Grandmas and Grandpas

When I was little I’d pester grownups with hypothetical questions starting with “If…” or “What if…”.

Does she or doesn’t she? Only her surgeon knows for sure

My parents indulged my curiosity, but whenever I got to spend time with my uncle, I was in for a let-down. He was a no-nonsense practical man with no patience for silly questions and little formal education, other than the school of hard knockers followed by Screw U.

Hence, whenever I started a sentence with a conditional clause, he’d cut me short: “If Grandma had balls, she’d be Grandpa.” Since I never heard rude words at home, they fascinated me in a morbid sort of way, and I never minded the rebuke. Nor did I get to ponder the literal meaning of his seemingly self-evident statement.

It’s only now, decades later, that I realise how hopelessly behind the times my uncle was. And not only he: everybody I knew was in agreement on the fixtures specific to each of the two [sic!] sexes.

We don’t even have to look so far back: even a single generation ago it wouldn’t have occurred to any sane person to insist that Grandma or even a woman of reproductive age could have testicles. That’s how it just was: the issue wasn’t up for debate.

Did I say a generation ago? I was too generous. Even a decade ago a politician didn’t have to fear for his job if he gave the wrong answer to the question “Can a woman have a penis?” Moreover, the question was unlikely to come up in the first place.

Yet the march of progress is unstoppable, and it’s up to us to stay in step. Hence that sacramental question isn’t only posed routinely, but it has also become a mass-produced trap to snare politicians.

Had you put that question to my uncle, he would have told you to perform a ballistically improbable act on yourself. That would be a good answer even today, but our politicians realise to their horror that there are no good answers. It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

A Labour politician answering ‘no’ would be drummed out of his party faster than you can say traitor to the cause. A Tory providing the same answer would be pilloried as an insensitive troglodyte typologically similar to Hitler.

The yes answer would be less problematic for a Labour MP than for a Tory one, but that’s not to say the former would enjoy a free ride. A lot would depend on his constituency, how solidly Labour it is.

If he represents, say, Camden, where the locals would indeed vote for Hitler before they’d ever contemplate voting Tory, their MP would score points by stating unequivocally that yes, women can have penises, men can have vaginas and either group can have both together if they so choose.

But give the same response in a constituency where the Labour majority is wafer-thin, and the wafer could well be gobbled up at the next general election.

So even a Labour politician has to watch his step; even for him equivocation is the best way out. For a Tory, especially one in a high cabinet post, it’s the only way.

He wouldn’t want to alienate his core support by saying it’s perfectly normal for a woman to have a penis, with testicles attached. But then neither would he want to narrow his appeal by saying it’s all about chromosomes: if it’s XY, a penis is de rigueur; XX makes it impossible.

And of course he’d lose his whole electorate (with the exception of die-hard retrogrades like me) if he gave an answer similar to the one my uncle would have offered.

It’s against that backdrop that one can fully appreciate the replies provided by the leaders of our two major parties, PM Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer.

His fellow Tories have hailed Mr Sunak for giving a straightforward reply: a woman, said the intrepid politician, is an “adult human female”. Now, while complimenting the PM for his mastery of evasiveness that doesn’t appear evasive, one may still take issue there.

No one, not even that fishy Nicola Sturgeon, would object to that definition. Of course that’s what the word ‘woman’ means. But that doesn’t obviate the possibility of an “adult human female” having testicles. After all, an adult person with a penis could identify as a female, which is as good as being one – and hey presto, Bob’s your aunt, or Grandma if you’d rather.

Neither did Mr Sunak’s next phrase clarify matters. “Biological sex matters,” he said. Again, that Scottish fish could agree: saying it matters isn’t quite the same as saying it’s all that matters. Only the chromosomal statement above would be free of equivocation, and Mr Sunak wisely refused to make it.

As for Sir Keir, he chose not to go there at all. When asked the lapidary penile question, he warded it off as the “usual, toxic political football”. That may well be, but the hack would have been within his right to say no, it was a serious question requiring a serious answer.

Boy, am I glad I’m not a politician. I’d have to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to build a career, only to lose it in the next second after that question was asked. A charge for grievous bodily harm would also be hard to avoid.

P.S. Jokes aside, here’s how I’d answer the question in a thoughtful and civilised way.

It’s a father who embodies what theologians call the ‘principle’ of procreation. That’s why a man procreates outside his own body, and that’s why he stands outside and above his creation in the sense in which a woman doesn’t.

She conceives and gestates the child inside her body, and in that sense the child is a part of her, even though the man also contributes his DNA.

Symbolically the couple imitates the act of divine creation. The man is both transcendent (standing outside and above his creation) and immanent (present within it). The woman, on the other hand, is only immanent. That’s why a woman can’t have testicles not only biologically, but also philosophically and theologically.

Then again, no one capable of asking that question would be able to understand this answer.

Comeback kids collide

Messrs Trump and Johnson are both treading the comeback trail, the former overtly, the latter coyly. However, since their pathways are laid 2,500 miles apart, one would think they’d do a Euclid by not crossing.

Yet cross they did, on neutral grounds, the Ukraine. Donald, as is his wont, shot from the lip and Boris deflected his verbal bullet.

When both were at the helm in their respective countries, they enjoyed a cordial relationship. Donald even called Boris “Britain’s Trump”, which in his book was praise like no other. Boris suppressed a wince, thanked Donald for that accolade but refrained from calling him “America’s Johnson”.

The two men do have much in common: both are inveterate narcissists. But the ways they express that trait are skewed by their cultural backgrounds.

Johnson is an Englishman pretending to be an Englishman, a type quite widespread in the upper reaches of British society. He is all golly, gripes, crikey and stuttering meiotic qualifiers (as in, for example, “Gripes, crikey, Hitler was quite an unpleasant fellow, wasn’t he, in a rather Hunnish sort of way, what?”).

In the same hypothetical situation, Trump would call Hitler a motherfucker and then try to make a deal with him (“Yo Adolf, you rub my back, I’ll rub yours, know what I mean?”) Donald is a perfect caricature of a brash, go-getting, straight-shooting American wheeler-dealer. Hence his variety of narcissism is so in your face that it often crosses the border into megalomania.

As it did the other day, when Trump repeated his stock claim that, had he been elected president in 2020, his friend Vlad wouldn’t have dared attack the Ukraine. That’s the beauty of the subjunctive mood: it affords enough latitude to make any claim whatsoever. As long as it stays in the subjunctive, we’ll never know, will we?

“But even now, if I were president,” continued Donald, “I’d be able to negotiate an end to this horrible and rapidly escalating war within 24 hours. It can be done. You have to say the right things, not the wrong things.”

The reference to the wrong things was a dig at President Biden, who days before the war started said that Putin would only ever launch “a minor incursion”. US intelligence already knew that Putin was about to push a button for a full-scale offensive, but Biden chose to sit on the fence.

