What do rape and robbery have in common?

Obvious differences apart, they’re similar in many ways.

Both are felonies committed by violent criminals. In other words, by human refuse. Such vermin must be punished, preferably by a long custodial sentence.

Now how can this desired result be achieved within our legal system?

That’s where the two crimes stop being similar. They become identical.

For in either case there’s a bit of toing and froing before a custodial sentence is passed, the vermin are locked up and the key is thrown away.

It’s called due process, the cornerstone of legality in all civilised countries, but – and I may be partial here – especially in the Anglophone ones, what with their stubborn clinging to the jury system.

For old times’ sake the law in these countries still insists that the prosecution bears the burden of proof.

It must prove to the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecution succeeds in doing that, the defendant is convicted. If not, he’s acquitted.

The victim’s testimony is variously important in either crime. When hard evidence exists (CCTV footage, DNA samples, eyewitnesses), such testimony is important only marginally – as is the defendant’s confession.

In the absence of such hard evidence though, the victim’s testimony may be the sum total of the prosecution’s case. Whether or not the jury will convict depends mostly on the victim’s credibility in the stand.

Now imagine for the sake of argument this scenario. A robber is on trial, and in the good tradition of criminal cases he insists he ‘never done it’.

Hard evidence is in short supply, apart from the split lip the victim suffered when, allegedly, the defendant stuck a gun in her face.

The prosecution calls the defendant as its first witness, he repeats that he ‘never done it’ and claims he was at home watching ‘tayvay’ when the crime was committed.

The defence barrister tries to punch holes in the testimony at cross-examination, but this isn’t easy. Granted, the defendant doesn’t recall the show he was watching, but then who’d remember that several months after the fact?

It all hinges on the victim’s testimony, and the prosecutor calls her to the stand. This is how the interrogation goes:

“What were you doing that night?”

“I was out drinking with my girlfriend Sheryl.”

“How much did you have to drink?”

“Well, Sheryl and I had a bottle of Chardonnay before we went down the pub… Then I had 12 double vodkas. Then this bloke bought us some flaming Sambucas…”

“What did you do afterwards?”

“Not sure. Must’ve gone home I think. I don’t remember, to be honest.”

“And you were robbed at gunpoint?”

“Yes, I was. You see, when I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t find my handbag.”

“Is this the man who robbed you?”

“Eh… I suppose so. I was, well, bladdered, so I can’t really remember.”

“Where did the crime take place?”

“Don’t remember.”

“At what time?”

“Don’t remember. I, well, always black out when I’ve had a few.”

“But you’re sure you didn’t just leave your handbag behind in the pub? Or lost it somewhere along the way.”

“Yes, well, you know. I get bladdered every Saturday night, but I never leave my handbag behind… So I must’ve been robbed.”

Now imagine you are the defence attorney cross-examining this witness. How easy would you find it to rip her testimony to shreds? Conversely, how hard do you think it would be for the prosecutor to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt?

Had the victim been compos mentis at the time, the prosecutor would have had a fighting chance. As it is, he’s sternly rebuked by the judge for having wasted the court’s time and money. The jury is instructed to acquit, which it promptly does. The defendant goes home.

No one in his right mind, even those who believe that the defendant was guilty as Cain, would claim that justice hasn’t been done. The prosecution didn’t prove its case. In fact, it had no case. That’s how the law works.

However, if we replace robbery with rape, leaving all other details in place, the magic wand is waved and the situation changes.

Witness the outcry caused by Judge Mary Jane Mowat when she made a remark that’s so self-evident that it didn’t really need making: “I will be pilloried for saying so, but the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk.”

She was right on both counts: rape conviction statistics won’t improve under such circumstances and, yes, she has been pilloried.

Natalie Brook, of the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, screamed, probably frothing at the mouth, that the remarks were “an outrageous, misguided and frankly dangerous statement to make”. Rape Crisis England concurred: the remarks were “potentially very harmful”.

I don’t know, they sound irrefutable and perfectly anodyne to me. What’s so harmful and dangerous about them?

I could quote the whole mantra of abuse heaved on Judge Mowat, but I’ll just give you the gist. She is supposed to have implied that it’s okay to rape a drunken woman, who only has herself to blame.

It’s like saying that a woman eggs a rapist on by wearing a short dress or a low-cut blouse. Judge Mowat may be a woman technically speaking, but her comments were those of a man, who, as we know, are all rapists at heart. She might as well have said “it takes two to tango”.

No, says, Miss Brook. A raped woman isn’t at fault; her rapist is. Rape is “100 per cent the crime of the perpetrator”.

No sane person would argue against this statement. Judge Mowat certainly didn’t. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, but on general principle I doubt she feels nothing but contempt for a rape victim and nothing but empathy for the rapist.

All she said was that it’s hard to get a conviction in a case where the only witness, the victim, suffered from alcohol-induced amnesia at the time. Reasonable? Sensible? Of course it is.

But no reasonable or sensible discussion is possible of a crime that has been as thoroughly politicised as rape has been.

A robber commits a crime against a person, but a rapist’s crime is aimed at an ethos, and a dominant one at that. It’s a sort of lèse-majesté – as is any remark about it that goes a smidgen beyond the acceptable political jargon.

In that sense, both Judge Mowat and the vile criminal are equally culpable, perhaps the judge even more so. She appealed to common sense, the true enemy of our modernity gone mad.






No Russian soldiers are fighting in the Ukraine. So why are they dying?

According to Nato intelligence, there are at least 1,000 Russian soldiers fighting against the Ukraine.

According to Putin, there are none.

Much as I’m always prepared to give career KGB officers the benefit of the doubt, the numbers don’t quite add up.

Specifically the number of young soldiers, hundreds of them, mostly airborne, who are being buried in army-issue zinc coffins all over Russia.

Two such soldiers, Leonid Kichatkin (30.09.1984 – 19.08.2014) and Alexander Osipov (15.12.1993 – 20.08.2014) were buried on 25 August in a village cemetery near Pskov.

Both soldiers served in the crack 76th Airborne Division, both died, a day apart. Of course, servicemen die for all sorts of reasons: training accidents, firearms accidentally discharged, illness, alcoholism, you name it.

Yet such funerals aren’t usually accompanied by the pomp of these two burials, and nor are commanding officers at hand to lay wreaths on the graves, as they were there.

By pure coincidence a day before Leonid died, Putin awarded to 76th Airborne the Order of Suvorov for “the successful carrying out of combat orders, and the personnel’s courage and heroism shown therein.”

Out of idle interest, what combat orders? According to Putin the Russian army isn’t in action at the moment.

