Sunday, 25 December 2016

Peter Ford prefers Russian to British policy in Syria

“We will be lucky if those campaigns [in Mosul and Yemen] end with the green buses. There were no green buses in Gaza. There were no green buses after the Nato bombing in Yugoslavia. I think we need to give the [Syrian] government a little bit of credit for what has been a relatively peaceful end to this terrible period."

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador in Syria, quoted at length in this article, considers the Syrian regime a less evil than victory for the rebels. 

It is hard to argue otherwise, yet the major British and American papers assume that a rebel victory is preferable, as does the British government and as did Hillary Clinton. Though she no longer matters. The wind has blown her away.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Aleppo resident: Brutality of life under rebel control

I wonder when we shall learn how the rebel armies really treated people in Eastern Aleppo. A Syrian army officers has said that the rebels killed 100 prisoners just before evacuating.

At last some criticism of the rebels creeps into the BBC. These words from a man who escaped from Eastern Aleppo were broadcast on the World Service this morning.

Remember that in October Hillary Clinton repeated that toppling Assad was 'number one priority'.

The taking Eastern Aleppo by the rebels in 2012 was a mistake on their part. They could not hold it indefinitely because they did not have an air force and the government did. Some rebels quoted in the Wall St Journal admit that they are divided and unable to cohere. Which, considering that they include Al Qaeda and more moderate forces, is not surprising.

Apart from any other problem, a complete rebel victory would mean of course continued chaos and civil war in Syria.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Prince George caught opening Christmas presents

Prince George, the Daily Telegraph informs us, has been caught opening Christmas presents. Once again, the dear old Daily Telegraph has scooped the world.

In another child it would be naughty, but I suppose the rule Rex non potest peccare applies.

Republics, where all men are supposedly created equal, are against nature.

I live in one (Romania) happily, but should be very sad to owe my allegiance to one.

Berlin massacre

The BBC and Washington Post are shocked, shocked that PEOTUS Trump (how odd that still sounds) blames Berlin killing on Islamists. One can't help feeling relieved that Hillary won't be responsible for defending Christendom for the next 8 years.

Peter Risdon put it well

The problem is. Merkel isn't finished. Germany has no moderate adjustment available and it isn't ready to move to the extreme. It will be, at some stage.

On going to church at Christmas

As a boy I loved everything about Christmas except going to Mass. Now in middle age that's my favourite part.

All nice people with any profundity feel that. Though parsnips are nice too and brandy butter and point to points and watching the dear Queen.

A huge treat this year. Midnight Mass in the Orthodox Monastery of St John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, near Maldon, where Mass is solemn yet in (sonorous, beautiful) English. Numinous. Lots of devout Romanian worshippers. Then Catholic Mass on Christmas morning with my family.

Had my father let me go to the Latin Mass in the next parish I am fairly sure I'd have kept my faith past puberty but he said my sister wouldn't like it. Unlike the one used at the monastery, the Catholic liturgy in English is a penance, though much improved by Pope Benedict XVI.


The Aleppo coverage in the Western press reminds me of Evelyn Waugh's 'Scoop', the funniest novel ever.  I repeated to a friend a few days ago the gist of this passage. 

"Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn't know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spread-eagled in the deserted roadway below his window — you know.
"Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny — and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There's the power of the press for you.
"They gave Jakes the Nobel Peace Prize for his harrowing descriptions of the carnage — but that was colour stuff."

But, actually more than Jakes's great scoop, Aleppo reminds me of Lord Copper's words.

“With regard to Policy, I expect you already have your own views. I never hamper my correspondents in any way. What the British public wants first, last, and all the time is News. Remember that the Patriots are in the right and are going to win. The Beast stands by them four-square. But they must win quickly. The British public has no interest in a war which drags on indecisively. A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colourful entry into the capital. That is The Beast Policy for the war.”

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Letter to the Financial Times by a Remain voter

It wasn't Russian bombs that won Eastern Aleppo

We don't really know how many people were in Eastern Aleppo a month or two ago.

It's usually said with no evidence that they numbered a quarter of a million. It might well have been only a fifth of that.

Some were there because they were impoverished religious Sunnis, others because they disliked the government for other reasons, most, I imagine, because that was where they happened to live.

But next door in West Aleppo were up to a million people who much preferred to be under the rule of the regime, even though they probably disliked the regime.

Those people sometimes drank Turkish coffee in cafes. Some of them went to Mass each Sunday. They were occasionally bombarded from the rebel half of the city and some of them wept with joy when the government retook it.

More than half of Syrians are devout Sunni Muslims, but they have lived their lives in a secular state, don’t like the Muslim Brotherhood and loathe jihadis, who make up a large percentage of the rebel forces in Aleppo.

This is why the Syrian government won Eastern Aleppo.

The rebels continued fighting until the American election, waiting for President Hillary to reach office. In October she said, once again, that toppling Assad was her 'number one priority'.

Once Donald Trump won everything changed. 

Thank God the world was spared her. 

Now we can hope the war will end.

Two Englishmen in Aleppo

I want to know about what went on in Eastern Aleppo in the last 4 years and why the rebels didn't surrender sooner. I hope we shall know very soon. In fact, this weekend it is just starting to emerge from the fog of propaganda.