Had Putin’s plan to capture Kiev in three days succeeded, Biden could have shrugged and uttered the Delaware equivalent of fait accompli. He would have been secure in the knowledge that he hadn’t committed his country to any decisive response, and who said that occupying Kiev didn’t qualify as a minor excursion?

Whether Biden’s fudging encouraged Putin more than he was already encouraged is a moot point. It’s possible that Vlad would have marched whatever the US response could have been – it’s that subjunctive again.

What’s clear is that the West in general and the USA in particular pursued a policy of Munich-style appeasement throughout the years of Putin’s stepped-up pouncing on Russia’s neighbours. At fault there isn’t just Biden but all the Western leaders over the past 23 years, including Trump.

But, subjunctively speaking, perhaps he could have persuaded Putin to stay put. The two men did enjoy a relationship, some (most?) of which was concealed from prying eyes.

That might have included some leeway for Donald to put into action his self-vaunted talent for a deal. I shan’t speculate on what the American part of it could have been, but it certainly wouldn’t have been anything minor.

But Trump’s claim he could still stop the war within 24 hours by saying the right things is where narcissism stops and megalomania begins. Saying the right things may secure a deal only if both parties want it. At a pinch, one party agog and the other lukewarm may still work.

But in this case the Ukrainians would rather die than accept that sum total of Trump’s being, a deal. They won’t stop fighting until Russia withdraws from every inch of the occupied territory and agrees to pay adequate reparations for the calamitous damages caused.

For Putin such an outcome would be tantamount to suicide, and I don’t just mean the political kind. So he is prepared to continue throwing piles of young Russian flesh into the meatgrinder of his bandit raid.

And even if Putin offered or accepted a truce, everyone knows he’d only use it to catch his breath before restarting the hostilities with renewed vigour. Since 1917 Russia has broken every treaty she has ever signed, and it takes most refreshing ignorance to think that the current KGB dynasty will reverse this trend.

That’s what our Boris meant when he said: “The former president, Donald, is a great dealmaker, but I don’t think there is a deal here.”

Johnson, I must admit, has come close to making me believe that his unwavering support for the Ukraine is sincere and almost disinterested. This is shameful naivety on my part, I know. It’s just something I sense, as I sense that Trump’s unwavering support is owed only to Trump.

I wonder if anyone will try to probe beyond his braggadocio and ask that tactless ‘how’ question. How, if he were president today, would he stop the war tomorrow? What kind of deal does he have in mind, what kind of right things would he say?

It’s impossible to conclude any deal without some kind of leverage. It could be positive (“If you sign, I’ll do this for you…”) or negative (“If you don’t sign, I’ll do this to you…”) or a combination of the two. But there has to be some.

So what kind of levers would be at Donald’s disposal? He could promise Russia an instant end to all sanctions and a huge aid package for Putin to withdraw, say, to the 23 February, 2022, borders. The Crimea could be declared a demilitarised zone, with the Russian troops leaving but the Ukrainian troops not coming in.

The Ukraine could be promised a regeneration package to make the Marshall Plan look like Monopoly money. This could be accompanied by a US guarantee of protection against another round of Russian aggression.

Yet the Ukrainians would laugh in Trump’s face. They wouldn’t trade their land for any amount of money, not after what the Russians have done. And as to American guarantees, Zelensky would wave the Budapest Memorandum as proof of their negligible worth.

You may think all this is conjecture, but it’s hard to imagine any other scenario. Trump certainly knows it – and yet he says he could end the war within 24 hours.

If it isn’t just talk, which is possible, he must have something else in mind. And that has to be some negative leverage of sufficient blackmail value to make Zelensky comply.

I can only think of one such: a threat to cut off all American supplies, including armaments. That would leave the Ukraine on her own and eventually disarmed in the face of a Russian onslaught. Zelensky would either have to sign Trump’s peace treaty or commit his people to decades of hopeless guerrilla warfare.

On balance, I’d rather hope this isn’t the basis for Trump’s otherwise insanely megalomaniac claim. It’s more comforting to think this is another empty campaign promise, an attempt to pat his own back with one hand and blow his own Trumpet with the other.

Looking at the two comeback kids from the Ukraine’s standpoint, I think she’d have a more reliable supporter in Prime Minister Johnson than in President Trump. But that may be because I have quite a few friends who resemble the former and none at all who resemble the latter.

A wrong basis for judgement, I know. It’s just that I’ve got tangled up in all those subjunctives.

Watch yourself, minister

None dare call it a general strike, but let’s not quibble about terms. Britain has been brought to a standstill by a massive strike involving 500,000 public sector workers.

The offensive item

Since 300,000 of them are teachers, it stands to reason the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had to share her thoughts with BBC Breakfast. Nor was it out of order that The Mail had to comment on Mrs Keegan’s statements.

Those sounded sensible, and I don’t think any serious economist would find fault with what she said.

Having accepted the validity of the teachers’ complaints, and expressed the requisite sympathy, Mrs Keegan added: “What is not realistic is for us to be looking at inflation or inflation-busting pay rises. We cannot risk fuelling inflation with inflation-busting pay rises. We have to look after everybody in the economy.”

Actually, I assume she meant ‘inflation-boosting’, not ‘inflation-busting’, but then Mrs Keegan had to work her way up from very modest beginnings that didn’t include expensive education. Hence I’m not sure about her qualifications for her particular post, but nevertheless, assuming she did mean ‘inflation-boosting pay rises’, her statement bespoke a sound grasp of economics.

The above should give you an idea of how I would begin an account of Mrs Keegan’s BBC appearance – and also provide a hint at how I would continue. I’d probably talk about the deadly perils of a high inflation rate, an enemy more destructive than even a recession. If recession is the price to pay for lowering the inflation rate, then even that is worth paying.

At a weak moment I might even have proposed a way out of the deadlock, such as the government’s ironclad commitment to ratchet up its current 5 per cent offer once inflation has been brought under control. But I wasn’t the one writing that Mail piece.

Whoever did write it led with this paragraph: “Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wears her £10,000 Rolex watch as she tells striking teachers to be ‘realistic’ with their pay demands on a day of industrial action bringing the UK to a halt.”

One gets the impression that Mrs Keegan’s ownership of that timepiece disqualifies her from discussing the strike and the potentially detrimental consequences of inflation-boosting (not ‘busting’) pay rises. This faulty assumption in no way diminishes my admiration for the author’s eagle eye, capable of making out the brand and price of the watch from a distance.

This is a recurrent theme of our politics, and it isn’t hard to identify its moral provenance: envy, one of the seven cardinal sins. It seems to have become one of the cardinal virtues.

It’s impossible to open the papers these days, even conservative ones, without reading things like “health secretary used a private clinic 12 years ago” or “education minister sent his children to a public school” or “housing minister owns a property in France and a flat in Westminster” or “prime minister doesn’t understand the plight of common folk because his wife is rich.”

(So far I haven’t seen a lament that a justice secretary isn’t qualified to discuss prison reform because he has never served time for a felony, but I’m sure that’s still to come.)

