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#34 - 30th March 2003 
Kurds, Turks and Northern Iraq
Kurdistan is the name given to the area, divided between Turkey, Iraq,
Iran and Syria, where mainly Kurds reside. The Kurdish part of Iraq, in the north and bordering on southern Turkey,
is in danger of generating its own distinct conflagration because of a
complicated confluence of factors.
The Iraq crisis and other constituents have thrown Turkey
into turmoil, which it can ill afford after four years of dire economic
performance and a devastating drop of some 70% in the value of its
Lets start with the Iraqi
Turkomen, a nomadic
people who form a sizeable minority in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is
where Kirkuk lies one of Iraqs largest oil provinces.
Turkomen are ethnically and linguistically linked to Turkey which
feels a protective responsibility for all Turkics.
According to some not least Turkey the Turkomen are
oppressed by the majority Kurds.
As I reported
a few weeks ago, this part of Kurdistan, protected from Saddam since the
Gulf War under the UNs northern no-fly zone enforced by the US Air
Force, enjoys are large degree of autonomy and prosperity, with its own
parliament and other institutions. This
is a unique experience amongst Kurds. And it is watched jealously by
the Kurds of Turkey, Iran and Syria who, since the end of the Ottoman
empire, have periodically and violently rebelled against their respective
governments, in pursuit of Kurdish rights, autonomy and/or independence.
This rebelliousness means that those same governments regard all
Kurds, as does Saddam, with extreme suspicion and exert as much persecution
as they can get away with.
The Turkish twist begins just a few months
Fearing missile attack by Saddam in the event of an
American invasion, Turkey appeals to its NATO partners for some Patriot
anti-missile systems. For their own
French do their damnedest to stop this, and it is only through some pretty sharp
footwork that the Americans outflank the French and get NATO to supply the
Turkey has a little oil in its southeastern
Kurdish part, but looks longingly over its border at
the oil riches of Kurdish Kirkuk.
If Kurds and other Iraqis were to flee north and
pour into Turkey to escape Saddam and the war as they did after the
1991 Gulf War, would not Turkey be justified in sending troops into
northern Iraq to prevent the flood of refugees and a humanitarian
And if, in addition, the Kurds were found to be
oppressing the Turkomen, perhaps Turkey should seize Kirkuk to protect
them ? Winning Kirkuk and
its oil is a prize Turkey can scarcely dream of, though in their
hearts they surely know it's unrealistic.
But then here come the Americans wanting to use
Turkey for their own invasion of Iraq from the North, promising a huge $6 billion aid
package and reminding the
Turks of how they helped them over the patriot missiles.
But such an invasion would make a Turkish
invasion very difficult,
and in addition the Turkish population is in an uproar against the war.
Moreover, an inexperienced,
party (the Justice and Development Party), less
instinctively pro-American than its predecessor, has just been elected.
So the new parliament democratically votes to deny the Americans permission and
forego the massive aid.
So doing, they renounce an excellent opportunity for
economic recovery and make enemies of their NATO allies and protectors, the
Americans, who have to make other plans for a northern invasion.
Meanwhile, the Turks have also angered both the EU
and the UN by failing to strongarm stubborn Rauf Denktash, the president
of Turkish Cyprus, into agreeing Kofi Annans peace-plan
to re-unify the island, a plan supported not only by the Greek Cypriots
and Greece but by most of the Turkish Cypriot population.
As a result, the rich Greek half of the island will join the
lucrative EU leaving the impecunious, ostracised Turkish half to languish
outside. Turkeys own
accession to the EU slips further over the horizon as it now has two
veto-wielding adversaries Greece and Greek Cyprus instead of one.
So lets sum up this mess.
In an admirably democratic manner, albeit with
unintended consequences, Turkey has managed to
make enemies of the USA, EU and UN. It
is suspected, probably wrongly, of wanting to invade Iraq and seize the
Kirkuk oilfields under the pretext of preventing a humanitarian refugee
crisis and protecting Turkomen, and it has de-facto supported Saddam by refusing to
facilitate the American forces.
In the worst case scenario, one can imagine Turks,
Americans, Kurds, Turkomen and Saddams Arabs all fighting each other
with no clear idea of who is on whose side.
However, Turkeys new-found foes do nevertheless
have an abiding
interest in an economically dynamic, stable, secular, and increasingly
democratic Turkey incorporated into the West, an example to the rest of
the Muslim world. This is an
interest that matches Turkeys own, and it badly needs the support of
its wealthy and powerful (temporarily ex-)friends.
So I believe a more benign outcome is likelier.
Turkey, recognizing its own best interests, will stay within its
own borders. America
will invade Northern Iraq by air (it has already started), eject the
Saddamites, bring in humanitarian aid and remove the need for Iraqis to flee.
It will install a representative regional administration that
protect the Turkomen and other minorities.
The area will end up well positioned to form part of a new federal Iraq
once the rest of the country is liberated.
Meantime, in a
quieter moment, Turkey will engineer the agreement of Turkish Cyprus to
the UN peace-plan and pave the way for EU entry of a united Cyprus
Or is this all just
wishful thinking ? We shall see.
Christian Churches in Europe
How beautiful, stunning are the Churches, inside and out, that pepper
Rome, which I had the good fortune to visit again last week. The
columns, the arches, the marble, the paintings, the statuary, the gold,
and the precision - they just take your breath away. And
everything fashioned by human hand. A few examples
Rome - S Maria
Rome - Basilica
a thumbnail to enlarge; click your BACK button to return to this
And such architectural masterpieces are replicated throughout Europe,
in glory if not in density. Think of the awesome Saint
Bavo cathedral in Ghent, Notre
Dame in Paris, St
Vitus's in Prague, to mention but a few.
Nearly all were built around the middle of the second
taking several centuries to complete; the Saint Bavo took almost
But how were they paid for ? It is inconceivable that such opulent
structures, lacking a concomitant revenue stream to provide a financial
return, would ever be built in a Western country today. Indeed,
recently built churches are much more modest, utilitarian affairs, usually
paid for out of parish collections.
Yet Europe in the Middle Ages was, by today's standards at any rate, dirt
poor, and what little money there was was confiscated by rulers and
warlords if not squandered on perpetual warfare. The vast majority of the
population eked out a subsistence existence of hard labour, malnutrition
and death by 40. According to Oxford University's Robert
Allen, daily pay during the mediaeval period when church construction
boomed was typically 7-10 grams of silver equivalent, which would just
about keep a family hovering around the poverty line on 2,000 calories a
To get a sense of comparison, current GDP per head in the EU is around 21,000
per year and silver sells at around $4.40
per ounce. This roughly translates to an income per head of some
390 grams of silver equivalent per day. So we are 40 times richer
than our unfortunate forebears.
The issue therefore was -
not so much one of who paid for the churches when everyone was so
but rather, that everyone remained poor precisely because of those
wretched, extravagant, multi-century church-building projects,
commissioned by fiat from the all-powerful Catholic Church, aided and
abetted by the rulers of the day who believed they were fast-tracking
themselves to heaven.
