Saturday, November 06, 2004

BBC on the Frontier

In liberal mythology it's conservatives and reactionaries who take the simplistic view. Progressives acknowledge complexities - they are 'more nuanced'.

Not really. Liberals like the simplistic view too, but about different subjects.

A favourite is the doughty peasant fighter, a sort of Noble Savage for guilty anti-imperialists.

Liberals never tire of repeating that the US, following French precedent, were forced from Vietnam by a peasant army. The truth is perhaps a little more complex - maybe even 'nuanced'.

Before US and British troops went to Afghanistan, much was heard of the way the Afghans had defeated the Empires of Britain (19th century) and the Soviets (20th century).

Here's the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in todays From Our Own Correspondent.

In 1842, a 17,000-strong British force was marching through the snow from Kabul to the Khyber Pass when the tribesmen struck. Legend has it that only one Briton, a doctor called William Brydon, got out alive.

More recently, when the tribesmen fought in Afghanistan, they humbled the mighty Soviet Union for years, using little more than Kalashnikovs against helicopter gun ships.

All good stuff - even though he's in Pakistan and he's talking about battles in Afghanistan. But he really should point out that

a) the "17,000-strong British force" consisted of about 5,000 soldiers, British and Indian, and around 12,000 of the camp-followers without which no army moved before the twentieth century. There were many women and children among the dead (I'm still trying to find a link to the Times story that two babies survived the massacre, and as elderly Afghan women presented themselves to the British ambassador in Kabul around 1920). Nor were they going to the Khyber pass, but to Jalalabad, which, along with the Kandahar garrison, remained unconquered. In passing he could have mentioned that the Brits were back in Kabul within six months, sacking the city and putting every male over 14 to the sword with an "Army of Retribution" which might conceivably have attracted the ire of Fisk and Pilger today.

b) the Kalashnikovs fared ill against Soviet helicopters, until the arrival of Stinger missiles provided by the Great Satan.

The secret of Afghan resistance was not winning, but making life so uncomfortable for invaders that they wouldn't think it worthwhile. It certainly worked with the Brits, who left the Afghans (mostly) to themselves for the next hundred years.

Here's a view of the Pashtun, or 'Pathan' country, as seen by a young Winston Churchill in the late nineteenth century. Compare with the BBC report - not much has changed.

Campaigning on the Indian frontier is an experience by itself. Neither the landscape nor the people find their counterparts in any other portion of the globe. Valley walls rise steeply five or six thousand feet on every side. The columns crawl through a maze of giant corridors down which fierce snow-fed torrents foam under skies of brass. Amid these scenes of savage brilliancy there dwells a race whose qualities seem to harmonise with their environment. Except at harvest-time, when self-preservation enjoins a temporary truce, the Pathan tribes are always engaged in private or public war. Every man is a warrior, a politician and a theologian. Every large house is a real feudal fortress made, it is true, only of sunbaked clay, but with battlements, turrets, loopholes, flanking towers, drawbridges, etc., complete. Every village has its defence. Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud. The numerous tribes and combinations of tribes all have their accounts to settle with one another. Nothing is ever forgotten, and very few debts are left unpaid. For the purposes of social life, in addition to the convention about harvest-time, a most elaborate code of honour has been established and is on the whole faithfully observed. A man who knew it and observed it faultlessly might pass unarmed from one end of the frontier to another. The slightest technical slip would, however, be fatal. The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest; and his valleys, nourished alike by endless sunshine and abundant water, are fertile enough to yield with little labour the modest material requirements of a sparse population. Into this happy world the nineteenth century brought two new facts: the breech-loading rifle and the British Government.

