What does one say to returning jihadists? Welcome home

Having had their fun in the Middle East, 250 British-based (or born) jihadists are coming home.

If you tied a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree when they left for their terror camps, you can untie it now. Our bearded warriors are back – not exactly to heroes’ welcome, but at least to utterly craven complacency on the part of HMG.

These are all highly trained terrorists and guerillas, some of them battle-hardened in Syria and Afghanistan. Don’t know about you, but I’m scared. Well, not exactly scared, but apprehensive. Wary, at any rate.

So is Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner: “Our biggest worry is when they return they are radicalised, they may be militarised, they may have a network of people that train them to use weapons.”

Stoutly spoken and acutely observed, Sir Bernard. So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to ban them from entering Britain? Take their passports away? Arrest all those Darren Ali-Jabbars and Wayne Abu-Akbars on arrival?

Perish the thought. Neither Sir Bernard nor any other government officials are going to do anything of the sort. Oh yes, they promise to keep an eye on the murderous thugs as best they can. Other than that – nothing, and we know how easy it is to keep track of those enjoying the support of their large communities.

But not to worry: not all returnees are a threat, says one official. If you’re planning for a career in public service, this is how you talk when you get the job: “This doesn’t mean that all the individuals who have come back are planning attacks. Many will have returned and want nothing more to do with it. Others may be arranging training or simply moving money.”

Phwoa. For a second there I was worried. Silly me. Some of the trained murderers who hate Britain have had their jollies and now, as the American jingle goes, it’s Miller time. Or, in deference to Darren’s and Wayne’s heart-felt religious convictions, orange juice time.

By inference others (most?) haven’t quite got murder out of their system. They’ll “be arranging training”, i.e. teaching others how to blow up our crowded places, and “moving money”, i.e. laundering the funds needed to buy the wherewithal to blow up our public places.

Of course doing anything preventive about our Muslim Waynes and Darrens is impossible. After they’ve blown up a public place, perhaps – provided they didn’t go for the suicide-bombing option, in which case there wouldn’t be enough of them left to arrest. But certainly not before, and shame on you for even suggesting it.

What, lock up British subjects on suspicion alone? Preventively? Without due process? You must be out of your mind, old boy.

Can you imagine the ensuing shrill screams coming from our ‘liberal’ press? Human rights groups? The E bloody U? Really, you must have taken leave of your senses. Why, we’d be hit with fines, sanctions and lawsuits faster than you can say ‘racial and/or religious discrimination against socioeconomically disadvantaged persons’ (sorry, my EU isn’t very fluent).

Far be it from me to imply any criticism of the rule of law. No substitute for it exists in any country perceiving herself as civilized, and especially not in England, which more or less reinvented the concept after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

But wonderful things like the rule of law, democracy and human rights aren’t a suicide pact. At a time when the realm and its subjects’ lives are threatened, even countries perceiving themselves as civilised have been known to suspend some liberties for a while, the better to protect them in perpetuity.

In wartime even the most legally minded nations tend to put their legal minds on the back burner. When survival is the order of the day, Americans elbow their Constitution aside to put 110,000 Nisei Americans into internment camps. And HMG kicks 2,000 years of legal tradition into touch to intern all German and Italian nationals on the Isle of Man – including, incidentally, German Jewish refugees from Hitler who were unlikely to be pro-Nazi.

Few of the internees hated Britain with the fervour of all those Muslim Waynes, Darrens and Lees. But that didn’t matter: presumption of innocence was suspended because the nation’s security was at stake.

Going further back, let’s indulge the wild fantasy of imagining how Lord Palmerston or any other nineteenth-century British PM would have handled a similar situation. One suspects that, say, Barbary pirates or other trouble makers wishing to settle here would have been stopped by every imaginable means. Even if they were born in Britain.

If British blood is spilled, it’ll fall not only on the returnees’ hands, but also on those of our government officials who are ready to sacrifice our lives at their altar of political correctness. For it’s PC rectitude that drives them, not any excessive concern for the rights of Englishmen.

Witness the cavalier disregard with which they treat, say, freedom of speech, of conscience, of religion (unless of course it’s anti-Christian) or the very sovereignty of the realm. Any of those can be curtailed with nary a thought.

But any transgression against PC dicta is unthinkable. In this instance, those who wish us ill have to be treated with kid gloves, rather than the boxing variety. They are minorities, aren’t they? So they can never wrong anyone; they can only ever be wronged.

By the same token our police will soon lose the critical prevention tool of being able to stop and search suspicious representatives of the groups most likely to commit crimes. Search everyone or no one, screams the inner PC voice whose commands HMG obeys. What, it’s impossible to search everyone? Fine. No one it is.

Nations who have lost the will to protect themselves don’t deserve to survive. Britain is rapidly falling into that category, as we meekly watch our country being transformed into a large province (in future, many small ones) of the EU, our police being rendered helpless to prevent crime – and our government welcoming back those who bray for our blood.

Is Vincent Nichols actually George Clooney in disguise?

It must be contagious. First George enlarged on the advisability of returning the Elgin marbles to Greece, a subject with which he’s manifestly and self-admittedly unfamiliar.

Then Britain’s Catholic leader Archbishop Nichols accused the government of causing mass starvation by introducing some very marginal delays in processing welfare applications. In doing so he made some thunderous statements revealing that his ignorance of economics is similar to George’s of art history.

But this isn’t about knowledge or lack thereof. In both instances the speakers were driven not by reason but by a bien pensant, touchy-feely ideology with a strong red tint.

To see this in a Hollywood actor is predictable and inconsequential. To see this in a Christian prelate is devastating and damaging.

His Grace really ought to stick to his day job and concentrate on pastoral care based on the Gospels, rather than fashionable economic theories that have produced disaster everywhere they’ve been tried in earnest.

Specifically he should remind himself of Christ’s words “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18: 36) and “For ye have the poor with you always” (Mark 14: 7). Really, Your Grace, St Mark is a better guide to life than St Marx.

The first statement doesn’t mean that men of God shouldn’t busy themselves with life in this world. They should – but within their own remit.