It could never have happened except in a feudal society where big men
run the show and the peasants are kept down and poor.
But think how the social welfare of our antecedents might have been
wonderfully better, and the course of European history quite different, if
the labour that went into church construction were used instead to grow
more food, to manufacture, to trade, to learn, to get
Or would it have just spelt more official kleptomania and warfare
? I think not.
There is today an example of similar church-building money-squandering
folly. The oil-rich countries of the Middle East are rife with
magnificent mosques, still being built to this day, each costing hundreds
of millions of dollars. Each emir vies with the next to show off his
piety by the grandeur of his Grand
Mosque, and assure himself of paradise
in the hereafter.
Again, such whimsy is possible only in an autocratic society where big
decisions are taken by a big man. But today it is fed by oil wealth
rather than by keeping the population in grinding poverty. But it is
still frittering away people's birthright without bothering to ask
And in Middle Ages Europe as in the Middle East of today, those
commissioning these buildings think an ever-grateful and obsequious God
will forgive them their other earthly vices and grant them eternal
I'm not aware that either Jesus Christ or Mohammed offered such a deal
or demanded these edifices.
Colin Powell's Repartée
According to the New York Post, a pro-Saddam Iraqi reporter at a press
conference recently asked Secretary of State Colin Powell, "Isn't
it true that only 13% of young Americans can locate Iraq on a map ?"
"That may be true," Powell countered. "You're
probably right. But
unfortunately for you, all 13% are Marines."
Saddam Hussein Doppelgangers
That Saddam has a number of doubles, some of them carved into his
likeness by plastic surgeons, is well known.
It is said that when he leaves a building, a
fleet of black limousines pulls up and a series of Saddams climbs
Still not resolved is
whether the Saddam, puffy and wearing black rimmed spectacles, who
delivered a defiant TV address after the first salvo of the war, was the real
However not all his doppelgangers are in Iraq.
Jerry Haleva is a savvy Californian political insider with his own
lobbying firm, Sergeant Major Communications. But he also has a thriving sideline as
Hollywood's favourite double for Saddam Hussein. If you have seen
Saddam in a movie lately, or the
2002 HBO mockumentary Live from Baghdad, you were
probably watching Mr Haleva.
While waiting in costume at one convention, he met former Israeli Prime
Minister Shimon Peres.
I shook his hand, and someone said I have got to get this
picture ! he said.
Mr Haleva uses the photo in his firm's marketing
brochures with the caption, If we can make this happen, how hard can
your issue be ?
Mr Haleva said his resemblance has been good for business. It opens
doors...and I have a lot of fun with it.
He also relishes the irony of being a pro-Israel Jewish activist
earning money by making fun of the Iraqi leader.
Tarnished Halo Awards
The Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington DC has announced
the winners of its 2002 Tarnished Halo Awards to America's most notorious
animal-rights zealots, environmental scaremongers, celebrity busybodies,
self-anointed public interest advocates, trial lawyers, and other
food & beverage activists who claim to know what's best for you.
The Tarnished Halo Awards highlight the winners' use of misinformation,
duplicity and even violence to further a political agenda or fatten their
Lucky winners include :
The Better Dead Than Fed Award
Awarded to Greenpeace, for pressuring Zambian dictator Levy Mwanawasa
to deny his 2.5 million starving people access to US-provided food
aid, because it contains the same genetically enhanced corn (or, as he
called it, poison) that Americans have been eating for
The Excuse Me, But Your Agenda Is Showing Award
to Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA), who admitted to U.S. News & World
Report in a rare, candid moment: Our nonviolent tactics
are not as effective. We ask nicely for years and get nothing. Someone
makes a threat, and it works. In 2002, PETA donated
$1,500 donation to the North American Animal Liberation Front, an
FBI-labeled domestic terrorist group who have caused over
$40 million in criminal damage such as burning down restaurants.
The Fishing For the Truth Award
to the National Environmental Trust, for its high-profile campaign
aimed at convincing America's élite chefs to stop serving the
supposedly endangered Chilean Sea Bass, even though the US government
says that the fish species is not threatened. And it's not even
The Weapons Of Mass Distortion Award
to the immodestly self-named Physician's Committee for Responsible
Medicine (PCRM), which is actually a pseudo-medical front group
for PETA's radical animal rights agenda. PCRM's advertising in
2002 recklessly labeled US school lunches weapons of mass
destruction because they include meat and milk.
Quotes of the Week
: No-one has killed more Muslims than Saddam Hussein
Second-in-command to overall US commander General Tommy Franks,
Doha, 23rd March 2003
: Please bring on the war. We are ready. We have suffered long enough. We
may lose our lives but some of us will survive and for our children's sake
please, please end our misery.
Ken Joseph Jr, an exiled Assyrian Iraqi, quoting messages
> a former member of the Army to
> a person working with the police to
> taxi drivers to
> store owners to
> mothers to
> government officials
exception when allowed to speak freely
agrees with me - You
are pretty much full of the crap you have imbibed from the religious
fanatics and the right wing political extremists ....
#33 - 23rd March 2003
A New & Disturbing World
I recently read a long and fascinating essay
by commentator Ed Harris called, Our
World-Historical Gamble, which set my mind spinning. It
proposes that 9/11 has brought the West face-to-face with an entirely new
world threat unparalleled in history and requiring a radically different
approach. You should read the whole article, but meantime let me try
and summarise its main thrust.
the dawn of history until the last century, each country or nation or
call them what you will - has been defined by just two characteristics
wealth and wellbeing, good or bad, have been the result of the creativity,
work and efforts of its people. In order to care for their
families, its people have learned how to hunt, farm, invent
implements, build houses, trade with others etc.
security and cohesion has depended on the centralised control of
violence (army, police), and the use of that violence not only to defend
borders but to crush within the state any attempted violence by other
groups who would otherwise become local warlords.
Through history, these two characteristics have not only resulted in
the formation of countries. It has also led to empire-building when
one nation has proved better at them than another one who has attractive,
expropriatable resources, such as gold, land, slaves.
It was a rough world but, vitally, it produced a universal sense of
what is realistically available, which transcended all cultures and
If you don't plant enough seeds you won't have enough food;
if the timbers are too flimsy, your house will fall down;
if your neighbour is stronger than you, don't expect to get
everything you want in a negotiation, and don't pick a fight with
What changed in the 20th century was the Western liberal idea that
might is not necessarily right. The fact that I am able to steal
from you doesn't make it OK to do so.
So nations started being created not by work and violence but by the
agreement of Western powers, and
their resources obtained not by confiscation but by
The effect of this on the mindsets of the peoples of these new
countries is especially stark in the oil-rich Middle East.
Countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait were created by Westerners
drawing lines on the map, which happened to include vast oil
reserves. Westerners then helped them to extract the oil and then
paid to buy it from them. Suddenly, with no creativity or effort and
no ability for self-defence, they became extraordinarily wealthy nations,
as if by magic, secure in the knowledge they would not be invaded by the
powerful but liberal-minded West. This permitted them to buy
whatever they wanted just as a spoilt child might be given everything he
The most pernicious result was the creation of a fantasyland mindset
with no sense of the limits of reality and
an unrealistic sense of their own importance and power.
