The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

 

You’re never alone with schizophrenia

Sometimes I ask myself, are you lonely?

And the answer comes back, no, not really. Not with all these multiple, disjunctive personalities bickering together, snoring, itching, offering sage or misleading counsel in my head.

There’s the Paranoid One. He goes to bed in the dark and keeps the curtains closed, so no-one will know he exists. Sometimes I hear him bantering nastily with the Guilty One, whose fingernails are bitten to the bone waiting for the knock on the door. He is responsible for everything bad in the world.

Then there’s the Satirical One, who drives me to work at the computer every morning; and the Alcoholic One. Whatever resolutions the Sensible One may have made during the day, come six o’clock the Alcoholic One always remembers he’s forgotten to buy dogfood and returns with a bottle of wine and a sheepish grin.

The Calculating One then reminds us both that at £7 a bottle we are spending two-and-a-half thousand pounds a year on this stuff we can’t afford, just to try and shut the others up.

The Forgetful One spends hours Googling stuff he knows he knows, but can’t recall. Names, dates, the roots and outcomes of historical events – the meanings of common nouns and adjectives. Meanwhile, that offputting personality, the Fearful Procrastinator is working out how long we’ve got before the hospital reminds us we haven’t made that appointment to have a camera shoved up our cancerous old colon, and if we don’t hurry up we’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Ambitious One is constantly hovering in the wings, muttering darkly that time is running out. He’s a mate of the Still-Young-And-Handsome One, who’s worrying that Size 36” seems to be shrinking and you haven’t showered, shaved or changed your socks for three weeks.

Advice to get a life usually seems to hinge on joining some activity group. So that’s fine for the one evening a week in term-time when you can exercise or go singing and meet up briefly afterwards for a drink and a chat. Although you can never be certain which one of you is doing the talking? It only intensifies the darkness when you get home afterwards and yesterday’s washing-up is waiting in the sink.

And it’s fine for the one week a year when we can all pack our T-shirts and shorts and head off together to France to study with real musicians, who don’t exist the other 51 weeks of the year. Until the Failed Sinatra personality follows me to bed at three a.m. unkindly pointing out where I started on the wrong beat, sang out of key, missed several crucial high notes and was pathetic at directing the band.

Couples get invited out. In my previous working world of domestic support services, couples get offered very well-paid residential jobs as… couples. Couples can go on holiday and do things together, or apart – couples have those choices. Couples can sometimes delegate responsibility for things they individually find difficult or irksome, knowing the other will probably help. Couples can rely on one another to say when you are being a twat. Couples might even care for one another in old age.

The Unbearable One is resolutely opposed to the idea of becoming a couple again. He points out with some justification that, with all that going on in your head, with no money and smelly socks, impotent and increasingly housebound, you are hardly a catch.

So no, a schizophrenic is never lonely.

 

A matter of course

Lest anyone imagine I cannot crack a smile, if they have not been watching the Olympic golf they will not understand the reason for my great amusement currently, but it is to do with golf-course etiquette.

In situations where congratulations or thanks are in order during a round, or where a golfer has holed in one or something, I have noticed that men golfers tend to fist-bump and high-five one another a lot.

At the end of the round there are manly hugs to distribute among the caddies, match officials, colleagues and rival players in the three-ball, and these can be quite close, muscular, emotional affairs that one might describe as ‘bear-hugs’.

Between the ladies, however, their opponents and (mostly male) caddies, there are embraces, and these are ritually distant; just a brush with one hand going behind the back and a sort of crane-like dip towards one another, gaze averted, the aim being to achieve absolutely minimal contact.

Is it to avoid transmitting Zika? Humans are funny.

BTW… If your daughter is white, blonde and wears her hair in a ponytail, why not enter her in the Olympics? She might do well!

 

The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

“…Libya was stable; Syria was under control; Egypt was ruled by a secular ally of the United States. Iraq was experiencing a reduction of violence and Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions.”

In an astonishing attack on Barack Obama’s foreign policy, in the apparent belief that voters are so ignorant they will accept any lie so long as it is sufficiently American, Donald Trump has claimed that before 2009, Libya was a stable nation, as was Syria; Iraq was on the mend, a peaceful country, while Egypt was safely in the hands of a secular ally of America and Iran was safely contained by sanctions. Obama, he says, destroyed all that through his evil policy of ‘nation building’ and appeasement and Crooked Hillary will only continue on the same reckless course to the detriment of America’s greatness.

Of course, al-Quaeda did not exist before Obama was elected… Hezbollah did not exist, Iran was not building a bomb, Iraq was not in a civil war between rival militias. If he truly believes this claptrap, he is a very much more dangerous threat to world peace than anyone in history I can think of. (I’m not saying more than Adolf you-know-who, right? Am I right about that? Yeah, you better believe it. Anyway….)

The facts are somewhat at variance with his simple analysis.

