An Austrian man has been fined for yodelling while mowing his lawn because it caused offence to his Muslim neighbours.
Helmut Griese, 63, was found guilty of "ridiculing" their religious beliefs and fined nearly £700 by a court in Graz. Rather than face a protracted court case, with all its attendant legal costs, Mr Griese agreed to pay.
The court heard how the Muslim family regarded Mr Griese as a "grumpy old man" whose open-air Alpine chanting was intended as a taunt aimed at their religion. The retiree was accused trying to "mock and imitate" the call of the Muezzin, who calls the faithful for prayer in mosques. They alleged that he always began his yodelling just as they knelt down to pray. How could he know that? Unless they were not praying reverently in the quiet of their own home? But were making a performance of the gymnastics in their garden? In which case the noise of neighbours also enjoying their garden is to be expected.
Mr Griese, however, told the Austrian newspaper Kornen that "it was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood."
The court heard how things came to a head late in the summer when Griese was both mowing his lawn and yodelling as the Muslim family were praying. Police were called, and he was served with a summons.
They wouldn't like this song then. They might be allright with the goats, but the bierkeller would be right out.
Wilders is a 'golden pompadoured maverick': Wikileaks
Wednesday 15 December 2010
Geert Wilders is a 'golden-pompadoured, maverick' who is 'no friend of the US', according to a briefing document on Dutch politics for US president Barack Obama, put together in July 2009.
The document, published by whistleblower website Wikileaks and hosted by the Guardian, was drawn up by US diplomats to brief Obama ahead of his meeting with the then prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
In the document, the US official states: 'Wilders is no friend of the US: he opposes Dutch military involvement in Afghanistan; he believes development assistance is money wasted; he opposes NATO missions outside 'allied' territory; he is against most EU initiatives; and, most troubling, he forments fear and hatred of immigrants.' .
Other documents which mention Wilders look at preparations to combat the effect of his anti-Koran film Fitna prior to its release in 2008.
That is one telegram you will no longer have to worry about sending, if the latest publication in the field holds up.
Here, in a form accessible to laymen, are the results of a study just published in the British Medical Journal:
Press releases Monday 13 December to Friday 17 December 2010
British Medical Journal
(2) Submerging your feet in alcohol will not get you drunk
(Research: Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed
through feet: open labelled self experimental study)
Research in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com today explodes the Danish
myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging your feet in alcohol.
The authors, led by Dr Peter Lommer Kristensen from the Hillernild Hospital in
Denmark, say it was important that the myth underwent scientific scrutiny to prevent
students wasting their time experimenting with this activity.
Three adult volunteers took part in the study. None of them suffered from any
chronic skin or liver disease and they were not addicted to alcohol or psychoactive
drugs. The participants were not members of any local Alcoholics Anonymous groups
and had not been implicated in any serious accidents or socially embarrassing
events related to alcohol in the week prior to the study.
The volunteers drank no alcohol for 24 hours before the experiments and they
provided a blood sample before submerging their feet in a washing-up bowl containing
three bottles of Karloff Vodka. The participants then kept their feet in the vodka
for three hours and provided blood samples every half an hour.
The group undertook a self-assessment for signs of drunkenness a$DB" they rated
themselves on a scale of 0 to 10 on self-confidence, urge to speak and the number
of times they desired spontaneous hugs.
The results show that after the three hours there was no increase in the concentration
of alcohol in the participants' blood stream.
Kristensen concludes "that the Danish urban myth about being able to get drunk
by submerging feet in strong alcoholic beverages is just that; a myth."
He adds that the study has many implications including evidence that driving
a vehicle or skippering a boat with boots full of Vodka seems to be safe, and
brewery workers cannot become intoxicated by 'falling' into a brewery vat.
Peter Lommer Kristensen, Doctor and Research Fellow, Department of Cardiology
and Endocrinology, Hillernild Hospital Denmark
How The Fars News Agency Reports On Uber-Sunnis Of Jundullah
Iran Arrests 8 Suspects in Connection with Chabahar Bombing
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that it has arrested eight perpetrators of the recent terrorist bombing in the country's Southeastern port city of Chabahar.
An informed source at the Intelligence Ministry said the terrorists were rounded up in the cities of Chabahar, Nikshahr and Kenrak in southeastern province of Sistan and Balouchestan.
Based on information available, such operations are carried out by the intelligence services [of enemy states] that try to fan insecurity and deter remarkable economic progress of the region.
The Ministry also says two more terrorists, planning to detonate bombs in southern and eastern parts of the country, were identified. One of whom was killed in clashes with the Intelligence Ministry forces, while the other one was arrested as he tried to flee the country, it added.
At least 36 people, including women and children, were killed and 95 others were wounded in a suicide bomb blast in Chabahar on Wednesday.
The attack took place outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in the port city of Chabahar, in Sistan and Balouchestan province, near the border with Pakistan.
The Pakistani-based Jundollah terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Jundollah group has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks in Iran. The group has carried out mass murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, acts of sabotage and bombings. They have targeted civilians and government officials as well as all ranks of Iran's military.
In one of the worst cases, the terrorist group killed 22 citizens and abducted 7 more in the Tasouki region on a road linking the southeastern city of Zahedan to another provincial town.
In 2007, Jundollah kidnapped 30 people in the Sistan and Balouchestan province and took them to the neighboring Pakistan.
Jundollah claimed responsibility the same year for an attack on an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) bus in which 11 IRGC personnel were killed.
In another crime in October 2009, the Pakistan-based terrorist Jundollah group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in the Sistan and Balouchestan province which killed 42 people among them a group of senior military commanders, including Lieutenant Commander of the IRGC Ground Force Brigadier General Nourali Shoushtari.
And other Iranian news agencies report on still more Sunni attacks on Shi'a in Pakistan. Perhaps it's time for the Iranians to deny those Uber-Sunnis of Baluchistan, and other places in Pakistan, their safe havens. Perhaps some Iranian agents should do something to protect all those Shi'a who are routinely targetted by Sunni terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba. Perhaps it's time for operatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran -- including Lebanese members of Hezbollah -- to start setting off bombs inside Pakistan, to teach the Sunnis a lesson they won't forget. And then, one hopes, the outraged Sunnis will take arms against this new sea of troubles. And so on, and so on. You get the picture.
Seven Of Those Who Kidnapped And Repeatedly Tortured Ilan Halimi -- The "Gang Des Barbares" -- Receive Longer Terms
Gang des barbares : des condamnations aggravées en appel
LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 17.12.10
La cour d'assises des mineurs du Val-de-Marne, qui jugeait en appel une partie du gang des barbares, a aggravé vendredi 17 décembre les peines de 7 des 17 accusés qui comparaissaient pour avoir enlevé et séquestré Ilan Halimi. Ce jeune juif avait été enlevé début 2006 et retenu pendant trois semaines à Bagneux (Hauts-de-Seine), avant d'être tué par le seul Youssouf Fofana, à l'insue de ses complices. Ce dernier avait été condamné à la perpétuité, et, ayant renoncé à faire appel, était absent du procès qui s'est achevé vendredi.
Depuis le 25 octobre, les 17 accusés étaient rejugés à huis clos, pour leur participation à une série d'enlèvements orchestrés par Youssouf Fofana. En première instance en 2009, ils avaient été condamnés à des peines allant de 8 mois de prison à 18 ans de réclusion. A la demande de la ministre de la justice d'alors, Michèle Alliot-Marie, le parquet général avait ensuite fait appel de ce premier verdict, jugé trop clément pour les responsables secondaires du dossier.
Après deux mois d'audience à huis clos, la cour d'assises du Val-de-Marne, à Créteil, a condamné à 18 ans de réclusion criminelle Jean-Christophe Sombou (l'un des ravisseurs de Ilan Halimi) et Samir Aït Abdelmalek (un de ses geôliers), ce qui alourdit les peines de première instance. La cour a en revanche refusé de suivre le parquet et la partie civile et a confirmé la peine de neuf ans de prison prononcée en première instance contre le jeune fille ayant servi d'"appât" pour piéger Ilan Halimi. Cette jeune fille était mineure au moment des faits
Leo Rennert -- A Gentleman In A Dustcoat Trying To Make The New York Times Hear
TO EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
NY Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner journeyed to Gaza to report on conditions there two years after Israel's counter-terrorism offensive, following several years of incessant rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territyory against civilian targets in Israel. ("Gaza Mends, But Israelis See Signs Of Trouble" Dec. 17, page A6)/
While Bronner gets a few things right -- Hamas tightening its grip on Gaza, persecuting members of its rival, Fatah, a booming economy thanks to generous foreign aid and growing supply shipments from Israel -- his article is flawed by some conspicuous anti-Israel spins.
First, his account of Israel's Cast Lead operation against thousands of rocket barrages aimed at Sderot and other Israeli communities near the Gaza border. Bronner's version is that this was a "three-week war that destroyed thousands of buildings, killed about 1,300 people and largely deterred rocket fire."
Bronner's formulation -- Israel killed "1,300 people'' -- gives a false impression that Israel mounted an offensive against Gaza's entire population. The opposite is true. Israel went to extraordinary lengths to spare civilians -- sending warnings by telephne and leaflets to warn residents to get out of areas where terrorists were embedded -- and did its utmost to aim its attacks instead against Hamas operatives and other terror groups.
The result: Most fatalities were Hamas operatives and members of other terror groups, as Hamas itself now has admitted. At the time, however, the Times and other media went along with Hamas propaganda claims that most casualties were civilians. The IDF, after a careful check to identify each casualty, reported a total of some 1,170 fatalities, including about 700 operatives from Hamas and other terror organizations. The Times paid scant attention to the IDF figures, hewing instead to claims by the UN and human-rights groups that most of those killed were civilians.
Except that less than two months ago, Hamas turned around and informed an Arabic newspaper in London that, yes, its real tally jibed with the IDF's report -- thus confirming that the majority of fatalites were operatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups.
Bronner, however, seeks to hide the results of the IDF's focus on hitting combatants and limiting collateral civilian damage as much as possible. In his account, Israel -- with superior firepwoer -- killed about 1,300 "people."
Ditto with Bronner's glib summation of Cast Lead destruction of "thousands of buildings" -- again without noting salient distinction between military and civilian targets.