What are government ministers supposed to do? Appear on TV wearing burlap sackcloth and shoes with holes big enough for their toes to stick out? Try to flog a copy of The Big Issue while they are at it?

One is amazed how Britain became one of the most successful countries in history and managed to build the greatest empire ever at a time when she was almost exclusively governed by wealthy aristocrats.

When the Spencers, Cadogans and Cavendishes ran England, French visitors were astounded how wealthy English peasants were. While in France most peasants lived in mud cottages at the time, their 18th century English counterparts had brick houses with tiled roofs and glass windows.

So fine, most ministers of the crown lived in sumptuous mansions. But they still did their best for the country.

One doesn’t have to be destitute to understand the plight of the poor; moribund to relate to the needs of patients; illiterate to tackle the miserable education provided by our schools. One does have to possess the ability to govern a great country, and that commodity doesn’t depend one way or the other on what our ministers wear on their wrists.

This isn’t the first time that Mrs Keegan has been brought to account for displaying that offensive item, which was her husband’s gift for her 50th birthday. In December, she had to defend herself in a radio interview: “I guess I’m supposed to never have made anything of myself, never have made any money… I don’t know. It’s like an inverted snobbery or something.”

Actually, it’s much worse than that. It’s envy, and the politics based on it, elevated to the status of orthodoxy. No wonder socialism has emerged victorious in British politics, with the main parties only quibbling about the extent of it.

While few politicians today can boast noble lineage, most of them are successful people. Let’s not hold that against them, shall we? Let’s criticise them for venality, incompetence, sleaziness, not knowing the difference between boosting and busting. These are in sufficient supply to provide enough targets for our venom.

Let’s not even criticise them for the poor taste of displaying oversized status symbols. It’s as if Mrs Keegan’s watch were reciting the popular ditty: “The working class can kiss my arse, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.” But hey, she’s entitled – as long as she is a good education secretary.

How the Russians fight Nazism

Vlad Putin commemorated the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in his own inimitable fashion.

Nazism, he declared, wasn’t extinguished in 1945. It’s still alive and well and thriving in the Ukraine. For it’s only the neo-Nazis who resist Russia’s noble effort to eradicate that blight off the face of the earth.

The first two sentences tell the truth: neo-Nazis are indeed committing unspeakable atrocities in the Ukraine. But those yahoos are clad in Russian uniforms.

The denazification of the Ukraine was the declared purpose of Russia’s attack on the Ukraine. To give you an idea how the Russians are getting on, I’ve translated this account of a Ukrainian nurse, Olena.

That Mariupol woman in her late forties was taken prisoner by the Russians early in the war. A few days ago she was released after a POW exchange. A friend of hers tells Olena’s story, to which I can’t really add much. [The narrative jumps from first to third person, but I’m only the translator here. I’m sure you can follow well enough.]

“Olena worked at her Mariupol hospital for a long time, and after [the Russian attack on] 24 February she stayed on the job round the clock. The bombings started, and the wounded began to arrive in uncountable numbers. They kept coming and coming… Brought in were soldiers, children, old people. There was an impression, says Olena, that the Russians wanted to drown us in blood. There were rivers of blood everywhere, and there was little water to rinse it away. We washed the instruments with alcohol and kept working. There was no electricity, operations were lit by emergency generators.

“When the hospital was bombed out, we were ordered to break up between two bunkers. One half moved to Azovstal, the other to the vast Ilyich factory. There we had to keep changing bunkers all the time because, whenever the Russians spotted a transport of the wounded, they’d bomb it. The operating rooms were placed close to the exit, for us to be able to move the patients and equipment to another place quickly.

“In early March it was no longer possible to get out of the siege since Mariupol was surrounded by a triple encirclement. First the Russians imprisoned the male doctors, then also the women. They were put into cellars, where they had to lie on naked cement. At another transit point, the Russians put 40 people into a room with four beds. They slept like sardines in a tin. Prisoners were transported blindfolded and with their hands tied, sometimes by air. When they eventually found themselves in a camp in Russia, everything they owned had been long since taken away: toothbrushes, underwear and naturally telephones.

“In transit, the people were fed the kind of slops that even a hungry dog wouldn’t eat, many people were reduced to skin and bones. When they arrived at the prison, they began to get some gruel and bread, and Olena started to gain weight. The guards were out to break the people’s spirit.

“After the 6 am reveille, we were made to sing the Russian anthem 5-6 times in a row, and not normally but at the top of the voice. If the singing wasn’t loud enough, the guards would bang on the door with their truncheons. That was the first warning and, when the door was finally opened, everyone was terrified – they knew they’d be beaten again. They were beaten constantly. As a result of the bombings, Olena had lost not only her hearing, but also her voice. She could hardly speak, and she was beaten for that too.

“If during the rollcall the guards decided that a prisoner didn’t spread her legs wide enough, they’d beat her on the inside of her legs with a truncheon. One elderly woman had a dislocated hip, she had been taken just before the operation. She begged to be treated, but they were hitting her on the legs with truncheons and sometimes electric shock: ‘Here’s your treatment’.

“They were forced to watch Russian propaganda TV channels all day long. In the morning they were given sheets of verses glorifying the Russians. These had to be recited by heart at a specified time. Those who couldn’t memorise the verses were beaten.

“We had two civilians with us. One was an epileptic who was having fits, the other was mentally retarded and couldn’t memorise anything. They were beaten too. Olena kept repeating her question: ‘Why those sick civilians? What were they beaten for?’ I asked: ‘Who did the beating?’ ‘The female guards themselves.’ ‘Were they middle-aged?’ ‘No, young. They kept telling us that the Ukraine didn’t exist any longer, and no one had any use for us, prisoners. We were forgotten and written off.

“Olena was told to accept the Russian passport. She refused. They asked why, she replied she had her sons in Kiev. Well, Kiev isn’t there anymore, she was told… None of the imprisoned women gave in, although they were all tortured.”

Olena’s story will probably make only a footnote in a multi-volume indictment of the crimes committed by the Russians in the good tradition of both Stalin’s and Hitler’s Nazism. The indictment, I believe firmly, will be one day read out at an international tribunal, at the Hague or elsewhere, perhaps even at Nuremberg.

And I do hope that sitting in the dock next to the murderers, torturers, rapists and their leaders will be their propagandists, both Russian and Western – especially the latter, those who should have known better. For it wasn’t just the likes of Kaltenbrunner and Frank who got the noose, but also Rosenberg, Streicher and, later, William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’.

The precedent is there, and their present-day typological equivalents should ponder it – with seriousness and trepidation.  

Neither Britain nor USA is blameless

A hypothetical situation first: a sadistic murderer tosses a baby into the river and walks away laughing. What do you think of him? Don’t tell me, I know.

Yet walking by was another man who stopped to watch the thrashing baby – and did nothing to save him, even though he could have done so easily. What’s your verdict on that passer-by? An accomplice? I’d say. As bad as the murderer? Well, not exactly. But almost.

