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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Real Nature of Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
As Far As The Eye Can See
by Moshe Dann
Threats of Pain and Ruin
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

Monday, 24 November 2014
Sharia law guidelines abandoned as Law Society apologises

From The Telegraph

The Law Society has withdrawn controversial guidelines for solicitors on how to compile “Sharia compliant” wills amid complaints that they encouraged discrimination against women and non-Muslims. Andrew Caplen, president of the society, apologised and said the criticism had been taken on board.

It follows a storm of protest after The Telegraph disclosed in March that the society had issued a practice note to solicitors effectively enshrining aspects of Islamic law in the British legal system. The guidelines advised High Street solicitors on how to write Islamic wills in a way that would be recognised by courts in England and Wales.

They set out principles which meant that women could be denied an equal share of inheritances while unbelievers could be excluded altogether. The document also detailed how children born out of wedlock might not be counted as legitimate heirs.

Mr Caplen’s predecessor as president, Nicholas Fluck, strongly resisted criticism of the guidelines when details were published in March. But in a short statement the society said it now had decided to withdraw them in light of “feedback” from the public and lawyers themselves. 

Sadikur Rahman, a leading member of the Lawyers’ Secular Society, who was among the first to raise concerns about the practice note, praised the Law Society as a rare example of a major organisation publicly changing its mind. “The language that they have chosen to use today is quite astonishing for an organisation that only a few months ago was resistant to change at all,” he said.

He added that it was a vindication for those who were accused of racism or being anti-Muslim for questioning the wisdom of original practice note.

“You should be able to criticise an ideology, that should not be taken as racism,” he said.

He added: “As far as the public is concerned the Law Society represents all lawyers in England and Wales.The practice notes might just be guidance but they tell us how our firms should practise, if you didn’t follow the guidance issued by the Law Society on a particular point you might be deemed to negligent.They carry a huge amount of weight and it would be seen as an endorsement.

“I certainly heard from Muslim lawyers congratulating the Law Society for having issued it, the way they saw it was that the Law Society had come on board with sharia law.” 

Posted on 11/24/2014 2:18 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 24 November 2014
Frank Gardner: "It's So Bloody Unfair"

From an article about the BBC correspondent(to which "Proud Kafir 7908", alerted me) -- the one who was always pro-Arab, the one who was "reluctant" to report from Cairo on all the gaiety following  the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Frank Gardner, who after he had been shot famously called out "Help me, I'm a Musilm, help me, I'm a Muslim" because he knew, having studied Arabic and "falled in love" with the Arabs and so on, understood that the only chance he had for being helped by passersby was if he told them he was a Muslim. He has learned very little, it seems, from his ordeal, and perhaps in your house, as in mine, there will not be a wet eye upon reading his tale.

Here's the most revealing bit:

He was once a captain in the Royal Green Jackets, as an Army reservist, but is anxious to point out that he was “a Cold War warrior who ran around Germany” and had nothing to do with any conflict in the Gulf. “We came to Saudi Arabia as completely peaceful, objective journalists to report on what was going on there. And we paid for it. Totally unfairly.”

They had just finished filming when a car pulled up. “A young man gets out and says, ‘Salaam alaikum – Peace be upon you’. But as he is saying that, he is reaching into a specially-sewn pocket in his dishdasha and pulling out a pistol.” Gardner started to run but was shot in the shoulder.

“It went straight through. It hurt like hell. I kept running. The next thing, there was another shot and I was down on the ground.”

Simon Cumbers was already dead. “I remember looking up at these horrible, evil faces. They were almost like Hallowe’en joke shop masks.”

They left him for dead. As he lay with his body smashed and contorted, Gardner was outraged. He had loved the Middle East since he was a teenager, studied Islam and Arabic at university and worked for banks in Saudi Arabia before joining the BBC, where he regularly stressed that most Muslims were kind, peace-loving people and nothing like the terrorists.

“In the horrible aftermath and the couple of hours between being shot and being saved by a brilliant surgeon, I had time to think an awful lot of thoughts. One of them was, ‘This is so bloody unfair. I go to the effort to learn this language, to understand the people, to live with them in Jordan, Bahrain, Cairo, to have a lot of respect for their beliefs and customs, and what do I get? A bellyful of bullets.”

Posted on 11/24/2014 12:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 November 2014
Phaedra Al-Majid And Those Who Threaten Her
Posted on 11/24/2014 8:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 November 2014
Dietrich Von Hildebrand's "Mein Kampf Gegen Hitler" Now In English

Born in Florence, raised in the grand former Minim priory of San Francesco di Paola, where his father Adolf von Hildebrand worked on his art, Dietrich von Hildebrand was publicly opposed to the National Socialists even before the Beer Hall Putsch. His life was full of drama. Toward the end of that life he wrote a memoir of what he called "Mein Kampf gegen Hitler" for hissecond, much younger wife Alice (who was born in the year of that Putsch); this memoir has at long last been translated into English and published in this country. You might want to read "My Battle Against Hitler."

You can find out more, amazonically, here.  

Posted on 11/24/2014 8:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 November 2014
A Musical Interlude: Goodnight Vienna (Jack Buchanan)

Listen here. 

Posted on 11/24/2014 7:59 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 November 2014
A Sassanian Delay
Posted on 11/24/2014 7:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 24 November 2014
The Day Marion Barry was Shot by Black Muslims

Justin Moyer writes in the Washington Post:

Contemporary account of the Hanafi siege from 9News Now. Marion Barry appears around :51.

It’s a strange tale barely mentioned in the many articles about the former D.C. mayor since his death on Sunday: In 1977, Marion Barry was shot by a group of radical black Muslims. The New York Times gave the shooting two sentences. Even The Washington Post’s Bart Barnes, in his terrific obituary, didn’t devote many inches to Barry’s misfortune:

Charismatic, irrepressible and engaging, Mr. Barry always seemed to get up again. In 1977, while on the council, he was shot during the siege of the District Building (now the John A. Wilson Building) by Hanafi Muslims, who also had taken over the Islamic Center and B’nai B’rith offices.

Mr. Barry’s wound was superficial, but it nevertheless enhanced his mystique. After a brief hospitalization, he returned to the political arena and in less than two years was mayor of the District.

Record scratch. Say what? Why did 12 Hanafis coordinate a siege of three buildings, taking 150 hostages in the nation’s capital on March 9, 1977, and shoot the future mayor of our city? Was this 9/11 in miniature?

Not really. The Hanafi Muslims who took over the John A. Wilson building weren’t foreign nationals motivated by decades-long United States involvement in foreign wars. Instead, the violence stemmed from a bloody beef between African American Muslim groups.

“To the extent that any outsider could understand the anger behind this three-pronged attack,” The Post wrote in 1977, “it seemed to originate in a bitter sectarian feud between two groups that are both black and call themselves Muslim — the Hanafis, who consider themselves orthodox, and the nation of Islam, followers of the late Elijah Muhammed [sic], better known as the Black Muslims.”

Four years before the siege, on a winter day in 1973, gunmen linked to the Nation of Islam stormed a home on upper 16th street in Northwest Washington. Their target: Hanafi leader and former Nation of Islam national secretary Hamaas Abdul Khaalis.

Hamaas Abdul Khaalis in Washington on March 14, 1977. Khaalis was later taken to police headquarters for processing. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett)

Khaalis was not at home — but seven unlucky people, including five children, were. Three were shot. Four were drowned. All died — and seven men were later convicted in the slayings.

Khaalis wasn’t satisfied. More than four years later, he and 11 others took over the headquarters of B’nai B’rith, an international Jewish service organization, on Rhode Island Avenue NW, the Islamic Center of Washington on Massachusetts Avenue NW and the D.C. City Council chambers.