The first was an enormous luxury and blessing; the second, an unmitigated nuisance. The convenience of the breech-loading, and still more of the magazine rifle, was nowhere more appreciated than in the Indian highlands. A weapon which would kill with accuracy at fifteen hundred yards opened a whole new vista of delights to every family or clan which could acquire it. One could actually remain in one's own house and fire at one's neighbour nearly a mile away. One could lie in wait on some high crag, and at hitherto unheard-of ranges hit a horseman far below. Even villages could fire at each other without the trouble of going far from home. Fabulous prices were therefore offered for these glorious products of science. Rifle-thieves scoured all India to reinforce the efforts of the honest smuggler. A steady flow of the coveted weapons spread its genial influence throughout the frontier, and the respect which the Pathan tribesmen entertained for Christian civilisation was vastly enhanced. The action of the British Government on the other hand was entirely unsatisfactory. The great organising, advancing, absorbing power to the southward seemed to be little better than a monstrous spoil-sport. If the Pathans made forays into the plains, not only were they driven back (which after all was no more than fair), but a whole series of interferences took place, followed at intervals by expeditions which toiled laboriously through the valleys, scolding the tribesmen and exacting fines for any damage which they had done. No one would have minded these expeditions if they had simply come, had a fight and then gone away again. In many cases this was their practice under what was called the "butcher and bolt policy" to which the Government of India long adhered. But towards the end of the nineteenth century these intruders began to make roads through many of the valleys, and in particular the great road to Chitral. They sought to ensure the safety of these roads by threats, by forts and by subsidies. There was no objection to the last method so far as it went. But the tendency to road-making was regarded by the Pathans with profound distaste. All along the road people were expected to keep quiet, not to shoot one another, and, above all not to shoot at travellers along the road. It was too much to ask, and a whole series of quarrels took their origin from this source.

Over the next week I'll post Churchill's account of combat in the Mamund Valley, NW Pakistan.

Thou Shalt Not Kill - Racist ?

We've had the 'offensive' school name, thanks to the inclusive Lib Dems.

In Holland it's the racist Ten Commandments.

"In the Netherlands, artist Chris Ripke reacted to the murder of Theo Van Gogh by an islamic fundamentalist by painting a mural with the text "Gij zult niet doden" ("Thou Shalt Not Kill"), one of the ten commandments of the Christian religion.

But because the head of the nearby mosque complained to the police that this was 'offensive' and 'racist', the cops came and sent in city workers to sandblast the mural."

He painted it on a wall - I'm presuming it wasn't the mosque's wall though.

Hat-tip - lgf, from whom I also pinched the county-by-county map of the US results.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Neatly Put ...

Scott at Blithering Bunny on the 60s legacy, good and bad.

The good bits of the 60's are here to stay. For example, (1) being nice to people, (2) not treating badly or hating someone just because they're a different colour, (3) greater personal freedom.

But notice how vague all these mantras are? That's what allowed them to mutate into (1) being nice to people even if they're crazed psychopaths out to destroy Western civilization, (2) treating someone as innocent or even justified because they're a different colour, (3) lauding every "lifestyle choice", no matter how destructive, and making everyone else provide the funding for it.

BBC and Arafat

I feel surprisingly sad about Arafat. He did many bad things and never came to terms with Israel (his boys are still carrying out the odd murder of Jewish civilians) but one still can feel a little for a sick old man, a long way from home, seemingly taking his final journey, as we all shall (pity about the innocents who thanks to him took that journey prematurely, though).

In saying that I'm well aware that none of my friends or family have been killed by his guys, and that I'd feel very differently if they had. But he was a tough old so and so, a survivor in a hard world. No affection, but a grudging something that ain't respect, though it partakes thereof.

Having said all that - is there really any need for BBC Radio 5 to give us an update every fifteen minutes on his condition ? I swear the Queen Mother didn't get such treatment and I'm damn sure the Pope, peace and long life be upon him, won't.

I have an awful feeling Arafat's death is going to be a bonanza for the BBC Israel and West-haters. Demoralised by the US elections, they need something to cheer themselves up - what better than an orgy of praise for the Palestinian martyr and an orgy of abuse for the evil Jews - sorry, Zionists, and the Great Satan Bush with his evil religious Right backers.

UPDATE - on the BBC - what a tribute to Arafat and the French, and what a second line.

The fact that France was willing to treat Arafat, and that the president even visited Arafat demonstrates that not all Western nations have forgotten what diplomacy is.
It is, for the time being, a great insurance against any terrorist attack.

Derrick, Cambridge, UK

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Splendour, Splendour Everywhere

What a beautiful day. The sun shining, trees in their autumn plumage, woodsmoke in the keen air.

And the Daily Mirror's "How Could You", the Indie's black-bordered front page, the solemn, mournful music on all BBC channels, broadcasting having been suspended for three days. For the first time since the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940, Archbishop Rowan Williams is arranging a Service of Intercession at Westminster Abbey, begging God's aid in our hour of grief, distress and need.

A Christian should not gloat. But we are all sinners who fall short of grace.

A samizdata commentator mentioned the stony faces of BBC staff in Washington yesterday. In the Black Country they have an appropriate phase for such a facial expression :

"like a bulldog licking p*** off a nettle"

Still to come - the pleasures of the Guardian and BBC talkboards, urban75, the New Statesman. Is this what Abram Maslow called a 'Peak Experience' ? Haven't felt like this since May 2nd, 1997, but that's another story.