'This is a bona fide independent journalist. It seems from what he writes that people are very happy the government has won.

'This was an exchange of lives arranged between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, who all have a stake in this conflict. Why though has it taken so long to get to this point at the expense of so many ordinary Aleppans?The operation was repeated several times as slowly each enclave was emptied. It marked a historic watershed in Syria’s protracted civil war, handing President Assad a victory that was fervently celebrated by the crowds looking on. 
In government-controlled Aleppo there was little sympathy for rebel fighters who many characterise as simply “terrorists”.‘Ali’, who preferred not to give his full name, told me: “People are tired of these rebels. The people of west Aleppo have been living in horror for five years.'
This is an English parson (priest)Andrew Ashdown, who's in Aleppo and who says he visited the refugees unannounced by taxi, without a minder. Meanwhile David Miliband in New York says the regime are going from house to house killing civilians.

'The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable.All were keen to talk, and we interviewed several who had arrived only yesterday and today. They all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are “true Muslims”, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. (A doctor who has been working with the refugees for weeks told me last night that in an area recently liberated, a warehouse filled with brand new internationally branded medicines had been discovered.) Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. They said if anyone left their homes, their properties and belongings were confiscated and stolen.

One old man in a wheelchair who was being given free treatment in the Russian Field Hospital said he had been given no treatment for three years despite asking. He said: “Thank God we are free. We now have food. We can now live our lives. God bless the Syrian Army.” They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free. One woman said: “This is heaven compared to what we have been living.” We asked if the Syrian Army had ill-treated anyone. They said never. One woman said: “They helped us to escape and they provide us with food and assistance.” '

What Mr. Ashdown wrote a few days ago from Aleppo was repeating what government people had told him and describing places his minders took him. This, however, is good stuff.

What news we have had from Eastern Aleppo for years was from rebel sources which were repeated by the Western media pretty uncritically. Let's see what more we find out now.

A year ago a former British ambassador to Syria said "most of the opposition" is made up of "jihadis", the 'moderate rebels' were just 'a footnote', British policy on Syria was wrong and Russia's right

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Discerning truth and falsehood in the Aleppo story

The story about government forces killing 80 civilians in Eastern Aleppo could be true but is completely unsupported by any evidence, even circumstantial.

Both the Assad regime and the rebels, naturally, spend much money and effort on PR but with this difference. The rebels' PR is repeated in the Western press as objective testimony from 'non-combatant activists', while Western journalists who repeat the story the Syrian government wants to get out, like the utterly unnuanced Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, are vilified as Lord Haw Haws.

Both young women were previously in Gaza. Eva Bartlett reported from there a story that Hamas approved. Had she been critical of Hamas, she would have had to sling her hook sharpish. I am not sure if Vanessa Beeley wrote about Gaza or not. Now they take Assad's side as previously they took Hamas's.

The Syrian civil war became a long time ago part of the conflict between Israel and the Shia states against Iran and Russia. Pro and anti-Israel attitudes colour many people's view of Syria.

Still both ladies appear to be independent and truthful in the narrow sense that they believe that they are telling the true story. Their story should be heard.

Actually, most journalism is repeating the story of someone who has his own agenda. This applies, as we have seen, even to crime stories released by the British police.

Funnily enough, I found myself in a bar in Beirut in October 2014 being stood a drink by a nice Syrian who told me he was a communications specialist who had been hired by Bashir Assad.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Do not trust the mainstream media on Syria

Scepticism is a much under-rated virtue. I don't know what is happening in Aleppo but counsel you not to believe the papers and least of all The Economist.
Syria shows how the old Cold War ideas of left and right mean little. Vanessa Beeley, who is a self-financed independent journalist, recently returned to Damascus from Aleppo, is left--wing, passionately pro-Palestinian and opposed to US/UK/NATO policy in the Middle East. That means opposing the rebels. Not coolly objective then, but she is on the ground in Syria and not, as far as I know, a paid stooge.
We read yesterday claims that women in Eastern Aleppo are choosing suicide over rape. But what evidence is there of this? The claims smell like propaganda to me.
Miss Beeley is very sceptical, 
"Because in East Aleppo there is no 3G, there is no wi-fi, there is no electricity. So I’d like to know how these sources are able to get this information via Skype connection to organisations – I’ll use that term loosely – like CNN, BBC, Channel 4. I would very much like to know how they achieve it and how there’re able to do that in East Aleppo. Unlike the corporate mainstream media, I have been in East Aleppo for the last three days, therefore, I’m giving you eyewitness testimony unlike your mainstream media that has not been there and relies upon spurious activists – like the White Helmets, who are funded by every single nation that has a vested and declared interest in regime change in Syria. That is your reliable source. Or perhaps the ‘Aleppo Media Center’ – French Foreign Office funded…"

In The Independent, on the other hand, we read this.