The moral of this hypothetical story can be extrapolated to a book on history, as proved by Dan Stone’s work The Holocaust: An Unfinished History. The publisher timed the launch well: the book came out last week, on the anniversary of the eponymous tragedy.

Prof. Stone sets his stall early: “Although the persecution of the Jews that led to the Holocaust was a German project – a point which cannot be overemphasised – it chimed with the programs of many European fascist and authoritarian regimes. Without the willing participation of so many collaborators across Europe, the Germans would have found it much harder to kill so many Jews.”

All true. The percentage of Jews killed in a country was directly proportional to the local enthusiasm for such an outcome.

Thus over 90 per cent of all Jews were killed throughout the occupied parts of the Soviet Union, 96 per cent in the Baltic republics. And the denizens of Lvov, the capital of Ukrainian Galicia, brutally murdered 10,000 Jews in the couple of days of the interregnum, when the Soviets had already left the city, but the Nazis hadn’t yet moved in.

Yet France lost less than a quarter of her Jewish community. A third of the Czech and Serbian Jews survived the war. In Holland and Belgium, a quarter survived – which is astonishing, considering those countries’ terrain and population density. Denmark managed to save practically all her Jews. But in Poland, 98 per cent of the Jews were murdered.

All this is widely known, at least among those who want to know. Yet the accusing finger usually points at the countries either occupied by Germany or allied with her. But what about the anti-Hitler coalition, made up primarily of the Soviet Union, Britain and the US?

They don’t quite qualify as the first hypothetical man mentioned above. But they fit the moral portrait of the second man like a suede glove.

The Nazis started the Second World War on 1 September, 1939, by attacking Poland from the west. Their Soviet allies joined in on 17 September, by moving in from the east. A few days later Poland capitulated, and a new border was formed between the two predator states.

Jews began to suffer atrocities in the German zone immediately. Many tried to flee into the Soviet zone – only to be turned back by the Soviet border guards who had been ordered to treat them as potential spies. Occasionally the soldiers even fired on the Jews, thereby saying in no uncertain terms that they weren’t welcome.

Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941. On 2 July the Kremlin issued a directive on the “evacuation of the population and material assets”. Even horses merited a mention. Jews didn’t – this though the Soviets knew their lot would be dire.

To be fair, it took the Germans less than a fortnight to occupy the areas with the largest Jewish populations, mainly in the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Lithuania. Clearly, the rapidly retreating Soviets couldn’t evacuate millions of civilians, although saving a few thousand children could have been possible, given the will to do so. Yet the will wasn’t there.

What would have been easy though was simply to warn the Jews of the mortal danger awaiting them. Many of them could have saved themselves had they known, by hiding in cellars, fleeing into forests, joining partisan units (how they were treated there is a different story – I told it in this space on 16 May, 2015).

Yet only on 24 August did Soviet radio mention the unfolding tragedy in passing. By that time, the whole western part of the Soviet Union had already been occupied. On 6 December, 1942, the Soviet foreign ministry issued a memorandum about the murder of 52,000 Jews at Kiev’s Baby Yar.

And only on 19 December, 1942, did the Soviet government officially warn the Jews that they were all slated for extermination. By that time there was hardly anyone left to warn: only 250,000 of the four million inhabiting the occupied areas were still alive, just.

Stalin’s partners in the coalition, Britain and America, have no right to claim the high moral ground either. The Atlantic allies could have saved millions of Jews – and chose not to.

For about a year on either side of 1 September, 1939, Hitler’s cherished notion of a Judenfrei Europe didn’t necessarily include total extermination. The idea was to force Jews to emigrate somewhere, anywhere: to the USA, USSR, Madagascar, South America, Palestine – Hitler didn’t care. Initially the Nazis were even prepared to provide ships and some foreign currency to make Jews go.

Yet to Hitler’s surprise no country was willing to provide a refuge for the Jews – not even the Soviet Union, whose regime Hitler perceived as Jewish. And not even the USA to which Goebbels routinely referred as “the Jewnited States of America” (the lad did have a way with words).

Moreover, when some countries, notably Argentina and Brazil suffering from labour shortage, were willing to accept the Jews, the US blocked that initiative. At the same time, Britain contravened her own 1917 Balfour Declaration by practically stopping Jewish emigration to Palestine.

That something like that was going to transpire was already predictable in July, 1938, when, three years after the Nuremberg Laws were passed, representatives of 32 countries met at Evian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees.

The US representative Myron C. Taylor led the way by stating categorically that America was neither going to change her immigration quotas nor expected other countries to do so, for no country should assume the heavy financial burden of mass immigration.

The British delegate, Lord Winterton, explained that the British Isles were overpopulated as it was, which might have been the case. Yet he failed to mention the colonies, where there was no shortage of space. More to the point, he said nothing about Palestine where, according to the Balfour Declaration, Britain had undertaken to create “a national home for the Jewish people.”

Privately the delegates agreed they had no desire to welcome “the human refuse of Europe”. Of the 32 participating countries, only the Dominican Republic was ready to accept 100,000 Jews but, having discussed the issue with the Americans, withdrew the offer. The Nazi press gloated: no one wanted the Jews.

Hitler got the message. Since no one would stand up for the Jews, then even their mass murder, while pilloried publicly, would privately be treated with indifference or perhaps even sympathy. Only then, at the Wannsee Conference in January, 1942, did the Final Solution take its monstrous shape.

During the war, saving the Jews wasn’t just low on the Allies’ list of priorities – it wasn’t on the list at all. Thus in 1944, when the British and the Americans were fully aware of the scale of the catastrophe, they refused to bomb the railway leading to Auschwitz – even though the USAF was bombing the chemical plant just five miles away.

Getting back to the beginning, German and other murderers were the sadist who tossed the baby into the river. But the rest of us should suppress those smug smiles of moral ascendancy. We are that second man, one who refused to extend a helping hand.

As bad as the first man? No, not quite. But almost.

Sugar and spice and all things nice

Far be it from me to deny that Isla Bryson, née (or perhaps né) Adam Graham, is a genuine woman. Just look at her earlier photograph and you’ll instantly see her feminine side trying to break out of the hard outer shell of a repulsive male thug.

Girls just aren’t what they used to be

I’d only like to comment on the standards of womanhood that seem to be more fluid than ever before. In the past, arguments about femininity weren’t so much physiological or psychological as aesthetic.

People disagreed on what makes a beautiful woman, not a woman as such. For example, in the early 17th century people put a premium on hefty secondary sex characteristics, enveloped, if Rubens’s canvases are to be believed, in quite a bit of cellulite.

During our lifetime, the official concept of womanly charms began to diverge from the one widely accepted among the masses. The arbiters of taste began to promote the concept of a new Venus as a woman in the early stages of anorexia.