If I want a dream house, I just write a cheque and I have one.
No sweat - literally.
If you want examples of a fantasy mindset with no sense of reality
Just read Saddam's
speech on the night of America's attack
(Iraq, our nation and humanity will win).
Or think how at Camp David in 2000 Yasser Arafat, in an
all-or-nothing fantasy, turned down Israel's offer of
97% of the land he demanded.
When such a fantasy is then linked to an ideology - such as a perverted
belief that Islam demands that the West be destroyed - and is bolstered by
possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), you have a truly
Suddenly, in unviable States,
there are people able to wreak untold destruction, people for whom
there are no limits to reality and who are driven by a fantasy ideology
whose only goal is the destruction itself. They are not interested
in forcing their victims
to do their will.
You need only think of the
suicide flyers of 9/11, whose ability to kill and destroy was limited only
by the two instruments (planes and buildings) they could get their hands
on, neither of which they or their sponsor States were capable of
The orthodox approach to
defeating such perpetrators, by bargaining or conventional war, doesn't work because
they are not playing by any known rules or limits; their actions make no
sense - indeed that is the essence of the fantasy. It is total
fantasy to think that Western civilisations will accept and collapse under
such attacks, but that does not deter the fantasists. That is what
distinguishes them from adversaries such as the Nazis, the
Japanese, the Soviets who all operated to an internal logic bounded by a
sense of reality.
The only apparent solution therefore seems to be the pre-emptive
removal of the WMD. This may well necessitate the removal of the
state apparatus that fosters or protects them, and replacing it with
something judged more reasonable, for example a
democracy. Afghanistan and Iraq spring to mind.
It also means not shirking from necessary action for purely liberal
ideas, such as avoiding airport searches of targeted groups in case people
are made to feel unwelcome or it appears racist.
Whether a particular course of action, including the use of unrelenting
force if necessary, can be judged a success depends on
whether it creates a higher degree of pragmatic realism on the part
of the fantasists or
simply encourages their fantasies.
Teaching them respect for our values is secondary.
The tough action envisaged should of course be undertaken by the world
community as a whole, ideally via the UN, but by now so many countries
exist as unviable creations that they will never allow the UN to start
limiting their freedom to act in this way.
That means the job must be left, in practice, to America, the only
power strong enough to impose its will unilaterally on virtually any
country of its choosing. In other words, America becomes the centre
of world violence (in effect, the world's policeman) and we all rely on
its - yes - double-standards to decide and to enforce which countries may
be permitted what level of violence (up to WMD).
This conclusion represents a quite extraordinary espousal of a world
regime of double-standards and unilateral judgment, policed by an America
armed to the teeth and willing to use its military might. This
is analogous to the way a country's central authority already has a
monopoly of violence and uses it to suppress wayward warlords.
But it makes the world terribly dependent on the bona-fides of the
USA. For this reason, it is imperative that other well-meaning
countries be prepared to join it and thus influence it in particular
I recommend you read the full essay
over a period of a few days.
France - or, more
particularly, President Chirac - has provided everyone with a convenient
excuse for the diplomatic failure over Iraq. His threatened veto no matter what
of an 18th Resolution giving conditions and a deadline for war allowed the
middle six countries to not have to take a position at all, and hence to
avoid direct offence to anyone. It is a paradox that his threatened
veto, by closing the one remaining door for avoiding conflict, is what
made war a certainty.
Looking back, his
behaviour is especially bizarre.
The US wanted
November's Resolution 1441, the 17th calling on Saddam to disarm, to
authorise war automatically should Saddam refuse his final
opportunity to disarm.
insisted no, that if Saddam does not disarm there should be an 18th
resolution to authorise war.
was the compromise 1441 which says that while non-disarmament would merit serious consequences, it
would require the Security Council to meet again and
The council did meet again and consider,
in January and again February. Saddam failed to disarm. But
the would-be 18th resolution, which President Chirac refused to endorse
under any form, is the very resolution he had insisted on when negotiating
When the war is
over, one can expect America to seek out imaginative ways to punish France
economically and politically for its overt support of Saddam. It
will not be listened to again in the Security Council for a long long
time, which is what will probably hurt President Chirac the
The Peacenik and the Iraqi
Listen to this riveting radio
exchange in the US between a peace activist called Andrea and
Mohammed, an Iraqi exile. Notice how she is utterly unable to answer
the simple question, How exactly will leaving Saddam in power promote
peace and justice in Iraq ? Wow !
Afghanistan Joins Cyberspace
In January, I wrote about the tremendous progress there has been in
rebuilding Afghanistan one year after the war that deposed the
Under Taliban rule, all non-governmental use of e-mail services
and websites was punishable by death.
But earlier this
month, Afghanistan achieved a symbolic milestone of boring normalcy : it inaugurated
its first-ever internet country code - .af.
The UN Development Program was one of the first to publish an Afghan
website : www.undp.org.af .
there is now hope of some dull normality for Iraq, starting in just a few
weeks time. This will doubtless include the return of millions
of refugees, just as is happening in Afghanistan, the surest sign that
things are getting better.
Impressionable Teenagers from
I had forgotten how shockingly violent and disturbing is Shakespeare's
Macbeth, until recently reminded
by Cathy Sweeney, a teacher of English literature.
The action opens with Macbeth's defeat of the rebel leader where he unseam'd
him from the nave to the chaps. Soon after, horrible images unfix
Macbeth's hair and Lady Macbeth claims that she would, while feeding an
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless jaws
dashed the brains out.
The violence is relentless. Duncan is murdered, Banquo is murdered,
Lady Macbeth commits suicide, the witches chant about birth-strangled
babes, Macbeth cries,
I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far, that should
I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripp'd and
his wife and child are brutally murdered on stage.
For those who think violent movies and TV depicting evil and anarchy
encourage violent behaviour on the part of modern teenagers, Macbeth and
much else of Shakespeare should be immediately proscribed.
is no telling what people will spend other people's research money
Two outfits have recently published their own surveys of
what it is that Americans can least do without. They come to the
same conclusion. The humble toothbrush ranks well above your car,
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology produce
something called the Lemelson-MIT
Invention Index which measures stuff like that. They asked 1,400
people which of five inventions they could not live without. The
results appeared in the March 2003 issue of The Irish Dentist (which is not
available online). CNN then conducted is own
poll of 156,000 people.
Here, to enrich your lives, are
the results of both surveys.
Did the Survey ?
Was Surveyed ?
Many Were Surveyed ?
Price of the American Dental Association commented,
makes a lot of sense. Your teeth are always with you. You can always
update your car or a computer, but you just can't update teeth.
he says the oral health message is still incomplete. I
don't think many people will say dental floss is one of the great
inventions of all time, but the toothbrush alone will not do the job.
