons, in domestic affairs. He was responsible for reforms in a variety of different areas, health, housing, factory conditions, and agriculture. Above all, he was responsible for the 1867 Reform Bill that increased the size of the electorate by 80 per cent.

Nevertheless, his greater interest was in foreign and imperial issues. In 1875 he secured funds from the Rothschild family to buy for the nation 44 per cent of the total shares in the 1869-built Suez Canal, “the spinal core” of the Empire. He assented in 1876 to Queen Victoria’s desire to become Empress of India. At the Congress of Berlin in June-July 1878 he was the leading figure, together with Bismarck, in redrawing the map of what is now the Balkans. One of the consequences was the survival of the Ottoman Empire for 40 more years; another was that Cyprus became a British colony.

Disraeli was a master of realpolitik. At a time when the Ottoman Empire was declining in power, Disraeli’s important concern was to support it and prevent Russia from having more influence in the area and gaining control of Constantinople. In contrast to the aggressive policy of Disraeli, his rival Gladstone who became prime minister in 1880, though not an isolationist or an apostle of nonintervention, was reluctant to be drawn into foreign encounters. Though there were not categorical differences on all issues between the two rivals, Gladstone tended to take moralistic and humanitarian positions on issues on which he felt strongly while Disraeli acted on what he considered realistic and in the national interest.

Gladstone, like Disraeli, was concerned -- though he differed from him -- on what used to be called the “Eastern Question,” the European response to the decline of the power of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the Balkans. While Disraeli supported the Ottoman Empire, Gladstone condemned the massacre of Bulgarian Orthodox Christians by the Turks in 1876. In an extraordinary pamphlet, "The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East," Gladstone wrote of the tortures and beheadings carried out by the brutal Turks, in a manner akin to those committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria today. 

Like Obama in regard to Iraq, Gladstone wanted to extricate Britain from its war in Afghanistan. On becoming prime minister in 1880, he withdrew the British garrison from Kandahar in Afghanistan. He was reluctant to intervene in the complex affairs of Egypt and the Sudan over which Egypt had nominal authority, but ultimately was forced to by events. The nationalist revolt in Egypt in 1882 constituted a danger to control of the Suez Canal.

President Obama has based his policy on forming a coalition or alliance of nations. Similarly, Gladstone appealed to the Concert of Europe, founded by the Allied Powers after they had defeated Napoleon, and which was supposed to meet at moments of crisis. The Concert refused to help and therefore Gladstone sent troops to Egypt.

President Obama did not meet the challenge when Syria crossing his rhetorical “Red Line,” and has been slow in responding to Islamist terrorism. Gladstone too was hesitant in meeting the challenge of Muhammad Ahmad, the self-appointed Mahdi, an Islamist extremist dedicated to Jihad and to the establishment of an Islamic state, who in 1882 had united various groups in the Sudan. Gladstone did not want to engage in war and did not immediately respond after the Madhi’s forces had annihilated an Egyptian force under the leadership of a British officer.

Gladstone did not approve of sending a military force to Khartoum which was threatened by the Mahdi. Instead, in response to pressure from public opinion, he reluctantly allowed General Charles Gordon to go to the Sudan but only to evacuate the Egyptian garrison and civilians still in Khartoum. Defying orders, Gordon wanted to hold Khartoum and fought against the Mahdi. Gladstone refused to send a relief expedition to help Gordon. He finally consented, dispatching a force under Gen. Garnet Wolseley, but it was too late. Gordon had been killed in battle as Khartoum fell to the Mahdists. The Mahdi ruled the Sudan until defeated by Gen. H.H. Kitchener at Omdurman in 1898.

Gladstone and Obama had to resolve the same issues, where and when to intervene in international affairs, what is in the national interest, what is desirable from a humanitarian point of view, and what should be the concern of the dominant powers, Britain in the 19th century and the U.S. in the 21st, for maintenance of international order.

In his 2014 book, Worthy Fights, Leon Panetta comments on Obama’s tendency to look at issues as a law professor might do to determine what exact actions might be taken. This may be necessary but it is insufficient. Panetta himself concludes that the president also needs to have the heart of a warrior as well as the mind of an academic in order to engage in the necessary fight. What is noticeable in Obama as in Gladstone is the tendency to miss moments for opportune action. Both seem to lack fire in the belly. Both want to avoid battle whenever possible. Do nothing until you hear from me may be a fine Duke Ellington ballad but it is bad advice for a coherent and successful foreign policy.

