Thursday, March 23, 2006

Remember the Lesson of Troy

Commentary by Martin Kelly
May 21, 2004

The Greeks didn’t win, according to the history written by those who claimed to be descended from the Trojans. The universally bad reviews of Troy have focussed on the liberties that Wolfgang Petersen has taken with the Iliad, but the story does not stop with the fall of Troy into ruins. It’s never stopped.

The conflict had been long and attritional, resulting in huge losses on both sides. Hemmed in on the coast of Turkey, the Trojans felt that, although Paris might have been wrong in wooing Helen away from Menelaus, their honour as Trojans had to be defended when the Greeks, a motley collection of nation states, united in alliance to bring her back. Not all Greeks were in favour of the war – when Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, called to enlist his support Odysseus feigned madness, trying to plough a field with an ox and an ass. Only when Agamemnon placed his infant son Telemachus in the plough’s path did Odysseus reveal himself to be sane.

The real star of any movie about the Trojan War should, by rights, be Odysseus, the smartest, funniest and most charismatic mortal in mythology. The strategist who dreamt up the Wooden Horse failed, of course, to develop an adequate exit strategy for himself, resulting in a 10-year journey home to Ithaca, a journey of which he was the only survivor.

However, as Troy burned, the Greeks sailed off having crushed their enemies, mission accomplished. No nation building or reconstruction for the Trojans, the outright losers of a war that many on both sides believed to be totally pointless. But as the undisputed Big Dog of Greek politics, Agamemnon felt that his family’s honour had been slighted, a slight that only war could rectify, and the rest of them had better fall in line.

According to legend the Trojan nobleman Aeneas, bearing his father Anchises on his back, fled the burning city with some companions. For 10 years he also sailed the Mediterranean. He encountered Dido, the beautiful Queen of Carthage at its infancy, who loved him so much that, according to Virgil, ‘she fed with the wound with her life blood and was wasted by the fire she kept hidden’. When Aeneas chose his people over her, she swore everlasting enmity between Carthage and his descendants, a legend later used in their own causes by those who claimed to be of his line.

Eventually, Aeneas and his followers settled in a pleasant area of seven hills in central Italy. He passed into myth, until a great city grew up on the spot where he settled. It became known as Rome, and the Romans always invoked their Trojan roots when the occasion arose.

After the great victory of Troy, the Greeks never stopped fighting, either against the Persians, the Macedonians or each other. For them, there was no end to war. Eventually came Alexander the Great, whose dream of Empire from the Danube to the Ganges lasted only a few years after his early death. As time passed, the Romans became stronger, and the descendants of the Trojans returned to Greece as conquerors, where they stayed not for a decade but for centuries.

Beware the fate awaiting those who wage specious wars for family honour.

Fear of Failure is Killing Iraq

Commentary by Martin Kelly
May 13, 2004

Having the holder of a Harvard MBA as President must have been a novelty at first, until one realises how much a qualification like that can be as much of a negative as a positive in a politician. An MBA teaches its holder how to run corporations, whereas governments and wars have entirely different characters.

For a CEO President to surround himself with other CEO’s was, in hindsight, a bad idea – although Cabinet members must always be accomplished in their own fields, having so many people with the same CEO mentality means that there are no alternative perspectives available to provide opinion and counsel. Also, CEO types are always forceful characters, and they need someone to around them ready to raise their voice in favour of alternatives. One couldn’t imagine anyone doing that with either George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld, because Colin Powell seems just way too polite.

This is the most leak proof White House in living memory, meaning that there is a disturbing uniformity of thought indicative of uniform ideology. Another symptom is what appears to be the absolute lack of self-doubt that the President and the other neo-conservatives project in public, giving the appearance of strength. This appearance is false. The administration’s recent actions have shown them to be succumbing to the greatest fear of the modern corporate CEO. Fear of failure.

The Bush Administration is comprised of people who have almost never failed. It is impossible not to fail at some point or another in life – by so failing, we become stronger and grow wiser. When such people do fail, they do not know how to react, and the clearest evidence of this has been in evidence since the first publication of the Abu Ghraib photos.

Not enough analysis has been written of the importance of absolutely free market economics to neo-conservatism. It is fair to say that free markets are as important to neo-conservatives as the idea of exporting democracy, as it is their belief that free markets will turn all enslaved peoples into willing consumers of American goods. The resultant peace justifies the loss of American jobs that such free markets bring. However, a critical plank of this free market mania is that nothing should be done in the public sector that can be done in the private, even the conduct of the state’s most sensitive functions, such as the interrogation of its prisoners of war. Unless the contracts of hire of the civilians at Abu Ghraib who are alleged to have orchestrated the abuse have assumed the status of a Constitutional Amendment, they should be fired forthwith. No civilian of any nation has any business conducting such a delicate function of the State.