"Non-combatant activists recorded their harrowing accounts and shared over social media, including Twitter and WhatsApp.
We spoke to the last activists in Aleppo. They're waiting to die. “We are [given] only two deadly choices: Death or displacement. Both of them are heartbreaking,” said English teacher Abdulkafi Alhamdo in a tweet at dawn. "

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Two contrarian voices from Aleppo

There are very few independent Western journalists who have recently been to Aleppo. Here are two of them. They might be the only ones.

'Journalists' working in rebel-held Eastern Aleppo are activists, not journalists. 

Please watch this video clip, which takes just four minutes. In it a Canadian journalist, Eva Bartlett, exposes what seems to be very untrustworthy media coverage of the Aleppo fighting. 

She tells a story sympathetic to the Syrian government rather than the rebels. 

What she says seems to make sense, but an Englishman who lived in Syria for many years until two and a half years ago, says she is a useful idiot and Assad stooge. 

She is strongly pro-Palestinian and no friend to the Israeli or American governments. Her pro-Palestinian sympathies led her to take an interest in Syria and she reminds me of the very biassed journalists who write about Gaza with a strong anti-Israel slant. 

Someone who is pro-Israel describes her as Lord Haw Haw. 

But Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce), the German apologist who broadcast to England during the war, was often accurate about where bombs, for example, had dropped, which was why my grandmother and many others listened to him.

Is Vanessa Beeley also an Assad regime stooge? 

As we cannot know, this conversation she had with Ron Paul is worth watching.

In the sense that she visits Aleppo with the assistance of the government and tells a story which makes the regime look attractive, certainly she is a stooge. But she sounds like she's a good journalist, though with an anti-Western axe to grind.

She has just returned to Damascus after spending three days in Aleppo and sounds convincing about the widespread happiness there at the defeat of the rebels (she says her taxi driver was weeping from joy).

She says her father was "British Ambassador to various countries in the Middle East and always working on behalf of the Palestinian cause" and for this reason she became interested in Syria.

Interestingly, she regards Robert Fisk, whom many hate for his anti-Western, pro-Arab narrative about the Middle East, as a liar who peddles a pro-US line. Syria is deeply confusing and plays havoc with ideas about, among other things, left and right.

I wish Ron Paul had been president, instead of Messrs. Obama or Trump, by the way. He is the one of the two American politicians I love, along with Rudy Giuliani.

The most intelligent journalist I know writing about Syria is Patrick Cockburn who said in a wise article published on 2nd December that there are no independent journalists on the ground in Aleppo and all stories are public relations for one or other side.

He said,
Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups.
And he added
Overall, government experts did better than journalists, who bought into simple-minded explanations of developments, convinced that Assad was always on the verge of being overthrown.
Phillips records that at a high point of the popular uprising in July 2011, when the media was assuming that Assad was finished, that the long-serving British ambassador in Damascus, Simon Collis, wrote that “Assad can still probably count on the support of 30-40 per cent of the population.”
The French ambassador Eric Chevallier was similarly cautious, only to receive a classic rebuke from his masters in Paris who said: “Your information does not interest us. Bashar al-Assad must fall and will fall.”
My conclusion? 

The mainstream media coverage of Aleppo is just awful - hopelessly misleading and biassed towards the Anglo-American line. Partly this is from lack of resources on the part of news organisations, partly from intellectual laziness and partly fear of going to Aleppo. 

Do not believe anything you read in the mainstream media about Aleppo, unless it is written by Cockburn or just possibly Fisk - certainly do not believe the Guardian, Russia Today, the New York Times or the BBC. Read independent journalists on the ground but they too are repeating someone's line. Ignore voices from the rebel side completely. And remember the strongest argument against the Syrian government/Russian version of Aleppo is the memory of how bestially Russia behaved in Chechnya.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sunni UN Human Rights chief condemns crushing of Aleppo

“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction—and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,” the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said on December 13th. “What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idlib. We cannot let this continue.”

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who is a Jordanian prince and heir to the iraqi throne, is vocal in criticising the Assad regime but is this because of Sunni sympathies?

And does this apply to other UN bodies, who are condemning the Syrian forces?

What Comes After Aleppo Falls?

I detest the Assad regime and hate to sound like an apologist for it, but it is a lesser evil than endless war or a chaotic Sunni regime which is unable to defend Christians. 

I so much hope that a terrible massacre does not take place in Aleppo. I don't know what is happening but I don't trust the Western media, apart from Robert Fisk (he is on good form here) and Patrick Cockburn. 

Most of the Western media paint the rebels as heroes even though many are Al Qaeda and the UN too seems to see the rebels as the good guys. They must have some geopolitical reason.

This is an article in the New York Times about how the regime treated rebels who surrendered at Homs 2 years ago. I read it with great foreboding. I dreaded an account of massacres and was very relieved to read instead:

"Mr. Assad’s forces detained hundreds of young men in the opposition who had agreed to surrender in the Old City of Homs, a centre of the uprising that was eventually bombed and starved into submission. Many were promised amnesty, only to be conscripted into the very military that had killed their families. Residents were eventually allowed to leave to other opposition areas carrying a single bag each. (Fighters could take one weapon.)"

Sounds reasonable to me. I hope nothing worse befalls the rebels of Aleppo.

But on the other hand I just do not know what is happening. An Englishman I know who lived in Syria for many years until two years ago wrote the following to me today.

