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Pope spouts anti-Semitism

Before my Catholic friends disown me, the Pope in question isn’t the pontiff who lives in the Vatican. It’s Tom Pope, who lives in Port Vale and plays for its Second Division football team.

Thanks, Tom. Now we know what’s coming

His tweet caused quite some resonance the other day, which breaks a firmly established pattern. Traditionally, only Premiership players hold views of national, and especially international, interest.

A creatively tattooed Arsenal or Chelsea player is guaranteed a wide forum and a nationwide discussion whenever he airs his geopolitical wisdom, along the lines of “we shouldn’t of went into Iraq”. People may or may not agree, but they’ll listen.

Celebrity confers on its possessor that special status of presumed sagacity that in the past used to be harder to acquire. Now it’s easy: sign a £100,000-a-week contract and let your mouth run wild.

But a lowly Second Division striker? This is something new and therefore worthy of a comment.

One of Pope’s fans asked him to “predict the World War III result”. He must have expected the striker to give him the current betting odds on various possible outcomes, but Pope instead gave him the benefit of his geopolitical analysis:

“We invade Iran then Cuba then North Korea then the Rothschilds are crowned champions of every bank on the planet.”

Mr Pope clearly sees a war as a sporting contest, in which the top prize isn’t a cup but “every bank on the planet”. In such a competition there can be only one winner: the Jews in general and the Rothschilds in particular.

Moreover, the implication is strong that it’s those Jews from hell who would actually provoke the invasion of “Iran, Cuba then North Korea” for the purpose of becoming world banking champions as a result.

Portraying the Rothschilds in this way has to give a warm feeling of recognition to all students of history, of whom Mr Pope is clearly one. For conspiracy theories about that family go back to at least 1815, when they were falsely accused of having learned the result of the Battle of Waterloo before everyone else and parlayed that discovery into huge profits.

Since then the Rothschilds have never left the pages of anti-Semitic tracts, such as the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion concocted by the tsar’s secret police in 1903. The Rothschilds have been portrayed as the secret rulers of the world, ordering millions to their death to fill their coffers with filthy lucre.

Now that canard has flown as far as Port Vale, landing in the garden of its celebrated denizen. Tom knows nothing about the Rothschilds except that they are Jews who own, well, everything, with the possible exception of Port Vale FC. But it’s the feeling that counts.

When accused of anti-Semitism, the attacker went on the defence: “They own the bloody banks! There’s no racial malice whatsoever and anyone would say the bloody same! I didn’t choose a side. I merely stated they own the banks and that’s it!”

Now, I doubt Tom could name a single bank owned by the Rothschilds. He has probably heard of none of them. And those he knows aren’t owned by that diabolical family. Barclays? No. HSBC? No. Lloyds? No. RBS? No.

Further afield, JPMorgan Chase? No. BNP Paribas? No. (For Mr Pope’s information, BNP stands for Banque Nationale de Paris, not the British National Party.)

But that’s hardly the point, is it? Facts shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the story, especially one as seductive as this – and one that can elevate a player no one has ever heard of to the status of national celebrity.

At 34, Tom must be nearing the end of his playing career. But not to worry: a bright future in political analysis beckons. Breitbart News is always looking for fresh blood.

Historical parallels don’t converge

Newspapers are bulging and airwaves exploding with pacifist shrieks about the assassination of Gen Soleimani.

President Trump assassinates Gen Soleimani

These are emanating from assorted leftists, with Peter Hitchens adding his ex-leftist voice to the discordant choir (my lifelong conviction is that no leftist is ever truly ex, but we shan’t go into that).

The leitmotif revolves around apocalyptic predictions, typically based on parallels drawn with the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian terrorist.

However, President Trump isn’t exactly Gavrilo Princip, Gen Soleimani was certainly no Archduke and, most important, today’s hybrid warfare is a far cry from conflicts of 100 years ago.

Regular armies and their high-yield weapons are these days used mainly for blackmail purposes, a sort of sword of Damocles hanging overhead but never quite falling. The frontline troops are terrorists with their bombs, hackers with their computers, propagandists with their media, journalists either bribed or seduced into doing the dirty work.

The long-term aim is to paralyse the West’s will to defend itself, creating a climate of scary uncertainty, and pushing the West towards appeasement.

The Middle East is the hottest flashpoint at present, and there the terrorist arm of hybrid war is swinging within a wide amplitude. Muslim states and their proxies use the region as both the target for terrorism and its home base.  

At present, Iran is the principal Islamic perpetrator of anti-Western jihad, an effort that was led by Gen Soleimani. Yet ‘principal’ doesn’t mean the only one, far from it.

The role of Saudi Arabia in financing and harbouring terrorists is well-known, if not widely publicised for realpolitik reasons. Remarkably little has, for example, been made of the Saudi origin of most of the 9/11 terrorists, not to mention their leader Osama bin-Laden.