They demanded satisfaction — and wanted the men convicted of the 1973 killings turned over to them, “presumably for execution,” as WETA put it. Other demands included repayment of a $750 fine imposed on Khaalis for contempt of court during the trial of the 1973 killers, and an end to the release of the film “Mohammed, Messenger of God” (also called “The Message“), a movie the Hanafis deemed offensive.

“We have told this government to get busy and get the murderers that came into our house on Jan. 18 and murdered our babies,” Khaalis told The Post during the siege. “And our children. And shot up our women. … Tell them the payday is here. We gonna pull the cover off of them. No more games.”

At B’nai Brith, attackers wielded machetes.

“They had big huge swords,” Andrew S. Hoffman, a 20-year-old student from George Washington University, said after being released. “They kept saying they were gonna cut people’s heads off … They all said they were going to die, but they were going to die for a cause.”

Outside of D.C. Council chambers, the gunmen “blasted away,” as The Post wrote. Barry was hit by a ricochet shotgun pellet.

“Councilman Marion Barry staggered into the Council Chamber and fell into a chair, clutching his bloody chest,” according to the paper. “He, too, cried out: ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot.’”

After almost 40 hours, the siege ended — partly thanks to the ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan and Iran, who quoted the Koran to Khaalis.

“And let not the hatred of some people in once shutting you out of the sacred mosque lead you to transgression and hostility on your part,” one said. “Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor.”

Khaalis initially proved uninterested in talk.

“Don’t teach me the Koran,” he told the ambassadors over the phone. “I know it better than you. Do you know that there are occasions when blood calls for repayment by blood?”

Eventually, he relented. After in-person meetings with ambassadors, Khaalis and his group surrendered on March 11.

The Post marveled at the unexpected end to the unexpected hostage crisis.

“The strange circumstances that brought Moslem ambassadors — one of them from an Arab nation technically at war with Israel — into the B’nai B’rith headquarters to negotiate with an American black professing Islam have rarely been matched in the annals of either diplomacy or law enforcement,” the Post wrote.

All 12 gunmen were later convicted for the siege. Khaalis got a 41-to-123 year term.

Barry, who was not held hostage, was not the siege’s main victim — indeed, as Barnes wrote, the bullet, which just missed his heart, may have helped propel him to the mayor’s office. But at the District building, WHUR reporter Maurice Williams was killed.

“I believe this incident was one of the more traumatic incidents in the history of this city, and the fact that he was the only African American journalist ever killed in the line of duty … makes it a very special occasion,” Paul Brock, WHUR’s news director when Williams was a student intern, told The Post in 2007.

The siege took place a generation before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — and bore little resemblance to them. The siege was instigated by a domestic group with a specific, local grievance. But some said the attack presaged future events.

“This was an early wake-up call about violence and terrorism and the extent to which groups will go to engage in violence either for the sake of violence or to make a point,” Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, told The Post. “Little did we know 30 years ago that this kind of issue would be a daily concern for all of us, not only here in Washington but abroad as well.”

Though he emerged relatively unscathed, Barry told The Post the Hanafi siege made him think of his own mortality.

“That God’s in charge,” he said. “Life is not promised. You could be gone in a flash.”

Posted on 11/24/2014 7:12 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 24 November 2014
Life, Death, and the New Orthodoxy

In a village in South Wales, 34-year-old Matthew Williams was recently stunned by a taser discharged by a policewoman. He died soon afterward in police custody.

The reason the policewoman tasered Williams was that she had found him in the hotel in which he had been lodging, bent over the prostrate body of a 22-year-old woman whose face and eyeball he was eating. The policewoman told him to step away from the body but he refused; and, quite reasonably supposing that he was not to be reasoned with, she shot him with the taser. The woman whom he was cannibalizing died of the injuries he inflicted.

Unconfirmed reports say what is highly probable, that the author of this appalling crime was high at the time on drink and drugs, namely cocaine, cannabis, and injected “miaow-miaow,” the street name for mephedrone, an amphetamine-like substance. If so, this increased the likelihood that tasering could bring on fatal cardiac arrest.

He had been released two weeks earlier after having been sentenced to five years in prison for a serious assault upon a previous girlfriend, though he served only half that sentence—for it is now customary in Britain for judges knowingly to perpetrate a fraud on the public by sentencing criminals to a term of imprisonment that they know will be cut by half. Thus when a sentence of, say, three years, is handed down, the defendant knows perfectly well he will be released in 18 months as of routine and as of right. There is no protest against this charade, though if words should retain their meaning anywhere it is in the law.

The case, and the public commentary on it, revealed quite a lot about the state of our civilization. The commentary centered on two main questions: the dangers attached to the use of tasers; and why the culprit had not been properly supervised after his release from prison since he was known to be habitually violent and inclined to take drugs.

Certainly, the police in Britain, who have in general become more bullying as they have grown more ineffectual, seem to ignore warnings that tasers fired at the chest may result in a cardiac arrest. They are supposed to use a taser only as a last resort, in dangerous situations. It is not surprising, perhaps, that in the heat of the moment they aim at the part of the body that it is easiest to hit; it is also possible that they are insufficiently trained to do otherwise.

The purpose of tasers is to subdue a suspect deemed to be dangerous, without harm to him or to the police. About one person a year has died in Britain after the use of these weapons by the police since there were first introduced 10 years ago. Their use has grown rapidly, but at the same time the use of firearms by the police (in Britain the police are not armed, and any use of firearms by the police must be specially authorized) has declined almost as markedly. Last year, the police fired guns on only three occasions, though they were authorized to carry them 10,000 times. If in practice they had used guns rather than tasers, it is probable that more than one person would have been killed during these incidents, assuming it was truly necessary to use one or the other weapon.

The tasering discussion was an avoidance of the truly significant aspect of the case: the decision to release Matthew Williams in the first place.

Oddly enough, the probation service’s failure to monitor Williams adequately after his release also attracted more attention than did the initial decision to release him. But in the present legal climate in Britain, his assault on his former girlfriend must have been a serious one indeed for him to have been sentenced to five years. Probably (though I cannot swear to it) it was of a severity for which a sentence of 20 years or even life would have been both more just and more sensible. The fact that when he was released the police placed yet another woman, also a former lover of his, under their protection suggests that the assault for which he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment was not the result of a sudden rush of blood to the head, but a reflection of his habitual violent criminality. And I would stake quite a lot of money on a bet that the assault on the woman for which he was imprisoned was not his first conviction for violence, much less his first violent offence.

In other words, in these circumstances, what could monitoring by the probation service have been expected to achieve? At best, the service could have interviewed Matthew Williams intermittently and perhaps drug-tested him. But even this would have been of doubtful value, for two reasons. The first is that, thanks to targets that have been set by its political masters, the probation service is adjudged by the percentage of those under its surveillance who “complete” that surveillance without mishap, and therefore a return to prison for breach of the conditions of release would be regarded as failure. In effect the service has been given an incentive to look the other way.

Second, a man like Williams was never likely to be dissuaded from his coarse, impulsive pleasures by the threat of an appointment with a probation officer in a few days’ time. Almost certainly he was not one to “think ahead” but was rather more inclined to seize, not the day, but the second. He had no sense of restraint from within, and his experience of life and the criminal justice system had taught him that restraint from without was not a force much to be reckoned with.

Any monitoring by the probation service whose absence was so lamented by commentators would have been about as much use as a paper handkerchief in a monsoon. But just as the dog that did not bark was a clue for Sherlock Holmes in Silver Blaze, so in the commentary on the Williams case there was the non-barking dog that tells us about the state of our culture and civilization: namely the non-judgmentalism that was the precondition of his last victim’s appalling death.

