Friday, 12 February 2016

Turkey's richly ambiguous (to put it politely) relationship with ISIS

Is an old-fashioned nineteenth century deal over Syria possible between America, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the Saudis? The ceasefire agreed today (in Munich, oddly enough) by the International Syria Support Group, comprising all the regional powers except Israel, plus Russia, the US, the UK and France, might be a start in this direction. 

I hope it delivers a settlement, though I don't expect it will. More Government victories like the recent one in Aleppo may be needed before the rebels agree to stop fighting. The Syrian government and Russia probably think so too.

You might think the sudden victory for the Russians and the Syrian government in Aleppo earlier this week was good news, that could bring an end to the war nearer, but it was treated by the media in the US and the UK as a calamity. (Natalie Nougayrède, in The Guardian, wrote an egregiously stupid commentary, but others were just as bad.) The press follows the line of the British and American governments, which are still committed to the defeat of the Assad regime and this is not because of the regime's many undoubted war crimes. The non-ISIS rebels, who include the Al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, are no better, though less well armed.

Instead of peace coming closer, the Saudis may send troops, as they said last week that they will do to fight ISIS, but really intending to fight Assad. Saudi troops are effete but well-equipped. If they do and Turkey sends men too, this will prolong and expand the war. The ceasefire aims at postponing this. 

Everyone who reads the papers knows about the conflict being waged between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, the Shia Crescent, against the Sunni powers (despite the fact that the Syrian army is mostly Sunni). It's much less well understood that a competition is going on between Saudi Arabia, Qatar,  ISIS and Turkey for leadership of the Middle Eastern Sunnis. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and ISIS represent rival versions of Wahhabism and one of ISIS's goals is to overthrow the Saudi monarchy, as was Osama bin Laden's. What exactly Erdogan represents nobody knows.

The Americans have many reasons for disliking the Assad regime, going back to the Cold War, including its alliance with  Russia and Iran and its hostility to Israel. We know now that the history of the Cold War was the history of hegemons being manipulated by their satellites. Is America being manipulated by Israel, the Saudis and Turkey into backing the rebels, even though it is clear that the rebels are not moderate, not democrats or secular and are not going to win?


I linked in my last post to a very interesting article published this week by Alistair Crooke, an ex-MI6 man who is an expert on the region. In another interesting article he wrote in October he talked about 
the Saudi, Qatar and Turkish joint resolve to mount huge numbers of jihadists on Syria's borders. According to two senior political figures I spoke to, up to 10,000+ Wahhabist/Salafists (predominantly An-Nusra/Al Qaeda) have been gathered by the intelligence services of these latter states, mostly non-Arabs from Chechnya, Turkmenistan, etc. Plainly, Washington is aware of this (massively expensive) Saudi manoeuvre and equally plainly it is turning a blind eye to it.
Part of the reason why the West has been backing the Sunni rebels, Crooke thinks, is to help drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, on the one hand, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

No one is fighting in Syria to defeat ISIS, except the Kurds, who do so to protect and solidify their territory. But the Kurds alone might be able to destroy ISIS, if they were allowed to do so by Turkey. Instead,Turkey protects ISIS from the Kurds and threatens to move forces into Syria to protect them from the Russians and the Syrian government. Meanwhile Russia and the USA both compete to back the Kurds. 

We shall see if Vladimir Putin can destroy ISIS, at the risk of a war with Turkey.

The relationship between ISIS and Erdogan is richly ambiguous. Turkey's main aim is to defeat or contain the Kurds, though Erdogan may have much wider ambitions in the Middle East. At one point, at the request of the US, Turkey was said to be going to bomb ISIS. At that point the Turkish air force shot down a Russian plane that crossed for a few seconds into Turkish aerospace. Russia stationed fighters in Northern Syria, intent on shooting down down Turkish planes in revenge. The Turkish plan to bomb ISIS was abandoned. 

Press coverage of the Middle East is very misleading and should be consumed with pitcherfuls of salt. It's full of unknown unknowns. This isn't because journalists in the Western press are propagandists or deliberately misleading us, or even because they are stupid, though some are not all that bright, but because most of them are incurious. Many are more worried about Putin, ISIS and migrants than the future of Syria and these things are what interest the general public. 

We don't know anything like the full story, and may never do so, but we do know that Turkey is buying ISIS oil. Yet this is little reported in the West, as is the fact that Turkey could cut off ISIS supply lines but chooses not to. The (appalling) bombing of civilians by Russia, by contrast, receives wide coverage. 

Turkish intervention in Syria could lead to a war between Russia and Turkey, with Turkey de facto allied to ISIS. There were twelve Russo-Turkish wars between 1568 and 1918, only one of which was won by Turkey, or two if you count the (first) Crimean War, where Turkey was rescued by Britain and France. 

The part of Aleppo loyal to the Syrian government was until recently under a long siege by the rebels, but this was ignored in the Western press. The government will probably soon besiege the rebels and the papers talk about this as something very wicked. The Syrian government is allowing civilians to flee the rebel controlled area, and they would be well advised to flee quickly, but this opportunity is treated in the press as a diabolical plot on the part of Putin to flood the EU with migrants, in order to destabilise his enemies.

The media coverage of the Libyan war persuaded public opinion in Western Europe that Gaddafi would massacre the inhabitants of a rebel held town when it fell to his army. Attentive readers knew that at least one small town had changed hands twice without any reported massacre but, such is the power of the press and herd thinking, we still feared a Srebrenica. Sarkozy and Cameron therefore intervened and effectively won the war in Libya for the rebels. We know what happened to Libya since, although it gets little press coverage. 




Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Former MI6 man says 'The Syria War Will Not Be a Quagmire -- Because Putin and Assad Are Winning'


I recommend you click on this very interesting article 
by Alastair Crooke in the Huffington Post about the sudden recent successes of the Russians in Aleppo, which he thinks mean victory for the government is imminent.  Alastair Crooke used to work for M16, writes regularly for the Guardian and was Middle East adviser to Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, from 1997 to 2003.