In this instance they’d do well to keep in mind Christ’s second statement and accept that it’s not their business to offer economic solutions to material poverty. Their job is to offer Christian solutions to spiritual poverty – not to exacerbate it, as His Grace has done.

A priest should remind welfare recipients that expressing individual responsibility through work is at the heart of Judaeo-Christian morality, which is specifically reflected in God’s command “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3: 19).

St Paul went even further: “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith” (1 Timothy 5: 8). And also, “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3: 10).

It’s hard to detect in such injunctions a moral justification for the fundamentally atheist state increasing its own power by creating an army of spongers likely to vote for whomever offers bigger handouts.

Speaking to the poor, a Christian prelate should refrain from deepening the abyss of corruption into which they were pushed by the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent welfare state. He’d do better reminding them of the great Judaeo-Christian virtue of humility and submission to God’s will. If he could quote from the Book of Job, so much the better.

Speaking of the poor, he ought to remind the better-off that some people are poor through no fault of their own, and even those who have only themselves to blame can’t be denied shelter and food. He should then call for an act of individual charity, the giving of alms, in such a way that “thy left hand [not] know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6: 3).

Obviously, in common with the pimpled drug-addled youths of the ‘60s, my erstwhile co-author (His Grace and I both contributed to a collection of essays a few years ago) equates the welfare state with Christian charity.

Quod licet bovi,” Your Grace, “non licet iovi”, as we would have put it in the pre-Vatican II days. This slight paraphrase means that a would-be cardinal ought to be more rigorous in his thinking than unwashed chaps sporting the likeness of Che Guevara on their T-shirts.

State-run welfare isn’t the same as Christian charity. It’s more nearly its direct opposite.

For the purpose of Christian charity isn’t purely material, but also moral. It’s supposed to elevate both the generous giver and the humble recipient, thereby contributing to their salvation in the kingdom that’s not of this world.

The welfare state, by contrast, corrupts both the giver and the recipient by replacing individual charity with state largesse. Government officials steadily increase the size of the dependent underclass by debauching their economies for the sake of their own power.

Those millions who sponge off the state (and few of them are truly incapable of providing for themselves) are corrupted into a life of sloth, typically adorned with booze, drugs and promiscuous going forth and multiplying.

The economic consequences of this arrangement are there for all to see: rather than producing tax revenue, more and more people end up receiving it. This leads to huge holes appearing in public finances, and these are invariably papered over by extortionist taxation, profligate borrowing and heavy-handed printing of money.

Hence the economic disaster caused by exactly the same philosophy and practices the Archbishop finds so consonant with his religion. And hence also the government’s timid attempts – not to roll back the welfare state, God forbid – but merely to slow down a little bit its ruinous growth.

Grave as the economic consequences are (and will be), the moral damage is much worse. And here we enter the realm where the Archbishop could really offer solace and treatment. Instead he chose to emulate George Clooney.

This at a time when the Anglican church has cast adrift orthodox Anglo-Catholic Christians within its ranks. Pope Benedict’s generous offer of the Ordinariate and the general logic of Western Christianity point them in the direction of Roman Catholicism.

This creates an historic opportunity for the British Catholic Church to regain its ancient status as the main home for orthodox British Christians. And this is exactly the opportunity that His Grace is in danger of blowing, especially since most conservative Christians tend to be conservative in other ways as well.

One is beginning to see why Benedict XVI denied Vincent Nichols a cardinal’s hat – and why Benedict’s successor Pope Francis is about to award it. The words ‘birds’ and ‘feather’ spring to mind. 

Study shows that homosexuals are neither just made nor just born

This seems to be the logical inference from the most comprehensive study on the subject ever undertaken.

The results show that homosexual men share genetic signatures on the region of the X chromosome known as Xq28 (no such commonality was found among lesbians, which is most unfair, if you ask me).

The findings suggest that a man’s sexuality is 30 to 40 percent genetically predisposed, while the rest of it is caused by ‘environmental factors’.

Dr Lewis Wolpert, the prominent biologist and author of popular books explaining why there is no God, once wrote that scientific discoveries, such as a heliocentric universe or quarks, are usually counterintuitive.

Well, these ones aren’t. Even a rank amateur would nod when reading that homosexuals are genetically predisposed to be that way.

What I found interesting about Dr Bailey’s study is his interpretation of it. “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice,” he said. “Our findings suggest there may be genes at play.”

Now I can claim no expertise in molecular biology, but I’m reasonably confident about my ability to count to 100. If genetics accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the story, what about the remaining 60 to 70 percent?

Dr Alan Sanders who led the study can count to 100 too. “We don’t think genetics is the whole story,” he admits grudgingly. “It’s not.”

As uttered, Dr Bailey’s comment is a complete non sequitur, which is most regrettable coming from a scientist. The categorical statement (“nothing to do”) in no way follows from the cautious one (“there may be”).

Nothing at all to do with personal choice, Dr Bailey? Not even a teensy-weensy bit? Remember we still have 60 to 70 percent to account for?

Dr Bailey does remember that. Which is why he hastily explains that the environmental factors he meant may include things like the hormones in the mother’s body during gestation. No social inputs are involved and – certainly, definitely, absolutely! – NO PERSONAL CHOICE.

One wonders if Dr Bailey is aware that he’s making no logical sense. He probably is, the clever chap he must be. It’s just that the two parts of his statement came from two different parts of his personality. The cautious one came from the integrity of a scientist; the categorical one from the effluvia of an ideologue.

That even objective scientists have to combine the two roles is a ringing denunciation of our time. Yet often this doesn’t come from their personal conviction – ideological conformism is forced upon them.

In his 2006 book The Trouble with Physics, Dr Lee Smolin laments that no physicist rejecting the string theory can get an academic post or grant. The same goes for any scientist whose research shows that different races or sexes have different median levels of intelligence.

The issue of homosexuality is equally divisive, with the watershed running mostly along political and religious lines. Religious fundamentalists insist that it’s strictly a matter of choice, while homosexual activists (the existence of this job description is another ringing denunciation of our time) clamour it’s all genetics.