The hotel in which he killed this young woman in so horrible a way was in effect a hostel for released prisoners. The village being a small one, this would have been known to everyone, including the victim. Photographs of the perpetrator do not suggest his high cultivation, to say the least. The victim, having met him in a bar, consented within a short lapse of time to go back to his room, from which she did not emerge alive.

Her previous boyfriend was serving three-and-a-half years in prison—meaning 21 months—for arson. He tried to burn his own house down after the victim ended her relationship with him. He had an earlier conviction for having assaulted her.

To have learned from that experience would have been to develop a prejudice; and there is nothing worse in the contemporary moral universe than to make a judgment based upon prejudice. By going to the monster’s room on the faintest of acquaintance with him, knowing or strongly suspecting him to be an ex-prisoner, she was demonstrating not foolishness but a virtue: that of being non-judgmental. Granted that going with him may not have been the most prudent of decisions, but at least she was not prejudiced.

Alas, life, or at least human life, is judgment. Yet this was not something that commentators were prepared to say out loud—they having done so much in the past to disguise and discredit this obvious consideration.

First published in The Library of Law and Liberty.

Posted on 11/24/2014 5:54 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Monday, 24 November 2014
Jihadi attack on UK 'inevitable':

From the Mail

Britain is facing an ‘almost inevitable’ attack by fanatics who have been ‘militarised’ by Islamic State, according to police and security officials.

In speeches today, Theresa May and senior police will warn that the ‘diverse’ terrorist threat posed by jihadis returning from Syria and Iraq is one of the greatest this country has ever faced. Addressing a conference in London, Mrs May will unveil draconian new laws to try to protect the public and stem the flow of cash and recruits to Islamic State.

Potential attacks could range from a ‘lone wolf’ beheading in a crowded shopping centre or street, to a bomb plot using fertiliser stolen from British farms. One Whitehall official told the Mail: ‘It is almost inevitable that something is going to happen in the next few months.

According to Britain’s most senior officer, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, police and MI5 have already foiled five major plots this year. Chillingly, there is normally only one major plot disrupted every 12 months. Sir Bernard said the challenges faced by police and MI5 in monitoring jihadis returning from Syria were huge. He warned: ‘They’re going to be militarised, they will have a complex web of people that they know, and of course they will have learnt tactics that they may want to use here.’ Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Bernard said there was a ‘growing concern’ about the risk of a ‘lone wolf’ attack on British streets.

Soldier Lee Rigby was murdered by two Muslim converts who ambushed him as he walked back to his barracks in Woolwich, South East London, last year. ‘It doesn’t take an awful lot of organising, doesn’t take too many to conspire together, there’s no great complexity to it,’ Sir Bernard said. ‘So that means we have got a very short time to interdict, to actually intervene and make sure that these people don’t get away with it.’

Today assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the Met’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, will say the ‘danger posed by violent extremists has evolved’. Speaking alongside Mrs May at the Royal United Services Institute, he will say: ‘They are no longer a problem solely stemming from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, far away in the minds of the public. Now, they are home-grown, in our communities; radicalised by images and messages they read on social media and prepared to kill for their cause.’

Posted on 11/24/2014 2:15 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Islamic State Recruiting, Exploiting Children in Syria and Iraq as Spies, Fighters


BEIRUT –  Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists' headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

In the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where ethnic Kurds have been resisting an IS onslaught for weeks, several activists told The Associated Press they observed children fighting alongside the militants. Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said he saw the bodies of four boys, two of them younger than 14. And at least one 18 year old is said to have carried out a suicide attack.

In Syria's Aleppo province, an activist affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army said its fighters encountered children in their late teens "fairly often" in battles against the rival Islamic State group.

It is difficult to determine just how widespread the exploitation of children is in the closed world of IS-controlled territory. There are no reliable figures on the number of minors the group employs.

But a United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State group is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale "in a systematic and organized manner."

The group "prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life," it said in a recent report. The panel of experts, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, conducted more than 300 interviews with people who fled or are living in IS-controlled areas, and examined video and photographic evidence.

Posted on 11/23/2014 4:45 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
UPDATE: The Benghazi House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee Report is a “Whitewash”.


Sunday morning at Brunch with long term family friends in Pensacola, we discussed the cares of the world.  We brought up the Final Report of the House Permanent Select  Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) on Benghazi , chaired by outgoing chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI).   The husband, a talented researcher at a North West Florida think tank that contract research with DARPA had a one word comment, “whitewash”. He said it was all about process and not substance.

 Saturday, in preparation for a Lisa Benson National Security Radio Show segment on the House Select Intelligence Committee Benghazi report, we held a conference call  with  KenTimmerman, author of Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi and  Dick Brauer, a member  of the Citizens’ Committee on Benghazi and one of the Founders of Special Operations Speaks (SOS). Brauer is a retired USAF Col. And former commandant of the Special Operations School at nearby Hurlburt Field here in Northwest Florida.   While Timmerman thought the report was ‘lame,’ the consensus of opinion on the call echoed my brunch partner’s comment today.  Timmerman suggested that the HPSCI Report needed a definitive review.  Brauer, who will provide critical comments on the Lisa Benson Show this afternoon, had this revelation:

This just in from a trusted SOS source, "Mike Rogers, who retires from Congress at the end of this session, released the report with the help of the Democrats. Most of the Republicans were not informed of the vote and had no chance to weigh in."

Brauer believes more substance may be revealed during an upcoming early December 2014 House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by former federal prosecutor, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  The question remains as to the timing of the HPSIC Benghazi Report released Friday, November 21, 2014.uer

Listen to a discussion on the Benghazi report with Col. Brauer of Special Operations Speaks, Lisa Benson and Jerry Gordon from the Sunday, November 23, 2014 Radio Show.

Ex-CIA agent, Larry Johnson, resonated these observations in a  post on  his blog, No Quarter, The Bengazi Whitewash from the House Intelligence Committee.  Johnson rebuts the HPSCI findings:

Much of the media is celebrating the new report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Committee as a vindication for the Obama Administration. Well, it is not. Only one little problem, you have to read the report like a lawyer in order to understand the meat of the matter.

There are six key findings.

The first finding is typical of the obfuscation:

The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and, without a requirement to do so, ably and bravely assisted the State Department on the night of the attacks. 

Yes, but the response was delayed because the Chief of Base refused to give immediate clearance to launch a rescue mission:

The security contractors — Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen — spoke exclusively, and at length, with Fox News about what they saw and did that night. Baier, Fox News’ chief political anchor, asked them about one of the most controversial questions arising from the events in Benghazi: Was help delayed?

Word of the attack on the diplomatic compound reached the CIA annex just after 9:30 p.m. Within five minutes, the security team at the annex was geared up for battle, and ready to move to the compound, a mile away.

“Five minutes, we’re ready,” said Paronto, a former Army Ranger. “It was thumbs up, thumbs up, we’re ready to go.”
Modal Trigger

But the team was held back. According to the security operators, they were delayed from responding to the attack by the top CIA officer in Benghazi, whom they refer to only as “Bob.”

So, yes, the most of the CIA personnel at the annex acted bravely and honorably. But even the HPSCI report acknowledges that at least 21 minutes passed before the CIA contractors were give the green light to go to the aid of their besieged State Department colleagues. Left unexplained, why did the Chief of Base choke. More important, was he ever held accountable for this delay.

Number Two:

Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.

Yes and no. This is not good news for Obama. It is especially bad news for Hillary Clinton. The report also explicitly states:

Prior to the Benghazi attacks, the CIA provided sufficient strategic warning of the deteriorating threat environment to U.S. decision­ makers, including those at the State Department.

We now know for certain that Hillary Clinton, with the assistance of Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, denied requests from Embassy Tripoli for additional security assets and resources in Libya.