Before 2009, Libya was the principal sponsor of state-backed terrorism in the Middle East and beyond, supplying weapons and explosives to the IRA in Northern Ireland, responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 101; tens of thousands of Libyans opposed to the regime or suspected of being so were rotting in gaol, torture and extrajudicial executions were rife. A rapist and murderer, Gaddafi could only be persuaded to stop trying to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan in exchange for the most lucrative oil deal in history and a kiss on both cheeks from Tony Blair.

(I can forgive Blair for some things, but never for that nauseating, nationally humiliating display of Christian forgiveness of a deranged monster who, one sincerely hopes, is for all Eternity slowly and agonisingly turning on the Devil’s toasting fork.)

Presumably Trump thoroughly approves of Colonel Gaddafi and his peaceful methods of bringing stability to Libya.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was a corrupt authoritarian dictator, his rotten regime and Swiss bank balance propped up by tens of billions of dollars of US aid, including massive amounts of advanced weaponry to maintain his army in its firm grip of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions in exchange for a pledge not to use it on Israel, and compliance with a policy of bare religious tolerance.

The army ran, effectively, a second state, its economy virtually independent from that of the mainstream. Following the wobble of Tahrir Square and a brief interregnum of the not-too extreme Muslim Brotherhood, elected on a democratic vote, the military mounted a coup and the country is now safely back in the hands of another authoritarian dictator, General al-Sisi, who has sought to rehabilitate Mubarak; while thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters rot in gaol, many on death row.

That’s the way to do it. Like we interned the Japs in the war. Muslims, right? Know what I’m saying? Am I right?

Mr Trump has accused President Obama, whom he takes care to refer to as ‘Barack HUSSEIN Obama’, of being a secret Muslim, and of supporting the Islamic State in its ambition to restore the Abbassid caliphate. Mr Trump sincerely believes that Obama was born, not in the 50th US state of Hawaii, as it says on his birth certificate, but in his father’s home country, Kenya, and is therefore illegally in occupation of the White House.

Mr Trump indeed believes all sorts of things; anything he can convert into another ‘know what I mean?’ subtle innuendo, that will gain him votes from the crazy community; the paranoid ‘future-phobes’: survivalists, revolutionaries and millennarians, the legions of the disappointed and the conservative-leaning blue-collar anti-managerialists who make up his enraged lower-middle-class constituency; many of whom live in the hope that he is The Messiah who will bring about The Rapture, having first removed any non-Europeans beyond The Wall; ignoring the point that, of all the managerial elite, their hero is the most managerial and in financial terms, among the most elitist of them all.

Mr Trump seems to have forgotten too, how the current situation in Iraq came about, through the ‘nation building’ not of Barack Obama, but of Republican president George W Bush, his friend Tony Blair and their friends the Wahhabist dynasty, the House of Saud, egged on by corporatist neocons in the Washington cocoon. Iraq was previously a stable country all right, thanks to a regime of extreme domestic terror, while thousands of his political opponents rotted in gaol under threat of public execution and Saddam’s Ba’ath party placemen enjoyed the economic and political limelight.

Way to go, Donald.

Another of Mr Trump’s election-winning beliefs (who knows what he believes?) is that climate change is not happening, right? I mean, it’s just not happening, know what I’m saying? It’s a Chinese conspiracy. Meanwhile, Jerry Brown, the governor of California,  a climate-change believer, has had to declare another state of emergency as brushfires rage out of control in San Bernadino County, after years of economically devastating drought; while Louisiana is experiencing the worst flooding ever recorded in the Mississippi basin.

These are no longer random events, they are happening on a global scale with increasing severity and frequency – entirely as predicted in the climate science. Science being a dirty word for half of Americans who believe, with Donald J Trump, who can personally vouch for it, in the literal truth of the Bible; and who welcome the prospect of the End Times. A dirty word too for the fossil fuel barons, whom Trump is winning over with speeches extolling the virtues of coal and oil as the clean fuels of tomorrow.

It’s all fine, Donald can fix the weather, you’ll see. He’ll do a deal with God, am I right or what? Is the Pope a Communist? No, just kidding. No smoke without fire.

It might be asked, which problem is it that Mr Obama has brought about, since you cannot blame on the one hand his interventionist ‘nation building’, and on the other hand, his appeasement and a desire to reset relations with the rest of the world. It’s an implausible dichotomy, frankly. And we are wondering, aren’t we, on what evidence Trump believes he needs to increase the size and power of the already hugely expensive US Army, the most powerful in the world, when he is so opposed to foreign interventions; and what he means exactly by making America ‘great’ again – when was it ever not ‘great’? Does he just mean ‘white’? Meanwhile the economy is growing, unemployment falling, wages rising….

Mr Trump concludes, not without relish, that we are living in an Age of Terror, that only he can bring to an end. He will build a wall to keep terror out.