I whistle the 'Star Spangled Banner', the car resounds with Hayseed Dixie, Bob Wills and the Sons of the Pioneers.

This poem captures the feeling.

Seaside Golf

How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It clear'd the rutty track,
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker's back -
A glorious sailing bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.

And down the fairway, far along
It glowed a lonely white;
I played an iron sure and strong
And clipp'd it out of sight,
And spite of grassy banks between
I knew I'd find it on the green.

And so I did. It lay content
Two paces from the pin;
A steady putt and then it went
Oh, most securely in.
The very turf rejoiced to see
That quite unprecedented three.

Ah! seaweed smells from sandy caves
And thyme and mist in whiffs,
In-coming tide, Atlantic waves
Slapping the sunny cliffs,
Lark song and sea sounds in the air
And splendour, splendour everywhere.

John Betjeman

Simon Schama's Nightmare

Baseball-cap tip - Modern Crusader (gulp)

UPDATE - and a county-by-county map of the results. Must be a lot of Dems in those big cities.

BBC Bias Part 397

It didn't take BBC News long to come to terms with the Bush victory. The theme of coverage will be 'Divided America'.

The Mad Cowboy will still make appearances, though. Listen to James Naughtie (RealAudio) interviewing Robin Cook and Ian Duncan Smith on yesterday's Today programme. Near the end Naughtie gives it away when he says 'us' before correcting himself.

And, Robin Cook, what about those who say - President Bush now, he's got four years, doesn't have to worry about opinion in the United States, he's there, presidents do some - er - can do things in the final four years - without what - having to worry about the next election - is he going to do things that will truly scare us, like maybe - scare some people - like maybe taking on Iran directly ?

You may remember how, under the Clinton administration, the opposition were presented, especially during Monicagate, as bitter zealots who couldn't come to terms with not winning the election.

Under Bush, the bitter zealots who can't come to terms with not winning the election will be the 'divided nation' to whom GWB has failed to 'reach out'.

You can also expect Christians to get even more stick. The BBC can't understand why American Christians aren't like the Church Of England, social workers in frocks who worry about debt, Fairtrade chocolate, the oppression of gay clergy and sustainable development initiatives proactively reaching out to the broad sections of the community on a multidisciplinary basis, while the Ten Commandments are broken daily on an industrial scale and the CofE's churches grow greyer and emptier.

Whereas in America Christians actually believe all that 'thou shalt not' nonsense.

Rasputin last year pointed out a truth about Muslim believers.

Williams believes westerners find it difficult to grasp that for a Muslim, being religious is not something that is done in addition to everything else: “It just is the fabric. For the Muslim everything is seen through that lens.”

Christians who took such an attitude would be roundly condemned as bigots by the CofE, of course. That kind of faith is for them, not for us.

For the BBC's view of American Christians, here's the BBC's favourite historian Simon Schama (RealAudio), also on the Today programme. His theme - 'Divided America'.

"Despite the kind of - er, shallow rhetoric of 'Bring America Together' - nobody really seems to (laughs) quite believe it, actually; the truism about two Americas seems to be deeper and more bitter than ever - it's a reality; I mean there is a cultural civil war going on, it's no good to pretend there isn't - and it's to do with those who essentially are guided by faith, from the President down, the President insisting that God tells him what (laughs) to do and when to do it - I shouldn't be quite so facetious but it's very important to him, and to millions of Americans - this is something often quite hard in a laid-back secular world like Britain, to really understand ...'

You have to imagine what the reaction would be if a BBC commentator found a Muslim leader's faith amusing enough to laugh on air while describing it. He'd be out of the studio before you could say 'Islamophobia'.

UPDATE - Schama continues the attack in today's Grauniad.

"You want moral values? So do we, but let them come from the street, not the pulpit. And if a fresh beginning must be made - and it must - let it not begin with a healing, but with a fight."

You can find moral values on the street all right - from 'On les aura !' and 'a la lanterne !' to Kristallnacht and any number of intercommunal riots. Strange place to look for them though - unless you're looking for a fight. I'll back religious rednecks against secular liberals any day. But perhaps he doesn't really mean it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It's not over till it's over ...

And all the votes have been counted. But wouldn't it be deliciously ironic if

"It's The Guardian Wot Won It" ?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

BBC, Lies and "Tolerance"

Another Dutch citizen is killed for asking the wrong questions about the Dutch multicultural experiment. His colleague has been under police protection for months since she renounced Islam.