This study proves that both sides are wrong and the truth, as it stubbornly tends to be in most cases, is rather complex. Nevertheless Dr Bailey, who clearly wants to keep his job, felt he had to pay lip service to genetic and environmental determinism.

As a factor of his biography this is strictly a personal matter, and I wish him well. But it’s not just a personal matter – it’s also a comment on our time, which makes it rather more interesting.

In conflict here are two concepts of man: one lying at the foundations of our civilisation, the other reflecting the compulsion to destroy every such foundation.

The first concept is Judaeo-Christian: man is created in the image of God and endowed by his creator with the gift of free will. This makes man unique: he’s different from animals, vegetables and minerals in that his existence isn’t wholly determined by his physical, biological or genetic makeup. He’s a free agent capable of affecting his life by the choices he makes.

The second concept is modern, or post-modern if you’d rather. Man is an automaton whose actions are at the mercy of factors beyond his control. Such factors may be economic (Marx et al), biological (Darwin et al), psychological (Freud et al) or, as is fashionable today, genetic.

From the ideological standpoint it doesn’t really matter which. Pick one or another, mix some or all together – as long as what comes out in the wash is the debunking of our Judaeo-Christian heritage. That reason is thrown out with the same bathwater doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

Personally, any religious faith aside, I find the idea that man is created by a loving God in His image to be more aesthetically pleasing than one postulating our descent from a randomly self-created cell via a rather unsavoury mammal. The latter, I think, is based on our professional atheists’ frank self-assessment, and one has to concur with that if not with their conclusions.

In my rejection of any determinism I go so far as to take issue with Augustinian (and Calvinist) predestination. If our salvation doesn’t depend on anything we do, then it’s not immediately clear why God bothered to give us free will or indeed to create us at all. But at least subsequent, mainly Catholic, thought has managed to reconcile Augustine (if not Calvin) with free will.

No such reconciliation is possible between secular determinism and the traditional, which is to say sensible, view of man. Science, such as the Northwestern study, shows irrefutably that factors beyond his control affect a person’s behaviour. It’s just as irrefutable that they don’t predetermine it.

Exactly how does this apply to homosexuality? It has been clear to me all along, and this study confirms it, that genetic factors have a role to play. But believing that free personal choice isn’t involved at all agrees with neither philosophy nor religion nor logic – nor indeed science.

In fact, just like any other form of determinism, such a belief is deeply offensive to our humanity. I for one resent being insulted that way.

Three cheers for the Swiss, as many jeers for The Times

The Swiss have decided to introduce quotas on migrants from the EU, thereby incurring the wrath of The Times and specifically its columnist Roger Boyes.

Oh well, Boyes will be Boyes, but there has to be a limit to ideological rants complete with frothing at the mouth, especially when the vehicle for such is a formerly respectable newspaper.

Generally speaking, in my approaching dotage I no longer mind people holding any views, no matter how ridiculous, ill-informed or different from mine. However, when they defend such views, I do expect to hear some intellectual rigour or at least a modicum of logic.

Neither was on offer in Mr Boyes’s article Britain Shouldn’t Copy the Xenophobic Swiss. Instead we were served the complete kit of federastic EU invective against anyone daring to disagree.

“Xenophobic” set the leitmotif nicely and the word was oft-repeated throughout the diatribe. But no theme can be truly effective without its variations, and these were aplenty:

…“Fear of the foreigner” (thanks for letting us know what xenophobia means, Roge)… “searching for foreign scapegoats”… Scapegoats for what exactly?

The prosperous, free Swiss seem to be doing all right, better than just about any other nation on earth, but never mind. They must still need scapegoats, someone to carry the can for their prosperity and freedom. If you’re confused, don’t ask me, ask Roger.

…“Barely concealed racism’, “anti-EU racism”, “casual racism towards foreign workers…” Now we’re talking. So it’s not just any old foreigners the Swiss fear but specifically those of different races?

Well, that depends on how you define racism. My friend Roger defines it rather broadly: “Is being anti-German racist? Yes, it is.” In other words racism to him means the same as xenophobia, but never mind the meaning, feel the zeal.

If the Swiss really suffer from this inordinate fear of foreigners, they have a funny way of showing it, as Roger himself demonstrates self-refutingly: “…about 24 per cent of Switzerland’s population is made up of foreigners”.

They “remain foreign simply because of tough naturalisation rules”. Crikey. Fancy the injustice of it all. So what percentage of the Swiss population would Roger see as being in agreement with his flaming conscience? We’ve already seen that 24 percent is too low. What wouldn’t be? 30 percent? 50?

Obviously the only way for the Swiss to get back into Roger’s good books would be to naturalise this quarter of their population, then remove all restrictions on immigration, admit another quarter and naturalise them as well.

Moreover, the Swiss must follow the example of the Germans who cloyingly repent their recent past. The Swiss too must apologise and seek forgiveness for their own atrocities, quite on a par with the Holocaust.

Are you ready for this? They “banned the building of new minarets and deported foreigners who have committed crimes.”

We shouldn’t copy them but they ought to copy us. The number of mosques in Britain has grown from about 60 half a century ago to about 1,600 now, thereby setting a fine model for the Swiss to follow.

As to deporting foreign criminals – perish the thought. We need them right here, where we can see them spitting venom at everything British and recruiting suicide bombers in many of the 1,600 mosques.

Mr Boyes (I renounce all claims to his friendship) may not realise this, but he’s sounding like an apparatchik preaching the party line. The party in this instance is EU fanatics, most of them informed by Marx’s pronouncement that “the proletariat knows no national borders”.

For Europe to unite into a single state, every European nation must cease to exist qua nation. This could be achieved with nuclear bombs, but such a solution would rather defeat the purpose. The only bomb that could do the job properly is the demographic one, clustered with the cultural variety.

In other words, all European nations must be tossed into a cauldron of bubbling EU emanations and boiled together until they form a homogeneous, amorphous, foul-smelling mass. Then no nation would be able to resist the rule of denationalised EU Marxists who, like Marx’s ‘proletarians of the world’, are united in their hatred of European tradition – particularly the last 2,000 years of it.