Then, there is Bronner's take on Gaza's isolation because of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. While acknowledging massive supplies transferred from Israel, he asserts that "Gazans still cannot cross into Israel."
Gazans requiring special medical care are regularly admitted by the hundreds into Israel where they receive first-class treatment in Israeli hospitals, even when some of these same hospitals are targeted by rocket fire from Gaza.
Giving Israel due credit comes hard at the New York Times.
WASHINGTON — The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls “the radicalization” of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.
Representative Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was responding to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.
He cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man and a legal resident of the United States, who was arrested last year for plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Mr. King said that Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam in Queens who had been a police informant, had warned Mr. Zazi before his arrest that he was the target of a terror investigation.
“When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders,” Mr. King said.
The move by Mr. King, who said he was planning to open a hearing on the matter beginning early next year, is the latest example of the new direction that the House will take under the incoming Republican majority.
Indeed, Mr. King, a nine-term incumbent from Long Island, said that he had sought to raise the issue when Democrats had control of Congress, but was “denounced for it.” He added: “It is controversial. But to me, it is something that has to be discussed.”...
With "most important counterterrorism allies" like these, who needs ... oh, never mind. By Adam Goldman for AP:
WASHINGTON – The CIA has pulled its top spy out of Pakistan after terrorists threatened to kill him, current and former U.S. officials said, an unusual move for the U.S. and a complication on the front lines of the fight against al-Qaida.
The CIA station chief was in transit Thursday after a Pakistani lawsuit earlier this month accused him of killing civilians in missile strikes.
The lawsuit blew the American spy's cover, leading to threats against him and forcing the U.S. to call him home, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
"Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe, and they've been targeted by terrorists in the past," CIA spokesman George Little said. "They are courageous in the face of danger, and their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there's an imminent threat."
The Pakistani lawsuit also named CIA Director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Demonstrators in the heart of the capital have carried placards bearing the officer's name as listed in the lawsuit and urging him to leave the country.
Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer bringing the case, said he got the name listed in the lawsuit from local journalists. He said he included the name because he wanted to sue a CIA operative living within the jurisdiction of the Islamabad court.
A Pakistani intelligence officer said the country's intelligence service, the ISI, knew the identity of the station chief, but had "no clue" how the name listed in the lawsuit was leaked.
The CIA's work is unusually difficult in Pakistan, one of the United States' most important and at times frustrating counterterrorism allies.
Almost a year ago seven CIA officers and contractors were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. Six other agency officers were wounded in the attack, one of the deadliest in CIA history.
The bomber in that attack was vouched for by Pakistan's ISI. The bomber's ability to enter the CIA office was directly due to the actions of the ISI.
This also brings to mind the death of William F. Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut, Lebanon, who was tortured to death by "Islamic Jihad" (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood).
Irony may be defined as the conflict of two meanings which has a dramatic structure peculiar to itself: ini- tially, one meaning, the appearance, presents itself as the obvious truth, but when the context of this meaning unfolds, in depth or in time, it surprisingly discloses a conflicting meaning, the reality, measured against which the first meaning now seems false or limited and, in its self-assurance, blind to its own situation. Irony “lies,” but it does so only as a dramatic means of bringing two meanings into open conflict. Some theorists assert that by encompassing this conflict in a single structure, irony resolves it into harmony or unity. The variable factors in the ironic structure are the following:
(1) The degree of conflict between appearance and reality ranges from the slightest of differences to dia- metrical opposites.
(2) The field of observation in which irony may be noticed ranges from the smallest semantic unit—e.g., a pun—to the cosmos. The most frequently used fields are: the relation between one meaning located in words and another meaning located either in the same words or in their context—verbal irony; the relation between an event or situation as interpreted from a limited point of view and that event as interpreted with a broader knowledge of the situation or of subsequent events—called dramatic irony in literature, in life called the irony of fate, God, events, things, etc.; the relation between events and an observer's state of mind—the ironic attitude, which may or may not externalize itself as verbal irony, dramatic irony, or the irony of fate.
(3) Irony usually has an author, who by analogy is a superhuman power in some fields of observation; it always has an audience, even if it is only the author amusing himself; and a victim, who is deceived by appearance and enlightened by reality, although an author may turn himself into a pseudovictim.
(4) The aspects of irony may be analyzed as follows. The variable factors here are the conception of reality, the degree to which author and audience sympathize or identify with the victim, and the fate of the victim— triumph or defeat. Reality may be thought of by author and (or) audience as reflecting their own values. In this context, satiric irony reveals the defeat of an unsympa- thetic victim; comic irony reveals the triumph of a sympathetic victim. (Throughout this article, the word comic refers primarily to a rise from defeat to triumph, as in Dante's Divine Comedy.) At the other pole, reality may be thought of as hostile to all human values. In this context, triumph is impossible, defeat inevitable. In tragic irony, sympathy for the victim predominates; in nihilistic irony, satiric detachment counterbalances or dominates sympathy, but a degree of identification always remains since author and audience necessarily share the victim's plight. Paradoxical irony balances these two extremes. Everything is relative: reality in part does and in part does not reflect human values; author and audience fuse, or oscillate between, identi- fication and detachment; comic triumph and tragic defeat counterbalance each other, or the satiric norm constantly shifts.
Although the idea of irony has undoubtedly appeared under other names—e.g., Aristotle's peripeteia, Jean Paul's and Pirandello's humor—little attempt has been made to trace the idea apart from the term. The term itself, after quickly shedding most of its original mean- ing, has steadily extended itself from satiric and comic irony through paradoxical irony to tragic and nihilistic irony, and now encompasses all the meanings outlined above. Frequently, during this history, the use of irony has elicited intense ethical judgments, pro and con.
The most influential model in the history of irony has been the Platonic Socrates. Neither Socrates nor his contemporaries, however, would have associated the word eironeia with modern conceptions of Socratic irony. As Cicero put it, Socrates was always “pretend- ing to need information and professing admiration for the wisdom of his companion”; when Socrates' inter- locutors were annoyed with him for behaving in this way they called him eiron, a vulgar term of reproach referring generally to any kind of sly deception with overtones of mockery. The fox was the symbol of the eiron.
All serious discussions of eironeia followed upon the association of the word with Socrates. These occurred in two contexts, the ethical and the rhetorical. In ethics, the field of observation was an habitual manner of behaving, a type of human character, and here the notion of irony as actual lying persisted, narrowed however to understatement. “As generally under- stood,” Aristotle said in the Ethics, “the boaster is a man who pretends to creditable qualities that he does not possess, or possesses in a lesser degree than he makes out, while conversely the self-depreciator dis- claims or disparages good qualities that he does possess. Midway between them is the straightforward sort of man” (iv. 7. 1-17). Aristotle recognized that under- statement (eironeia) might have various degrees of difference from the truth, including total denial of it. Of the two evils defined, he preferred irony because it was unostentatious. For Demosthenes and Theo- phrastus the eiron was an even less respectable liar: he understated his own powers specifically for the pur- pose of escaping responsibility.
Although in the Ethics Aristotle (ibid.) had mentioned “affected humbugs” whose “mock humility seems to be really boastfulness,” a sentence that implied the full structure of irony as a lie meant to reveal the truth, it was in the rhetorical tradition that this structure came to explicit definition. Here the field of observa- tion was narrow, limited to the brief figure of speech. As that, irony seemed ethically less censurable, and in the Rhetoric Aristotle spoke of it as a “gentlemanly” sort of jest. The full pattern was formulated by the fourth century B.C. Rhetoric to Alexander: irony is blame through praise and praise through blame. This definition, by shifting attention from the logical content of an ironic statement to the implied diametrically opposed value judgments, opened the way to the later, sometimes misleading formula that irony is saying the “contrary” of what one means. Also, two aspects of irony were implied by this definition: “to blame by praise” is satiric irony; “to praise by blame” is comic irony, for undesirable characteristics attributed to a sympathetic victim draw the audience's attention to his real virtues. Ariston pointed out that Socrates' way of exalting his opponent while depreciating himself exemplified the full pattern.
In the early eighteenth century, the omnipresence of French and English satiric literature brought the idea of irony, so called, out of the classroom into the intellectual marketplace; during the intervening twenty centuries it lived in, or on the edge of, rhetori- cal theory, the two chief fountains of which were Cicero and Quintilian. In Cicero Socratic irony first became a completely admirable thing, which he dis- tinguished into an isolated figure of speech and a per- vasive habit of discourse. Generally speaking, these were the limits of the field during the following cen- turies. Quintilian, however, said that “a man's whole life may be colored with irony, as was the case with Socrates, who... assumed the role of an ignorant man lost in wonder at the wisdom of others” (Institutio ix. 2. 44-53). For Quintilian this manner was an indication and expression of goodness that was “mild” and “ingratiating.”
In the early eighteenth century the third earl of Shaftesbury (d. 1713) also described a “soft irony” “spread alike through a whole character and life.” Such irony was more than an indication of goodness: it was the expression of the perfect way of life to which Shaftesbury aspired. Ethically, irony here reversed the position it had held in the Aristotelian school, but Shaftesbury was seeing irony in a modern way, from the subjective angle of the individual soul rather than from Aristotle's objective social angle, with the result that Shaftesbury's emphasis fell on the mental attitude of which the ironic manner was only the external expression. The manner Shaftesbury described kept the degree of opposition between praise and blame very slight, avoiding satiric virulence or comic buffoonery: it was a fusion of modest self-abnegation, gentle gravity, and an apparent tolerance of all things behind which hid reservations about all things. The reserva- tions were there because for the Neo-Platonic Shaftes- bury the only important reality was the spirit within, which must tolerate but not be disturbed by the “im- mediate changes and incessant eternal conversions, revolutions of the world.” He himself might often be the only audience aware of his irony and the world might find him puzzling, but he lived “disinterested and unconcerned,” accommodating all appearances to his own mind and setting “everything in its due light.” (See Knox, pp. 47-53, for a full discussion of Shaftesbury's conception.) Socrates was interpreted in this modern way: he had been “a perfect character; yet ... veiled, and in a cloud... chiefly by reason of a certain exquisite and refined raillery which belonged to his manner, and by virtue of which he could treat the highest subjects, and those of commonest capacity ... together,... both the heroic and the simple, the tragic and the comic” (Characteristics , I, 194-95). The critical norm of this subtly satiric attitude toward the world was the absolute value contained in the ironist's own mind; all other values were limited and relative to one another.