So, which is the greater threat to the security of the USA, I wonder? Terrorism, on the very minor scale at which America has been experiencing it since 9/11 – that’s America, whose own well-armed population of gung-ho paranoiacs and drug gangs is responsible for thirty thousand gun killings a year – or the most profound, irresponsible ignorance and brute stupidity any candidate for the Presidency with only self-contradictory, rhetorical platitudes and no policies to offer his adoring fans can ever have demonstrated in US political history?

Unless he’s only kidding, of course.

 

Hearts, minds and so forth

Is anyone else waking up with a feeling of unease that, after much air-punching and devout wishes that the man will rot forever in Belmarsh or be extradited by the CIA to Cuba for some extreme vetting, or be dropped into Aleppo by parachute to see what his slimy utterances are really making of the comfortable world he inhabits, the radical preacher Anjem Choudary has been found guilty of, essentially, exercising only what we in Britain used to refer to naively as his freedom of speech?

The security forces, it is said, have been trying to ‘get’ Choudary for the past twenty years for his radicalising Jihadist rhetoric; the problem being, he never himself apparently engaged in any skulduggery, or overstepped the increasingly tricky line between polemic and hate-speech. Only when his supporters – who may have included planted agitators  – became a threat to his pre-eminence, demanding more extreme support for Jihad, did he slip up in briefly praising the efforts of the so-called Islamic State.

So the story goes; there’s that unexplained gap of three weeks between the jury verdict and the media announcement, in which anything could have been cooked-up.

Speech supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation that operates with extreme, nihilistic brutality under a wafer-thin veneer of religious respectability, even against its own co-religionists, is a criminal offence, not just bad judgement; and so he will go to gaol, probably for a long time. And good riddance; by all accounts the man was a slippery, manipulative, controlling egotist, a cult leader by whose poisonous words a number of fairly tragic young men and women were persuaded to engage in acts of terrorism and flights to Syria to join the IS – actions for which, while approving them,  Choudary considered himself not personally responsible.

Gross hypocrisy is, of course, not the sole prerogative of religious Imams, as someone like Mr Farage is demonstrating, continuing to draw his fat salary and expenses from the very institution he has been seeking for sixteen years to bring down – by perfectly legal means, it must be said. His powerful, radicalising rhetoric has persuaded thousands of ordinary men and women to vote for his fundamentalist views against their own best interests, and those of their country. His speech sometimes puts him in the camp, if not inside the tent, of bullying, extremist proto-fascist parties that instigate violence against minorities. Yet we accord him the freedom of the media.

Because the leadership of IS has essentially declared war on the West, and instructed its followers to carry out atrocities in Europe and elsewhere, wherever in fact there are large Muslim populations whose disaffected young men and women can be persuaded of the historic importance of such acts in the divinely sanctioned mission to reinstate the worldwide caliphate under Sharia, it seems right and proper that we should counter their campaign with all means at our disposal.

But look. Surely the suppression of rabble-rousing speakers has a poor history of success in halting religious and political movements for revolutionary change? One thinks of Thomas Paine, author of the tract ‘The Rights of Man’, imprisoned and driven into exile, whose subversive ideas subsequently fuelled both the American and French revolutions;  of the Chartist, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt; of Karl Marx, who found refuge in C19th England, and whose academic analysis of capitalism led within a century to the murders and starvation of tens of millions in failed ideological experiments of a most inhuman kind.

I feel certain that during the twenty years the security forces had been hoping to ‘get’ Choudary, he will have had his uses to them. And I still think it must surely be better to let the people speak, however unpalatably and provocatively, than to amplify the importance of their ideas through the suppression of speech; far more productive to contain their actions, than to stifle their words; which we should all be allowed to hear.

What we are not hearing is any credible message of counter-radicalisation; any persuasive defence, backed by outward acts of integration and advancement for our struggling minorities, of a way of life which a minority of incomers seem to find so hard to accept. Is it racist to ask why anyone would deliberately choose to remain in a part of the world where they find the prevailing culture so inimical to the sacred beliefs and traditions of their place of origin that they can be so easily diverted by crude fundamentalists?

In reality, it is difficult to see how such a complex set of customs and practices as ‘Britain’ has evolved over the centuries can be explained in terms of simple, attractive, easily grasped images that might appeal to religious conservatives. Is that ‘Britain’ not what attracted them to move here in the first place? Perhaps Mr Farage could be persuaded to turn his considerable oratorical talents to the presentation of an alternative paradigm for Britain’s disaffected young Muslim population?

In the battle for ‘hearts and minds’, it is not helpful to marginalise the very people you are hoping to win over.

 

 

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Stirring the jam back out of the pudding #2

Historians regard the Mongol raids and invasions as some of the deadliest conflicts in human history. Brian Landers has offered that, “One empire in particular exceeded any that had gone before, and crossed from Asia into Europe in an orgy of violence and destruction. The Mongols brought terror to Europe on a scale not seen again until the twentieth century.” Diana Lary contends that the Mongol invasions induced population displacement “on a scale never seen before,” particularly in Central Asia and eastern Europe.

– Wikipedia: ‘Mongol Invasions and Conquests’

According to the UN, there are currently some fifty million refugees – persons displaced by conflict, climate change and economic deprivation – wandering about the world looking for a home.

Each day, the news reports on boat people – men, women and children – drowning in their hundreds in the Mediterranean, or stranded, fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, in their thousands aboard leaky vessels off the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia without food, fresh water or hope of official rescue; migrants being trafficked and left to die in the Sahara or the Texas panhandle; British voters bitching on about ‘too many foreigners’ being let in to the country, the rise of narrow nationalism.

We sometimes hear too, when there is no tiresome British ‘election news’ to divert the news editors from their obsession with celebrity trivia, of the ten million displaced persons in the expanding Syrian civil war; of refugees streaming away from conflict in eastern Ukraine; of the ebb and flow of the creation of the new ‘caliphate’ state known as ISIL and its attendant massacres, mass expulsions and slave trafficking; of the displacement of tens of thousands in Darfur, Eritrea, Mali, northern Nigeria and even Libya, owing to continued ethnic and religious violence.

Most of these 21st-century enforced migrants are Muslims, as would have been the case during the Mongol expansion into the Islamic empire. Where would they have gone? Many westward, to North Africa and Spain. Most, it seems, were massacred where they lived: a typical Mongol ‘horde’ consisted of ten thousand highly disciplined soldiers, each of whom was personally required on pain of death during one campaign alone to execute a quota of 24 captives…. The slaughter at the seige of Baghdad, for instance, was on a scale imaginable only with the invention of modern weapons of mass destruction.

Today’s crisis is largely being brought on by violence between, not against, rival Muslim sects and, frankly, tribal or criminal gang warfare. Behind it, however, lie opportunities for the strong to seize power, that have been created in a number of states in the wake of failed wars and ‘investment’ strategies involving largely American and Russian interests, together with the economic disadvantages caused by corrupt regional government, chronic under-development, overpopulation and climate change – examples of which include the relentless onward march of the Sahel and the salination of agricultural lands.

Historically, too, oil has been a key factor in attempts by Western governments and corporate interests to engineer ultimately unstable polities in the region.

A quick check on Wikipedia produces a fascinating comparison with the massive displacements and depopulations that occurred throughout most of the 13th century as a result of the murderous expansion of the Mongol empire, which was eventually turned back by Charles Martel at the gates of Vienna (although, fascinating ‘fact’, its expansion in the Middle East was curtailed as a result of there being not enough grass for their horses – the same reason, lack of fuel for their tanks, that halted the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes in 1944. ‘Plus ça change…‘ indeed!).

The Mongols have even been accused of biological warfare, deliberately spreading plague. After 1347, it is estimated, one third of the population of Europe was wiped out in the space of two years, owing to ‘the Black Death’. That number, about thirty million, compares with a reduction identified by Lary, of about forty-two million in the Chinese population as a result of massacres and flight during the previous century. Set against a human population of now, over seven BILLION, however, even these terrifyingly large numbers of casualties would represent less than half a percentage point of the total and would be made up again within two years.

The moral is that the human world is in a constant state of flux, and that from time to time, irresistible forces of population growth combined with the rise of ambitious and ruthless leaders will create major perturbations in the patterns of settlement that bring about nation states. We may be experiencing the beginnings of just such a radical transformation in our lifetimes.

Things may indeed get a great deal worse, if the century of Mongol expansion is to be reflected in many years of chaos as a result of the re-emergence of a radical Islam committed to a strategy of conquest through ultra-violence, set against the trend to a warming world of resource shortages and the too-visible weakening of the Western military and cultural counterbalances.

British and other European-nation voter concerns about an unacceptable excess of ‘foreigners’ – people of alien appearance and culture – hurling themselves in desperation against our gates are both a becoming irrelevance, given three factrs: the porosity of our modern borders; the need for cheaper labour to outcompete the Eastward drain of manufacturing and IT jobs (and to support our ageing native populations), and the seeming lack of concern and will in our governments to find cogent policy solutions – yet at the same time, they are a more serious portent of things to come.

But what are the options? To arm ourselves and gun these unfortunate people down, or hope to incarcerate them conspiracy by perceived conspiracy, eroding wider human rights with ever-more oppressive and futile legislative measures; before, as is our fear, their growing communities with their restless ideology and relative social disadvantage irrupt in hostility against us?

To try somehow to tackle the triple threat of violent jihadism, international criminality and economic chaos at its roots (throwing money at a problem is always a good strategy, but it doesn’t work for long)?

Or to bend to the force of History and accept that the nation-states model of ‘civilization’ we have mostly known for the past five hundred years, based on ethnic, political and religious cohesiveness, is finished; and that many, possibly millions of us, will die violently or hungrily before a new historical paradigm emerges?

You cannot stir the jam back out of the semolina.

The Eye of Horus

Adhesives of this, muh li’l bogl, will by now be fully cognisant of my penchant for relishing coincidences.

It’s a neurological condition, brought on by having nothing much to do. And it plays wonderfully well into my growing paranoia.

So (I hate it when people start every answer to a question ponderously, with ‘So…’. You need a sense of the heavily ironic to read this stuff, I’m sorry.)

So, the other night I took Hunzi out for his late-night outing. Across the road is a single-storey house, that is supposedly let to students. Outside the house was parked an expensive German car. Behind it, blocking its exit, a Mini.

Earlier that day, I had seen a man drive up to the house. His passenger was a woman of African appearance. He wore a beard (in fact, he may even have been growing it). They went inside.

I know few students of his age – early 30s – who drive upmarket, almost new BMWs, with left-hand-drive, registered in Germany. Understand, this is not London, where 30-somethings all drive expensive German cars. This is Boglington-on-Sea, where we all drive broken-down VWs, 1970s Land-Rovers with sheep in trailers, battered white vans and Fordson tractors.

I had noticed the car, with its F-for-Frankfurt plates, hanging around, parked in various nearby places, over at least the last six months. I had wondered what it was doing here, who drove it? But I had never seen anyone driving it.

I wondered too about the ‘students’ in the house. I have a son who is a student. He doesn’t live the way these ‘students’ do, he stays with a bunch of mates in the same places all year, the student-let contracts are for 11 months and he wants his money’s worth. These ‘students’ however seem to change over every few weeks.

And they are all, dare I mention it, of ethnic minority background. This has been the case for the past two years, that the house has been let to mostly women, identifiably of Indo-Pakistani, Micronesian and African heritage.

I had begun to worry too about the Frankfurt connection. I recalled the post-9/11 furore, the discovery of an al-Quaeda cell in Frankfurt, with links to the plotters. Who was this man? Why is he here? My paranoia grew.

As we passed the house, I heard a woman’s voice raised. I shrugged into my old-man disguise and shuffled on. Hunzi and I turned as usual into the first of the chain of paddocks between the main road and the houses, following the worn trail left by dogwalkers, illuminated between the vivid white streetlights over to our left, above the fields, and a brilliant moon shining from between scudding clouds.

Reaching the far end of the third paddock, where the path vanishes into the darkness of a hedgerow, where we usually turn round, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and I noticed something glinting in the long grass by the hedge. Instinct made me bend down and pick it up. It was a discarded soft-drink can.

And it was riddled with bullet-holes.

We lived on a farm. We had an air rifle, for the rats. Not that we ever managed to hit any. The boy and I used to shoot tin cans. They move slower than rats. So I know what a shot tin can looks like. It looked like this one.

There were five entry holes in front, but only three exit holes at the back. Low-power .22 air rifle, or pistol then. So at close range – the grouping was excellent. But the shooter had removed the spent pellets, crushed the can and tossed it in the long grass. It was a strange place to go for target practice, for all kinds of reasons I worked-out. I won’t go into them now, or we’ll be here all day.

Anyway, growing paranoia, next day I found myself wandering around B&Q’s spacious hardware shed. I’d gone in with a vague idea of checking out some prices, finding some tomato plants (too early), a thingy to unblock drains that you connect to your power drill (I’m sure somebody makes one).

At which, I came across the home security section and thought for a while about maybe the CCTV pack, a neat little camera with a phone app that for £100 sends images of visiting terrorists and 7th-Day Adventists on the doorstep to your phone.

Then I decided against it, for all kinds of reasons, etc.

And today I take Hunzi back across the road for his daily excursion round the sewage works, and there is a van parked down the side-road, and a power-lift and a pickup truck, they are from a CCTV company, and they are doing some kind of installation there, to keep us all safe in our beds.

I have a theory about CCTV.

You remember God?

And how we used to be told he was always watching over us, like the Eye of Horus?

Well, since we no longer do God, we seem to have turned to technology instead to give us that same comforting feeling.

Personally I hate it, that’s why I came here, to get away from Nanny, from God and from CCTV cameras. I like my privacy. I don’t want to feel comforted, to feel safe. I like feeling totally disconnected from society. No-one is threatening us, there are no burglars here, no muggers, no rapists lurking in the shadows. No-one even goes out after 10pm, except Hunzi and I. There are no shadows! The town council has abolished darkness.

With the new street lighting illuminating every corner of my home deep into what used to be the night, and now the CCTV cameras, I feel worse about everything than usual. I feel violated.

And with a shooter on the loose…

Get me out of here!

 

Postscriptum

Okay, I’ve just had a Spam email offering me ‘Mini cameras – Internet cameras’…

I’m going to the understairs cupboard now. I may be gone some time.

 

 

Getting in the mood

So…

This, the 423rd Post, marks the third anniversary of muh li’l bogl! Happy birthday, BogPo. Three today.

I’m normally an October person, but obviously The Boglington Post (formerly themindbogls – I haven’t found out yet how you can formally change the name) was born under a different star. I’ve checked, and this is what the egregious haruspex, Mr Russell Grant, has to say on the subject:

Pisces
You’re in a good mood, so take advantage of it.

So, okay, er… I’m not really used to being in a good mood, Russell, you’ll have to enlighten me.

Libra is never in a good mood, we tend to be swimming around in champagne, always purchasing fine art and about to meet the person of our dreams or land that dream job, both of which sound like daunting prospects; that is, when we are not being urged to be a little more cautious with our money.

Clearly Pisces, the sign of the Fish, leads a more carefree existence, whistling a little tune as it goes about its finny business through the increasingly acidic, warming waterways of life. Lucky Pisces.

The morning however began on a note of tragedy, with news that yet another free-thinking writer has died, hacked to death in Bangladesh by a machete-wielding mob of credulous medieval village cretins. Avijit Roy, a secular blogger and author who had joint US citizenship, and his wife had probably foolishly accepted an invitation to attend a book fair in Dhaka, where they were dragged from a rickshaw taxi and Mr Roy, 40, butchered in the street. Rafida Roy is recovering in hospital.

I am more than ever convinced that civilization is heading back to the Dark Ages. Except that, during what classicist historians mourning the death of Rome used to fancifully call the European Dark Age, it was a period of intense enlightenment in the Islamic world. A light that a tiny cabal of power-hungry gangsters drunk on their capacity for self-promoting ultraviolence and religious hypocrisy, supported ideologically by a teeming horde of directionless, disempowered nobodies, are anxious should be extinguished wherever it is found.

I wonder if Avijit Roy was in a good mood when he set out.

The second casualty

Preface

The following Post was written the day before it was reported that ‘DNA evidence’ had caused the Israeli army to conclude that Lt Hadar Goldin was most probably vaporised in action, not ‘kidnapped by Hamas’. Over 200 Palestinians have died in 24-hours of military operations to search for Lt Goldin.

 

Listeners to the news who have not already drawn a hot bath and opened their veins will be aware that an Israeli soldier has gone missing, presumed captured by Hamas forces in, or outside, Gaza.

There are so many ifs and buts and caveats and gaps and question marks surrounding this story, that it is impossible to know what to think.

Israeli military PR exists to create one massive smokescreen over the latest bloody incursion into Gaza, but unfortunately this time the world appears to be able to see clearly enough to have a view. And we aren’t liking what we’re seeing.

As of this morning, roughly 1,500 Gazans have been killed in Israeli shellfire and air attacks. The Israelis say it is precision work targeting Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels, but the vast majority of casualties – and there are thousands more wounded – are civilians.

This is because, according to the worldwide Israeli PR machine, Hamas is using the people of Gaza as ‘human shields’. That civilians are going to be killed in large numbers is inevitable, as anyone caught in the open within 100 yards of an air-to-ground rocket exploding is going to be torn to shreds. You don’t have to be a ‘human shield’, since the population of Gaza is one of the densest of any human habitation in the world. Precision shellfire is always an oxymoron.

Despite prior notification, a number of UN-declared ‘safe houses’ (mostly schools) for the 440,000-plus internally displaced refugees in Gaza have been hit, according to the Israeli spokespersons by stray rockets fired by Hamas militants; according to everyone else, by misdirected (or maybe not) Israeli shellfire. Several hundred children under 12 have been killed, possibly over a thousand injured, by stray Hamas air-to-ground missiles from Hamas drones, the Hamas airforce and Hamas naval barrages.

In Israel so far, three civilians have died, none of them children, as a result of over 3,000 rockets fired by Hamas. Too many, of course. Red Cross and Red Crescent posts and vehicles and hospitals have also been hit by stray Hamas rockets; and the only power station in Gaza too, another unfortunate own-goal that has left the ghet… sorry, city without power, possibly for a year until it can be got back online. Water supplies, too, have dried up, probably as a result of Hamas’ wayward rocketry causing leaks.

We should not be too surprised, then, when a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ due to last 72 hours, and lead to – horror of horrors, peace talks – breaks down after the first 90 minutes, as a result of a reported incursion by Hamas into Israel, via one of over 1,700 tunnels they have been busy digging out of the city; in the resultant engagement, two more Israeli soldiers being killed as a suicide bomber explodes his vest. Worse, a young reservist, 2nd Lt Hadar Goldin, is apparently ‘kidnapped’, in the curious word of the military PR flaks, and has disappeared into the maelstrom that is Gaza.