Points from the article include:

If government forces, moving north, can make friendly contact with the Kurds in the northeast, almost all Nusra and allied rebel forces would be nearly surrounded. The insurgents would be caught in a cauldron with their backs to a lightly populated and forested territory.


The ISIS-controlled corridor, especially the Jarablus border crossing with Turkey, remains effectively open. Turkey has proclaimed this represents its "red line." Were this corridor to be closed by the Syrian Kurds, the Turks have indicated they could respond by invading Syria. The YPG say nonetheless, that they are contemplating just such a move.

...Syria seems to be heading not towards a "quagmire" as many western politicians have suggested, but rather to a clear military outcome. As one knowledgable commentator noted, the negotiating table is not in Geneva. The true negotiations are taking place on the battlefields of Idlib and Aleppo -- and what has just been negotiated is the near encirclement of rebel forces into a cauldron.

I also expect Syria to soon again constitute a strong regional state. The meaning of this will be evidenced in a powerful, cohesive northern arc through the region -- and perhaps closer relations with Iraq. Correspondingly, certain Gulf states will find themselves eclipsed.
Here is a reminder from the UN Human Rights Council of the regime's great cruelty. Rami Jarrah, an anti-regime activist, said on the World Service this morning that he estimated the Syrian regime has killed a hundred times more people than ISIS and that sounds very likely. Mr. Jarrah, by the way, was introduced on the BBC as a journalist, whereas he is very deeply committed to the rebels. This should have been pointed out, though it does not necessarily detract from what he said about the regime's undeniable war crimes.

Here is an interesting account by Peter Oborne, whose decency always shines through what he writes, about Aleppo. He was there when the fortunes of war changed. What has happened to Aleppo is a very sad story, but now suddenly there's good news for those previously besieged. The besiegers will become the besieged instead, if they do not flee very fast. The Christians, those left, now seem to be safe. 

I am very pleased that the wonderful Hotel Baron, where I stayed in 2007, is intact and still open. Much else is destroyed.

The pro-EU Carnegie Institute has published an article saying Putin is creating refugees in order to topple Angela Merkel. I doubt that this was the main reason for the rout of the rebels in Aleppo, but I am sure he has the fortitude to bear her misfortunes. 

She is quoted as saying

 “We need to protect our external border because we want to keep Schengen. And if we can’t protect it, then this huge region of free movement, our internal market, which is the foundation of our prosperity, will be in danger, and we need to prevent that.” 
To which the writer adds
But one has to wonder if those political parties and movements opposed to giving refugees shelter actually care about Schengen—and, as a corollary, about the EU."
I have to wonder whether political parties in favour of accepting a million more migrants actually care about Europe, as opposed to the EU. Suspending Schengen indefinitely along the migrant route is essential. There is no reason for this to endanger the single market.

As for Putin, if he did succeed in toppling Mrs Merkel I think everyone would gain. 

Here is the head of the German spy agency saying ISIS is sending fighters to Europe disguised as refugees. I imagine this does not surprise even my most guileless reader, but I remember all the people who patiently or impatiently explained last year via social media that the migrants were not terrorists but fleeing terror. Soft-hearted, soft-headed people like that are the biggest problem in Europe.

Fortunately, Eastern Europeans are hard-headed. They see Europe as primarily Christian, as Christendom. This article from Politico suggests that the Visegrad Four countries may eventually leave the EU rather than accept migrants en masse. I doubt it personally.


Three intelligent and in one case very influential Romanians have told me recently that only hope for Europe is a victory for Le Pen. I wonder how many Romanians think so. I don't know, but a survey this week shows that a majority would vote for Vlad the Impaler were he standing for President. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sun Tzu in his Art of War explains the crisis in the Western world today


"If you know your enemy and you know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle."

Whatever one thinks of him, Trump is a genius

I was arguing with a Romanian friend (Romanians are often tremendous intellectual snobs) who insisted that Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and George W Bush were all too stupid to be president.

About Sarah there is no question. But not about the others.

Stupid people do not do what Trump has done, destroy the Bush dynasty, outsmart the Republican party and runs rings round every other politician. He is a born natural for politics. Think Tony Blair in England, Ion Iliescu in Romania.  Of course, it's intuitive with Trump, as with Berlusconi, Blair and Putin. All great politicians and artists are intuitive.

I long considered Putin a stupid man in many ways, a poor strategist but a very good tactician. (I remember an English friend of mine, who lived in Russia, telling me 'Russians don't do clever, they do brutal'.) Seeing how he's doing in Syria this week I have revised my opinion. He is clever and more strategic than I thought. Like Trump, whom he admires, he is street-smart. In terms of academic intelligence Putin rates very low, of course. George W. Bush and Blair have upper second class minds (Yale and Oxford respectively), which is the best thing for CEOs and leaders. Too many brains often makes you indecisive. Mrs Thatcher had an upper second class mind. 

The cleverest recent leaders were Macmillan, certainly Pope Benedict XVI and possibly Obama. Academic brilliance explains why Benedict caused Muslim outrage by quoting the the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos's opinion of Islam and Obama's indecisiveness and lack of the common touch.  

There is no close connection between intelligence and being a good political leader. Ford was stupid, but a good president. Carter clever and a failure, though not so bad as he is nowadays painted. 

I don't know whether Mitterand had a first class academic mind but he had amazing cunning, which I wish Angela Merkel possessed. Maybe being French and German have something to do with it, but Bismarck was a lot more cunning than Napoleon III or almost anyone else. 

Europe's migrant crisis is entirely caused by the EU

Free movement of people and Schengen caused the migrant disaster which threatens Europe. The Europe it threatens is the Europe of Christian or post-Christian ethnic states but it also threatens the 'ever closer' European Union. 

It is the threat to the European Union which concerns Angela Merkel and Herr Junker.

This is exactly the reason, not a humanitarian one, much less an economic one, why Frau Merkel invited an unlimited number of migrants to Germany. To prevent Viktor Orban knocking over the dominoes and bringing back European borders. And why Germans feel aggrieved that other EU countries did not follow her lead. Germany was doing it for the EU.

Imagine a Europe without Schengen.

If the migrants knew that they would get no further than Greece or Italy very many fewer would want to come and even the left-wing Greek government - and Italy - would find ways to keep many of them out.

The solution to the migrant crisis, therefore, is to suspend Schengen and free movement of peoples indefinitely, in those countries on the migrant route. This is exactly what the EU idealists, who rule Europe, do not want. Such an indefinite suspension would probably be permanent, because many more migrants will come in the foreseeable future and beyond. 

The war in an increasingly borderless Middle East will probably get much worse, even if, as I hope and as looks possible, Russia does crush the Western backed rebels in Syria. Imagine if it comes to war in the Gulf or even a breakdown in Saudi Arabia. There are 4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and over 7 million displaced people in Syria, as of last month. Iraqis and Afghans want to move from their war torn countries, as do very many people in Mali and Sudan, but all these are almost beside the point. Untold millions want to move from poor countries to Europe, war or no war. From Africa, in particular, whose population is expected to double by 2050. 

The people who lead the EU know this and even half-accept it. They have said and shown by their actions that they certainly do not intend to create a Fortress Europe to withstand the migrants. What is happening now, unless something like a Fortress Europe policy is implemented, is only the start of a migration unseen since the migrations of the first millennium. 

A Fortress Europe, they think for some reason, is incompatible with European values. In fact I would argue that only a Fortress Europe can preserve those values.

The IMF estimated that 1.3 million asylum seekers will enter the European Union annually during 2016 and 2017. The Bulgarian Red Cross, on the other hand,  expects 3-4 million to reach Europe this spring and German Development Minister Gerd Müller said last month
"Eight to ten million migrants are still on the way."
Viktor Orban has said that 100 million people will want to come to Europe. How many come, of course, depends on what decision European leaders, or rather German leaders, make. In a world without borders or immigration restrictions, the world that Bill Clinton and many left-wing politicians think is coming, it could be many more than one hundred million. There is no natural limit on immigration from poor to rich countries.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Are Syrian rebels losing the war? We must hope so

Syrian rebels are losing Aleppo and perhaps also the war


This is the Washington Post headline. The article, as first drafted, seemed unhappy about this possibility and said it would block peace efforts. It was later changed. But all the papers I read treat the sudden Syrian-Russian success as a cause for regret, not a hope that the war might end.


Russian-Syrian victory over the allegedly moderate rebels, if it happens, will bring peace close, surely. And no, I am certainly not a fan of Putin or Assad, or their bombing of civilians, but prefer them to Islamists. Yet British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday accused Vladimir Putin of 
"undermining international efforts to end the Syrian civil war" 
by bombing opponents of Islamic State in an attempt to bolster Bashar al-Assad, as if this were more wicked than backing and offering false hope to the Islamist rebels, as the UK is doing, or attacking the Kurds, as NATO member Turkey is doing. As for the Saudis, who offered this week to put boots on the ground in Syria, they are not genuine about wanting to fight ISIS, any more than Russia is - no-one is interested in fighting ISIS, though every country says she is. The Saudi troops, well-equipped but effete, are there to help the non-ISIS rebels. Today we hear that more Saudi and Turkish troops are on their way for that purpose - and to prolong the war. 

Syria suffers as the powers fight proxy wars. They should stop, but won't.

I have absolutely no illusions about the cruelty of the Syrian and Russian forces. About the crimes of Assad we already know enough and Putin is using the same murderous methods he used in Chechnya. I doubt the 'moderate rebels' are any better. 

I know that Russia wants to assert her power not only in the region but in Europe. I am sure Putin is happy that another flood of refugees will help destabilise the EU. Conflict between Russia and Turkey will cause NATO grave problems. But, for all that, if Russia's intervention can defeat the moderate rebels, this will be a positive achievement. I suspect most Syrians think so too, though it's just a slightly informed guess. It is not the UK's or the West's business to get rid of Assad or choose a better Syrian government, even were we able do so, so long as it is not a government that endangers us.

Putin is making a solitude and calling it peace. But peace is the best thing that can happen and the West has no way of helping achieve peace. Turkey and the Saudis have no interest in peace, since their surrogates have no chance of defeating the Syrian government. If they somehow, after years of war, did defeat Assad, the result would be chaos or an Islamist regime in power. In fact, almost certainly both. The non-ISIS rebels' disappearance will lead some Syrians to side with ISIS against the regime but others to do the opposite.

I confess that I am guessing when I write this, am no expert, but I console myself that even experienced reporters like Patrick Cockburn and Charles Glass do not know what is happening. I am sure MI6 and the CIA do not.

Israel and Saudis, who are allies and prefer endless war to victory for Assad, also have no interest in peace. Nor has Iran, of course. Had it not been for Iran the regime would have been toppled four years ago but the Iranians, like Russia, now look like winning.

Simon Jenkins shares my view, in an article worth reading on the Syrian peace conference that will prolong the war. Though it seems that Turkey and the Saudis have ordered the so-called moderate rebels to pull out of the negotiations. Russia had already wrecked them by its attacks on the rebels.

Is a nineteenth century deal between Russia, Turkey, Iran and the Saudis possible, to achieve an ordered rebel surrender with guarantees that further massacres will not take place? Probably not, I know. What is clear is that the US, UK and France are not honest brokers, but committed to the rebel side.

President Hillary would be so very boring - President Trump would not


More than anything else, more than her unpleasant personality, her lack of talent or the fact that she made her career through marriage not achievements, the main problem with President Hillary is that she would be so very BORING. President Trump would not be that for one moment.

Bernie Sanders would be much more dangerous than either, yet gets a uniformly good press. Although he would get almost nothing of his programme through Congress. Thank God for checks and balances.

Rod Liddle wants Donald Trump to win just to annoy the BBC and which of us does not at some level sympathise with this? Although, in the end, Liddle voted Labour in last year's British general election, he evidently hugely enjoyed the fury and sorrow of people on the Left. And indeed one would have needed a heart of stone not to have laughed.

"If Trump wins, it will be like that, times ten. It will be Trumpageddon for all the worst people in the country."
I don't like or trust Messrs. Trump or Cruz. Cruz might be the best choice. Neither is a gentleman but the gentlemen like Jeb and Rubio are not what is needed. President Trump might shift the zeitgeist in the US and Europe and, if he did so, this would be important. I like how he attacks journalists. He bullies them and his public love this. There's an element of political sado-masochism in it.

We could live with Hillary, but she is equally unpleasant, less truthful, has few political skills and would be a failure. She reminds me, in many ways, of Gordon Brown.

Mr. Trump is a fascinating phenomenon. He represents not recovery but revenge. The bullying of journalists, the remarks about Muslims and Mexicans, represent revenge on Muslim terrorists and Mexican drug smugglers but, more importantly, on the Washington politicians and on bipartisan liberal values. In some ways he is like Ross Perot, but he aims to turn the Republicans into his third party, which is clever. Everything about Trump's strategy is clever. 


The writer who has greatest understanding of the Trump phenomenon is not a political journalist but Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert. He is not a supporter of Trump, has no politics, but is astonished at Trump's grasp of persuasion techniques. He says:

"No one doubts Trump’s effectiveness to get things done. That conversation ended sometime between his overthrow of the Republican leadership and his complete dominance of every media outlet. I think it happened at about the same time you watched him dismantle the Bush dynasty and the Clinton dynasty, in that order. 
So you know he can do things. 
But smart people – and lots of them – have doubted Trump’s motives."
Read more here.

The argument for Cruz is that he is the thinking man's Trump. This is where Cruz has deliberately placed himself in the race and it's a place that might win him the White House. 

Jimmy Carter think Cruz is worse than Trump because Cruz means what he says. Possibly. Cruz may be a sincere right-winger and former Tea Party man but he once favoured granting a large extension of visa for foreign workers, something he tried in vain to deny, since he now says the opposite. 

Even though many electors don't want a consensus politician as president, a president needs to be able to make deals with his opponents. Cruz seems unable to make deals within his own party. Everyone in the Senate seems to hate him. Everyone who has ever known him seems to loathe him.

Legal immigration, not illegal immigration, is the elephant in the American drawing room. Trump broke the almost total silence on this subject last summer by a modest proposal for restrictions, but Trump does not speak much about this, preferring to talk about deporting illegals. Almost no-one had spoken about curbing legal immigration until last year, except Ann Coulter, Paul Gottfried and the writers at Breitbart and Taki's Magazine, yet legal immigration from the Third World is the most important (and un-conservative) phenomenon in American history in the last thirty years. I am not sure enough people in America care about the issue to propel Trump (or Cruz) to the White House. 


No-one has any idea what President Trump would do, possibly including him. about immigration or anything else. We can assume that, like all politicians, he would partly play to his base if elected, but I know he is playing the Ann Coulter right like he is playing everyone else.


Bucharest evening



Another great picture by Octav Dragan. In Romanian 'Night Club' does not mean nightclub but  'Sexy Club' or something like that.

Wisdom



I once read Raymond Smullyan's Lewis Carroll like book 'The Tao is Silent'. Smullyan says Taoism teaches someone ‘not so much to feel that he shouldn’t be moral (which is, of course, a morality all its own), but rather to be independent, free, unentangled from moral “principles”. Taoism teaches us, according to Smullyan,  to do good if you want to do good- which is what I think Christianity, rightly understood, teaches.

The poem from the first chapter of the book represents, he says, the ‘quintessence’ of Taoism:
The Sage falls asleep not
because he ought to
Nor even because he wants to
But because he is sleepy.
In some ways Taoism sounds like wisdom, or finding yourself, or middle age when wisdom and self understanding begin. Wisdom comes in a rush after the age of forty and much accelerates later on. Just as your waistline expands and your body deteriorates. To a theist, this is more evidence of a supreme intelligence who creates the world.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Peter Tweedie on the Colectiv disaster


I was sorry to hear last week that Peter Tweedie has died, aged 68, though I didn't know him. I think I met him three times and not since the turn of the century. He brought Rigips, the construction materials company, to Romania and thereby gave birth to a word for a partition that has entered the Romanian language.

I regret not having known him. He was one of the few foreigners who came to Romania before the revolution and they are always more interesting to me than the ones who came after. He was intelligent and seemed to understand Romania. I remember his hatred for Ion Iliescu, who as leader of the Communist student league, in Stalin's time, had sent some of his professors to dig the Black Sea Danube canal.

Peter Tweedie was an expert in fire prevention and was deeply moved by the Colectiv fire in which so many mostly young people died. He emailed me this, out of the blue.

I copied the attached poem down in Eroilor cemetery not long after the so-called 'revolution' of 1989.
 After the events of last night the last part of the poem seems particularly apt and you might wish to 'blog' it together with my comments at the bottom..
  
  


INCHINARE EROILOR

Azi ne plîngem morţii, pe luptători căzuţi
la datorie pentru ţara şi popor
Ne rugăm la bunul Domnezeu şi îngenunchem pentru cei
omorîţi mişeleşte de barbarii comunişti ucigători.
Plîng copiii, plîng fraţii şi surorile noastre, pentru cei care s-au
jertfit viaţa salvînd omenirea de sclăvia comunistă,
Plîng orfanii, plîng părinţii indoliaţi şi înlăcrimaţi, plîng greviştii
foamei pentru cei loviţi pentru cei răniţi şi ucişi de comunişti.

Plîng foştii deţinuţi politici care au fost în lanţuri
şi cătuşe pe luptătorii eroi ucişi fără cruci
Plîng ţara, plîng poporul, este doliu pentru toţ martirii
Torturaţi şi îngropaţi de criminalii terorişti comunişti.

Dar să ştiţi că sîntem tineri, puternici şi mulţi
porniţi pe aspră dreptate
Ne arde dorul de cei căzuţi de fiecare în parte
Pe mormântul lor stau de veghe zeci de lumânări şi flori.

Constantin Popescu    - artist, 1989

…………………………..

At the time this was written the young had been out on the streets and scores of them had fallen. After a few days they went home and their ‘revolution’ was hijacked by the former nomenclatura, and the parents of the dead were left to mourn by themselves.

For twenty five years everyone here has said “Yes, but what can we do ?”…
but last night once again we saw the young in their droves, strong and fired up by the rough justice they have suffered for so long.

If they could only corral the power that they perhaps don’t realize that they have, stay united and not fragment into dust, they could be a strong force to be reckoned with by any government that comes out of this current vacuum.

With Remembrance Sunday coming up and speaking of the fallen of 1989, I got to Bucharest on 28th December 1989, on the morning that they started to bury the dead at Eroilor cemetery. As a small token to all those young people I wrote down a small poem and had it published in Libertatea:-
 

"Here dead we lie because we did not choose

To live and shame the land from which we sprung 

Life to be sure is nothing much to lose, 

But young men think it is........and we were young."

He also wrote to me this mail about the reasons for the fire. I published most of it on my blog back then but here is the full text.


Paul,

As regards the fire on Friday night, I am sorry for your loss and for the loss that their families and other loved ones must also be feeling for them. Having been a visitor to young kids in a burns hospital when I was a teenager, I know the terrible havoc that fires wreak, and the suffering that the survivors then go through for the rest of their lives. 

Twenty years ago I gave up accounting to work as consultant for the BPB group and set up Rigips Romania for them. BPB was then the biggest manufacturer of plasterboard/plasters in the world and an early lesson that I learned with them was that 'a good fire' was the best seller of fire-resistant plasterboard. I learned how to build firewalls that hold back fire for 3-4 hours, but also learned that the wall is useless if the roof or the other walls allow the fire to 'go around'  Firewalls stop flame but don't hold back smoke and it is nearly always the smoke and not the flame that kills. 

I watched videos of building fires to get an idea how they start and how unbelievingly quickly they travel, but I also know that in the split second that you open a 'life-saving' fire escape you also feed the fire. Added to all that, people don't act normally in a fire. On Saturday I heard an interview with the guy who did recent building work in the club. He mentioned that the owner didn't want to pay the extra for fireproof painting, but he himself fitted the wooden slats that hung under a "polystyrene ceiling that had believed to have been recently cleaned and probably with a solvent" !! He was contributing to the classic death trap. Me...? I would have walked off the job.... but I would also have passed on a warning.  

I can see the fire in my mind's eye.... firework sparks ignite the polystyrene on the column and flame rushes to the ceiling. Even without the impregnated solvent the flame travels laterally faster than you and I can walk, the smoke is acrid and poisonous but globs of fiery molten polystirene fall on everyone so driving the panic. At that point a hundred extinguishers held by a hundred fire-protected men couldn't put out a fire now burning at 800C.  but now the second door to the outside is opened..... and there is a loud and terrifying WHOOSH... 

You mention inspectors and fudged inspections but the problem is much wider than that.
Fire engulfed a wooden stand at Bradford Football ground in 1985 and some folk in the stand remained seated, paralysed with fear. Back in 1973 a fire in Summerland, a brand new shopping/sports complex on the Isle of Man killed 50 and injured 80. In 1987 a terrible fire in the Underground station at King's Cross killed 27 and injured scores more. All of these places had been recently "inspected"...... but if the inspector is a functionary with a tick list..... he is missing the plot. Fire extinguishers are useless

Your assumption about a lack of fire escapes in many clubs and restaurants is very close to the mark but the paramount exercise is NOT HAVING TO USE THEM, ie. preventing a fire from happening or spreading is what it is all about. There ARE fire regulations in place here and there ARE norms regarding building materials. They might be old, but if they had been in application, I am sure that the fire on Friday would not have started. In Romania too,  "ignorance of the law excuses no man"... so the primary responsibility lies with the owner/operator to know the law or to b advised by someone who does.

Six or seven years ago someone that you and I both know took on a pub in Bucharest and asked me to do some building work on the kitchen, When I went to the pub the first thing I noticed was the ceiling made from wooden strips and very dry sacking hanging down from it. A cigarette in a raised hand would be enough to start a fire and make the place an inferno in seconds. I made my point and was largely ignored, but he has since moved to another pub.....which has just one way in and one way out !!     I for one won't go in there..

Four years ago I worked on another pub, with an Irish owner and and Irish building supervisor. Here there was a fire exit at the back, but it led into a yard that had steel gates to the street that were chained on the OUTSIDE by a company that ran a security business. I put the case that even if people escaped into the yard they wouldn't be able to get away from the smoke and the crush, and emergency services would be delayed in getting to them. I was politely asked to get on with my building works..!!

WE ALL KNOW that there is insufficient water pressure in the Historic Centre  to supply the Fire Service in the case of a major fire, and WE ALSO KNOW that people-packed streets slow down the firemen even getting to a fire. A big fire on Gabroveni two years ago was 'proof of that pudding'.
Official enquiry...? Anything done..?

It isn't just a case of bent inspectors and spagi. It is far wider than that. It is the application of old unrealistic or unworkable safety norms, it is using simple tick lists for inspections, it is not 'nailing' slack or bent inspections, but above and beyond all, UNTIL NOW it has been allowing the owner/operator the latitude to be ignorant and to get away with it ...!!!  But now, all of a sudden and a bit too late we are going for Omor Calificat ......... Murder..... and life sentences.  

I won't sit in other people's smoke and I won't sit inside a place that has a single entrance and exit because I know the risks. By the same token, we have to make people generally more aware of the risks they are taking..... and I would be all for your mate setting up some for of green and red codes in his guide............. even if setting it up would cost the 'inspectors' a black eye here and there.


Your comments on the medical services here being stretched to the limits......... those in London were as well during 7/7.
Three years ago an aneurysm on my aorta popped in the street outside my house here, SMURD were here in 5 minutes, Urgenta failed me, but a Baia Mare policemen mate put me back into the 'Wow Wow' and got me to Fundeni.
My Brit/Romanian son sat by me for six of the eight days that I spent in an induced coma and of course met the team looking after me. He later said "Micutu, you found a team as good as any on the planet but I would also hazard that had it happened in London, you might have pegged on a stretcher in a corridor". Hard pushed they might be........ underpaid and poorly treated they most certainly are.


Yours,

Peter Tweedie FCA.   



Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cruely, boldness, language, vice


I am afraid that woman appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated. 
Lord Henry Wotton in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

Every woman adores a Fascist.
Sylvia Plath


The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. 
Ted Hughes

Learning another language is to acquire another soul. 
Goethe

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
Thomas Jefferson

She'll still trudge on in tasteless Vice,
As if she sinn'd for Exercise.
Lord Rochester

The European ship is going down

I just heard the BBC World Service interview someone from the Danish institute for Human Rights who complained that the Danish government will require migrants to wait three years before they can bring wives and children into Denmark and fears other countries may copy this. He likened the Danes taking migrants' belongings as a contribution for their keep to the Nazis stripping Jews of theirs. There was no-one to put another side of the argument. I am afraid the hard things people like Rod Liddle say about the BBC are true.


I don't read RT (Russia Today) as a rule, but it prints things about migrants and Muslims in Europe that the BBC prefers to avoid. This opinion piece is well worth clicking on

"The Kübler-Ross model of trauma describes the emotional pathway for any European with an interest in protecting the continent his forebears created from the perfidy of national leaders whose actions will breed him and his children out of existence.
First there was denial: surely Angela Merkel couldn’t be so stupid as to sink the European ship?
Next came anger as news of the organised attacks by so-called asylum-seekers on European white women seeped through the checkpoints embedded in the mainstream media machine.
Then came the stage known as bargaining as people thought they would settle for some restrictions on numbers so long as the tidal wave was stopped.
And now we are at enforced acceptance: the tidal wave will not stop – so get used to it – with Jeremy Corbyn, for example, calling for the UK to take similar numbers as Germany."

I don't think we are at the acceptance stage yet. That may come.


RT is not trustworthy on stories involving Russia and it is not neutral on migrants. This is because, I am delighted to say, Russia is doing her best to undermine Mrs Merkel and using the migrants as a means to do so. RT is part of this. So it is not an objective source, but then neither is the BBC, which is pro-EU and pro-migrant. Nevertheless RT cannot be dismissed as a news source. It was one of only two publications, as far as I know, that mentioned the finding in the British 2011 census that 8.8% of Britons under 25 are Muslim. The other was the Daily Telegraph which buried the information far down in an article about declining church attendance. Only RT made it into a lead story, something which it certainly deserved to be.

Another interesting article, this from the Marxist-libertarian journal Spiked, on 'creepy' sex education leaflets for Muslim migrants, is here

Cultural insecurities, which predate the current migration crisis, exercise a powerful influence over public life. These tensions continually raise a question that is studiously ignored: what do European societies believe in? It’s clear where Muslim migrants get their moral outlook from, but where do young secular Europeans draw their values from? Schools and secular institutions mistakenly believe that the language of morality is the monopoly of outdated religious organisations. Values, though, can change with the wind. Environmentalism, healthy eating, homosexuality, self-esteem, anti-racism, multiculturalism and mindfulness all compete with one another to gain the attention of young people today.In education and public institutions, questions to do with right and wrong, or good and evil, have been displaced by a narrow emphasis on the instrumental and therapeutic ethics of wellbeing. Children are taught that emotions like anger and hate are bad, but they’re not taught what to love. Previous objects of love – God, country, family, humanity and so on – have been displaced by inarticulate sentiments that, at best, amount to ‘it’s okay to feel good about yourself’.There are relatively few issues on which a moral consensus prevails. But the sexual assault of women is one issue on which old-fashioned traditionalists and anti-traditionalist cosmopolitans can agree. That is one reason why the official critique of migrant behaviour has focused on sexual harassment. That is, if they couch their concerns in the language of sexual harassment, critics of migration can avoid accusations of xenophobia or Islamophobia.

Here is further evidence, also from RT, that the migrants include  ISIS people. Did anybody doubt this? Actually yes - lots of asinine people who at the time of the Paris killings explained that the migrants are not terrorists but fleeing terrorists. In fact a very complicated war is taking place in Syria and a poll of Syrians taken by a reputable British polling company showed 22% of Syrians support ISIS. I imagine a roughly similar number of the migrants do so.

The IMF predicts 4 million more migrants in the next two years. The Bulgarian Red Cross predicts two to three million this spring. No predictions have any clear basis. 

Europe needs to have the same tight borders that Israel does and the will to protect them.


Compassion and foreign policy



Compassion, especially Mrs. Cameron's compassion for Libyan rebels destroyed Libya. Mrs Merkel's compassion is helping to destroy Europe. I prefer foreign policy to be driven by national interest - it seems to do much less harm than compassion. I wonder if women are especially prone to thinking of foreign policy in terms of compassion and if this is an another example of the feminisation of politics.

I am in favour of compassion and idealism in foreign policy within limits but compassion should not dictate foreign policy. I am not against all idealistic wars - I wish the UK had intervened in Rwanda and NATO had done so much sooner in Bosnia, but idealism does more harm than pragmatism. Pragmatism would have avoided many unnecessary wars - from the US Civil War to the invasion of Iraq.

Had we intervened to help the Whites in Russia much good would have resulted but that would have been both idealistic and self-interested. It is best when the two go hand in hand.


The British people are compassionate and noble. Germans are too, much too noble, but it's the role of political leaders to resist the sentimentalists. The Syrian refugees could have been helped by Germany close to the Syrian border, though most of these people are not Syrians and all are economic migrants. Instead a very disastrous precedent has been set. It is because of the ideological mess the rich world is in regarding nationhood.

Long live Cecil Rhodes



I am pleased Oriel College, Oxford will be keeping the statue of Cecil Rhodes.


Britain should take pride in her imperial past. The British Empire was a much greater and more benign one than the Roman empire. (And Rhodesia was much happier before black rule than now under Mugabe and a new name.)


The empire's achievements include Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, the USA and Canada, the colony that stayed at home to look after mother.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Lord Weidenfeld, a notable asylum seeker, on Muslim immigrants


Lord Weidenfeld the publisher is dead, another famous party-thrower whom I never met. I never was a social climber and this is something I regret. He was short, fat and ugly and hugely successful with women. I remember he is said to have told Barbara Amiel as a chat-up line

I am the Diaghilev of cunnilingus.
My source is probably Private Eye and certainly unreliable.

I am more of a fan of his (inactive) partner, the late Nigel Nicolson, who was a very good writer like his father, Sir Harold Nicolson. Weidenfeld achieved a lot, but the reason why I am blogging about him is because of an interview he gave on BBC Radio 4 in March last year. Among other things, he said that if things became hard for them as a result of anti-Semitism 

Jews could go to Israel but...the rest?
 and that the people of Europe might be stuck with 
millions of not-so-friendly people
I thought this was worth remembering and pondering.

Lord Weidenfeld (he was ennobled by Harold Wilson and later joined the SDP) was one of the very many Jewish asylum seekers who fled Hitler and greatly enriched Britain. According to his Daily Telegraph obituary
Weidenfeld had a deep affection for Christianity and at the age of 95 tried to “repay the debt” to the British Christians who had helped him to settle in Britain, gathering “some very high-minded friends, Jews and Christians” – including Lord Rothschild, the philanthropist Martin Green and the banker Sir Charles Hoare – to fund a rescue mission to bring Christian families out of Syria and Iraq and resettle them.

He was criticised for focusing on Christians but retorted: “They [Muslims] have huge wealth, they could have found ways of saving lives.”

The Washington Post obituary said that his party-going advice was to sidle up to the most interesting person in the room and listen.

'I am what is not': Iraq's oldest monastery has been destroyed by ISIS

Iraq's oldest Christian monastery destroyed by Islamic State



says the BBC headline. The Mar Elia monastery has been razed by ISIS. The story is here.



Oh no, oh no, oh no. 


It would be a lie to deny that this moves me much more than the deaths of thousands. William Golding said that it was indefensible to care more for the survival of Salisbury Cathedral than that of a child, but wicked or not, of course I do.

Looking on the net, I see that the Mar Elia monastery was built in the late 6th century, renovated in the 17th century and was in ruins by the 20th century. Some parts of it though were clearly very ancient.


I was lucky enough, a few years ago, to visit an even older monastery in Iraq, the Mar Mattai monastery, founded in 363 by a hermit, Mattai or Matthew, who was fleeing persecution by Julian the Apostate. However, all you can see of the the Mar Mattai monastery is late 19th century, though the lower parts of some of the pillars in the nave are mediaeval. It is still intact, protected by the Kurdish Peshmerga, thank God.

I remember a monk at the Mar Mattai monastery telling me, what is self-evident enough, that Saddam was a very good thing for Christians. The monk told me that a Jew told him, when the Jews were driven out,
They are expelling the Saturday people now. It will be the turn of the Sunday people later. 
Undoubtedly George W. Bush, the USA and the UK can be blamed for all that has happened since they overthrew Saddam, but Saddam would not have lived or ruled forever. Nor would Gaddafi. It may very well be that strong men could have kept the Middle East at peace (they made a desert and called it peace) for a generation longer - we cannot know. It may be that this resurgence of Islam was likely to happen one day. This resurgence in fact began with the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and continued on September 11th, 2001.

There is a war being waged by some Muslims against Christians and Christendom, however much the West does not want to think about this idea. They are the terrorists, but the aim of conquering Christendom is not confined to terrorists.

Two Turkish friends of mine, whose judgement I respect, both ex-Muslims, tell me that Muslims in many countries, including the Saudi royal family and Mr. Erdogan, see the flood of migrants as a means of achieving a Muslim Europe. Two Syrian Christian friends, who read internet fora in Arabic, promise me that this is how very many Middle Eastern Muslims feel. 

And why should they not? I am pleased that Britain ruled India and would love the Middle East to become Christian again.

How far away these ideas are from those of the people in Europe who welcomed the migrants. Robin Lustig, who until recently read the news on the BBC World Service, a respected man, was saying
Welcome them all. Dig up the Greenbelt, create new cities, turn our Downton Abbeys into flats. Whatever it takes.
I remember he argued that migrants should be employed to build over the golf courses of Britain, to build houses and flats for themselves. I choose him at random as an example of one of the more embarrassing migrant-maniacs but there were so many others. The most extreme and embarrassing of them all, tragically, was Angela Merkel. There were many migrant-maniacs until Cologne, at least, and the sad truth is that there probably still are almost as many. 

This is a death wish. It mirrors ISIS's wish to destroy.

As always at the heart of evil is the urge to destroy. God in the Old Testament sublimely says 
I am Who am
or, in Hebrew,
Yahweh
meaning 
I am being itself.
Evil, by contrast, Lucifer if you will, is destruction itself, negation itself, annihilation. This is the paradox of evil. It is very real, it very certainly exists and yet it is, at its heart, nothing.
I am what is not.