However, it’s hard not to connect the funerals with the award, even at the risk of accusing both Putin and his defence minister Shoigu of lying. This task became harder still when two days after the funerals the birth and death dates were expunged from the tombs, and the wreaths removed.

The families of the deceased weren’t told how their loved ones died, or where, or what for. Two journalists who tried to obtain that information had their car trashed, after which two beefy chaps in track suits cordially advised them to get out of the village “on the first train”.

“If you don’t stop digging,” the pundits were told, “there are many swamps here in Pskov, and you’ll never be found.” I don’t know if the reporters followed this friendly advice, but such threats are usually taken seriously under Putin.

Meanwhile our own journalists, few of whom are similarly threatened, display their enviable command of the English language by alternately referring to the force engaged in combat with the Ukraine as ‘separatists’, ‘rebels’, ‘volunteers’, ‘militants’, ‘paramilitaries’, ‘mercenaries’ and so forth.

How much simpler it would be if we were to straighten out this linguistic chaos and call them by their real name:

Russian troops. Fighting a war against the Ukraine. And threatening Europe.

President Poroshenko finally abandoned euphemisms earlier today, when he cancelled a state visit to Turkey in order to deal with what he called Russian invasion.

This is not to say that all the troops fighting against the Ukraine do so under Russian flags or with Russian insignia, though the evidence that some are is rapidly accumulating.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that they are all trained, armed, commanded and helped with logistics by Russian officers. It’s equally demonstrable that some of them are soldiers in the Russian armed forces.

But the ranks of the invasion army have been filled with different groups. At first, around April, the vanguard was formed out of assorted criminal bands, most of them small, which had axes to grind not so much with the Ukrainian government as with the Ukrainian oligarchs.

The two groups, incidentally, aren’t always distinguishable, as they aren’t in Russia. ‘Chocolate king’, now President, Poroshenko, for example, has a foot in both groups. However, the universally mentioned bogeyman is Rinat Akhmetov, the Ukraine’s richest man with much political clout.

Yet when it came to storming government buildings in the Donetsk area, most fighting was done, and all was led, by Russian intelligence officers, either KGB/FSB or GRU.

They were assisted by hastily recruited veterans of recent Russian wars, especially those against Georgia and Chechnya. These people were mostly drawn in by Russian army recruitment committees, which keep detailed records on all recently discharged servicemen.

Since most of them found it hard to adapt to life in mufti, they jumped at the chance to do what they do best. It was these people who operated the serious gear that befuddled the previous ragtag army. It was they who most certainly fired the SAM immortalised in the history of Malaysia.

Yet towards the end of May the Ukrainian army finally began to make significant headway. The situation is eerily similar to the Vietnam war, where at first most of the fighting on the North side was done by NFL guerrillas. However, after they were routed in the 1968 Tet Offensive, the regular army of North Vietnam took over.

Exactly the same is happening in the Ukraine. More and more the motley crew of the previous months is being replaced – or at least greatly augmented – by regular Russian units (such as parts of 76th Airborne).

On 16 August the so-called Premier of the so-called Donetsk Republic Alexander Zakharchenko openly admitted that the ‘separatists’ had received much sophisticated kit from Russia and also 1,200 ‘volunteers’. Now we know that among them were the Pskov airborne troops of the 76th Division.

On 19 August a whole company of 76th Airborne was wiped out at Luhansk, with much unequivocal documentation and several BMDs (Boyevaya Mashina Desanta – combat airborne machine) captured by the Ukrainian army.

(The two lads, Kichatkin and Osipov, whose funerals I mentioned earlier, coincidentally died on 19 and 20 August.)

These soldiers of the Russian army are treated as volunteers, which, in a weird sort of way, some of them are. The way is weird because these regulars are offered a chance to have their current contracts, paying pittance, replaced with others, paying a bit more. Most agree to volunteer, and those who don’t are volunteered by the their COs.

They then go into battle, led by their own officers, driving their own BMDs and carrying their own Russian army cards, which then embarrassingly fall into enemy hands.

The entire fighting force, however it was recruited, can be legitimately called ‘Russian army’. After all, it is trained, armed, supported and unleashed by the Russian government in pursuit of Russia’s strategic objectives.

All else is window dressing or – to give it an appropriate touch of local lore – Potemkin villages.     









French Manual of Defensive Driving

By sheer luck I have uncovered this document, solely designed for internal consumption.

Reliable evidence suggests that most French drivers, especially in the country’s backwater (France profonde), follow the Manual’s recommendations religiously.

This puts foreigners unfamiliar with the document at a disadvantage, which explains why visitors to France often complain about local drivers. This is akin to a Greco-Roman wrestler entering a judo competition and then complaining about being tripped.

So here are a few selected excerpts from the Manual I’ve translated for the benefit of those who have little experience driving on French roads.

1) Before you get on the road, get in the right frame of mind, which is hostile.

Drive defensively, says the old wisdom and we agree wholeheartedly. But, as l’Empereur taught, the best defence is offence.

Therefore, every time you get behind the wheel you must remind yourself that public roads are battlefields or, at best, sporting arenas. All other drivers are your enemies or, at best, adversaries.

In any battle or sporting contest, there are winners and losers. A defeated soldier may lose his face literally, while an also-ran in an athletic competition may only do so figuratively. Yet both death and humiliation are to be avoided with equal zeal.

2) First, make sure your car is roadworthy. There are only a few relevant criteria you must apply:

Your vehicle must be at least 20 years old, ideally much older.

It’s roadworthy if it can get you from A to B. The number of parts it sheds along the way, the pitch of the maddening noises it produces and the amount of black smoke it belches out are irrelevant.

3) Think of your turn signals as decoys designed to confuse the enemy (other drivers).

If you are followed by another car through several turns, first indicate the proper one, then the wrong one, then none at all.

If you cause an accident as a result, it’ll be the other chap’s fault (when pointing this out to him, make sure you gesticulate wildly, call him espèce de merde and insist that your turn was properly indicated). Even if no accident ensues, the other driver will go crazy while you’re whistling a merry tune. You win in either case.

4) The proper technique for making a turn off the main road (single carriageway, speed limit 90 km/hour) into a side street is as follows:

Slow down to 10 km/hour or ideally come to a full stop. Do not turn your wheel until you’re certain that the driver behind you is properly primed: throwing his arms up, tooting his horn, flashing his lights or sticking his head out of an open window to scream obscenities. Complete the turn only when the enemy is on the verge of cardiac arrest.

5) Never wonder who has right of way. You do.

6) Hold your ground when driving on a road barely wide enough for two cars to get by. Never shift even a smidgen to the right: it’s better to lose your side mirror than your masculinity.