However, quite apart from its economic importance, Sunni Saudi Arabia is seen as a counterweight to the Shi’ite power of Iran. Moreover, the Saudis have no discernible ambition to develop nuclear weapons and use them against Israel, the only reliable ally of the West in the region.

Gen Soleimani was an infinitely more powerful version of Osama. Unlike the latter, he had committed to his operations the full resources of a major state, including its army of over 500,000. Moreover, he effectively had under his command a whole raft of terrorist organisations, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

His efforts have taken hundreds of thousands of lives, including thousands of Western lives that tend to be valued rather more highly by their countries than Muslim ones are by theirs.

All told, as we look at the late Gen Soleimani, he typologically begins to resemble Osama more and more and Archduke Ferdinand less and less. Nor will the consequences of his assassination be as dire.

The United States and its allies enjoy a prohibitive military superiority over the Muslim world in general and Iran in particular. This would count for nothing in the absence of the will to use force in defence of Western interests. However, President Trump’s action and his subsequent threat to destroy 52 important sites in Iran show a hardening of will, which is encouraging.

That’s why I suspect that Iran’s retaliatory response will be largely symbolic. The ayatollahs probably realise that the devastation Nato could wreak may lead to a popular revolt against their power.

To his credit, Peter Hitchens doesn’t look for parallels in such a distant past. To his discredit, those he does draw range from spurious to intellectually irresponsible to deranged.

He opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as did I. That action, I believe, was taken for frivolous reasons. Some of them were emotive, a we-must-do-something reaction to the 9/11 outrage. Others were simply unsound, such as the foolhardy hope to bring American-style democracy to every tribal society in the world.

That action was wrong, but this doesn’t mean that no action was called for. My contention was then and still remains that it should have been purely punitive, with democracy never even coming up, and no nation-building dangled as an achievable end.

The United States and its allies have the wherewithal to cause catastrophic damage to terrorist states without risking Western lives. The damage could be economic and, as President Trump indicated, also cultural. I don’t know if he has Iran’s holy city of Qom in his crosshairs, but that’s a possibility.

The alternative to that is giving Muslim terrorism a free hand not only in the Middle East but also around the world. Any sane person ought to have realised by now that bloodstained regimes see any attempt to appease them as a sign of weakness. And weaknesses are to be pounced on, any bully knows that.  

Hence only three responses to Muslim terrorism are possible: remote-control devastation, boots on the ground (and hence bodies in the ground) – and none. The assassination of Gen Soleimani shows that President Trump is wisely opting for the first one.

Since Mr Hitchens is offering no alternative, one has to assume he’d prefer the ‘none’ option. That way he re-establishes the temporarily lost common ground with his erstwhile comrades, which is his prerogative. Call of the heart and all that.

Yet he also has a public persona, which should have given him some sense of responsibility. Alas, all he can manage is calling the US action “bloody stupid” – this, without even hinting at a bloody clever alternative.

The old leftist canard of moral equivalence also sees the light of day. “Can you begin to imagine the justified rage in the USA if a senior American general were shot dead on the steps of the Pentagon by an Iranian hit team?” asks Mr Hitchens rhetorically. “Yet what, in the end, would be the moral difference between the two acts?”

That’s one of those questions that, if asked, can’t be answered this side of a lunatic asylum. Yet I’ll try.

The moral difference is that Gen Soleimani threatened and took the lives of Westerners and their allies, waging a perfidious hybrid war on the West and fomenting a potential for global conflagration.

The hypothetical US general, on the other hand, would have devoted his life to protecting the West – well, us – from the likes of Gen Soleimani. To say that there’s no moral difference between the two is to see no moral difference between friend and foe, which betokens moral idiocy.

Yet Mr Hitchens doesn’t limit himself to the moral kind. Intellectual idiocy is also on offer: “We see it [the same continuing disaster] in Ukraine, where American and EU aggression finally came up against hard resistance.”

So, by invading the Ukraine, Putin offered “hard resistance” to “American and EU aggression”. Even as we speak, I’m feverishly and in vain looking for reports of US armour sweeping eastwards along the old Smolensk road.

To Mr Hitchens any thwarting of Russia’s imperial expansion clearly constitutes ipso facto aggression, even if this is done by strictly peaceful means. This view of the world is peculiar to either insane ideologues or Russia’s paid agents of influence, and I’ll leave you to decide which group Mr Hitchens belongs to.       

“A US President can now start a war, if he picks his enemy carefully, without needing to fear a nuclear exchange,” further laments my favourite pundit. Would he prefer a situation where such a fear is imminent? Wouldn’t put it past him.

“These are crazy times,” concludes Mt Hitchens. They are. And made even crazier by the likes of him.

Well spoken, Mr President

One drone missile killed Gen Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s al-Quds force and effectively the country’s second-in-command, and Aby Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Iraqi mujahedeen.

Iran has been told

Another blew up the car carrying their bodyguards, which strikes me as somewhat redundant, considering they no longer had any bodies to guard.

By issuing the order for the action, President Trump showed his polyglot credentials: he can speak to evil regimes in the only language they understand. Surprisingly, no disclaimer about Islam being a religion of peace has yet been issued, though it may be forthcoming.