European tradition was indeed universal, defined as it was by a universal religion. But this universality was expressed through, and enriched by, the particularity of every European nation, each with its own language, culture, history, ties of kinship and genetic commonality.

Trying to preserve nationhood in no way contradicts what Boyes bizarrely calls “our tradition of curiosity about the outside world”, displaying yet again his party’s well-honed intellectual integrity. The simpletons among us tend to believe that such curiosity would be best satisfied by studying and visiting other countries, not by swarms of foreigners flooding into ours.

I’d like Boyes to explain how the 300,000 French people living in London can teach me anything about their country I haven’t learned by going there for decades and now spending half my time in France. Ethnographic curiosity, Roger, can only be vectored outwards, as it was in the days of the British Empire.

Of course we must copy the Swiss, and of course they’re not xenophobic. They are patriots who wish to preserve their patria. Having half of their population made up of those alien to their culture and civilisation means that eventually they’ll have no patria left.

We too must put a limit on minarets, we too must deport foreign criminals, and we too must tighten naturalisation laws. Foreign workers must be allowed in only if their application for entry is sponsored by a potential British employer. They should be allowed to stay for as long as their employer needs them.

While here, they must be treated kindly and politely, as cherished guests. But they mustn’t be allowed to take over the house.

An application for naturalisation must be accompanied by an honest desire to become British. For an applicant to become a British subject some years later, he must demonstrate that he has indeed become British.

This means native fluency in English – and native understanding of the complex cultural, historical, ethnic, folkloric and social strands out of which the British nationality is woven.

As to The Times, it had better arrest its leftward slide before long. Otherwise its accelerating momentum may soon take the paper crashing down into the swampy territory presently occupied by The Guardian, if not The Morning Star.

The Greeks have lost their marbles. Now what about George Clooney?

George is currently gracing London with his august presence. He’s here to promote his latest film that deals with Americans saving… well, not the world this time, but merely some art treasures looted by the Nazis.

(The actual saving was done by an Englishman, but what’s an insignificant detail like that among friends enjoying a special relationship?)

Now the dominant beliefs these days are that a) everyone is entitled to his own opinion, no matter how offensively ignorant, b) expertise in one field automatically makes one an expert in any other and c) a celebrity of any kind is worth listening to no matter what gibberish he’s mouthing.

In this ABC spirit a Greek reporter asked George at a Berlin press conference whether he thought the Elgin marbles ought to be returned to Greece. George honestly admitted he knew nothing about it, which to you and me would be sufficient reason to shut up.

Alas, neither of us is a celebrity and George is. Therefore he feels justified to shoot from the lip, as he did in this case. Sure, he said. The Elgin marbles, of whose existence he was at the time blissfully unaware, must go back where they belong.

To his credit George anticipated that the same question would be certain to come up in London, in whose British Museum the marbles have been for the last 200 years. So it did, but George was forewarned and therefore forearmed:

“I stepped into one the other day,” he said with his pearly smile. “I had to do a little bit of research to show I’m not completely out of my mind. Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Pantheon.”

Er… it’s actually the Parthenon, George. There’s a Pantheon in Paris, and another one in Rome, but none in Athens. Easy mistake to make, but methinks a little bit more research is in order before running off at the mouth, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t know how much George’s co-stars Bill Murray and Matt Damon know about the subject. They may know more about it than you and I, or they may know sod-all. Having grown up among actors (my grandfather was one), I rather think the latter is more likely. But in this instance it makes no difference: they’ve been on the telly, which means they are experts on anything they wish to enlarge on.

So yes, they’re with George on this one. Whatever those damn things are, the Greeks must have them back.

I’m not going to argue the intricacies of the international law involved, simply because, not being a celebrity, I only ever try to talk about things I know at least something about.

It’s possibly out of such ignorance that I’m willing to accept that the Greeks may have a legal right to get their marbles back. Then again, they may not. What is absolutely undeniable is that, in view of their history, our moral right to the sculptures is unimpeachable.

The Earl of Elgin first got involved with them in 1799, when he was appointed His Majesty’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, of which Greece was then part.

Upon his arrival he went into the archives and noticed that many of the sculptures listed were no longer extant. An utterly civilised man, Lord Elgin approached British officials to ask if they would underwrite the effort of making plaster casts and drawings of the sculptures before they all disappeared.

The response, according to Lord Elgin, “was entirely negative”. He then decided to finance the effort himself, starting with cataloguing the sculptures in the Parthenon and elsewhere in the Acropolis.

He then discovered that the Turks, whose reverence for such things wasn’t the same as Lord Elgin’s, were burning the marble sculptures to obtain lime for construction purposes. Aghast, Lord Elgin began to have the sculptures removed (and excavated) in 1801, completing the project in 1812.

This cost him £70,000 (almost £70 million in today’s inflated cash), a huge outlay only partially offset when Lord Elgin sold the sculptures to the British museum, which had been his intention all along. That he was driven not only by aesthetic appreciation but also by patriotism is evident from the fact that he rejected much higher offers from Napoleon and others.

It’s a fair bet that, had the marbles remained in Greece, which is to say in the Ottoman Empire, they wouldn’t have survived for us to admire. As it is they delight six million people every year, all of whom ought to be grateful to Lord Elgin.

As I mentioned before, the legal casuistry of the dispute between Britain and Greece goes over my head. Suffice it say that the world’s museums are full of treasures looted by erstwhile conquerors in ways, and for reasons, much less benign than Lord Elgin’s.

Russian museums, for example, are full of treasures Soviet soldiers looted from German owners either before or after raping and killing the women of the house (not always in that order). Napoleon’s booty adorns the museums of France and Belgium. Some of those works of art found their way to Sweden courtesy of Napoleon’s marshal Bernadotte who became King of Sweden and founded the currently reigning dynasty.

Perhaps all those masterpieces ought to be returned to their original owners. Perhaps the Elgin marbles ought to be as well, even though the Earl’s motives were a great deal more noble than those of assorted looters and rapists.