Apart from Socrates, the rhetoricians thought of irony, in Quintilian's terms, as either “trope,” a brief figure of speech embedded in a straightforward context, or “schema,” an entire speech or case presented in language and a tone of voice that conflict with the true situation. Understatement, which in Aristotle had been limited to self-depreciation, spread out to include any statement whose apparent meaning falls some degree short of the reality, e.g., to say of a muscular warrior, with comic irony, that he has “a reasonably good arm.” At first called litotes or meiosis, such understatement came to be called irony, at least by the end of the sixteenth century. The comic irony of praise through blame, which had also originated in Socratic self-depreciation, remained a minor figure of speech until the early eighteenth century, when in England, at least, Swift, Pope, and their friends recognized it as a delightful mode in which to write letters and converse.
The abstract definition of irony as saying the “con- trary” of what one means, the most popular formula from Cicero and Quintilian on, led the rhetoricians and others occasionally to extend the opposition beyond praise and blame to logical contraries which might not involve praise or blame, such as praeteritio and negatio. Cicero had pointed out that some types of irony do not say “the exact reverse of what you mean” but only something “different.” Allegory also says something “different” from what it means. Quintilian and later rhetoricians classified irony as a type of allegory, but Chambers' Cyclopaedia (1778-88) narrowed allegory to exclude irony: “allegory imports a similitude be- tween the thing spoken and intended; irony a con- trariety between them.”
However, the dominant conception of irony so-called was satiric blame through praise. The earliest recognized strategies, derived from Socrates, were direct praise of a victim for possessing good qualities he lacks, and self-depreciation meant to imply such praise. Quintilian pointed out that the real meaning became evident to an audience “either by the delivery, the character of the speaker or the nature of the sub- ject” (Institutio viii. 6. 54-58). But he also remarked that irony as trope might state both praise and blame explicitly: e.g., “it is a fine thing to be a thief”—not, “it is a fine thing to be honest.” He also illustrated ironic concession, which exposes a victim's ideas by echoing them with mock approval, and ironic advice, which recommends that its victim continue to pursue those foolish or vicious courses he is already pursuing. The ironic defense was invented by Lucian.
Later rhetoricians recognized all these strategies as irony, and when in the late seventeenth century and the early eighteenth Boileau, Defoe, Swift, Pope, Vol- taire, Fielding, and hosts of lesser pamphleteers and periodical writers used these strategies cheek by jowl the fallacious argument, the reductio ad absurdum, parody, burlesque, and the fictitious character, these other strategies also came to be called ironic. All burlesque involving people degraded them to some degree by caricature, but the author presented his characters with mock sympathy and approval, height- ened in “high” burlesque by elevated language.
When such ironic strategies expanded into fictional narratives of some length—Swift's A Tale of a Tub, Pope's The Dunciad, Fielding's Jonathan Wild and Joseph Andrews—mid-century critics for the first time defined the field of irony as the totality of an imagina- tive work of art. Now recognizing that irony could be a literary mode of major significance, they saw Cervantes as the central model, flanked by Swift, Lucian, Erasmus. Cervantes especially had shown how to maintain an ironic manner throughout a long narra- tive. R. O. Cambridge in the Preface to his Scribleriad (1752), expressed the common view: “the author should never be seen to laugh, but constantly wear that grave irony which Cervantes alone has inviolably preserved.”
Talking about his own mock-heroic poem, Cambridge continued:
To complete the design of mock-gravity, the author and editors are represented full as great enthusiasts as the hero; therefore, as all things are supposed to appear to them in the same light as they do to him, there are several things which they could not explain without laying aside their assumed character.... Then how shall it be known whether a burlesque writer means the thing he says or the contrary? This is only to be found by attention and a comparison of passages.
And Cambridge pointed out that all of his hero's great expectations were “ironically given,” “for of all of the many prophecies delivered to him, the only one ful filled is that of his being reduced to a state of beggary in his pursuit of alchemy.” Cambridge exhibits clearly how the rhetorical idea of satiric irony had been ex- tended by the impact of fictional narrative. The mock sympathy with which ideas and opinions had been presented in ironic concession, advice, defense, and the like had become the grave presentation of character and action; the reality, which in many of the rhetorical ironies had been revealed by direct statement or burlesque exaggeration, in narrative was now revealed by the course of events: by dramatic irony.
In Germany, during the last years of the eighteenth century and the first three decades of the nineteenth, the ironies of Cervantes and Socrates collided with transcendental philosophy, and irony entered its modern phase. Friedrich Schlegel's oracular pronounce- ments (chiefly 1797-1800) led the way, but Friedrich's brother A. W. Schlegel, who was clearer and whose lectures On Dramatic Art and Literature (1808) were widely translated, may have been more immediately influential. In any case, most of literary Germany was talking about irony in a new way. It became the central principle of an aesthetic in the Erwin (1815) and later writings of the philosopher K. W. F. Solger, and Hegel, who before Solger's death was briefly his colleague, related irony to his own dialectical system. An admirer of Solger and student of Hegelianism, the expatriate Heine helped to make the new ironies familiar in France, and in England many of them appeared in an essay “On the Irony of Sophocles” (1833) by Bishop Connop Thirlwall, a student of German thought, and an acquaintance and translator of Ludwig Tieck. Irony finally became the subject of an academic thesis in Søren Kierkegaard's Danish The Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates (1841), which added little to the complex of meanings that had developed.
Prior to the later eighteenth century, irony had always been thought of as a weapon to be used in the service of absolute human values derived from reality. For the eighteenth century, speaking very generally, this value had been “reason,” supposedly reflected in the structure of the universe. Shaftesbury had found a resting place in Neo-Platonism. The German theorists of the new irony, however, found themselves in a situation that has become familiar to the modern mind. On the one hand, there seemed to be considerable evidence that human values are only subjective and sharply opposed to an external world that is chaotic, inhumanly mechanistic, or ultimately unknowable, as in the Kantian epistemology that pervaded Schlegel's Germany. On the other hand, they could not relinquish their faith that the values of the human spirit must be substantiated somewhere. No longer able to turn away from the immediate world to the certainty of a Platonic or Christian or Deistic absolute, they turned toward the flux of existence and human art, recognizing that no “limited thing” could offer a resting place, yet hoping that out of the complex interrelationships of a wide-ranging experience something might emerge.
It occurred to Friedrich Schlegel, as it had to Shaftesbury, that the best way for the mind to assert its freedom from “limited things” had been discovered by Socrates. Irony, which Schlegel sometimes called “Socratic irony,” was “never-ending satire,” “continual self-parody,” by means of which the spirit “raises itself above all limited things,” even over its “own art, virtue, or genius.” On the other hand, it was in those very “things” that the spirit must now find itself. Conse- quently, in Schlegel the grave tolerance of Shaftesbury's ironic attitude opened outward to become “instinc- tive,” “in earnest,” “naively open.” Irony was now, paradoxically, an instrument of positive engagement at the same time that it was an instrument of detach- ment. Behind Schlegel's new formula seem to have been Schiller's play theory of art and an analogy with
the theological idea of God as both immanent and transcendent, especially in Fichte's post-Kantian, idealist version.
The new ironic attitude quickly caught on in both art and life. For Tieck, irony “saturates its work with love, yet sweeps rejoicing and unfettered over the whole” (Sedgewick, p. 16). In Shakespeare's ironic attitude A. W. Schlegel found the same combination of creative absorption and “cool indifference,” though its mood was disillusioned: Shakespeare had seen “human nature through and through” yet “soars freely above it.” Goethe thought irony raises the mind “above happiness or unhappiness, good or evil, death or life,” from which height we may view our own “faults and errors in a playful spirit”; even the scientist should view his own discoveries ironically, for they are only provisionally true.
The external manifestation of irony Friedrich Schlegel located in an endless “tension of opposites.” Satiric and comic irony had of course exhibited a tension of opposites at just that moment when the apparent meaning begins to give way to the real meaning. For that moment both meanings are simulta- neously before the eye in a precarious balance. Such irony, however, had theoretically always resolved this tension in favor of a real meaning. So, too, would the nihilistic and tragic irony to come. But Schlegel did not wish to resolve the tension in that direction. Noth- ing is absolute, everything is relative. So irony became “an incessant... alternation of two contradictory thoughts,” the contradictory thoughts usually being faith in some ideal human value on the one hand, and on the other, assent to a less ideal reality; the “subjec tive” versus the “objective.” At times Schlegel con- ceived this tension as static, a fusion, as in some forms of verbal irony; more often he described it as a move- ment from one thought to another, as in dramatic irony. The ironic author at first appears to engage himself with one meaning—and in part really does so; he then appears to destroy that meaning by revealing and attaching himself to a contradictory meaning; this, too, however, he also destroys, either by returning to the first or moving on to a third, ad infinitum. Paradox- ical irony is “self-creating alternation,” “self-criticism surmounted.” And since such irony does postulate ap- pearances that are in part real, but only in part, Schlegel returned to the association of irony with allegory.
Two of Schlegel's chief models for paradoxical irony in literature were Laurence Sterne, who could both love and laugh at the creations of his imagination, and Don Quixote, which Schlegel saw not simply as grave satire but as an unresolved tension between satire and genuine sympathy for the Don's ideals: “a charming symmetry” produced by “rhythmical alternations be- tween enthusiasm and irony.” In such phrases as this the word irony retained its old force as satiric, but elsewhere it spilled over to include the “enthusiasm,” a natural extension since the structure of enthusiastic commitment followed by satiric deflation paralleled on the surface the structure of satiric praise followed by blame. In this context as well, then, irony began to take on its paradoxical sense.
After the Schlegels had announced the new irony, Ludwig Tieck's early plays came to be seen as examples of it. Setting out to satirize philistine prejudices, Tieck had adopted the strategies of burlesque satire, as old as Aristophanes, especially its destruction of a primary fictional illusion by the “reality” of author, actors, even audience stepping out of their normal roles to speak as themselves, attacking each other and commenting on the primary illusion itself, a device Tieck had also been impressed by in the authorial intrusions of Cer- vantes and Sterne. But Tieck became lost in endless relativity. A character in The World Turned Topsy- turvy remarks: “This is too crazy! See, friends, we sit here as spectators and see a play; in that play spectators are also sitting and seeing a play, and in that third play another play is going to be played by those third actors.... People often dream that sort of thing” (Die verkehrte Welt , end of Act III; trans. Thompson, pp. 58-59).