Gen Soleimani was the mastermind behind all of Iran’s terrorist and military activities in the region, including deadly attacks on US personnel and, of course, Israel. The button for every rocket fired on Israel by Hezbollah was effectively pushed by Iran or, until yesterday, Gen Soleimani personally.

The name of the elite force he led, Quds, means ‘Jerusalem’ in Farsi, which sort of gives the game away. The good general expected his jihad to end in Jerusalem, with all of Israel annihilated en route.

The current upheaval in the Middle East threatens world peace, and the situation is largely the fault of the US and its allies. But President Trump isn’t to blame: he inherited the mess and has to deal with it as best he can.

The mess was created by American foreign policy naivety, springing from her worshipping at the altar of Democracy (always implicitly capitalised). Having assumed the role of the Leader of the Free World after 1945, the US decided that part of its remit was to proselytise and enforce Democracy worldwide.

Foreign rulers who fell short of the exacting American standards were all lumped together: none of them was deemed worth America’s benevolence, regardless of the actual geopolitical situation in the region.

Hence the US at least acquiesced in the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and might even have actively promoted it. The Shah was an undemocratic tyrant, so good riddance.

American governments simply refused to acknowledge some home truths, the primary one being that Islam is an implacable enemy of the West, and has been for 1,400 years.

Aggressive anti-Western passions have always bubbled just under the surface, producing earthquakes whenever the power balance between Islam and the West shifted towards the former. Hence the only sensible policy for the West to follow is one that keeps those passions in check, preventing violent outbursts.

Ideally, this desideratum should be achieved without committing Western forces. Instead, American and generally Western interests lie in supporting relatively secular rulers in the region, those who themselves have a vested interest in keeping a lid on Muslim fanaticism.

Such leaders have to be despotic because Islam has no tradition of democracy, nor any cultural, philosophical or social predisposition for it. Thus people like the Shah, Saddam, Gaddafi (in his later life), Mubarak and Assad were a godsend to the US.

Alas, because they were indisputably vile and unapologetically undemocratic, Americans saw them more as the devil’s spawn. Assad is still hanging on by the skin of his teeth, but the other tyrants have been ousted by the US and its allies, either directly or indirectly.

That had the effect of uncapping a well of violence, and it gushed out. The last act of folly was committed in 2003, when America set out to convert Iraq into a Middle Eastern answer to Idaho. We all know how that turned out.

Yet that milk has been spilled, and there’s no crying over it nor trying to lap it up. Islam, under Iran’s leadership, has been energised and impassioned, ready to threaten Western interests not only in the region but around the world.

The recent joint naval exercises involving Iran and two other evil regimes, Russia and China, show that the conflict brewing in the Middle East may overrun the local borders. And, if history has taught us anything (which it probably hasn’t, but that’s a different subject), the West can’t negotiate its way out of trouble with evil regimes.

Only two paths are open: abject surrender preceded by appeasement or a show – potentially use – of overwhelming force. In dealing with Iran, President Trump yesterday communicated his preference for the second stratagem, which is both more moral and more effective.

Evil rulers must be made to understand that an aggressive stance against the West may endanger not only their subjects’ lives (about which they care little), but also their own.

The time of combat chivalry is long since passed, and modern wars aren’t conducted on erstwhile noble codes. Thus, during the Battle of Waterloo, an artillery officer told Wellington that he had a clear shot at Napoleon and was ready to fire. Wellington replied: “No! I’ll not allow it. It is not the business of commanders to be firing upon one another.”

Now it is, and those fomenting violence in the Middle East were reminded of this paradigm shift yesterday.

The West enjoys a military superiority over Iran, and this must be brought to bear. The only way to do so is by demonstrating the existence of a political will, without which the military muscle is in effect atrophied.

Time will tell if Iran and other evil regimes have got the message and will be deterred from escalation. If they aren’t, the next step has to be of apocalyptic proportions and lightning speed. Shilly-shallying is deadly when the other side is baying for your blood.

A combination of stern resolve, strategic brain and military brawn is required to deal with enemies who are ready to pounce on any weakness. It’s in such situations that Americans, along with the rest of us, should be grateful that the White House is inhabited by Donald Trump, not by Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.

One can only hope that the president will also find a way of dealing with the evil regimes allied with Iran. They too must be made to realise that the West can only be pushed so far, but drone strikes won’t work there.

Some two centuries before the birth of Islam, the proper strategy was formulated by Vegetius in his tract De Re Militari: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”.

Translated into English, this means Nato countries must heavily invest in the military – and be prepared to use it. That way they may not have to.

P.S. Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed its indignation over the US action, referring to Soleimani as “a patriot of Iran who loyally served the country’s national interests”. In particular, the general was the driving force behind drawing Russia into the Syrian war. Whether this served Iran’s national interests remains to be seen.

Have a Greta year

The other day I suggested that successful ads tell us more about the audience than about the products advertised.

