The Queen seizes control of her Treasury

Posted in Bank of England, banks, Britain, Gordon Brown, The Queen by Deputy city editor on March 29, 2009


One knows the value of an audience

The Queen debags the prime minister

Even though I am by nature a Republican (in England – even if a monarchiste in France) it needs to be admitted that Her Majesty has pulled a blinder, whether or not you want to call it a coup. It was the first time in 57 years she had granted an audience to the man who signs her money; it was of course a coincidence that Bank of England Governor Mervyn King (presumptuous surname) had spent the morning telling MPs that he had declined the prime minister’s credit card.

All this as the demented/self-deluded sub-prime minister was being humiliated in Strasbourg, before flying to South America to be humiliated again, while psychotically imagining that he is saving the world and his own discredited regime with it.

Her Majesty’s deftness was astounding – a move combining media cunning, split-second news cycle timing, and unmistakable symbology (look at that handshake – no gloves) all culminating in the magic of a puff of smoke, as The Queen once again disappeared, answering no questions, telling no lies.

The woman is truly amazing: she may not be a genius but is even better, like a very wise old horse. She has been around the course many times, and knows every single hedge, ditch and rabbit hole. Like the rest of us, she has no confidence in Gordon Brown. (You can imagine what her husband must think.)  Unlike us, she was able to do something, and did. It was a clean kill.

So Brown lingers still in office, yet no longer in power. His ability to do much more terrible damage seems to have been limited. A pity that the Conservatives are second-rate politicians with sub-prime policies and ethics of their own. British claims to being a democracy are anyway much more ridiculous than a shrewd old woman derailing a prime minister with a photograph.

Nobody will be surprised that Brown, a coward and a bully, responded by meaninglessly threatening Her Majesty with constitutional “reform.”  The man is beyond embarrassing. The BBC has tried to pretend that none of this has happened.  (It’s what they leave out that’s the real scandal – not the drivel they actually broadcast.)

Afghanistan ‘is lost’

Posted in Afghanistan, Britain, British army, Canada, War by Deputy city editor on October 25, 2007

While the MoD continues plans to prepare to deploy the entire Parachute regiment in Hellmand province next year with Eurofighter jets (!) and even the new Merlin helicopter, cooler heads are noting an inconvenient truth. We have already lost. Let us review the evidence:

Karzai’s government is corrupt, inept, and controls only Kabul, on a good day, with the help of foreign soldiers.

Pakistan is a bigger mess than ever.

Poppy production is setting records.

The fighting this year produced terrible casualties amongst the fighters of both sides, for no apparent lasting military gain. The best idea the generals have is to do it all over again, in 2008.

There are also terrible civilian casualties. But we hardly know because it is not safe for journalists to operate in the combat zone.

There is essentially no civil reconstruction work because it is too dangerous.

The coalition of the willing has evaporated and nobody but the Americans, British (and maybe for not much longer) the Canadians are willing to engage in much actual fighting.

All this adds up to either, boldly (a) we have already lost or, more cautiously but not really so different (b) we have not won and are not winning.

Paddy Ashdown, who has been a soldier, politician and nation builder (in Kosovo) may very well reflect feeling inside Gordon Brown’s government, as it faces up to the realities of Blair’s war in Afghanistan.

He says in today’s Telegraph: “We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely.”

This is an extremely welcome note of seriousness and realism amodst the prevailing groupthink of one more heave.

A sad and confused leading article in the Telegraph is deaf to Lord Ashdown. It accuses him of traducing our brave soldiers (he never did). And then reverts to the trope that it is all the fault of our NATO so-called allies. The reason why our allies are not shoulder to shoulder with us is because they know Lord Ashdown is right and the current strategy is a failure.

Briefings that we could be in Afghanistan “for decades” suggest that some of the poppy is making its way to opium dens in Whitehall.

Summary of October Chatham House report on Afghanistan. Full report is available here.

