Wednesday, November 30, 2005

German Aid Worker Abducted In Nineveh

Terrorists kidnapped 43 year old archeologist and aid worker Susanne Osthoff last Friday in the Iraqi province of Nineveh. Yesterday morning, the Baghdad office of German TV station ARD received a video from the abductors, a still from which has been released to this morning's press.

Frau Osthoff is by all accounts a brave woman. She has put years of work into Iraq (on behalf of the Medeor charity, and previously on archeological digs), converted to Islam and married a Jordanian. She is the first German victim of Islamist kidnapping.

As this morning's Rheinische Post comments on the motivation of the kidnappers: "If they are really struggling against western civilisation, politics and dominance, an anti-war, Arab-supporting German convert to Islam ought to come last on their list of targets."

But whilst this reaction may feel right, it is way off the mark. The Islamists want to kill off the pacifist German approach to life as much as the more aggressive Anglo-Saxon version.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Social Worker Flays "Liberal" Values

Shaun Bailey, a social worker, describes how liberal pieties have destroyed communities and the prospects of kids brought up on sink estates, such as the one in North Kensington where he himself grew up. He pleads for the family, for traditional patriotic and moral values, and the reassumption of personal responsibility. His pamphlet (no Man's Land: how Britain's Inner City Youth Are Being Failed) is published today by the Centre for Policy Studies.

Such first-hand analysis, with similarly conservative conclusions, has been available for years, from the likes of Theodore Dalrymple, the prison doctor, for example. But it's refreshing to hear from a social worker, a tribe traditionally keener on the "society's to blame" angle.

Focus: My battle with liberal Britain - Sunday Times - Times Online

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ni Putes Ni Soumises ("Neither Whores Nor Doormats")

A march today through Neuilly-sur-Marne is organised by the Ni Putes ni soumises movement (roughly translated as "Neither whores nor doormats"), in support of Chahrazad Belayni, an eighteen year old girl set alight on November 13th by her spurned, would-be husband, a Pakistani workmate, who is now on the run.

Link to Ni Putes ni Soumises site (English version): presentationanglais

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Angela Merkel's Travels (And Her Limits)

As soon as Angela Merkel was inaugurated as Chancellor of Germany, she went to Paris - as all her post-war predecessors have done. Unlike them, however, she left France, shortly after the Elyseean hand-kiss, for Belgium, to see EU Commission President Barroso, NATO boss Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and even the Belgian PM. She will be in Britain today to see Tony Blair.

Everyone assumes that Merkel is signalling that the Franco-German-Russian axis -which did so much damage under ex-Chancellor Schroeder and ex-Foreign Minister Fischer - will no longer determine German foreign policy. Merkel, apparently, was also keen to visit Poland as part of her inaugural trip, and was prevented only by Warsaw diary problems. This suggests that she is keen to get the smaller, newer, more vital European nations back on side, after their repeated rebuffs at the hands of the Franco-German-Russian axis.

She is limited in what she can do: hemmed in on all sides by her socialist SPD partners in the grand colaition. Her Foreign Minister is an SPD man called Steinmeier, who worked for Schroeder and will not countenance any major shift away from Germany's pusillanimous foreign policy. This pusaillanimity took hold under the previous government, and most German voters seem to support it, if only because nobody, except for President Bush, has been bold enough to articulate an alternative. But Bush is widely loathed here, mostly on "cretinous trigger-happy cowboy" grounds (exactly the same way Ronald Reagan was perceived during his presidencies), and noone really understands, let alone buys into, his anti-terrorism doctrine.

Under Merkel, Germany's foreign policy focus will free itself of Schroeder's shortsighted French fixation, and she will desist from the anti-American posturing which so disfigured Schroeder and Fischer's tenure. Germany assumes the EU Presidency in 2007, so these small signs of opening up to the outside world are mildly encouraging for proponents of such things as reform of the EU budget, including the ludicrous CAP system, a more Atlanticist foreign policy, and integration of the new, eastern EU countries.

But the important socialists in Merkel's government, such as the rabid anti-capitalist demagogue Müntefering, who is vice-Chancellor, will probably see to it that she can't book any notable successes on these fronts. This is a dispiriting but fair reflection of Germany's election results, which didn't give Merkel the mandate to do more.

Monday, November 07, 2005


The blog is off to Morocco for a couple of weeks, searching for sun and truth.

As French Car- and Kindergarten-Burning Continues, Berliners Stage Copycat Violence

The French unrest continues into its 12th successive day, and has just claimed its first life. Thousands of cars across France have been burned, alongside a few kindergartens and the inevitable McDonald's. The rioters are testing the strength of the rule of the law they so despise. Al-Jazeera says that a copycat action may have occurred in Berlin early this morning, with five cars torched, but the German press haven't yet picked up on that. But it seems that the French example may yet inflame the rage of lawless Muslims - and their lawless Western allies - elsewhere in Europe.

This does not appear at first sight to be Islamist violence, but of course it is: it is low-level civil unrest of the sort that has been simmering away for years and is now happening on a bigger scale than we have seen before. The French rioters are overwhelmingly (if not exclusively) Muslim. If they are not motivated directly by jihadist emotions, the idea of jihad does inform their actions, giving it a broader context than mere tedium or frustration.

The question is what effect, if any, French political incompetence, dithering and overreaction may now have.

It seems Interior Minister Nicolas "Sarko" Sarkozy is most interested in building his presidential standing by placating petit-bourgeois xenophobia. The trouble is not that he described the rioters as "scum", for scum is only an accurate term of mild disapprobation. The trouble is that the epithet is assumed to refer to all Muslims, rather than to the relatively small number of malcontents. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, meanwhile, is more interested in appearing statesmanlike by appeasing the rioters. Chirac has been sitting on his hands so far, more interested in seeing the outcome of the struggle between his would-be successors than in restoring peace to the streets of the banlieux.

And this is all wrong. Now would surely be the ideal time to get law-abiding Muslims on-side. That doesn't mean treating the scummy rioters with kid gloves, but it does mean unambiguously standing up for the rule of law. Another problem is the prissy political correctness under which the rioters are never referred to (by politicians or on the media) as Muslims - as if ignoring this reality is in any way helpful. The council of Muslim organisations has been firmer and less-mealy mouthed than most: it has issued a fatwa against the rioters and affirmed that their actions are against Islam. This is much to be welcomed.

This wave of futile violence is terrible not just for France but for all of Europe. For all over Europe we share a fatal tendency to shut our eyes to actual and potential Islamist outrages, pretending that we can wish the problems of Muslim immigration away. But they won't be wished away, not in our lifetimes.

Aljazeera.Net - Police shot, wounded in France unrest

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Beginning of the End for Blair?

Over in the UK, David Blunkett, the minister for Work and Pensions, resigned yesterday - for the second time, despite Tony Blair's urging him to stay. Blunkett felt that his latest scandal - a failure to declare his holdings in a controversial DNA company he joined whilst he was out of office - was taking too much attention away from government. Blunkett is always said to be a key Blair ally but this is his second mistake (his first was fast-tracking his nanny's immigration papers when he was Home Secretary) and given Blair's current weakness he really had to go.

Blair received a second blow when a clause in his draft anti-terrorism legislation - the so-called "glorification" clause (clamping down on public expressions of support for terrorism), was passed by only a single vote in the House of Commons yesterday. It was pointed out that Cheire Blair herself could be prosecuted under this ruling - she once said she could understand why Palestinians would become suicide bombers. The government was forced to back down on the infamous proposal that terrorist suspects should be held in custody for up to 90 days without charges being brought.

Simon Hoggart writing in today's Guardian detects signs that even Blair's own MP's are beginning to "enjoy" the process of dismembering their leader.Guardian Unlimited Politics Special Reports Simon Hoggart's sketch

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

RIP: Theo van Gogh

Today is the first anniversary of the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.

The murderer is now in gaol with a life sentence. People say that Dutch society changed radically since the murder; this is probably exaggerated. At any rate, even a few months ago there were plenty of young Muslims in Holland who were happy to support the murder.

The blog hasn't yet seen any ideas on how to quell the support of "integrated" western Muslims for the murderous barbarism of al-Qaeda. Van Gogh's murder, like the London bombings in July, was the quintessential expression of this barbarism - and both attacks were pepetrated by seemingly well-integrated, well-educated young men, thriving in the societies they seek to destroy.

Osama Bin Laden In His Own Write

Bruce B. Lawrence writes about Osama bin Laden's public ejaculations. The one attractive feature of this fanatic's style is that bin Laden writes in an antiquated, neo-classical Arabic, and often coins rhyming verses to spread his message.

He believes killing women and children is an acceptable response to the "Judeo-Christian Crusade" which has been launched, apparently, against Islam. Bin Laden is a nihilist, who wishes to destroy societies on earth in anticipation of heavenly delights after death. He isn't interested in improving conditions for the people left alive on earth.

His rejection of the modern world, and the purist simplicity of his destructive urges, may seem romantic, and attract adolescent malcontents eager to die for a cause, to give meaning to their lives by violently denying it to others.

His use of the Koran and the writings of distinguished Muslims is subtle and polemical; his use of modern media, especially Al-Jazeera but also Islamist websites, has given his words a wider audience than would have been possible a decade ago.

It's still astounding, though, that a psychopathic mass-murdering nihilist should be taken so seriously, beyond the confines of some sick computer game.

The Chronicle: 11/4/2005: In Bin Laden's Words

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Germany's Putatative Coalition Undermined By Resurgence of Hard-Left Within Socialist Party: Chairman Müntefering Resigns

German politics, opaque enough at the best of times, is in even more of a mess than normal.

Admittedly the Chancellor-elect, Angela Merkel, has seen off the preposterous Chancellor Schroeder - who somehow persuaded himself, in the face of his election defeat, that he remained the only man to lead the country. After a few weeks of populist posturing, he finally had the grace to back off.

So under Angela Merkel's leadership, the centrist CDU/CSU duly set to cobbling together a government with the socialist SPD. The socialists, for their part, were fronted by the notorious Chairman Müntefering. "Münte" as he is known in Germany, has long been a bug-bear of this blog for his advocacy of undiluted socialist dogma - command economy, denunciations of evil international Jewish capitalists and all - to solve Germany's dire economic plight.

Yesterday, however, this mastadon of the left announced his resignation. His nominee for the post of SPD General Secretary had just been defeated by an even more hard left candidate, an ambitious woman called Andrea Nehles. The rebuke from his own party was too much and "Münte" has chucked the chairmanship, although he claims to want to continue putting the coalition together.

But his resignation obviously throws into the deepest doubt Müntefering's ability to represent the SPD in coalition negotiations, let alone serve in a putative Merkel cabinet, so the future of the coalition is now in doubt. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Merkel's centrist partner, Edmund Stoiber of the CSU, may use Müntefering's exit as an excuse to withdraw from his (putative) role as trade and technology minister in Merkel's (putative) cabinet. Ironically, this will strengthen Merkel, as Stoiber is a very uncomfortable partner, touchy about not being number 1, and given to embarrassing outbursts about the innate superiority of his native Bayern and the inferiority of the east and so on.

But the return of the leftists within the SPD is the most immediately worrying thing for Merkel. Even if the "grand coalition" survives, its policy formulation and ability to govern will be made much harder given a resurgent left.

Should it all come unstuck, the likely date for new elections is 26th March 2006, the date on which regional elections will be held in Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and Sachsen-Anhalt.