The silence of the feminists: the dog that didn't bark in the night

Feminists, I hope, will be reminded of Cologne every time they talk about rape for many years to come. I hope worse things do not happen for them to ignore.

The almost complete silence from feminists about the events in Cologne on New year's Eve 
has been deafening. Feminists talk about a non-existent Western rape culture but not about sex crimes committed by Muslims throughout Europe, which are now suddenly being openly discussed in the previously craven press. 

Click here for a Guardian article that does touch gingerly and laughably on the subject, no doubt written on the orders of the editor. (The writer muses about whether the affluence of young German women, evidenced by their mobile telephones, led to the assaults.) 

Yet when, during a recent television interview, a cricketer asked a woman journalist to have dinner with him the outrage by feminists made world headlines.


Whatever it is that most influential feminists care passionately about, it is not women. Curiously, or maybe it's not that curious, when it comes to the crunch (as it now has) social conservatives turn out to care about women much more.

I hope that this historical moment might discredit both feminism and the idea of taking in migrants into Europe. I am a perennial, inveterate optimist. It might do.

Feminists are usually left-wing socialists, very often Marxists. What 
left-wing socialists want is to overthrow the system, the existing social order. Women are a supposedly oppressed and therefore revolutionary class. They are also 51% of humanity and therefore very useful, but non-white people are another, and much bigger, oppressed class. Complaining about non-white immigrants does not help to overthrow or undermine the system. On the contrary, is bolsters the system. Therefore it is counter-revolutionary.

All this is becoming much clearer suddenly, though we should all have know it long ago.

From Lenin onwards the hard left do not do altruism. They do blind fanaticism and rigid discipline. Islam has much good in it, but Marxism has none.


Here is a rather wonderful article by a very talented writer, Jane Kelly, on the feminists' indifference to oppression and rape committed by Muslims. I recognise the kind of Oxbridge feminists that she meets at dinner parties. They were hard to stomach as undergraduates and are now in positions of influence.

Veteran German feminist Alice Schwarzer has made a lot of enemies among other feminists by criticising the way Muslim men treat women in Germany. She said in an interview yesterday with Die Welt that the politically correct bubble has burst. She also said that sexual violence was now being used as a weapon of war in Germany. Shockingly, she went on to say,
“20 years ago, a Cologne police officer said to me: ‘Alice, 70 to 80 percent of all rapes in Cologne go to the account of Turks.’ I was shocked and replied: ‘You absolutely must make it public! Even a Turk is not born as a rapist. There must be causes. What’s going on here? What can we do?’
“But the message was clear: ‘No way, that’s not politically opportune’. 

A very interesting article in Frontpage eviscerates a feminism in thrall to the hard left.

Underneath feminism is the rotten leftist creed that all evils originate with the West. It is as impossible for a mainstream feminist in good standing with the political sisterhood to acknowledge what truly happened in Cologne and commiserate with the victims as it was for a Communist to admit that there was no food because a centralised bureaucracy of senile Socialist civil servants is not the best way to run an economy......
The left does not help women. The left only helps the left. Beneath the slick advertising, the artsy designs that lend the illusion of the personal to the impersonal and the touching video narratives is the soul of an ideological machine whose acolytes are trained to allocate empathy in tune with a rigid set of rules that are as inflexible as any Soviet commissar's handbook.The left is not in the business of caring, but of coordinating, and it exploits empathy to gain recruits only to mandate the things that they are allowed to care about in a coordinated ideological fashion.
Big Feminism, along with the rest of its leftist partners, created the conditions that led to the Muslim attacks on women on New Year's Eve. And feminists are leading the cover up of the crisis they caused and continue to worsen by advocating for even more refugee admissions.

Notice that when Muslims assault young German women, left-wing journalists put it into context. No-one seems to put the EDL or Pegida into context, though. When Germans demonstrate against attacks on foreigners this, rightly, receives respectful coverage. When Germans demonstrate against attacks by foreigners on young German women they are called dangerous extremists. Some German men avoided being considered extreme right by dressing up in skirts to make a protest against the sexual assaults. 

The Wall St Journal today tells us more very bad news, which we should have been told last summer. Though it should not be a surprise, it will be to all the very many people who said the refugees would solve Germany's problems of an ageing population and declining numbers of school leavers.
Two-thirds of the newcomers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are men below the age of 33. More than half of them are below 25. Overwhelmingly unattached, they don’t live under the civilising influence of mothers, sisters or wives.Acculturation into the strict sex codes of the West takes years, whereas the next batch of 50,000 is due this month, at current rates....Sadly, these asylum seekers are the “wrong” people for the wrong economy. Low-skill jobs fetching a decent wage are waning throughout the West, but only one-quarter of Iraqis come with completed vocational training. 

The paper quotes an economist, Professor Ludger Woessmann, saying that two-thirds of the Syrian refugees can barely read and write.

Tino Sanandaji of the Stockholm Business School told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“It takes an average of seven years before a refugee gets a steady job.”
One knows that this is only the start of many years of bad news about migrants, refugees and Muslim newcomers.

Is this thought wicked? It crossed my mind to wonder if migrants who commit crimes in Germany could be given to Syria to form a Syrian version of the Foreign Legion to fight ISIS or whoever the Syrian army fights.

I am joking, but it is notable that they could be sent to Syria. The Syrian government would do them no harm because they left. Unlike people with the right to be given refuge under the provisions of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, these people are not fleeing because they have a well-grounded far of persecution. They are fleeing a war zone, which is a quite different matter. In fact, very large numbers are not Syrians but from many other countries. 

Germany has shown great weakness in the face of the untold millions of young men from poor countries, the majority Muslim, who want to come to the rich world to better themselves. It will be harder to create a Fortress Europe in the future, even if the will to do so is found.

And still they come. In the first two weeks of 2016 almost 25,000 refugees reached the EU, at a rate of over 1,700 every day.