The reason extremist Islamist groups exist in Syria is simply the Assad regime, there is nothing Marxist or even Baathist other than logos, Bathism and so called Arab nationalism is a cover for the regime's lack of legitimacy, it buys favours with its fellow minorities hence its limited support, of course you prefer secularism but Syria is a Muslim country and a very moderately minded one at that-in fact Muslim Syria is more moderate than Muslim Turkey Damascus is weak, is only surviving with Iran and Russia, while Assad is in power no matter its current gains it will be a breading ground for monsters such as Isis who are more than happy to feed on the mire the regime has created and cannot control, I know you have no sympathy for Syria and fear of Islam but if you think you will be safe in in your bed at night for leaving Assad in power you are mistaken. Fisk has been discredited enough times, he's a drunk and a fool who has simply dug himself in with the regime, is there some truth in his writing, often yes, nothing unknown, are the opposition exaggerating-no doubt, is the western mainstream media failing as well, yes of course, since when was the media unbiased anyway? Syrians do not want an extremist Islamist regime anymore than you do, despite who is doing most of the fighting, thousands of people took to the streets of Syria in 2011 peacefully, the vast majority of those people did not take up arms, in areas of Syria without regime or Islamist militia control civil society groups have proved capable of being exactly that, civil society.

This interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor analyses the consequences of the fall of East Aleppo and quotes a Russian journalist as saying:

“A guy from the Kremlin asked me in May, ‘Why are we not taking Aleppo?’ I said, ‘We can, but it will be a bloodbath. You have to make a serious political decision. And as the extent of that bloodbath sinks into the Sunni Muslim world, there can also be repercussions.”
If there is a bloodbath, which I pray there isn't, the short-term victory may be a long term defeat for Russia and Assad, but does the Syrian government know this?

What do we really know about what is happening in Aleppo?

The siege of Aleppo is finally about over and the rebels have been defeated.

What I want to know is: why do the non-jihadi rebels continue the war?

The people who wanted democracy and freedom have surely realised by now that this is not on offer. I imagine there are much more visceral reasons for fighting like tribalism and religion.

It is clear we are being given an inaccurate account of events in Aleppo. There were no independent journalists in rebel-held areas.

What do we know about Aleppo? That there has been a terrible carnage, as in wars there always is. In England Tory politicians, Labour politicians, the right-of-centre Telegraph and the left-of centre Guardian want us to believe that the defeat of the rebels is a tragedy.
I find it repellent that most people who have strong views on Syria are not interested in Syria as such. 

Some love Israel, fear Iran and so oppose Assad. Some hate Israel and so support Assad. My Ukrainian Catholic priest friend understandably loathes Putin and so opposes Assad, even though the local Catholics back him.

Some of the British left side automatically with Russia and against America and Israel. More of the left assume the West should intervene to stop Russia, as do Hillary Clinton, George Osborne, William Hague and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. They have learnt nothing from overthrowing Saddam and Gaddafi.

Many Syrians in Western Aleppo are delighted that the rebels are defeated. Two Englishmen I know, who know the country well, tell me most Syrians, at least until two years ago, sympathised with the rebels. Lots of Syrian refugees, though, certainly back the regime. My Syrian Christian friends think the only alternative to a regime victory is endless chaos. Nuns in Aleppo are ecstatic that the rebel menace is gone.

The people of rebel held Eastern Aleppo were offered free passage by the government last month but chose to stay in the besieged half of the city. I wondered if they were in fact being held hostage by the rebels but an Aleppan friend (now in Bucharest) told me that they were free to go but stay because their homes and livelihoods are in Eastern Aleppo. I asked: how does life go on there? She said: nobody knows, but if they left they wouldn't be able to make a living.

For years the part of Aleppo loyal to the government was besieged by the rebels, though the siege was incomplete as the government side held the airport. The press in Western world did not invite us to sympathise with the people loyal to the government when they were besieged.

Here is something by someone called Jan Oberg from Facebook:
Have been to Eastern Aleppo for 5 hours, occasional shootings and Russians in the air.The destruction is worse than I had ever believed - having seen Sarajevo, Mostar and Vukovar.
And the big destruction is not from the air but street fighting - all facades destroyed but few whole buildings flattened.
And not one of many I talked with had seen White Helmets whereas the city today is filled with the red Syrian Arab Red Crescent whom I talked with at length.
People are happy beyond words to have been freed from Al Nushra's and other "moderate" forces' tyranny since 2012.No one on earth deserves what these people have been exposed to. No one!

Other voices say other things, of course. I encourage you to read news reports sceptically and decide for yourself.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Mahomet/Muhammed in hell in Bologna

I have been very busy and am terribly behind with the blog. I have not written my crystalline insights on the Romanian election result nor an account of my trip to Bologna for the Romanian holiday last week. November 30 is now a public holiday 
in Romania in addition to the National Day, December 1, so everyone took Friday, December 2 off.

Romania has now decreed another new public holiday next year - 
Tuesday, January 24. The people in charge of Romania do seem to lack common sense.