Men around the world pretend to agree. After all, who are they to argue with the gurus? However, privately 90 per cent of them still prefer fat women – and only 10 per cent, very fat ones (according to my own private poll).

One way or another, no matter how fluid tastes may be, few men – or for that matter women – see someone like Isla as a modern-day Venus de Milo. However, aesthetics aside, all of them are forced to accept Isla as a woman on pain of ostracism or, in the near future, perhaps even criminal prosecution.

Charge? I’m amazed you need to ask. Transphobia, of course, which crime is defined neither in its etymological sense as an inordinate fear of transsexuals nor in its new sense of implicit hatred. No, transphobia means simply refusing to accept Isla as a woman.

In her previous incarnation as Adam Graham, this dainty creature violently raped two women, a crime for which he/she/it was convicted and put in prison before sentencing. Alas, since those events unfolded in Scotland, he/she/it was put in a prison for women.

Now, I say sometimes that the only two good things to have come out of Scotland for decades are whisky and James MacMillan (the order is dictated by the rhythm of the sentence, not, as I hope James realises, relative importance).

And about the worst thing is Scotland’s politics, as exemplified by two consecutive SNP leaders, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. Between them they prove that there’s something decidedly fishy about Scottish politics.

Thus Scottish parliament has passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which, to its credit, British Parliament has blocked. That pernicious bill makes it easier for youngsters to change their sex. Now any Scot, 16 or older, can be legally castrated without the annoyance of having to seek parental consent.

A person that age can’t legally buy cigarettes or that second greatest Scottish contribution to civilisation, whisky (you can see that I’m not a great fan of David Hume and Adam Smith, although both had their good points). But that same youngster is deemed old enough to make a more or less irreversible decision about his or her sex.

That strikes me as a wee bit insane but, as Pascal didn’t quite say, the Scots have their reasons that reason knows not of (les écossais ont ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point).

However, that bill was passed after Adam went on his raping rampage and subsequently decided he was really Isla. Since even the Scottish parliament hasn’t yet progressed so far as to make its progressive laws retroactive, Isla is afforded no special protection.

Still, even the old laws were progressive enough to put Isla into a prison where her/his/its fellow inmates weren’t quite fellows. And then all hell broke loose.

The naturally female inmates loudly protested against having a convicted rapist with all his relevant bits still intact sharing their cells and shower rooms. And what do you know, their voices were heard and heeded.

A public outcry ensued, and Isla has been transferred to a proper men’s prison, where other rapists, robbers and serial murderers may well test her womanhood empirically. There’s a part of me that would actually welcome something like that to happen, but I admit it’s not the best part.

I do marvel at the sudden outbreak of gender dysphoria, which used to be an extremely rare condition. So rare, in fact, that in the less progressive past sufferers could often make a living by exhibiting themselves at county fairs.

There is always the possibility, nay certainty, that most of those aspiring conversos are actually sham transsexuals. In fact, Adam’s ex-wife used that precise adjective to describe his ‘transitioning’.

I’m not going to treat you to a why-oh-why lament about our declining civilisation. God knows you’ve heard enough of them. Instead, just this once I’d like to propose an instant solution to the problem, something that’s guaranteed to make transsexualism as rare as it used to be.

The government must stop recognising transition to a different sex as a legal status. That’s job done. Overnight, those malcontents will stop playing silly buggers and decide to stick with the sex specified on their birth certificate.

Glad to be of service.

P.S. On an unrelated subject, I continue to learn my English from commentators at the Australian Open.

To wit: “He found the breach from junior to professional tennis very hard.” I would have been tempted to say ‘transition’, but then I wasn’t born to the language.

Also: “The match is building to a crescendo.” ‘Crescendo’, I used to believe, is a musical term denoting a gradual increase in loudness. Thus you can’t build to a crescendo because it itself means ‘building up’.

“She showed hesitancy in hitting that shot.” Hesitation? Who knows.

“As I ascertained earlier…” I could have sworn the poor chap meant ‘mentioned’, but then why didn’t he say so?

Themis cheats

One gets the distinct impression that Themis, aka Lady Justice, sometimes doesn’t play her hide-and-seek fairly. When it comes to some laws, such as drink-driving, she is illogical, extortionist and often, well, unjust.

It’s the only law I can think of that imposes a means-tested punishment on transgressors. The Newcastle footballer Joelinton got the chance to find that out first-hand.

Stopped and breathalysed, he registered just over the limit and pleaded guilty to the charge. The judge then explained to Joelinton that the sentencing guidelines call for imposing fines somewhere between 75 and 120 per cent of the perpetrator’s weekly wage.

He took it easy on Joelinton by sticking to the lower proportion, which in his case amounted to £31,085 on top of a 12-month ban. Case closed.

Since Britons tend to be sanctimonious about driving after a couple of glasses of wine, no protests followed the verdict, no cries of outrage, no rallies alliteratively demanding justice for Joelinton.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to our self-righteous throng that means-tested punishments (except perhaps for some financial crimes) constitute a gross miscarriage of justice.

The logic behind that practice is lame. Someone who, like Joelinton, makes $43,000 a week, the story goes, isn’t going to be hurt by a fine of a few hundred pounds. A manual labourer, on the other hand, wouldn’t forget a penalty of that magnitude in a hurry.

True. But by the same token a tweedy Carlton Club member would suffer from incarceration much more than a tattooed thug who has been in and out of prison his whole life.

Does that mean that the former would get a lighter sentence for, say, murder? Don’t be silly, of course not. If anything, the toff would be sent down for longer than the thug. It’s class war, innit?

But do let’s develop the logic of drink-driving fines a bit further. What happens if an unemployed man is caught DWI smelling like a brewery on a hot day? By definition he has no weekly wage to use as a yardstick of his indebtedness to the Crown. Should he not be fined at all then?

Real justice calls for punishment to be commensurate with the crime. Thus, a murder conviction in Britain calls for an automatic life sentence regardless of the criminal’s solvency or social background. That strikes me as just: the judgement is passed on the crime, not the man.

While anyone can see the difference between a heinous felony like murder and a trivial misdemeanour like drink-driving, I can’t for the life of me fathom why we should play fast and loose with ancient principles of jurisprudence.

Moreover, I have fundamental problems with penalising drink-driving at all. This is how the judge in Joelinton’s case explained his verdict: “’You placed yourself in real jeopardy and it could have had disastrous consequences for the lives of others.”

I love the past subjunctive there. Joelinton’s having drunk two glasses of wine instead of the allowable one could have had disastrous consequences – but didn’t. Therefore, he was punished on the statistical probability of hurting others.

On the same logic, he might as well have been punished for being black. After all, black men are statistically much more likely to commit, say, murder than any other racial group. Hence, Joelinton ought to have been put in prison for DWB, driving while black.

Most sane people in Britain would reject this logic. And yet those same people see nothing wrong with punishing drink-drivers on the statistical probability that they may kill someone.

If we apply statistics to justice, then sober drivers kill a lot more people than drunk ones. Will you then join my campaign against DWS, driving while sober?