However, one way or the other the issue must be decided by lawyers and diplomats, not by vox populi to which George Clooney referred. And certainly not by silly ignoramuses who feel they’re entitled not only to their own opinion but also to an audience.

Syrian rebels aren’t just out to get Assad

I’m still recovering from the shock. There I was, thinking that Syrian rebels are driven by an urgent craving for parliamentary democracy hitherto denied them by the nasty Assad.

Then came an eye-opener in yesterday’s papers: of the variously counted 75,000-110,000 democracy seekers, 26,000 are rated as jihadists. Now the history of all past rebellions suggests that the most aggressive group within any movement invariably reduces everyone else to obedient acolytes (or kills them).

In other words, what we have there is a force the size of several divisions made up of crazed, blood-thirsty, heavily armed fanatics eschewing purely parochial aims in favour of something infinitely larger in scope.

Allow me, or rather my late friend Ayatollah Khomeini, to refresh your memory of what being a jihadist entails. This is what he said, and one must always listen to experts: “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of other countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.”

What a bitter disappointment. Being an attentive reader of op-ed pages, I fully expected that DEMOCRACY IN SYRIA: ONE MAN (OR WOMAN), ONE VOTE would be writ large on the rebels’ banners. Turns out their designs are drawn on a wider canvas, implicitly with both you and me in the picture.

Just think: a mere couple of months ago my other two friends, Barack Hussein and Dave, were agitating for entering the Syrian civil war on the side of those who wish to conquer, and preferably kill, us all.

Only Republican opposition in Congress and Tory rebellion in Parliament (you don’t think Dave is a Tory, do you?) prevented our sage leaders from advancing the cause of Islamic aggression even further than they had already advanced it.

I shall refrain from comment on Barack Hussein’s and Dave’s personalities for fear of losing them as friends. They are what they are, the kind of leaders one-man-one-vote democracy run riot is guaranteed to throw up. Nor shall I comment on the moral fibre of the jihadist rebel force – not being a zoologist, I’m ill-qualified to judge feral beasts.

What I am, however, qualified to judge is the political philosophy underpinning the last 12 years of Western action in the Middle East.

Courtesy of American, and increasingly British, neoconservatives, the unsuspecting public has been sold an essentially binary view of the world’s political makeup, real and desired. In an acrimonious mood I’d describe this view as moronic; in my today’s kinder one I’ll settle for simplistic.

According to my neocon friends, the 206 sovereign states comprising the political map of the world are divided into two categories: democratic (good) and other (bad). No gradations are presumed to exist: the watershed between the two doesn’t just separate different systems of government. It separates good from evil.

If all democrats are our friends and all others are our enemies, then our enemies’ enemies are our friends, and therefore democrats. Applying this proven line of thought to concrete political situations, any group trying to unseat a non-democratic leader (our enemy) has to be by definition presumed to be made up of democracy seekers (our friends).

These are the terms in which neocon ventriloquists to whom Bush was the dummy justified the criminal aggression against Iraq (once it became clear that the WMD argument no longer washed). As far as they were concerned, all the boxes were ticked.

Saddam is nasty – tick. He’s a dictator – tick. He isn’t a great champion of either representative or direct democracy – tick. There are enough forces in the country who’d joyously eviscerate Saddam – tick. These forces have to be driven by a quest for American-style democracy or, at a pinch, the British variety – tick.

The yes-no binary system so familiar to computer programmers was thus applied to an infinitely more complex problem, that of human cravings. Saddam wasn’t a democrat – he had to be hanged. His opponents were – they had to be supported.

What resulted from this idiotic (sorry, simplistic) exercise in systems analysis was a catastrophe, first for Iraq, then for Afghanistan, then for the rest of the Islamic Middle East, emphatically including Syria. Moreover, it was a catastrophe so utterly predictable that it’s hard not to feel it was intended.

Now we’re all in peril, not just strategically but also tactically. For the army of jihadist-democratic cannibals includes thousands of Western-born Muslims, at least 400 of them British. By all accounts these chaps outdo the natives in cruelty and fanaticism, as neophytes so often do.

The papers are full of stories of those idealists torturing and murdering prisoners, with photos of blood dripping off their hands onto newsprint. Now what are they all going to do when the fighting in Syria stops? Are they going to go back to England, France and Germany and resume their careers in offices, factories and corner shops?

Anyone who thinks that needs a crash course in human nature. These chaps have tasted blood and power, which is a heady and addictive mix. They’ve learned that an ideology justifies murder and expiates sin, which is a monstrous but inevitable conclusion.

They also hate the West, whence they come, even more than they had before signing up for Syrian cannibalism. (They don’t hate Israel more than they ever did because that’s impossible).

The only field of endeavour in which they can possibly apply their talents, skills, beliefs and passions is murdering people like us. You and me.

They must and can be stopped, and we already have enough security personnel and special forces in the region to do so. I wouldn’t presume to offer technical advice, but one has to believe we have enough expertise in place.

The most effective method would be to put those repatriating jihadists down quietly before they ever catch a return flight to Britain or wherever else they come from. But this would go against the grain of multiculturalism to such an extent that criminal prosecution for racially inspired hate crimes would be unavoidable.

Having exposed my technical inadequacy, I now have to stick to the general principle. These monsters, regardless of where they were born, have forfeited every claim to British (or French or German) nationality. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to bring their hatred-charged passions back into the civilised world.

One way or the other, we certainly have the means of protecting ourselves and our friends. Yet, with the likes of Barack Hussein, Dave and François at the helm, one doubts we’ll have the will.











Smoking in cars is safer than state tyranny

Not smoking in cars full of children is a good idea. However, many good ideas result in awful laws, and the ban Parliament is about to pass is one such.

Smoking in general is a rotten habit, as I can testify from 30 years of personal experience.

It gives you bad breath, morning coughs, emphysema, lung cancer and, when done while driving, holes in your trousers. Hence suggesting that people desist is good advice – but punishing them for not taking it is worse than even cancer. It’s despotism.

That sound medical ideas can be used as an instrument of tyranny has been demonstrated by every political state in modern history, not least by Nazi Germany.