The mercantile flaws of such a set-up are obvious. Were these guys being paid for the number of confessions they extracted? Or was it just an hours worked only contract, payable without the necessity of showing results? Given what has already happened, it does not stretch credibility to suggest that what happened in that prison could have been the result of a civilian contractor trying to up their earnings, which is why they should all be removed immediately.

George W. Bush’s public expression of support for Donald Rumsfeld owes more to the closeness of the administration’s ranks than to any tangible proof of success in the administration of post-war Iraq. One can be sure that some of the most rabid followers of Moqtada al-Sadr will have availed themselves of the mobile phones and satellite dishes that are apparently the proof that Iraqis are free now. They are really the symbol that Iraq’s internal market has been opened up for the distribution of consumer goods, which are always snapped up in any country whose culture is incapable of producing them itself- therefore, Nick Berg’s murder was captured on VCR and broadcast on the Internet. The Iraqis lived before without easy access to wireless broadband, and there is no reason why US and UK contractors should be at risk to ensure they can have it. Peace first, money later. The Bush Administration seems to be following the opposite policy.

To put it bluntly, Rumsfeld was wrong not to have sanctioned more troops to keep the peace on the ground to begin with. The forces in Iraq are not robots – they should not have to endure having their stays being lengthened unreasonably. What is happening in Iraq is that there seems to be no real recognition that this is a war, and a war needs to be fought, against the savages who murdered Berg and who killed 168 pilgrims at Karbala. This one is being managed, in an atmosphere of rudderless stasis, driven by fear of failure.
Which, is of course, the default position of an MBA and a CEO. Even Donald Rumsfeld’s admission of responsibility did not lead him to resign immediately, so he clearly does not believe what happened at Abu Ghraib to be a matter of personal honour. He does not believe himself to have failed. He, like the rest of them, comes from an atmosphere where having a very public failure on your resume removes any further possibility of advancement. You’ll never be re-hired if you’re perceived to have been unsuccessful, an attitude that now seems to seep through every aspect of the modern culture. However, there is one great big chicken that may soon be coming home to roost. If it is proven that the contractors ordered the MP’s to commit these abuses with the full knowledge of the Pentagon, that becomes a resigning issue not just for Rumsfeld, it becomes one for Bush. All these people were there because Bush wanted it so, and he must bear his share of blame for the consequences, if people he ultimately hired were responsible for tarnishing the good name of America. They will have succeeded in giving the moral high ground to the House of Saud, which is diplomacy in reverse. It’s a mad world we live in.

Recanting Neoconservatism

Commentary by Martin Kelly
May 12, 2004

The intellectual roots of neoconservatism lie in Trotskyism, and there’s nothing a Trotskyite likes more than a good recantation. Once, neo-conservatism seemed like a very bold and brave vision for the world, but not any more. If the Abu Ghraib photos are its legacy, it’s finished.

As Frank Salvato has said, Arab outrage at the photos must be taken with a pinch of salt. One is tiring of the cultural bankruptcy of Arab society, evidenced by a Basra Mullah’s call for female soldiers of the Coalition to be captured for the purposes of concubinage. America will ultimately win this war because of American culture, nothing to do with rigid ideology, the stock in trade of Trotskyism. After the burning of Washington and Pearl Harbor the American spirit picked itself up within hours and got on the move. Its dynamism meant that December 7 1941 or September 11 2001 were not the disasters that the fall of Granada or the retreat from Vienna were for Islamic culture, nursing its grievances for centuries, the human potential of Muslims only released when their skills, abilities and common humanity are unleashed in the Western world. Not for nothing are America’s Muslims the richest in the world per capita.

The older conservative doctrine of containment and deterrence couldn’t work in the face of Saddam Hussein’s defiance. The UN’s inability to act against defiance of its resolutions arose from its Cold War roots, and you can’t have a Cold War with only one superpower.

However, the deed is done. Unless, for some obscure reason, the public is not being told, there have been no WMD discovered. The apparent failure of the Bush White House to devote resources to this quest or at least keep the public informed on why there have been no WMD found is one of the most startling aspects of this whole period in history. There is a callousness about its failure to communicate which is wholly unbecoming of a White House at war.

Those who called for war had mostly never fought in one. This is a point that has been made again and again by those who criticise the think tanks and magazines from which neo-conservatism sprung. It’s a perfectly valid criticism, although in a civilian society the oversight of wars must be left to civilians. But there is just as equally valid criticism to be made of very distinguished conservatives who oppose the war appearing on the same websites as people like Justin Raimondo (‘Go F…. Yourself, Mr. President’) or the extreme left-winger John Pilger, whose beliefs on everything except the war are the antithesis of conservatism. Such people do not good bedfellows make for the likes of Pat Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts.

The real failing of neo-conservatism is its belief that all societies, if not free, cannot just be made free but made to be free. The historical pointers suggesting its ultimate failure were all there – anyone who cries for Zimbabwe will see that that country’s failure has been the result as much of Mugabe’s Shona tribalism as his Communism. Nearly every failed country in Africa has failed because of tribalism, and few places are more tribal than the Middle East. Loyalty to tribe trumps loyalty to fellow citizens in the form of the state, the first demand of an open society. Democracy has never thrived in tribal societies, and there was no real prospect of it ever taking root either in Iraq or in Afghanistan. It is not the war that will ultimately fail – it is the peace that will fail, and because of the world vision of a few people living cloistered and privileged lives in the smart parts of Washington DC US forces will be in that part of the world for decades to come, not to keep the peace but to enforce the peace.

The final straw has been the last two weeks. Anyone connected to the regime of Saddam Hussein is art and part responsible for his regime’s atrocities. If the Iraqi Army was to be disbanded, its generals should never have been re-hired. When the statues came crashing down in April 2003, the line that was spun was that the Iraqi people would know that the Saddam regime would never be coming back. Now, even if the involvement of Ba’athist officials is limited they can’t be so sure, which negates the whole exercise.

It was over with Abu Ghraib. As a result of the idiotic actions of Lynndie England and her colleagues, and the equally idiotic actions of CBS in broadcasting the photos without thinking that there might be competition between their news value and the national interest of protecting American lives, American soldiers are at further risk of attack. If you don’t think that could happen, remember last summer, when six Brit MP’s were murdered by a mob after holding out in a crappy wee police station in the wholly crappy town of Majar-al-Kabir, a last stand of enormous courage and élan for which not one of them has received a medal. England’s Alamo happened because the Parachute Regiment had quite deliberately broken the terms of an agreement with the town headman to respect cultural differences, by using sniffer dogs.

Such needless loss of American, British and other coalition life was not, never was the point. After a year, there has been no point.

Instead, let’s return to the proven ways. It is wholly conservative to suggest that the best way to keep the peace right now is for the USA and UK to recruit spies. I don’t mean a few, I mean thousands and thousands of spies, to destabilise and subvert every damn dictatorship from China to Cuba to these demented crackpots in otherwise valueless and unimportant, unproductive places like Turkmenistan. Let’s do a Dutch, cut Medicare and build up the forces properly, starting by giving the Japanese the bomb and outsourcing the defence of Korea to them. Let’s start by saying ‘No’ to the Chinese just for once and park every ship we can find on their lawn, just as we did with the Soviets, and really test their enthusiasm for a fight over Taiwan. Two generations did not grow up under the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction to enable international Communism to win because it can make cheap DVD players. We still have enemies, many of them in Iraq. But we have other, more dangerous ones as well.

Pride makes me hate to admit this, but Shane, you were right all along.

Why Growth Will Never Stop

Commentary by Martin Kelly
May 3, 2004

Frosty Wooldridge’s polemics against growth in the Washington Dispatch are always informative, if not downright alarming. However, it’s unfortunate to say that the two principal causes of the unrestricted growth he berates are now so embedded in the structure of government that it will never stop, and they are the direct responsibility of the disengagement of political elites of both parties from the people they are paid to serve. They are the direct result of the social revolution affected by the liberals and the economic revolution affected by pseudo-conservatives and corporatists. The effect of these two revolutions has been to create a synergy of socialism, greed and special interests so enmeshed that it cannot be unwoven without catastrophic consequences for the body politic, and will in all likelihood not simply aid but also assist the continuation of mass immigration for the foreseeable future.

Every country that enacts a Social Security law signs its own death warrant. Not that having Social Security is a bad thing per se- it is simply that its cost places two great burdens on the citizens in whose name it is enacted. Firstly, at all times and under all circumstances it must be paid for. To speak of a ‘fund’ in these circumstances is disingenuous – if it is payable, it, must be paid immediately. It would be bad politics to make a remedy available and then make those entitled to the remedy wait 20 years to build up a relief fund for themselves. Secondly, it must continue to be paid for. It must be administered, so bureaucrats will need to be hired. Bureaucrats, once hired, are extremely difficult to remove, they need to be paid and provided with a solid pension backed up by the taxpayer. Therefore, the costs of government grow.
The outsourcing of government is not an answer. If a private contractor is carrying out a function of government at lowest cost it is still a function of government. What happens in this case is an accounting trick to provide a short-term electoral advantage to the party with the White Rabbit in its hat. The function of government has become its own maintenance, and the Medicare Bill is the classic example of government doing what it wants with other people’s money for no reason other than to curry favour with a preferred demographic.

The prevailing corporate culture of the 1980’s was one of wild, absolutely reckless consumption. This continued even after 9/11, when in order to stimulate the economy, the President told the nation, effectively, to go shopping. He did not say, ‘Invest in the T-bill’ or provide any other solution. It was simply because he couldn’t, for there was nothing else for him to work with.

The bulk of America’s debt is now held overseas, with the Red Chinese near top of the list of creditors. So dependent is the entire western world on what the Chinese produce that it has created a crisis in the world steel market, with the price at its highest level for 30 years. They consume one-third of the world’s steel output. Where Carnegie and Schwab and Morgan led, the Chinese follow.

What does this mean for growth? Commentators speak of illegal immigrants only in terms of how they consume resources in the form of healthcare, education and water. The socialists’ long game on illegals is to get them legal ASAP, so they can become taxpayers in order to fund their Congressional pensions. The corporatists long game is that the sooner they are legal they will become consumers, providing more fuel to the insatiable, rapacious financial engine that sees ‘best value’ as its creed, and whose holy texts are stock reports.

Cui bono from all this? If you’re a 1980’s era investor who made it through 2000 in one piece, you’re doing just fine. If you’re a preferred demographic, you’re doing just fine. If you’re a pensioner aristocrat from the ‘60’s who’s now claiming the fruits of the society you wanted to undermine, you’re doing just fine. If you’re middle class, you’re not. Nobody cares for you or your concerns, only what and how much you consume and if your taxes are in on time. The fuel of the system you inherited is people. Only more and more people can sustain a government with a structure like that of America today. Not the sort of people you want to grow naturally, like children, but fully-gown consumers and taxpayers.

The answer is to downsize government, which can only be done by cutting funding and killing programs, not by accounting tricks. The answer is to take back control of the economy, by perhaps seeking a smaller return on investments that you are sure will lead to a job being created in America, best of all an American manufacturing job. The answer is, once again, the sad return of Ellis Island, which helped ensure that TB was not widely imported.

Does either candidate have the stomach for such a radical program? Thought not.

Productivity Gains While Humanity Loses

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 30, 2004

How do we measure our fellow man? The outward signs are the least reliable. Too many hypocrites hide their misdeeds behind false and misleading ‘principles’. Except in the most public cases, we don’t have the ability to look into men’s souls, so we must find other criteria by which we can meter him. One of the most common is the corporate criterion of ‘productivity’.

Productivity is an effective tool for measuring economic worth. Obviously the more a man produces, the greater his value. A man with a strong work ethic will produce more than one without, so the harder worker has a higher value and should earn a premium for his labour. He should, shouldn’t he?

Not quite. Every aspect of economic life is now so subject to rules of productivity that it has become not a guide to performance but the overseer of a rapacious, insatiable culture that is nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with corporatism. Instead of rewarding steelworkers in Indiana who can roll more than every other plant in Gary combined, their productivity means they are now more expensive to reward. They have therefore become ‘uncompetitive’.

It is not extreme to say that, for all of the alleged social advances made in the workplace over the past fifty years, from maternity leave to sick pay, people with jobs are more dis-satisfied than ever. They really shouldn’t be – there is more available for them to consume than at any other time in history. The economic cost of this prosperity has been well recorded, however, the human cost is almost always ignored. It is a healthy thing to work hard, however, when productivity is measured not in days but in seconds, that turns the person being measured into nothing more than a machine, satisfying the classical definition of pornography, that of objectification of the human.

Socialists are big on productivity. Still reeling from the loss of the Cold War, they cling like limpets to the language of their ideas masters. Why else would magazines write stories on how much a stay at home mom would cost to hire? Even housewives, whose vocation is just as strong as that of any doctor or lawyer, must have their productivity measured according to the baldly mercantilist criterion of cost.

When are we going to start monitoring priests and ministers? Will they have to fulfil criteria on how many baptisms they perform (too dependent on third parties) or funerals (that could be dependent on location – you would get false statistics in areas with large retired communities)?

The socialist and allegedly conservative elites couldn’t care less why people are unhappy at work. In every workplace, you will get the loser whose lack of personal responsibility has brought them to the pass that they’re at. You can’t breed common sense – as any professional will attest, having been a lawyer, I have met some lawyers I wouldn’t trust to buy a pint of milk. However, the way in which the economy has been allowed to develop demands increasing homogenisation. We must all perform to the same standard, whether we are capable of it or not. Losing one’s job used to carry a stigma. Not any more. Every aspect of our day is an asset to be used to improve productivity, even to the fourth dimension. All managers speak the same way. They recite jargon like the incantations of some lost pagan priesthood, forgetting that, after a time, the souls of even the most ambitiously careerist longs for nothing more than a day away from the mobile phone and the e-mail.

The behaviour of corporations of the early 21st Century can be honestly interpreted as cultish in their demands on employees’ time, allied to their demands for conformity. It is fundamentally de-humanising, and anything that de-humanises people is unconservative. After all, have you ever met anyone who, on their deathbed, said they’d wished they’d spent more time at the office?

New Caesars, Old Warnings

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 27, 2004

Pundit fatigue rots the brain. There is so much easily available information, analysis and interpretation of events that it has developed a critical mass, causing those who adhere to particular political opinions to be consolidated in them. Therefore, formerly pro-war conservatives are now reconsidering their positions. This is not backtracking by any manner of means, but a simple re-affirmation of why those people held those opinions in the first place.

It is because, like all sensible humans, they value the status quo. They want things to go back to the way they were before. They want the quiet life.

In a progressive age, to say one values things they way the were before is almost akin admitting belief in leprechauns and phrenology. However, there is nothing wrong in saying things were better before. Obviously, we cannot live our lives in bubbles – would that we could, for obviously we would be immune from the blandishments of Islamofascist savages.

There was a time when elected politicians made it their business to defend the interest of those who elected them. However, leaders are now so dependent on the interests behind them that those interests are the primary focus of leadership. How else can failure to intervene against outsourcing be justified? It’s because you’re backers are interested in lowest cost, not American jobs. Bill Clinton’s open identification with abortionists and the gun-control lobby meant that he would never act against their interests.

Similarly, the Open Borders, Closed Minds brigade who promoted amnesty for illegal aliens were more interested in securing Hispanic votes for George W. Bush in November than in considering the consequences of mass illegal immigration. Seeing people who are prepared to jump the queue receiving an absolution for their actions must be a sore one for every immigrant who ever took their turn in line and jumped through the hoops of fire laid at their feet by the INS. However, if there is a political advantage to be gained from it, new democracy demands that it has to be done. All ends justify all means. That is not democracy. That is Cosa Nostra.

One can tire of this manoeuvring, and with depressing confidence one can say that a Kerry presidency would only continue and consolidate what has rapidly become the new norm.

This is the stage at which democracy is in trouble. Prior to the foundation of the Republic, the greatest society in history was the Roman Empire. The first Romans loved the quiet life. Rome started off as a kingdom. After expelling Tarquin the Proud, it enjoyed 500 years as a stable and productive Republic. However, a power-grab by members of leading families, allied to a culture of imperialism, led to the sidelining of the Senate and the emergence of the Emperors, in whom all effective power rested. Concentration of power in the hands of one individual, or a small group of individuals, was the first step on the end of the road. The middle class disappeared, leaving only the very rich and the very poor. The people thus stagnated, making it one of the duties of the state to provide entertainment and sustenance for them. At the height of its power it had no real organised competitors, but did for itself from within.

One wouldn’t suggest for a moment that cheap gas and cable are the same as bread and circuses- the American people are way too smart for that. However, when groups grab power for themselves to make laws out of nothing, as the courts have done with Roe – v – Wade and Goodridge; when those charged with upholding good governance think nothing of removing an allocation given for one cause to another in direct violation of the constitution, as Bob Woodward alleges in Plan of Attack; when civic leaders treat their business like an entertainment for themselves, to the exclusion of the people; and when the hordes are already massed at the gates of Rome, like Attila – then one can seriously fear for what the new Caesars have done.

Before Julius Caesar launched his power grab, he was part of the first triumvirate along with Pompey and Crassus. Crassus was the one of the wealthiest men in Rome, who had made his name with the severity with which he had put down the rebellion of Spartacus. Under his watch, thousands of the Sparticist criminals were crucified along the Appian Way.

However, Crassus did not consider his achievement complete. Like all Roman leaders, he needed a military victory, which is why he led his legions to complete and utter disaster against the Persians, at Carrhae in modern Iraq.

There’s a lesson in there for some one. It is that the people must cherish their traditions, for they cannot rely on their leaders to do so.

The Star Wars Guide to Conservatism

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 22, 2004

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a great galactic Republic. All who lived there were free, and all species therefore aspired to live in it, making great efforts to avoid the Star Patrols in order to gain entry. However, due to the machinations of those determined to undermine its traditions of liberty and brotherhood, its soul was being poisoned. This could be seen in the venom of the discourse in the Senate and the plexi-journals. One of its great powers, the Trade Federation, desperate to ensure that all markets were open, was undermining the Republic by sending all production to the isolated outlands beyond the borders, creating a disaffected mass at its heart. It fell to a group of noble souls called the Jedi-Cons to keep the peace and ensure stability.

The Jedi-Cons drew their strength from their belief in an entity called ‘The Force’. ‘The Force’ taught that all intelligent species have the same human rights, that government should be small, taxes low or non-existent, abortion banned, that the death penalty and education policy were the prerogatives of the individual systems of the Republic, that blaster ownership should be legal and that no civil service drone robot has a right to tell you where you can fly your speeder. Jedi-Cons agreed on many or all of these things. However, the Force was out of balance.

The elder, or ‘paleo’, Jedi-Cons believed that it was not their role to intervene in the affairs of entities out with the Republic. They also believed that the Trade Federation should be opposed, for in their learning and the wisdom of their years they saw its policies for the greed they were. The younger, or ‘neo’, Jedi-Cons believed that they had a duty to interfere in the affairs of other systems when they perceived the Republic’s security to be threatened. They were also blinded by the false prosperity brought about by the Trade Federation. However, both could unite when the need arose. When the renegade Darth Osama attacked the Republic, all Jedi-Cons had united to defeat him and his slave army on the wasted, barren planet of Binladestano Four. But after Darth Osama had been crushed, there came reports that the Saddamians were building a Death Star.

This caused a fatal rift in the Jedi-Cons. The paleo-Jedi-Cons refused to support any action against the Saddamians, as no substantive proof had been found of a link between them and Darth Osama. They preferred to deter and contain the Saddamians. The neo-Jedi-Cons, believing the reports, contrived to attack the alleged Death Star-builders by whispering their counsels in the President’s ear. However, after Saddamia was occupied they did not find any evidence of such a weapon. They did find, alas, that the Saddamians offered more resistance to the soldiers of the Republic than the Binladestanis had.

This caused many problems for the President of the Republic. A Jedi-Con with neo leanings, he found himself facing mounting criticism on Coruscant, particularly from the Democratids. The Democratids were the mortal enemies of the Jedi-Cons, and every move they made was calculated to undermine the Force.

As time passed, the situation on Saddamia became severe. After a year, there was still no evidence of a Death Star, and the Democratids and the other forces of the dark side began to refer to the Saddamian war in the same terms as the last, more dreadful war of the Republic, against the Communisticons of the Viet system. The Communisticons now only existed in isolated pockets around the galaxy, winning the Viet battle but losing the war, having been defeated by the paleos’ policies of containment and deterrence.

The Jedi-Cons realised that balance would need to be brought to the Force. This would make the President stronger, giving him a wider basis of opinion from which draw his advisers. It would mean that the President might be forced to stand up to the Trade Federation. It would mean a return to the great days of the President 20 years before, who had united both factions and thus enabled the longest period of growth and prosperity in the Republic’s history. It would mean that the President would be able to face the Democratids in the coming Great Struggle knowing that all Jedi-Cons were behind him.

Could such a uniting of both sides of the Force save the President? Don’t ask me. It’s only a story…

Osama Is Losing

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 21, 2004

Well, give Beardy credit where credit’s due, he’s remarkably eloquent for a corpse. His taped message of April 15 may mean that history might record that the greatest achievement of Osama bin Laden was issuing a press release by séance.

Although the babblings have been declared to be ‘probably’ his voice, in this context the word ‘probably’ has the same meaning as it would in the phrase, ‘the sky is probably pink’. Or, ‘George W. Bush is probably a conservative’.

No, Osama wafted off into the everafter some time near the end of 2001, underneath 6,000lbs of explosive. His demented heirs and lunatic successors have stretched themselves to the limits of their capabilities, in spite of the barriers to fighting them that we place in our own paths.

This tape shows they are losing. It shows we have them on the hoof. It shows they are nearly spent.

Osama didn’t deal. He was not just an all or nothing guy himself, he inculcated that spirit of all or nothing-ness in his followers. In order to tell other people to hijack planes and kill themselves to achieve your goal, you have to be a pretty ruthless fanatic. Treaties and truces are appurtenances of a culture that, although committed, is not fanatical. It recognises that there are objective limits to its goals, and is prepared to acknowledge these in legal form.

Osama knew no limits to his goals other than total war and total victory. He would have made a good neo-conservative.

Why are they even prepared to acknowledge that their ambitions may have limits? Because we have been so successful at arresting and killing his followers.

Since 9/11, no terrorist attacks in the USA. In Europe, one, Spain. Arrests are being made continuously and the leader of the plot blew himself up rather than be arrested, decapitating the cell. There have been arrests in England, Italy, Belgium and Germany. Although the culture of Muslim nations means that the Al Qa’edists are better able to mount terrorist attacks against foreigners in Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia or Indonesia, they have very little capability to do it either in Europe or the USA. The simplest form of security advice that there seems to be is - don’t work in or travel to Islamic countries. Earn and spend your dollars at home instead, while we still do things like jobs.

In terms of securing ourselves, we might just have won.

Another reason it just doesn’t sound like Osama is that it displays innate ignorance of European culture. For all his faults, Osama had been around the block before he took to the caves, and was a well-educated, able and quite sophisticated man. This doesn’t of course excuse his megalomania and viciousness, but the real Osama would have known better than to refer to that non-existent demographic, the ‘Europeans’. Previously, he had specifically threatened the UK, Italy, Spain and Poland. A thug-gangster-crazy like Osama, as mean as hell and violent with it, wouldn’t ever back down from a threat like that. Whoever wrote and recorded that message didn’t have a clue about the sensibilities of the target audience, particularly after Fabrizio Quattrocchi’s injunction to his killers that he would show them how an Italian dies. Nothing will stiffen the Italian people, not as Europeans but as Italians, than seeing one of their own being butchered by barbarians. Although the far-right is an unwelcome reality in too many European nations, they have never won conclusive power in any European election since 1945. Western Europeans tend to be slightly more patriotic and less nationalistic than many Americans might imagine.

So, the loonies of Al Qa’eda have set new battle lines, kill the Jew and the Yankee, give the ‘European’ an out. For as long as one of them is at large, for as long as their gospel can be preached without fear in the mosques and their materials distributed, they will remain as dangerous individually as they were on September 11th 2001. However, as a group they are weak, and they know it. We should know it too. Down with Osama and all his kind.

The Downwardly Mobile Conservative

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 14, 2004

Who pays the president? The taxpayer, of course. The President of the United States is handsomely rewarded to protect the taxpayers’ interests, and right now, he’s failing. As well as failing to fulfil his primary obligation of securing the borders against illegal immigration, he is failing to ensure that the American taxpayer has the secure environment necessary in order for them to continue to pay tax, fostering instead an atmosphere that cherishes profit before opportunity, as opposed to the conservative ideal of viewing them as equals. In so doing, he is creating a demographic that has the capacity to turn round and bite him on the backside come November.

Yuppies? Forget them, their Thatcher’s Children. Dinkies (Double Income, No Kids)? Self-obsessed liberals. Nimbies (Not in my back Yard)? Yuppies who stayed rich long enough to buy a big house. Welcome to the era of the DMC – the Downwardly Mobile Conservative.

The free marketeers had a few sweaty weeks recently, after the publication of the February job creation figures. They have been crowing in self-validation after March, thinking they’ve scored a home run against the forces of reaction and protectionism. They would be mightily wrong.

On Sunday April 4, Roger Bootle, Economics Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph gazed at the guts of American employment statistics, and didn’t like what he saw. Bootle went back more than a few months, charting the levels of job creation in every recovery since 1945. The average level of new job creation in every recovery between 1945 and 1982 was 6.3%. The average level in 1991 was 2%. However, the level of new job creation since the 2001 recovery has been minus 0.2%. As Bootle puts it, over the course this has not been a jobless recovery. It has been a job loss recovery.

The principal explanation that Bootle provides for this situation is that the productivity of the American workforce has increased massively over the same period, he says because of the investment made in IT in the 1990’s. Outsourcing plays a part –also, interest rates will probably need to rise. However, the one thing that he does not factor into his view on productivity is that people are now working harder, for longer, for lower real rates of pay than at any time in history. You can invest as much in IT as you like. However, software doesn’t vote.

The nuclear option of all discourse on conservative economics is, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’. Neither, on the other hand, is there free taxes. These must be earned in the form of wages and then levied at rates deemed necessary by the peoples’ representatives. But, just as the liberals view ‘The State’ as being the perfect expression of civil authority, so too do the free-marketeers view ‘the market’ as being the sole determinant of all that is best for government. They are as rigidly ideological as Stalinists. As Pat Buchanan said recently in an article called Suicide by Free Trade, the market is their god, and he’s right.

But the people caught in the middle of this cosmic struggle are the DMC’s. Conservatism is the property of all, not the simple possession of whoever sits in the Oval Office. Such is the detachment of the free market establishment from the working man and woman, and so ideological are they, that they forget that the working class are some of the most socially conservative people you will find. If you want an advocate for the wearing of school uniform and corporal punishment, you’ll find them working on a production line. Ditto for immigration control, restriction of abortion rights, support for the death penalty, whatever. Archie Bunker and his English father Alf Garnett were crude liberal caricatures of the backbone of productive society. However, the free marketeers do not see these people as fellow citizens whose contribution to economic activity is as vital as their own. Instead, they are viewed merely as ‘labour costs’, untermensch almost, to be expunged from the balance sheet in favour of the option that brings the highest return at the earliest opportunity.

While the going was good in the ‘80’s many in the middle classes would not have worried so much about the loss of manufacturing jobs overseas. These would have been unpleasant things that happened to other people somewhere. However, the advent of outsourcing now means that everyone is subject to the same lack of security. Lack of security means that people can’t plan conservatively – the disparity between prices and wages is so high in the UK that the only way in which people are entitled to enjoy the fruit of their labour is through consumer credit. It’s easy for free market economics professors to proclaim the virtue of delayed gratification, however the people they’re proclaiming to delayed their gratification while they were at college, they delayed while they were establishing families and careers and in their 30’s if they find that they’re working 80 hours a week, 40 of which are for The Man, nobody should be criticised for putting a plasma TV on their MasterCard. In an economy that needs consumption for its very survival, conservatives shouldn’t grudge other conservatives some of the limited independence that consumer credit can bring.

Social mobility is the key to a healthy economy, as it’s the proof of a balance between businesses operating at a healthy level of profit and the existence of opportunity for new business and job creation, with all the positive benefits they bring. As people move up, others take their place, continuing the cycle. But if housing is so expensive that people who work hard through their own efforts can’t get on the ladder, or you study for years and find that your expectations are crushed at the end of it, that balance is lost, and the people who would otherwise be able to make or take opportunity get frozen out. Static wages, rising prices and loss of security – these are the classic signposts on the road of Downward Mobility. Been to college? Go to hell. The DMC’s are a large and growing group for whom there is now less opportunity than at any time in American history, if Roger Bootle is correct. In November, unless some steps are taken very soon to address their concerns, they may just decide not to support their natural base, the Republicans. On April 2, Bruce Bartlett commented on Townhall that, according to a firm called Global Insight the economy has lost ‘only 104,000 jobs’ due to IT outsourcing last year. As a committed free-marketeer Mr. Bartlett might find that, come November, the figure might just be ‘only’ 104,000 and one.

I’ve never been to New York City, but I can quote Emma Lazarus. Somehow, I don’t think outsourcing was what she had in mind.

Cause for Cautious Optimism in the War on Terror

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 6, 2004

In an endeavour like the one in which our countries are now engaged, the greatest enemies can sometimes be introspection and self-criticism. As we suffer hideous losses like those poor Yankee souls in Fallujah, burned in their car and then despoiled, we can forget just how much our efforts are hurting our enemy. We forget that democracy is just as much a habit as a heritage for us, and that the rights that we enjoy, the right to question and dissent, sometimes cloud our view of how we are really performing. Because our men and women under arms, from all countries that have bothered to engage themselves in this struggle, are performing.

We can be so wrapped up in 24-hour news analysis by cod historians and New York Times columnists that we lose perspective. Sometimes, a real historian needs to step into the breach, to provide the proper perspective on events that shows that this battle is maybe, just maybe, being won by the forces of light, truth, peace and brotherhood, regardless of how jaded the motives of the politicians who sent them, the venal nature of the corporate interests behind them or the insanity of their opponents.

Such an historian is Victor Davis Hanson of National Review Online. On March 26, his usual Friday column was entitled ‘We Are Finishing the War’, and postulated the position that the losses we are suffering at the moment are analogous to the most bitter fighting of post D-Day Europe, effectively the Bastogne of the War on Terrorists. His view is that Al Qa’eda and its fellow travellers the Al Qa’edists have been so scattered by coalition efforts against them that their capability to mount big scores against the infidel has been radically compromised. An accomplished classicist, he likens Osama’s Old Peculiars to the Hydra or the Gorgon – ‘What we have been seeing lately is (Al Qa’eda’s) tentacles flapping about in search of prey, after the head has been smashed - still for a time lethal, but without lasting strength’.

One could easily dismiss this as neo-con drivel, but for the arrests that took place in London on March 30. If anything, these arrests dramatically underscore Hanson’s point, as well as giving us pause for the long-term future.

That morning, eight British Muslims of Pakistani extraction were arrested at addresses in London, Berkshire, Bedfordshire and Sussex. Later on in the day, half a ton of ammonium nitrate, the DIY Semtex, was recovered at a lock-up garage in west London, near Heathrow.

The men are aged between 17 and 32. If he is aged 17 in 2004, he must have been at most 15 on September 11, 2001. Accordingly, it would have been extremely unlikely that this particular Holy Warrior would ever have attended a camp in Afghanistan. Any training he had had would have been at best second hand. Also, none of the arrested men were of Osama’s preferred officer corps, Arabs or North Africans. These guys may not be top-grade jihad material.

This might be reading too much into the event, but one would have thought that if a psycho headbanger like a jihadist was wanting to mount a spectacular in London of all places, you would want some of your best guys on the job. Guys who get caught with half a ton of explosive fertiliser aren’t your best guys.

Indeed, we forget that, in its own way, Madrid was a disaster for the jihadists. Their cells are being rounded up continuously, and any effective Moroccan terror network in Spain must, by now, have been utterly smashed. When documents like the Zarqawi letter appear in such a firmly positioned site as NRO, one’s natural inclination is to be suspicious. However, assuming for a moment that it is genuine, it must be desperate to feel that you cannot operate properly even in a country so disorganised as Iraq, so effective has the coalition been at stamping out your efforts.

However, the real battle will not start until the campaign in the field is over. Just as Nazism did not die in the field, but lives on, revived after a couple of generations by the racist far-right, who casually raise their arms in the ‘Sieg Heil!’ without the slightest conception of what the gesture really means, then so too will Islamism revive after a generation. The electoral success of both the left and the far right in the recent French municipal election shows that for some cultures, extremism is never far away. It is a cancer that has never been fully removed from this continent, maybe providing an object lesson in how to reform the Islamic world. It is a strange quirk of culture that the most avid consumers of the products of Western culture are those whose culture is completely incapable of producing these things themselves – thus, the Middle East, where the grand total of 500 books a year are translated into Arabic, is awash with cell-phones, satellite dishes and Internet cafes. Maybe it’s time to start blocking the signal of Al-Jazeera Television, with its unceasing diet of Islamism and anti-Westernism. Maybe it’s time to start teaching civics properly, so that the European Muslim learns that his primary obligation as a citizen is to the state that permits him freedom of religion, as opposed to the religious precedence of the umma. For as much as Professor Hanson can draw parallels between the events of 1944 and 1945 with the events of 2003 and 2004, he could forget that that Second World War, whose cause was European extremism, is still not over to this day, in some form or another. Woe betide the Middle East if Islamist extremism, once defeated in the field, ever returns unless, like the Hydra, all its heads are severed and burned.