The report also makes this misleading claim (again, think like the damn lawyers who wrote this):

In the months prior to the attacks, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat in Benghazi, but it did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. The CIA was conducting no unauthorized activity in Benghazi and was not collecting and shipping arms to Syria. The CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and was able to assist the State Department in Benghazi.

Pay close attention to the phrasing.

1) “The CIA was conducting no unauthorized activity in Benghazi.” A true statement. As Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books, eight members of the House and Senate had been briefed on the Libya operation:

The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognized exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

Technically, it was an “authorized” operation. In reality, most members of Congress knew nothing of the operation.

Here’s the other whopper:


and was not collecting and shipping arms to Syria. 


Yes, the CIA was neither “collecting nor shipping the arms.” That was being done by Brits, Turks and Arabs from the Gulf. I also know personally of one American who was hired by a British firm who convinced the man that he was a non-official cover officer of the CIA. This man was in Benghazi, did collect MANPADS and turned them over to a British citizen who was part of the company he worked for. The critical question is to define the precise nature of the CIA’s role in supporting and monitoring the clandestine effort to arm the rebels in Syria. This was not only a CIA operation; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was fully informed on the details and the goals of the operation.

Third finding:

 The Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al­ Qa’ida, participated in the attacks on  U.S. facilities in  Benghazi , although the Committee finds that the intelligence was and remains conflicting about the identities, affiliations, and motivations of the attackers.

In contrast to the original claims of the Obama Administration (and later the New York times), the attack was carried out by people with direct ties to Al Qaeda. That’s one of the reasons that the Obama team fought so hard to keep this out of the 2012 Presidential election. Obama insisted that Osama was dead and Al Qaeda on the run. Nope. Al Qaeda was over-running a  US diplomatic and intelligence facility in  Benghazi .

Fourth finding:

Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the Administration’s initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate. 

Okay. HPSCI finds a very diplomatic way to say that the Obama Administration lied about  Benghazi . Their phrasing reminds me of the White Star Line’s comments on the Titanic’s first and last voyage:

“The Titanic failed to arrive in  New York ’s port on time.” 

As the HPSCI folks would say, that’s “not fully accurate.”

Fifth finding:

Fifth, the Committee finds that the process used to generate the talking points HPSCI asked for-and which were used for Ambassador Rice’s public appearances-was flawed. HPSCI asked for the talking points solely to aid Members’ ability to communicate publicly using the best available intelligence at the time, and mistakes were made in the process of how those talking points were developed. 

This finding alone underscores the corruption of the HPSCI report. “Flawed?” That’s akin to describing the January 1986 Challenger Space flight as “flawed.” What is indisputable from the email record of the process used to produce the now infamous talking points was that politics was inserted into the intel process. Now, the Obama Administration is not the first to try to use political pressure to influence and alter intelligence judgments. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes and  Clinton have all done it in some form or fashion. But we do not have to rely on second hand evidence that Obama and his team did this. We have the documentary evidence which, even the House Intel Committee concedes, shows a manipulation of the intelligence for political purposes.

Last, and certainly not least:

Sixth Finding. Finally, the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in  Benghazi . The Committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in  Benghazi and no evidence that the IC shipped arms to  Syria .

This too is a dishonest and nuanced conclusion. The key phrase is, “because of their presence in  Benghazi .” All true. It ignores the men and women who were directly working the issue in  Washington ,  DC and other places. Those men and women were polygraphed. They were threatened. They were intimidated.


To cover up the lie that the Obama Administration knew nothing about arms shipments to Syrian rebels, was doing anything to support the activities of Saudi Arabia and Turkey to move weapons to Syria and that Al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. It was during and immediately after the attack that the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department engaged in a deliberate effort to cover up the truth.

This whitewash from Mike Rogers does nothing to refute those lies. What needs to be looked at is Mike Rogers’ conflict of interest. It appears that his wife, Mimi, was part of a company that was involved in this clandestine operation. According to Judicial Watch:

No issue has dominated Rep. Roger’s time as committee chairman more than  Libya . Protests against Muammar Gadhafi’s regime began in February 2011. In March, NATO air strikes commenced and the  U.S. named Christopher Stevens as special envoy to the Benghazi-based Libyan opposition. By August, the end of the Gadhafi regime was in sight. The Associated Press reported that the CIA and State Department were “working closely” on tracking down the dictator’s vast arms stockpiles, including chemical weapons, yellowcake uranium, and some 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles known as MANPADS. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the AP that Mr. Stevens was working with officials in  Benghazi on how to track down the weapons.

By early October 2011, concern over missing MANPADS was growing. Prized by insurgent forces and terrorists, MANPADS (the acronym stands for “Man-Portable Air Defense Systems”) are capable of shooting down attack aircraft — or a civilian plane. “We have reports that they may in fact have crossed borders,” Mr. Rogers told  USA Today, criticizing the Obama administration for a lack of urgency. “I have some concerns we may be a little bit late.” By the end of the month, Gadhafi was dead. Less than a year later, Mr. Stevens — by then Ambassador Stevens — would be dead too, killed with three other Americans in an attack on the  Benghazi stations of the State Department and CIA.  Benghazi became a full-blown crisis. Chairman Rogers emerged as one of the Obama administration’s sharpest critics, hammering it for a lack of transparency.

Libya  also was an area of activity for Aegis, Ms. Rogers’ company. As Rep. Rogers assumed control of the Intelligence Committee, an Aegis subsidiary, Aegis Advisory, began setting up shop in  Libya . “Aegis has been operating in  Libya  since February 2011,” noted an Aegis Advisory intelligence report aimed at corporate clients. The report, marked “Confidential,” notes the company’s ability to provide “proprietary information [and] expert knowledge from our country team based in  Tripoli .” Security was part of the Aegis package, too. “Aegis has extensive links in  Libya  which can be leveraged quickly to ensure safe passage,” the report noted. In 2012, Al Jazeera reported that Aegis was hunting bigger game in the country, “seeking a $5 billion contract to guard  Libya ’s vast and porous borders.” Aegis declined to respond to Judicial Watch’s questions about Libyan border security contracts.

Ms. Rogers’ rise at Aegis was swift. A former press aide to Ambassador Paul Bremer in  Iraq and an assistant commissioner for public affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she was named executive vice president when the  U.S. branch opened in 2006. She was promoted to president in 2008 and added the position of CEO in 2009. In 2011, Ms. Rogers was named vice chairman of the company’s board of directors. In December 2012, she left Aegis and joined the law firm Manatt as a managing director for federal government affairs.

Aegis took a particular interest in events in  Benghazi . One recipient of Aegis Advisory’s  Libya briefings was Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, the global intelligence and consulting firm. According to Stratfor documents obtained by Wikileaks, Aegis’s  Libya briefings were circulated to Stratfor’s confidential “alpha list.” The alpha list “is a repository for most of the intelligence that comes in,” a Stratfor analyst wrote in an email released by Wikileaks. “The first rule of the alpha list is that you don’t talk about the alpha list.”

This report illustrates the continuing corruption of  Washington . Mike Rogers, the co-author as it were by virtue of his position as Chair of HPSCI, has a clear conflict of interest. Rather than recuse himself, it appears he has helped try to whitewash what remains a bloody stain on the Obama Administration’s foreign and intelligence policy.



Posted on 11/23/2014 12:35 PM by Jerry Gordon
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Martin Sherman: Israel's Suicidal Restraint

On The Cusp Of Carnage, here. 

Posted on 11/23/2014 11:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
The Real Rached Ghannouchi

Rached Ghannouchi has spent his entire life working to undermine the secularism of Bourguiba and the Destour Party. He was given -- idiotically -- refuge in London, from which den he remained free to conduct his campaign to bring Islam back, in a big way, to Tunisia. 