Firm believers in their own version of the NHS, the Nazis showed how it could be used for crowd control. And just like today’s bureaucrats, they emphasised preventive medicine, with nutrition featuring prominently in their health propaganda.

In the same spirit the Nazis also waged an anti-smoking campaign that would be the envy of today’s EU. It was their scientists who first established the link between smoking and lung cancer, and as a result lung-cancer statistics in Germany continued to be better than in other Western countries for a couple of decades after the war.

Like most research, this proceeded from the starting point of an axiomatic assumption, in this case that smoking had to be bad because the Führer was good, and he didn’t approve of lighting up.

It wasn’t just smoking either. Chemical additives and preservatives were roundly castigated by the Nazis, wholemeal bread was depicted as morally superior to breads made from blanched white flour. And, like our today’s bureaucrats, the Nazis disapproved of medical experiments on animals (unlike us, they had no shortage of enthusiastic human volunteers).

Modern ‘democracies’ seem to be envious of the Nazis. They too would love to have the same power over us, though if possible without the stomach-churning business of gassing millions of people.

When they use medicine to that end, their rationale is strikingly similar to the Nazis’: the good of the state.

Years ago I mentioned to a friend that any state punishing people for not wearing a seatbelt is by definition tyrannical. This sort of thing is none of the state’s business.

But it is, objected my friend. If you get injured as a result of not buckling up, it’s the state that’ll have to pay for treatment, through the NHS. The state pays its money, so it makes its music.

That, I replied, is the best argument against having an NHS I’ve ever heard, and yet another proof that, when the state does a lot for you, it’ll inevitably do a lot to you. My friend looked at me with touching concern for my mental health (now he too has severe misgivings about the NHS, and it has only taken him 25 years).

What I’m advocating isn’t a staunchly libertarian position but vigilance. In fact some wielding of state power is advisable, as for example in banning the use of hands-on mobile phones while driving.

It’s not counterintuitive to suggest that holding a phone to one’s ear compromises the driver’s control of his car. This may endanger all sorts of innocent parties on the road, meaning that the danger isn’t confined to the extension of the driver’s home, his car.

By the same token, a man who likes to shoot an air rifle at paper targets in his flat thereby commits an eccentric act, but not one that’s anyone’s business other than his wife’s. The same man firing the same rifle at pedestrians passing by in the street below ought to be punished.

Whatever next? What else will they ban for our own good, what other sound ideas will they try to enshrine in laws?

For example, exercise is good for you, you can’t deny that. So how about a law punishing anyone who doesn’t do half an hour of callisthenics every morning? Compliance can be monitored with strategically placed CCTV cameras – who says surveillance should be confined to outdoors?

And how about equipping every supermarket till with a saturated-fat counter linked to the cash register? I can just hear that metallic pre-recorded voice, saying, “This is Cholesterol Watch. You’ve exceeded your allowance of animal fat, so put those bangers back or risk persecution, you irresponsible bastard.”

Really, if our legislators have nothing better to do, I could suggest any number of alternative pastimes. For example, in their spare time they could learn valuable skills, such as plumbing.

Considering their general level of competence, our houses will probably be flooded as a result. But at least we’ll be freer.



New Olympic event: toe curling

My friend Vladimir Putin is getting a bum rap for the cost of his Winter Olympics, £30 billon and counting.

This isn’t to say that Volodia (I call him by the Russian diminutive of his name, as friends do) doesn’t deserve to have his bum rapped, kicked or – if you’d rather – blown away. (Scratch that last one – I’d rather not expand my diet to include polonium, if it’s all the same to you.)

He does. Yet at the same time Volodia has to be complimented. It has taken a titanic effort to convert Russia from one contiguous prison camp into a giant crime syndicate – while keeping the downscaled elements of the prison camp firmly in place.

Volodia rightly feels he doesn’t need too many prison camps. Such facilities, with their guards, transportation, Alsatians and barbed wire, impose a heavy burden on the state budget. So do even sham legal proceedings serving as the intermediate stage between Volodia’s ire and the culprit’s incarceration.

At the same time a small-calibre bullet strategically placed into a vital organ in a dark alley costs only 20p. Just a few of those judiciously utilised keep malcontents on their toes, especially since the implicit promise of using a few more looks eminently credible.

Volodia thus has to be commended for being careful with public funds, an accolade that makes him even more deserving of Peter Hitchens’s admiration. Not only is Volodia the strong leader Peter wishes we had in Britain, but he’s also more parsimonious than any of our profligate lot.

So much more unfair it is to rebuke Volodia for frittering away £30 billion of public funds on the emetic extravaganza going by the name of the Sochi Olympics.

Volodia’s accusers ought to check their facts before slinging mud. It’s absolutely not true that the Olympics has cost more than any other Games in history, and more than all winter Olympics combined.

That is, it would be true if we indeed believed that all those sports facilities, lavatories with two bowls in one cubicle, pillowless hotels rooms and vast amounts of snow artificially created (natural snow is scarce in the subtropics) did cost £30 billion. They didn’t.

Neither did the 50,000-strong security detail making sure that none of the 2,900 competitors is blown up into that great ski jump in the sky. Nor did the cull of dissidents and the silencing of stray dogs add appreciable amounts to the balance… oops, sorry, getting dyslexic in my old age. It’s stray dogs that were culled and dissidents who were silenced, but this doesn’t invalidate the point.

In fact, according to my reliable Moscow sources the rebranding and reconstruction of Sochi actually cost no more than £8 billion, which is in line with the budgets of other similar events. So where did the £22-billion balance come from?

The answer is, it came from the sleight of hand practised by Volodia’s detractors. They larcenously include into the overall amount those sums that really belong in a totally different rubric.

“The stealing has been audacious, enormous — theft from every single direction. Presidential friends received contracts on a plate. Billions were awarded to loyalists. Ministers winked as tranches of cash left the country. More vanished into kickbacks. Bureaucrats carried off entire tarmac budgets. Bandits took their cut…,” writes Ben Judah in today’s Times.