Shakespeare too was an ironist on the new model, both Friedrich and A. W. Schlegel decided. To demon- strate this, it was necessary to find satiric elements in what most people had supposed to be a predominantly sympathetic presentation, as in Don Quixote enthusiasm had been found to counterbalance satire. Although A. W. Schlegel barred irony when “the proper tragic enters,” which demands “the highest degree of serious-
ness,” he found it everywhere else. In the results of Henry V's marriage to the French princess, he saw dramatic irony that cast a satiric light on Henry's ambitions. Incongruous juxtapositions might be ironic: comic scenes were often “intentional parody of the serious part.” In his depiction even of “noble minds” Shakespeare had revealed “self-deception” and hypoc- risy. Such irony, A. W. Schlegel said, was a defense against “overcharged one-sidedness in matters of fancy and feeling.” He assumed that all intelligent people were relativists: by constant ironic qualification Shakespeare “makes a sort of secret understanding with ... the more intelligent of his readers or spectators; he shows them that he had previously seen and admit- ted the validity of their tacit objections” (Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature [1809-11], trans. John Black, rev. A. J. W. Morrison , pp. 369-70).
Friedrich Schlegel thought that all good modern literature would be ironic. But if its irony was to be endlessly relative, where would the final values of a modern work lie? In literature, as in life, they would reside in the comprehensiveness of the author's activity: a perfected work might be “limited at every point,” but in its inclusion of all contradictions it would be “without limitation and inexhaustible.” (For authorita- tive discussions of and references to F. Schlegel's scat- tered pronouncements, see Immerwahr, Wellek, and Muecke.)
Hegel was not impressed. Rather unfairly, he saw the new irony of the Schlegels as entirely negative. In literature it produced “insipid” characters having “neither content nor defined position.” In life itself, the Schlegelian ironist looked “down in his superior fashion on all other mortals,” some of whom his ironic gravity actually deceived; he denied and destroyed all that was “noble, great, and excellent” in the interest of freedom for the self; yet, because his freedom pro- hibited positive action and led nowhere, he was beset by morbid feelings of emptiness and boredom. In fact, in opposing “self-will” to objective moral truth, “this type of subjectivism... is evil through and through and universally.” (Capel's translation of Kierkegaard, Part II, Introduction, n. 7, gives a full list of references to Hegel's comments on irony.)
Actually, of course, the Schlegels' irony had also an objective side, one that was less reassuring, however, than Hegel's objective moral truth. Friedrich had found
it “strikingly ironic” that Der grosse Maschinist behind the chaos “finally discloses himself as a contemptible betrayer.” In not quite so disillusioned a way, this objective source of irony moved to the foreground in Solger's aesthetic. In Solger's view, the human artist created a beautiful work “just as the essence of God, in its non-actuality, reveals itself intact as the very core” of a human being. In both cases the idea inhabits a particular “thing.” For Solger the situation was ironic, because, on the one hand, although the “thing” appeared to suggest the infinite, it was really only a thing, and on the other hand, although the “infinite” appeared to transcend the thing, it could not really do so—it must inhabit finite reality. Schlegel's tension of opposites had become the “concrete universal,” the ironic symbol of a universe which intimated meanings that could not be reached in an eternal form. But at least in the artistic symbol “all contradictions annihi- late themselves”: irony is a unifying structure.
“Without irony,” then, “there is no art.” Considering the tension of opposites as moving rather than static, Solger found that irony “begins with the contemplation of the world's fate in the large”: “we suffer when we see the most elevating and noble ideals dissipated through their necessary earthly existence.” A. W. Schlegel had barred irony from the “proper tragic,” but for Solger satiric and “tragic irony” were simply different aspects of the irony common to all art: in the first, false ideals were destroyed; in the second, admirable ones, and the audience is not detached: “we suffer.” Although the dominant movement in both satiric and tragic irony was toward defeat, Solger saw an opposing comic movement arising out of destruc- tion, as had Friedrich Schlegel in his “self-creating alteration.” The very moment that breaks the brief union of idea and thing affirms both the value of the idea and the necessity of its embodiment. When Ham- let dies, Fortinbras must appear. (For discussions of and references to Solger's statements about irony, see Wellek, Mueller, pp. 225-26, Sedgewick, p. 17, and Strohschneider-Kohrs.)
Solger's version of irony Hegel accepted as a phase of his own famous dialectic, though it was only one phase: “that transition point which I call the infinite absolute negativity.” For Hegel Socratic irony was negative dialectic. Socrates' humble questioning had induced his interlocutor to state a definite proposition, from which Socrates then derived in one way or an-
other “the direct opposite of what the proposition stated.” In this conception, Socrates' irony was not so much mocking praise as dramatic irony in which ideas played the roles characters and events play in fiction. “Socratic irony..., like all dialectic, gives force to what is taken immediately, but only in order to allow the dissolution inherent in it to come to pass.” Since in the Hegelian system dialectic was deified as his- torical process, Hegel spoke of the negative moment in dialectic as “the universal irony of the world” (Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. E. S. Haldane , I, 400). And although he thought Solger's use of the phrase “tragic irony” was arbitrary, he himself called Socrates' “opposition of subjective reflection to morality as it exists” a “tragic irony,” meaning, in Kierkegaard's interpretation, “the irony of the world with Socrates.”
It soon became commonplace to think of the field of irony as life itself, and of mankind as the victim of a cosmic author. Heine spoke casually of the irony of God, the world, nature, fate, and even chance. The red cheeks of the elderly A. W. Schlegel, a parody of youth, were a “healthy irony of nature”; the incongru- ous juxtaposition of a Gothic cathedral with modern buildings was ironic. An “ironic remark” might now be, not in itself mocking, but simply the straight- forward observation of an ironic fact.
Bishop Connop Thirlwall, who believed in a just god, spelled out the two movements of irony, both in life and in Sophocles. In our personal lives we eagerly pursue objects which prove worthless; but we also dread changes which fulfill our “most ardent wishes.” In history “the moment of highest prosperity... immediately precedes the most ruinous disaster”; but the destruction of Greece spread Greek culture through the Roman world, the destruction of Rome was fol- lowed by Christianity. In Oedipus the King there is “the contrast between the appearance of good and the reality of evil”; Oedipus at Colonus “reverses that irony,” for Oedipus can here say, “Now, when all's lost, I am a man indeed.” Though he used only the term “tragic irony,” Thirlwall, apparently following Solger, extended the conception of irony into both tragic and comic situations in which the detachment of irony was overcome by sympathy for the victim. But the satiric aspect did not totally disappear; it remained as a qualification of the dominant feeling. Clytemnestra's “vindication of her own conduct... assumes a tone of self-mockery,” but “when we re- member that, while she is pleading, her doom is sealed, and that the hand which is about to execute it is already lifted above her head,” the tone becomes “deeply tragical.”
In his discussion of ambiguous language in Sophocles' tragedies, Thirlwall apparently established the association of the term “Sophoclean irony” with dialogue that means one thing to the speaker, another to author and audience, whose view of the situation is wider and truer. This sort of thing had been recognized as a common form of irony in satiric narrative; Thirlwall simply extended the field to tragedy. He also pointed out a type of tragedy that contains an ironic dilemma, such as the conflict of Antigone and Creon, “in which good and evil are... inextricably blended on each side.” The audience exhibits “a slight cast of irony in the grave, respectful attention impartially bestowed.” But Thirlwall admitted that it was sometimes easier for God to preserve such an attitude than it was for humans. When “we review the mockery of fate, we can scarcely refrain from a melancholy smile” (Philological Museum, Cambridge [1832-33], II, 483-537).
Whether as the questing romantic ego, the progress of world history, or a just god of some sort, the theorists of paradoxical irony had found a hopeful movement which preserved the balance of triumph and defeat. This was seen either as a human satiric norm counter- balancing an inhuman one, or as a comic movement counterbalancing the tragic. But when even these faiths receded, as for some nineteenth- and twentieth-century minds they did, the comic movement came to seem entirely deceptive, and the norm of satire became reduced to Nothing. Human values are only illusions. One result of this loss of faith was increasing notice of tragic irony. The other was that the idea of irony as counterbalancing sympathy with detachment began to isolate from the complex of paradoxical irony what may be called nihilistic irony, that peculiar merging of the satiric and the tragic adumbrated in Thirlwall's “melancholy smile.”
This view of irony became prominent in Heine, who “is repelled by the cold stars, and sinks down... toward our little earth.” God “is sometimes a greater satirist than Tieck.” In the “humoristic irony” of Don Quixote the “insane dignity” of the Don is made ridic- ulous by “fate,” yet that ridiculous fate shows us the “tragedy of our own nothingness.” Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida “is neither comedy nor tragedy ... there prevails in it an exultant bitterness, a world- mocking irony, such as we never met in the merriment of the comic muse. It is the tragic goddess who is very much more before us in this play, only that she here would fain be gay for once, and move to mirth. It is as if we saw Melpomene at a grisette ball, dancing the chahut, bold laughter on her pale lips and death in her heart.” (See Wellek, Vol. III, for references to Heine's comments on irony.)
As the nineteenth century wore on, the new ironies gradually moved to center stage. At the turn of the century Anatole France and Thomas Hardy especially were drawing the attention of a large audience to irony. By 1908 Alexander Blok could observe, “All the most lively and sensitive children of our century are stricken by a disease”—irony (quoted in Glicksberg, p. 3). In the 1920's France's “irony and pity” became a catch phrase. H. W. Fowler (1926) announced that “the irony of fate” was hackneyed, and I. A. Richards (1924) began that preoccupation with irony among English and American academic critics which has helped to make it a central idea in literary criticism throughout the world.
Tragic irony quickly established itself as an independent aspect of irony, and G. G. Sedgewick has asserted that it does not qualify the tragic feeling: “it heightens the sense of pity and terror.” Paradoxical and nihilistic irony have had a harder time disentangling themselves from each other, much to the confusion of criticism. The balanced relativism of paradoxical irony is clearly the core of Kierkegaard's “mastered irony,” the “philosophical irony” of Renan and France, Henry James's “full irony,” the “objective irony” of Thomas Mann, Richards' “balance of opposed impulses,”
William Empson's “double irony,” Cleanth Brooks' “a very different conception of irony,” and A. Zahareas' analysis (1963) of irony in Camus as nihilism counter-balanced by a stubborn determination to go on (Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 5, 319-28).