Bologna with its long colonnades, like paintings by Chirico, is lovely and reminds one of the time when Europe was civilised, but I was also reminded of what American historian Jeremy Friedman said to me when we found ourselves sharing a compartment in a night train from Bucharest to Belgrade. He said that, unlike big American and Chinese cities, all European cities seemed to him museums, except for London.

A certain number of African beggars were in the street. My instinct was to give them money but I reluctantly stopped myself doing so, because I reflected that this is a sort of invasion. Actually, not a sort of invasion, an invasion. They are not fleeing war, but poverty.

Bologna is famed in Italy for very good food more than churches, but it has some fine ones. I was saddened to think that these great churches were built for the Tridentine Mass and its predecessors and are used to celebrate a very different kind of liturgy, an almost Protestant one. We admire the buildings, but without the liturgy the buildings lack their heart.

The great sight in Bologna is not the cathedral but St. Petronius's Basilica. And the best thing in it is the Chapel of the Three Magi. 

The PSD is back

Exit polls say the PSD, in effect the descendent of the Romanian Communist party, won 45% of the parliamentary vote yesterday.

I remember what a diplomat told me when the PSDR won in 2000. 'It's not the ministers or the secretaries of state. It's the men in the brown crinoline suits. They're back.'

The people who wore brown crinoline suits are old now but the old guard is back and the government of technocrats are out. However the astonishing arrests of important figures for corruption by the Anti-Corruption Authority (DNA) will, I presume, continue

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Quotations of the Day

Very good lines by A A Gill who has just died, too young, of cancer, which could have been treated but not on the NHS. 

It reminds me of Evelyn Waugh's remark: "We are all born American. We die French."

Joanna Lumley: "Love everyone you meet from the moment you meet them. Most people will be lovely and love you back, and you can achieve the most wonderful things. But get rid of any of the bastards that let you down."

Tim Ferriss: "If you want the story of your life to be a happy one, edit your life frequently and ruthlessly."

Russians used dirty tricks to help Trump win - move along, nothing to see

The CIA is said to assume the Russians hacked the emails of Hillary Clinton's staff to help Donald Trump. There is only circumstantial evidence and the FBI is said not to be impressed by it. It's only Obama inspired leaks at present, but I am told CIA do think the Russians hacked the Democrats and I assume the CIA is right. 

But, though an interesting story, so what?

The Russians didn't hack the voting machines or register fake voters. They released emails that Hillary wanted kept private and caused her some embarrassment, though not really that much. Her dream, we learnt, is a borderless Western hemisphere, fuelled by 'green energy'. No big surprise there, though an excellent reason to vote against her.

No, this does not mean rerunning the election, people, or that the result is invalid.

The Obama administration interfered in the Israeli election and in the British referendum campaign, both times without getting what they wanted. Obama's interference won Leave many votes, a Readers' Digest poll has shown. The US spent $5 billion in Ukraine trying to undermine the government there, according to Mrs. 
Victoria Nuland, the Under - Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia. The Americans did get the result they wanted that time and then a lot of results they did no want.

As for foreign influence, there were a lot of donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation. Democrats fought to keep secret the emails which mentioned these payments.

My manor - Bucharest on a sunny warm December Sunday

Kissinger advises Trump

Before I came to live in Romania I understood world affairs better. Has Obama been a foreign policy disaster without my noticing? 

Niall Ferguson, unlike me, supported invading Iraq but I think he argues this persuasively in this article entitled Donald Trump’s New World Order in The American Interest. Perhaps I have given Obama a free pass because he has been very much better than his predecessor.

As Niall Ferguson points out, on Obama's watch terrorism has surged worldwide. Brexit is a failure for Obama. He encouraged Mrs. Merkel to take in migrants. His administration encouraged the coup in Kiev but did not expect the resulting Russian invasion. He drew red lines in Syria without taking State Department advice and then did nothing when Assad crossed them, a humiliation though he was right not to topple Assad.
On the other hand I think infuriating both Netanyahu and the Saudi King means Obama must have been doing something right. He tried to move away from being the world's policeman, exactly the thing which people are scared Donald Trump might do and what in 2000 people feared George W. Bush would do (if only!)
The article quotes interesting advice for President-elect Trump from Dr Kissinger, whose biography Ferguson is writing. Dr. Kissinger advises him to do a deal with Putin over Ukraine, avoid conflict with China and arrange a Bosnian-style cantonised Syria.
And Dr Kissinger says he should treat Brexit as an opportunity to steer the continental Europeans away from bureaucratic introspection and back to strategic responsibility.

“They’re talking about tactical matters while they’re in the process of giving up the essence of . . . what they’ve represented throughout history.”
That's very true. Europe is going through a period of decadence, though Great Britain is not.

Niall Ferguson provides this quotation from Theodore Roosevelt that was new to me and aptly illustrates the conservative and liberal approaches to foreign policy.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Patrick Cockburn: The only alternative to Assad is Isis or Nusra

Click here for an interesting article in The independent by Patrick Cockburn who says

Though Putin is much demonised in the West, the enthusiasm of Western governments to get rid of Assad has ebbed steadily, as it became clear that the only alternative to him was Isis or Nusra.