7) When you and another car stop at an intersection, ignore the other driver’s gesture inviting you to go first. Shake your head and wait for him to move. Then move at the same time, making him hit the brakes. When he stops, you stop too. Repeat as many times as it takes to make your point, even if you aren’t sure what it might be.

8) Never, we repeat never, let anyone into your lane if you can help it. He can sit there waiting, while you enjoy the sight of his face turning purple.

9) Driving on motorways (speed limit 130 km/hour) requires a unique set of skills:

Remember that you’re entitled to use any lane you desire, or two of them at the same time. Driving, or, better still, zigzagging, between the lanes has an added advantage: it keeps other drivers guessing, making them think twice before overtaking you.

In general, make it hard for your adversaries to discern any recognisable pattern in your road behaviour.

For example, if you overtake another driver at 50 km over the limit, slow down to way below the limit soon thereafter, leaving him befuddled as he overtakes you at his steady speed. Then repeat.

When you yourself overtake, make sure you stay parallel with the vehicle on your right as long as possible, even – especially! – if it’s a lorry moving at 60 km/hour. This will prevent other drivers in the fast lane from overtaking you, while raising their systolic blood pressure to apoplectic levels.

Don’t ever indicate lane changes or motorway exits – catch les sales cons by surprise.

In general, the enemy’s fear is your best weapon – make sure all other drivers are scared of you.

10) If another driver wishes to overtake you on a single carriageway, follow these simple rules:

Drive extremely slowly on those sections of the road where overtaking isn’t allowed, or where there’s oncoming traffic, and extremely fast where he could pass you. Don’t make it easy for the enemy to beat you.

Another useful technique is to slow down, encouraging him to overtake. When he does so, wait until he’s level with you, then accelerate to match your speed to his.

This will force him to stay on the wrong side of the road much longer than is good for his psychic and cardiac health. Ideally this manoeuvre should be executed when a lorry is coming towards the other driver.

11) Priorité a droite (giving way to traffic on your right) is a measure introduced by the French government as a means of controlling inordinate population growth.

To make it even more effective, the government then specified numerous situations where the rule doesn’t apply, confusing even those who have been driving for years.

This creates troubled waters in which you can fish. Approaching a T-junction with a major road, you can be sure that the drivers on it don’t have a clue whether or not Priorité a droite applies, even if there is a Stop sign on your side street.

You can exploit their uncertainty by approaching the junction at 80 km/hour or so, then hitting the brakes at the last moment. For better effect, toot your horn at the same time, as if inadvertently.

Even if the enemy has the presence of mind not to swerve left into the path of oncoming traffic, it’ll take him a while to regain his composure.

So, if you’re planning a driving holiday in France, you now know what to expect. Bonne chance!




Who says there’s little economic competition in France?

Naysayers! Prophets of doom! Sightless pundits failing to discern the feverish competitive activity unfolding before their very eyes!

Behold: France boasts a highly competitive unemployment rate of 11%, locked in hot pursuit of Hollande’s 17% approval rating.

As the competition is hotting up, the current bet is that the two numbers will soon converge halfway.

The mauvaises langues are even saying they already have converged, which would be apparent if the unemployment statistics weren’t being manipulated with the dexterity normally found at massage parlours in the low-rent parts of Paris.

(I’ll resist developing this metaphor any further, and I hope you appreciate my self-restraint.)

Feeling this isn’t exactly the kind of competition that’ll pull France out of the doldrums, my friend François yesterday took another bold step to the precipice.

Shocked by the criticism of his economic policies by two ministers on the left of his already Marxist government, he sacked not only them but the entire cabinet.

François then asked Prime Minister Manuel Valls to form a new cabinet “consistent with the direction he [Francois] has set for the country”.

This is like a ship heading for the rocks with its captain screaming “Full speed ahead!”. No, scratch this simile. The moribund ship at least follows a definite, albeit ill-advised, course, which is more than can be said for François’s policies.

He was elected two years ago on the promise of turning France into a Britain circa 1970 if not quite a Russia circa 1920.

Nationalise everything that hasn’t yet been nationalised, regulate everything that hasn’t yet been regulated, soak the rich (fair payer les riches) and do as Angela… sorry, the EU says – these were the highlights of François’s vision.

It took but a few months for the vision to acquire a distinctly nightmarish tint. Rather than payer through the nose, and eventually bleeding through it, les riches ran away, taking the jobs they had been generating with them.

At the same time the economy was being strangulated by a noose woven out of four strands: overregulated labour market, Gargantuan public sector, high taxation and tight fiscal policy dictated by Angela… sorry, the EU.

Vindicating every sensible economic theory, the economy, its oxygen supply cut off, began to stagger between recession and stagnation, with an out-and-out depression leaving the realm of possibility and entering one of near certainty.

François eventually realised that perhaps his extreme left ideology wasn’t the right vantage point from which to view economic development.

Actually his ideology is extreme left only by the standards of les Anglo-Saxons. In François’s own country there’s much mainstream politics considerably to the left of him.

For example MEP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, former government minister, gathered 11% of the vote in 2012 on a platform broadly based on a return to the glory days of the 1870 Paris Commune.

Recently he delivered himself of an historical insight the likes of which one would be hard-pressed to hear anywhere in Britain outside the more radical mosques. Mélenchon expressed a deep retrospective regret that Charles Martel won the 732 Battle of Tours, thereby checking the Arab northward expansion.

According to my friend Jean-Luc, that unfortunate victory plunged Europe into ‘centuries of obscurantism’, meaning Christianity. Europe, he evidently believes, would be much better off today if it resembled Iraq, especially its northern part.

In relative terms, François looks like a fire-eating reactionary against that political background. However, in absolute terms he’s still your typical leftie ready to sacrifice all for the sake of his barbaric ideology.

Yet, faced with a likely catastrophe, in the last few months he tried to take a tentative half-step towards the centre by offering some symbolic tax incentives to businesses. The only tangible result was making him the whipping boy for those ministers who are typologically close to Mélenchon.

They accused François of selling out to what my other friend Tony Blair called ‘the forces of conservatism’. They focused their wrath on one strand in the aforementioned noose hanging France’s economy high and dry.

Namely they blamed François for kowtowing to the austerity measures dictated by Angela… sorry, the EU.

Anyone without obvious learning difficulties would of course know that loosening up the money supply while leaving the other three strands untouched would be certain to turn stagnation into depression.

What the country desperately needs is devaluation, which alone can make its goods competitive with Germany’s. Nobody would buy a Renault if he could get a BMW for the same money. It would be a different story if the Renault were half the price, as it would be if France could devalue, which of course it can’t.

As a founding member of the eurozone, France has no control over its currency. This is firmly in the hands of Angela… sorry, the EU. And Angela… sorry, the EU doesn’t want French goods to be competitive with German ones.