In his (otherwise excellent) article Mr Judah is right factually, but he’s wrong conceptually and, if you will, mathematically. The stolen £22 billion, much of it swelling the £40-billion stream flowing out of Russia into offshore banks last year, has only a tangential link with Olympic costs.

In reality it’s the cost of power, or rather of Volodia staying in power. ‘Tsar Vladimir’, as his friends call him, can rule by himself but he can’t protect himself by himself. Like any ruler he needs a large but close-knit coterie of loyalists forming a buffer between him and the masses or else other power-hungry politicians.

The masses generally share Peter Hitchens’s almost erotic admiration of a ‘strong leader’, but at the same time they make an average of £400 a month (prices in Russia are close to ours). This makes them rather upset at the sight of monumental palaces popping up all over the place, with at least 20 of them belonging to Volodia personally and the rest to his cronies.

The Russians enjoy a deserved reputation for docility and forbearance, but this is occasionally punctuated by what Pushkin called “the Russian revolt, senseless and merciless.” The only thing ever separating a real or metaphorical tsar from being torn apart limb from limb is his own strength and that of his entourage.

No other considerations come into play, including, say, the tsar’s kindness and fairness. On the contrary, such traits are taken as a sign as weakness and the people (or disgruntled courtiers) inevitably pounce.

For example, such tsars as the ‘False’ Dmitry, Peter III, Paul I, Alexander II and Nicholas II, were somewhat influenced by Western liberalism and Christian morality. This sent wrong signals out, and each of the protoliberals was – respectively – ripped to pieces, strangled, torn in half by a bomb and riddled with bullets together with his whole family.

My friend Volodia has all the necessary qualities to stay on top: unlimited cruelty, limited intellect, the morality of a wayward skunk, tyrannical temperament, duplicity, greed. But these would count for nothing if the same people who put him into the Kremlin weren’t willing to keep him there.

Such people don’t come cheap. They too want their 500-foot yachts and billion-dollar estates, and they must be kept sweet in however toe-curling, vomit-making a way if Volodia is to avoid a bitter end.

Hence the £22 billion stolen in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics has little to do with the cost of the Games. It’s the cost of doing politics in Putin’s Russia.

Cry, you’re on camera

A man who hates seeing his photograph in public media is either morbidly modest or a sociopath. Unless, of course, the photo is accompanied by an ‘armed and dangerous’ warning and a promise of a large reward.

Yet show me a man who craves to have his likeness in the public domain, and I’ll show you a narcissist and a simpleton. Unless of course he’s a film actor for whom self-exposure is his job.

I’m neither a narcissist nor a sociopath nor a criminal. So if you asked me whether I like to see my picture in a magazine or on the net, my answer would be a cautious ‘that depends’.

When a French conservative magazine put my grinning likeness on the front cover, I quite liked it. Why, I even keep a couple of copies of the magazine where my guests can see them, and don’t tell me this is infantile. I already know this.

When an amateur photographer put on Google an unflattering (some will say realistic) picture of me pontificating to an academic audience, I was neither happy nor unhappy. Personally, I would have chosen a kinder angle, but I knew the event was being photographed, so there are no grounds for complaint.

Then two years ago a wily oriental gentleman chose to drive his car into mine in an empty street, and he didn’t even know me. That manoeuvre was caught on two separate CCTV cameras, which exculpated me and got him charged with dangerous driving.

Then this morning my wife spent a giggly 15 minutes playing with her new toy, an I-Phone. This wasn’t the first quarter-hour she spent with the gadget and it won’t be the last: the device has so many features that only a dysfunctional 10-year-old can learn them all quickly.

One feature she did discover is a sort of SatNav that can guide you photographically to any place in His creation. All the diabolical gadget asks is the destination and the starting point of the journey, which you must agree is a modest request.

Just for the hell of it my wife offered our nearest bus stop as Point A, and sure enough a photograph of it instantly came up. Standing at the bus stop was a portly chap, wearing my track suit and toting my tennis bag.

Upon closer examination she realised that the copycat wasn’t some star-struck admirer who sees me as his role model, not that such a possibility was ever on the cards. He was, well, me.

Judging by the clothes I was wearing, the shot was taken some time in October. Four months ago, and I haven’t had a clue that my squarish frame was there to be despised by anyone interested in the 22 Bus.

I didn’t know my picture had been taken, and neither was there any dramatic situation, such as a car accident or a mugging, in which one’s principles could be compromised.

And there are principles involved. Protecting individual privacy is the cornerstone of Western decency. ‘Western’ is the operative word here for, say, the Russians don’t even have a word for privacy.

Entitlement to privacy is closely linked to the Western belief in the autonomous value of every individual, something that these days goes by the awful term ‘human rights’. Personal dignity is an essential constituent of this value, and part of it is freedom of unmonitored movement when going about one’s lawful business.

Yet Britain boasts more CCTV cameras than the rest of the West combined. We have one such camera for every 14 of Her Majesty’s subjects, making surveillance one of the few areas in which we comfortably lead the world. Communist China, for example, has fewer cameras even in absolute terms, never mind per capita.

As a result every Briton is secretly photographed an average of 240 times a day, and we can’t even smile for the camera because this would entail scowling non-stop.

This clearly goes against the grain of any traditional morality: only downright despotic regimes proceed from the assumption that everyone is a naughty child who needs watching round the clock.

One could argue that any state that feels the need to monitor its subjects every step of the way is despotic on the strength of that fact alone. One could even go so far as to say such a state is immoral.

In fact, when government officials defend such wholesale surveillance, they argue not from morality but from utility. Being able to watch every square foot in real time may be upsetting but at least it prevents crime.

If so, we clearly need even more cameras. For Britain proudly leads  every Western country in crime rate. For example, the latest data show that 63 million Brits commit 6.5 million crimes a year, while 315 million Americans barely manage 12 million. France’s crime rate is half of ours, and Germany’s two thirds.

Of course a utilitarian will point out that we don’t know what the crime rate would be like if we didn’t have those cameras, and on his own terms he’ll be right.