As an attitude toward life, paradoxical irony has been both praised and attacked. F. Paulhan (1909) argued at philosophical length that all moral values are relative and only the ironic attitude can give proportional weight to the demands of both society and the ego. Nietzsche thought the ironic attitude a sign of health (Beyond Good and Evil, 1886). The American Randolph Bourne (1913) believed that since the ironist does not absolutely reject any experience but is constantly contrasting and criticizing and moving on to new experiences, he has an “intense feeling of aliveness” and “the broad honest sympathy of democracy” (Atlantic Monthly, 111, 357-67). Attacks on this attitude have all resembled Hegel's attack on Schlegelian ethics: there is no absolute commitment to anything. So H. Chantavoine (1897) and H. Chevalier (1932) attacked Anatole France, Wayne Booth (1961) the elusive morality of modern novelists, and Jean-Paul Sartre adopted the ironic attitude as a model for analyzing self-deception or mauvaise foi (L'être et le néant, 1943).
The German romantics had tried to locate the unity and morality of paradoxical irony in its comprehensiveness, but, as J. C. Ransom (1941) observed, “opposites can never be said to be resolved or reconciled merely because they have been got into the same poem.” Several American critics have attempted to solve this problem in a Hegelian way by seeing para- doxical irony not as the expression of absolute relativ- ism, but as a dynamic learning process which produces tentative results. For Randolph Bourne irony was “the science of comparative experience” which “compares things not with an established standard but with each other”: values “slowly emerge from the process.” Cleanth Brooks, R. P. Warren, and Kenneth Burke have taken much the same position.
The quite different pattern of nihilistic irony has emerged elsewhere. In 1856 George Eliot commented on Heine's “strain of irony that repels our sympathy. ... Yet what strange, deep pathos is mingled with the audacity” (Westminster Review, n. s. 9, 1-33). The full pattern—a conception of reality as denying human values and the mingling of something like satiric detachment with something like tragic pathos—is evi- dent in a number of Baudelaire's uses of the word; in turn-of-the-century criticism of Laforgue's irony by Arthur Symons, Remy de Gourmont, and James Huneker; in discussions of the “cosmic irony” of Hardy and Housman; in Georges Palante's “metaphysical principle of irony”; in Irving Babbitt's notion of “ro- mantic irony,” a term that F. Schlegel had used only in his Notebooks but which has been frequently used by German scholars since Rudolf Haym's Romantische Schule (1870); in Morton Gurewitch's “European ro- mantic irony,” which he traces through Byron, Heine, Grabbe, Büchner, Leopardi, Flaubert, and Baudelaire; and in notice of the irony of the Absurd, frequent since World War II.
Many critics have commented on the despair and self-pity which nihilistic irony both expresses and in- duces, even at its most detached extreme. Discussing Madame Bovary, Flaubert insisted on his absolute ironic detachment as author; nevertheless, he expected the realism of his method to produce in his audience some identification with the characters, and he himself recognized, as Kenneth Burke remarked, a “funda- mental kinship with the enemy.” Waiting for Godot was farcical vaudeville, yet Ward Hooker (1960) pointed out that the play's “irony in a vacuum” had changed the “laughter of the audience... to sickening doubt... which spreads from the addled minds of Vladimir and Estragon to engulf the audience” (Kenyon Review, 22, 436-54). Few moral critics have risen to praise nihilistic irony, many to attack it: it is absolute for negation and despair.
The various types of satiric irony have been exhaus- tively analyzed by twentieth-century critics. In “The New Irony: Sicknicks and Others” (1961) Benjamin De Mott described a satiric irony based on nihilism as a positive norm, in the sense that it supplies a reason not for defeat and despair but for the ironist's ar- rogantly superior, ironic attack on “all positive asser- tion.” Comic irony has apparently received almost no attention as an independent aspect of irony, and the term itself has usually meant what is here called satiric irony. What little attention it has received has been as part of an overall complex of dramatic irony, which has been repeatedly analyzed in tragic drama by English and American critics following Thirlwall. Henry James drew attention to a novelistic form of dramatic irony: the difference between what an unreliable narrator or center of consciousness understands in what he tells or sees and what the author and audi- ence understand.
In the field of verbal irony, the analytic methods of rhetoric have been revived and intensified in the criti- cal practice of William Empson, Cleanth Brooks, and their followers, now equipped with all the new ideas of irony as well as the old. Such criticism has found ironic incongruity in the minutest degree of difference between meanings. For Brooks, “every word in a good poem acknowledges to some degree the pressure of the context” and is therefore ironic. In France, Vladimir Jankélévitch (1936) had asserted much the same argument in terms of irony as allegory: all language, indeed, is more or less allegorical. R. S. Crane (1952) observed that in this sense even a mathematical equation is ironic.
In Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (1905), Freud, thinking of verbal irony as satiric, asserted that in the listener such irony produces “comic pleasure, probably by causing him to make preparations for contradiction, which are immediately found to be un- necessary.” That is, the audience of satiric irony reacts as would the victim of comic irony. Thinking of irony as paradoxical, Richards, although not entirely satisfied with a “switchboard” psychology, located the satis- faction of the audience in a static “balance of opposed impulses.” In regard to the author, Freud asserted that irony as saying the opposite of what one means paral- lels the dream, which “delights in representing a pair of opposites by means of one and the same composite image” or “changes an element from the dream- thoughts into its opposite.” This notion seems to have been behind Norman Brown's “law of irony” by which it could be shown that the “partially disclaimed thought is Swift's own thought” (Life Against Death, 1959), and Norman Holland's definition of irony as “a defense mechanism in which the ego turns the object of a drive into its opposite” (Dynamics of Literary Response, 1968).
Irony has continued to appear in fields of observation outside literature. It has been analyzed in music and the visual arts, notably by Ortega y Gasset (1925), Jankélévitch, and Muecke. Goethe's observation that the truths of science should be viewed ironically has reoccurred, and Heisenberg's Principle of Indetermin- acy has reinforced it for Muecke and Arthur Miller: it is “dialectical irony that the act of measurement itself changes the particle being measured” (Collected Plays, 1957). In the field of politics, the attitude of paradoxical irony has been recommended by Proudhon (Confes- sions d'un révolutionnaire, 1849), Palante (1906), Mann (1918), and Reinhold Niebuhr (1952): it frees the political activist from fanatical attachment to any one cause, thereby keeping the door to progress open. Both Niebuhr and Kenneth Burke have used paradoxical irony as a model for analyzing history. Niebuhr revived the Christian view of Thirlwall—God “resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble”; Burke took the Hegelian position that history is an ironic dialectic in which no cultural movement ever disappears—only the balance changes (Grammar of Motives, 1945).
The most important recent theory of irony is that of Northrop Frye, whose Anatomy of Criticism (1957) absorbed virtually all the available ideas of irony into a total structure of human thought and vision. Even here, however, satiric irony was not clearly distin- guished from comic irony.
CULTURE IS hard to define and even harder to change. Beneath the surface solemnities of politics and the exigencies of economics lurks the intricate web of habits and rituals, practices and privileges, that we call culture. In its overt manifestations, culture may seem a docile tool, or perhaps an efficient vehicle for political change. In reality, culture has the capacity not only to survive upheaval in the halls of power but also to gradually and inexorably alter the nature of governance, molding politics in its enduring patterns. More than once in Iran’s history, after the country was vanquished by outsiders—from Arabs to Mongols—the culture of the conquered survived and eventually molded the customs of the victors to its own pattern. It is hard to imagine that the 1979 revolution will be an exception to this enduring reality.
In that upheaval of some thirty years ago, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini surprisingly emerged as the leader of the unwieldy and incongruent coalition of cultural forces that united to overthrow the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In the months leading up to the revolution, Khomeini used remarkable discipline to conveniently hide his true theocratic, antimodern cultural paradigm, feigning instead support for the democratic, nationalist and leftist values and aspirations that defined the demands of the 1979 revolution. Once ensconced in power, however, Khomeini famously declared that the revolution was not carried out for economic gains but for pious ends. The economy, he said, “is for donkeys.” Creating a new Islamic society, fashioning new men and women based on an Islamic model that had been perfected in the prophetic era of Muhammad some fourteen centuries earlier, finally discarding the cultural values of modernity was, he now claimed, the real goal of the revolution.
Now even regime stalwarts concede that this project of cultural remodeling has failed miserably. And the failure, along with its incumbent cultural fluidity and political instability, is in no small measure the result of the resilient societal ethos dominant in Iran on the eve of the revolution.
IT HAS become something of a commonplace to say that for more than a thousand years Iran has been defined by a bifurcated, tormented, even schizoid cultural identity: pre-Islamic, Persian-Zoroastrian elements battling with forces and values of an Arab Islamic culture. The paisley, easily the most recurrent image in the Persian iconographic tradition, is said to capture this tormented division. It represents the cedar tree that Zoroaster planted in heaven which was bent by the winds of Islamic hegemonic culture. Adapting in this way has been the key to the ability of Iranian culture to survive marauding tribes and invading armies. But Iran and its heavenly cedar bend only to lash back to their upright gait when immediate danger has passed and occasion for reasserting traditional values has arisen.
Some scholars have gone so far as to argue that even Shiism—since the sixteenth century the dominant and “official” religion of Iran—is in its fundamental structure nothing but a form of Iranian nationalism. Recent remarks by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, that Iran’s leaders in the last thirty years are all, in fact, Arabs and that their claims of being descendants of the prophet (symbolized by the black turbans they wear) reassert their Arab blood show clearly the continuing tensions between Persian identity and the Islamism of the rest of the Shia Middle East. Nasrallah needs to convince his followers thus that these Arab brothers have left nothing of a “Persian culture” to survive. These controversial comments indicate both the prevalence among ordinary Arabs of this view that Shiism might be an “un-Islamic invention”—and Iranian in origin. To justify his fealty to the country’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Nasrallah had to first make him an Arab.