Another question seems apposite. How does anyone ever get to be stopped for drink-driving? There are only two reasons that come to mind. One, he is driving badly or even dangerously. Two, spot-checking.

Now the former really ought to be punished. And if the bad driver is also drunk, I’d have no problem with that being treated as an aggravating circumstance.

I’d even go so far as to suggest that, if a drunk driver kills through his own fault, he should be charged with murder. That possibility, one suspects, would trump a fine and a ban for deterrent value.

In other words, what is really dangerous isn’t drink-driving but bad driving, for whatever reason. Thus I have no doubt whatsoever that, say, high-speed tailgaters kill more people than drink-drivers.

I myself have had a few hair-raising moments in France, where chaps routinely sit a foot behind one’s rear bumper at 90 mph, or else blithely stray into the fast lane without looking. Lock them up and throw away the key, I say.

No wonder twice as many people are killed by cars in France than in Britain – this though our populations are roughly the same. Also, they have 10 times as many road miles per car, and their roads are generally much better.

The other possible way of stopping a drink-driver is spot-checking. Again, when that happens no loud protests are heard, as they are whenever the police stop and search a member of a protected race. In both cases they proceed from statistical probability, so what’s the difference?

All in all, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that our courts have been largely turned into battlegrounds of class war and laboratories of social engineering. Themis is peeking from under her blindfold, and that’s about the worst thing that can happen to a country.

We can survive wars, economic crises and even Labour governments. What will eventually bring the house down is subsidence in the legal foundation of our civilisation. And it’s already creaking.

Yo Beethoven, my main man

Did you know Beethoven was black? No? That’s because you haven’t read Norman Lebrecht’s recent article on the subject.

You can see it, can’t you?

I have, and that effort gave rise to a few thoughts, starting with some general observations.

When savage fanatics try to force their wicked ways on the rest of us, the worst thing we can do is join the fight on their territory. Because they know the terrain better than we do they’ll quickly make us cede ground.

Such people must be stopped along the whole front line of ideas and language. Allowing them to impose them on us means they’ve won – even if we continue to put up token resistance.

Mr Lebrecht’s article is a case in point. He is a music critic, a decent one. Not great, but these days cultural beggars can’t be choosers. So decent is the best we can do.

He certainly knows and likes music, especially Beethoven. Understandably, it pains Mr Lebrecht to see his favourite composer being ‘cancelled’ by the kind of people I describe as savage fanatics but, being a more civilised man, he doesn’t:

“In the summer of 2020 a cry went up to ban Beethoven. Amid the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, the composer’s 250th anniversary was seized on as an opportunity to silence his music for good – literally, for the good of all who had suffered historical prejudice and injustice. The prohibition quickly caught on.”

How would you fight against that sort of outrage? I’m putting you on notice that I shan’t entertain such answers as “with a 12-bore shotgun” or “with a baseball bat” (the latter implement is selling like hotcakes in London, where no one plays baseball), although that would be my own first impulse.

However, upon mature deliberation I’d arrive at the real answer: I don’t know. Things just might have gone too far for decent people to put up any meaningful resistance.

But I do know how not to fight against it. The absolutely last thing we should ever do is concede defeat in the war of language and values. That’s why Mr Lebrecht is wrong in the way he takes exception to the cancelling of Beethoven on the grounds of his being too white, too male and not sufficiently sensitive to BLM sensibilities he knew nothing about.

He claims that Beethoven himself might have been black – well, blackish – which puts him out of reach for any such criticism. This line of defence is tantamount to admitting defeat.

The arguments Mr Lebrecht uses as weapons misfire badly. “Two portraits of Beethoven,” he writes, “drawn in 1801 and 1814, show a man with a dark complexion”.

I’m sure you’ve met quite a few people with a dark complexion who don’t have a single drop of tar in the family barrel. I know I have. I can think of a young Scottish aristocrat with that chromatic feature, several Russians, a Welshman and any number of Englishmen – to say nothing of some of my French friends.

Yes, but “his paternal grandmother, María Josefa Poll, belonged to a family that fled north during the 1700s War of Spanish Succession. Recent research locates her in Moorish eastern Spain.”

Quite. And I fled north from Texas in 1984, which doesn’t make me a Texan born and bred. What else? “He felt a deep affinity with Spain, setting his only opera, Fidelio, in the country and cheering Britain’s defeat of Napoleon’s peninsular army.”

Mr Lebrecht knows better than I do that setting operas in Spain was par for the course in Vienna at the time. Mozart, for example, set his Don Giovanni, The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Marriage of Figaro there. Was he an Afro-Austrian then?

By the same logic Bach was an Italian because he wrote The Italian Concerto, Mendelssohn, with his Scottish Symphony, was a Scot, and don’t get me started on Gershwin with his Porgy and Bess.

But when Mr Lebrecht is hot, he’s hot. “Take another look at the portraits and you will find that they differ in almost every feature from those of his two brothers. Are we sure they shared the same father? Johann van Beethoven was a violent alcoholic. His 23-year-old wife, Maria, miserable in her second marriage, might perhaps have found comfort with a passing stranger.”

There’s always that possibility. But siblings looking different wouldn’t stick in divorce court as proof of adultery. Again, I know, as I’m sure you do, many siblings who don’t look at all alike. Yet that’s not a sufficient reason for impugning their mothers’ fidelity.

Actually, Beethoven himself was a dipsomaniac, borderline alcoholic. How about using that as proof of his father’s paternity? Alcoholism may well be hereditary, after all.

And then comes the other old chestnut: Beethoven’s best friend for five years was a Jewish medical student, Alois Isidor Jeitteles…” If that’s not proof of negritude, I don’t know what is.

But we are getting warm: Beethoven liked the playing of a mulatto violinist and even called his famous work Sonata for a Mad Mulatto, only to rename it the Kreutzer Sonata later. That nails it. Then again, a certain English pianist admires the playing of the Russian-Jewish pianist Maria Yudina, yet, to the best of my knowledge, Penelope is neither Russian nor Jewish.

To clinch the argument, Mr Lebrecht then lays on some technical expertise: “Having spent three years poring over two centuries of Beethoven interpretation, I find ultimate proof of his multiculturalism in the final piano sonata, Opus 111. Three minutes into the second movement the music starts rocking from side to side, like a ship caught in a Channel storm…”

Would that be a slave ship carrying chained Africans to their European servitude by any chance? Thank goodness I haven’t tried my hand at musical criticism. The syncopations of logical inference would be beyond me.

Quite apart from the utter vulgarity of interpreting music that way, Mr Lebrecht commits a great tactical error. He implicitly issues a carte blanche for savage fanatics to cancel any composer who can’t boast a dark complexion and affection for Spain.

Civilised people shouldn’t care about the racial background of the seminal figures in our culture. True enough, most people aren’t civilised, and those BLM zealots are downright savage. But we can’t keep them at bay by accepting their cretinous assumptions. Therein lies perdition.  