It's been a long road to the top for the toothbrush. The first was
built in 1498 by a Chinese emperor who had hog bristles embedded in a bone
handle. The hog bristle toothbrush became popular in Europe, but because
it cost so much, poor families would often share the same brush.
It wasn't until 1938 that the pharmaceuticals company Du Pont
introduced nylon bristles as a much cheaper replacement for pig hair. And
a good thing they did, as it finally made personal toothbrushes accessible
The same issue of the Irish Dentist expects its
dentist-readers to be clairvoyant, to see something that isn't
Am I missing something ?
Declaration of interest:
My father is a dentist who practiced in the twentieth century;
in the nineteenth century my great-grandfather was a Master Toothbrush
Quote of the Week
: President Saddam is certain of victory. He is relying on his
deep faith in God, the justice of our cause and his deep faith in the
Iraqi people. War could be avoided if Mr Bush went into exile.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mr Naji Al-Sabri
at a press conference
#32 - 16th March 2003
Here's a scary thought :
What if the implacable opposition of France, Germany and others to a war
against Saddam is not based upon repugnance of war under any
circumstances, but on something more sinister than moral ?
What if it is motivated by dread of US hegemony and - acknowledging
their own military and economic inferiority - they are therefore
seeking less conventional ways to cut America down to size
What if they have struck a deal with radical Islam and with
radical Arabs : You go after the United States, and we'll do
everything we can to protect you, and to
weaken the Americans ?
What if this strategy is based on using Arab and Islamic extremism
and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the
straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States
That's what some pundits, utterly unable to comprehend the conduct of
President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, are
postulating and citing a lot of plausible evidence in
Personally I find the theory too utterly preposterous and cynical to
believe. What about you ? Their bizarre behaviour certainly
invites wild theories.
Coming Irrelevance of the UN Security Council
But one has to wonder whether a small coterie is mounting a
conspiracy to make the UN Security Council - if not the UN itself -
Foreign Minister Mr Igor Ivanov said Russia would vote against a
resolution (actually the 18th) in its present form.
Later French President Jacques Chirac said : No matter
what the circumstances we will vote 'No'.
and that it would be a dangerous precedent if the US went
ahead with a war unilaterally without France's
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan then added that the world was at a dangerous
point of division. If the US goes outside the Security
Council, it will not be in conformity with the UN charter.
Yet none of these eminent gentlemen is in the slightest doubt that
last November's unanimous and binding 17th resolution (i.e. Resolution
1441) specifies serious consequences - an accepted euphemism for war - if Saddam does not disarm immediately, unconditionally and completely, which he
if an 18th resolution giving Saddam a final deadline is defeated and/or vetoed by
countries which know, as we all do, that the war is going ahead anyway, it is those voting No that will have done the damage. For they will have voted to not enforce the UN Security Council's own 17 prior resolutions, so demonstrating to all the world that the resolutions are meaningless and toothless. This would be foolhardy in the extreme.
Therefore if war goes ahead without the 18th resolution, which now looks
likely due to France's threat of a veto, those anti-war countries -
and Mr Annan - will have to either
lump it, thereby tacitly agreeing that
the war is authorised by 1441 and
therefore their own arguments were specious; or
declare the war illegal (despite 1441) and thereby expose the
impotence of the UN to to hold sway or authority over world
events, so why should anyone bother with it any more.
Make no mistake :
the choice - either option 1 or 2 - of whether or not to preserve the UN's
integrity (or illusion of integrity) - is the anti-warriors' and
It is not that of the pro-war Security Council countries America, Britain, Spain or
I very much fear that the anti-warriors will opt to destroy the UN
under Option 2 simply because opting for 1 would entail massive loss of
face for a few portentous individuals.
The logical follow-on from Option 2 is that a new, non-UN world order
will emerge whose agenda will be determined and carried through solely by
America, who will see the need to consult only those who happen to support
it on particular issues.
Meanwhile, as commentator Dave
Farber has put it,
unregulated Global Corporatism would be
the only permissible ideology,
every human would have access to McDonald¹s
and the Home Shopping Network,
would come through some variant
the Internet would be run by Microsoft,
and so it would remain for a long time. Peace. On Prozac.
Many would consider all this a retrograde step, though doubtless far better
than having a world order dominated by, say, a totalitarian state such as
North Korea or China. But is it really what France, Russia, Germany,
Belgium, the UN Secretariat and other anti-war entities want ?
It will probably be what they - and we - get.
Oh, and here is a question for those (such as France and Russia) who
voted for 1441 but now claim that
is not a UN euphemism for war. For if it doesn't mean war, what can it mean ?
More UN Resolutions ?
More inspections ?
More troops on the border with orders not to invade ?
Don't make Saddam laugh !
Containment is Deadlier than War
Which would be preferable ? A policy that kills 5,000 civilians
in a single event or one that kills 5,000 per month ?
That is the point posed by US foreign policy wonk Walter Mead when he
compares the civilian casualties of the first Gulf War with those
resulting from the policy of containment
implemented when Saddam refused to comply with his disarmament
promises that were a condition of the truce that ended that war in 1991.
Containment comprises primarily sanctions, alleviated somewhat by the
oil-for-food programme, perhaps backed up by inspections, perhaps backed
up by threat of force.
The Gulf War killed somewhere between 21,000 and 35,000 Iraqis, of whom
between 1,000 and 5,000 were civilians.
Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment
kills an astonishing 5,000 Iraqi under-fives per month. Other
estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills
about as many people every year as the Gulf War - and almost all the
victims of containment are civilian, of whom two-thirds are young children.
So every year that Saddam is left in place and contained
constitutes a new Gulf War. And though these civilians die solely because Saddam
chooses to divert oil-for-food money away from food/medicines and towards
his armed forces, cronies, palaces and personal accounts, they still die.
it is more humane to mount one more, decisive Gulf War, than an endless continuation of the
abominable containment advocated by the global Peace lobby.
should read the full
article in the Washington Post.
Clare Short of Options
Clare Short, Tony Blair's Minister for
International Development, has
decided to end her political career - to most people's relief.
Without prior notice to her boss, she went on BBC Radio 4 to call Tony
Blair's Iraq policy "reckless".
The normal effect of such public disloyalty would be instant sacking.
This she would have expected and relished, because she could then pose as
a martyr and further shoot her mouth off without the constraint of being
in the cabinet. And then after the fall of Blair due to disaster in Iraq,
she - vindicated - would rise like a phoenix.
But Blair is being much more clever. He hasn't fired her.
So her options are either to resign (no martyrdom there) or continue to show up in
cabinet meetings, where you can be sure there'll be plenty of snubbing and
Clare : Excuse
me, Prime Minister, may I say something
Tony : Not
really, Clare, no.
Clare : I think we should increase aid to
Tony : Then
trim your department
Prime Minister, ...
get back to you if I need you for anything. Now we must move on if
we're not to be reckless.