They are elated with, for example, today’s news saying that the German Continental is about to overtake the true tricolore Michelin as France’s top tyre company. What’s good for Germany is good, well, for Germany.

The accusation of playing lickspittle to Angela… sorry, the EU is levelled at my friend François not only by the left by also by what passes for the French conservative right.

French MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan published an article in yesterday’s Le Figaro with a self-explanatory title that can be loosely translated as We’ll Have to Choose Between Growth and the Euro.

At the risk of the European skies opening and the federalist lightning smiting him, the intrepid politician said the previously unsayable: France must leave the euro and by inference Angela… sorry, the EU if there’s to be any hope of a sound economy.

That such a departure would spell the end of the EU doesn’t seem to bother my friend Nicolas. The current arrangement, he says, benefits no one but Germany – and not even her, I’d be tempted to add. After all, while France’s economy stagnates, Germany’s has contracted.

One way or the other, the argument is beside the point. It wouldn’t be if the EU, as went its founding claim, had indeed been created to ensure prosperity across the European board.

It wasn’t. Its objectives were and are wholly political, with the economy used only as a smokescreen, an eerie Potemkin village of plywood cutouts.

Its founders wanted a single European state not because they thought this would benefit the Europeans, but because they wanted a single European state – dominated by Germany. C’est, as they say in these parts, tout.

A single currency is an essential tool to this end, just like the Reichsmark was from 1940 to 1945 and the Deutschmark was trying to be from 1948 onwards.

The euro pegged to the mark, ruinous as it is for European economies, is essential for European federalism. If one is abandoned, the other will die, and Angela… sorry, the EU will never allow it – no matter how sound the economic arguments in favour of such a development would be.















Putting spin on murder? Tony Blair has proven credentials

Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev knows how to use the right man for a challenging job, thereby teaching a lesson to us all.

When you need a heart operation, go to an experienced cardiac surgeon. When you need investment advice, seek out a proven financial consultant. When you need a new transmission for your car, use a reputable garage.

And if you want someone to put a positive spin on mass murder, nobody’s CV inspires greater confidence than Tony Blair’s.

One has to be especially impressed with the boldfaced impudence Tony displayed recently when denying any responsibility for the blood-soaked chaos resulting from the criminal invasion of Iraq he and Dubya launched in 2003.

Now it turns out he was merely building on past accomplishments. For Tony’s consultancy has made millions advising Nazarbayev how to be loved by the West.

That task was made daunting on 16 December, 2011, when Nazarbayev’s police opened fire on an unarmed demonstration in the oil town of Zhanaozen, killing 15 and wounding almost 100.

This sort of thing may make anyone look bad, even a man sitting on that great exonerator, a huge wealth pumped out of oil wells.

Keep that stuff coming, and the West can close its eyes to any human rights violations, any bogus elections (Nazarbayev consistently polls over 90%), any secret funding of terrorist groups.

But start shooting peaceful demonstrators like rabbits, and some Westerners may find it hard to suppress a wince. Nazarbayev knew this, which is why he turned to his friend Tony for help.

Tony delivered. In a freshly leaked letter he advised the Kazakh dictator on how to turn a negative into a positive, a classic PR trick:

“I think it best to meet head on the Zhanaozen issue. The fact is you have made changes following it; but in any event these events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made.

“[This] is the best way [to present the bloodbath] for the western media. It will also serve as a quote that can be used in the future setting out the basic case for Kazakhstan.”

In conclusion Tony laid on some well-practised PR warmth: “I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever, Tony Blair.”

The style of the missive is questionable, but it’s the heartfelt emotion that counts. This can only be repaid by signing on the dotted line underneath all those zeros.

So what kind of ‘enormous progress’ would offset mass murder? It must really be impressive, for many prominent Westerners have been avidly kissing various parts of Nazarbayev’s anatomy for decades.

Jonathan Aitken, whose commitment to truth was rewarded with a prison term, has upon his release written a hagiographic biography of Nazarbayev. Prince Andrew pays regular visits to Nazarbayev’s capital built to Pyongyang specifications. Western businessmen, politicians and lawyers form a beeline for Nazarbayev’s palace.

They all have a stake in Kazakhstan’s progress, which no doubt hones their objectivity to razor sharpness. Since Nazarbayev hasn’t offered me even a lousy couple of mil, I can admit openly that his accomplishments leave me cold.

Having ruled from 1989, Nazarbayev is one of only two leaders of Soviet republics whose hold on power has survived since the good old times.

He’s also part of the glorious trio, Putin and Lukashenko being the other two, named Man of the Year in 2012. They received this accolade for laying the blueprint for the Soviet Union Mark II.

Called the Eurasian Economic Community, it’s modelled on the Zollverein, a customs union that eventually unified sovereign German principalities into a single country under Prussia’s leadership.

Those principalities that didn’t see the immediate benefits, such as Schleswig-Holstein, had to be educated using such teaching aids as artillery barrages and cavalry charges – a process being exactly paralleled in the Ukraine by Nazarbayev’s co-recipient Putin.   

Aitken called his panegyric Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan, but a more appropriate title would have been simply The Making of Nazarbayev.

For, in common with most other sultans, Nursultan has parlayed the country’s natural resources into a vast personal wealth, possibly second only to Putin’s.

Much of the lucre is kept in Western offshore banks – and it’s also kept in the family. The family is rather large, especially since Nursultan takes advantage of his recently acquired religion by having three wives, a fact hushed up by the truth lover Aitken but widely known to everyone in Kazakhstan.

His three official daughters have brought ambitious husbands into the family, one of whom runs Kazakhstan’s border guards. In that capacity he collects a $1,000 levy on every Chinese lorry carrying goods to Putin’s Russia. Considering that there are close to 10,000 of those every month, these transactions drip a nice drop into the family’s Swiss bucket.

But a drop it is, for most of the family’s wealth is pumped out of the ground, a shared experience that doubtless brings Nazarbayev even closer to the Russian godfather of all godfathers.

Not much of this wealth drips down to the chaps who dirty their hands getting oil out of the ground. Hence the demonstration whose negative consequences Tony Blair was hired to turn into a positive.

By using Tony, Nursultan showed he knows how to learn from the best, a commendable quality he has put to good use when learning from Putin how to deal with the press.

Yesterday yet another journalist criticising Putin was beaten within an inch of his life in Petersburg, and both Vlad and Narsultan have relied on this method of handling press relations for years.

But not exclusively – also figuring prominently are such techniques as assassinating reporters (“whacking in the shithouse” in Putin’s jargon; I don’t know what it is in Kazakh), shutting down opposition newspapers and smashing their presses, turning all broadcast media into propaganda mouthpieces, blocking dissident websites, criminalising ‘libel’ defined as criticising the leader.