“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer, all power to the Soviets and save the planet!”

Exactly the same can be said about political messages, though their ability to turn individuals into a herd is more sinister. Advertising changes the way we buy; politics, the way we live.

Perhaps I’m using the word ‘individuals’ too loosely. How many people actually are, in the fullest sense of the word? How many are impervious to the effects of mass propaganda? How many have the will and ability to make up their own minds, and damn the torpedoes?

I don’t know. But, on the available evidence, not many. Just observe how easily the same throngs who in their daily lives try to keep up with the Joneses are swayed to keep up with the Lenins, Hitlers – or for that matter Thunbergs.

Once the head count has reached some critical mass, previously normal people trade their old certitudes for new. Yesterday’s truths become today’s lies and vice versa; yesterday’s insanity turns into today’s orthodoxy.

What kind of leaders are capable of producing such a response? Looking at the people mentioned above, they are variously intelligent (in a descending order, as listed), but none is an intellectual giant. They don’t have to be because they appeal not to reason but to some other faculties.

Hence it’s irrelevant that Lenin and Hitler were considerably cleverer than Greta. That poor Swedish girl proves that intelligence doesn’t even come into it when the task is to create mass psychosis.

Then what does? To answer that question, we have to identify the X-factor shared by all mass demagogues, the area in which they all converge. There exists only one that I can see: the truly demonic energy they all exude, which itself is produced by a mental imbalance.

I’m trying to avoid the trap of claiming that those we don’t like, say Lenin and Hitler, are insane. They were, but not necessarily in the clinical sense of the word.

They were capable of perfectly rational behaviour in pursuit of their insane goals, and neither of them was out of touch with reality. Their goals were indeed insane, but these were presented in a seemingly sensible package.

Both men suffered from hysteria and acute neuroses aggravated by physical defects, neurosyphilis in Lenin’s case, genital deformity and consequences of war trauma in Hitler’s, but neither of them was what we’d call certifiable. They weren’t schizophrenics or any other kind of madmen; they were possessed.

And whatever, or whoever, it was that possessed them acted like water or gas injected into a dying oil well. That process increases the flagging pressure in the formation, and the pressure pushes the oil up, turning a trickle into a gusher.

The energy exuded by successful demagogues raises the pressure in the formation of philistine torpor, pushing to the surface hysterical emotions unsullied by serious thought. Others might have communicated similar messages before, and the masses thought they had a point. But those same messages didn’t produce the same effect.

That’s akin to the difference between the two great orators of antiquity, Cicero and Demosthenes. It was said that when Cicero spoke, people exclaimed, “Great speech!”, but when Demosthenes spoke, they shouted, “Let’s march!”

Cicero was the greater thinker. But Demosthenes possessed that X-factor and Cicero didn’t.

Greta Thunberg, while no match for Lenin and Hitler in evil, has it in spades. She too has injected demonic energy into the Zeitgeist, forcing it bubbling to the surface.

Greta didn’t invent the climate hoax any more than Lenin invented communism or Hitler nationalism. The Zeitgeist was there, like a bear hibernating in its den. Greta just poked it with a stick, waking it up.

The girl suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and also bipolar disorder. At one pole, she experiences acute depression, to a point where she refuses food and is unable to attend school. At the other, she perks up to become a hysterical creature screaming incoherent messages with diabolical venom.

The masses respond – not so much to the content of the message as the energy with which it’s delivered. Greta is so unbalanced herself that she turns previously normal adults into lemmings following her to the precipice.

She is a typological equivalent of the Russian holy fool, Muslim dervish or African shaman. Like them, she goes into a convulsive ritual dance, complete with shrieks, body gyrations and spraying spittle. Like them, she replaces the masses’ will with her own.

What she’s calling for is the destruction of Western civilisation, not just its economic aspect. Her message is remarkably similar to the invective spouted in the past by Lenin and Hitler.

She too screams of the evil few destroying the future of the many. She too paints a picture of an apocalypse, only to be averted by the masses closing ranks and marching to what they can’t quite identify as the precipice.

I’m trying to make sense of the Greta subset of the hysterical socialism phenomenon, and I don’t know whether I’m succeeding. But there has to be an explanation for the seemingly inexplicable effect she has on the masses, including those that sit in parliaments and governments.

Rather than having Greta committed to a place where she can get proper care and schooling, they scream, “Let’s march!”, elevating the child’s hysteria and truancy to a public virtue. Greta doesn’t need adulation; she needs exorcism – except none is on offer.

I’d suggest that, when a message has to be delivered hysterically, there’s something wrong not just with the messenger, but also with the message. I’ll leave you to ponder what that is in Greta’s case.         

Advertising sells – and tells

Successful ads may say more or less about the product advertised. But they invariably say a lot about the target audience.

Music lovers rapt in attention – you couldn’t hear an A-bomb drop

Take the current DHL campaign. Its flagship 60-second commercial has been running a heavy TV schedule for months, which suggests it works – more people must be using DHL delivery services more often than before.