  • Western forces’ success in fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and in achieving a satisfactory level of security throughout Afghanistan remains limited. The lack of success results from the coalition’s failure to develop and implement jointly a coherent strategy for Afghanistan that integrates counter-insurgency, counterterrorism and stability and reconstruction operations.
  • The coalition’s internal cohesion regarding the development of the Afghanistan operation is becoming increasingly fragile. The willingness to share risks has become a key issue. National caveats are increasingly disputed. Not all NATO member states are prepared to send their forces into combat. This puts the fundamental principle of alliance solidarity on the line.
  • The coalition forces’ comprehensive approach towards stability and reconstruction operations remains an elusive concept on the ground in Afghanistan. The consensus is that civil-military cooperation has to become an instrumental part of the Afghan operation, but it remains an unresolved issue how this could be translated into operational practice.
  • The conflict has increasingly become a regional one. Taliban bases in Pakistan cannot be targeted by coalition forces; however, logistical and armament supplies out of Pakistan are significant, and Pakistan is used as a recruitment base. As long as parts of Pakistan serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, coalition forces will not be able to control Afghanistan.

Defeat in Iraq – Whitehall finds the words

Posted in Britain, defence, defense, Iraq, Terror, Terrorism, War by Deputy city editor on August 13, 2007

It has been the frequent good fortune of war-mongering politicians that there are usually generals who will indulge their fantasies, in the interests of their own careers. A senior military class should, with its first-hand knowledge of the unpredictability of war, be doing everything it can to dissuade politicians from waging it. This involves a necessary modesty about the real capabilities of all those ill-equipped soliders, landlocked sailors and aircraftless airmen last seen in the BAE Systems hospitality chalet at the Paris air show.

But the sound of bugles makes for promotions and so all too often, ambitious soliders become complicit in the catastrophe that ensues. Thus has it been for Britain’s disastrous military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the dimensions of the disaster are revealed, the officers are reduced to spouting the very same lies as their political masters. That this is demoralising for soliders, who know a fuck-up when they see one, goes without saying.

The disgrace of the British political and media classes for the war in Iraq must therefore also be shared by the senior officers who did not stand up against what was always a mad idea of simultaneously fighting two distant wars without enough air lift, soliders, specialised equipment or even bullets.

Now might be thought time for the senior officers to tell the truth. The defeat in Iraq has left remaining British forces there exposed and in terrible danger. Afghanistan is not so far from this. Yet the media trope of the excellence of our armed forces, “best in the world,” experience gained on the streets of Northern Ireland, etc., etc. (see all newspapers) survives contact with facts that show that no matter how brave and willing our soldiers, they are as ever led by donkeys.

This series of entanglements has been built on lies. Not a shot was to be fired, promised the former defense secretary John Reid, announcing the British deployment to Helmand. Officers and editors knew this was a lie. This was to have been a “reconstruction” mission. Well it’s clearly failed. Indeed, it is worse. The operation has failed to prevent, and may even have encouraged,  a come-back of the Taliban.

Hearts and minds have not be won by the massive killing and destruction for which British forces are held locally to blame. Neither have our soldiers inhibited the drugs trade, which is thriving.

British forces are now operating beyond their resources. Senior officers knew this was likely to be an operation with Falklands-level casualties yet Reid misled parliament and yet not one seems to have said a word. Let us hope a new generation of careerists now tell Gordon Brown the truth, in the interest of their own promotions.

The situation in Afghanistan suggests strongly that the war is lost there, too. It is indeed worse than ever as military operations including brutal air strikes have turned the population against the British and NATO troops who are suffering continuing casualties and making no apparent progress whatsoever. The drug traffic is at a record level. (My own suggestion on this, War on terror, how to win it, has been ignored.) Tony Blair’s promises that British troops would get everything they needed have of course been broken – with the compliance of silent senior officers.

Perhaps we should expect at a minimum a dignified silence from those who have commanded these disasters. Not a bit of it! Instead, we get more lies. We have notably had the spectacle of Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Here he is denying the claim in the Washington Post last week (and in I told you so a month ago) that Britain has basically lost its war in Iraq. Not at all boasts the air marshall: “”Our mission there was to get the place and the people to a state where the Iraquis could run that part of the country if they chose to and we’re very nearly there.”

Let us deconstruct this sentence which the French would call an “engrenage” or spiral, in this case of falsehood. The “line” taken by the air marshall is in fact garbage. This was not our war aim. The war aim, originally, was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. The politicians, inasmuch as they have ever been consistent, have spoken of elimination of Iraq’s terrorist infrastructure, or protecting oil supplies, and precluding a hostile Iraq (or Iran) from dominating the Persian gulf. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Baghdad, spoke of a free, democratic and independent Iraq. There was none of the air marshall’s subjunctiveness about it. So the mission now described by the air marshall was never in fact the mission. Then there is his phrase: “We’re very nearly there.” Where? We know and assume that politicians dissemble. One of the things I used to find admirable about officers was their professional candour – for they knew the risks of pretending things were what they were not. I suppose I have always been naïve.

Measured by every single single one of these objectives, the British have completely failed in the south. Worse, conditions are deteriorating for a residual British force of 5,500. They are currently beseiged in a manner than is reminiscent of Gordon of Khartoum. Every night they must dispatch a 100-vehicle convoy from the beseiged airport to the beseiged Palace, and every night this is attacked.

It is actually quite hard to see how the British can withdraw in good order. If our armed forces were more capable, we’d be sending MORE soliders to the area to cover the retreat. (If we had any.) I have written before of the lessons of Clausewitz and how the British government and its commanders as yet show no signs of knowing them. So there is a really ghastly prospect of further disasters ahead.

Now is the time to tell the truth – but the senior officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces will have none of it. He is inventing war aims as he goes along.

Sir Jock’s very lack of fitness for purpose is what makes him so attractive to politicians. An airman, he is from the most expensive and incapable arm of the armed forces. Sir Jock has been up to his neck in the insane Eurofighter project (a plane so far incapable of fighting a day in the war on terror). He is like the operetta admiral who never went to sea, who is now in charge of the Queen’s navy.

I told you so noted the nature of British failure in Iraq here.

The Washington Post said the same thing several weeks later here.

The Sunday Times News Review contains a dreadful story on British military failure in Afghanistan here.

A collègue bloggeur of this parish offers a war souvenir here.

From Iraq Slogger, excellent reporting from Basra here.

Image: Baden-Powell defends Mafeking by Henri Dupray

Killing with impunity

Posted in Britain, de Menezes, Legal, London, Media, police, tantrums, Terror, Terrorism by Deputy city editor on August 3, 2007

Sanitised image of Menezes after being killed by the British police. British TV pictures are routinely heavily edited/censored.

How is it possible that an entirely blameless and innocent man should be killed by shots to the head in a public place, with scores of witnesses, and that nobody seems to be responsible? Multiple intelligence failures, command failures, communication failures, obstruction of investigators and the specific dishonesty and incompetence of senior officers have characterised the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell underground station in July 2005. But nobody is to blame or will be punished. A trivial and insulting charge has been laid that Menezes’s killing was a “health and safety” violation.

The failure of the British legal and political system to hold anyone to account for the killing of Mr de Menezes means the police in Britain are entitled to recklessly shoot dead whosever they want and nobody is responsible.

De Menezes was killed by the police force run by Tony Blair’s favourite cop, Sir Ian Blair, who remains in his job for reasons that nobody can explain.

He is either the thickest cop in England, the most incompetent, or the best ass-coverer in a long tradition.

How do you believe a police complaints commission report that finds that it took Blair 24 hours to find out what everyone else knew in the first two minutes – that Menezes was not a terrorist and that his armed police (aided by soliders) had killed the wrong man? Even if this is true, it is ridiculous.

The police complaints commission report which you can read about here doesn’t even try to point the figure at those responsible for organising this killing, but only looks narrowly at one aspect of the aftermath. The whitewash commission had earlier failed to hold anyone responsible for the killing itself. Indeed Cressida Dick, the aptly surnamed police”gold” commander in charge of the control room that presided over the killing of deMenezes, has subsequently been promoted.

The police complaints commission, an organisation as intentionally useless as any in existence, has produced a conclusion so ridiculous that it would be laughable, were not the subject matter so deadly important. Evidence that the police had hidden evidence and changed logs in the case was swept under the carpet earlier.

Harriet Wistrich, my former neighbour, who represents the family of the killed man, is right to be incredulous.

The police complaints commission criticises the head of the anti-terrorist branch, Andy Hayman, not for the killing of de Menezes but for failing to tell his boss, even though everyone else in London (including crime reporters) knew this a day earlier. Hayman had even briefed the Scotland Yard crime reporters’ association (a press club for whom membership is contingent on never straying too far from the Scotland Yard press office) that they’d killed the wrong guy. The idea that Blair was too busy to ask is simply and literally incredible.

Apparently, implied criticism of other officers was removed from the report because they threatened legal action, which is a favourite tactic of police officers when they are cornered and further evidence that the PCC is a toothless watchdog.

Everyone comes out of this stinking. Ministers for creating a dysfunctional monster in the Metropolitan police, and putting in charge the worst policeman in London, a knighted rozzer who should never have been trusted with anything more sensitive than points duty. The police, who are not merely incompetent but dangerous. The police complaints commission, which is a joke from which any members who still have a sense of honour should have resigned long ago.

When they are not busy arresting people for reading out the names of Iraq war dead at the Cenotaph, the Metropolitan Police is primarily concerned with itself. Senior officers are in thrall to a “system reality” constructed by consultants and information systems, driven by targets and the self-aggrandisement that comes to those who preside over them. The police force, not just in London, is divorced from the reality on the ground: that Islamic terrorism is simply not the existential threat it has been presented as. Individual officers are powerless to make much or any difference.

This has not been the first time that British police have killed completely innocent people, as this excellent page notes, and there has been no responsibility assigned or accountability demonstrated. A state in which the police can murder innocent men with impunity is a police state. With the publication of this latest whitewashed report, this fact now stares us in the face, and it is only British hypocrisy that prevents us from seeing it.

Boris – a bit of a shambles, really

Boris Johnson’s campaign web site is so bad! In any survey of the world’s political web sites, it would have to rank at or close to the bottom. Not updated in six days (as of Saturday 21 July), it is a feeble thing compared to the Ken Livingstone alternative. If one considers the ultra-smart and sophisticated use of the political web in France recently, just as an example, then the Boris site looks like something put together by hapless wonders. It is simply not a serious piece of work. When I pointed this out to them, they were snooty.

Boris is supposed to be this amazingly creative fellow but he or his people have produced a dire example of political communication. I like Boris very much. He was an admirably inventive Brussels correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. I once went there to offer him a job on the Sunday Times. He refused, but paid for lunch. He is very funny. But would you really trust him to run anything? Even if you find Ken Livingstone loathsome, he is a serious politician who can and does run things and has a proven track record where it counts. He warned that the public-private partnerships forced on the tube by Gordon Brown were unworkable. He introduced the London congestion charge which even if you hate it has been notable if only because it is a giant IT project that does not appear to have gone pear shaped. Ditto Oyster. He’s been four-square behind the Olympics, for better or worse. But he was part of the team that won them. He is socially clumsy and lacks tact but financially modest and nobody thinks for a second he is in politics 110% for himself. He lives modestly and has never been tarnished with even a hint of corruption. Plus, he’s a Londoner to his bone marrow. Boris, on the other hand, is always good company but doesn’t really live in London, and has behaved badly in his office as editor of the Spectator (provided you agree with me that it is idiotic to have affairs in the office where you are in charge). He is a funny journalist and an amusing buffoon-like presence on the Tory benches in the House of Commons where to be honest there is little competition. This is where he should remain unless he can prove quickly that we should take him seriously. As it seems that this is all a bit of a lark, it remains to inquire of the famous David Cameron: when do we take you seriously? Are you incapable of producing a serious candidate for the biggest direct electoral mandate in Britain? So much for British democracy. As Boris might say: Cripes!

Bulletin (Sunday July 22): the Boris site has finally been updated; it remains dire.

Sea of whitewash: UK ‘defence export services organisation’ is “closed” in reorganisation

Posted in Britain, Corruption, Defence Defense, Saudi Arabia by Deputy city editor on July 9, 2007

Be careful what you wish for. A victory for the Campaign against the Arms Trade is deafened by the sound of shredders…

Another brilliant piece by Rob Evans and David Leigh in The Guardian revealing that: “The Treasury is planning to disband the government’s controversial arms sales department. The 450-strong defence export services organisation (Deso), based near Oxford Street in London, has long been the target of anti-corruption campaigners and opponents of the arms trade.”

After years as a government bag man on corrupt arms deals, Deso will cease to exist, not because of a sudden atack of scruples by ministers. The motive is more transparently that of making plenty of distance between ministers and “history” before investigators get any closer to the murky story of the Deso. It will soon be as if Deso had never been. Or so the government (and opposition) will be hoping.

It seems very unlikely, with the amount of shredding likely to be now underway, that the entire story will ever readily become known. Although in broad outline we already know of the alphabet of corrupt dealings by BAE and the British government, all over the world, from Arabia to Zimbabwe.

The ultimate alibi of the BAE executives is that it was all done ensemble with the government – both the former conservative and current labour ones. So, reason BAE, they cannot have committed a crime. What was done was sovereign, and nothing to do with them. And it was anyway all in the past. Thus the dust is being swept under a very thick carpet. The government will mumble about a department that no longer exists, and ministers will say that what is important is the way forward.

American criminal investigators may uncover some insalubrious facts, although The Guardian is pretty well on top of this. But even the most ambitious federal prosecutors might have difficulty prying lose the inside stories of arms deals in which BAE and the British government got up to some jolly scrapes, to say the least. Sadly, my fantasy of one day observing BAE Systems executives drgged to the USA in handcuffs, is unlikely to be fulfilled. Neither is the chance that dictators still in office will have their bank accounts investigated, or that stolen sums might be restored to national treasuries.

Is this the end of special treatment for BAE Systems? How will it finance commissions on its Eurofighter deal with the Saudis, if ministers refuse to sign the checks? I notice the first “private” A380 has been odered: is this part of the Eurofighter deal? Will the MoD now procure weapons on the basis of its requirements for its own troops, or as part of an export drive, lubricated by corruption? Why is it so difficult to imagine that this leopard will readily change its spots?

Delusional journalism (Matthew Parris edition)

“I can talk up a storm on the folly of George W. Bush or the evil that is Osama bin Laden” boasts Matthew Parris in his Saturday, July 7 column in The Times.

But Parris is volunteering for more hazardous columnising today. He is arguing that “the tide is turning against” Islamic terrorism. His evidence for this is “observation, hearsay and personal hunch.”

Parris declares: “We’re winning the battle – dare I utter the appalling cliché – of hearts and minds.”

Is it fair to describe this as delusional journalism? Are there metrics to substantiate this thesis? What sort of analysis are we dealing with here? A gnostic one contrasting the foolishness of George Bush with the evil of bin Laden. In which case, which “we” is winning? I propose the winner, insofar as Matthew is concerned, is foolishness.

Or I may misjudge him. Perhaps this is this one of these columns in which the gentle reader, guided by the observations and hunches of our fearless and cheekily revisionist columnist, finally sees through the falsity of received dogma. As the scoop of interpretation is revealed, the reader may rejoice that we are winning the war on terrorism after all. This perhaps is actually a redemptive column. The sort of thing to expect from an ernest vicar.

Yet Parris’s opinion is founded on nothing substantial at all. It exists detached completely from reality. Indeed it appears to have coincided with the most lethal car bombing so far, a siege to the death in Islamabad, the Glasgow doctors’ plot and no end whatsoever to the quotidian global horrors, albeit they have so far spared the Groucho club.

Compare Parris, purveyor of hunch, with some other journalism on offer. Because relative to the competition, Parris is writing tosh. Read the New Yorker on the poppy eradication program in Afghanistan, or Iraq Slogger, and in particular look at Le Monde Diplomatique, if you want a paradigm-shifting story about the changing nature of this thing called terror.

Reading Syed Saleem Shahzad in Le Monde Diplomatique, who has met many so-called terrorists, you are not likely to confuse his authority with that of Matthew Parris. It is in fact a contrast between two utterly different schools of journalism. One is revelatory, insightful, based on solid reporting. Parris is based on a hunch, a deadline and a fat check.

Syed’s article begins to describe the geography of a story rather than attempt to be the last word. But it is that rare thing in terrorism studies: an article with some intellectual coherence. Instead of triggering a bullshit detector, it has the smell of verissimilitude, as we say in the copy-tasting room, where we spit most of the stories out into a pot in the floor, and swallow only a few.

Syed writes of the struggles within islam itself and his story not only provides the outline of a sensible way of considering this problem, but additionally contains the uncomfortable reminder that this is not just about the comfort of Parris and his metropolitan friends. Almost all the victims of this war – or more properly, a series of armed conficts between state and non-state actors – are themselves muslims. I think this is much more interesting than Matthew’s wishful theories on hearts and minds. Compared to Parris’s theory that “we” are winning, Syed offers a different dimension of journalism, in which a complicated problem can be seen for what it is.

The on-line summary at Le Monde Diplo hardly does justice to Syed’s reporting.

Deux stratégies islamistes qui s’opposent – two opposing Islamist strategies

Al-Qaida contre les talibans – something genuinely fascinating – the old firm has broken up.

De la Somalie à l’Afghanistan, de l’Irak au Liban, en passant par la Palestine (lire « Comment le monde a enterré la Palestine »), se dessine un arc du chaos caractérisé par l’affaiblissement des Etats et le rôle croissant de groupes armés disposant d’un armement efficace (notamment roquettes et fusées) et échappant à tout contrôle centralisé. Pour les Etats-Unis, ces zones sont devenues le terrain principal de la « troisième guerre mondiale », de la « guerre contre le terrorisme ». Cette vision nourrit la stratégie de l’organisation Al-Qaida, engagée dans une lutte à mort contre « les croisés et les juifs ». Pourtant, sur le terrain, ces discours simplistes ne recouvrent pas une réalité bien plus contradictoire. En Irak, on assiste à une mobilisation d’une partie de la résistance sunnite contre les dérives d’Al-Qaida qui s’est lancée dans un sanglant combat contre les chiites, n’hésitant pas à s’en prendre à leurs lieux de culte. En Afghanistan, de violents incidents ont opposé les talibans aux combattants étrangers d’Al-Qaida, les premiers privilégiant une stratégie nationale (et la recherche d’un modus vivendi avec le pouvoir pakistanais) et les seconds appelant au renversement des régimes musulmans en place, dénoncés comme « impies ».

An arc of chaos is described by the map of Somalia to Afhagnistan, Iraq to the Lebanon, passing through Palestine. This is characterised by the weaknening of states and the growing role of armed groups outside of all effective centralised control and armed with effective weapons, notably rockets and explosives. For the United States these zones have become the principle battleground of the third world war or of the war against terrorism. This vision has in fact nourished, fed into the startegy of al-Qaida which is engaged in its own struggle to the death against christians and jews. Meanwhile on the ground, these simplistic discourses do not capture the reality which is much more conflicted. In Iraq one part of the sunni resistance is mobilising against Al-Qaida who have launched themselves in bloody fighting with the shiia… In Afghanistan there have been violent clashes between the taliban and the foreign fighters of al-Qaida, the Taliban primarily nationalists seeking a strategy including a modus vivendi with the Pakistani power next door; al-Qaida calling for the overthrow of Islamic regimes already in power which they denouce as impious.


Compared to this, Parris is not even starting to understand what he is writing about. One must mention in passing that more than 150 people were killed in one Iraqi city in terrorist attacks on the very day that Parris’s column appeared, although none of them will have been known to Parris.

In the campaign to purge delusion from the media on the subject of terrorism, one cannot help notice today’s Sunday Telegraph with its splash warning of a 15-year fight against terror. This is an intriguing new benchmark – one previously undisclosed, I believe. We have been warned that this is generational. But 15 years sound rather specific. A target!

Admiral Sir Alan West, a former first sea lord, now a war counsellor to Grodon Brown, choses a Tory paper to predict that the war on terror will take a decade and a half to win, and went on to make similar points on Sky News. So this was entirely manufactured news.

Interestingly, though, with the scoop that this is no more than three five-year plans. Fifteen years is in fact a dramatic improvement since the forecast of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, our man in Kabul, last month that it would take 30 years to win the instant struggle. (Apparently, the largest British embassy in the world is being built in Kabul so Cowper-Coles may just have been making the case for a longer mortgage. His embassy should be a long way out of town, in a defensible position, is my advice.)

So more happy news on the war on terror. Within a fortnight of the Brown administration taking over, the time to win has been reduced by decades, from those now obsolete estimates of Cowper-Coles, to the really rather encouraging estimate of Admiral West.

Oh, but we mustn’t call it a “war on terror”. West says of the phrase: “I hate that expression. When I first heard it – I think it came over from the states – I thought it was totally the wrong thing.”

He continues, oddly, that,”it’s not like a war in that sense at all. It demeans the value of a war and it demeans the value of a lot of things.” Demeans the nobility of war, perhaps? What does he mean? That terrorists fight dirty?

Reading Parris, West and Syed Saleem Shahzad I am not sure how we will know when we have won the war on terror – perhaps there will be no more terrorists. West is right, however, that a new approach is badly needed to tackle it. But what is this to be? Be nicer to muslims? More bombs? Poppy eradication? Information war?

The fundamental problem is one that nobody dares acknowledge. The versions of democracy and justice on offer on our side are actually pretty unconvincing. Our example is frankly not so persuasive in the battle for hearts and minds. Maybe if there were no secret prisons, no torturers, elections were decided by voters and not lawyers, seats were not for sale in parliament, corrupt arms dealers were not operating in collusion with governments, for example, the “west” could offer some rentable values to the world.

Until then, it does sound as if the answers to the problem of terror are less likely to be found in the west than within islam itself.

We are all capable of writing real nonsense from time to time. It is odd how the war on terrorism brings out the worst in many journalists as well as most politicians.


A useful Wikipedia discussion of the expression “war on terror” can be found here.

I have previously written of delusional media here, questioning Channel 4 News’s theories on muslim alienation.


A nauseating conclusion

Posted in Britain by Deputy city editor on June 27, 2007

The hated Blair has gone to a standing ovation from a house of commons that has become quite literally a parliament of dunces. In a nation where the hypocrisy is routine, this was a sickening display. In more than 10 years in Downing Street, British political discourse has been utterly degraded. His has been the most corrupt, dishonest and incompetent government in living memory.

Blair’s legacy is a country embroiled in an unwinnable armed conflict that has brought death and misery to hundreds of thousands. Of filthy hospitals. Failing schools. Paralysed public transportation. A dysfunctional criminal justice system. Civil rights demolished. Justice perverted. Billions squandered.

The claim by today’s New York Times that British voters had “placed their trust in Blair” in three elections is risible. The latest edition of New Labour was elected with the support of just 20 per cent of the voters, participating in an electoral system that fails even the most elementary test of legitimacy. Pretending that Britain is a democracy is a conceit and proof that we are not just corrupt and hypocritical but above all delusional.