He's been back, since the soi-disant "Arab Spring," and he found himself in the government but the responsibilities of rule turned out to be hard, and even harder was overcoming the opposition of those Tunisians who didn't want Islam brought back into the political and social order, and who took Rached Ghannouchi's measure quite well. He's a master of low cunning; he took Ennahda out of the race, leaving Essebsi (a real secularist) and Marzouki (a much-compromised and pseudo-secularist), knowing from the initial results that his party had no possibility of winning. 

And lately he's been giving talks at Columbia, having his Op/'Eds (skillfully written by English-speaking operatives), all allowing him to pretend to be a great supporter -- to have been one all along -- of "democracy" as against the twin evils of anarchy (Libya) and despotism (Egypt). He has no interest in democracy, though those editors in New York who allow him to publiish his deceptions appear not to know this, not to know his history. He's interested in more and ever more Islam, but also recognizes the need to go slowly, and to seem to yield, when necessary.None of his Western hosts appears to know his background, to understand what he is up to and how he is so happy to use them.

You can read the things he has written for him to fool Western audiences, all of it put up at his soothing English-language website. 

But after you've done that, you should watch a very different Rached Ghannouchi, explaining in Arabic to his supporters as to why they should understand his reasons for removing Ennahda from the electoral competition. It's a Musliim version of reculer pour mieux sauter. He wants to lie in wait, to pick  up the pieces, as others try to deal with the difficulties of unemployment, climate change, and so on. And what does he mention, what does he evoke? The Treaty of Hudaibiiyya, where Muhammad dismayed some of his followers by seeming to make an agreement with the enemy Meccans, and to abandon his earlier demands. But, Ghannouchi says, the Treaty of Hudaibiyya was a triumph, for  as all Muslims know, it allowed Muhammad to build  up his forces and then, once strengthened, to violate the treaty and attack the Meccans. "I am like Muhammad at Hudaibiyya," says Ghannouchi to his followers. In the end we will be in a positiion of strength and then you'll see."  You can view the real Rached Ghannouchi, very different from the public-relations democrat and statesman who has been fabricated for  the West, for New York newspapers and Washington conferences,  here.

Posted on 11/23/2014 10:11 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Former Diplomat Investigated for Passing Intelligence to Pakistan

Sounds like a scene right out of this season's Homeland. The NYTimes:

WASHINGTON — American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.

Ms. Raphel, 67, considered one of the leading American experts on Pakistan, was stripped of her security clearances last month and no longer has access to the State Department building.



Robin L. Raphel in 1997. She has lost her security clearance and State Department access, officials say. Credit Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters

The investigation is a rare example of an F.B.I. espionage case breaking into public view. Counterintelligence — the art of spotting and thwarting spies — is the F.B.I.’s second-highest priority, after fighting terrorism, but the operations are conducted almost entirely in secret. On any given day, Washington’s streets crawl with F.B.I. surveillance teams following diplomats and spies, adding to files that are unlikely ever to become public.

The senior American officials briefed on the case spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation. Spokesmen for the F.B.I. and Department of Justice declined to comment.

Ms. Raphel has not been charged with a crime. The scope of the investigation is not known, and it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to suspicion about Ms. Raphel. It is also not clear whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication.

Still, the new details shed some light on the evidence that Justice Department prosecutors are weighing as they decide whether to bring charges. And they help explain why the F.B.I. viewed the matter seriously enough to search her home and State Department office, steps that would bring the investigation into the open.

Ms. Raphel is among a generation of diplomats who rose through the ranks of the State Department at a time when Pakistan was among America’s closest allies and a reliable bulwark against the Soviet Union. After retiring from the government in 2005, she lobbied on behalf of the Pakistani government before accepting a contract to work as a State Department adviser.

While the F.B.I. secretly watched Ms. Raphel in recent months, agents suspected that she was improperly taking classified information home from the State Department, the officials said. Armed with a warrant, the agents searched her home in a prosperous neighborhood near the Maryland border with Washington, and found classified information, the officials said.


Her longstanding relations with Pakistan’s government have also made her an object of scorn in India, the bitter rival of Pakistan, and a country that has grown closer to the United States during both the Bush and Obama administrations. The Indian news media has aggressively covered the espionage case in recent weeks, with The Times of India describing Ms. Raphel as a “brazenly pro-Pakistan partisan in Washington” with a “pathological dislike for India which she did little to conceal.”

In 1988, Ms. Raphel’s former husband, Arnold L. Raphel, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in a mysterious plane crash with the president of Pakistan, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

The cause of the crash was never determined, spawning numerous theories, including that it was an assassination and that nerve gas in a canister hidden in a crate of mangoes had been dispersed in the plane’s air-conditioning system.

Posted on 11/23/2014 10:18 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Karen Armstrong Is "Filled With Despair" At The Kind Of Talk "That Led To The Concentration Camps"

The kind of talk she has in mind is not that of Muslim fanatics all over the place, calling for the killing of every last Jew in the world -- the kind of thing you can see posted at every day of the weeki, or find being said in mosques all over the place. 

No, the kind of talk Karen Armstrong has in mind is the studied criticism of Islamic doctrine, by Sam Harris and Bill Maher, that is, by those who in the West refuse to refrain from criticizing Islam and its adherents. This is what alarms and "fills with despair" the endlessly mendacious, vicious Karen Armstrong, whose books and talks are a guide to nothing and to nowhere, and  who always makes time to add her mite to the store of dangerous fictions about Israel, for her a child of "colonialism." 

The story of what has prompted her current "despair" here.

Posted on 11/23/2014 9:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Fitzgerald: Karen Armstrong -- The Coherence Of Her Incoherence

Re-posting. Comments thread may be of interest.


Posted on 11/23/2014 9:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Paul Weston Luton 22 November 2014

Posted on 11/23/2014 8:28 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Ahmed Vanya Has A Dream-Vision Of An Imagined Future Islam


The skeptical comments about the "impossible dream" are also worth looking at. 

Why, one wonders, do the ahmed-vanyas of this world not follow the path of their understanding to the very end, in order to obtain inner freedom, as Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, and others have done? What prevents this? What holds him back? What is the saving grace of Islam, that escapes the notice of all the rest of us? 

Posted on 11/23/2014 6:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
When Not A Muslim,But A Turbaned Turk, Discovered America

Kemalism is the name given to the legislation, and the attitudes, promoted by Ataturk and his many followers, in order to systematically constrain and weaken Islam. The cult of "the Turk" was meant to replace that of "the Muslim," and after Ataturk's death, the Cult of Personality, or quasi-deification of Ataturk, was a replacement for worship of Muhammad. 

Under Erdogan, "the Turk" is no longer the center of self-adoration, and "the Muslims" are back as "the best of peoples." A Turkish writer finds amusing that Erdogan's insistence that "Muslims discovered America" has a Kemalist precedent -- a more modest attempt, in the 1930s, to claim that "a Turk" did not arrive prior to Columbus, but was a member of Columbus' expedition and helped "discover America." 

The report here.

Posted on 11/23/2014 6:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
The Truth about Evil

John Gray writes in ABC Religion and Ethics:

When Barack Obama vows to destroy Islamic State's "brand of evil" and David Cameron declares that Islamic State (ISIS) is an "evil organisation" that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair's judgment of Saddam Hussein: "But the man's uniquely evil, isn't he?"

Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over thirty-five years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war.

These dangers left the Prime Minister unmoved. What mattered was Saddam's moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.

If Saddam was uniquely evil twelve years ago, we have it on the authority of our leaders that ISIS is uniquely evil today. Until it swept into Iraq a few months ago, the jihadist group was just one of several that had benefited from the campaign being waged by Western governments and their authoritarian allies in the Gulf in support of the Syrian opposition's struggle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Since then ISIS has been denounced continuously and with increasing intensity; but there has been no change in the ruthless ferocity of the group, which has always practised what a radical Islamist theorist writing under the name Abu Bakr Naji described in an internet handbook in 2006 as "the management of savagery."