Posted on 10/17/2014 7:28 AM by Michael Curtis

Friday, 17 October 2014

When as a boy I read Our Mutual Friend, I was much struck by the character of Silas Wegg, “a literary man,” as Nicodemus Boffin, his proud employer, put it, “with a wooden leg.” It seemed to me then that all of Dickens’s genius was in the italicization of the word “with,” for by that simple expedient he exposed the joyous absurdity of supposing an incompatibility between the practice of literature and a prosthetic lower limb: the kind of absurdity to which Mankind is much given. A literary man with a wooden leg is completely different from a literary man with a wooden leg. The wooden leg in the latter case is an additional accomplishment.

I don’t know why, but the character of Silas Wegg suddenly came into my mind recently in the Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, which claims to be, and I’m sure actually is, the largest second-hand bookshop devoted to poetry in the British Isles (I know of no other). I regard the owners of such specialist bookshops as the unsung heroes of our culture, for surely neither wealth nor fame can have been their aim in life; they are self-consciously the guardians and conservators of our heritage.

There were two poets known to me with wooden legs, and their lives overlapped in time though as far as I know they never met: W. E. Henley and W. H. Davies. Both were men of strong, though very different, character; each is probably known by a single poem today, “Invictus” in the case of Henley and “Leisure” in the case of Davies. It seems a hard fate to write a lot and be remembered by only a few lines, until one remembers that most of us will be remembered by not as much as even that.

I picked out a couple of slender volumes by Henley and Davies, and then asked the owner whether he knew of any other poets with wooden legs whose work I could buy. Not altogether surprisingly he said that he had never been asked that before; he might even have been a little nervous of me at first. There exist, after all, sexual deviations, acrotomophilia and apotemnophilia, which are, respectively, sexual attraction to amputees and sexual arousal at the thought of being an amputee. Most people are repelled by these, though no doubt with a little social engineering that censorious attitude can be changed. I soothed the bookseller’s anxieties a little by pointing out that, if literature can be classified as black or white, heterosexual or homosexual, colonial or post-colonial, why could it not also be classified by the number of its author’s legs? After searching his mind for a few moments, however, he could come up with no other names to help me. The one-legged poetry section would be small, albeit that W. H. Davies alone published some sixty volumes.

The two wooden-legged poets lost their limbs in very different ways. William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) had tuberculosis of the bones in his legs; his left leg was amputated in 1865 when he was sixteen years old. William Henry Davies (1871–1940), by contrast, lost his leg in an accident at the age of twenty-eight when, as a tramp, he tried to jump on a train in Ontario—he was making for the Klondike gold fields—and his leg was so badly crushed that it had to be amputated. It is hardly surprising that both men’s subsequent wooden-leggedness had a profound effect on their subsequent careers: though an effect not wholly negative.

I should not be surprised if the majority who either knew Henley’s “Invictus” or heard it for the first time thought it a typical piece of Victorian moral uplift, a pull-yourself-together sort of poem, the kind of thing you recite when you are in deep trouble and are trying to persuade yourself that you will overcome your difficulties nonetheless. It is whistling into the wind of circumstances, which we in a wiser and more compassionate age than Henley’s know really to be the determinant of our fate. We recite the lines, if we recite them at all, not because of any truth or lesson they might contain, but as cognitive behavioral therapy that makes us feel better even if nothing else in the world changes as a result. It is even likely that many find, or would find, them offensively unctuous, the Pecksniffian or Podsnappian advice given all too easily by the well-placed and comfortable to the wretched and unfortunate.

The problem with this interpretation, of course, is that Henley probably suffered much more in his life than the person who finds the sentiment of the poem syrupy or worse, that is to say, callous towards human suffering. But when Henley says,

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed . . .

he is uttering little more than an autobiographical truth.

Henley’s father, like Doctor Johnson’s, was a largely unsuccessful bookseller from whom he could expect to inherit nothing. He knew poverty as a child and also had to leave school early because of illness (though he had the good fortune for a time to be taught by a poet, T. E. Brown, who was also a considerable philologist), and as his biographer, John Connell, put it, “his chief schooling was a long, harsh one in physical pain.” By nature energetic, he found himself forced into sedentary pursuits. Without his disability he might otherwise have been a colonial administrator or an entrepreneur of whom we would not have heard.