A policy of ignoring her is more painful for her than a
After Blair has triumphed in Iraq, he will doubtless get rid of
her. I expect she'll then sink bitterly into well-deserved
oblivion. Her options are closed.
On the other hand, Blair may himself be ready to go before too long. He is clearly
bored with New Labour,
ideologically detached from socialism,
weary with UK domestic policies,
though he clearly relishes international affairs. So perhaps he is
ready for new challenges as some kind of international statesman. He
was once tipped as a possible EU President, by EU-wide popular suffrage, under the new constitution
drafted, though his testy relationship with Jacques Chirac means that
that can no longer be a realistic expectation. You can be sure he won't leave
the premiership voluntarily until he has something more interesting lined
of Spouses for Chinese Men
A recent article
from UPI reports, with a hint of mirth, that within America,
in 73% of white-black marriages, the black spouse is a man, and
in 75% of white-Asian marriages, the Asian spouse is a
The spouse deficit this creates for black women and Asian men is a
social problem within the US, with no obvious solution, but it is no more
However, a spouse-deficit is fast developing right now in China, which
has the makings of a deadly time bomb that could have momentous consequences.
Deng Xiaoping's one-child policy, rigorously enforced throughout the 80s and 90s by China's communist dictatorship, has come to mean a largely one-boy policy.
For if you are Chinese and allowed only one child, you want it to be male so
that your name will live on. Therefore you abort (or perhaps secretly kill) your baby
daughters until a boy appears.
Recent technology that easily identifies the baby's sex during pregnancy
facilitates the practice of ensuring your one child is a son.
Not everyone does it of course, but enough do to create a marked
imbalance, and these only-children are growing up fast. So what are all
the young men going to do
over the next 10-20 years in a China that is expanding in economic and military strength
and ambitions but short of young women ?
The rich men are going to get first pickings of the few eligible Chinese
girls. They will also import brides and girlfriends from neighbouring countries, which is
of course to export the problem.
The brideless poor ones, on the other hand, may well find themselves in the armed forces engaged in military adventures abroad whose main if unwritten objective will be the rape and theft of women. Throughout history, this is how strong and ruthless countries have dealt with restless, sexually frustrated
young men who might otherwise cause unacceptable trouble at home.
And if plenty of them are killed in the fighting, so much the better
because this diminishes your imbalance. You win twice over, by solving your domestic problem while obtaining an
For China as a State, the overt objective of these escapades will likely be to challenge and counterbalance American hegemony.
If you doubt this, read this rather sobering account
of China's preparations for a future large-scale conflict with
The sex imbalance is no laughing matter.
Late Note (16th & 26th January 2010)
The Economist (subscription only)
“A study [entitled
by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
highlighted the growing sex imbalance in China.
It reported that 119 boys are born in the country
for every 100 girls and that by 2020,
24m men of marrying age might find themselves without wives.”
24m? It's a
Pakistan today has
an adult male population of
53 million males aged 15-64.
Of these, 24m is a reasonable estimate of their
“males of marrying age”.
Imagine the ructions if no young Pakistani could find a woman.
Well, that's China
in just ten years time.
And this huge number is already building up remorselessly.
a strategic and acutely dangerous problem for the world which,
even if China's one-child policy were abandoned today,
would take at least generation to eliminate.
Mark Steyn shares and Shanghai-based
Constance Kong of Mercator
share some of my concerns, but they seem more worried about
the over-stretching of China's social services and social cohesion
than the military threat to the wider world.
dictators who illegitimately rule China
regard their one-child policy as a success
because it has reduced its population by 400m,
and therefore have no intention of rescinding the policy.
Pop Idol Adam Kept the Faith
the 5ft 5½in pocket dynamo
who died of a heart-attack last
week, was once a pretty-boy pop-idol, but no ordinary one.
Terence Nelhams in the midst of the London blitz
of 1941, he grew up with few privileges. But, inspired by Lonnie
Donegan and skiffle, at 19 he burst on to the pop scene with What
do you want if you don't want money. He had chosen
his nom d'étage Adam Faith from the boys' and girls' section of a
book of names.
A lover of Sibelius and Dvorak and a voracious reader, there was always more to him than just
pop, as became clear when his idol status was ousted five years later by
The Beatles and Cliff Richard. For he embarked on a series of
imaginative careers, with both success and failure :
Property - he made a new fortune buying and selling
(sometimes in reverse order) as well as renovating and selling.
Acting - he found new new
fame in the 1970s as the character Budgie in a television series of the
same name, and continued acting on and off, on TV, movies and stage, until
Pop Impresario - he helped launch
Sandie Shaw, the bare-footed chanteuse of
the Swinging Sixties, managed Leo Sayer and re-launched Lonnie Donegan.
Finance Wizard - he reinvented
himself as share tipster and financial adviser, writing a daily
financial column for the Daily Mail for more than 10 years. But
this career ended in tears and debts when he was duped by the fraudster Roger Levitt
and lost a fortune at Lloyds, the
London insurance market.
TV Mogul - Undeterred, in 1999, he set up a
cable and satellite channel called Money
to provide personal finance advice and news. But it folded in 2001 and
bankrupted him. So he simply returned to acting.
If his business life was a roller-coaster, so
was his actual life : he survived a deadly car crash, a lethal helicopter accident and
major heart surgery. But not the final heart attack.
It's hard to imagine any of the current crop of
pop idols, such as Gareth
Gates, achieving anything of note once their chart-topping days are
over. But Adam Faith would be an excellent rôle model for
Equal Opportunity Insulter
Vanity Fair publishes an agony column
featuring the illustrious Dame Edna Etheridge.
The following exchange is from February's edition.
Click on the thumbnail
Dear Dame Edna,
I would very much like to learn a foreign language, preferably French
or Italian, but every time I mention this, people tell me to learn Spanish
instead. They say, Everyone is going to be speaking Spanish in 10
years. George W Bush speaks Spanish.
Could this be true ? Are we all
going to have to speak Spanish?
Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except
Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take
care of that. There was a poet named Garcia Lorca, but I'd leave him on
the intellectual back burner if I were you. As for everyone's speaking it,
what twaddle ! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk
to ? The help ? Your leaf blower ? Study French or German, where there are a
a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English.
A Mexican-American, Wendy Maldonado, is infuriated
by what she calls this racial stereotyping and is trying to organize some kind of
protest. She is at pains to point out that she herself is neither someone's
help nor leaf-blower and in fact holds three degrees. (And I thought
Vanity Fair has responded by pointing out that Dame Edna is an equal opportunity
distributer of insults. No-one can deny that !
Quote of the Week
: The League of Nations is a kind of excrescence which must be carefully prevented from having too
much influence on our foreign policy. Geneva [its headquarters was] a
strange place in which a new-fangled machine existed in order to enable foreigners
to influence or even to control our international action
later, in 1946, The
League is dead; long live the United Nations !