The progress made under Nursultan’s leadership, something Aitken extols and Tony spins, has earned Kazakhstan recognition by international monitors. Transparency International’s league table of corruption puts it at No 105, next to Senegal; while Reporters Without Borders is less generous: Kazakhstan is a lowly No 162 on its Press Freedom Index. 

There is nothing new under the sun, says Ecclesiastes. Back in the days of Lenin and Stalin, Western ‘useful idiots’ also tried to hush up massacres or, when they couldn’t, suggest they be weighed against the ‘enormous progress’ made by the Soviet Union.

The scale of the massacres was greater then, and the progress even less noticeable. This explains the much lower standards of today’s apologists: they don’t have to apologise for quite as much.

Back then their ranks drew people like G.B. Shaw, H.G. Wells and the Webbs, moral and intellectual pygmies but at least not devoid of literary ability.

Today we have Tony Blair who, in addition to the fine qualities he shares with that lot, can’t even put a decent sentence together. Horses for courses, I dare say.


Do the Russians want war?

This was the title of a 1961 Soviet song thundering ad nauseam from radio and TV sets for years.

Repetition being the mother of learning, most Soviets knew the song by heart. (I haven’t heard it in 45 years but, to my shame, could still hum every hack line by Yevtushenko.)

According to that piece of musical propaganda the Russians had suffered such misery in the Second World War that it was silly even to pose the question in the title.

“Ask the soldiers lying underneath the birches, and their sons will tell you whether the Russians want war,” was how Yevtushenko put it.

True enough, the hypothetical sons might well have answered the question in the negative, had they been asked. But they weren’t, and still aren’t.

The relevant question is “Do the Russian rulers want war?” These chaps, royal, communist or KGB, don’t seek their subjects’ consent.

They either force them, as they did in 1941, when the Red Army wouldn’t fight for the Kremlin butcher, or brainwash them, as they’re doing now, with about 110 per cent of the population screaming “Heil Putin!” (in Russian).

Either process produces the desired effect. When forced, the Russians die reluctantly; when brainwashed, they die eagerly. The common element is that they do die on cue, and that’s all that matters to their masters.

Since 1961 the Russians have brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster over Cuban missiles, fought a bloody 10-year war in Afghanistan, two equally bloody wars in Chechnya, a war with Georgia.

Millions dead, crippled, orphaned and widowed – pretty good going for a nation that doesn’t want war. One can only wonder what sort of mayhem it would wreak if it did spoil for a fight.

Yevtushenko’s question is now on the lips of everyone watching the events in the Ukraine.

No one knows for sure. All we can do is read the signs and try to interpret them as best we can.

Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine clearly pursues objectives that go beyond ensuring the autonomy of the country’s eastern provinces.

The evident geopolitical objective is rebuilding the Soviet Union to its former glory, which is Putin’s cherished and manifest aim.

This may or may not involve a subsequent invasion of the Baltic republics that are now Nato members. If they do come under attack, Nato will face the Hobson’s choice of either surrendering or fighting.

The first option isn’t worth talking about: its only possible outcome will be KGB domination of Europe. But the second option is worth contemplating.

Looking at the vectors of Europe’s and Russia’s military programmes, one can’t help noticing that they are diverging. To put it crudely, Russia is arming while Europe is disarming.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 crack troops are massed at the border with the Ukraine, and the Russian artillery is already in action, shelling Ukrainian positions from both outside and inside the country’s territory. Is this but a prelude?

The overall strength of the Russian army is about a million, a quarter of them reservists.

Between now and October it’s conducting full-scale exercises, critically involving thousands of reservists. Early reports suggest that the trainees have been issued winter gear, something not needed in August-September.

Many activities involve airborne troops, whose strength is being beefed up to 60,000, roughly five divisions. By contrast, the US army has only one fully trained airborne division, 82nd. (Some others bearing the same nomenclature don’t do any jump training.)

Airborne troops are by definition offensive: they are too lightly equipped to be much use in defence. Tanks are another clearly offensive weapon, and here the comparison between Russia and Europe is most instructive.

The three biggest European armies, French, German and British, have, respectively, 423, 408 and 407 tanks.

By contrast, Russia officially boasts a 15,500-strong tank force in active service. But that number is misleading.

Unlike Nato, the Russians don’t destroy tanks of the previous generations. They mothball them in warehouses.

Should the need arise, those obsolete but perfectly usable tanks can be taken out and thrown in. That’s what happened in the Second World War, when the Germans wiped out the Soviet tank forces in the first few days.

Much to their astonishments, new Soviet tank divisions appeared out of thin air, and the German intelligence couldn’t figure out their provenance.

How many of those mothballed tanks are there now? In 1970-80s the Russians had 50,000 tanks, a number that would have done any bellicose nation proud, never mind one that doesn’t “want war”.

Nato at the time had just over 6,000 tanks deployed un Europe, clearly not enough to stop a potential Soviet thrust by conventional means. Nato’s strategy was based on a tactical nuclear counter-strike, something deadly to massed tank formations.

However, at that time the Soviets had a nuclear superiority over Nato. Eugene Rostow, Kennedy’s and Reagan’s policy guru acknowledged mournfully that:

“In 1985, the Soviet Union had a lead of more than 3.5 to one in the number of warheads on ICBMs and a lead of more than four to one in the throw weight of these weapons. Its sea-based and airborne nuclear forces have made comparable if slightly less spectacular gains. In addition, it had a near monopoly of advanced intermediate-range ground-based weapons threatening targets in Europe, Japan, China, and the Middle East.”

Assuming that Nato is able to verify Russia’s compliance with various disarmament treaties (an unsafe assumption in view of the country’s gross violations of the SALT accords), that lamentable situation has changed for conditions of approximate parity.

However, even discounting the thousands of mothballed tanks, Russia’s superiority in tank forces has greatly increased.

Hence people living under the aegis of the demob-happy European governments must ask themselves this question: Should a Russian blitzkrieg come, would Nato be prepared to stop it with tactical nukes? Unlikely, would be my guess.

That’s why Nato generals are screaming themselves hoarse about the dire necessity of increasing our military strength. Their pleas fall on deaf ears: Western governments would rather spend money on cultivating our underclass and fattening up foreign tyrants’ bank accounts.

All this no doubt explains the West’s meek response to Putin’s rape of the Ukraine. Rather than presenting a united front bristling with weapons, our sweaty spivs are praying that Putin will be happy with what he’s got already. Nothing further bears thinking about.

But never mind the comparative statistics of tanks, warplanes or armies. By far the most vital weapon in any arsenal is the resolve to fight if necessary – and in this category Europe is even more disarmed than in any other.    