But he had one other stroke of good fortune as a result of his misfortune: He came under the care of Joseph Lister (the founder of antiseptic and then, by logical extension, aseptic surgery) at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary when it appeared likely that his remaining leg would also have to be amputated. Here again I quote Connell:

Lister, the great surgeon, saved one leg for him, and probably saved his life and his hope and his reason. Lister did something more: He gave him faith in the nobility and the grandeur of individual human beings. Lister, all unconsciously, day by day in his work in the Infirmary, taught the big, lumpish, tormented youth that one man, by constant and steady and self-sacrificial exercise of his own virtues and talents, can lead others and inspire them and give them hope anew and more abundantly. In the Royal Infirmary Henley evolved the central argument and thesis of his life.

That Henley should have become perhaps the most eminent literary editor of his day was extraordinary. Having taught himself literature in hospital, he was an early enthusiast for the work of W. B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and H. G. Wells, to all of whom he opened the pages of the journals he edited. One of his friends was Charles Whibley, a literary dilettante, more talented than achieving, to whom T. S. Eliot later devoted an elegant, elegiac, and eulogistic essay. Most famous, of course, was Henley’s friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson, whom he met in the Royal Infirmary and who used him as the model for Long John Silver, an inspiration that Henley took in good part. Though they later quarrelled in a manner of Byzantine complexity, Henley and Stevenson were for a time inseparable; indeed, they wrote four (admittedly very bad) plays together.

Though “Invictus” remains by far Henley’s most famous poem, he was quite prolific. The trouble is that he wrote much bad poetry as well as good, and, even worse, was an ardent imperialist and jingoist. From the point of view of a modern sensibility, for which political opinion is almost the whole of vice or virtue, this defect more than cancels out anything admirable about him. (Though we live in multicultural times, few people try to see with the eyes of other times as well as of other places.) A little booklet that is in my possession of Henley’s poems, put out in 1931 by the publisher Ernest Benn, has the following words inscribed in ballpoint pen upon the first page: “What a pity that Henley was such a beastly man.”

I think this must have been written in the 1950s or early 1960s, when ballpoint pens first became popular and widely used; no one after the early 1970s would have used the word “beastly” as a word of strong disapprobation. And it is true that his nationalist poems strike an unpleasant note, for example one written in 1892 that begins:

Give us war, O Lord,
For England’s sake,
War righteous and true,
Our hearts to shake.

One would not have to be a complete pacifist to find this both foolish and unpleasant, especially in the light of what was to happen eleven years after Henley’s death. Henley was not the only one to extol war as a kind of aperient of the constipated soul, but few of us, I imagine, could now subscribe to so abstract and hygienic a view of mass slaughter.

But if to express an unpleasant opinion is to be beastly, than almost all men are beastly, at least at some time in their lives. And while Henley had other faults, there is much testimony to his high spirits, his generosity, and the nobility of his stoicism. “This long disease, my life,” wrote Pope, without exaggeration; Henley might have written the same. The feeling that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his soul, never left him, though he felt the death, at the age of five, of his beloved and only child, Margaret, whom he endearingly called The Emperor, as the worst possible bludgeoning of chance. “Life,” he wrote in an essay on Fielding, “at the best is a prolonged occasion for self-respect”; and in his case these were not idle words, a precept easier to enounce than to put into practice.

Henley was a poet of varied styles. He wrote ballads, for example, on dead actors, which were inspired by the death at thirty-seven of his brother, a somewhat feckless, impecunious, drunken, and not very successful actor:

Where are the passions they essayed,
And where the tears they made to flow?
Where the wild humors they portrayed
For laughing worlds to see and know?
Othello’s wrath and Juliet’s woe?
Sir Peter’s whims and Timon’s gall?
And Millamont and Romeo?
Into the night go one and all.

Death, not surprisingly, was one of his main subjects, and another ballad gave Joe Orton the title of his first play (The Ruffian on the Stair):

Madam Life’s a piece in bloom
Death goes dogging everywhere:
She’s the tenant of the room,
He’s the ruffian on the stair.