Robert Cecil (1864-1958), British cabinet minister and
an architect of the League of Nations
- pre-cursor of the United Nations -
expressing Britain's attitude to it
when its impotence to
hold sway and authority
over world events was exposed.
the way, winner of the CD under last week's item, Almonds
was Mary from the Dominican Republic. The answer was A A Gill's food
column in the Style magazine of the Sunday Times of 2nd March. Well
done, Mary, your CD is on its way.
#31 - 9th March 2003
of Three (Plus One)
Last week, in a day of quickening international diplomacy, the foreign
ministers of Russia, Germany and France - since dubbed the gang
of three - held an emergency meeting in Paris to present
a united front against the US and Britain and their plan to present a
second UN Security Resolution that will (re-)confirm that Iraq is in
serious breach and thus deserves war.
will not allow a resolution to pass that authorises resorting to force,
French Foreign Minister Mr Dominique de Villepin told a press conference
on behalf of the Gang. A few days later the Chinese Foreign Minister
China endorses and supports their joint statement.
And at Friday's UN Security Council debate where Drs Blix and al
Baradei again said Saddam is not cooperating fully, actively and
immediately (and thus remains in material breach) the four repeated their
But look at them :
the country that has twice waged brutal war on its own province
of Chechnya - a part of Russia only through imperial conquest in
the 19th century - for the crime of wanting its independence or at
least a high degree of autonomy that would reflect its different
ethnic, language and religious essence.
Russia advocates patience. Where was its own patience when
after only 58 hours of perfunctory negotiations
sent in its special forces to end the Moscow theatre siege, and
out of 800 hostages clumsily
killed 115 of its own citizens and injured a further 646 ?
the western two-thirds of which itself was freed from the tyrant
Hitler in 1945 by the Americans and British;
was economically rescued after the war by America's Marshall Plan of massive
aid which allowed the country to rebuild;
was protected by American arms for 45 years from the malevolent Soviet
Empire, whose eventual defeat permitted Germany's
reunification. America to this day provides 37,000 troops to
keep it protected.
And all this at no charge - and for no thanks.
delivered by America and Britain from abject defeat by Germany
in two world wars, despite overt collaboration with Hitler in the
its war graves filled with tens of thousands of GIs and
squaddies killed in the process;
also economically rescued and rebuilt by the Marshall Plan;
friend and succourer
of Saddam for over 20 years;
provider of Iraq's Osirik nuclear plant (nicknamed
O'Chirac after the Prime Minister who arranged it all) that would
today be producing weapons grade plutonium had the Israelis not
destroyed it in a daring bombing raid in 1981.
since 1949 an unapologetic communist dictatorship whose overriding
political philosophy is simply to stay in power at all costs;
the same dictatorship responsible for, amongst others;
the dictatorship that to this day holds the world record for
political prisoners and quasi-judicial executions
These are the countries with the moral authority to decide whether
American and British servicemen should again risk their lives ? This time
to liberate Iraqis, as well as to help protect America and the West from the potential
confluence of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. (By the
way, Hans Blix' 173 page report to the UN Security Council contains
evidence of both terrorists
within Iraq, though he did not mention them in his verbal
If the Gang were providing their
own soldiers to put the pressure on Saddam they might deserve more serious
consideration. But they don't; they are free-riding on the Americans
and then criticizing them from the sidelines.
Stuart Taylor of the National Journal puts it better. He invites
us to imagine America heeding its faithless allies' obstructionism and
resentment by withdrawing its services as world policeman. All US
troops return to protect only the homeland, leaving Europe and the rest to
deal with Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria, Indonesia, weapons
proliferation and international terrorism, and to provide (and fund) whatever
military muscle this requires. This scary scenario underscores how
the Europeans, South Koreans and others who have become highly anti-American
depend on American power - unthinkingly, ungratefully, and completely -
for their well-being and security. By abdicating their own responsibilities to help
maintain world order, they are simply free-riding.
It is hard to see how the
Gang are going to rescue their
reputations from the ever deeper hole they are digging for
themselves. Even they cannot doubt any longer doubt that America will
attack Iraq. Therefore they seem to be shamefully pinning their hopes on just
three doubtful scenarios :
W lacks the courage to push through another UN resolution, as this
would spare them from actively having to obstruct it with an abstention or
America fails to win a quick victory with minimal civilian casualties,
as this would allow them to gloat, and/or
failure to rebuild a new democratic Iraq, since a successful Iraq
would expose the shallowness of their posturing.
In America, NewsMax magazine has launched a boycott France campaign.
Though the reasons are understandable and well articulated, the boycott of
superb French wines, cheeses and cars is infantile. Why cut your nose
to spite your face ? The French will only laugh.
Meanwhile, for all the rhetoric in the Islamic world, it is clear from last week's emergency summit
in Qatar of the
56-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which was meant to unite the voices of the world's one billion Muslims against
war, that they are far from unanimity in condemning the
forthcoming attack on Iraq.
In a clash
caught on live television before transmission was shut down, Saddam's top aide Izzat
Ibrahim departed from his text to zero in on the Kuwaitis sitting across
the conference chamber. Shut up you minion, you
US agent, you monkey. You are
You are insolent. You
are a traitor to the Islamic nation, he spat out
while Qatar's head of state Sheikh Hamad al-Thani tried to silence him.
A Kuwaiti delegate responded that the insults were the words
of an infidel and a charlatan, as the two sides shouted and
gesticulated angrily at each other.
The summit only agreed a broad statement on Iraq - not broadcast -
which said diplomacy should be given more time, whatever that
of a Soviet Tyrant
Last week, I drew some
parallels between Saddam Hussein the tyrant of Iraq and Menghistu the
tyrant of Ethiopia. This week
its the turn of Joseph Stalin, the tyrant of the Soviet Empire who died
just 50 years ago on 6th March 1953.
I well remember, as a boy of eight growing up in Hong Kong, the
screaming headlines, STALIN IS DEAD.
In 1879, he was
born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili in Georgia, the studious and devout
son of a cobbler and a
it was while studying for the Orthodox Christian priesthood that he
discovered Karl Marxs writings which turned him into an atheistic
communist revolutionary at
age 20. Before long he met
Lenin, changed his name to Stalin (Man of Steel), and after
the 1917 revolution became Lenins right-hand-man.
After Lenins death in 1924, Stalin over the next three years manoeuvered his way to the
top by ruthlessly
and exiling all his rivals and opponents. Once
in sole power, he
introduced policies of forced collectivization of farmers that produced nation-wide famine
that resulted in the deaths of millions. Millions more were killed
in his purges of the Communist Party and the military.
In 1939, he stunned the world by signing a non-aggression pact with
Hitler, which divided Eastern Europe. Two years later however, Hitler
invaded the Soviet Union. Yet, despite the rapid advance of German forces, Stalin
rallied his people to the defense of Russia, which was ultimately
victorious over the Germans, aided by a bitter winter.
In 1942, Time Magazine nominated him
as Man of the
Year, with a sycophantic account of this accomplishment. But it
was silent about the cost to Russia : a mind-boggling twenty
million lives, three times more than their enemy's losses.