Poor Angela Merkel, life’s hard for her

Germany’s economy contracting. France’s stagnating. Italy’s going into a triple dip, just like that Engländer Dave on his third seaside holiday.

As to the other 15 countries in the eurozone, their economies are a sheer Alptraum, or nightmare, as those sneering Anglo-Saxons call it.

They are so-o-o-o superior in their Schadenfreude, what with even the British economy growing fast, never mind those across the Ozean.

Free trade, liberated labour markets, less red tape, lower taxation, my arsch! We allow those perversions in Europe, thinks Angie, and there goes the dream of a Fourth Reich, right down the Rohren. The Anglo-Saxons can take their much vaunted economic model and shove it where die Sonne doesn’t shine.

What’s a frau to do? Leben is bloody schwer, says Angie, though revolving in her mind is the saying first made popular exactly 100 years ago: Gott strafe England!

Life’s indeed hard. Angela has to look after 18 countries using the Deutschmark, or the euro, as it’s colloquially called.

If they all did exactly as they are told, alles would be in Ordnung. But they all insist on keeping their national parliaments and, what’s worse, occasionally listening to them.

And those bodies constantly sneak in measures that they seem to think are good for their own countries, not infuriatingly Angela’s. You try to manage the Deutschmark, (fine, the euro if you insist) under such circumstances. Ingrates, the whole bunch of them. After all that Deutschland has done to them… no, she means for them.

And guess whom all those Nobel economists are blaming for the mess? Her, Angie.

She shouldn’t have bunged austerity down the throats of all those profligate nations, they say. She should have avoided contraction, preempted the possibility of deflation, injected more stimulus into their economies.

Angie translates to make sure she understands, looks the phrase up in the dictionary. Right, just as she thought. That means Germany should have given those untermenschen even more money, on top of the billions she has already squandered on them.

But money doesn’t grow on Baumen. It rolls off printing presses and, when they go into high gear, hyperinflation ensues.

Angie is a German and, though she wasn’t alive at the time, the Weimar hyperinflation has scarred her brain as well.

She turns on her Siemens DVD player and watches, for the umpteenth time, women who look like her but thinner wheeling Schubkarren heaped with banknotes barely sufficient to buy a loaf of Brot. Bloody Alptraum!

No German führer, or Chancellor as that position is colloquially called, will allow a repeat performance. Those untermenschen can starve, for all Angie cares. She’ll take 25 per cent unemployment over 25 per cent inflation any bloody Tag. Or 50 per cent youth unemployment over 50 per cent inflation. Or 100 per cent… well, you get the picture.

Yes, scream those overpaid Nobel laureates. But have you considered the social aftermath? Whole generations of young people taken out of economic life, with all the knock-on effect that’s going to have for decades to come? Japan’s ‘lost decade’ will look like a walk im die Park by comparison.

Shows how little those Dummkopfen understand. A country where half the young people are unemployed is a defeated country, nicht wahr? And, as recent history shows, a defeated country becomes a German protectorate, a gau ruled by a gauleiter appointed by the Reich, or the EU as it’s colloquially called.

Once they are all brought into the fold and their bloody-minded parliaments disbanded, then Angie will be able to bring Ordnung to their economies. Until then all those self-righteous economists can go suck an Ei.

As to the Anglo-Saxons, she’ll follow their example when pigs will fly. And Schweinen, as she has told Dave so many times, don’t fly.

And guess what? The same windbag economists insist that half those countries using the Deutschmark, or the euro as it’s colloquially called, would be better off reverting to their national currencies.

Ja, ja, ja, so who gives a Scheiße? They may be better off, but Germany wouldn’t be, and that’s all that matters to Angie. Deutschland über alles, as her parents used to say.


P.S. My new, serious, book Democracy as a Neocon Trick is coming out this autumn. You can pre-order from the publisher on roperpenberthy.co.uk.

Dawkins: if at first you don’t succeed, abort and abort again

I’m opposed to prenatal abortion, but Richard Dawkins provides a strong argument in favour of the postnatal variety.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I catch myself fantasising, if some 50 years ago, when he first started to spout his malignant drivel, his parents had decided belatedly that their attempt at childbirth had failed miserably.

They could have agreed that obviously their 23-year-old progeny was deeply flawed, but not to worry. With qualified medical help they could nip that little genetic error in the bud. A simple procedure, and both they and the world would be spared further misery.

Then I pinch myself and realise I am daydreaming again. The law is unequivocal on the distinction between prenatal and postnatal abortion.

That the latter is regarded as murder strikes one as just, even taking Dawkins into account.

However, the former is incomprehensibly seen as a legitimate way of correcting God’s (or nature’s, if you’d rather) mistakes or, for that matter, undoing rubber manufacturers’ shoddy work.

A condom bursts, a woman gets pregnant when she has other plans – no problem, at least none that can’t be solved with a scalpel or, push come to shove, coat hanger.

Alternatively, a woman may not mind having a baby, but only one without defects. Thanks to the technological advances of which modernity is so justly proud, she can find out in advance whether or not the baby she’s carrying is up to scratch.

Anything falling short of her exacting expectations can then be cut out faster than you can say “a woman has a right to dispose of her body as she sees fit”.

Of course saying that sort of thing invalidates 2,000 years of our civilisation, branding the enunciator of such views as a savage. But nobody minds that.

Richard Dawkins certainly doesn’t. That’s why he mouthed yet another barbarian idea, one among so many that we should get accustomed to it by now.

Foetuses with Down’s syndrome should be aborted, says my friend Richard. The unhappy parents should shrug their shoulders, abort, then “try again”.

This method of treating the condition is, according to Richard, “very civilised. These are foetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.”

Exactly the same thing can be said about Richard, though I hope you realise it was only in jest that I used this observation as a justification for postnatal abortion.

But Richard isn’t joking. He insists that “the question is not ‘is it human?’ but ‘can it suffer?’”

A brighter man than Richard, regardless of his feelings on the matter, would easily spot a flaw in this argument.

‘Can it suffer?’ is a rhetorical question. People always suffer, as I do when, say, reading Richard’s effluvia. Suffering is an essential part of the human condition, certainly more so than ‘happiness’, the pursuit of which is sanctified by American founding documents.

We all know many people, manifestly not afflicted with Down’s syndrome, who lead a life of pure anguish. Some, like the fully developed comedian Robin Williams, kill themselves.

Conversely, I know two men suffering from that condition who don’t strike me as particularly unhappy. I met one of them a few years ago, at a village wedding in Italy. The whole village looked after him, and he gave every impression of a chap enjoying life.