But Henley was also among the first modernist poets. His series of twenty poems, In Hospital, which were inspired by his stay of three years in the Infirmary between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-four, astonished and baffled his readers. In “Waiting,” he describes how he waits for examination:

A square, squat room (a cellar on promotion),
Drab to the soul, drab to the very daylight;
Plasters astray in unnatural-looking tinware;
Scissors and lint and apothecary’s jars . . .

He is approached by two dressers of wounds:

One has a probe—it feels to me a crowbar.
A small boy sniffs and shudders after bluestone.
A poor old tramp explains his poor old ulcers.
Life is (I think) a blunder and a shame.

This was written in 1874, though not published in its present form for fourteen years, when it still seemed unprecedented in the freedom of its form.

The last of the series recalls, with an unmistakable sincerity but severe economy, Henley’s joy at his discharge from the hospital after three years (for the full effect of the poem upon the imagination, it is necessary to know this, no doubt a necessity that is a poetic defect):

Carry me out
Into the wind and sunshine,
Into the beautiful world.
O, the wonder, the spell of the streets!
The stature and strength of the horses,
The rustle and echo of footfalls,
The flat roar and rattle of wheels!
A swift tram floats huge on us . . .
It’s a dream?
The smell of the mud in my nostrils
Blows brave—like a breath of the sea!

Robert Louis Stevenson first met Henley in the hospital. On the very day he first met him he wrote in a letter:

The poor fellow sat up in his bed, with his hair and beard all tangled, and talked as cheerfully as he had been in a King’s Palace, in the great King’s Palace of the blue air.

Such a beastly man? I think this is a little—well, judgmental.

I was aware of W. H. Davies from an extraordinarily early age. This was because I had to learn “Leisure,” by heart, and also because his memoir, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, was the first piece of prose of any length directed at adults that I ever read. Why it was selected for this honor by my schoolteacher I cannot now remember, if ever it was explained to me, which I rather doubt it was (in those days teachers did not explain themselves). Perhaps it was more to learn how to write straightforwardly, using simple but evocative words, than for any moral it contained. For Davies, born in Monmouth, South Wales, was something of a scallywag and even a delinquent as a youth, and at the age of twenty-two, having tired of being an apprentice to a picture-framer and in possession of a tiny inheritance, set out for North America, where he lived as a tramp and disdained work as something to be resorted to only as a last resort, living from day to day as a gentleman of the road at the expense—but not the very great expense—of others.

Real tramps no longer exist, of course, but when I first read The Autobiography they still did. They were not, as people who live on the streets of our cities now are, chronic schizophrenics in search of a warm doorway or ventilation shaft, but men in full possession of their faculties who simply preferred the wandering life free of routine and responsibility to a more settled existence. They would come to our door from time to time to beg or offer to do a little gardening work. I remember one in particular—an immense Irishman almost perfectly round, who smelled a great deal, who became short of breath and broke out into a sweat on almost any exertion and then had to sit down on a chair that one feared would be crushed to splinters under him, in order to be revived with tea and biscuits—who from time to time did a little gardening for us, turning up like a bad penny or a ringed bird. It was one of my parents’ better characteristics that they demanded little of him in return for his pay, and also that I treated him with respect (as I should have done in any case, for I regarded so unusual a man as imbued with a wisdom not granted to others). I listened to his Irish brogue with close attention if not deep understanding, sure that he was uttering the secret of existence. In those days, too, tramps still left symbolic signs outside houses to signal to their peers the generosity or otherwise of the occupants. All that is finished. The time between then and now is longer, both literally and in some respects metaphorically, than the time that had elapsed between the publication of the book (1908) and when I first read it.

It could hardly have been to encourage me to emulate Davies’s feckless existence that I was put to reading the book. Perhaps it was to learn stoicism at Davies’s feet (or foot) that it was accorded the honor of being my first adult book:

The train whistled almost before we were ready, and pulled slowly out of the station. I allowed my companion the advantage of being the first to jump, owing to his maimed hand. The train was now going faster and faster, and we were forced to keep pace with it. Making a leap he caught the handle bar and springing lightly on the step, after which my hand quickly took possession of this bar, and I ran with the train, prepared to follow his example. To my surprise, instead of at once taking his place on the platform, my companion stood thoughtlessly irresolute on the step, leaving me no room to make the attempt. But I still held to the bar, though the train was now going so fast that I found great difficulty in keeping step with it. I shouted to him to clear the step. This he proceeded to do, very deliberately, I thought. Taking a firmer grip on the bar, I jumped, but it was too late, for the train was now going at a rapid rate. My foot came short of the step, and I fell, and still clinging to the handle bar, was dragged several yards before I relinquished my hold. And there I lay for several minutes, feeling a little shaken, whilst the train passed swiftly on into the darkness. . . . Sitting down in an upright position, I then began to examine myself, and now found that the right foot was severed from the ankle.

Note: the right foot, not my right foot. In a later book, A Poet’s Pilgrimage, published in 1918, that recounts Davies’s journey on foot through South Wales, Davies does not mention that he has a wooden leg. Do not make a fuss—that was perhaps the lesson I was supposed to draw from The Autobiography, a lesson I learned imperfectly but which still left some trace.

As a poet, Davies now strikes me as mediocre, which perhaps explains his great popularity in his lifetime and the near oblivion into which he has since fallen. His verses have a seemingly false, that is to say self-conscious, naivety about them that would appeal to those exhausted by the growing complexity of their own existence. In “Money, O!,” for example, he extols poverty, by which he presumably means an absence of luxury rather than destitution, the kind of virtuous poverty compatible with a simple but fulfilled life:

Much have I thought of life, and seen
How poor men’s hearts are ever light;
And how their wives do hum like bees
About their work from morn till night.

So, when I hear these poor ones laugh,
And see the rich ones coldly frown—
Poor men, think I, need not go up
So much as rich men should come down.

When I had money, money, O!
My many friends proved all untrue;
But now I have no money, O!
My friends are real, though very few.

Music to the ears of those uneasy at their wealth, no doubt, martyred by their prosperity, though this is a martyrdom that many seek and few are willing to abjure. It is a common theme of Davies. In his last collection, published posthumously in 1941, there is a poem “To Sparrows Fighting”:

Stop, feathered bullies!
Peace, angry birds;
You common Sparrows that,
For a few words,
Roll fighting in wet mud,
To shed each other’s blood.
Look at those Linnets, they
Like ladies sing;
See how those Swallows, too,
Play on the wing;
All other birds close by
Are gentle, clean and shy.
And yet maybe your life’s
As sweet as theirs;
The common poor that fight
Live not for years
In one long frozen state
Of anger, like the great.

Davies even suggests that innocence and happiness consequent upon defective intelligence are fortunate—to think and be active is to suffer and do wrong. In “The Idiot” he writes:

The hand that rocked his cradle once
Lies buried with his father’s rings;
Yet in his cradle still lives he—
He rocks it by himself, and sings.
He knows no heaviness at heart,
He cannot feel his body’s old;
The cradle that his mother rocked
Is still his joy, and all his world.
All by himself he rocks and sings—
Until he makes old Death at last
Measure him in his cradle for
A coffin to contain his dust.

Strange how potent cheap music is, and lines that do not bear much examination. As for “Leisure”, the poem we learnt by heart at school, it was perhaps intended as an early warning not to lay waste to our powers, getting and spending:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stop and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows . . .
A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stop and stare.

The point is that Davies actually lived his philosophy as few of us do, as also did Henley. Did their wooden-leggedness lead to their sincerity?

Many years ago, there was a patient in my hospital with a prosthetic leg. The patient in the bed next to his said that some money had gone missing from his locker. I was convinced that the man with the prosthetic leg, who had a criminal record, had taken it and secreted it in his prosthesis. He protested his innocence but I insisted on searching his leg. The money was not there, and then the man who had thought it missing found it. How mean-spirited I felt! If only I had recalled a poem by Davies:

It’s better that a woman had
A love child at her breast,
Than live a heartless, selfish maid;
It’s better that a man should trust
A worthless knave, than never have
His love or innocence betrayed.

First published in The New Criterion.

Posted on 10/17/2014 5:17 AM by Theodore Dalrymple

Friday, 17 October 2014

He fails to connect the violence, the aggression, the crazed conspiracy theories, the everything to Islam, pur et dur, but the article is still remarkable, not for what it says -- that's obvious to an intelligent non-Muslim - but for the fact that an Arab says it. And his reference to Taha Hussein who saw the problem with Islam just the way Ataturk did (or Ibn Warraq, or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Wafa Sultan, or Anwar Sheikh), is a sign that he knows, but can't write directly, about the effect of Islam on its adherents, with the most dangerous being those who take Islam most to heart. Would that he felt free enough outwardly, and possessed the inner freedom too, to see that it is not 'Uruba, Arabness, that is the problem of the Muslim Arab world,, but Islam itself, that explains the many failures, political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral, of Muslim states and societies, and not only Arab ones.