After the war, Stalin's militant mistrust of the West (his wartime
allies!) coupled with his policy of hanging on to and oppressing all the
Eastern European countries the Soviets had
liberated from the Germans gave rise to the Cold War. Fortunately, America prevailed through its
economic strength, military threat and single-mindedness, but only after
When eventually he died, you would think that the radio announcement, The heart of Stalin - comrade and inspired follower of Lenin's will,
the wise leader and teacher of the Communist Party and the Soviet people -
has ceased to beat would cause rejoicing. But no.
People thronged the streets of Moscow in an almost hysterical outburst of
grief; hundreds were crushed to death at the his funeral.
His purges of society through violent police terror left a
permanent scar on the collective memory of the people under his rule.
Although admired by some Russians, most would agree with the assessment in
the West that Stalin was one of the cruelest dictators in history, with an
overwhelmingly negative historical legacy.
To this day, the circumstances of his death are
Did he die of
a brain haemorrhage after a customary late-night drinking
session with his politburo colleagues, his mortal coil finally
succumbing to a lifetime of abuse, as the official history tells us ?
Or did his trusted
lieutenant Lavrenty Beria, chief of the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB),
have him poisoned
because he was about to plunge the Soviet Union into World War 3
against America to create a communist Europe, a war the Soviet people and economy were in no
position to fight, despite his nuclear weapons ?
is a lot of plausible
evidence to support the latter. And we can only guess at how
many additional deaths the murderous thug's own early demise at 74
example of the great man lives on today, through oppression, central
control and killing. Stalin would warmly embrace Kim Jong Il of North
Korea, Fidel Castro of Cuba and of course Saddam Hussein of Iraq, all
rabidly Stalinist dictatorships.
don't attack Iraq
marchers rationalise their attempts to prevent the
fall of Saddam ? They would similarly march for
Cost of Domain Names
Ever wonder why so many domain names end with .com ? Even of websites
which are clearly linked to a particular country (eg an Irish construction
company such as www.naturaltimberconstruction.com) ?
Here's a clue. Cost and ease. I did a little
Domain Name Ending
Cost per year
A few clicks
Form to be filled; certificates submitted
£40 plus VAT
form to be filled in
form to be filled in
form to be filled in
Why would any sane person not opt for .com ?
Almonds Are Forever
The humble almond has been with us a long, long time. Forever.
Ur, the ancient name for modern day Iraq, is the oldest state in the world, the first country. It existed before the end of the ice age. The fertile crescent that runs between the Tigris and the Euphrates was where farming was invented, the first place where more than 200 people could live together. It was the beginning of civilisation, because they grew food. And one of the
first things cultivated was almonds.
Book of Numbers tells
the story of Aaron's rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the nut divine approval.
It is one of the great mysteries of human consumption. The fruit, from the
apricot family, is only edible when unripe. The stone is the nut. And here's the miraculous bit.
You know when you get a bitter almond, how deeply unpleasant that is ? Well, that's the natural flavour of almonds - they're poisonous with prussic acid. The sweet almond is a mistake, a very occasional genetic cock-up. So, how did they manage to grow
them ? You might get one sweet almond in a blue moon on a bitter almond tree, but it would take years of selective breeding to get sweet almond trees.
And if, by chance, you did come across a sweet one, you couldn't plant it, because you'd already have eaten it. You work it out.
Almonds are a magical ingredient. They've found their way into all European and Asian
cooking and cultures. They can be both sweet and savoury. They were hugely important to medieval and Renaissance banquets, and are still the sweet devotion at the heart of
festivals around the world :
the simnel cake at Easter;
the French galette des rois at Epiphany;
the German stollen;
British Christmas and wedding cakes;
the five almonds given to guests at Greek weddings to signify health,
wealth, happiness, fertility and longevity for the happy couple;
Iraq's lowzina, a triangular almond sweetmeat flavoured with rose-water and cardamom, and decorated with gold leaf.
If you think you can taste a hint of a prussic parable here, you're right. We're all connected by the gossamer web of shy pleasures and shared joy.
The triumph of civilisation has always been to find the one sweet nut in the bag of bitter ones. And, boy, are we suffering a lot of bitter nuts at the moment.
Most of the world's almonds, by the way, are now grown in California
where, curiously, bees are trucked
around to pollinate them. Click here
for a few almond recipes.
Prize : A 15-track music CD ("Selection for 2003")
to the first surfer who can tell me where I cribbed most of this
delightful article. e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barclays Is Not Just a Bank
An interesting court case
reported on in Dublin last week.
I always thought Barclays was a bank.
But apparently it is also a lap dancing club
so exclusive that even the self-styled King
of Clubs Peter Stringfellow
admitted. It was being prosecuted for running a
brothel. This was based on evidence collected by two fearless police
luminous yellow jackets who raided the premises one evening last October.
They alleged that on entering the private
Suite upstairs, they lingered their torch (the
torch of Irish justice ?) on a naked woman
leaning over a man on a chair who they said was caressing
her intimately while loud beat music played.
club manager put up a robust defence, citing the club's no-touching rule
(which, by the way, could otherwise turn clubbers into communists
according to this medical
report). The beleaguered man said he was aghast
when the boys in blue made the outrageous suggestion that he might be
running a brothel. He simply could not believe what the
police were suggesting.
customer in question explained that he had paid 100 for a private dance
and that he only came into contact with the lady because she stumbled
after being startled by the clumsy arrival of Messrs Plod, and he had raised his
hand to save her from falling. As to the police evidence of
seeing him groping her, the manager replied,
The guy would have to be an octopus.
Lacking any sense of humour, the judge found Barclays guilty and
suspended its licence. The club is appealing (like the
Nevertheless, the streets of Dublin are safer and criminals now quake,
thanks to the gallant efforts of our intrepid law-enforcement officers.
have been making it difficult for their employees / pupils to take
toilet breaks, and there has been some protesting.
An enterprising Tallrite Blog surfer suggests a novel solution
for office workers.
Click on the thumbnails
Quotes of the Week
: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.
: If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses
to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.
Also Stalin, but could as well be George W Bush today
#30 - 2nd March 2003
Resolution 1441 One More Time
With all the hot air that's being bandied around, particularly by the
anti-war lobby, it's worth repeating the key elements of UN
Unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council, it states quite
categorically that Iraq is already in material breach. It must
disarm if it wishes to change this situation.
Hans Blix and
Mohammed El Baradei have not reported that it has done so and what a
relief it would be for them if they could so report. The best Dr Blix can
is the results in terms of disarmament have been very
limited so far.
Notwithstanding the last-minute destruction of four Al-Samoud missiles
out of 50,
the material breach endures.
!441 also categorically states that continued material breach will
risk serious consequences. No-one doubts, not even Iraq, that
this is a euphemism for
Thus war is authorised at any time.
We should moreover remember that the upcoming war
is not a new one. It is merely the continuation of the one begun in 1990 by
Saddam when he invaded Kuwait. As commentator Andrew Sullivan points
out, when that war was won twelve
years ago, no peace treaty was signed. Instead, a truce was arranged on
clear and unequivocal conditions : that Saddam completely disarm himself of
weapons of mass destruction, which he patently has not done.