Child abuse in the royal family

Give us a boy, say the Jesuits, and we’ll give you a man. Give me a boy, says Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew’s little girl, and I’ll give you an eco-fanatic.

Poor August doesn’t know what’s in store for him

The boy in question is her son August, who turns two in a few days. That’s the cut-off point, beyond which the poor boy’s indoctrination is planned to start.

The Princess, aka Mrs Jack Brooksbank, has it all mapped out: “My son’s going to be an activist from two years old, which is in a couple of days. So, he, everything is for them.” Nicely put – I especially like the second sentence.

Such ideas make one think. And this is the thought that flashed across my mind: God save us from people with weak minds and strong ideas.

What a pity that the concept of child abuse comprises only violent or sexual transgressions against a child’s body. A child’s mind, implies the law, is off limits for abuse. When the parents do to the mind what perverts do to the body, that’s nobody’s business.

Eugenie went to the same public school, and at the same time, as my beloved niece, who also came out at the other end with all sorts of deep concerns about ‘our planet’. If that’s what expensive education delivers, give me a bog standard comprehensive any day.

The princess shared those views with the dyed-in-wool sharks at the World Economic Forum in Davos. I’m sure they all toss and turn through the night, having nightmares about our planet reduced to red-hot wasteland by aerosol sprays and plastic bags.

To give Eugenie justice, she didn’t claim to have arrived at her desire to abuse her son by any cerebral route. The decision, according to her, was purely hormonal:

“Every decision we now make has to be for whether August, what he’s going to be able to look at and do and how he’s going to live his life. But I think also as a mother, you all of a sudden, totally you change, your hormones change, everything changes.”

It’s that expensive education again, which evidently doesn’t impart an ability to put together a coherent sentence, never mind a sound thought. Eugenie then added that post-natal hormonal changes also gave her a fear of flying, which is about as rational as her fear of global warming.

She also said they had nothing plastic at home, which is unlikely. What, not even credit cards? Also, does she drive a car? Or is driven in one? In that case, an average sedan has about 100 lbs of plastic materials in its body. That’s a lot of shopping bags and mineral water bottles.

Since Eugenie clearly doesn’t read serious books, she must surf the net in search of information about our dying environment. What does she think her computer is made of? Solid gold? Sugar and spice? Mine is mostly plastic, and I bet so is hers.

That public school of hers must have left not only English but also logic off the curriculum. Otherwise its alumna wouldn’t be mouthing utter gibberish, such as: “I’d rather be that way, but sometimes the facts and the figures and sometimes having the dinners do give you that sort of sense of frustration and doom and gloom.”

Whatever that sentence means, it evades me. Neither do I detect any sensible causal relationship in the link Eugenie’s found between global warming and slavery:

“Modern slavery and human trafficking is a really big issue across the globe. There are 49 million people estimated in slavery today and we know that when the climate is vulnerable, the most vulnerable people are affected by it.”

Let’s see if I get it right. Using aerosol sprays, driving cars and carrying groceries in plastic bags directly leads to more people being enslaved. If there is a point there, it’s lost on me. But then I went to a free school where most boys carried knives in their pockets.

I do suggest that Eugenie go back to her plastic computer and read up on the history of both slavery and climate. She may find that slavery is a more or less constant fact of life, whereas global temperatures, if you look at them over millennia, not just last week, go up and down. In fact, for about 80 per cent of the Earth’s lifetime, they have been higher than they are now. 

Eugenie credits her heightened awareness not only to her dancing hormones, but also to her Mummy and Daddy: “I have always loved being in nature. My parents instilled in me a love of wild places and a respect for animals and the natural world.”

If half the things one reads about Andrew and Fergie are true, then they would have been more likely to instil in little Eugenie a love of wild parties, not wild places. But they, like the moon, must have another side never revealed to earthlings.

I pity poor August. He already got a bad start in life by being given a weird name – that is, unless the princess wished to remind the public of her family’s German origins. In German, that name has lost its original Latin ending. But it has kept it in English, where the name normally comes across as Augustus.

When he goes to his own expensive school, other boys will tease him no end (I’m assuming, or rather hoping, that our best – well, most expensive – schools won’t have gone co-ed by then). And he’ll already have his head pumped full of woke rubbish, which, if Eugenie is to be taken at her word, he’ll try to preach to all and sundry.

I do hope that as a result poor August won’t find himself on the receiving end of physical violence. As he is already finding himself on the receiving end of mental abuse.

Do Putin’s shills take his shilling?

Though my friends tend to avoid alliterative puns, they often ask me this type of question in relation to British commentators who openly root for Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine.

Lord Rothermere and his idol

These Putinistas are de facto Russian agents, but are they witting or unwitting ones? Are they paid to spout their pro-Kremlin rubbish or are they moved to do so by the call of their own hearts?

My invariable answer is that I don’t care one way or the other. Their motives ought to be of interest only to their friends, families, priests or perhaps the MI5. For me, the only thing that matters is that they act as Putin’s mouthpieces, thereby doing the devil’s work and damaging the cause of resistance supported by their own country and all her allies.

I follow two such evildoers, although I’m aware of quite a few others. And what do you know, those two have made me reassess my lifelong contempt for psychobabble. Or truth to tell, for psycho- anything, even if there is some scientific basis to it.

The two chaps in question are Rodney Atkinson and Peter Hitchens and, their almost erotic craving for Putin’s brawn apart, they have one thing in common. While they themselves lack any conspicuous talent, they both grew up with talented brothers.

Rodney’s brother Rowan allegedly used him as the protagonist for his character Mr Bean. And the chip on Peter’s shoulder is even heavier, for his brother Christopher plied the same trade as his, but did it with a lot more verve. He mostly talked facile rubbish, but he did so with style and panache.

Of the two, the less said about Rodney, the better because, quite apart from his obvious mental problems, he is a very stupid man. Peter isn’t, which suggests his mental condition is even more acute.

His brother died in 2011, but Hitchens continues to ratchet up the sibling rivalry. Since Christopher was left-wing, atheist, homosexual and anti-Putin, Peter has to be the opposite of all those things. At the same time, he still seems to seek his brother’s approval, which is hard to get this side of a séance featuring a spinning saucer.

That psycho quirk is evident not only in the contents of Hitchens’s musings, but also in his constant contortionist attempts to pat himself on the back. Whatever his subject, one leitmotif is always present: I was the only man who told you so, but you didn’t heed my warnings and abused me for offering them. Now I’ve been proved right yet again, will you finally listen to me, you nincompoops?

Such stylistic flourishes make me want to argue with Hitchens even when I happen to agree with his typically banal truisms. For example, social damage done by recreational drugs is one of his pet themes. Hence, whenever I scan his animadversions I feel like rolling a spliff, something I’ve never done in my life.

As for his self-assumed role as Putin’s propagandist, I have my suspicions – not only because of what he says but also because of when he says it.