Ever since it was spun off from al-Qaida some ten years ago, ISIS has made clear its commitment to beheading apostates and unbelievers, enslaving women and wiping out communities that will not submit to its ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In its carefully crafted internet videos, it has advertised these crimes itself. There has never been any doubt that ISIS practises methodical savagery as an integral part of its strategy of war. This did not prevent an abortive attempt on the part of the American and British governments in August of last year to give military support to the Syrian rebels - a move that could have left ISIS the most powerful force in the country. ISIS became the prime enemy of Western governments only when it took advantage of the anarchy these same governments had created when they broke the state of Iraq with their grandiose scheme of regime change.


Against this background, it would be easy to conclude that talk of evil in international conflicts is no more than a cynical technique for shaping public perceptions. That would be a mistake. Blair's secret - which is the key to much in contemporary politics - is not cynicism. A cynic is someone who knowingly acts against what he or she knows to be true. Too morally stunted to be capable of the mendacity of which he is often accused, Blair thinks and acts on the premise that whatever furthers the triumph of what he believes to be good must be true. Imagining that he can deliver the Middle East and the world from evil, he cannot help having a delusional view of the impact of his policies.

Here Blair is at one with most Western leaders. It's not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don't really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of Western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away.

No view of things could be more alien at the present time. Whatever their position on the political spectrum, almost all of those who govern us hold to some version of the melioristic liberalism that is the West's default creed, which teaches that human civilisation is advancing - however falteringly - to a point at which the worst forms of human destructiveness can be left behind. According to this view, evil, if any such thing exists, is not an inbuilt human flaw, but a product of defective social institutions, which can over time be permanently improved.

Paradoxically, this belief in the evanescence of evil is what underlies the hysterical invocation of evil that has lately become so prominent. There are many bad and lamentable forces in the world today, but it is those that undermine the belief in human improvement that are demonised as "evil." So what disturbs the West about Vladimir Putin, for example, is not so much the persecution of gay people over which he has presided, or the threat posed to Russia's neighbours by his attempt to reassert its imperial power. It is the fact that he has no place in the liberal scheme of continuing human advance. As a result, the Russian leader can only be evil. When George W. Bush looked into Putin's eyes at a Moscow summit in May 2002, he reported, "I was able to get a sense of his soul." When Joe Biden visited the Kremlin in 2011, he had a very different impression, telling Putin: "Mr Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul." According to Biden, Putin smiled and replied, "We understand each other." The religious language is telling: nine years earlier, Putin had been a pragmatic leader with whom the West could work; now he was a soulless devil.

It's in the Middle East, however, that the prevailing liberal worldview has proved most consistently misguided. At bottom, it may be Western leaders' inability to think outside this melioristic creed that accounts for their failure to learn from experience. After more than a decade of intensive bombing, backed up by massive ground force, the Taliban continue to control much of Afghanistan and appear to be regaining ground as the American-led mission is run down. Libya - through which a beaming David Cameron processed in triumph only three years ago, after the use of Western air power to help topple Gaddafi - is now an anarchic hell-hole that no Western leader could safely visit.

One might think such experiences would be enough to deter governments from further exercises in regime change. But our leaders cannot admit the narrow limits of their power. They cannot accept that by removing one kind of evil they may succeed only in bringing about another - anarchy instead of tyranny, Islamist popular theocracy instead of secular dictatorship. They need a narrative of continuing advance if they are to preserve their sense of being able to act meaningfully in the world, so they are driven again and again to re-enact their past failures.

Many view these Western interventions as no more than exercises in geopolitics. But a type of moral infantilism is no less important in explaining the persisting folly of Western governments. Though it is clear that ISIS cannot be permanently weakened as long as the war against Assad continues, this fact is ignored - and not only because a Western-brokered peace deal that left Assad in power would be opposed by the Gulf states that have sided with jihadist forces in Syria. More fundamentally, any such deal would mean giving legitimacy to a regime that Western governments have condemned as more evil than any conceivable alternative. In Syria, the actual alternatives are the survival in some form of Assad's secular despotism, a radical Islamist regime or continuing war and anarchy. In the liberal political culture that prevails in the West, a public choice among these options is impossible.


There are some who think the very idea of evil is an obsolete relic of religion. For most secular thinkers, what has been defined as evil in the past is the expression of social ills that can in principle be remedied. But these same thinkers very often invoke evil forces to account for humankind's failure to advance. The secularisation of the modern moral vocabulary that many believed was under way has not occurred: public discourse about good and evil continues to be rooted in religion. Yet the idea of evil that is invoked is not one that features in the central religious traditions of the West. The belief that evil can be finally overcome has more in common with the dualistic heresies of ancient and medieval times than it does with any Western religious orthodoxy.

A radically dualistic view of the world, in which good and evil are separate forces that have coexisted since the beginning of time, was held by the ancient Zoroastrians and Manicheans. These religions did not face the problem with which Christian apologists have struggled so painfully and for so long - how to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful and wholly good God with the fact of evil in the world. The worldview of George W. Bush and Tony Blair is commonly described as Manichean, but this is unfair to the ancient religion. Mani, the third-century prophet who founded the faith, appears to have believed the outcome of the struggle was uncertain, whereas for Bush and Blair there could never be any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of good. In refusing to accept the permanency of evil they are no different from most Western leaders.

The West owes its ideas of evil to Christianity, though whether these ideas would be recognised by Jesus - the dissident Jewish prophet from whose life and sayings St. Paul conjured the Christian religion - is an open question. The personification of evil as a demonic presence is not a feature of biblical Judaism, where the figure of Satan appears chiefly as a messenger or accuser sent by God to challenge wrongdoers. Despite the claims of believers and advances in scholarship, not enough is known to pronounce with any confidence on what Jesus may himself have believed. What is clear is that Christianity has harboured a number of quite different understandings of evil.

A convert from Manicheism, St. Augustine established a powerful orthodoxy in the fourth century when he tried to distance Christianity from dualism and maintained that evil was not an independent force coeval with good but came into the world when human beings misused the gift of free will. Reflecting Augustine's own conflicts, the idea of original sin that he developed would play a part in the unhealthy preoccupation with sexuality that appears throughout most of Christianity's history. Yet in placing the source of evil within human beings, Augustine's account is more humane than myths in which evil is a sinister force that acts to subvert human goodness. Those who believe that evil can be eradicated tend to identify themselves with the good and attack anyone they believe stands in the way of its triumph.

Augustine had an immense influence, but dualistic views in which evil exists as an independent force have erupted repeatedly as heretical traditions within Christianity. The Cathar movement that developed in parts of Europe in the thirteenth century revived a Manichean cosmogony in which the world is the work not of a good God but instead of a malevolent angel or demi-urge. A rival heresy was promoted by the fourth century theologian Pelagius, an opponent of Augustine who denied original sin while strongly affirming free will, and believed that human beings could be good without divine intervention. More than any of the ancient Greek philosophers, Pelagius put an idea of human autonomy at the centre of his thinking. Though he is now almost forgotten, this heretical Christian theologian has a good claim to be seen as the true father of modern liberal humanism.

In its official forms, secular liberalism rejects the idea of evil. Many liberals would like to see the idea of evil replaced by a discourse of harm: we should talk instead about how people do damage to each other and themselves. But this view poses a problem of evil remarkably similar to that which has troubled Christian believers. If every human being is born a liberal - as these latter-day disciples of Pelagius appear to believe - why have so many, seemingly of their own free will, given their lives to regimes and movements that are essentially repressive, cruel and violent? Why do human beings knowingly harm others and themselves? Unable to account for these facts, liberals have resorted to a language of dark and evil forces much like that of dualistic religions.

