Saturday, October 31, 2009

A politician's word

Paul Waugh in his blog, for the Evening Standard confirms that which we have been long expecting – that the Tory leader is to announce that he will abandon his own pledge for a referendum.

Waugh thus reminds us of the pledge David Cameron gave us, in The Sun in September 2007:

Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM, a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.
Now, of course, that Cameron is being called upon to deliver, he suddenly finds that it is inconvenient to honour his pledge. Instead, we may expect a torrent of extruded verbal material, telling why it is no longer a practical proposition to hold a referendum.

By this means will Cameron demonstrate that he is the consummate politician. His word, his pledge, is meaningless. We will say what is convenient – to him – if he thinks it will buy him votes, and then ditch it as soon as it becomes inconvenient.

He thinks he can capitalise on the wave of loathing for Gordon Brown and the failed New Labour experiment – and that is enough to get him voted into No 10. He is probably right, and on that calculation he feels secure enough to ditch the committed eurosceptic vote. We don't matter to Dave – he can win without us.

So, when Dave stands up for his victory speech, whenever that is, the sub-text will be a message to all of us: "I didn't need you ... you don't matter, and I don't care what you think." In our powerless state, there is very little we can do. But we will not be powerless for ever.


"Over my dead body"

The Daily Mail is running a piece today which reveals that Lt-Col Thorneloe wrote a secret memo, a month before he was killed by an IED while riding in a Viking, complaining of the shortage of helicopters.

On June 5, reports the Mail, he had chillingly predicted the circumstances of his own death in his weekly report to the Ministry of Defence. Headed "'Battle Group Weekly Update", it reads: "I have tried to avoid griping about helicopters - we all know we don't have enough. We cannot not move people, so this month we have conducted a great deal of administrative movement by road. This increases the IED threat and our exposure to it."

This opens the way for the usual polemics about cost-cutting, etc., and one can confidently predict the howls of rage from the "usual culprits", politically motivated rather than inspired by any sentient thought.

But, buried in the piece – without the prominence that it should have (and completely omitted by The Daily Telegraph and The Times, which copy out some of the story) – is a comment from Tory MP Adam Holloway, a former Grenadier Guards officer, to whom the memo was leaked by an MoD official.

He has written a "devastating critique" of the handling of the war in a pamphlet shortly to be published by the Centre for Policy Studies, which we are told "reveals that despite clear evidence that a shortage of helicopters is killing British troops, defence chiefs are still refusing offers to supply more." Then we learn:

Only last month the Ministry of Defence turned down another offer of helicopters which could double Afghanistan flying hours for British troops fighting the Taliban. The Mail has independently confirmed that former RAF pilots offered to supply 25 helicopters within three months to back up the Chinook fleet which is stretched to breaking point.
We are also told that the deal would have cost the MoD just £7 million a month - a relative drop in the ocean - but the offer was rejected because the RAF did not want to share a role with private contractors.

Now, on 25 October 2007, almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a piece about providing contract helicopters in Afghanistan – flown by ex-RAF pilots - to make up for the dire shortage of RAF assets in theatre.

Writing from personal experience, as I had been directly involved in trying to get the MoD to accept this solution, I observed that the wholly negative reaction to some well-founded proposals was due to "the reluctance of the military to see civilian contractors encroach on 'their' war." I added: "Some of this is fuelled by a fear of the competition, with the civilians able to operate more flexibly, sometimes in conditions where military aircraft like the Lynx simply cannot fly." I went on:

And since they are vastly cheaper, they provide an unfavourable comparison, which might have the politicians asking why they are funding expensive military operations when they can get much more for their money by using contractors.

In effect, what we have, therefore, is the military crying "hands off, it's our war" – an exercise in protecting their own interests rather than going for what is needed.
The need for helicopters was then acute, in order to meet the growing threat from roadside bombs and I concluded: "This dog-in-the-manger attitude costs lives." It remained acute, and – as we now see – it cost more lives.

There was a solution, it could have saved lives, and I was writing about it in May 2007, when all the little Tory Boys were bleating about the military being "under-resourced". Not only was it a solution, it was a cheaper solution.

Yet throughout the torrent of media and political coverage on helicopters, no one would look at this issue. After being rejected by the MoD, we told the newspapers were told about it, many times, and we approached Conservatives MPs, but they actively opposed the solution - and helped kill the deal. One senior Tory MP, who shall remain nameless, told me: "over my dead body". The shortage of helicopters was too convenient a stick with which to beat the government.

Well, over the dead bodies of many soldiers, our Tory MP got his way, and so did the RAF. Nobody listened ... and people died. And you can put money on it that very few of the claque who have been shrieking for "more helicopters" will pick up on this story, and ask why it is that the Defence Chiefs rejected a life-saving solution. Is it a surprise that we get a little angry on this blog?


Playing games

After three weeks of media exclusion, the Pakistani Army lifted a corner of the veil on Thursday, flying in a group of journalists to a barren hilltop in deepest South Waziristan, to explain how swimmingly well the campaign was going.

It was duly rewarded with favourable headlines, such as is in The Guardian, which carried title, "Pakistan hails progress in Waziristan", slightly marred by the addition: "But will it stop the suicide bombers?"

Read more on Defence of the Realm.

Away from Waziristan

Time to leave Waziristan, at least temporarily (and yes, since you ask, I do know where it is). Here are a few links of interest.

The House of Lords has published a report on Codecision and national parliamentary scrutiny and full of interesting things it is, too. Before I write about it in detail I wish to call attention to a couple of extremely useful if bewildering flow-charts. The first shows the process of Codecision (between the Council and the European Parliament). That is, let us not forget, the process whereby legislation that is legally binding for this country is agreed on.

The second shows the complications of trying to get information to conduct a scrutiny of the process. Scrutiny is not legislation; all it does, if the procedure is properly adhered to, which it very rarely is, is to turn Parliament into another lobbying group. They are both worth close study.

In the meantime, the news is that members of the Toy Parliament will be losing their automatic right to a photographic pass in the Westminster Parliament, the institution they have done so much damage to. That is not why they are losing that right; the reason is that nobody had told Harriet Harman and her chums that you cannot take passes away from one group of MEPs unless you do it to all. Developments on this score should be interesting.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fact checking?

"Nine missing in US helicopter crash," headlines The Daily Telegraph, one of the many newspapers to carry the report of the tragic collision between a C-130 and a USMC helicopter over the sea off San Diego.

This newspaper, however, then goes on to tell us that: "There were seven people on the US Marine AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter, and two on the C130 transport plane." One can only observe that if indeed there were seven people on board the two-seater Super Cobra helicopter (pictured), then this might have had something to do with the crash.

More likely though, the paper's Nick Allen, reporting from Los Angeles, has got his aircraft mixed up. His report, therefore, does not exactly inspire confidence, either in himself or the sub-editors who are supposed to have checked the copy – in a process which, as the MSM would have it, distinguishes the "responsible" media from us mere bloggers.


You do wonder

The Times, in the name of its witless hack Adam Sage , is telling is that Jacques Chirac, the former French president, has been ordered to stand trial for corruption in a case which has shed light on sleaze allegations from his time as Mayor of Paris.

In what Sage describes as an" unprecedented move", an investigating magistrate said Mr Chirac, 76, should be tried over a so-called ghost jobs scandal dating from the 1980s and 1990s.

Amazingly, Sage then tells us that the decision "will not only tarnish the reputation of the man who ruled France for 12 years, but it is likely to fuel public hostility for French politics in general."

Just who does he think he is kidding? This is the man universally known as le croc, presiding over a dung-heap of corruption for which French politics are notorious. It would be hard to find an ordinary Frenchman who had any respect for Chirac, or any for the political classes in general.

And nor will the trial ever get anywhere. In the event that procedural delays do not stall it for so long that Chirac will be dead, and honoured with a state funeral, the president of the day will almost certainly grant a pardon, making it an offence even to mention the conviction, as was the case with current EU commissioner Jacques Barrot.


Spend another few billions

An early blast of winter walloped some western states with deep snow and slowly pushed into Nebraska and Kansas Thursday, bringing blizzard conditions to the eastern plains and causing treacherous roads, closed schools and hundreds of cancelled flights.

The fall storm spread 3 feet of snow and left much higher drifts across parts of northern Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, before its leading edge hit neighbouring states just to the east.

Wind-driven snow built to blizzard conditions over much of eastern Colorado. The weather service warned most area roads would be impassable Thursday night because of blowing snow and near-zero visibility.

The heaviest October snowfall in the Denver area in a decade forced the closure of hundreds of schools and businesses. Roads across the region remained snowpacked and icy. "Big storms like these, they seem to come around every 10 to 12 years," said Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

But it ain't only the snow. Low temperature records are being broken all over America. Guess we need to throw another few billions at global warming, just to be on the safe side.


Giving away our money

Gordon Brown declared a "breakthrough" in climate change talks as EU "leaders" named the price of tackling carbon emissions. Subject to formal endorsement in presidency conclusions being prepared in Brussels, "Europe" has agreed to make a conditional offer to the rest of the world at global environment negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

This is according to The Independent which tells us that Merkel wanted to keep the exact cost out of the package, but the final text puts the cost at €100 billion a year (£89.6bn). The EU's combined share would be between €7-10bn (£6.2bn - £8.96bn) a year by 2020. The UK share works out at about £1bn a year by 2020.

So there you are ... Mr Brown goes to Brussels and gets the "colleagues" to agree to lifting £1 billion a year out of our pockets, to give to "impoverished" countries like India, presumably so that it can maintain its standing army of 1.4 million, keep funding its space programme (including its £1.6bn manned spaceflight programme) and buy its next aircraft carrier.

No doubt there will be enough change left over to buy a new fleet of Mercedes for African despots, and a batch of Kalashnikovs for the peace-loving Palestinians. We now await a climate change policy from the Taliban.

No wonder Brown is looking so pleased with himself.


Don't ask

The answer's over the door.

And your point is?

When people overstate happenings that aren't necessarily climate change-related, or set up as almost certainties things that are difficult to establish scientifically, it distracts from the science we do understand. The danger is they can be accused of scaremongering. Also, we can all become described as kind of left-wing greens.

Sir David King, The Times, 30 October 2009

Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King said last week. He said the Earth was entering the "first hot period" for 60 million years when there was no ice on the plane and "the rest of the globe could not sustain human life".

The Independent on Sunday, 2 May 2004

If all the ice on Greenland were to melt, sea level would rise by seven metres. Is that likely to happen? Well I was saying six years ago unlikely [but] I'm afraid that that's having to be revised... 80 percent of our human population lives within less than a one metre rise of sea level so imagine the destabilisation of our geopolitical system with a sea level rise of the order of one or two metres. And that is on the cards I'm afraid.

Sir David King, London, 19 June 2008


And why does it matter?

Thousands of polling stations would be closed and voting hours reduced under a plan to cut the cost of elections, says The Times.

Other proposals include cutting staff, replacing polling cards with e-mail requests, increasing candidates’ deposits, fixed-term parliaments and reducing security at election counts.

This is seen as a threat to democracy by "campaigners", who are hotly contesting the ideas, which have been put forward in a working paper by the Ministry of Justice.

As always though, the point is being missed. These are elections for toothless MPs, who have no power and whose only function is to take their orders from Brussels. We might as well abandon the elections altogether and turn the Houses of Parliament into a museum of democracy.

We no longer have a democracy, so why go through the pretence of having elections?


United in a common cause

We learn from diverse sources that the Luftwaffe is to join the RAF in a fly-past over London next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The symbolism is of rapprochement but it should not escape notice that, with the constitutional Lisbon treaty in force, there is a deeper symbolism.

The Luftwaffe, flying free rein in our skies, will be a fitting and timely reminder that Germany has finally achieved, through the European Union, that which it was unable to achieve through force of arms – the subjugation of Great Britain.

The RAF may fly alongside, but the national symbol of the roundel which graced WWII aircraft will be meaningless. We will no longer be an independent state – not that we have been for some time, but the current treaty is the coup de grace.

Of course this sounds terribly melodramatic, and I have never been one for Nazi conspiracy plots as the genesis of the EU. The fact is that Germany too ceases to become an independent state, alongside the other 26 nations of the EU, including ourselves. Formally, we become provinces of the Greater European Empire, our capital in Brussels, our supreme court in Luxembourg and our peripatetic parliament dining variously in Brussels and Strasbourg.

By then, we will have a new provincial governor, a man by the name of David Cameron. He will be allowed to keep the title of prime minister, although his true role is that of a member of the European Council, presided over by the new Emperor of Europe, to whom he will be responsible, de jure as part of the UK's treaty "obligations".

He may occasionally report to the toothless, neutered Westminster parliament, stuffed with "Cameron's cuties", but only in the manner of a provincial governor keeping the vassals informed of the diktats of his masters.

And, by this account, Mr Cameron will be perfectly happy with his own subordinate status. Mary Ellen Syon, in her own blog, remarks that "David Cameron's position on the Lisbon Treaty has just moved from the deceitful and ambiguous to the dishonest and contemptible."

With the Czech president ready to sign the thing, she writes, Cameron has been forced to say more than just "we will not let matters rest" if the treaty is in force when and if he becomes prime minister. And what he is now saying, in effect, is that he will not have his government do anything to change the effects of the treaty on Britain.

His line, Syon adds, is not that the Tories will promise to pass a law giving a "referendum guarantee" on all future transfers of power to Brussels. There are about three big things wrong with that statement, she says, but start with number one: it implies that the transfers of powers to Brussels in the Lisbon Treaty and early treaties should therefore stand. All Cameron is now saying is that he will stop any more shifting.

In truth, we never expected anything else from Cameron. It was always on the cards that he would sell us out, just as has every prime minister from Heath onwards – over 40 years of continuous betrayal.

So, next year, as we gaze into the skies – or peer at the idiot's lantern in the corner of the room – and see the Luftwaffe in flight over London again, we can reflect that we have all been betrayed, the peoples of Germany as much as the peoples of Great Britain.

We need to see the Luftwaffe and the RAF united in a common cause, turning their guns on our masters in Brussels, Whitehall and Berlin. They are our enemies now.


Changing the battlefield

Had you noticed that the vast preponderance of (English speaking) blogs dealing seriously with Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to be either US or Canadian? The British blogs - and especially the political blogs - seem to have dived for cover.

There is an element of national pride at stake here. Just because Miliband wants to walk away from foreign policy does not mean we have to. So, once again, it's Afghanistan and Pakistan for us ...

A serious topic of conversation in Indian political circles is the very real possibility of Pakistan breaking up, the tenor of the discussion being not "if" but "when". If it happens, it is felt that a key element will have been the proliferation of Taliban groups beyond the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and into the Pakistani heartland.

We have a look at what is happening over on Defence of the Realm.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

There's a surprise!

Tony Blair's chances of becoming the EU's first president were fading tonight, says The Times, as opposition to the move grew across Europe and France and Germany failed to throw their weight behind him.

Much as we would like it to happen, as it would give a "face" to our vassal status under the constitutional Lisbon treaty, the thought of that leering visage representing "Europe" is proving too much for the "colleagues".

Thus, we are told, the case for Emperor Blair came under attack from European leaders on both right and left at the European Council in Brussels, despite an appeal from Gordon Brown to the European Socialists to "get real" about the merits of Mr Blair.

There is no word on an alternative, but the current prime ministers Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands and Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, as well as Wolfgang Schussel, the former Chancellor of Austria, are being touted as possible candidate.

A grey little apparatchik is much more in keeping with the ideas of the "colleagues" – someone who is at one "biddable", completely communautaire and not so dominant as to clash with Merkel or Sarkozy.

Jean-Claude Juncker, in fact, would fit the bill admirably. He would be on the line to Berlin for permission to wipe his backside after going to the toilet, while France would control the toilet-paper rations, making for a "double lock" on his freedom of action.

For all its 27 members, France and Germany – the "engine" of integration – still call the shots. Without them, Blair is dead meat. Hail Emperor Juncker!


Pity the poor EU

It is such a hard life being a devoted follower of the "project".

British resolve?

The Times leader is taking Obama to task for "dithering" over Afghanistan, contrasting his lack of action unfavourably with sentiments expressed by David Miliband, recently highlighted in a New York Times op-ed.

While Obama havers, torn between the Biden-inspired "counter-terrorism" approach and McChrystal's brave new world of "counter-insurgency", there is no such irresolution from the British foreign secretary. When asked if the mission needed substantially more troops, Miliband said, "What I think that you can see from the prime minister's strategy is that we believe in serious counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is a counterterrorist strategy."

Fortified by these words, The Times is suggesting that the US president must show at least as much resolve as his British allies, although it cannot mean this literally. While the British commitment is to 500 extra troops, McChrystal is demanding another 40,000 – a slightly different proposition.

Miliband's "resolve", in fact, may be more a question of fools rushing in. Even more to the point, in the context of a solid phalanx of media pressure demanding more "boots on the ground", backed by ranks of politicised ex-generals, deploying another battlegroup was the easy option – a relatively cheap way of stilling the incessant clatter, taking a politically embarrassing issue off the front pages.

On the other hand, while the strategic focus has shifted to Pakistan, it is secretary Hillary Clinton who is in Islamabad, pledging an extra $243 million in aid, and seeking to stiffen the Pakistani government's resolve in the battle against the Taleban.

Yet, while a US secretary of state is trying to broker deals in a former British dominion, where the Raj once held sway, Miliband's latest contribution is to suggest that we walk away from formulating our own foreign policy, and throw in our lot with the European Union, his idea being "to take a lead in developing a strong European foreign policy".

Thus, while The New York Times applauds Miliband for being "candid", wishing for the same from Obama, the difference is between a powerless emissary, who can comment freely on issues for which he bears no responsibility, and an executive of a nation that exerts real power, and has to step up to the plate with real commitments to back any decisions made. Talk, as they say, is cheap – and you don't get much cheaper than Miliband's contribution.

Perversely, just as the British government had thought the issue "parked", we are seeing the glimmerings of a change in the political wind, this side of the pond. Veteran commentator on Pakistani and Afghan affairs, Christian Lamb, writes in The Spectator this week, declaring "more troops will just mean more targets". Then, in The Financial Times, even the great sage Max Hastings, is going "wobbly", questioning whether it is "sensible for the west to continue pushing military chips on to the table if each spin of the roulette wheel obstinately delivers a zero."

Gradually, it seems, wiser heads are drawing back from the strategic wisdom enunciated by the likes of The Sun, and beginning to think about the broader issues – perhaps starting a debate which has been notably absent in the UK.

Nowhere is this more welcome than in Pakistan itself, where the Daily Times is arguing for a "regional approach to Afghanistan", invoking a grouping almost unknown in the West, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This, says the paper, is "steadily becoming an important factor of emerging architecture of security, economy, culture, people-to-people contacts and cooperation in Asia".

A key player here is China, with which Pakistan has good relations, and which is exerting increasing influence in Afghanistan. But the paper also highlights the tension between Pakistan and India, pointing out that resolution of differences between these nations is an important part of the overall solution. The SCO, it believes, could be an important player in bringing the parties together.

Clearly, the EU is waking up to the potential of the SCO – or is being warned that it must take an interest - with a commentator last year noting that it offered "opportunities for positive cooperation". Previously, the Centre for European Reform made its pitch, noting multiple (and largely unsuccessful) EU initiatives in the area.

And therein lies the hidden cost of our membership of the European Union, and this government's determination to cede our policy-making responsibilities to Brussels. While we are a major player in Afghanistan – more so than any other European nation – news of contacts between David Miliband and this grouping on behalf of HMG is hard to find. On the wider diplomatic front, already we seem no longer to have a voice.

Thus, the initiative goes to, and stays with, the United States, our vassal status in the European Union robbing us of our voice and our initiative, leaving Mr Miliband to mouth inane platitudes to the New York Times, which the paper mistakes for "resolve".

Miliband's only "resolve" however, is to ensure that the once mighty Great Britain ends up with less power and influence than the independent state of Afghanistan, where we are singularly failing to make a mark.


Insufficient leadership

Predictably, the media are giving heavy coverage to the "Nimrod Review" into the wider issues surrounding the loss of Nimrod XV230 in Afghanistan on 2 September 2006, commissioned by former defence secretary Des Browne on 13 December 2007, and delivered yesterday by Charles Haddon-Cave QC.

The piece by Michael Evans, in The Times is, for instance, headed: "Nimrod report is most devastating in living memory". It reports that the accident occurred because of years of complacency, safety reviews that were riddled with errors and a general lack of care towards the personnel who had to fly the aircraft in a dangerous environment.

What Evans does not say – and neither, it seems do many other journalists – is that the report is 587 pages long, packed with detail by a man who is an aviation specialist, a fact that is very apparent in the depth and breadth of the findings.

Given the necessary speed with which the media must work, and the fact that Haddon-Cave did not release his report until after the press conference, this means that none of the journalists who filed their stories for the main news organisations – all of which were up in the early afternoon and evening – can have read the report.

If you rely on the media accounts, therefore, you will - at best - be misled. You will certainly be ill-informed. Read more on Defence of the Realm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who listens ...

... to The New York Times? The quote about Woodstock is rather funny.


On the streets of England?

There is an interesting analysis by Jeremy Page in The Times, on the Kabul attack on the UN hostel.

Page thinks the Haqqani Network is the most likely culprit, and the operation certainly seems to have their fingerprints. This, of course, is the organisation based in Miranshah, in North Waziristan, slated as "good Taleban" by the Pakistanis (a ridiculous description), meaning that their efforts are focused on Afghanistan rather than on creating mayhem in Pakistan.

What Page notes, though, is that the attackers in Kabul used similar tactics to their Pakistani counterparts, apparently disguising today's attackers with police uniforms, and using a combination of gunmen and suicide bombers. This points to a closer association between the "Afghan" and the "Pakistani" Taleban than rhetoric would have it.

This is precisely what we were asserting in our earlier piece, suggesting that the distinction was more apparent than real – a convenient artefact, which enable the Pakistani Army to go hunting Taleban in South Waziristan, leaving the northern agency untouched for the time being.

Interestingly, after writing yesterday that experts were suggesting that the operation in South Waziristan was too thinly resourced to achieve any lasting effect and, therefore, that it was "aiming to fail", we picked up and agency piece today, rehearsing the same issue.

It cites Sameer Lalwani, author of a new report for the New America Foundation, who says there are not enough Pakistani troops to challenge the extremists and building up such a strong force would require huge efforts. His estimate is that anything between 370,000 and 430,000 troops would be needed to take on the tribes and carry out an effective counterinsurgency operation in the region.

Yet The Christian Science Monitor quotes Lalwani, as saying "The most Pakistan could free up from its border with India would be 152,000 more. Cobbling together a force of the needed size would take two to five years." Thus, the growing suspicion is that the Pakistani action is largely "cosmetic".

With the massive bombing in Peshawar (pictured), on top of the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Max Fisher over at AtlanticWire blog pulls together a compendium of commentary from the region. One commentator puts the case for the fighting in the tribal areas spilling over into the rest of Pakistan, leading to a full-scale civil war and the demise of Pakistan as a state.

The instability in Pakistan, and the scale of the violence, somewhat relegates Afghanistan to the level of a second-order problem, but it raises the interesting question as to whether our attempts at "nation building" in Afghanistan are actually responsible for triggering the even bigger problem in Pakistan, where we could be witnessing the collapse of a nation.

From a domestic (UK) point of view, the growing instability in Pakistan has massive implications. Already under strain from Moslem immigration, much of it from Pakistan, with a growing and highly voluble fundamentalist faction, civil war – or something approaching it – this could trigger another wave of immigration, which would be hard to contain. Current EU rules would prevent us from excluding members of extended families, which collectively could number hundreds of thousands.

And, with regional passions high, we could see the various factions fight out their battles on British turf, the violence spilling over into the streets of England. Kabul and Peshawar may seem distant but this is the "global village" in practice, with faraway events, and policies of which we take little notice, coming back to haunt us in unpleasant and dangerous ways.


End game

From "Snatch Land Rovers" to Grand Strategy, we have been on a five-year virtual journey, from the deserts of Iraq to the hills of Waziristan, following two "wars" which have cost the lives of thousands of soldiers, injured many more, and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Broadly, we were supportive of the war in Iraq, and felt the counter-insurgency there "winnable". Having invaded the country and deposed its ruler and destroyed its government – rightly or wrongly – we had in any case a moral and legal obligation to restore law and order, and to re-establish the semblance of a working government.

We had and have no such moral – or legal – obligations in Afghanistan. We went there in 2001, after the 9/11 outrage, in support of the United States, an act of solidarity for an old and valuable ally which had been attacked by a vicious terrorist organisation which had gained sanctuary from a corrupt, barbaric, fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan.

We went in to help clear this nest of vipers and, largely, we succeeded. Our actions also brought down the government of Afghanistan, which would have toppled anyway. Had we left then, the country would doubtless have reverted to its barbaric, anarchic state, with small islands of something approaching urban civilisation, in appearance if not fact.

But, in a moment of collective hubris, we – the "international community" -thought we could impose on this wild, ungovernable land the semblance of our governmental system, which we laughingly call a democracy, even though – in this country and the rest of the European Union – we enjoy no such state ourselves.

Bribed by billions of dollars and the promise of many more, the peoples of Afghanistan went through the motions of an election, which resembled but was not a democratic process, and selected a corrupt tribal leader, from a choice of other corrupt tribal leaders and warlords. He then did what any self-respecting, corrupt tribal leader would do – milked the system to enrich himself, his tribe members, his allies, enemies and cronies.

Not even attempting governance or development, this allowed the country to revert to its usual state of anarchy and tribal warfare, compounded by a low-grade civil war which has been ongoing for so many decades that no one can rightly work out when it started, or even care enough to find out.

Faced with what we took to be the progressive collapse of the system we thought we had installed – but had not – in am moment of supreme folly, our then prime minister, soon to be Emperor of Europe – decided to reinforce failure, by deploying a small, ill-equipped contingent of troops, charged with undertaking a task for which they were physically and temperamentally ill-prepared and which, in any case was impossible to achieve.

In so doing, we made a bad situation worse and, at every stage where we have sought further to reinforce failure, we have made it even worse. What was, when we intervened in 2006 a low-grade civil war, has now escalated into a high-level insurgency – of which we are the proximate cause. And now the generals want to break the most fundamental rule of warfare – yet again. They want to reinforce failure, and keep doing so until the cost and the casualties break us.

Thus must stop. And, in the most powerful message we have seen to date, a now former US Foreign Service officer, Matthew Hoh, explains why. As recounted in the British Independent newspaper, in the Washington Post and many more, Hoh's message is summarised. But you can read it in full here.

The document is Hoh's resignation letter, telling us that he has "... lost understanding of, and confidence in, the strategic purposes of the United States presence in Afghanistan." To put it simply, he writes, "I fail to see the value or worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war."

Like the Soviets, he adds, "we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people." Hoh continues:

If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least the end of King Zahir Shah's rein, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and support the Pashtun insurgency. The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, their culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The US and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified ... I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taleban, but rather against the foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In like manner our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people.
Towards the end of his four-page letter, Hoh cites a "very talented and intelligent commander" who briefs every visitor, staff delegation and officer with the words, "We are spending ourselves into oblivion".

Hoh adds that "We are mortgaging our nation's economy on a war which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come. Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be realised not in years, after billions more spend, but in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for such success and victory."

What applies to the United States applies, in spades, to the United Kingdom. This might be a "war" we can win, but it is not a war we can afford to win – much less to carry out a grand, decades-long experiment to see if there is a possibility that we might be able to win.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from Hoh's letter. We were coming to that conclusion anyway ... we have been veering to and fro, but there is no other answer. We need to get out, as soon as possible, causing as little damage as possible.

But, as we indicated in our earlier piece, there are huge geopolitical implications. But the problems are a matter of high politics, and they need to be solved at that level. They cannot be solved with more "boots on the ground", or "grunts with guns".

Soldiers cannot buy us time with their lives – no amount of lives could buy us the time we need. No longer should it be a question of when, but how we extract ourselves, with the minimum possible delay.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Indian elephant

The high-profile attack on its embassy in Kabul earlier this month briefly brought to the attention of the Western media the Indian presence in the Afghan capital.

Yet, apart from when Indian assets are attacked, very little notice is taken of what is a major factor in the Afghan "insurgency". India stands accused of using the Afghan conflict to destabilise its old enemy, Pakistan, part of a wider regional effort that includes supporting the independence movement in Baluchistan, and even paying the Taleban to mount attacks on installations in Pakistan.

And we can rely on EU "diplomacy" to sort this out?

More on Defence of the Realm.

We should fear cooling

In a new scientific paper, the Russian head of the Space Research Laboratory of the Pulkovo Observatory, Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov, is telling us not to be concerned about "catastrophic global warming". What we should be worried out, he warns, is a deep temperature drop.

Yesterday, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard warned about the parlous state of global food stocks, telling us: "Food will never be so cheap again". Ambrose did not factor in the effects of a prolonged cooling cycle, but if you add that, as we have done, then the global picture is very bleak indeed.

These are not fictional issues – the outpourings of a fevered imagination. There is a lot of hard evidence that says we are going to have serious problems. Yet, the scientific establishment and the political claque are still blathering on about their fantasy warming, oblivious to the real impending disaster.

Not since the 1930s, when some we seeking to disarm further our Armed Forces in the face of German rearmament, have our political classes got it so wrong. But at least then we had the "warmonger" Churchill, warning us of the folly of it all. Where now is that person of similar stature now, to warn us that we are being driven to disaster by baying fools, of the likes of Lord Stern?


The final betrayal

An extraordinary op-ed by Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph today bears the headline: "Britain's on the wane, and the EU is our only hope of influence."

If this was just the vapourings of an airhead columnist, it could be dismissed but, unfortunately, it follows on from Miliband's speech yesterday, which said much the same thing. Look also to what Lord Heseltine is saying in The Times - the man whom is likely to join a Cameron administration – and there can be no doubt that Riddell's defeatist diatribe represents the received view of the political establishment.

Essentially, they have given up, sold the pass, and are ready to surrender our place in the international community as an active "player", handing over the initiative on foreign affairs to the EU, while our vassal administration deals only with internal matters. Decoded, these statements confirm our final retreat as a nation, the point where we formally cease to become an independent state and assume the role of a local authority, one province within the greater European empire.

As we pointed out yesterday, one of the defining attributes of an independent state is its control over its own foreign policy. For our establishment to sell the pass, whining about this once great country being "on the wane", and casting our lot in with "Europe" is indeed the final surrender, the acknowledgement that we are no longer an independent state.

That we should be doing this, without – it would seem – a squeak of protest from the media, or the opposition, demonstrates just how far the political process in this country has degraded. As we pointed out, in 1919, a country went to war to recover its control of foreign policy.

Those were the days when people understood the nature of statehood, and the real meaning of independence. Today, it slips from our grasp with the bulk of the population not even realising what has happened – or caring. But, whether they know or care, we are now a second-rate vassal state. We are a province of the European Empire, shortly – if the media has it right – to be ruled by the new Emperor Blair.

Thus, the EU will have achieved something neither Napoleon nor Hitler could achieve – the subjugation of the British Isles. And all without a shot being fired.

Nevertheless, the idea that, by surrendering our independence, we shall thus gain more "influence" is preposterous. The world is changing – as it always does – but the centre of power is moving away from its Eurocentric base, to the Pacific and Asia, where we see the economic dynamism and the potential for conflict that once typified Europe.

And, as the former major colonial power in the region, and the one with more troops on active duty there, other than the United States, we have in our own name, enormous influence. Furthermore, as that former colonial power, we have an institutional memory – one shared by states such as India and Pakistan – that gives us a unique status and capability.

The rest of the member states that comprise the EU are, by comparison, losers, incompetents and lightweights. None of them, as history so readily illustrates, have the capacity or understanding to become serious players in the region. We did not become "players" by accident. We had the temperament and the skills, inherent in our Anglo-Saxon heritage.

This is not unimportant. In fact, it is of vital interest. With our troops committed to Afghanistan, we are in the epicentre of a region on the brink of war. Serious commentators in both India and Pakistan are predicting that these two nations will be at war within two years. And two nuclear-armed nations at war is not a prospect any of us can regard lightly.

The EU's incompetence in this region, its lack of weight and gravitas, renders it a bit-player of very little consequence. Yet, just at the time when British skills and diplomacy are most needed, to head off a conflagration of appalling potential consequences – with knock-on effects of global proportions – we have sold our birthright to Brussels.

It sounds so melodramatic to say that we have been betrayed by our political classes. But that is exactly what has happened. We have been betrayed. But we betray ourselves by allowing it to happen – and by not caring. And there is a price to pay. The bill will shortly be presented. We will pay, most of us not even realising why.


How do I put this politely?

"People will need to consider turning vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming."

This is Lord Stern in The Times who tells us that "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better."

There are times when even the most graphic of instructions, as to what Lord Stern can do, seem quite inadequate. This is a man who should have been put down at birth.


Monday, October 26, 2009


As movies go, this is pretty good.

The politics of reward

A bloodthirsty dictator, carrying out genocide? No problem ... "engagement" is the answer. An intellectual parasite who has contributed to the destruction of the British economy? No problem ... give him an honorary doctorate.


The darker side of green

A "must read" from Newsweek which tells us that: "Each year as much as $100 billion is spent by governments and consumers around the world on green subsidies designed to encourage wind, solar, and other renewable-energy markets" – to absolutely no effect when the objective is to achieve the Holy Grail of reducing "emissions".

There is something increasingly bizarre in the behaviour of Western politicians scrambling to pour our money down the drain in the pursuit of their global warning fantasies, draining our wealth and intellectual capital on such a fruitless exercise, while ignoring completely the real threats and challenges which assail our world.

It is almost as if we are seeing a collective failure of will. Confronted with real, difficult problems, our politicians have regressed into a form of second childhood. They have retreated from the real world, to cower in their playpens, there to deal with imagined threats, for want of being able to cope with reality.


The face of surrender

Having surrendered our foreign policy-making powers to the European Union, a process that is all but complete once the constitutional Lisbon treaty comes into force, little David Miliband goes for the obvious next stage – arguing that, in the corridors of Brussels, we should endeavour "to take a lead in developing a strong European foreign policy", thus confirming our vassal status.

For those lacking any understanding of history – which seems to include most of the MSM – a nation which no longer commands its own foreign policy is no longer an independent state.

Interestingly, it was precisely that issue which led to the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, after Britain had insisted on taking control of Afghanistan's foreign policy, leading to the Rawalpindi Agreement on 19 August 1919 when control was re-established, from which date Afghanistan celebrates its independence.

We will shortly be in the absurd position of fighting for the security of the independent state of Afghanistan, from the position of being a vassal state of the European Empire (aka EU) – our presence legitimised only by it being a "legacy" policy on which we embarked before the steel jaws of the constitutional Lisbon treaty snapped closed.

To little Dave Milliband, however, this is a Good Thing. Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London today, his idea of upholding British national interest is for the Empire to develop a strong foreign policy, warning that the UK would lose out internationally if it tried to oppose this process (not that we can) on the grounds of "hubris, nostalgia or xenophobia".

"The choice for Europe is simple – get our act together and make the European Union a leader on the world stage or become spectators in a G2 world shaped by the United States and China," he thus declares. And so it is that we "celebrate" our loss of independence, almost exactly 90 years after it was returned to a country for which our troops are now fighting and dying.

In the fullness of time, one wonders whether – when we have regained our independence – Afghanistan will be in a position to return the "favour" and send troops to the UK to help us beat off European jihadists, channeling international aid to us so that we can rebuild our churches and schools, destroyed after the decades of civil war.



Forget nation-building says Diana West. We should be concentrating on nation-saving ... our own.

Like the doomed Soviets, the United States and its Western allies ignore the threat of jihad, a threat now on a global level unimagined in 1979 when Soviet tanks rolled into Kabul. "We miniaturize the challenge," writes Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review Online. "Thus, the war is said only to be in Afghanistan. The 'challenge' is framed as isolating a relative handful (of extremists) rather than confronting the fact that tens of millions of Muslims despise the West." And even worse, the fact that tens of millions of Muslims work to assuage their feelings by following and imposing Islamic law across the West.
In other words, nation-building in the Islamic world is a distraction from nation-saving in the Western one.


Dangerously myopic

Most papers are running with it, but it is The Times which has it as its lead item – the support of David Miliband for Tony Blair's as yet undeclared candidacy for the position of supreme leader of the European Union (European Council division).

According to Miliband, Blair should be made head of a stronger European Union "that would be able to compete with China and the United States on the world stage". The new EU president needed to be someone who "stopped the traffic" in Washington and Beijing and was guaranteed the highest access to world leaders.

An additional advantage of his appointment would be that it would seriously – to use the technical term – piss off the Tories, who are looking forward to having their own Boy take hold of the reins of power, only to see them slip away, to picked up by that leering face in Brussels, rubbing in to all and sundry that the constitutional Lisbon treaty is just as dangerous as we have maintained all along.

By then, of course, it will be too late, when Boy Dave discovers that the Brown administration was the last government of Britain and the "colleagues" get down to running the show, without the encumbrance of democratically elected politicians throwing their toys out of the pram in the European Council, every time they are faced with something they don't like.

Strangely though, it seems as if the likes of Angela Merkel are warming to the idea of Emperor Blair, precisely because of the anticipated Tory reaction, believing – quite wrongly – that a Cameron administration will be "eurosceptic". His appointment would, says The Times balance a British eurosceptic government in the event of a Tory victory.

One struggles to believe that Merkel could be so naïve as to believe it would actually mattered who took over the local government in Britain, and that she could tolerate the leering face of Blair across the table every time she descended on Brussels. But, the idea has a power of its own, sufficient possibly to sustain the Blair Bandwagon.

More worrying, perhaps – as if the prospect of Emperor Blair wasn't worrying enough – is the Miliband's rationale for his appointment, this stale, outdated paradigm that it would help the EU "compete with China and the United States on the world stage".

Far be it for me to sound alarmist, but as there are signs that the Taleban could be breaking out of its localised tribal base, to become part of the global jihad, far from looking to "compete" – with the United States, in particular – we should be urging the closest possible co-operation to deal with the emerging and ever-more serious threat of militant Islam.

With the threat developing both at home and abroad, the EU's role has – to be as temperate as possible – been dangerously myopic. If with the aid of Blair it continues to expend its energies on play acting on the "world stage" instead of mobilising our resources to deal with a threat to the very fabric of our civilisation (what is left of it), we will have the dubious pleasure of seeing a man who has fatally weakened the UK go on to repeat his fiasco on a global scale.

But then, if Caligua could appoint his horse as a Senator of ancient Rome, it seems appropriate that we should see a horse's arse appointed as Emperor of the new Rome. If we really want failure, it may as well be spectacular.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The real global warming disaster

In a startling new book, Christopher Booker reveals how a handful of scientists, who have pushed flawed theories on global warming for decades, now threaten to take us back to the Dark Ages. He writes:

Next Thursday marks the first anniversary of one of the most remarkable events ever to take place in the House of Commons. For six hours MPs debated what was far and away the most expensive piece of legislation ever put before Parliament.

The Climate Change Bill laid down that, by 2050, the British people must cut their emissions of carbon dioxide by well over 80 per cent. Short of some unimaginable technological revolution, such a target could not possibly be achieved without shutting down almost the whole of our industrialised economy, changing our way of life out of recognition.
Read the full article on The Sunday Telegraph site.


Knowing your enemy?

"The complexity of all this is hard enough for experts to understand," says Paul R. Pillar, a former CIA analyst. "It's not surprising if it baffles a lot of ordinary people."

And, from there, it goes downhill. I started yesterday on what I thought would be a relatively quick piece and, eight hours later, was still writing it. If you are not interested in Afghanistan, don't bother, but if you are, then you can read the result on Defence of the Realm.

Too tired for anything else, so I'll post some more general pieces later today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It had to happen

That "climate change" ad revisited ... here and here.


Lock up your Mullahs

Charles Moore writes this: "When establishment figures say that the attitudes of the BNP help prepare the ground for violence, they are right. But they do not apply this logic to their engagement with Islamism – the only form of extremism which nowadays kills large numbers of our fellow citizens."

Threads begin to merge ... we write: the problem is Islam and largely illiterate tribal populations, prey to "miserable superstitions", exposed to "the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood."

More on Defence of the Realm.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Village burning

At current rate of spending, General Sir David Richards has effectively committed us to an additional £20 billion in public expenditure – this being about the least we can get away with for the five more years he is expecting British troop numbers to remain at current levels in Afghanistan.

With the Labour administration expected to fall in the forthcoming general election, this of course is a sum that Mr Cameron's "modern" Conservatives are going to have to find, on top of the replacements they are going to have to fund as equipment wears out and is destroyed.

More on Defence of the Realm.

Last night

A new word entered my vocabulary.


Appalling bad judgement

In Nick Griffin, we have a minor and third-rate politician from a no-hoper party with next to no electoral prospects in the UK, a dysfunctional organisation, minuscule membership and precious few funds – espousing an incoherent political doctrine which would fall apart if seriously challenged.

Through the vagaries of the proportional representation system, he has managed to get himself and a colleague elected to the empty posts of the EU parliament members, which has given him a certain status and notoriety, reinforced by the inability of mainstream parties to mount an effective counter.

Taking note of that position, the BBC has invited him onto the panel of a political talk-show, a programme so dire that one seriously wonders why anyone other than the political nerds ever bother to watch it.

The obvious and most logical response is to yawn wearily, let those who care enough to watch do so, in the expectation that, in the light of public exposure, the vacuity of his position will become obvious and his political creed will wither away.

Yet, the response has been to elevate this minor and uninteresting event into a media orgy, with attendant "riots", recriminations, commentary and, of course, copious media appearances of the man himself. Griffin himself could not have wished for better response, one which he has been quick to acknowledge, with fulsome thanks to the BBC.

The point, of course, is exactly as we made yesterday. A robust, healthy and self-confident political system could swat aside the likes of Griffin, demolish his political arguments and consign him to obscurity.

Thus, in the category "they doth protest too much", the political claque, in its grossly disproportional response to the BBC programme, is demonstrating not its strength but its own weakness and lack of confidence.

In giving the issue such prominence, the media is also reinforcing another malign tendency – the increasing inability to distinguish between that which is important and of lasting consequence, and that which is ephemeral and of very little importance.

Furthermore, the media and the political classes are displaying another their malign characteristics – over-reacting now, when an earlier and more considered response would have had a greater and more far-reaching effect.

Almost alone of the political blogs, we were writing frequently about the BNP, highlighting what we saw as a serious and important political phenomenon. My writing was misinterpreted by some as expressing support, which was never the case.

My sympathies were and remain with those who feel so alienated from the mainstream political system that they feel impelled to support the party. And that, it seems, is precisely what the political classes cannot deal with. Thus, with their own vacuity exposed, they turn upon the unlikely "boy" who dares remark that the emperor is abroad without his expected attire.

With that, one can only wonder – to the point of despair – about the degradation of our political system. Unlike many hundreds of thousands, or even millions, I will not be watching the BBC programme. Apart from the occasional glimpse at the news, I have long since stopped watching the BBC – and television in general. This programme is no good reason for changing that happy arrangement. I have better things to do with my time.

Instead, almost by way of protest, I am putting this up early, as my overnight post. With all the important things going on in this world, I can scarce contain my disgust at the appalling bad judgement, not of the BBC but of the media and the political classes in propelling Griffin to the top of the political agenda, while – as always – ignoring issues of so much more importance.

If this is what political discourse has come to, I am not that sure I want to be part of it any more.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reading ...

In an effort better to understand the broader sweep of events (or some of them), I have been reading some of the earlier accounts of the campaigns in the Northwest Frontier. This extract from "The Story of the Malakand Field Force", by Winston Churchill (1901), writing of the campaign in 1897, is irresistible:

It is, thank heaven, difficult if not impossible for the modern European to fully appreciate the force which fanaticism exercises among an ignorant, warlike and Oriental population. Several generations have elapsed since the nations of the West have drawn the sword in religious controversy, and the evil memories of the gloomy past have soon faded in the strong, clear light of Rationalism and human sympathy.

Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men's passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination. But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.

In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. The more emotional Pathans are powerless to resist. All rational considerations are forgotten. Seizing their weapons, they become Ghazis--as dangerous and as sensible as mad dogs: fit only to be treated as such. While the more generous spirits among the tribesmen become convulsed in an ecstasy of religious bloodthirstiness, poorer and more material souls derive additional impulses from the influence of others, the hopes of plunder and the joy of fighting.

Thus whole nations are roused to arms. Thus the Turks repel their enemies, the Arabs of the Soudan break the British squares, and the rising on the Indian frontier spreads far and wide. In each case civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually the better armed.
Considering that we are, over 100 years later, confronting exactly the same issues, it is quite remarkable how little things have changed. Each generation thinks it has the answers, each generation feels the need to reinvent the wheel. And for each generation, the old "fuddy duddies" of the past have nothing to offer them.

For all that though, one thing has constantly held in our favour. "Luckily", writes Churchill, "the religion of peace is usually the better armed." Long many it remain so.


Reporting from the frontline ....

... of the struggle between national and international socialism. Over on Your Freedom and Ours.

Who'd be a reporter?

Well, someone's got to do it - releasing valuable resources to cover the global warming crisis - with only 47 days left to save the planet, and all that.

I ended up with the New York Times, almost in desperation – having trawled the British media for story ideas to make up the overnight post.

There, it is almost unbelievable to find that the single most important event in the world – according to our gifted hacks – is the BBC/Griffin affair, covered as lead items by The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and many more.

One of the few sensible commentaries to come out of all that is from an unusual coupling, Frank Field and Nicholas Soames, who say: "Cowardice on immigration has allowed the BNP to flourish". They are dead right, of course, but it isn't going to make any difference.

Reviewing the foreign media, by far the most important issue – to judge by the number of outlets that are covering it – is the Pakistani operation in Waziristan, but with the PAK Army blocking media access, there is very little for us to add that we have not already covered on Defence of the Realm.

Without doubt, this issue is important for, as one newspaper puts it, the strategic focus in the region has shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and events there have all sorts of ramifications for us here, both domestically and in terms of our international relations and security.

It is a reflection on the media though – certainly in this country, and most probably elsewhere – that the profile given to a story is determined these days not by the inherent importance, but by proximity, what interests the editorial teams, and – crucially, accessibility and the availability of photographs. It will come as no surprise to learn that Waziristan is given very short shrift in today's British media.

A few old-time hacks that I know, still in employment in a shrinking industry, are sick to teeth of it, and the venality of the media is often a topic of conversation with friends and acquaintances. It really is quite remarkable how few people these days actually buy newspapers.

So it is that we end up featuring an unusual story from the NYT. It was interesting for what it said about the media industry, one which can no longer find the time to attend executions – but is witnessing its own.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What are they worried about?

Having enlisted a number of retired generals and Andy McNab, "the renowned SAS hero" in a rather dubious campaign against a registered (and therefore legal) political party, the "Nothing British" campaign against "extremism and racism" is organising a "Breakfast Meeting" tomorrow.

At the breakfast will be "leading experts in the fight against extremism", namely James Bethell, Andy McNab, Andrew Roberts and Tim Montgomerie (of Conservative Home fame). They will announce the next stage of its campaign, to draft a manifesto that addresses the bona fide issues "of those thinking about abandoning mainstream political parties and voting for the BNP."

Says the blurb, "These are often voters who feel so pessimistic about the future and so disillusioned with Westminster that they are prepared to overcome the stigma of the BNP's neo-fascist origins and support BNP candidates, many of whom have a dubious past."

The current crie de coeur, of course, is their objection to the BNP "hijacking" military symbols in support of their own campaign, most notoriously their "Battle for Britain” initiative which featured a photograph of a Spitfire, invoking the World War II patriotic spirit.

It did not take long to identify that Spitfire, marked RF-D, as a MkVb flown by 303 Kościuszko Squadron (pictured), pilot S/Ldr Jan Zumbach, who scored eight kills during the Battle of Britain, with 13 in total.

Picturing an aircraft from a famous Polish squadron was inept enough, but the ignorance of the BNP also allowed it to feature an aircraft mark which was not issued to squadrons until early 1942, well after the Battle of Britain had ended.

A political party which claims to support the military, yet which displays such obvious ignorance of such matters, is not one to be taken seriously. As with much of its outpouring, they are – or should be – the object of derision. The BNP's campaign should have been howled down in a gale of mocking laughter.

The only problem for the established political parties is that they are unable to do so, being so compromised on the numerous issues on which the BNP campaigns, that they are left fulminating at the voters rather than the party they so detest.

What they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge is that the reason many voters actually tick the box for the BNP is precisely because the BNP is as loathsome as they claim. Such votes are a statement that, however abhorrent the BNP may be, the established parties are worse.

The answer to that, of course, is for the established political parties to up their game, for them seriously to address the issues of concern to real people rather than the denizens of the Westminster bubble.

But, lacking political nous, as my co-editor has observed, they have made the classic error of descending into the pit and scrapping with the chimney sweep. This gives the BNP a huge publicity bonus and reinforces the impression that the political classes have lost the plot.

The only thing positive they have done is reveal quite how worried they are about "those thinking about abandoning mainstream political parties and voting for the BNP." These Tory-dominated "experts" would not be acting so stridently unless they perceived a threat to their electoral prospects. Unwittingly, therefore, they have played into the hands of the BNP.