This means the campaign touches some invisible strings in people’s psyche, creating a nice, warm feeling. Since in my psyche the commercial creates nothing but acute irritation, it’s worth examining why.

The ad shows an electric guitar being custom-made in Nashville, Tennessee. The finished product is then rushed by a DHL lorry through the countryside, courageously overcoming all obstacles en route, such as a cow blocking the road.

The instrument then finds itself strapped into an airline seat, like a human passenger. Actually, large instruments go into the hull these days – and they certainly don’t travel in the cabin unaccompanied. But hey, what’s a little poetic licence among friends?

The guitar then makes its way into the strumming hands of a pop singer belting out some verbally and musically incoherent noise at a roaring London public. The atmosphere of a pop concert, that combination of a Nuremberg rally, orgy and opium den, is captured accurately. For all I know, that’s the footage of an actual performance.

Now I’m by all modern standards an old fogey and a hopeless stick-in-the-mud (which terms are universally used to designate cultured people). I detest pop excretions and actually object to describing them as music. If that is music, then so are the shrieks of a shaman dancing around a totem pole as a goat’s throat is being slit.

But the commercial clearly works because most people feel about such things differently. They accept those shrieks as music, rather than the extension of the pharmaceutical industry they actually are.

Fine, I have no quarrel with that. Or rather I do, but I timidly retreat when the collective modern bully asks his perennial question: “So what are you gonna do about it, sunshine?”

There is indeed nothing I can do. Except perhaps ask why DHL, and whoever employed it to carry that precious cargo across the ocean, had to bother?

Why didn’t the pop star just send his roadies over to a corner music shop, of which London has plenty, and pick up off the rack the first guitar they saw? How deficient would that instrument have been in producing the same three chords the ‘artist’ was playing? Especially since the sound was piped through electronic amplifiers and accompanied by the orgasmic roar of the heavily drugged crowd?

I defy even a person with perfect pitch to tell the difference. I mean, that’s not like Menuhin choosing a Stradivari violin for some concerts and a Guarneri for others. Pop isn’t really about tonal nuances, is it?

Now, before the commercial was produced and aired, it had been researched to death – no company would pump millions into an ad without trying to gauge the public response in advance. The research doubtless gave the commercial a thumbs-up: the focus groups loved it.

And the research didn’t lie, for if it had, the commercial would have been pulled after a couple of weeks. Hence the massive target audience out there – and, considering what DHL charges, we’re talking A and B+ – accepts that it takes a custom-made guitar rushed across half the world for a hack to strum out his three chords.

If these are the A and B+ punters, what are the Cs and Ds like? Oh well, let’s not think such gloomy thoughts on the last day of this millennium’s second decade.

A joyous New Year to all my readers, especially the music lovers among you. Happy listening!

Putin throws Macron a bone

Manny should demand a search for Gen Gudin’s missing leg, so his remains can be properly assembled

For months now, Manny has been begging Vlad for some benevolent gesture, no matter how trivial, that would enable the French to love one of the vilest and most dangerous regimes on earth.

The KGB colonel finally heeded Manny’s pleas and agreed to release the decomposed bones of Napoleon’s general Charles-Etienne Gudin, whose leg was shot off during France’s 1812 foray into Russia. The general’s heart was cut out at the time and buried in Père Lachaise, but the rest of his body, minus the missing leg, was recently discovered in Smolensk.

Now the unused portion can be reinterred at Les Invalides, and Manny is desperately trying to claim that this cheap gesture is proof enough of Putin’s good will towards France.

In the process, he has proved that it isn’t just the sublime and the ridiculous that are separated by only a small step. That Napoleonic aphorism can also apply to appeasement and capitulation, as Manny may find out, and to pragmatism and prostitution, as we’ve found out about Manny.

With all the impetuousness of his feminine nature, Manny has fallen in love with Vlad Putin, him with the bare torso of an ex-Chippendale and the muscular lingo of a Mafia don.

For years, Manny played hard to get, and Vlad didn’t go out of his way to endear himself either. He even funded Marine Le Pen’s neo-fascist party that ran Manny close in the last election.

But let bygones be bygones, decided Manny. Putin agreed, citing the corresponding, more evocative Russian proverb: “He who remembers the past, out with his eye.”

As befits a politician, Manny camouflaged his girlish emotions with geopolitical language. “Europe will disappear,” he said, unless the EU mollycoddled the KGB colonel.

That doesn’t quite tally with Manny’s parallel statement that Nato should be disbanded because Russia no longer presents a threat. If she doesn’t, then no mollycoddling is necessary. If she does (to the point of threatening to annihilate Europe), then Nato is vital – unless Manny seriously thinks France’s diminutive force de frappe is sufficiently robust to keep Russia at bay.

In general, Manny has an interest in, if little knowledge of, ancient history. Thus he has been impressed by the way Putin has fostered the cult of Peter the Great, the Westernising Russian tsar.