The issue is therefore not whether to start a war. It is whether to end
one by rewarding the aggressor and simply ignoring his infractions of the
truce. Such a policy, inasmuch as it clearly rewards unprovoked
aggression, would be immoral and imprudent.
A second UN resolution
will be nice for public opinion, but it's not necessary. Neither
will it rescue either Bush or Blair from their current unpopularity, because those opposed
to war are implacably so - new resolution or no new resolution.
Only one thing can reprieve them politically and that is a rapid and
resounding victory followed by determined restructuring and
reconstruction of a new democratic Iraq.
Conversely, they are both doomed if the war is lengthy and results
in heavy casualties.
I am more inclined to believe the confident, informed assertions of America's
military brass that speedy victory is likely, rather than the doomsday scenarios painted by angry, uninformed
In another impassioned speech
last week, Tony Blair compared himself with Prime Minister Neville
Chamberlain who in 1938 was welcomed as a hero by the British people when
he extracted from Hitler a seemingly war-averting promise of no further
aggression. However, Mr Blair wanted to show his determination not
to repeat a comparable mistake.
was a good man; he made a popular decision; he made the wrong decision.
But had Churchill then been in power, the script might well have
was a bad man; he made an unpopular decision; he made the right
And history would have produced a World War 2 that was earlier,
shorter and less bloody, and the whole of Eastern Europe would have
been spared 50 years under the malevolent thumb of the Soviet
Think about it.
Mengistu, Tyrant of Ethiopia
As we contemplate the imminent removal and/or demise of the Tyrant of
Iraq, it is interesting to note that there is more than one way for a
vicious regime to be terminated.
That of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, tyrannical President of
Ethiopia, fell in the summer of 1991 after
years in power. He himself escaped at the last minute by plane to
Zimbabwe, where to this day he luxuriates under
the protection of his soul-brother Robert Mugabe, immune from
extradition demands from Ethiopia for (massively-documented) crimes
The fate of Mengistu's much feared armed forces, responsible for up to
500,000 deaths at his orders, was extraordinary.
With help from the even more malign Soviet Empire, Mengistu had built up the most powerful army in sub-Saharan Africa. It numbered 400,000 soldiers; it had rockets and chemical
weapons and was not afraid to use them.
Its opponents were guerrillas from the northern mountains (Tigre and now-independent Eritrea) and from the south
They were mostly barefoot boys, often children, ragged, hungry, poorly
armed, mostly unpaid.
And yet, in the summer of 1991, these rebel forces had driven the government troops
from the countryside and into Addis Ababa. Europeans began fleeing the
city in panic, expecting a bloodbath once the guerrillas entered.
But something quite different occurred, something that could have been the subject of a
End of a Great Army.
At the news that their
cowardly commander had fled, this powerful force, armed to the teeth, collapsed in a matter of hours.
Empty-bellied, demoralized soldiers transformed all at once, before the stunned eyes of the city's residents, into beggars. Holding a Kalashnikov in one
hand more as a support than a threat, they stretched out the other,
pleading for food. The guerrillas took the capital essentially without a fight.
Mengistu's soldiers, having abandoned their tanks, rocket launchers, airplanes, armoured vehicles, and artillery pieces, set off, each man for himself, on foot, on mules, by bus, for their villages,
And if by chance in the years that followed you were to find yourself driving through Ethiopia, you would have noticed in many villages and small towns strong, healthy, young men sitting idly on the thresholds of houses, or on the stools of humble roadside bars.
They were the soldiers of General Mengistu's great army which was to conquer Africa
- yet fell apart in the course of a single day in the summer of 1991.
Saddam's forces might last longer than a single day. But they
won't last longer than a month, if that.
Agreements Invalidate Marriage
Pre-nuptial agreements are gaining in popularity across the Western
world. A particularly
celebrated one has Michael Douglas paying Catherine Zeta Jones a
pre-determined sum every time he is caught philandering, as well as rules
for division of spoils in the event of a divorce.
Geoffrey Shannon, an expert on family law from the
European Commission for Family Law, and author of Children
and the Law supports the practice of
pre-nuptial agreements. He suggests that
most of us enter marriage with a naïvety that is
and that the pre-nuptial agreement is merely a
type of contract ... whose time has come.
People may not be aware, however, that a pre-nuptial agreement will almost certainly invalidate a
marriage in the Catholic Church.
Catholic Canon Law states that the essential properties of marriage are unity
and indissolubility. The exclusion of indissolubility by a positive act of
the will, as exemplified by a typical pre-nuptial agreement, renders consent
While this may not be an issue for civil lawyers, it will be
important to young Catholic couples who believe marriage is a God-sanctioned
union. Indeed, under all Christian faiths, marriage is
supposed to be indissoluble.
death do us part is supposed to mean what it
Three years late and costing 46m, Dublin has just erected its
contribution to the Third Millenium, the Dublin
In the centre of the city's greatest thoroughfare, O'Connell
Street just north of the river Liffey, it replaces Nelson's Pillar
which the IRA blew up in 1966. The highly polished stainless
steel spire is just three metres across at its base, and rises 120
metres tall with a pinpoint red light at the top. This makes
it the country's tallest structure; it is also the world's tallest
Though a poll suggests 96% of Dubliners approve of it, they have
nonetheless been quick to re-christen it over the past few months.
Among the better
Dublin Spyer (with CCTV cameras installed to improve street
Monument of Light
The Pointless Point
The Point of Irish Neutrality (nice idea that everyone can
talk about, pointing vaguely into space, and has nothing to do
The Rod to God Knows Where
Bertie Pole (Bertie Ahern is Ireland's Prime Minister)
Bertie's Erection ...
Come on Baby, Light my Spire
Spike (Milligan, Irish comedian, just deceased)
Spike in the Dyke
Stiletto in the Ghetto
Stiffy by the Liffey
Jab in the Slab
Lampstand in Clampland (ie car clampers land)
Light in the Night
on the Fringe
in the Mire
in the Hole
Steeple for the People
and finally, for all you Irish-language aficionados,
An Spadhar (which means a mad impulse, a tilting at windmills.
The adjective, spadhrúil,
means mentally unbalanced)
Take your pick !
You thought George W Bush was a boring old warmonger ? Well, have
a look at him disco dancing. Hip or what ?
meant to be anti-Bush but with dancing skills like this, he goes up
(further) in my estimation !
of the Week
: Whoever decides to forsake his nation from whoever requests
[it] is not true to [his] principles. We will die here ...
in this country and we will maintain our honour, the honour that is
required, in front of our people. Whoever ... offers Saddam asylum
in his own country is ... without morals, because he will be directing an
insult to the Iraqi people ... who have chosen Saddam Hussein, unanimously.
- President Saddam Hussein of Iraq
talking to CBS Anchorman Dan Rather
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to Tallrite Blog
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s
incredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics