Friday, 20 May 2016

Leviathan, or Lizards Rule, OK

Former BBC sports journalist David Icke's beliefs have a cult following all over the world. The conspiracy which resulted in the Treaty Of Rome and all other subsequent treaties, make the appeal of Icke's principal notion - that the world is ruled by shape-shifting lizards - easy to understand.

Who else but lizards in human form with delusions of grandeur would conceive of  spending 100 million euros a year on transferring the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg (and back again) every month? Jeremy Paxman couldn't explain this during his hour-long BBC television programme about the European Union. Any resemblance to the dual empire of Austria-Hungary with its two capitals of Vienna and Budapest is entirely deliberate.

But I suspect the unelected Hapsburgs had better sense of style than the unelected technocrats who see nothing wrong with hiring a special train to transport parliamentary staff and files on a monthly four-hour journey between Belgium and France. Paxman didn't say whether the 100 million euros covered living costs and expenses.

None of the various actors and artistes - Bill Nighy, John Hurt, Emma Thompson for example - who have spoken in favour of the UK's continued membership of the EU said anything about this arrangement. Nor, to my knowledge, have they offered an opinion about the EU Commission's history of ignoring referendums that don't go their way. The European Constitution that eventually became the Lisbon Treaty was rejected by the public of France, the Norway and the Irish Republic; but that didn't make the slightest bit of difference. Why would the Commissioners need democratic accountability when they've got a secure, ever-increasing, budget that hasn't been signed off by auditors for more than 20 years and no voters to explain themselves to?

The slithery politics of this monstrous two-headed hydra reminds me of another reptilian image, that ancient Greek sculpture known as The Laocoon.

This depicts the Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraes, being stranged to death in the coils of sea-serpents. These creatures were sent by Apollo or Poseidon because Laocoon had tried to warn the citizens of Troy that the wooden horse they had just dragged into the city as a trophy of victory would bring about their destruction.

If the beleagured Leave campaign is needs a classy, classical, image to symbolise the danger to Britain of the serpentine coils of the EU leviathan, it should consider The Laocoon. And if it wants an historical figure to give its arguments gravitas it should call up the spectre of Winston Churchill. He knew all about the terrible damage inflicted on the rest of the world by continental Europe from 1914 and again from 1939.

Churchill's post-World War 2 idea of a united states of Europe, I believe, had nothing to do with the creation of a federal superstate and certainly not supra-national governance. He would have sent in warships to sink the French navy than submit Britannia to mere subsidiarity status. 

His vision was of Europe as a regional body made up of inter-governmental sovereign states supporting a central global body such as the United Nations Organisation. If the EU did not exist Britain would trade quite happily under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Council (Europe). But I don't suppose Bill, John, Emma and Jeremy know about that.

I won't be unkind though and suggest that none of them have heard of The Laocoon.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Anti-Semitism and Labour's Sick Rose...

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

For those who won't be attending next month's discussion at the Bradford Literature Festival concerning the mysticism of William Blake's poetry, what is the dark secret love of the invisible worm that seems to be destroying the red rose of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party?

Can it really be deeply-embedded Jew hatred, planted in the 1930s by British Union of Fascist acolytes of former Labour Cabinet Minister Sir Oswald Mosley? Can it? Really? Not hatred of Israel as a state, as an idea, because Israel wasn't formally voted into existence by the United Nations Organisation until 1947/48. But simple Jew hatred. In the PC parlance of modern times: anti-semitism.

On and off all day I have followed at first with bemusement and then with increasing incredulity the row that has engulfed the party heirarchy, at first over the social media remarks of Bradford West MP Naz Shah and then this morning Ken Livingstone's self-immolation when, in response to a question, he contrived to suggest that Adolf Hitler's original final solution - transport Europe's Jews to Palestine or Madagascar - was analagous with the aspiration of Zionism for a Jewish homeland. From there it's escalated to public accusations of racism and being an apologist for the Nazis.

But by saying on social media in 2014 that Israelies should be transported to the United States, has the hapless Naz Shah inadvertently exposed the canker at the heart of Labour's red rose? 

At first I thought the hullabaloo, which David Cameron helped stir up during Prime Minister's Questions earlier this week, was more of a story about social media. Facebook and Twitter are not private means of communication, of course, but billboards to the world. MPs, entertainers, writers and celebrities hubristically believe that the public will be poorer for not knowing: where they are going, where they happen to be at any given moment, what they are doing and what they think about the latest headline news.

In a wittier age than this one the likes of the late Alan Coren would have had great fun inventing excerpts from the Facebook account of, say, William Shakespeare. 'Just written Hamlet. Jonson says it's confusing. Bugger. Not sure what to think myself. Suppose I'll have to wait for somebody to write Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake to give academics something else to write about.' Or this from Stalin's Twitter account: 'One mujic dead, tragic. A million of them pulling up daisies, a statistic. That's Socialist Realism for you.'

But what's happened today goes way beyond the mis-appliance of IT science by those who think too well of themselves, after all a bit of Facebooking or Twittering can be good fun, informative sometimes. But a statement to the effect that the Jews are massing or gathering is neither good fun nor informative: it sounds like a warning, a warning about an impending threat. Who were these Jews and against whom were they massing?

Nor for the life of me can I understand Ken Livingstone's likening Hitler's aim for Jews in 1932/33 with the strategic aim of Zionism. The only homeland that Jews got out of National Socialism was that archaepeligo of death camps from Southern Germany to the remoter forests of Eastern Poland. I thought this was widely accepted as fact until revisionist historians in the late 1980s put it about that the Holocaust was in fact a Holohoax: the locked rooms into which the pellets of Zyklon B were dropped were in fact de-lousing chambers: Jews had perished from typhus and other contagious diseases, hence the need to incinerate the bodies. This pernicious nonsense went on for several years into the 1990s and may have determined Steven Spielberg to make the film of Schindler's List from Thomas Kennelley's book Schindler's Ark.

I used to ask myself questions about Holocaust deniers. Today I have had to ask myself what is it about the Parliamanetary constituency of Bradford West that induces its representatives to make public pronouncements that strike others as anti-semitic? Before Naz Shah, George Galloway told a public meeting that, in respect of what Israel was doing in Gaza, Bradford was an Israeli-free zone. I didn't think he was announcing a progrom against Jewish people; but his sentiment was denounced in Bradford and in the 2015 General Election he was swept from office by Naz Shah.

Some may say the huge presence of Pakistani-Muslim voters in the constituency is inducement enough to express anti-Israeli sentiments. But that presupposes that all Pakistani-Muslim voters would agree. Some would. In my time I've seen anti-Jewish posters on walls in Manningham Lane in Bradford West put up by Islamicists. But the continued existence of a synagogue in the heart of Manningham is evidence of a willingness among a majority of Muslims to live and let live. Now, I fear, once again, what good name Bradford managed to regain after the 1995 and 2001 Muslim riots may go the way of William Blake's sick rose.

Labour's National Excutive Committee has in the past suspended at least two Bradford West Constituency Labour Parties for activities contrary to the party's book of rules. The undue influence of Muslim clan politics - Biraderi - featured in an independent report by Lewis Baston, called The Bradford Earthquake, following George Galloway's astounding Bradford West by-election victory in 2012, when a safe Labour majority of more than 10,000 was obliterated. Galloway's supporters had outflanked their main opponent by a clever use of social media to talk directly to voters.

Here are three of the key findings from Baston's report which was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust:-

. The recent political history of Bradford West has been marred by patronage, neglect, bad organisation and even electoral fraud. Both Labour and the Conservatives are implicated in this state of affairs. Local politics have been about a mutual accommodation between elites of each community rather than real diversity, and voters have found this alienating.

.  There is a danger of a political vacuum developing in the city and elsewhere which may be filled by fringe politics, despair or violence...Voters in Bradford West do not feel they have deserted their usual party but that Labour has failed them...

. National messages and campaigning language failed to connect with Bradford West electors' bad experiences of mainstream politics. 

Be careful what you wish for, be extra careful what you blurt out on social media. Personally, I think that public figures - chief constables, sports chiefs, MPs, - should be encouraged to resort to this form of mea culpa. At a time of declining church attendances and a dropping off in the demand for the confessional, social media serves a dual purpose. Confession is good for the soul and is an invaluable source of material to muck-rakers and headline writers. Besides, it saves some journalists the trouble of phone-hacking.

Aspersions of racism are made too easily. The difference between racial prejudice and racism is that the former stems from ignorance and fear whereas the latter, racism, comes from hatred, the desire to persecute and even kill. I wonder if those who readily hurl the accusation of racism at somebody they don't like or with whom they disagree are merely deflecting attention from their own intolerant militant tendency.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Show Us Yer Joy

While campaigners for Britain leaving the European Union squabble about facts and tactics the more astute among them might pick up on a point made today by journlaist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

He told an ITV news journalist that both the campaigns for remaining in the EU and leaving it tended to accentuate the negative: staying in was better than taking the risk of leaving, staying in would do more harm than leaving. Parris wondered why the remain campaign was so lacking in uplift: if being a part of EU was worth the time, trouble and expense, surely it was worth shouting about.

A good point, I thought, especially as the June 23 referendum is likely to be decided by the more than 20 per cent of people questioned by pollsters who say they haven't made up their minds which direction the country should take.

Are the undecideds likely to be excited by the Prime Minister declaring in his most plausible head boy fashion that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off in a "reformed EU" than outside it, like poor old Norway for example. It's a pretty uninspiring message especially when repeated, more or less, by uninspiring Opposition MPs such as Labour's Yvette Cooper.

The bland leading the bland.

If, as David Cameron claims, Britain is safer inside the EU marquee rather than outside it, he should explain why since 1973 mainland Britain has been subject to at least 65 terrorist attacks, killing more than 380 people, maiming and wounding thousands and costing billions. These include the M62 coach bomb attacck in 1974 which killed 11, the Birmingham pub bombings the same year which accounted for another 19, the 1988 Panam bombing over Lockerbie which killed 270 and the London bombings in 2005 which killed 52 and injured more than 700. Add on the bombings and shootings over three decades in Northern Ireland from 1968 and the casualties and costs mushroom.

While the EU in its various incarnations since 1973 cannot be blamed for the Provisional IRA or Al Qaeda, what has it done to justify David Cameron's assertion that membership has made us safer? Globally, of course, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning junta in Brussels has proved to be extremely dangerous. It encouraged the atomisation of former Yugoslavia following the end of Communism in Europe and the rage for independence that followed and had a hand in causing the bloodshed in western Ukraine by trespassing in Russia's sphere of influence. Latterly, the EU stands accused of making the refugee problem worse by offering blandishments to Turkey to act as a border guard for south-eastern Europe. On top of all this, of course, the EU's iron law of freedom of movement has led to a million or more economic migrants from Poland, Albania, Rumania, Spain and elsewhere coming to the UK.

You may say, so what? If you did I would reply that neither I nor anybody I know actually voted in any general election favour of any of this. It happened because decisions were made and taken elsewhere and simply adopted first by the Labour Government of 2004/5 and subsequently by the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition from 2010 to 2015.

Let's face it, the EU does not have an encouraging democratic track record. It has a history of ignoring national referendums when the result is not as expected. The people of the Netherlands, France and the Republic of Ireland were told to think again when they, respectively, voted against proposed EU treaties. Leave campaigners appear to have forgotten this in the heat of the debate about whether Britons  - "who never, never shall be slaves", according to the national anthem - should remain or go. Come on chaps, look back in anger at the crap that's been going on since 1973: the wine lakes, the butter mountains (in support of French farmers), the fish thrown back in the sea (in support of a fisheries policy contrary to our interests), the dotty carbon capture policies costing us billions and making millions for India's Tata Steel. Next time you hear business leaders and experts advocating continued EU membership for the sake of the economy, look back at the farce of Britain's short-lived membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and what happened in September 1992. John Major's Government was forced to spend billions to maintain sterling's value on international markets in defence of this discredited system.

It's not as though the European empire has generated any interesting art, literature or music in the last 43 years - unlike the Roman Empire or Napoleon III's French Empire. The only bit of music associated with it that I can think of is the Ode to Joy finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. A rousing and glorious blast of triumph appropriated by a bunch of furtive federalists. Ludvig would not have been amused. So come on, all you remainers, let's see the expression of your joy. Show the doubters and the truculent Europhobes something other than the usual spurious arguments. At least the leavers have a plan, Richard North's 420-page FLEXCIT, contrary to all the chundering in the media. For those who haven't world enough and time there is a 48-page summation available for a fiver called The Market Solution. Added to thse two documents, there is a new edition of The Great Deception, the history of the European 'project' that Dr North wrote with Christopher Booker, a copy of which I recently bought. In short, the leavers, in the words of Sir Humphrey, have well and truly "nailed their trousers to the mast". Which means they can't climb down.

In 1975, on the occasion of the first referendum about Britain's membership of the European Economic Community - the "Common Market" as it was deliberately and misleadingly called -  doubters were assured that joining Europe would make the country more prosperous, stronger, safer even. Forty years and 65 terrorist attacks later the wine lakes and butter mountains have been replaced by an Everest of debt and a schedule of Government borrowing that runs into billions every month. The money given back to Britain by the EU comes from us in the first place.

How different it all is from when I were a lad in Walthamstow, London E17, and Harold Wilson could be heard on the wireless worrying about Britain's "balance of payments", a matter of a few millions either in the black or the red. We thought the news was bad then. Little did we know.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Bombing the Soft Europeans

The departure terminal at Brussels airport was made to look like parts of Syria after the two Islamic State bomb attacks yesterday. And I suppose that was part of the purpose, to show soft Europeans what it's like to be on the receiving end of an unexpected bomb.

What the bearded holy terrorists may not know or if they do, understand, is that us soft Europeans have been on the receiving end of bombs of all sorts. We have a tradition of being bombed that goes back to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the ill-fated Paris Commune that followed and two World Wars. 

Seventy years ago in July, 1946,  militant Zionist terrorists blew up part of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 90 British military personnel and others. In fact, post 1945 the British have been bombed and shot at all over the world, especially in Northern Ireland. Central London, Guildford, Birmingham and Manchester have all been visited by bombers. Provisional IRA, IS or Al Qaeda, the result is always the same: splintered lives and blood up the walls.

Much of what I wrote in this blog on November 14, 2015, after the Paris shootings, stands for what I think now. My only wish is that television news would show a little more judicious discrimination in what they broadcast. How does showing people running away from a bomb site help anyone but those organising these attacks? And why do the earnest and well-meaning insist on buying into the regularly offered explanation of poverty, deprivation and disenfranchisement, for the radicalisation of young Muslims?

I've heard that excuse trotted out for more than 30 years. The result, certainly in Bradford, has been renewed efforts to adapt mainstream society and culture to the needs and demands of minority groups, accompanied by the usual press release superlatives, 'vibrant', even 'vibrancy', 'diverse' and 'community', as though the various sectors of the people who live here identify with one religious or cultural tendency. In fact, just for the record, life here is a lot more sectarian, tribal, clannish, than that simplification allows.

Crying the poor mouth, as the Irish say, is the usual way of staking a claim to resources. Ordinary people, by whom I mean working class white trash who don't work in education, local government, the media or the Church of England, don't fall for that. The others do. Some of them.

The earnest and well-meaning assume that the deprived and disenfranchised carry out the shootings and bombings. They don't. It's the educated, sometimes university-educated righteous brothers, who seek to impose martyrdom on total strangers. It's not money and opportunities these people lack but humility. 

Let's face it, yesterday was not a good day for the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron has several times declared that due to Britain's membership of the EU, British people are "safer" and, by inference, the peoples of the 27 other members states are safer too. Safer until the next surprise attack sends body bags and reporters to another European city.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Winning the Referendum - for the Outsiders.

Whether or not Richard Nixon's special counsel Charles Colson had a cartoon on his wall with the legend: 'When you get 'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow', the fact is that remains a terrible piece of advice.

It guarantees that come the day you relax your grip of said appendages their owners will turn on you and kick your arse - out of power. Forever. Yet between now and Thursday, June 23, the day when the people of the UK have the opportunity to vote to leave the European Union - the biggest single confidence trick of the modern era - we can expect a great deal of ball-squeezing to persuade the credulous to stick with what they are used to rather than risk change.

A host of rich and prize-winning celebrities from entertainment and politics will get extensive air-time and print space to hammer home the vital importance of 'staying in Europe' for the sake of trade, security, defence and inclusivity. The United States, they will be told, is in favour of Britain staying in the EU. That strikes me as a pretty good reason for baling out of the leaky boat that constitutes the EU's ship of state.

The issue is not the continent of Europe but the artificial political construct currently known as the European Union but which in previous incarnations was the European Economic Community ansd the European Community. The name of this federal state seems to be different with every significant treaty change so that Joe Public is never sure what he belongs to or what it means, leaving the way open for old Europhile politicical grandees like Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine to talk down to them in tried and trusted cliches about Britain's position 'at the top table' of world affairs.  

Nor is the issue a black and white conflict between 'Little Englander' nationalism and pan-europeanism. It is about whether the free peoples, or allegedly free peoples, of the United Kingdom want to go on being part of an unaccountable  political organisation that arbitrarilly takes their money and tells them what they cannot do. I recognise that there are occasional readers of this blog who believe that membership of this organisation has enhanced the well-being of many people. In my opinion the EU, in its various forms, inadvertently started the war in Yugoslavia and damned nearly dragged us into military conflict with Russia by trying to sign up Western Ukraine as an associate EU member - the status that is being offered to David Cameron.

I think those BREXIT factions currently sniping at each other over who has and hasn't got the better exit plan have lost sight of what an amazing turn of events the forthcoming referendum represents.Three years ago, the likelihood of a Conservative Prime Minister, a professed supporter of EU membership, putting such a referendum into place was as remote as Leicester City topping the Premiership table. Armchair strategists felt confident in ridiculing anyone who looked forward to the day when that would happen. And when the unlikely looked highly likely they ridiculed the idea that the referendum might take place sooner rather than later, later being 2017.

The Prime Minister has put himself in this precarious position, partly to try to steal the thunder of the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage and partly to prevent he Conservative Party in Parliament from being torn asunder on the issue of EU membership as was the party of David Cameron's predecessor John Major. Will his gamble pay off, will this turn out to be for him a beneficial crisis? If you beome transfixed by the know-alls, then yes, probably he will win the day on June 23.

I think it entirely depends on whether the out campaigners have the humility to learn a lesson from the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. His unexpected victory was due entirely to popular support from the electorate at large, not the Parliamentary Labour Party, its fellow travellers and their cronies in the media. That's why the media has spent so much time subsequently undermining Mr Corbyn (ironically an advocate of EU membership), for he is there without their benediction. 

The referendum will be influenced by Question Time, Any Questions, staged televised debates and the Today programme, just as it will be influenced by blogs; but it will be won by those who go out into the country and address public meetings. This is what Jeremy Corbyn did, and he won overwhelmingly. This referendum won't be won on fine-print details, as some purists would wish, but on blood and guts passion and conviction. David Cameron is adept at that. But Nigel Farage is better, and he has the advantage of knowing the EU from the inside.

Our balls have been in the hands of lying Europhiles since the last referendum in 1975, when they told us that memebership of the EEC was vital for Britain's economic future. They knew all along that the project was really about creating a federal political state. The time has come to kick their arses once and for all and get out into the sunnier uplands of the wider world.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Bombs Away...

The overwhelming vote in the House of Commons in favour of extending RAF bombing from Iraq to Syria marginalised us "terrorist sympathisers", as David Cameron generously referred to those opposed to his big idea. At least the Prime Minister may hope so.

"Britain is a safer place as a result of this vote," Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond declared after the vote gave the Government a majority of more than 170. Let's hope he's right. It's a phrase that will haunt him if he's wrong, just as the reference to 70,000 moderates ready and willing to fight against Islamic State, could embarrass Mr Cameron more than it has done already.

The 67 Labour MPs who voted with the Government, admittedly on a free vote, are likely to have an even tougher time. While some of them may have been motivated by a wish to weaken the position of their anti-bombing leader Jeremy Corbyn, they will soon find out that a chunk of the country at large has a different view.