Still, a remarkable article, given its provenance,  here.

Posted on 10/17/2014 3:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 17 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

Where Nasser's army, spreading his pan-Arabism, and the Royalists of Saudi Arabia once fought in the mid-1960s,  now Iran and Saudi Arabia battle through proxies, but even this does not adequately describe the permanent chaos of qat-and-foreign-subsidy dependent Yemen, an Arab state without benefit of oil.

Amer Taheri's analysis, of Houthis in the north, Al Qaeda in the Hadramaut, Al-Hirak separatists in the south (in what was once South Yemen), and tribal rulers fighting for their turf all over the place,  here.

Posted on 10/17/2014 2:00 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014

We keep being told that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam, that Muslims all over the world deplore it, will have nothing to do with it, and so on. But Muslims from all over the world have tried to join or pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, and in Anbar Province, there has been no uprising, large or small, against the Islamic State.

And a story about the possible attack on Baghdad after surrounding villages are taken,  includes this telling paragraph:

If 10 members of Islamic State come, then they will become a thousand, because all the people of Abu Ghraib will join them,” said an Abu Ghraib resident who works as a laborer and declined to be identified for security reasons.

Posted on 10/16/2014 8:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014

This is addressed to all British posters or lurkers here who may be or could arrange to be at leisure this upcoming Saturday 18 October 2014, and live within travelling distance of London.  Persons in France, Germany, the Low Countries or Scandinavia might just possibly be able to get there in time, if free.

The British Pakistani Christians will be holding a rally on Saturday 18 October, from 11 am to 1 pm, outside No 10 Downing Street, London, the residence of PM David Cameron, in support of Asia Bibi.  Asia Bibi, mother of five, is a Pakistani Catholic Christian woman who sits in prison in Pakistan under sentence of death because of an accusation of "blasphemy" made against her by her Muslim co-workers some years ago.  Her latest appeal against that sentence has just been rejected, to the delight of many pious Muslims in Pakistan who passionately want her to be killed. 

Some information about the case, and the upcoming protest, here:


This is an opportunity to stand up and be counted, to get out onto the street, to visibly declare support for all those non-Muslim minorities who are being mercilessly oppressed and persecuted within Muslim-dominated countries, and specifically, to publicly affirm the principles of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, in defiance of the sharia of Islam, which denies and intends to destroy both.

Unfortunately, being in Australia, I cannot physically take part in this protest rally but I will be there in spirit.

Posted on 10/16/2014 7:28 PM by Christina McIntosh

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lars Hedegaard, President of Danish and International Free Press Societies

Source: International Civil Liberties Alliance


Yesterday, we posted on the news that  “BH”, the attempted assassin  of  Lars Hedegaard   President of the Danish and International Free Press Societies  had been released by Turkey  in an exchange of Jihadists for Turkish diplomats.  “BH” had been arrested by Turkish authorities at Istanbul Airport in April 2014.  He was  alleged to have been employed in airport security in Denmark.  We sent Hedegaard questions about these developments. In the midst of a hectic day in Copenhagen he found   time to respond about the current circumstances and predicament he continues to face as an outspoken defender of free speech and critic of Islam.

Gordon:  Was your assailant “BH” arraigned by Danish Police following his attempted assassination of you?
He was not arraigned by the Danish police but is believed to have escaped from Denmark on the day of the murder attempt, i.e., February 5, 2013.

Gordon: To your knowledge how was “BH” able to travel to Turkey?
I don’t know if he went straight to Turkey. Before his arrest in Istanbul Airport in April this year, he had been moving between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. I believe he must have had helpers that got him out of Denmark.

Gordon:  Was “BH” released by Turkey as part of the exchange of Jihadists for 49 Turkish Diplomats and their families held captive by ISIS after the fall of Mosul?
That is widely believed, not only by me but by most Danish politicians. But despite many official requests, the Turks have declined to provide answers. The Danish government doesn’t even know if he has been released. All we know is that he cannot be contacted.
How many Danish citizens are known to have joined ISIS?
More than one hundred.

Gordon:   Can their return to Denmark be prevented?
Hedegaard:   Yes, if the government wanted to. But it doesn’t.