Had he delved into Russian history a bit deeper, he would have found that the cult of Peter has never been in need of fostering. Stalin saw himself as a Peter-like figure, and in that sense, as in many others, Putin simply follows his role model.

In any case, Manny would be well-advised to narrow his focus and look at more recent history and, for that matter, more recent bones. Such as those belonging to the 212,000 Frenchmen killed in the Second World War – including several thousand of those who for various reasons found themselves in Soviet captivity and died there.

Many factors conspired to trigger off that war, but one of them was the criminal appeasement of Hitler by the governments of France and Britain. The parallels with today’s situation are crying out to be made.

Those Westerners did brisk trade with Nazi Germany, supplying most of her raw materials until the Soviet Union took up the slack. At the same time, they released much hot air into the atmosphere, decrying Nazi excesses.

Today, the situation is eerily similar. European governments imposed sanctions on Russia after her 2014 aggression against the Ukraine, while never skipping a beat in doing business with Putin’s energy concerns.

Just like Hitler used Western supplies to build up his military muscle, Putin is pumping Russia’s petrodollars into increasingly sophisticated weaponry, including the hypersonic missiles just deployed.

The appeasement jargon is also uncannily similar. Yes, Herr Hitler shouldn’t have staged the Anschluss of Austria, and neither should he have occupied the Sudetenland. But let’s not forget that those places are inhabited by Germans, so Hitler really reclaimed Germany’s rightful possessions.

In the same vein, Western appeasers say that Putin was slightly naughty when grabbing the Crimea, but hey, it used to be Russian anyway, and it’s mostly inhabited by Russians. Actually, the Crimea was Russian during exactly the same period that India was British, give or take a couple of years.

But appeasers don’t listen to such arguments now any more than they did back in the late ‘30s. They refuse to see that, when vile regimes are bent on aggression, they proceed piecemeal, seeing how much they can get away with after each gobbled-up slice.

That’s how Hitler acted in the ‘30s, and that’s how Putin is acting now. It took the West five years to quell its indignation over the flagrant aggression against the Ukraine, and in the beginning Manny was among the most indignant denouncers.

Yet the KGB man knew his targets: he knew they’d come around sooner or later, and Manny hasn’t disappointed. But at least he can claim Gen Gudin’s bones.

P.S. Last night a French gentleman expressed his dismay over my spending so much time in France and yet detesting the EU. Using the same logic, I replied, a 1930s Frenchman who liked Bach and Beethoven should also have liked Hitler. My interlocutor didn’t get the analogy.

Rule of law means nothing

Few of our cherished political concepts can survive unmolested in their unqualified form. Liberty, for example, raises many thorny questions.

All perfectly legal

Liberty from whom and for whom? From what and to do what? What if my liberty to do something impinges on your liberty not to have that done to you?

Democracy presents similar problems. Everyone agrees it should have some limitations, but where do you draw the line?

According to Freedom House, the think tank supposed to be an authority on such matters, there wasn’t a single democracy anywhere until 1900. Thus neither Victorian England nor its contemporaneous USA was democratic.

The two countries presumably fail to pass muster because only a small proportion of their populations voted. Women, for example, were disfranchised until the 1920s, as were teenagers and quite a few other groups.

By inference, any limitation on franchise invalidates democracy. But franchise is limited everywhere: in the UK, for example, people under 18 and prison inmates can’t vote, and most American states have similar restrictions.

If you object that it’s not any limitations that invalidate democracy, but only unfair ones, then I’ll ask you to define fair.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn thinks denying 16-year-olds the right to vote is unfair. And the top political scientist at Cambridge in all seriousness wants to lower the voting age to six. Is the latter fairer than the former?

Of all those good things in life, the rule of law, presumably the quintessence of political virtue, is the most problematic if left unqualified.

It raises an unanswerable question: what kind of law? For example, the draft of the first USSR Criminal Code stipulated the death penalty for “aiding and abetting the bourgeoisie or counterrevolution.”

When it was submitted for Lenin’s approval, he added, after the words “aiding and abetting”, a slight amendment: “…or capable of aiding and abetting.” Since just about anyone could be deemed so capable, that impeccably legal document turned the whole population into potential targets for executioners.

The Nuremberg Laws in Germany also passed every legal requirement. Those carefully drawn laws effectively ostracised Jews, Gypsies and blacks, setting them up for future extermination.

You may take issue with the virtue of those laws, but not their legality. Some of Germany’s top experts on jurisprudence drafted them, and the country dutifully followed both their spirit and letter.

For the phrase ‘the rule of law’ to mean anything decent, the last word must be modified with the adjective ‘just’. Who can object against being ruled by just laws? Nobody.

But some nitpickers might ask: “What is justice”? An answer to that question depends on the existence of some objective criteria of justice, ‘objective’ being the operative word.

After all, most Germans considered the Nuremberg Laws just. And in the Soviet Union of my youth, few people questioned the justice of Article 70 of the USSR Criminal Code, according to which anyone reading Animal Farm could be sentenced to seven years of hard labour.