The Parliamentary Labour Party didn't vote for Mr Corbyn to replace Ed Miliband, ordinary people outside Westminster did, and it is these people, hundreds of thousands of them, that the 67 MPs will have to face down once the bombing starts, especially if something does not go according to Mr Cameron's big idea. Things could get very ugly - as they did in the late 1970s through to the mid-1980s one consequence of which was the break-away rise of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Hard-line Left-wingers wanted Labour MPs to be delegates, to do as they were told by Constituency Labour Parties. MPs like the late Edward Lyons, Bradford West, maintained that they were representatives of the constituency as a whole including those who did not vote for them. They were not delegates mandated to speak for one section or single-issue interest group only. This conflict is on the boil again. The difference between now and then, of course, is the intrusive and intimidating presence of social media. Personally, I think MPs are and should be representatives of whole constituencies rather than delegates of political interest groups.

The Government will benefit from a bitter and divided opposition only as long as the news coming out of Syria affirms the Prime Minister's big idea. Short-term Tory gloating  - cheering on Hilary Benn every time he speaks in the Commons, for example - will only add to fuel to the public's ire if the news from Syria or elsewhere is bad.

RAF bombs and missles may well "degrade" IS forces in Syria. But what about elsewhere? I don't suppose the RAF is prepearing to launch drone attacks on those parts of the UK from where IS recruits and supporters have gone to join the men in black in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The streets of London have witnessed the results of Islamic terrorism on at least two occasions since the summer of 2005 and according to the Prime Minister many subsequent attempts have been foiled by Britain's counter-terriorism forces. If Britain has been in varying states of alert over the last ten years why does Mr Cameron think that bombing Syria will diminish the likelihood of Islamic terror attacks in future?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Night of the Jihadis...Revisited

The last time I saw Paris, in early May 2011, there was a bomb scare near the Quai d’Orsay. The streets, busy with bug-eyed tourist coaches, cars and hooting scooters, were patrolled by blue-uniformed armed police.

A few days before, American Seals had stolen into Pakistan under the cover of darkness and assassinated Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. French news magazines were full of it. Bin Laden’s bearded face shone in hot sunshine on all the glossy covers on news-stands. Evidently the French were apprehensive of retaliation by Islamic jihadis.

Twelve years earlier, in late March 1999, a writer friend and myself spent a long weekend in the capital of love to celebrate the publication of a couple of books and to see the exhibition of David Hockney’s three Grand Canyon paintings at the ugly Pompidou Centre. 

On the afternoon of our departure the streets were full of armoured vehicles and CRS men in their dark blue airmail hats. NATO had just started bombing Serbia in response to the crisis in the Balkans. Tomahawk Cruise missiles were flying. The French authorities feared some kind of backlash in the city. Coincidentally, the length of the Pont des Arts bridge was full of larger than life statues of falling US Seventh Cavalrymen and Sioux Indians gripping – tomahawks. The Battle of the Little Big Horn had come to Paris.

I happened to be re-reading Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal round about the time of the latest massacre of innocents in Paris. The eight masked Islamic State kamikaze nihilists must have been making their final preparations while I was reading. The book begins and ends with attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle, first by members of the French military disillusioned by Government policy over Algeria (the Secret Army Organisation), then by a British hit-man, code-named Jackal, hired by the OAS. Against vast odds - many thousands of patrolling police oficers and paramilitary men - the Jackal comes within a whisker of killing the President. Part of the fascination of this story, first published in 1971, is that the reader watches the Jackal making his detailed preparations including four changes of identity. The security forces are always chasing, never lying in wait. If a fictional lone gunman could come close to destroying the status quo then why not a real group of trained and determined gunmen utterly indifferent to their own safety?

De Gaulle survived seven or eight attempts on his life; he even survived the 1968 student revolution which occupied the streets of Paris and the university quarter of Nanterre. That bout of street-fighting, replicated in Berlin, London and Chicago, was in part triggered by the (undeclared) Vietnam War. Although widespread and intense, exciting much fervour among the impressionable young and older intellectuals, the revolt did not result in casualties on anything like the scale of either the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January this year (20 murdered) or these November killings (129 dead and counting).