The efforts of believers to explain why God permits abominable suffering and injustice have produced nothing that is convincing; but at least believers have admitted that the ways of the Deity are mysterious. Even though he ended up accepting the divine will, the questions that Job put to God were never answered. Despite all his efforts to find a solution, Augustine confessed that human reason was not equal to the task. In contrast, when secular liberals try to account for evil in rational terms, the result is a more primitive version of Manichean myth. When humankind proves resistant to improvement, it is because forces of darkness - wicked priests, demagogic politicians, predatory corporations and the like - are working to thwart the universal struggle for freedom and enlightenment.

There is a lesson here. Sooner or later anyone who believes in innate human goodness is bound to reinvent the idea of evil in a cruder form. Aiming to exorcise evil from the modern mind, secular liberals have ended up constructing another version of demonology, in which anything that stands out against what is believed to be the rational course of human development is anathematised.


The view that evil is essentially banal, presented by Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, is another version of the modern evasion of evil. Arendt suggested that human beings commit atrocities from a kind of stupidity, falling into a condition of thoughtlessness in which they collude in practices that inflict atrocious suffering on other human beings. It was some such moral inertia, Arendt maintained, that enabled Eichmann to take a leading part in perpetrating the Holocaust. Arendt's theory of the banality of evil tends to support the defence of his actions that Eichmann presented at his trial: he had no choice in doing what he did. She represented Eichmann as a colourless bureaucrat performing a well-defined function in an impersonal bureaucratic machine; but the Nazi state was in fact largely chaotic, with different institutions, departments of government and individuals competing for Hitler's favour. Careful historical research of the kind that David Cesarani undertook in his book Eichmann: His Life and Crimes suggests that Eichmann was not a passive tool of the state, but chose to serve it. When he organised the deportation and mass murder of Jews, he wasn't simply furthering his career in the Nazi hierarchy. What he did reflected his deep-seated antisemitism. Eichmann took part in the Holocaust because he wanted to do so. In this he was no different from many others, though his crimes were larger in scale.

No doubt something like the type of evil that Arendt identified is real enough. Large parts of the population in Germany went along with Nazi policies of racial persecution and genocide from motives that included social conformity and obedience to authority. The number of doctors, teachers and lawyers who refused to implement Nazi policies was vanishingly small. But again, this wasn't only passive obedience. Until it became clear that Hitler's war might be lost, Nazism was extremely popular. As the great American journalist William Shirer reported in his eyewitness account of the rise of Hitler, The Nightmare Years:

"Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation ... On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm."

When large populations of human beings collude with repressive regimes it need not be from thoughtlessness or inertia. Liberal meliorists like to think that human life contains many things that are bad, some of which may never be entirely eliminated; but there is nothing that is intrinsically destructive or malevolent in human beings themselves - nothing, in other words, that corresponds to a traditional idea of evil. But another view is possible, and one that need make no call on theology.

What has been described as evil in the past can be understood as a natural tendency to animosity and destruction, co-existing in human beings alongside tendencies to sympathy and cooperation. This was the view put forward by Sigmund Freud in a celebrated exchange of letters with Albert Einstein in 1931-32. Einstein had asked: "Is it possible to control man's mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychosis of hate and destructiveness?" Freud replied that "there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity's aggressive tendencies."

Freud suggested that human beings were ruled by impulses or instincts, eros and thanatos, impelling them towards life and creation or destruction and death. He cautioned against thinking that these forces embodied good and evil in any simple way. Whether they worked together or in opposition, both were necessary. Even so, Freud was clear that a major threat to anything that might be called a good life came from within human beings. The fragility of civilisation reflected the divided nature of the human animal itself.

One need not subscribe to Freud's theory (which in the same letter he describes as a type of mythology) to think he was on to something here. Rather than psychoanalysis, it may be some version of evolutionary psychology that can best illuminate the human proclivity to hatred and destruction. The point is that destructive behaviour of this kind flows from inherent human flaws. Crucially, these defects are not only or even mainly intellectual. No advance in human knowledge can stop humans attacking and persecuting others. Poisonous ideologies like Nazi "scientific racism" justify such behaviour. But these ideologies are not just erroneous theories that can be discarded when their falsehood has been demonstrated. Ideas of similar kinds recur whenever societies are threatened by severe and continuing hardship. At present, antisemitism and ethnic nationalism, along with hatred of gay people, immigrants and other minorities, are re-emerging across much of the continent. Toxic ideologies express and reinforce responses to social conflict that are generically human.

Mass support for despotic regimes has many sources. Without the economic upheavals that ruined much of the German middle class, the Nazis might well have remained a fringe movement. Undoubtedly there were many who looked to the Nazi regime for protection against economic insecurity. But it is a mistake to suppose that when people turn to tyrants, they do so despite the crimes that tyrants commit. Large numbers have admired tyrannical regimes and actively endorsed their crimes. If Nazism had not existed, something like it would surely have been invented in the chaos of interwar Europe.


When the West aligned itself with the U.S.S.R. in the Second World War, it was choosing the lesser of two evils - both of them evils of a radical kind. This was the view of Winston Churchill, who famously said he would "sup with the devil" if doing so would help destroy "that evil man" Hitler. Churchill's candid recognition of the nature of the choice he made is testimony to how shallow the discourse of evil has since become. Today, no Western politician could admit to making such a decision.

In his profound study On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, the Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit distinguishes between regimes that rest on cruelty and humiliation, as many have done throughout history, and those that go further by excluding some human beings altogether from moral concern. Describing the latter as radically evil, he argues that Nazi Germany falls into this category. The distinction Margalit draws is not a quantitative one based on the numbers of victims, but categorical: Nazi racism created an immutable hierarchy in which there could be no common moral bonds. Margalit goes on to argue - surely rightly - that in allying itself with the Soviet Union in the struggle against Nazism, the West was making a necessary and justified moral compromise. But this was not because the Nazis were the greater evil, he suggests. For all its oppression, the Soviet Union offered a vision of the future that included all of humankind. Viewing most of the species as less than human, Nazism rejected morality itself.

There should be no doubt that the Nazis are in a class by themselves. No other regime has launched a project of systematic extermination that is comparable. From the beginning of the Soviet system there were some camps from which it was difficult to emerge alive. Yet at no time was there anything in the Soviet gulag akin to the Nazi death camps that operated at Sobibor and Treblinka. Contrary to some in post-communist countries who try to deny the fact, the Holocaust remains a unique crime. Judged by Margalit's formula, however, the Soviet Union was also implicated in radical evil. The Soviet state implemented a policy of exclusion from society of "former persons" - a group that included those who lived off unearned income, clergy of all religions and tsarist functionaries - who were denied civic rights, prohibited from seeking public office and restricted in their access to the rationing system. Many died of starvation or were consigned to camps where they perished from overwork, undernourishment and brutal treatment.

Considered as a broad moral category, what Margalit defines as radical evil is not uncommon. The colonial genocide of the Herero people in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) at the start of the twentieth century was implemented against a background of ersatz-scientific racist ideology that denied the humanity of Africans. (The genocide included the use of Hereros as subjects of medical experiments, conducted by doctors some of whom returned to Germany to teach physicians later implicated in experiments on prisoners in Nazi camps.) The institution of slavery in antebellum America and South African apartheid rested on a similar denial. A refusal of moral standing to some of those they rule is a feature of societies of widely different varieties in many times and places. In one form or another, denying the shared humanity of others seems to be a universal human trait.


Describing ISIS's behaviour as "psychopathic," as David Cameron has done, represents the group as being more humanly aberrant than the record allows. Aside from the fact that it publicises them on the internet, ISIS's atrocities are not greatly different from those that have been committed in many other situations of acute conflict. To cite only a few of the more recent examples, murder of hostages, mass killings and systematic rape have been used as methods of warfare in the former Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Rwanda and the Congo.