For much of the twentieth century, these two cultural elements have been at war for domination in Iran. In power from 1925 until 1979, Reza Shah Pahlavi and then his son Mohammad Reza Shah tried to accentuate the pre-Islamic component of the country’s heritage and dilute the Islamic element. The shah’s infamously lavish celebration of two thousand five hundred years of monarchy in 1971—the international glitterati were invited, food was flown in from Maxim’s de Paris, and the ruins of Persepolis were used as a backdrop and a reminder of days of glory gone by—was more than anything intended to accentuate this imperial, pre-Islamic past. Even the country’s calendar was changed. The year 1355 in Iran’s Islamic calendar (or 1976 CE) suddenly became 2535. The beginning of the Islamic calendar went back to the journey of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, from Mecca to Medina, while the new imperial time sought its genesis in the alleged birthday of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. As the tumult of the revolution began only two years later, in a gesture of concession to the opposition, the calendar was changed yet again. But neither the hubris of retuning the clock on a whim—earlier tried by the likes of Maximilien de Robespierre in France and Vladimir Lenin in the Soviet Union—nor hackneyed concessions to the opposition could alter the stubborn realities of Iran’s bifurcated culture, formed and ingrained over centuries.
No sooner had Ayatollah Khomeini and his clerical allies seized power than they not only began to reverse the pre-Islamic ardor of the Pahlavi era but they also moved to the other extreme, trying to dilute, diminish and at times altogether erase from cultural memory evidence of Iran’s non-Islamic past. Jahiliyyah, or the age of darkness, has long been a concept used by Islamist historians and ideologues to derisively describe what exists in a society before the advent of Islam. Now some fifteen hundred years of Iran’s imperial era was disparaged and diminished as jahiliyyah. In the early days of the revolution, some of the more ardent new Islamist victors moved to destroy Persepolis (and were forced to cease their destructive plans only in the face of stiff opposition both domestically and internationally), while one of Khomeini’s closest confidants, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, the man infamously known as the “hanging judge”—a title he had deservedly earned for his role in the judicial murder of hundreds of ancient-regime leaders and the new-regime opponents—dismissed Cyrus as a sodomite Jew, hardly worthy of veneration by a pious nation. Even today, thirty years after the victory of the revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s zealots are taking their ideological hammer to the texts taught in Iranian schools, hoping to erase from the annals of history any sign of pagan “royal historiography.”
The clerics even tried to fight some of the most venerable rites and rituals of the nation. For a time, they focused their attention on eliminating, or at least diminishing in value, the ancient Persian habit of celebrating the vernal equinox as their new year (Nowruz). In retrospect, this anti-Nowruz crusade began even before the 1979 revolution, when in the sixties and seventies religious forces made a concerted effort to replace Nowruz with other religious holidays and feasts. While in those days many in society participated in these religious ceremonies only to spite the regime, since 1979 the tables have turned. Now, celebrating Nowruz is an easy way to show your sentiments about the ruling clerics. The clerical leaders have apparently reconciled themselves to the reality that they have failed in their crusade against the celebration. But their quixotic efforts at delegitimizing Persian habits have not ended. For the last three decades, they have also tried to dissuade the Iranian people from their ritualistic habit of jumping over fires on the last Wednesday of each year—said to symbolize the hope and desire to burn away the past twelve months’ troubles and travails. Even as late as 2010, Khamenei issued a new fatwa declaring the practice heresy and a form of fire worship. Yet both traditions are more alive and celebrated today than ever before. When a regime politicizes all cultural and personal practices, as do the clerics in Iran, then every facet of the culture, every gesture of personal behavior, every sartorial statement (from women’s defiant refusal to wear the forced veil to men’s insistence on wearing ties or shaving their faces) becomes a form of dissent and resistance.
The Persian language, spoken by a majority of Iran’s multiethnic society, and long considered a bastion of Iranian nationalism, has not been immune from the vicissitudes of this culture war either. While much was made of cleansing the Persian language of any Arabic words and influence during the Pahlavi era, Ayatollah Khomeini and his allies made an equally concentrated and futile attempt to infuse the language with more and more Arabic words, phrases and even grammatical structures. For them, Arabic is the language of God and of the Koran, while to the Iranian nationalists it is a detested tool of Arab and Islamic cultural invasion. Just as the effort to create a new “Islamic society” has failed, the attempt to introduce Arabic into the Persian language has also been unsuccessful. Not only is the Persian vernacular today replete with new, cleverly constructed Persian words, but a whole generation of parents are increasingly moving away from naming their children after religious figures, opting instead for names from Iran’s mytho-history, or newly minted names conjured or coined from the Persian vocabulary. In this sense, then, the 1979 revolution was only a moment in the centuries-old culture war to define the soul of Iran; yet another attempt in the long line of efforts to eliminate or diminish in influence certain components of the country’s bifurcated identity.
ADDING TO the complexity of this cultural dualism has been the temptation of modernity. For more than a century, Iran has faced the challenges of an increasingly global modernity—an interrelated set of changes that radically alter a society’s notions of self, identity, politics, economy, spirituality and aesthetic. Culture became the arena in which these battles were most intensely fought. Every discursive realm, from poetry and painting to sermons and stories, turned into at once “instruments” and loci of contention in a culture war between different narratives of selfhood and individual and collective identity.
In response to these formidable challenges, four starkly different cultural and political paradigms, each supporting or rejecting modernity from its own prism and based on its own set of axioms and ideals, emerged. All were vying for domination on the eve of the 1979 revolution. In a sense, the shah was “unkinged” by the very cultural forces he helped to create. He was himself an advocate of Western modernization, even modernity. He supported a woman’s right to vote and the right of religious minorities to practice their faiths (affording unprecedented assistance to Iran’s Jews and Baha’is in particular). He facilitated increased contact with the West, and the training of a large technocratic class, and finally offered patronage and support for experimentation with forms of art, all of course predicated on the society’s acceptance of his patriarchic, authoritarian personal rule.
In the last decade of his reign, inspired by the cultural sensibilities of his wife, Farah Pahlavi, a student of architecture before becoming queen, the shah’s stern political paradigm was accompanied by a well-supported effort to preserve hitherto-ignored elements of Iran’s cultural tradition. Everything from establishing an office entrusted with the task of finding and preserving classics of Persian music to attempts to renovate or preserve gems of Persian architecture flourished under the queen’s patronage and support.
Throughout the seventies, in the Shiraz Arts Festival, some of the most cutting-edge thespians and playwrights in the world put on radical and innovative shows. British director Peter Brook and his Polish contemporary Jerzy Grotowski brought their new experimental productions to the city. Conservative clergy attacked these performances as lewd and lascivious, intended to undermine “Islamic moral values,” yet they were not the only critics of this display. On the other side, the democratic and leftist opposition (which embraced modernity’s values through its support of the “rights of man”) dismissed the festival as the futile and expensive facade of tolerance created by an oppressive regime. For them, the shah’s authoritarianism, his “dependence” on the West and his “original sin” of participating in the 1953 CIA-backed removal of then–Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from power, trumped in value any cultural freedoms his regime offered or supported.
While the leftist, centrist and clerical opposition to the shah “overdetermined” politics to the detriment of cultural freedoms, the ruler, for his part, failed to understand what increasingly became the clear iron law of culture: men (and women) do not live by bread alone, and when a society is introduced into the ethos of modernity—from the rule of reason and women’s suffrage to the idea of natural rights of citizens and the notion of a community joined together by social contract and legitimized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s popular will—then it will invariably demand its democratic rights. That society will not tolerate the authoritarian rule of even a modernizing monarch capable of delivering impressive economic development. The shah tried to treat the people of Iran as “subjects” and expected their gratitude for the cultural freedoms and economic advancement he had “given” them. But he, and his father (and before them, the participants in the Constitutional Revolution at the turn of the twentieth century), had helped develop a new cultural disposition by creating a parliament and a system of law wherein the people considered themselves citizens and thought of these liberties as their right—not as gifts benevolently bestowed upon them.
FOR IF cultural and economic modernity, minus democracy, was the essence of the shah’s paradigm, the second-most-powerful cultural model of modernity was advocated by a disproportionately large segment of the Iranian intelligentsia. Though divided in aspects of their aesthetic and cultural sensibilities, advocates of this second paradigm included a wide variety of poets, scholars and historians who championed the idea of citizenship in a modern, democratic polity where rule of law was to be the only mode of adjudicating differences. Identity was, in this system, at once both individual and national. They advocated a modernity that was invariably “Westophile” in its disposition, looking to the Enlightenment, modernism and other Western aesthetic developments for at least part of their inspiration. They were thus culturally more or less on the same side of history as the shah and his modernizing efforts. Yet, steeped as many of these artists and scholars were in what Isaiah Berlin called the Russian concept of intelligentsia, and thereby believing that the necessary posture of an artist was criticism of the status quo, they saw the shah and his regime as an obstacle to, if not an enemy of, progress. The literary and scholarly efforts of this group cemented a sense of Iranian cultural identity. But they were often dismissed and at times harassed by the Pahlavi regime. Limits on their creativity, begot by the shah’s authoritarianism, only added to the schism between advocates of this paradigm and the Iranian ruler.
And within this paradigm was forged the uneasy relationship with the West still present in the battle to reconcile Iranian identity—particularly the pre-Islamic elements—with Enlightenment values. It may be masked beneath the heavy shroud of the current theocratic regime, but it lies in wait. Montesquieu might well have been the first to recognize the inherent difficulties of this sort of resolution when, in his Persian Letters, he asked how one can be at once modern and Persian. Indeed, among the advocates of a democratic polity—no less influential but far less famous—were the often self-effacing scholars, poets, historians, writers and musicians who in those years worked hard to discover, preserve, publish and display critical, often-ignored elements of Iran’s imperial era as well as its post-Islamic cultural heritage. Their efforts were indispensable to the emergence of a new form of Iranian cultural modernity that was less awed and intimidated by the West and more inclined to infuse into their work usable elements of Iran’s own tradition. From music and architecture to painting and poetry, there was initially a rush to reproduce in Iran the styles and forms that were popular in the West. But by the late sixties and early seventies, something fundamental happened to many advocates of this Westophile modernity; they forsook their earlier attempts at simply imitating the works of Western masters and began an eventful age of the “return” to native roots. Transcending the tradition of old and incorporating it into the best the West had to offer, rather than simply emulating the Western way of life, became the motto of this new Iranian ethos.