There he was, nattily dressed in blazer and flannel trousers, beaming ear to ear as he kissed the blushing bride. All the guests would shake his hand and talk to him, exchanging laughter and pats on the shoulder. No one seemed to think he ought to have been scraped out of his mother’s womb bit by bit.

The other man is looked after by the friars in our local Burgundian village. He’s their altar boy, ably assisting at Mass every Sunday and telling “La paix du Christ” to the parishioners. I’d say he has made more of his life than Dawkins but, my opinion aside, he certainly doesn’t look as if he’s in the throes of horrible suffering.

I’m not presuming to offer my limited experience as corroborative proof, and I haven’t polled a representative sample of Down’s syndrome sufferers. Neither, I’m sure, has Richard.

Yet his view is even more subjective than mine. Richard himself wouldn’t be happy if he had Down’s syndrome – therefore all those who do must be suffering. But then solipsism is modernity’s chosen religion, and Dawkins is its prophet.

Conversely the question that Richard dismisses out of hand, “Is it human?”, is the only one worth asking, for any argument about abortion, pro or con, has to hinge on the answer.

If we accept that life begins at conception, then abortion is, not to cut too fine a point, homicide. As such, it’s definitely immoral and should be illegal.

If, on the other hand, we see a foetus as only a part of the woman’s body, then abortion is an innocent surgical procedure, like, say, appendectomy.

Anyone, Christian or atheist, who possesses the faculty of sequential thought, should see that the first idea is infinitely more sound than the second on a purely rational level.

For conception is the only moment to which the beginning of human life can be pinpointed with any confidence.

What other point is there? Three months (generally accepted as the cutoff point for abortion)? What about three months minus one day? Or two days? Or ten? Can you be sure that human life began precisely on that last day (two, 10, 29 days) of the first trimester?

Obviously, no logical person can answer this question affirmatively. Then he’ll have to admit it’s possible that a foetus is a human being at 2.5 months, or three weeks. Consequently there’s a risk that aborting any foetus constitutes the arbitrary taking of a human life – something generally frowned upon in our civilisation.

As to deciding which human being deserves to live and which doesn’t, this thought process was widely practised and discredited by regimes I doubt even Richard would like to imitate.

He’s living proof of my oft-expressed belief that atheism leads people into intellectual blind alleys. The intelligent atheists among my friends know this and avoid the impasses by steering clear of touchy subjects.

Richard lacks such wisdom, which is why he ploughs in with nary a thought on how strident and idiotic he sounds.

If I were inclined towards atheism, Richard would turn me off it for life. Those who doubt their faith should thank him for making a powerful, if unwitting, argument in its favour.

Who’d want atheism if it makes one talk such gibberish?


Now our family policy is sorted, let’s talk the foreign variety

I thought I’d never find a good thing to say about Dave, but I was wrong.

Snapshots from his third holiday this year clearly show that Dave doesn’t wear socks with sandals, which betokens an impeccable sense of style.

So there, I’ve said something nice about Dave. And I’m not finished yet.

You see, Dave can make vital policy decisions even while chillaxing, which is how he describes taking a break.

The other day he appointed an openly and proudly homosexual minister, Nick Bole, to spearhead Britain’s family policy.

This shows that, in addition to possessing refined taste, Dave is a man of consistency. After all, his whole family policy up to now has revolved around the axis of homosexual marriage.

So it stands to reason that the chap now in charge of it lives in a civil partnership with another man. Who can better understand the nuances of the only kind of family Dave holds sacred?

When you want a man to shape HMG’s stand on law, you appoint a lawyer. When you want someone to formulate health policy, you appoint a doctor. If you need an expert to work out a military strategy, you appoint a gener…

No, scratch that. As Georges Clemenceau once said, war is too important a matter to be left to the generals. It should be left to politicians instead. Like Dave.

A year ago Dave made a wholehearted effort to commit the British army to the cause of the inchoate Islamic state in Syria. Had Parliament not proved obstreperous, the IS would now be happily beheading people all over the Middle East, not merely in northern Iraq.

Yet the situation is pretty dire as it is, if one listens to General Sir Michael Rose, as one should.

In 2006 Sir Michael called for the impeachment of Tony Blair for having dragged Britain into the criminal invasion of Iraq on false pretences – an invasion that Sir Michael had opposed.

Now he correctly states that the rise of the IS is so catastrophic that we no longer have the option of staying on the sidelines. Just as correctly he fears that yet again we’ll go in without a clearly defined strategic objective or, which is worse, with a stupid one.

The Islamic State must be stopped in its tracks and wiped out – Gen. Rose is right about that. He’s also right in saying that a military victory won’t solve the ultimate problem any more than the destruction of the Iraqi army solved it in 2003.

We must have a clear idea of what comes next, and here I’m afraid the general goes wrong. He thinks the Iraqi people deserve the right to decide their future for themselves.

But the Iraqis had a fair go at it already, as did the Muslims in Egypt and Libya. They all had their democratic elections. That’s the ultimate exercise in political virtue, if you listen to the neocons, which you shouldn’t.

For we know what happened next. All three countries sank into a blood-drenched chaos – which anyone with a modicum of political nous and an IQ close to three digits could have predicted with absolute certainty.

Sir Michael, Dave, Tony, Ed, Barack Hussein and whoever else is willing to listen: democracy doesn’t and never will work in the Islamic world.

Did you get that? Allow me to repeat for the slow of mind or hard of hearing: DEMOCRACY. DOESN’T. AND NEVER WILL. WORK. IN. THE ISLAMIC WORLD. Did you get that?

What works in the Middle East, at least to our satisfaction, is a corrupt and further corruptible dictatorship. The kind that rules with an iron hand and a more or less secular mind.

Shah Reza Pahlavi springs to mind. Also Mubarak. Assad. Gaddafi. And, specifically in Iraq, Saddam. You know, the type of rulers we’ve done our utmost to unseat and replace with the kind of savages who eat human organs and behead Western journalists on camera.

All those men were (Assad still is) variously bloodthirsty tyrants. However, none of them was a direct threat to our interests, which is all that should matter.

Hence our strategy in Iraq shouldn’t be aimed at ‘letting the people decide’. Been there, done that. Five gets you ten they’ll decide wrong.

Instead, having wiped out the IS, as we must, we should find a chap who typologically fits into the mould of the tyrants I’ve mentioned above.

We should put him in power and prop him up for as long as it takes for him to tighten his grip on the country. A right kind of bastard won’t take very long.

Then we should grease his palm with large sums paid into his favourite Swiss or Channel Islands charity – and keep it greased for as long as he remains the right kind of bastard.

In other words, we must admit that our policy in the Middle East over the last decade has been criminally stupid and, which is worse, a failure. Having uttered a suitable number of mea culpas, we should then correct our mistakes by doing what’s right.