Why then did Hillary Clinton say eight weeks ago that toppling Assad was her top priority? I suppose it doesn't matter now, but why is regime change British government policy?

Assad and his government are guilty of unspeakable cruelty, as is Russia, but so are Isis and Nusra. At least with Assad Christians will remain in Syria. Without the regime all will flee.

The left-wing papers today deplore Western leaders going soft on Vladimir Putin, but they do not criticise the Syrian rebels or the Saudi intervention in Yemen. 

They should deplore Theresa May, who knows almost nothing about world affairs, humiliating (symbolically emasculating) the Foreign Secretary for saying the Saudis were conducting proxy wars in Syria and Iraq. A schoolboy knows that this is true. A war is going on in Syria and Iraq between the Sunni and Shia powers, Russia backing the Shias and the US, Britain and France siding hesitantly with the Sunnis.

I am interested that Patrick Cockburn also says that the US are closely involved in the fighting to take Mosul and in helping the Kurds against Turkey.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Democrats aren't afraid Trump will be terrible but that he'll succeed

Democrats aren't afraid Donald Trump will be a terrible President but that he'll succeed. 

Not succeed in their terms, but in his. If he does so he will change the zeitgeist and the limits of acceptable discourse. In fact whether he succeeds (let's measure it by winning reelection handsomely, though at 74 he might be better advised to be a one term president) or even if he fails badly, his election has changed things hugely. For Democrats (apart from the ones who voted for Mr. Trump) it's a case of never glad confident morning again.

So far, judging by his appointments, this looks like it might be a very good administration. I am pleased that the President-elect took a call from the Taiwanese leader. And like the fuss by Democrats who fear this will arouse Chinese wrath. So what? 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Tea with Neagu Djuvara on my birthday

A nice birthday present was being invited to tea by Neagu Djuvara, the 100-year old Romanian historian and thinker.

I was pleased that my Romanian was good enough to understand pretty much every word he said. He welcomes Trump's election - Trump is the sort of 'primitive peasant' who is needed, 'a bull', rather than Hillary, who is 'too harmless'.

But he does not think Russia a threat to Romania - it's simply Romanians' habit to think Russia a danger. The real danger is Muslim immigration and the inevitable Muslim conquest of Europe.

He slightly offended the woman friend I brought with me, whom he seemed to enjoy, by saying she was was 'too intellectual for a woman'. She was not offended on behalf of her sex but because he might have meant she was not attractive. I saw yet again the unbridgeable chasm that separates Romanian from British thinking. 

I think he was flirting, but with 100 year-old savants it's not easy to tell.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

It's simply a question

Defence experts are convinced that defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq will disperse an Islamist diaspora that will wreak havoc in Europe, In that case, why don't we forget about destroying ISIS in the Middle East?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Morally disgusting people praise Castro

Before the Castro tributes, the last time left-wingers were so funny was when Marchais, Yasser Arafat and the others welcomed the Moscow coup in 1991.

But it's not just the left. The BBC are kinder to Castro than they were to Lady Thatcher when she died:

“His critics accused him of being a dictator.”
The Lord Mayor of Dublin has opened a Book of Condolence for Fidel Castro to allow the people of Dublin to "pay their own respects", which is reminiscent of Eamonn de Valera signing the book of condolences in the German Embassy in 1945 on the death of Hitler.

Americans disapprove of it but owe their country's existence to colonialism

It's strange that Americans owe their country's existence to colonialism but are so prejudiced against it.

Other people's colonialism, that is. They have their own colonial empire. Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, various islands, Cuba and the Philippines in the past, Europe west of Russia.

All the USA east of the original 13 colonies is the result of American colonialism, I suppose. Including the lands taken from Mexico, that the Mexicans are now reoccupying.

AJP Taylor, the greatest 20th century British historian said: 

“If the Germans had succeeded in exterminating their Slav neighbors as the Anglo-Saxons in North America succeeded in exterminating the Indians, the effect would have been what it has been on the Americans: the Germans would have become advocates of brotherly love and international reconciliation."

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Juncker, Hollande and Corbyn praise Castro, Trump rejoices

European Commission - Statement

Statement by President Juncker on the passing away of Fidel Castro

Brussels, 26 November 2016
Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history. 
I convey my condolences to the Cuban President Raúl Castro and his family and to the people of Cuba

He has not so far gone as far as Eamonn De Valera who signed the book of condolence at the German embassy on Adolf Hitler's death.  

French President Francois Hollande has mourned the loss the "towering" former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, while noting concerns over human rights under his regime.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed Fidel Castro as a “champion of social justice”, following the announcement of the former Cuban leader’s death, admitted there were “flaws” in the revolutionary leader’s long rule over the Caribbean island, but praised him as a “huge figure of modern history”.

Mr Corbyn said: 
“Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism. From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many.For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”

They all sound much more enthusiastic about Castro than about Donald Trump and much politer. 

The kind words for Castro remind me of Tony Benn signing the book of condolence at the Chinese Embassy on Mao's death. Benn said in his diary that he was “a great admirer of Mao", though he "made mistakes, because everybody does”.