And suddenly, all else pales into insignificance. Israel and America cry ‘Foul!’ Hamas has committed a grave war crime. All Israel is outraged. They will move heaven and earth to find him. They have already lost over 60 soldiers killed in the incursion into the strip, but the ‘kidnapping’ of Lt Goldin takes the biscuit. Another 47 Palestinians (now 200 – update timed at 6pm) have been killed overnight, apparently in operations designed to find Lt Goldin and bring him back. Netanyahu declares the entire operation is now possibly no longer about rockets and tunnels, but about saving Pte Rya… no, sorry, Lt Goldin.

I do not mean to make light of it, but the taking of Lt Goldin has not been confirmed. It is still entirely possible that he has become just another casualty of a senseless war, that he was missing or killed in action – an action that may have been provoked by Hamas, but was nevertheless initiated by Israel. If I were an internet troll, I might even suggest the whole story has been faked-up.

Either way, one’s sympathies genuinely do go out to his family on a human level – I have a 20-year-old son of my own, who wants to join the army. As a casualty of war, though, I have to greet the possibility of Lt Goldin’s having been killed in action – possibly in an air strike by his own side – with a certain casual indifference. You live in Israel, you get conscripted, the odds are they’ll start a war, and you can get killed. Sixty-two other soldiers were. Over 1,000 civilians, including 300 children, have been.

Instead, he has become a symbol – of what, I am not entirely sure, but it looks like classic Israeli double-standards. One Israeli life is worth 1,500 Palestinians, sort of thing. And the PR story looks, to this ex-PR man, like a heaven-sent gift to the Israelis, who have been struggling increasingly to justify their hypocritical abuse of unarmed civilians, the waste of human life and the trashing of whole communities, that is being rightly branded around the world as a war crime. Viral images of dead and dying children, the blast-damaged four-year-old girl with ‘panda eyes’ – it’s not good for business.

What was needed was another war crime, committed by the other side, that we could focus our outrage on instead. And the image conjured up, of Lt Goldin being ‘dragged into the tunnel’ – not that anyone actually saw what happened – the idea of this poor, benighted 23-year-old conscript from Cambridge, England being dragged down into the mouth of Hell, is just the perfect metaphor to excite all the Biblical apprehensions and fury of a people whose religion is never far beneath the surface.

Hamas says it has not seen him and has no idea where he is. Hamas says he might have been blown to pieces by Israeli shellfire, as they have lost contact with the service unit that staged the incursion and believe everyone died. But wait. Was it not reported only about ten days ago, that another Israeli soldier was missing in action? I do not recall an attempt then to stir up religious fury and world disapprobation over a ‘kidnapping’.

And where exactly did it happen? Was this, as Hamas says, an incident that took place in Rafa, south Gaza, or was it, as the Israeli statements implied at first, in Israel itself, i.e. at the far end of the tunnel? What they are calling, in a classic piece of spin, a ‘terror tunnel’? If the ‘kidnapping’ happened in Rafa, where Israel has been enthusiastically bombing all day, then why would Hamas’ devils have dragged poor Lt Goldin back down the tunnel, towards Israel?

And how many Hamas militant suspects has the Israeli Defence Force ‘kidnapped’ during its offensive? Do we even know? Does anyone even care? (I am not supporting Hamas. They are intolerable. But they are the elected administrators of Gaza.) Do they too have names? Faces?

And does Netanyahu really believe in peace talks anymore, or is he in search of some Final Solution to the Palestinian question? (As of 1800 this evening, he has withdrawn Israel from Egyptian-brokered peace talks, stating that there is ‘no point’ in negotiating with Hamas. So why did he agree to do it? Is he 64, or 6.4 years old?)*

And why does it take only one, relatively minor incident – crouched inside a sewage pipe hundreds of metres from your command centre, waiting to launch an incursion with a 100 per cent chance that you will not come back, as a teenage Hamas fighter would you even know there was supposed to be a ceasefire? – to cause yet another truce among many failed truces to break down? Does Netanyahu believe in truces? In which case, why can’t he grit his teeth and stick to them, even if there are minor breaches on either side? The answer is, he doesn’t.

And is Hamas even in control of the fighting units, or has the movement splintered yet again, in response to the perceived betrayal in joining forces with the Palestinian Authority – the former al-Fatah terrorists – to negotiate a peaceful settlement, based on a two-state solution and the 2002 plan already rejected by Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister, the rabid Zionist polemicist, Avigdor Lieberman? Is there no possibility of an end to this war?

And what, please, are the semantic differences between a ‘kidnap victim’, a ‘prisoner of war’, a ‘hostage’ and a ‘terror suspect’ – a ‘captive’ and a ‘detainee’? Maybe Mr Regev can be wheeled on to explain?

In war, truth, as everyone from Aeschylus to Dr Johnson to Arthur Ponsonby and Michael Sher has probably said, is the first casualty. I’m not buying this story as it currently stands, it is just too convenient, playing into the hands of the Israeli hawks and – like the war itself – has been blown up out of all proportion.

For in war, humanity is the second casualty, and there are those who will stop at nothing to exploit it.