But his terms are wrong. It’s clear that a nation’s crime rate reflects a whole panoply of social, demographic, religious, moral and economic factors. A profusion of cameras is as far from explaining a lower crime rate as a dearth of them is from explaining a higher one.

Thus someone who, like me, despises moral utilitarianism may justifiably object that neither do we know that fewer cameras would lead to more crime. In the 1890s, for example, Britain’s crime rate was a fraction of today’s, yet not many CCTV cameras were in evidence.

A moral argument, when properly constructed, ought to beat a utilitarian one every time. In this instance preserving the fundamental moral values of our civilisation is infinitely more vital than lowering the crime rate – even assuming that cameras do that. A criminal may kill a man; undermining moral foundations can kill society.

Then again, all modern tyrannies, which category to varying degrees includes all modern states, put forth utilitarian arguments to justify the burgeoning of state power.

Both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany trained their people to inform on one another because they were allegedly threatened by swarms of foreign spies (typically if not exclusively Anglo-American) and home-grown subversives.

Of course even paranoiacs have enemies, and all regimes at times suffer from foreign espionage and internal sedition. Yet if a regime can’t survive without losing any moral justification to do so, perhaps it doesn’t deserve to.

The floods are your fault

Yet another deluge accompanied by 80mph winds is coming, and Britain is bracing herself for more floods this weekend.

As is obvious to any reader of daily newspapers, such things don’t just happen. There has got to be an ultimately identifiable cause, and we’re the ones to identify it.

Most readers of daily newspapers are materialists who have to believe in physical contingency and anthropogenic causality. Since all adverse events are these days known to be caused by capitalism with its profligate abuse of ‘our planet’, culprits are never hard to pinpoint. 

By following this line of thought, we’re approaching the sophistication of medieval European (or some contemporary African) witch hunters who ascribed every hurricane, epidemic or flood to human agency. 

In one African tribe they go so far as to believe that every death is in fact murder by witchcraft. The bereaved family then seeks vengeance on the evil-doer, whom they track down using the kind of evidential rigour our prosecutors apply retrospectively to rape that may or may not have happened two generations ago.

While still in mourning the family avenges the death, then the culprit’s family retaliates in kind. This keeps everyone entertained in perpetuity, especially since human nature is such that deaths will occur with monotonous constancy. 

Thinking along similar lines, Dave Cameron, who lists expertise in meteorology among his endless accomplishments, knows exactly why our bad weather is happening and who’s to blame.

It’s you, John, for driving to work when you could instead enjoy a pleasant 10-mile walk each way. It’s you, Jane, for turning your thermostat up when you could just as easily put a jumper and a cardigan over your thermal underwear. It’s all of us who have ever used an aerosol spray.

Far be it from me to question such an expert analysis or especially the intellectual quality of the conclusions drawn. However, if one could be allowed a timid historical reference, our floods aren’t exactly unprecedented.

One doesn’t even have to go as far as Noah, the last antediluvian patriarch who was famously spared by God in the Biblical flood – even though most readers of daily newspapers agree that the Biblical flood never happened, Noah never existed, and there is no God.

However, we know for sure that the great flood of St Petersburg did happen, and we even know exactly when: 19 November, 1824. The Neva broke banks and water rose 13.5 feet above its normal level, sweeping 462 houses into the sea and claiming 208 lives.

The calamity inspired Pushkin’s sublime poem The Bronze Horseman. Actually, Pushkin titled his sublime poem The Copper Horseman, a metallurgical oversight mercifully corrected by his pedantic English translators.

The English mentality doesn’t allow such impressionistic treatment of facts. Falconet’s equestrian statue is made of bronze, and Pushkin ought to have known better. Actually one suspects he did know better and only picked a wrong metal for poetic reasons.

Just like the English word for it, the Russian word for copper (mednyi) has two syllables, with the stress on the first one. Consequently, since ‘bronze’ is an unwieldy bronzovyi in Russian, Pushkin chose to sin against science rather than art. By choosing the single-syllable ‘bronze’ the translators went the other way, thereby vindicating my stereotypes of the two national characters.

What is closer to my today’s theme, however, isn’t Pushkin’s sublime poem but Pushkin’s close friend. Pyotr Chaadayev was Russia’s first (some say best) philosopher, the author of the postdiluvian essay Lettres Philosophiques, which, as one did in those days, he wrote in French.

Since the work was critical of Russia, and since Chaadayev inclined towards Catholicism, he was officially declared insane, thus inaugurating a fine tradition later so profitably developed by the Soviets. But what interests me today is the philosopher’s comment on the flood: “Our first rule ought to be not to avoid disaster but not to deserve it.”

At first glance one may get the impression that this remark is consonant with that made by Dave Cameron, who too boasts a deep philosophical mind among his endearing features.

But when one recalls that in those days people didn’t use IC engines to drive to work, didn’t have thermostats, never saw aerosol sprays and hadn’t yet identified global warming as the root of all evil, one begins to fear that Chaadayev meant something entirely different.

Since he obviously lacked the sophistication exemplified by Dave and most readers of daily newspapers, Chaadayev must have seen the flood as God’s punishment for wickedness.

He drew on the scriptural sources that showed that God had form in meting out such punitive measures. Witness the Biblical flood, which we all know never happened, Noah, who we all know never existed, and irate God who we all know is a myth.

Since Chaadayev wasn’t privy to the tremendous advances in philosophical and scientific thought, so ably exemplified by Dave, he operated within a different intellectual system.

As a sincere believer (rather than “a practising member of the Church of England”, in Dave’s self-description), he proceeded from the presupposition of God’s existence. That meant accepting that God established the standards of good and evil, rewarding the former and punishing the latter.

For today’s lot such categories sound, well, antediluvian. There’s no God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to punish us for breaking divine law, but there is the God of Political Correctness and Global Warming to punish us for using deodorants.

Different people worship different gods and, in the words of Pope Francis, who am I to tell them who’s right and who’s wrong? Nobody at all: I don’t have a chance in hell of ever holding a cabinet position in any government. And only such an elevation can hone a person’s spirit to a sharpness required to penetrate the mysteries of the universe.

And to decide exactly who’s to blame for the current floods.