Many cultural fields witnessed this profound process of looking inward while innovating. Actor Parviz Sayyad and filmmaker Bahram Beizai, for example, took the traditional forms of Ta’ziyeh—religious musical pageantry and passion plays—and fashioned out of them a modernist interpretation that attracted the attention of many of the theater world’s most inventive directors and playwrights. Sayyad not only worked hard to preserve these traditional plays but also created for television some of the most memorable characters of modern Persian media. His Samad—a guileful peasant, ill at ease in his new urban surroundings but more than willing to milk his situation for all he could—was uncanny in capturing the pathos and pathologies in the “drama of modernization” that social scientists have long written about. And the cinematic displays of the likes of Ebrahim Golestan’s Asrar ganj dareheye jenni,or Mysteries of the Treasure at Ghost Valley (describing the destructive transformations in the life of a man who suddenly discovers a wealth of artifacts buried under his field), were prescient in anticipating the revolution and underscoring the cultural dislocations that defined Iran on the eve of the uprising. Golestan’s “man,” and his tragicomic effort to “modernize” his house by simply buying the accoutrements of a contemporary life, was an unmistakable allusion to the shah’s inability to wisely manage the sudden surge of income.
After the revolution, more than once, artists and intellectuals have similarly used myths and metaphors to underscore the implied, but now abrogated, contract between the clergy and the people. Khomeini had promised to go to a seminary once the shah was overthrown, thereby relinquishing any role in ruling Iran. He also promised to prevent any clergy from seizing the levers of power. But once the revolution was won, he breached that contract. Today, every post of importance is divided between some three hundred top clerics in the country. The Sufi tale of Sheikh Sanaan was cleverly used by one assaying to describe and deride this abrogation. In the original story, the sheikh fell in love with the Christian daughter of a pig farmer—something that should have been anathema to him as a Muslim. In the revived and revised account, the sheikh falls in love with Power—and her temptations lead him to forget every one of his promises.
Much the same can be said of a whole genre of “film-farsi” that developed in the seventies. These movies were known for the crass and primitive quality of their production, the archetypal simplicity of their stories—rich girl meets poor boy, family objects, problems arise and then a happy ending follows. Within a few years, even some of these popular films were beginning to delve into “social issues,” showing a culture of vigilantism and at times even nascent hints of newly assertive religiosity. Since the revolution, the enormous popularity of these “film-farsi” among the urban poor has made them into one of the favorite vehicles for pedagogy in the hands of the clerical regime. Hundreds of films, extolling “martyrdom” and describing the stories of war, have been made in the last two decades. The great divide between these highly popular but aesthetically crass movies and the tradition of art-house productions was in fact one aspect of the chasm that divided the preoccupations of the intelligentsia and the cultural habits of the masses under the shah. Today, too, serious Iranian filmmakers—from Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi to Abbas Kiarostami and Tahmineh Milani—are creating works that are often only shown in international film festivals and deftly defy and transcend the pious shibboleths promoted by the regime’s own sanctioned cinema.
INDEED, ALONG with these aesthetic and intellectual developments, the needs of the “ordinary” Iranian have also long vied for dominance in Iran’s complicated encounter with modernity. In a country whose modernization was fashioned with petrodollars and controlled by the elites, it is no surprise then that Marxism should find itself as the third paradigm of modernity. Though by the mid-seventies there were numerous small groups and sects with varying versions of Marxism as their mottoes, the clearly dominant form was Stalinism, with its emphasis on a “statist” economy run by a totalitarian party and inclined not toward the West but the Soviet empire. Like Stalin, these Iranian Marxists also believed that culture was an auxiliary of the economy. Change the economic base, Stalin had opined, and the culture will change with it. Moreover, inspired by the same Russian tradition of “social criticism” and “committed art,” Iranian Marxists too believed that all cultural productions were nothing but instruments of the class struggle. Form was subservient to content; simple, even simpleminded cultural artifacts, supposedly understandable to the masses, were preferred over “decadent” bourgeois productions that privileged form and aesthetic excellence.
The animosity of most of these Marxists toward the shah was driven as much by dictates of theory—the discourse of imperialism and colonialism, and the shah as their “lackey” if not “client”—as by exigencies of their “big brother,” the Soviet Union. Their surprising support for Khomeini had the same roots. They saw in the religious leader an Aleksandr Kerensky, who lost his leadership to Lenin, and believed they would inherit or grab the power Khomeini would prove incapable of managing. Moreover, toppling the shah was seen by the Soviet Union as a first step in curtailing America’s influence in the region. Finally, striking structural similarities between Khomeini’s Shiism and this form of Marxism—their belief in a messiah, their claim to a monopoly on truth, their willingness to sacrifice the individual for the greater good, their eschatological view of history, their belief that the truly pious or revolutionary are invariably in the minority, their disparagement of liberal democracy, their Machiavellian willingness to use any means necessary to achieve their ends, their peculiar epistemology where a quote from sacred texts is used in lieu of rational arguments—created a cultural consanguinity between radical Shiism and Stalinist Marxists. Politics, they say, makes strange bedfellows; authoritarian politics, like the reality of Iran in the seventies, begets monstrously ill-conceived alliances to achieve the superficially common goal of ending despotism. And thus it was that advocates of the Marxist and the secular-democratic cultural paradigms of modernity formed an alliance against the shah, who advocated his own iteration of the same paradigm. Even more strangely, this incongruent coalition chose as its leader Ayatollah Khomeini, easily the most fervent enemy of modernity in contemporary Iran.
FACED WITH the inexorable challenge of modernity, Shiism in the twentieth century in fact split into two different camps, some trying to reconcile it with democracy and rationalism, while others, led by Khomeini, rejected nearly every cultural component of modernity as a colonial construct. In a sense, this was the fourth critical cultural paradigm in Iran’s encounter with modernity. The other three offered different ways of embracing change, while this version provided reasons why the whole temptation of the progressive era should be ignored and overcome. Ayatollah Khomeini and his small band of cohorts criticized nationalism and denigrated individualism as a ploy of colonialism. Instead, they advocated “brotherhood” in an internationalist “ummah,” or spiritual community of the believers. As early as 1944, with the publication of his book Kashf al-Asrar (Solving Mysteries), Khomeini offered a paradigm of politics and culture that not only dismissed modernity and much of the modernization project, but fought on two religious fronts as well. On the one hand, he took issue with clerics who advocated a “quietist” interpretation of Shiism like his mentor and teacher, Ayatollah Hairi, and Ayatollah Kazem Shariat-Madari (easily the most influential and senior cleric inside Iran in 1978) who believed the clergy must limit their interventions in politics and instead attend to the spiritual demands of the flock. At the same time, Ayatollah Khomeini fought against Islamist reformists—most notably Ali Shariati and his attempt to eclectically mix Marx, Freud, Sartre, Fanon, Che and Islam—who wanted Shiism stripped of its superstition and anachronistic rituals.
While the shah was busy fighting the cultural influence of the Left, and while the Left, ever self-congratulatory in its exaggeration of its own importance and influence, flirted with the clergy as “allies” in the anti-imperialist struggle, Khomeini and his cohorts worked quietly to enhance their own influence and strengthen their labyrinthine network of groups, mosques, neighborhood “mourning” committees and even professional organizations. They used this vast network to dominate the democratic movement that emerged in 1978 in Iran. Khomeini’s concealment of his true intentions just before the revolution, as well as his ability to portray himself both to the majority in Iran and even to the American embassy in Tehran as a proponent of democracy, allowed for the formation of the unwieldy alliance of advocates and foes of modernity against the shah’s authoritarianism.
THE COALITION that overthrew the shah brought together technocrats and merchants of the bazaar, members of the urban middle class and much of the working classes, along with the women’s movement, labor unions, students, forces of the Left and the clergy. Yet no sooner had Khomeini come to power than the coalition broke apart; the clergy successfully sidelined secular leftist and centrist factions. With Khomeini’s seizure of control, and with clerical despotism increasing its total grip on power, Iran entered a period of political strife and instability. Since 1979, disillusioned advocates of democracy and modernity have continued their sometimes overt, other times covert struggle to realize the democratic dream. For in this theocratic version of Iran, the cultural influences of its Persian past and its adaptation of those influences with the political and economic rights of man have been subsumed by the Arab Islamism foreign to the vibrant intellectual struggle of this nation to free itself of monarchical and autocratic forces. But this culture war continues to play out in the background of politics—the ethos of the “conquered” people working quietly but relentlessly to subvert, change and eventually replace the alien culture of their usurping rulers.
And this current manifestation was clear during the June 2009 uprising. Once again, that same democratic coalition that formed a foolhardy alliance with the clerical regime—and now numerically stronger than ever but still denied a chance to organize itself politically—came together to invigorate what Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his conservative allies hoped would be an anemic presidential campaign by a dour, uncharismatic Mir Hussein Moussavi. But the remarkable surge of social energy in support of Moussavi forced the conservatives to steal the election for Ahmadinejad. And then suddenly, the country’s seemingly docile population rose up around a beguilingly simple slogan: Where is my vote? In Tehran alone, 3 million people marched in remarkable discipline to demand their democratic rights. Their slogan pithily captured in a mere four words the hundred-year-old dream of modernity and democracy in Iran. Using thugs and guns, prison and torture, the ayatollah has so far succeeded in intimidating the people back into their homes. But a critical look at the past shows the bleak future of Khamenei and other champions of despotism. Violence can only delay but not destroy the rights of man in a nation that has embraced the cultural ethos of modernity. The hushed, brutalized quiet of today is at best a prelude to the liberating storms of tomorrow.
Abbas Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University, where he is also the codirector of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution. His book, The Shah, was published in January 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan.
Yassir Arafat made off with a few billion, while his poor successor has had to make do only with hundreds of millions (but how well that son of Mahmoud Abbas seems to be doing in Qatar!) . Assorted babangidas in Nigeria -- the Muslim rulers of the country -- customarily make off with a billion or two apiece. made off with a billion or two. Idi Amin -- how much did he squirrel away to pay for his room and board in Saudi Arabia? And how much did Bokassa spend on that ceremony in which he made himself an Emperor?