Some countries consider it just that thieves should be mutilated and adulterers killed, while some others regard such practices as barbaric. Yet those same people will before long applaud the laws enabling citizens to choose their sex and race from a long menu.

I’m touching upon all those problems somewhat flippantly, but they are very serious indeed. Now, my contention is that laws should be judged not on legal criteria, but moral ones.

After all, most seminal laws, such as injunctions against murder and theft, derive from moral antecedents. And in the West these are all Judaeo-Christian.

Foe centuries, people considered the source and accepted such laws as absolute. That unquestioning absolutism was the foundation of all Western legality, but a building doesn’t stand by foundation alone.

Hence the structure grew and grew, elements of classical jurisprudence were incorporated into it, numerous allowances were made for local customs and conditions. And the ancient distinction between malum in se and malum prohibitum had to be taken off the mothballs.

Based on Judaeo-Christian absolutes, the former, ‘bad in itself’, is proscribed by laws that are, ideally, impervious both to arguments and state interference. No state can remove, say, the injunction against theft and still be considered just.

Malum prohibitum, ‘bad because prohibited’, is a different matter altogether, and laws falling under this rubric make up the bulk of most legal codes. Such laws come not from scripture, but from clever advocates who draft them.

Neither Testament says anything about seat belts, speed limit, tax rates, safety provisions or banning certain substances. Yet we have laws about them, and some of those are enforced more rigorously than laws against, say, burglary.

Such laws are relative, not absolute, and hence open to argument. If the UK sets its motorway speed limit at 70 mph and France at 81, which is more just? If having a bit of how’s-your-father with a 15-year-old makes one a goer in France but a criminal in Britain, whose side is justice on?

Uncountable relativities are built into all laws. In fact, there are so many of them that buried underneath the rubble are the immutable foundations of Western legality. If most laws are debatable, before long all of them will be.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that the tower of legalistic Babel is growing so tall precisely because Western societies have lost touch with their founding moral, and therefore legal, principles. They rely on casuistry because they’ve forgotten the meaning of justice.

Justice, like everything else, has become a matter of opinion, and one opinion is as good as any other. However, the likely outcome of such latitude isn’t anarchy but tyranny.

A society can’t survive without laws and regulations. And, since shared moral absolutes are no longer recognised, the state may well rule that its own will is absolute.

When that happens, run for the hills. In fact, I’m off the starting blocks already.

A wrong step for the Queen

Her Majesty should take a serious look at her speechwriting staff. They are doing her no favours.

For her traditional Christmas speech, the Queen was given the leitmotif of the moon landing: “A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind”.

As a minimum, Her Majesty should have corrected Neil Armstrong’s solecism: “a man” would have been right because ‘man’ means the same as ‘mankind’.

Her speechwriters ignored that, but instead made the Queen add “and of course womankind”. This PC diction is another assault on language – and not only that.

In this context, as in some others, man embraces woman. ‘Mankind’ includes women as well as men. Tagging on that disclaimer ill-behoves a monarch whose main role is to uphold tradition, linking generations past, present and future.

Then it got worse. The Queen practically echoed Mao’s maxim about a thousand-mile journey starting with a small step. One of such small steps is, according to Her Majesty, or rather her advisors, the birth of Jesus, which then led to a giant leap in fighting global warming.

Now, the Queen is a devout Christian. How someone who fits that description could describe the Incarnation of Our Lord as a small step escapes me. This would be a dubious statement even for a rank atheist, never mind the head of Britain’s established church.

Whoever advises our royals should remember that monarchy is a conservative institution – or it is nothing. Our head of state shouldn’t talk in the idiom of Notting Hill lefties. Alas, that’s what one suspects her advisors are – and the ventriloquist government issuing their brief isn’t much different.

The Queen isn’t standing for re-election, although one can be excused for getting that impression. Hence there ought to be nothing to prevent her Christmas messages from being couched in the language of eternal truths, rather than transient political expediencies.

So here’s one of Her Majesty’s loyal – and admiring – subjects who are sad. But what are we few against so many?

St Paul on identity politics

The apostle must have anticipated the situation in Britain, circa 2019.

In his epistle to the Galatians, who were struggling to reconcile their identities with the new religion, Paul wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I don’t know how faithfully the addressees followed Paul’s prescriptions, but things clearly haven’t quite worked out that way since. That is, the notion of “neither male nor female” has indeed made some headway, but probably not in the way Paul had in mind.

However, perhaps this one day of the year we can set aside our identities, real or imaginary, and remind ourselves that there shines a transcendent equality that can extinguish all crepuscular pseudo-equalities, putting in the shade the petty distinctions that seem so vital to us now.

That this may happen is only a hope. But then the same author, this time writing to the Corinthians, put hope at the centre of the ultimate triad: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three…”

Merry Christmas to all!

“Did Christianity make the world better?”

When asked this question, I always give an unequivocal answer. Possibly. Then again, possibly not.

A civilisation is born

In any case, that wasn’t the intent. Christ didn’t set out to improve this world; he set out to save it.