Gordon:   Have you received any recent threats on your life by Muslim extremists in Denmark or the EU?

Gordon:   Besides Geert  Wilders ‘ Hague Parliament  questions to the Dutch Foreign Minister, who in Denmark’s Parliament  has come to your defense?
This morning there was a parliamentary hearing with our justice and foreign ministers. All parties from left to right came out in my defense and expressed their disgust with Turkey.

Gordon:  Has Turkey violated the EC extradition treaty with the release of “BH”, and what recourse does Denmark have for his apprehension?
Turkey certainly has violated a European treaty on extradition, but Denmark can do very little.

Gordon:  Has the rise of the Danish People’s Party following the European Parliamentary Elections of May 2014 had any impact on Denmark’s mass immigration, multicultural policies and hate laws under which you have been prosecuted?
Not so far but it appears that the leftist government is getting nervous. The Danes don’t like it.    

Posted on 10/16/2014 5:20 PM by Jerry Gordon

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Higher -- not that much higher -- Banality, for Fall 2014, from the President of Harvard University.


Posted on 10/16/2014 5:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014
Posted on 10/16/2014 10:21 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird are certainly correct to support Canada’s traditional allies in attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). It is such an unspeakably odious organization that it is beyond normal political discourse and as many as possible of its active adherents should be killed or otherwise eliminated as quickly as possible. Further, anything that seems to reactivate the Western Alliance, the most successful in world history, is a good thing. It has recently fallen to a somnolent condition even less fearsome than the former “coalition of the willing,” i.e. we’ll do it if we’re threatened ourselves but otherwise we’ll just be happy with a U.S guaranty of our national security. There cannot be any debate that the Islamic State is a sociopathic, genocidal, barbarous outrage to any concept of civilization, and should be physically exterminated. Some effort should be made to reorient surviving prisoners rather than simply executing them, but it is the duty and in the self-interest of all countries to apply the most ruthless and expeditious force available to eliminate this unmitigated evil. It is to the credit of the Green party that its MP, Bruce Hyer, voted with the government, whose motives were perfectly sensibly explained by Messrs. Harper and Baird.

Disappointing, but not surprising, was the position of Thomas Mulcair, leader of the official opposition, that bombing merely created more volunteers to the Islamic State so the effort was counter-productive. This was the same person who advised us to repeal the Clarity Act and agree to the independence of Quebec if 50% plus one voted for a vague separatist question, while also promising to ban English from federal government workplaces in Quebec to convince French Quebec that it didn’t have to secede to survive culturally, and that this policy was the true way forward for federalism. At least Mr. Mulcair is consistent: We must appease anyone who threatens us and preen our feathers for humanitarian broad-mindedness as we do so. As recent Quebec elections have demonstrated, appeasing Quebec’s separatists assures their success and confronting them fairly with the facts and consequences of enactment of their plans secures their democratic defeat. And to assert that bombing the IS will cause more volunteers to join it is like saying the more Nazi soldiers and airmen we killed in Second World War, the more we faced. That is not how war works, Mr. Mulcair. When dealing with a mortal enemy, you can count all those susceptible to join his ranks as enemies from the start and the more you kill, the fewer remain.

Not even these Muslim terrorist mutants can multiply faster than modern military technology can dispose of them, and air attack, while not the whole solution, is so precise, it can severely interdict and constrain terrorist insurgencies lacking broad popular support. Whatever the unimaginable attractions of the Islamic State, it still has only about 20,000 known adherents and has run out of much of its steam already; the appeasement of such a group would be the ultimate degradation and shame of the West. There would be no need to behead individual Western captives; as a society, civilization, and epoch in world history, we would have thoughtfully decapitated ourselves. This is the prescription of the leader of the official opposition.

Not as outrageous but also vacuous is the position of the Liberal party, which is that we should side-step the military effort and by unspecified means distribute humanitarian aid to refugees “tucked up” at the Syrian-Turkish border, as discontent in this unfortunate group will be a greater threat to the West and international security than the ISIS. This isn’t a zero-sum game and since you don’t need warplanes and sophisticated ordnance to assist homeless refugees, both can be done simultaneously and this is the course being followed by the Western Alliance, including Canada. Listening to Liberal spokesman Gen. Andrew Leslie (a descendant of the artillery commander at Vimy and commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe from 1940 to 1943, General A.G.L. McNaughton, and of post-war defence minister Brooke Claxton), stumble through this flummery on television was a distressing experience.