Hitchens consistently follows the Kremlin’s line, but that line isn’t straight. It zigs and it zags, it goes up, down or sideways. And I’ve noticed that, whenever Russian propagandists change their direction, so does Hitchens, at exactly the same moment.

Since that happens every time, one has to begin harbouring ugly suspicions about deliberate coordination. Yesterday’s offering by Hitchens is a case in point.

Ever since Putin blessed the world with his arrival at the Kremlin, the threat to “turn the West into radioactive dust” has been omnipresent in the background. That’s Putin’s way of throwing his toys out of the pram whenever he can’t get his way.

But at times that threat has been known to move into the foreground, at precisely the moments Putin sees as pivotal. Thus we had almost two months without overly shrill promises to annihilate the world.

Putin’s war on the Ukraine has entered an attrition phase, with no significant advances being made by either side. In fact, both sides are regrouping in anticipation of future offensives. For the Ukraine such prospects are contingent on supplies of Western armaments, especially heavy armour and AA systems.

Last Friday Western leaders met at Ramstein to discuss military aid to the Ukraine. While Germany again delayed the transfer of Leopard battle tanks, other countries, including Britain and even France are sending over dozens of tanks, hundreds of armoured vehicles and several new Patriot batteries.

That predictably sent the Putin gang into hysterical fits, and nuclear threats went many decibels up. The possibility of a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive now looms large, and Putin’s stooges could no longer contain themselves.

Thus Vladimir Gundiayev, known to the faithful as Patriarch Kirill and to the KGB as its lifelong ‘Agent Mikhailov’: “Any attempt to destroy Russia will mean the end of the world.” It goes without saying that thwarting Putin’s aggression is tantamount to just such an attempt.

This was echoed by Putin’s loyal poodle, former sham president Dmitry Medvedev. Having shaken his customary hangover, he explained that: “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may provoke a nuclear war.”

Putin’s Chechen viceroy Kadyrov, who doesn’t even pretend to be anything other than the bandit warlord he is, added a Muslim touch to the hysterics: “Russia will never countenance defeat in any fight. We can push the button – and salaam alaikum!”

Duma speaker Volodin: “Supply of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime will lead to a global catastrophe.”

Those were just four voices in a choir bellowing variations on the same theme: if the West sends heavy armour to the Ukraine, kaboom! And Hitchens clearly discerned his marching orders in the din.

Hence his piece yesterday that recapitulated the same theme: “Sending Ukraine our tanks could turn Europe into one big radioactive graveyard.”

After that self-explanatory intro came Hitchens’s stock claim to being the lone voice crying in the wilderness, yet having his prophesies unheard and unheeded: “I won’t waste time here going over the question of who started the Ukraine war, or even why. Most people don’t want to know and refuse to think about it, or to look up the facts. They defame and abuse anyone who tries to tell them. So to hell with that. I’m bored with trying.”

Though Hitchens’s ennui is regrettable, he is wrong. Most people do want to know and they do look up the facts. The trouble is that the facts stubbornly refuse to back up the Kremlin’s – and Hitchens’s – lie that the war was provoked by Nato’s westward expansion that threatened Russia’s survival.

In fact, the only thing it did threaten was Putin’s ability to do to all of Europe what he is currently doing to the Ukraine. Anybody in his right mind knows that Nato is a purely defensive bloc designed to stop aggression, not to perpetrate it.

Putin knows that too, and so does Hitchens. But they insist that Russia felt threatened which was the same as being threatened. And the only possible response to that subliminal threat? Why, bombing Ukrainian cities flat, murdering, looting and raping civilians, threatening the West with nuclear holocaust. What else?

That sort of thing lacks even novelty appeal. When I was a boy in Moscow, the Soviets pounced on Hungary that had risen to free herself from communism.

I remember the KGB spreading exactly the same kind of lies then: American – and West German!!! – troops were poised at the Hungarian border ready to move in. Thank God, who doesn’t exist, that Marshal Konev’s troops managed to beat Nato to the punch by going into Hungary pre-emptively and drowning the uprising in blood.

When I was a young man, the same scenario was played out with Czechoslovakia, when, explained the Soviet papers, Soviet tanks managed to nip Nato’s aggression in the bud by crushing Czech students under their tracks in Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

That song was written on the hymn sheet of Russian evil from which Hitchens sings with gusto. Yesterday he went from his usual baritone to a grating falsetto because Parliament had voted unanimously (and the US Congress almost unanimously) for arms supplies to the Ukraine.

To Hitchens that means that “the Government and its tame thinkers are not in favour of free debate on crucial national policy, and nor is anyone else much.” Meaning they aren’t ready to yield to Putin’s blackmail, so avidly rehashed by Hitchens.

Yet he’ll never give up his courageous stand as Putin’s propagandist: “So it is left to me to tell you that it is an act of grave stupidity for the West to supply Ukraine with modern tanks. Unlike everyone else in the media and politics, I am not a military expert. But I know what tanks are for, and it is not defence.”

That Hitchens isn’t a military expert is the only truthful thing he has ever said on the subject. This he proves by dropping his neo-Gnostic hint that tanks are a purely offensive weapon. Hence, by begging for them, the Ukraine has shown her true colours as the proxy aggressor in this war.

In fact, tanks can also be used for defence, wherein a counterattack is a time-proven tactic. In fact, offensive and defensive weapons aren’t easily distinguishable in modern warfare. So it is left to me to tell you that it is not the West but Hitchens who is stupid – or perhaps worse.

“But why is Britain in this affair?” cries out Hitchens. “I know that a lot of voters in key states in America hate Russia because their forebears came from lands Moscow had oppressed. I know that some neo-conservative fanatics in Washington have long desired to dismantle Russia and ensure that it is never an important country again.”

But the British are by and large neither descendants of Eastern Europeans nor neocon fanatics. Hence we should stand idly aside and watch Putin imposing his ‘traditional’, in fact bandit, values on the Ukraine first, Eastern Europe second – and tomorrow ze world.

Suddenly wafts in the spirit of Lord Rothermere, the owner of Hitchens’s paper, The Mail, in the 1930s. In his hands, the paper (and his other property, The Daily Mirror) became consistently pro-Nazi, advocating appeasement and barely concealing its owner’s admiration for der Führer.

Today’s answer to der Führer, Putin, is as forthright as his inspiration. He sees the Ukraine as only a proxy to the real enemy he is fighting: Nato or, more generally, the West. Refusing to fight back would be both immoral and strategically inept.

Under Putin the staff of the SVR (formerly the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, foreign intelligence) has doubled in size compared to Soviet days. Perhaps the most important of its tasks is manipulating public opinion in the West.

One wonders whether Hitchens represents one of the SVR’s recruitment successes. The recruitment could have been a straight transaction between two parties. Or it could have been what the KGB called recruitment ‘in the dark’, with the mark unaware that he had been recruited.

When it comes to practical outcomes, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I don’t even particularly want to know which.