Now comes the news that not only is Omar Al-Bashir a mass-murderer, wanted for war crimes, but also has helped himself to nine billion dollars of his impoverished nation's oil wealth. In this respect, he has those great models across the Red Sea -- the rulers of various Arab states, such as the Al-Saud, who not only named a country after themselves,but have helped themselves to a cool trillion or so of that nation's oil wealth, or the As-Sabah of Kuwait, the Al-Thani of Qatar, the Al-Nayhan of Abu Dhabi, the Al-Maktoum of Dubai. They all help themselves. Of course, these sheilets are tiny countries, with tiny populations, and so the tens or hundreds of billions diverted to the use of the ruling families apparently isn't missed. But in Sudan, where millions have been deliberately starved to death by the Muslim Arabs of the North, nine billion dollars might have made a difference.
Here is the story:
WikiLeaks: Sudan's president 'stashed $9 billion'
Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, is suspected of siphoning off $9 billion from his country's oil boom and depositing much of it in British banks, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
A leaked cable suggests that Omar al-Bashir may have siphoned off $9 billion from his country's oil boomPhoto: AP
The claims came from Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Court who has accused Mr Bashir of genocide and war crimes in Darfur.
He suggested that Lloyds Banking Group, which is partly government-owned, was either holding some of the funds or knew its whereabouts.
"Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a 'crusader' to that of a thief," a senior diplomat wrote.
"Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money."
Lloyds last night denied the claims. "We have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds Banking Group and Mr Bashir," the bank said. "The group's policy is to abide by the legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions in which we operate."
Mr Ocampo made his comments shortly after an international arrest warrant was issued for Mr Bashir, the first time the court has pursued a serving head of state. The Sudanese embassy dismissed the claims as "ludicrous" and "laughable" and part of a political agenda to discredit Mr Bashir.
The cables also report Chinese opposition to pursuing Mr Bashir because of its oil interests in Sudan. The claims come less than a month before a sensitive independence referendum in southern Sudan.
In other documents released by the WikiLeaks site last night, US officials described European human rights standards as an "irritant". Terence Davis, the now retired British secretary general, was dismissed as an "unpopular lame duck" and "devoid of vision". He had annoyed US officials for his opposition to secret renditions and prisons for terror suspects.
Facing deportation to Algeria, Harkat says he's 'dying inside'
By Don Butler, Postmedia NewsDecember 11, 2010
Sophie Harkat (left) and Mohamed Harkat tell of their distress on Friday over a court decision that means Mohamed may be deported to Algeria. He says he will be tortured or killed there.
When the Federal Court branded Mohamed Harkat a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network Thursday, he turned to his wife Sophie and said, "I am dying inside."
Sophie Harkat recounted the moment at an emotional news conference Friday, punctuated by hugs and sobs from her, her husband and their supporters.
Thursday's 186-page decision by Federal Court Judge Simon Noel means Harkat, 42, who has lived in Ottawa since September 1995, faces the prospect of being deported to his native Algeria where, he contends, he will be tortured or killed.
A federal immigration officer must now assess whether Harkat faces a significant risk of torture if deported to Algeria, and whether that is outweighed by the danger he poses to Canada.
Sophie Harkat called the court's decision "a punch in the guts that will leave marks for a very long time. Never in a million years did we ever expect a judgment like this.
"Our plans for the future have been destroyed in an instant. We will never, ever accept this judgment."
Harkat himself, who repeatedly dabbed his eyes with tissue throughout the hour-long news conference, continued to proclaim his innocence.
"I explained all my life from A to Z. I wasn't hiding something," he said of his testimony at his trial.
"I can't sleep, I can't think straight. I have a pain in my side. I'm really devastated," Harkat said.
His lawyer, Norm Boxall [of the same firm, Bayne, Boxall, that is defending Hassan Diab -- they seem to have a line in this], said Harkat was convicted almost entirely on secret information that neither he nor his lawyers were allowed to see. [and given the need in delaing with an unprecedented internal threat from Muslims all over the Western world, and thus the need to protect sources and methods, it's a good thing too]
"We will be doing everything we can to challenge this judgment," he vowed.
In his judgment, Noel concluded that the government position "on almost all of the allegations made against Mr. Harkat must be accepted."
He dismissed Harkat's sworn testimony as simplistic, dishonest and misleading.
Momin Khawaja Appeals, Gets His Sentence Increased To Life
Ontario court denies Khawaja appeal, increases sentence to life in prison By Fred Sherwin
The Ontario Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by convicted Orléans terrorist Momin Khawaja to have his sentence of 10 1/2 years reduced, and instead imposed a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Khawaja was found guilty on seven charges including building an explosive device for criminal purposes in November, 2008 and was subsequently sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison in March 2009.
The charges were all related to a 2004 bomb plot in London, England. Khawaja communicated and visited with the conspirators on several occasions and was in the process of making a remote detonating device for the group when he was arrested in March, 2004.
While the Crown was able to earn a conviction on most of the charges, they were not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Khawaja knew the device he had been working on was going to be used in the London bomb plot. His defence attorney, Lawrence Greenspon, contended that Khawaja thought the device would be used in the war in Afghanistan.
In handing down its ruling, the Ontario Court of Appeal wasn't concerned about the intended use of the detonating device, only that Khawaja made it with the knowledge that it would be used in a terrorist act.
“The appellant was an active member of a terrorist group whose singular goal was to eradicate western culture and civilization and establish Islamic dominance wherever possible," the judges wrote in their decision. "He was prepared to go anywhere and do anything for the violent Jihadist cause."
"The record reflects a complete absence of contrition or remorse... (He) was a willing participant in an activity that he knew was likely to result in the indiscriminant killing of innocent human beings on a potential massive scale. It’s hard to imagine a more odious inchoate crime."
In conclusion the judges decided that Khawaja's original sentence was "manifestly unfit" given his crime and therefore imposed a maximum sentence of life in prison.How this will effect his ability to apply for parole is unclear.
When Justice Douglas Rutherford handed down his sentence in March, 2009, the time to be served did not include the five years Khawaja had already spent in jail. However, Rutherford did rule that Khawaja could apply for parole after serving at least half of the sentence.
In handing down his sentence, Rutherford rejected an application by the defence to give Khawaja a 2-for-1 credit for time served. If he had upheld the application, Khawaja would have been eligible for parole this year.
In their application to the Ontario Court of Appeal, Khawaja's defence lawyers had asked that the 2-for-1 provision be implemented. Not only did they reject their application, they expanded on Rutherford's ruling and in some cases went above and beyond his findings.
For instance, they ruled that it was up to the defence to prove that the armed conflict in Afghanistan was not in keeping with the norms of International Law, meaning that detonating an improvised exploding devices was a normal military tactic and not a terrorist act.
During a press conference held in his office on Friday, Greenspon expressed his disappointment over the court's ruling.
"We are extremely disappointed with the result and we expect Mr. Khawaja will be as well," said Greenspon, who was especially upset with the Court of Appeals decision to increase Khawaja's sentence to life on the basis of his intent when he was acquitted on the charge of building a detonation device for the purpose of being used in a plot to bomb civilians.
"The big picture is you have a court of appeal sentencing Momin Khawaja to life on the basis of having committed terrorism in relation to the explosive devices when trial judge specifically acquited him of that offence," said Greenspon who plans to advise his client to appeal the Ontario court's decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"We are disappointed, so we will be recommending that Mr. Khawaja seek leave to appeal to the Surpeme Court," said Greenspon.
Classic Los-De-Abajo Caudillo One Step Closer To Permanent One-Man Rule
Venezuela: Lawmakers Give Chávez Decree Powers
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The National Assembly granted President Hugo Chávez broad powers on Friday to enact laws by decree, undermining the power of a new Congress that takes office next month with a bigger opposition bloc. Mr. Chávez, left, has argued that he needs decree powers to fast-track financing to help the victims of recent floods and landslides, and to hasten the transition to socialism. His opponents condemned the move as a power grab, saying the law will be a blank check for Mr. Chávez to lead without consulting lawmakers. The assembly approved the powers for 18 months.
Naive American Hopes Dashed Yet Again In Iraq --Shi'a-Run Government Will Not Integrate Sunni Militias
Program to integrate Sunnis in security forces imperiled
December 17, 2010
Lara Jakes, The Associated Press
BAGHDAD – A broad plan to absorb Sunni Muslim militiamen, who sided with U.S. forces to battle al-Qaeda in Iraq, into national security forces or government jobs is at risk of being derailed by lukewarm political support and limited funding, officials say.
MAYA ALLERUZZO/The Associated Press
Sunni militiamen work at a checkpoint in Samarra, Iraq. U.S. military leaders want to see thousands of militiamen like these placed in Iraqi military or police forces.
Integrating the militias, known as Awakening Councils or the Sons of Iraq, is a key concern for Iraq's Sunni minority, which feels it has been squeezed out of power by the Shiite majority and ignored despite its role in fighting the insurgency. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is already struggling to show he can create an inclusive government after barely garnering enough support to keep his job.
Iraqi military officials put together a 17-point draft plan that is by far the broadest proposal yet to help the estimated 51,900 Sunni fighters who sided with U.S. forces at the height of Iraq's insurgency. Their support created a crucial turning point in the war.
The plan, dated Sept. 5, has the support of U.S. military leaders, who want to see the Sons of Iraq taken care of before U.S. troops leave the country by the end of 2011.
Among the provisions are plans for nearly 24,000 fighters – those with high school educations – to be placed in the Iraqi military or police forces. Those with university degrees would be given federal ministry jobs, while those with elementary school education would be offered jobs in local or provincial governments.
But al-Maliki's advisers say local officials and the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry are pushing back, claiming they don't have the budgets to hire the thousands of new personnel. As a result, the advisers say, the plan won't work.
"This plan was written by someone who is dreaming and doesn't know the real situation on the ground," said Zuhair al-Chalabi, the head of a federal committee that al-Maliki formed to integrate the militiamen. "We have met with governors, and some of them don't even want to hear the name Sons of Iraq."
Al-Chalabi said that the prime minister "knows about all these problems and obstacles, and he is still committed to resolving them."
The slowness in dealing with the militias has been a sore spot for Sunnis.
Nothing has been done to advance the militiamen's integration since March elections, and Sons of Iraq militiamen continue to be targeted almost daily by Sunni insurgents who call them traitors.
Iraqi intelligence officials say that a small number of militiamen – about a half of 1 percent – have rejoined al-Qaeda or other extremist groups that pay them more reliably than the government.