This portrait of the courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, by BBC correspondent Geraldine Coughlan, contains an interesting aside.

"Tolerance was a key issue for the Netherlands in 2002.

The murdered populist politician Pim Fortuyn, who was killed nine days before elections in May, also called Islam a backward religion.

He did not want to tolerate immigrants. His self-confessed assassin, an animal rights activist, could not stand his intolerance. "

I see. The BBC are telling us that
a) Pim Fortuyn could not tolerate immigrants
b) this fact drove the assassin to kill him.

In order to protect tolerance we had to destroy it.

Yet according to BBC News Fortuyn wished to halt immigration, and for those immigrants already in Holland to integrate more closely into Dutch society. This falls far short of 'not tolerating' those immigrants already in Holland. A racist would have preferred them to remain separate and unintegrated.

This last little paragraph starts with a lie, and seems to imply that you can fight intolerance by shooting people, while in no way impairing your own tolerance.

Worrying when in the UK, there are deep differences over this new definition of 'tolerance'. Some Government advisers want BNP voters to be 'duffed up in the streets'. Whereas comedians on the BBC think they should be shot.

David Hinchcliffe MP - An Appreciation

I've already blogged here about smacking, and have no desire to repeat myself. But on the way home I listened to a report from Parliament which raised my blood pressure beyond what a doctor would consider healthy. I need some typing exercise to lower it.

The MP for Wakefield, David Hinchcliffe, who used by strange chance to be a social worker, made a speech equating smacking children with child abuse, and implied that the lamentable deaths which for the last thirty years have been the subject of enquiries (most of which by strange chance have heavily criticised social workers) would have been prevented if parents who smacked their children had been criminalised.

I'm not sure if I've got words to describe Hinchcliffe, but let me try and paint for you a picture of this vile, detestable apology for a human being, this stinking, festering, pullulating dungheap, this helminthic horror pulled slobbering from the most crooked, rotten, maggot-infested bathroom cabinet in Hell's puke-splashed, faeces-freckled, sputum-spattered lavatory. No giant tube-worm feeds as low in the deepest slough of ocean as this blistered, swelling, pendant boil on the flabby, pendulous buttocks of the Parliamentary Labour Party, this sagging sac of infectious slime, this pus-filled pantaloon, this vial of virulent venom vomited vertically from a vampire's varicocele.

That will suffice for now. I'll add more later, but my daughter awaits her bedtime story. Having finished the Brothers Grimm, we're onto Hans Christian Andersen - and Kay has been taken by the Snow Queen, leaving poor Gerda behind. Can't wait to find out what happens next.

UPDATE - "... this gruesome gargoyle gaping gormlessly from the Gurdwara of Ghastliness, this crapulent corbel on the Cathedral of Cretinism, this seething sore stickily suppurating on the Stone Circle of Stupidity, this moronic, mindless minaret on the Mosque of Madness etc etc ..."

Spammers For Kerry

Is this a first ? One of my email addresses is out there on spam lists, and I automatically trash anything sent to it - it isn't ever used for mailing.

Clearing the deleted box this a.m. I spotted this among the Xanax, cheap loans, Cialis and fake Rolexes :

When politicians do not do a good job the only power we have is our vote

Use yours!

If Kerry doesnt do better we will vote him out in four years.

If you have never voted before vote this year.

We the people can change things.

Monday, November 01, 2004

More links ..

Another interesting Brit politics blog (new blogger Andrew at Non-Trivial Solutions is still posting good stuff), the wonderfully named Blimpish. Recommended. And to go with the Policeman, the Paramedic (aka 'Ambulance Man'), whose blog is a useful antidote to anyone who writes 'in a civilised society ...'

You will hear of it in Ingilterra and be sad ...

To a good liberal, or anyone educated in England over the last 30 years, all the troubles of Africa are the result of the evil colonialists, who exploited Africa for hundreds of years - then suddenly, in the 20 years between 1945 and 1965 - stopped exploiting it and left (or 'replaced colonialism with corrupt elites, bribed by the multinationals etc etc').

If only we hadn't put our Imperialist hands on Africa - how different things would be ! And thank God we listened to reason and got out !

Take the Sudan, for example. From Hilary Hook's book 'Home from the Hill', a Sudanese chief explains his problem with the British. This conversation took place in 1950. How many dead since then in the South ? A million ? Two ?