Gap in the Curtain

I'm thinking about The Gap in the Curtain, a novel I once read by John Buchan, about a professor at a house party who enables guests to have a glimpse of a copy of The Times published one year in the future. Had I had a glimpse of today's paper 18 months ago and seen Donald Trump was US President-elect, Britain was leaving the EU. Angela Merkel had invited millions of migrants without papers into Germany and JEREMY CORBYN was Leader of the Labour Party I'd have fallen about laughing and known the professor was a howling fraud.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I doubt if we can trust the figures for war dead in Syria. They are said to be between 301,781 (very precise) and 470,000.

When I was in Hama in 2006 I was told by my guide that 60,000 died there in the uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1982. I see the number usually reported is 30,000. Sharmine Narwani in the Guardian in 2013 estimated it at 2,000.

Bill Clinton in 1999, said in fighting in Bosnia Croatia and Kosovo around 250,000 had died. Now people say 130,000.

Thoughts of the Day

[Mr. Renzi's] defeat has not made the eventual break-up of the euro more certain, because that is coming anyway. It has simply made it more obvious. William Hague

EU failures: 1 Monetary union 2 Foreign policy (MENA, Ukraine) 3 Migration policy 4 Radical Islam policy. EU deserved Brexit.

Refer to law lords as enemies of the people, and you're a fascist. Refer to ordinary people as a racist, moronic mob whose bovine idiocy has plunged the world into mayhem, and you're a liberal. 2016, you are drunk, time for bed. Brendan O'Neill

“Populism” is a scare word meant to delegitimize rebellions against political establishments and mainstream elites. It draws together under the same big, scary tent parties and causes that have a little in common otherwise. There is no “populist” ideology that unites these various dissidents the way Marxist ideology united international socialists for more than a century. John O'Sullivan

Thought of the Day

Fidel Castro has finally died

Fidel Castro has finally died. Many (most?) in Cuba are rejoicing secretly. But many are mourning, I imagine.

I used to think it interesting that Mao, Franco and Tito were still alive. That's a while back. "Eheu fugaces!' (I was very precociously interested in history as a very young boy.)

Donne said "Any man's death diminishes me" but Castro's not so much. Yet, oddly, there is always a slight sadness at the end of any era, even an evil one, though his era does not die with him. A number of people I met in Cuba liked him. Of course people were in tears when Stalin died.

In Miami, they are celebrating wildly in the streets.

Castro reminds me of the Communist turned Catholic Dorothy Day's remark
"Becoming a saint is the revolution." 
In 1960, she praised Fidel Castro's "promise of social justice" and that year she travelled to Cuba and reported her experiences in a four-part series in the Catholic Worker. In the first of these, she wrote: 
"I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people, a naturally good life (on which grace can build) one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken." 
A number of other Catholics, like Graham Greene, admired Castro. But his ideas, predictably, failed Cuba, except for the poorest 10%. They were better off than they would have been in a free country.

There were signs that in his last years Castro took an interest in the Catholicism that he rejected in his youth. When he met Pope Francis the Cuban asked him to send him some books to answer questions that he had. I hope that, like Gustav Husak the Czech dictator, he made a deathbed conversion. He had become friendly with a Bolivian friar before his death.

Praising Castro never went out of fashion in the West (or in the Third World). I remember Arthur Scargill being asked by Michael Parkinson where socialism had worked and his reply 'Cuba'. But things changed when Michael Frayn reported that Cuba was throwing homosexuals into gaol. This was much worse in they eyes of the left than having political dissidents put in gaol. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The purpose of a nation is to exclude people

The purpose of a nation, like any other club, or like any house or dwelling, is to exclude people. This is its raison d'être. Discuss.

Excluding others is one important purpose of states, rather than countries, I suppose. I am not sure countries or nations should have purposes. I rather think they shouldn't.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Queen in this game is the Ace

The Queen will invite Donald Trump to Windsor speedily. She is the UK's not so secret weapon.

She meets all sorts in her job: Ceausescu, whom she knighted and later unknighted, the head of the IRA whose name I shall not utter, Mr. Corbyn, the Emperor Hirohito. 

Her grandfather knighted Mussolini and her father stripped him of the title, though I doubt he cared.

Mrs. May is 'trumping' Mr. Farage's card.

This is only the start of a religious war

"A world is collapsing before our eyes," tweeted the French ambassador to the USA, Gerard Araud, as it became clear Trump had won. He deleted it later but he was right, of course. As I watched, I suddenly felt sure that the election of Trump, with all his grave faults, was a last-minute victory for common sense in America and Europe.
But, if I hadn't thought that then, the reaction of his opponents in the USA and in Europe would have convinced me. One or two of the craziest American 'liberals' talk of resistance (armed?) or of killing Trump. 

The New York Times ran a piece by Californian Daniel Duane who said of his fellow Californians, "nearly everyone I know would vote yes tomorrow if we could secede" from the United States. These are the people who are horrified by Confederate flags.

The mainstream liberals compare the result to September 11 and routinely compare the President elect to Hitler or Mussolini. The liberal papers print misleading nonsense and untruths, while complaining about fake (conservative) news, which Twitter is trying to suppress by blocking Breitbart writers etc. 