Talking specifically about people, Christ didn’t want to make us better. His purpose was to show us how we could make ourselves better.

To that end God gave us his most precious gift: free will, the ability to make free choices between good and evil, beauty and ugliness, vice and virtue.

But couldn’t he have done better? Couldn’t he have turned us all into little angels with nary a bad thought among them, strumming their lutes in luxuriant, redolent gardens? And if he didn’t, doesn’t that mean he isn’t omnipotent? Just look at us, killing one another in ever-increasing numbers.

That’s right, Christians kill. So do pagans. So do Muslims. So do Jews. So do Buddhists, if you get them angry enough. So do atheists and, if modern history is anything to go by, they run up the score like no one else.

History meanders, it zigs and it zags, its events flash before our eyes at a kaleidoscopic speed. However, one thing remains constant: people, whatever their faith if any, kill.

And of course God could have stopped it: he is, by definition, omnipotent. Yet doing so would have deprived us of that precious possession, free will. We would no longer be people; we’d be automata or else puppets in the hands of a wire-puller.

Then it wouldn’t be obvious why God bothered to create us in the first place, or sacrifice his son for our salvation. If we were unthinking, unfeeling machines, we wouldn’t need saving. The odd bit of routine maintenance would do the trick.

It’s reasonably clear that, given a free choice between right and wrong, many, possibly most, of us choose wrong much, possibly most, of the time. But that still doesn’t settle the question in the title.

Because ‘better’ is a comparative, not an absolute. Evelyn Waugh once pointed this out with his usual wit in a letter to his friend Nancy Mitford.

“You are a Catholic,” wrote Mitford, “but you are still a nasty bit of work.” “Yes,” replied Waugh, “but you don’t know how nasty I’d be if I weren’t a Catholic.”

Since we’re entering the murky waters of the subjunctive mood, it’s best to leave the question open. Christianity might or might not have made the world better.

But what’s indisputable is that Christianity made the world intelligible. It created its own system of thought and, as far as I’m concerned, no other comes close in its ability to explain the world, especially man.

Christ, fully God and fully man, created in his person the unique synthesis of the physical and metaphysical, body and spirit. He showed that (and why) an animal man might be, but he isn’t just an animal.

He’s a creature endowed with an atom of God’s reason, and even such a tiny particle is enough for man to understand much, if not quite everything, about himself and the physical world.

All it takes is the first step, accepting the story of the two Testaments on faith, the way a scientist accepts a hypothesis. That done, we can test the hypothesis against all available facts, revealed both empirically or intellectually.

And suddenly things that didn’t make sense before begin to do so. Moreover, all competing hypotheses and theories begin to look puny, at times downright vulgar.

For example, doesn’t the notion of free will exercised poorly explain our miseries infinitely better than the vulgarities of behaviourists, psychologists, Darwinists and other parasites? Doesn’t it tally better with the evidence before our very eyes?

Doesn’t it explain, say, crime more convincingly than any set of socioeconomic conditions? Some poor people steal because they feel their poverty justifies such an act. Some equally poor people won’t steal because it’s wrong. The denominator of poverty is common; the freely made choice, individual.

And doesn’t original sin explain human behaviour more convincingly and verifiably than all those Rousseauian inanities about the noble sauvage – to say nothing of that transparent mountebank Freud, with his salacious fantasies?

It’s not just man but also his physical environment that became intelligible thanks to Christianity. Those who claim that religion and science are incompatible should ask themselves why most of scientific knowledge has been acquired in the West, with other civilisations offering only scraps here and there.

An inventor creates something new; a scientist uncovers what’s already there. Newton didn’t invent his laws of thermodynamics; he prised them out of a chest of secrets.

It’s illogical to accept the existence of rational natural laws while denying the existence of a rational law-giver. Since only things rationally created can be rationally knowable, Judaeo-Christian cosmology is an essential presupposition for any scientist, whether he’s aware of it or not.

The term Judaeo-Christian is composite; it implies the synthetic nature of Christian thought. Indeed, Christianity is what I often call an asset-stripping religion: it borrows what it finds useful, such as Jewish cosmology and Greek philosophy, and discards what it finds harmful, such as Jewish legalism and Greek morality.

But this synthesis isn’t mechanical. Rather, it adds a new revelation to the old, or else a touch of divine reason to the finest achievements of the human mind. It’s in that sense that, as the saying goes, Aquinas baptised Aristotle.

Christendom transformed Hellenic thought to create by far the deepest and subtlest philosophy any other civilisation could muster. Hence the so-called Age of Reason is a pernicious, cynical misnomer – in fact, it dragged reason from its cosmic heights down into the mire of turgid musings, soul-destroying materialism and fanciful half-thoughts.

Yet a great civilisation did exist, born 2019 years ago. It’s going through a rough patch now, and some might think it’s dead or at least dying. Perhaps.

But one day it’ll come back in all its glory. For, as its founder taught, indeed showed, just as there is death in life, there is life in death.

Merry Christmas!