This response to IS is not a responsible position and is only explicable by the perceived need to pander to Quebec isolationism. Quebec has been cool to every war that was not necessitated by the defence of Canada, i.e. all since 1815, except the Korean War, where the anti-communist fervour of the time, in the piping days of Pius XII, caused Quebecois to be even more militant about hammering North Korea and “Red China” than English Canadians. The Liberals under their current leader’s father and others have led the successful fight on the federalist side in Quebec, and the Liberals should now reintroduce that province to the concept of the pan-Canadian interest and not try to out-pander Mulcair in flattering Quebec’s ancient penchant for parochial insularity.

What Canada does in the Middle East, no matter how well targeted, is a small piece of the puzzle. All the Canadian party leaders, and other national leaders in allied countries, are correct that this isn’t a question for the large scale insertion of our combat troops. Boots on the ground has become an anathematic catch-word, because the United States has become war-wary after being mired for four of their five wars since 1945 (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the Gulf War), in prolonged conflicts with no exit strategy. Korea was at least somewhat successful, as South Korea was protected and has become a great political and economic success story, though North Korea continues to bedevil the world to this day. The take-away message from these disappointments should not be an irrational abhorrence of using ground forces, much less a Mulcairian fear of raising a hand in anger of any kind against anyone, lest their numbers multiply in resentment, but to define the alliance interest in terms where the practical meet the essential, and get all allies or even cordial non-allied states to sign onto it, and hold that line.

That was essentially the basis of the successful containment strategy in the Cold War. In the Middle East, we are paying a heavy price for dismantling the Ottoman Empire along artificial lines; for the British promise of what in 1917 was called Palestine to the Jews and to the Arabs simultaneously; for the failure to act on the impulse of U.S. President Nixon and Soviet President Brezhnev in 1973 to agree and impose a settlement on Arab-Israeli claims when the super powers still could; for President Carter’s encouragement of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran; and for Europe’s repeated rejections of Turkish efforts to achieve a closer association with the European Union.

We are where we are. The best that can be done now is to set up an action group of several of the major Western or pro-Western powers and try to explore what would be necessary to secure Chinese and Russian co-operation, both countries with internal terrorist problems, to stop playing footsie with the nuclear-fixated Iranian ayatollahs. We could then jointly put all the negative and positive pressure appropriate on Iran to suspend seriously its nuclear program, and then encourage a division of the Middle East into spheres of influence for Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Israel, Jordan (a Palestinian majority governed by Bedouins) and Lebanon (a Christian-Muslim divided country) should be carved out as special cases, Middle Eastern Switzerlands.

Eventually, there will have to be some boots on the ground to make any sense out of Iraq and Syria in particular, but they should be Islamic boots. The West can’t occupy these countries and they can’t be too choosy about how they are governed. The Turks, Egyptians, and Persians have, in their past (and in the case of Turkey, not just in the mists of antiquity) some vocation to rule that area. We should try to unite the European Union, Russia, China, Japan and the North Americans to encourage them and the Saudis to rediscover that vocation. In the meantime, the West should supply the cutting edge to subduing Islamic State; on this, the government deserves our support.

First published in the National Post.

Posted on 10/16/2014 8:44 AM by Conrad Black

Thursday, 16 October 2014
Posted on 10/16/2014 8:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014

During Wind and Rain

They sing their dearest songs—
He, she, all of them—yea,
Treble and tenor and bass,
And one to play;
With the candles mooning each face ...
Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!

They clear the creeping moss—
Elders and juniors—aye,
Making the pathways neat
And the garden gay;
And they build a shady seat…
Ah, no; the years, the years;
See the white storm-birds wing across!

They are blithely breakfasting all—
Men and maidens—yea,
Under the summer tree,
With a glimpse of the bay,
While pet fowl come to the knee…
Ah, no; the years O!
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.

They change to a high new house,
He, she, all of them—aye,
Clocks and carpets and chairs
On the lawn all day,
And brightest things that are theirs…
Ah, no; the years, the years;
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.

                                                         Thomas Hardy

Posted on 10/16/2014 8:23 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The quiet, but relentless, dismemberment of Aslan can be found here.

Posted on 10/16/2014 8:10 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald


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