Liberal tears were enjoyable, but now the power of the liberal American establishment begins to frighten me.
Trump and his first appointments are extremely Philo-Semitic and supportive of Israel, intend scrapping the accommodation with Iran (which saddens me) and yet are accused of being Anti-Semites, without any rational grounds.
Gerard Baker in the Spectator said that condemnation of Trump’s victory was taken up like the call of the muezzin from the media’s minarets.
"Much of New York City stumbled around in the fog of mourning. The principal of the school to which a colleague sends his child sent a note to parents explaining how the school would lead their children through their grief. ‘And now when we most want to weep and mourn, we must come to work and be a source of both solace and inspiration to all our young students,’ it said." 

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Left in deep mourning

How long ago 22 October seems..
"Aboard her plane, Clinton told reporters she is now looking past Trump entirely, delivering the ultimate insult for a celebrity showman who for decades has made a living of capturing attention.
“I debated him for four and a half hours. I don’t even think about responding to him anymore,” Clinton said when asked about Trump’s charge of a media conspiracy. “He can say whatever he wants to. He can run his campaign however he wants to, he can go off on tangents, he can go to Gettysburg and say he’s gonna sue women who’ve made accusations against him. I’m going to keep talking about what we want to do.”Increasingly, though, she’s talking about electing other Democrats who will help her do it. Democrats are hoping to win back the majority in the Senate and some are even dreaming that a tanking Trump could help them take control of the House despite what is currently a historically large Republican majority."

Though there were one or two voices, such as Helmut Norpoth's, 
that continued to say Trump was sure of victory.

He himself a week before the election seemed, to at least one British journalist, as if he had lost hope. But almost everything you have read this year or will read in the future is written by people who hate Trump. 

On the night he was very cautious before he believed finally that he had won. He's superstitious which is why he hadn't planned who would be in his administration before he won. He knows the gods punish hubris. 

Hillary knows that now. Or rather she probably doesn't. She thinks, as she said through tears on election night, that the FBI cost her the election. An election win to which she felt entitled.

One doesn't want to sound hard hearted but the deluge of tears for Hillary is blackly funny. Journalists were most distraught.  One compared sitting through the election results to an out of body experience. 

Hillary broke down in floods of tears and was unable to make a concession speech until the next day.

This lady in Slate said what many others think and say.

There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter

People voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes. They don’t deserve your empathy.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

"Post-truth" politics

"Post-truth" is Oxford Dictionaries' 'Word of the Year 2016'. When did a 'word' so annoy me? Not since Islamophobia? 

What I hate about the word 'post-truth', more than its mendacity, is its smugness. And the way it is a value judgement which people who use it think is an objective assessment. 

Because they think their opinions are objectively true and those who disagree are rather thick (or racists, or both). 

It goes with putting bureaucracy in place of democracy, which is how the EU works. Committees of intelligent, objective experts can decide the big issues, critiqued intelligently by Oxbridge arts graduates, who work for the Economist or the BBC and only have everyone's best interests at heart.

Suddenly the gates of the PC prison start to open: II

Identity politics is a bag of snakes. Hillary lost due to black identity politics in 2008 and due to white identity politics in 2016. Hoist by her own petard.

To mix metaphors.

But it was not just about Hillary, who was certainly a weak candidate. Moderate and left-wing Democrats lost seats in Congress and in the states. 

Would another better Democrat candidate have won? Joe Biden is a nice man, but in a change election he, like Hillary, was the same old, same old. More left-wing candidates would have had the same problem.

And would another Republican candidate have done better or as well as the Donald?

Jeb Bush had no chance with an electorate that wanted something new. John Kasich sought fastidiously to distance himself from most of his party during the primaries, in the way that McCain did in 2012. This is why he wasn't nominated. Ted Cruz would have terrified many of the Democrats who switched parties to vote for Trump. Marco Rubio was nice but too callow and inexperienced. Cruz and Rubio had both favoured a partial amnesty for illegal immigrants before they changed their minds. Mitt Romney, who in his career in private equity (a.k.a. asset stripping) laid off so many workers, was not going to appeal to voters in the rust belt.

Was it a sudden decision by voters on the day to take a gamble on Donald Trump? The Washington Post has data to suggest that it was

Yet Brad Parscale, Trump's data analyst, was sure by the Saturday before polling day that Mr. Trump was going to win. 

He says that votes were moving Mr. Trump's way before the FBI Director's shock announcement that further emails from Hillary had been discovered on Anthony Weiner's laptop. He thinks that neither the FBI nor the groping allegations changed the outcome. Trump won because people wanted change.

White identity politics appeared for the first time at this election and was the timely reaction to PC, a crazy way of thinking which was kept in place by rigorous thought policing. 

Ann Coulter yesterday had fun with this stuff.

In the modern Democratic Party, out-of-work coal miners are constantly denounced for their "privilege" by half-black girls at Yale -- who wouldn't have gotten in without the black half -- and who will be paid a quarter-million dollars as the "diversity coordinator" at some Fortune 500 corporation.
This was the kind of stuff to which many voters who don't like him hope that Trump will be the antidote.