A campaign of mass murder is never simply an expression of psychopathic aggression. In the case of ISIS, the ideology of Wahhabism has played an important role. Ever since the 1920s, the rulers of the Saudi kingdom have promoted this eighteenth-century brand of highly repressive and exclusionary Sunni Islam as part of the project of legitimating the Saudi state. More recently, Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabi ideology has been a response to the threat posed by the rise of Shia Iran. If the ungoverned space in which ISIS operates has been created by the West's exercises in regime change, the group's advances are also a byproduct of the struggle for hegemony between Iran and the Saudis. In such conditions of intense geopolitical rivalry there can be no effective government in Iraq, no end to the Syrian civil war and no meaningful regional coalition against the self-styled caliphate.

But the rise of ISIS is also part of a war of religion. Nothing is more commonplace than the assertion that religion is a tool of power, which ruling elites use to control the people. No doubt that's often true. But a contrary view is also true: politics may be a continuation of religion by other means. In Europe religion was a primary force in politics for many centuries. When religion seemed to be in retreat, it renewed itself in political creeds - Jacobinism, nationalism and varieties of totalitarianism - that were partly religious in nature. Something similar is happening in the Middle East. Fuelled by movements that combine radical fundamentalism with elements borrowed from secular ideologies such as Leninism and fascism, conflict between Shia and Sunni communities looks set to continue for generations to come. Even if ISIS is defeated, it will not be the last movement of its kind. Along with war, religion is not declining, but continuously mutating into hybrid forms.

Western intervention in the Middle East has been guided by a view of the world that itself has some of the functions of religion. There is no factual basis for thinking that something like the democratic nation-state provides a model on which the region could be remade. States of this kind emerged in modern Europe, after much bloodshed, but their future is far from assured and they are not the goal or end-point of modern political development. From an empirical viewpoint, any endpoint can only be an act of faith. All that can be observed is a succession of political experiments whose outcomes are highly contingent. Launched in circumstances in which states constructed under the aegis of Western colonialism have broken down under the impact of more recent Western intervention, the gruesome tyranny established by ISIS will go down in history as one of these experiments.

The weakness of faith-based liberalism is that it contains nothing that helps in the choices that must be made between different kinds and degrees of evil. Given the West's role in bringing about the anarchy in which the Yazidis, the Kurds and other communities face a deadly threat, non-intervention is a morally compromised option. If sufficient resources are available - something that cannot be taken for granted - military action may be justified. But it is hard to see how there can be lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state. Our leaders have helped create a situation that their view of the world claims cannot exist: an intractable conflict in which there are no good outcomes.

Posted on 11/23/2014 6:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Why Rand Paul Is Hillary Clinton's Worst Nightmare
Posted on 11/23/2014 5:49 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Martin Sherman: Changing Israeli Attitudes

Excellent article here.

He describes the unappeasable and without-end Arab hostility toward Israel, but refrains from finding the source of that enmity, and the impossibility of ever satisfying Arab demands, in Islam itself. I assume this was deliberate, just as Israelis once, in order to foster alliances with a still-Kemalist Turkish military and with the Shah's regime, "secular" but Muslim, refrained from discussing Islam. But now, with the entire non-Muslim world having to deal with an internal and external Muslim threat, why hold back? Why not make clear that the war on Israel is a Jihad. Why let Mahmoud Abbas try to prevent the obvious link from being made, in his nonsense about preventing this "from becoming a religious war"? It is a religious war, but not a war between two religions. It's a war of Islam against all the rest, all those who have other faiths, all those who have no faith at all. The war on Israel, the Jihad against Israel, though given so much attention for so many decades, has been wilfully misunderstood. 

That too is a task for the Israelis. To make clear to themselves, and then to others, not just that Arab hostility has no end, cannot be assuaged with further retreats, and that applies to the Arabs within Israel as without, but must be, because it comes from the immutable texts of Islam, and the atttiudes that in Muslims naturally form, and it is an effort to avoid sharing, given the clear texts and teachings of Islam.

 The war on Israel appears to be a special case. It is not. It is a specific example of a general problem. 

Posted on 11/23/2014 5:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
At UC Berkeley: A Tale of Two Flags

Posted on 11/23/2014 5:34 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 23 November 2014
More Muslim Nunc Pro Tunc Backdating And General Fantasy

From an article at Al Jazeera on the refusal of the heroic Hamas "resistance" to give up weapons, the weapons it uses, and will always use, to conduct Jihad:

"The place of armed resistance in the Palestinian struggle dates back to the Palestinian revolution in 1918, when the British Mandate started, and subsequently the 1936 general strike. It developed further after the 1968 revolution."

There was no "Palestinian struggle" until the Arabs, with advice from outside (including an American P.R. firm), renamed themselves the "Palestinians." And the "Palestinian revolution in 1918" is a fantasy. 

Posted on 11/23/2014 4:47 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State

As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed. Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region. “The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.” 

Evidence from one posting on a social networking site last week suggested that as many as 20 British jihadists have been joining Isil forces every day. And on Saturday it emerged that two more Britons – Abu Abdullah al Habashi, 21, and Abu Dharda, 20, both from London – had died fighting in Syria.

It was reported that Dharda, who grew up in west London, had been questioned by counter-terrorism police at a British airport and allowed to travel because they were “satisfied with the explanation he gave” for the trip. 

The Government has refused to say how many Britons had been arrested at UK borders in connection with terrorism in Syria, adding to concern the figure is very small and that the borders are worryingly porous. 

But Mr Mahmood said the Home Office had so far failed to do enough to crack down on British jihadists coming and going through UK ports.

Mr Mahmood, England’s first Muslim MP and a former member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: “The Government does not have significant people at border control. The fact is these jihadists are coming in and going out without almost ever being arrested. We have had hardly any arrests. We have had people coming back in after six months in Syria and they are not being picked up.”

The official figure of 500 jihadists was released by the authorities six months ago and has not been revised. Isil has since stepped up its recruitment drive by issuing gruesome videos of the murder of Western hostages.

Evidence gathered by The Telegraph suggests at least four Muslims, who had their passports confiscated either by the authorities or concerned parents, had still managed to leave Britain in recent months. It is estimated that at least 250 British fighters have returned from Syria and Iraq – about 30 of whom have been arrested – raising the prospect of a growing number of hardened jihadists on the streets. 

The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents the UK’s 2.8 million Muslims, accused the Government of not doing enough to stop would-be jihadists from leaving the country. The Home Office has refused to disclose how many jihadists have been picked up at Britain’s borders. 

I heard the news about the two jihandist killed while in a small art gallery in rural Suffolk. The lady proprietor was reading the news on her laptop and called to her husband 'Good news - another two of them jihadists dead!'  The general opinion amongst people I speak to while out and about (hardly a scientific sample I admit) is that as many as wish should be allowed to go, but none allowed re-entry.

On Saturday, police said a 19-year-old man from Coventry had been arrested at Heathrow airport on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism. He was detained by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit on Thursday afternoon as he got off a plane from Jordan. In February, three teenagers, including Mohamed Hadi, nicknamed “Bin Bieber” because of his youthful looks, left Coventry to fight for Isil. Police refused to confirm the identity of the arrested man.

The police on Monday will call on the public “to be prepared to play their part in keeping the country safe”.

The new appeal comes ahead of a “very substantial” report to be published on Tuesday by Parliament’s intelligence and security committee into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May last year.

The report will examine the security and intelligence agencies’ prior knowledge of his murderers.

It is expected to highlight the basic and random nature of the attack and is likely to stop short of saying his death was preventable. 

Posted on 11/23/2014 2:21 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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