Having said so many good things about Dave, one thing I can’t say is that he’s the kind of statesman who can do what’s right. What he can do is more of the same.

Appoint a proud homosexual to run our family policy, already compromised by his fanatical commitment to homomarriage. Waste billions on foreign aid. Play lickspittle to the EU. Let millions of potential or actual criminals into the country. Continue to support an education that doesn’t educate and healthcare that doesn’t care.

And spill the blood of our soldiers in yet another asinine adventure aimed at ‘letting people decide’ in the Middle East.

Still, to end on a positive note, there’s one more good thing one can say for Dave. Incredible as it may sound, the other lot are probably even worse.


P.S. My new book, Democracy as a Neocon Trick, is coming out this autumn. You can pre-order from the publisher on roperpenberthy.co.uk.

















There’s nothing saintly about Marxism, your Holiness

One wonders about Pope Francis.

His Holiness has just ruled that Salvadoran Bishop Óscar Romero may be beatified – an elevation that the two previous Popes banned outright.

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI didn’t quite see how saintliness could be reconciled with Bishop Romero’s Marxist rants, albeit packaged as they were with mock-Christian cant.

The Salvadoran was a leading proponent of ‘liberation theology’, the deadliest Christian heresy in modern times.

It was deadly not to Christianity, which people like Romero wilfully perverted but were unable to destroy, but to the thousands of people duped by them into violent action.

The essence of liberation theology is an attempt to latch Christianity on to Marxism, thereby reconciling the West’s founding creed with a materialist philosophy largely based on hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular.

In his earthly life, Jesus, according to these false prophets, was a Galilean revolutionary killed for trying to liberate a Roman colony from its oppressors.

Since imitation of Christ is the ultimate purpose of a Christian life, it follows that a true Christian must fight oppressors, as defined by liberation theologians.

Those chaps didn’t strive for originality: their definition of oppression was lifted chapter and verse from Marx’s theory of class struggle.

Never mind that every attempt to apply this cannibalistic theory in practice has led to massacres never before seen, or indeed imagined, in human history.

No wonder. Marxists divide the world into two antagonistic classes, the poor and the rich (the exact terminology may vary, but the essence never does). The rich oppress the poor, and the only way for the latter to get a fair shake is to rise up against the rich and dispossess them.

Should the rich resist, they must be killed. Since this category can never be defined tightly, this is tantamount to a carte blanche for ‘the poor’, or rather the pseudo-intellectuals acting in their name, to feel not only free but indeed morally justified in murdering anyone they dislike.

Their homicidal antipathy is directed not just at some individuals known to ‘the poor’ personally, but against whole classes that can be reliably expected to produce enemies of ‘the poor’.

Hence democide, murder by category, is an ever-present feature of every revolution inspired by Marxist animadversions. The number of victims depends only on the size of the population and the length of time the liberators are at work, not on any moral constraints.

Thus the Russian and Chinese liberators of the poor murdered roughly 60 million apiece, most of them actually poor, but then theirs were large countries. China was more populous, but she devoted fewer decades to democide than Russia did, hence the lower proportion.

Cambodian Khmer Rouge, by contrast, managed to murder only 1.7 million, a risibly low number by Marxist standards. But we must remember that it represented over 20 per cent of the population, and the liberators were busy for four years only.

Once again, I’m talking here not about a perversion of Marx’s theory of class struggle but its logical development. Interpreting history as a raging war between two hostile classes presupposes the elimination of the vanquished class by the victor.

One would think that marrying this sort of thing with Christianity would be hard. But liberation theologians found a way.

Christ taught that the rich and the poor are equal before God, didn’t he? Well, that means they ought to be equal in every respect – all equally rich or, that being a manifest impossibility, all equally poor.

Since the rich have created all sorts of hierarchical institutions perpetuating their wealth and privilege, such institutions must be destroyed, starting with the ‘bourgeois’ state.

Biblical justification? No problem. Just look at the Exodus – wasn’t it national liberation from the yoke of slavery? Of course it was.

Unfortunately, there was that nagging add-on of the land God supposedly promised to the Jews, whereas everyone knows it was actually promised to Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda or whatever their predecessors were called in the ‘60s, when liberation theology first spoke out of its burning bush.

But hey, who says God’s truth was all revealed at once? Didn’t Newman talk about the development of Christian doctrine? And doesn’t development suggest gradual revelation?

Hence God first revealed the notion of liberation and then, over time, embellished it by explaining that those originally liberated were actually oppressors in the making. No contradiction there at all.

Compared to this sleight of hand, extrapolating to any national or economic liberation ‘the poor’ may fancy is child’s play, and liberation theologians aren’t children, at least not chronologically.

My problem with this vile nonsense isn’t just that it’s demonstrably heretical but that it’s unspeakably vulgar.

Christ himself, and the religion he founded, never had any quarrel with worldly powers – provided they didn’t encroach on the realm of God.

That’s the meaning of Jesus’s adages “My kingdom is not of this world” and “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

It’s also the meaning of St Paul’s statement: “Let everyone put himself under the authority of the higher powers, because there is no power which is not of God, and all powers are ordered by God.”

This was said by a man who knew that the Romans would kill him for his faith. Just like Jesus, however, St Paul was prepared to die resisting worldly usurpation of the kingdom of God. But as long as the powers that be restricted themselves to ruling the kingdom of man, St Paul simply ignored them, just as Jesus had taught.

Christianity’s position on material poverty was unequivocally formulated by Jesus himself: “For ye have the poor with you always”. Since that statement was first made, the Church, and orthodox Christianity in general, has understood its role as relieving spiritual poverty only.

It’s not the Church’s remit to offer economic solutions to material poverty – and it’s emphatically not its business to agitate for armed struggle against every institution seen as an agent of oppression or material inequality.

That Latin American ‘liberation theologians’ ostensibly preached nonviolence is a moot point. History shows there’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution, even if the original preachers make noises to that effect.

Once a theory legitimising hatred is hatched, especially if it’s couched in religious jargon, violence will always follow.

All those Gutiérrezes and Romeros should have learned their lesson from Ghandi: first the nonviolent prophets spout their sermons, then their violent followers take over. Such is the way of this world.

When Cardinal Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he fought liberation theology tooth and nail, correctly accusing it of anti-Christian Marxist messianism.

When he became Benedict XVI he vetoed the beatification of Bishop Romero, whose sermons directly provoked a murderous civil war in San Salvador. That Romero himself was its victim didn’t redeem his wickedness any more than, say, Trotsky’s assassination redeemed all the evil he’d done.

This is the veto that Pope Francis has seen fit to repeal. Out of respect for his office, I’ll only call this decision ill-advised.