The French have known nothing like it since the war for independence in Algiers. In that murderous encounter, embittered by the French defeat in Vietnam in 1954, the French Government felt obliged to agree to talks with its enemy and eventually to withdraw from Algeria. I don't think they'll be doing the same in this case because this is not a battle for independence but war on a way of life.

All this the world well knows – doesn’t it? I thought so until I watched some of the television reporting of the latest killings. That Islamic gunmen, driven by religious fervour, anger at French military action in Syria and a shoot-to-kill policy, should take to the streets of Paris and open fire on civilians seemed to come as a complete surprise to some. It was as though they had no knowledge of recent history. Militant Islam's war on the West started in the mid-1970s with Black September, the late Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation and continuing through the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the 1989 fatwah against Salman Rushdie and thereafter the rise of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan (funded by the United States), followed by the religious nihilists of the Taliban, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and latterly the black-masked killers of Islamic State.

Going back further, the jihad against the godless West has been going on ever since General Gordon was killed in Khartoum by the Mahdi’s forces in January 1885 – 130 years ago. In Afghanistan it goes back to the early decades of the 19th century when the British made a bad choice of allies among tribesmen and ended up sending a punitive expedition from India through the Kyber Pass and into Kabul.

In the book We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists by Rafaello Pantucci, director of International Securities Studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security (founder, the Duke of Wellington), the point about the longevity of militant Islam’s war with the West is re-stated:-

The reality is that while British security services understand much better the networks they are dealing with and what radicalisation looks like, there is still very little understanding of how to counter and de-radicalise.
Among the wider radical community, numerous arrests and lengthy incarcerations have not stopped a steady number of young Britons posting radical material online, attending meetings or seeking out others with similar ideas with whom they can plot and form secret communities.
Britain’s jihad has been underway for decades, and the appeal of the ideas that underlie it has proved remarkably resilient.
Three main drivers usually have to be in place before individuals become involved in terrorism: ideology, grievance and mobilisation. How they coalesce is dictated by random events and how individuals respond to a given situation, factors that are difficult to forecast.

In his book Pantucci explains each of these three factors in detail, giving them an historical context. Like the emblems in a fruit machine, they have to be aligned in order to drive an individual to terrorism.

One of the problems of this murderous conflict is the different application of the word ‘martyr’. The Christian and post-Christian West associates martyrdom with self-sacrifice, not the taking of the lives of others. Usually this conscious act of existential self-abnegation is undertaken by an individual who lays down his or her life for others or in support of an idea. The eight Islamic State killers in Paris killed or wounded hundreds of others to justify their adopted nihilism and their own acts of self-immolation. Clearly they had no conscience about doing this because they believed that the people they were shooting and bombing were infidels.

To fall into this category appears to have little to do with belief in God or Allah; it’s more to do with the Islamic caliphate as defined by the leaders of Islamic State. Their followers happily kill fellow Muslims - Shias - wherever they find them. The military forces of the West may have killed 100,000 Muslims in the ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq in 2003; but in the eight year war between Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran (the West supported Iraq in that one) more than a million Muslims were killed. Few if any Muslims in this country felt compelled to join in. It didn't seem to be a public issue with them at the time even though the West tacitly supported Iraq.

The West’s military meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan undoubtedly played a part in educating disaffected young Muslims in the art of insurrection and insurgency. Islamic State is one of the consequences. The refugee crisis now bewildering the European Union is a concomitant consequence of that. Again, all this the world well knows – at least I thought it did. 

But the heart is also involved as well as the head. All day the sombre weight of what happened in Paris has been upon me.That weight has been there so many times in the past it's a wonder I have any humanity left. Gruesome newsreels of so many wars, civil wars, acts of genocide, terror attacks and hatefulness have been a constant feature of life since Korea in the early 1950s. Thirty of my nearly sixty-seven years were besieged by Northern Ireland, a conflict which the late Denis Healey said he could not imagine an end to. 

I felt the same about the terrible civil war in Lebanon when various religious militias tore into each other and the fabric of the country. Thirty years ago or more Beirut was like Aleppo and other Syrian cities now. In the early Nineties it was the turn of Sarajevo. I had hoped the 21st century would be different from its blood-boltered predecessor. Fifteen years down the road I'm still hoping; but then, as Russians say, hope is the last thing to die.