* My God, Bebe and I almost share a birth date. So much for astrology.

 Postscriptum

Walking the dog beside the cricket ground, Sunday-blue sky, fluffy clouds. A match is about to start. Friendly rivalry. Umpires sauntering about, hands in pockets; players in their whites tumbling out of the pavilion, exercising their bowling arms.

Three and a half hours’ flying-time away, screaming shells, drones, tanks, fleeing women clutching terrified children, smoke, flame, devastation on a Biblical scale, lies and death.

And a strange thought occurs to me.

In order to ‘minimise’ civilian casualties, the Israeli army has taken to texting its victims in advance, to warn them their homes are about to be destroyed. This is either extremely considerate of them, or extremely cruel: I haven’t decided which. (It reminds me of how my cat ‘sings’ to the mice she is eviscerating on the stairs.)

Maybe they could patent an app?

And the questions uppermost in my mind are:

– How on earth does the Israeli army know from miles behind the line, which houses are going to be hit next?

– How does it know who lives there, since many are in chaotic multiple occupation; given even that the street still has a name and the house has a number; and

– How does it know their phone numbers?

If I spotted a tank across the street, pointing its gun at my next-door neighbours’ house, I wouldn’t have a clue what their mobile phone number is to warn them, I can barely remember my own. I don’t even know what their surname is. There is no public mobile phone directory here.

So the extremely surreal image I am getting from this is that, somewhere in downtown Tel Aviv, or maybe even outsourced in Bangalore, there is a call-centre purposely predesigned to target specific Palestinian civilians’ phones with threatening – or helpful, if that is how you see it – messages.

Only in Israel.

But I see my phone is lighting up. It’s probably just British Gas telling me about their forthcoming engineer visit for the umteenth time, but I’d better go.

– Uncle Bogler

Doing business to the letter

It seems, for the moment anyway, that when it comes to World War Three kicking-off, money is thicker than blood.

Which is to say that there has been some defusing of the tensions in Ukraine overnight. Although he remains in control of the Crimea, his troops still preventing Ukraine’s army and navy garrisons from leaving their barracks, his fleet still blockading Sevastopol, President Putin has pulled his 150,000 troops and Afghan war-veteran tanks back from their ‘manoeuvres’ on the border. So the war now seems to be shifting more between the US and the European Union.

If it is part of a series of shrewd calculations on Putin’s part, it is succeeding brilliantly. With their talk of reprisals and sanctions and grave consequences and all the rest, it is now the Americans who are looking like a dressed-up student re-enactment society on a Cold-War weekend away. The response from the EU has been more nuanced. Not exactly a re-run of Munich, no-one had the brilliant idea of stepping off a plane with a blank piece of paper guaranteeing peace in our time, signed by the Fuhrer himself, but not far off it. It even looks like the disabled Olympics in Sochi will still go ahead, despite the lack of freshly disabled Ukrainian athletes.

Because, we do an increasing amount of business with the ‘new’ Russia. Was it, after all, not The Blessed Margaret Thatcher who first announced that we could? Having abandoned its nuclear power program in the wake of Fukushima, Germany is heavily dependant on Russian oil and gas to keep the wheels in motion. The UK – ‘perfidious Albion’, as the C18th Marquis de Ximenez described our tricky habit of saying one thing and doing another – our curious attitude to sex being a case in point – has the interests of the City of London very much at heart. Only Poland is demonstrating extreme nervousness. After all, they’re next. And they’ve been here several times before. Still, it could go some way to solving Britain’s immigrant problem.

British Foreign Secretary Hague has been bravely out over the weekend in Kiev, laying a wreath for the cameras to mourn the martyrdom of the demonstrators. Meanwhile back in Downing Street, an unfortunately ‘accidental’ exposure to the long lenses of the press by a Cameron aide of a Cabinet Office briefing document which basically advised the government to do nothing whatsoever to upset the Russian applecart has firmly nailed our pallid colours to the drooping mast. We need their money too badly.

So the possibility of seeing the household cavalry on the streets of Knightsbridge, barricading Russian oligarchs in their basement swimming pools, has receded faster than William Hague’s hairline. (It is surely a triumph of British democracy that, unlike the erstwhile Ukrainian president, he has not had to adopt a bouffant wig.) American bluster in the UN Security Council overnight seems to have done little to dent the supreme confidence of the Russian ambassador, brandishing his absurd letter purportedly from the Kremlin’s toy-boy Yanukovych requesting Soviet… I’m sorry, Russian military support against the appalling fascist coup by which he was so disgracefully ousted from his democratically elected, conservatively furnished office (in fact he skipped the country, presumably at the suggestion of his kind friend, Mr Putin, bearing wads of cash which the IMF is now being asked to replace) and which put thousands of helpless ethnic Russians in fear of their very lives.

Yes, you can always rely on a good letter to keep the wheezy locomotive of history chugging your way.