On my last day the bash shawish asked to see me. I gave him a chair in the office and called for tea - he refused a cigarette and sat very up right staring ahead. I waited, and finally he spoke; 'Mabruk ya, sath el bey - Congratulations, your excellency the Bey,' he said, with the ghost of a smile. 'So you are leaving us.' I nodded. 'Inshallah, wa lakin ana hazeen giddan - If God wills, but I am sorry to be doing so,' I replied. He remained silent for a long time and the smile left his face, then he spoke again. 'There is talk that all "El Ingliz" will one day leave us.' 'Yes, there is talk - one day you will govern yourselves, it is right that this should happen.' He shook his head. 'We will not govern ourselves, we will be governed by Northerners from Khartoum. They do not understand us or like us.' 'That is not true,' I said. 'What of our Northern Sudanese officers here in the Equatorial Corps. What of Bimbashi Zein? What of Bimbashi Khalil? What of Sagh Talat? They are every bit as fit to govern or command as we Ingliz and more so, as they are also Sudanese.' 'That is true.' he replied, 'they are officers of the Sudan Defence Force. You Ingliz trained them, but there are many whose hearts are not so good, they call us "abid" (slaves) and despise our nakedness and our customs.' 'Do you not want to rule yourselves?' I asked. 'Yes, one day, but the time is not yet, the young men you have educated are conceited and dishonest and the old chiefs think only of their tribes. They are no match for the Northerners. The time is not yet - my father told me terrible things that happened before the Ingliz came.' 'We are soldiers not politicians,' I said. 'We must obey the orders we receive.' 'I know that, Janabuk, but I tell you this. On the day that the Ingliz leave us there will be bloodshed and more bloodshed. You will hear of it in Ingilterra and be sad, they will never govern us from Khartoum - never.' He rose, saluted and left, and next day as I flew North over the green maze of the Nile Sudd I brooded sadly on his words 'bloodshed and more bloodshed'. The old man was seldom wrong.

Twelve years later, in the early 1960s, I met him secretly in a hut on the Congo, border. His son had been killed and he was a sad broken old man with a terrible tale to tell. He bore no grudge except against his soldiers who had joined the revolt, but over and over again he said, 'I told you, Sath el Bey, I told you.'

And when the 'Ingliz' weren't there ? Darfur is only the latest episode. The South of Sudan has been a source of slaves and cattle for the North for hundreds of years.

The chief brought us native beer in dirty calabashes, we gave him a mug of rum and sat under a council tree outside the village. The talk ranged through the usual topics, rain, cattle, raids, crops and recruits for the buluk. 'I would like you to take my grandson,' said the old man. 'He is tall and strong, and should carry a rifle. He must serve the Government as I have done all my life.' 'You must be a great age,' said Denis jokingly and then added, 'perhaps you knew Gordon Pasha?' The chief considered this for a moment and then said gravely. 'No, but my father often spoke of him, he worked under "Gordoon" Pasha when he was Governor here in the south. "Gordoon" Pasha was a God, he destroyed the slave traders. My father said that "Gordoon" Pasha's eyes were like spears - no man dared tell him a lie. He was here many years, then he left us and the slavers came again but worse than before. They slew the great "Gordoon" Pasha in Khartoum and the Turks were driven from the Sudan.

Then terrible years came - we lived in fear. One day from over those hills raiders came: they were not Arabs but black men like ourselves and spoke a strange language - they had guns. Before we could defend ourselves they rushed upon the village and started killing, it was a terrible day. Some escaped to the swamp, but the young men and women were herded like cattle and driven between guns towards the river. It was a long march and many died. When he reached the river we waited a long time until armed Arabs came in steam boats to take us for sale in Omdurman.' The chief paused in thought and stared ahead. I refilled his mug with rum. 'Go on with your story, old man,' said Denis gently, 'we want to know how you are alive to tell us.' 'I was only a "wallad" then, not old enough to be a warrior. The boats were small and we suffered greatly. The dead and the sick were thrown to the crocodiles. One day we came round a bend in the river and saw a big boat with a strange flag. It had a big gun which fired at us. Our Arab guards fired back but many were killed and jumped into the river and swam. Then we heard that Kitchener Pasha had defeated the Kalifa in a great battle at Omdurman and we were free. My mother and young brother had died in the boats, but I met my father again a year later; he had escaped to the swamp taking my sister with him. They lived and my father became chief of Lafone.'

Those were the days, eh ?