November 17, 2001

Signs of a spat between the Northern Alliance and the UK.

They're arguing about how many British troops should be in there. Expect tomorrow's Guardian to fall upon this with great whoops of relief: at last some bad news for the West, however minor.

Let me get my caveats in first. No, Afghanistan's future is not likely to be an eternal round of peace and plenty. Yes, coalition warfare always involves ruffled feathers. Yes, it's their country, after all.

First time I've felt sorry for Tony Blair in weeks. Being lectured by Baby Assad was probably good for his soul, but the Northern Alliance could have been grateful for a while longer! Shades of De Gaulle refusing us entry to the EEC in revenge for the humiliation of having to be say "thanks" to his ancestral enemies... Now there's a thought. A worrying possible outcome: UK/NA quarrel will be papered over but one day we'll wish they had pushed us out.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 05:16 PM | TrackBack

The British Conspiracy!

This irresistible piece by one Peter Goodgame came to my attention via the Libertarian Alliance forum. At first I was sure it came from La Rouche conspiracy theory stable, but apparently not so. Mr Goodgame, whose talents have not hitherto come to my attention, blows hot and cold about La Rouche somewhere round the middle of the article.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:11 AM | TrackBack

'Pig-ignorant peasants' row.

Let's be honest. Teachers' union boss Nigel de Gruchy is right to claim that he has been selectively quoted in this rumpus, fun though it is. Perchance some Wat Tyler of the rival NUT has taken offence at Sire de Gruchy's aristocratic name. Personally I'd love to see a real pig-knowledgeable peasant, perhaps one of the Grundy family from The Archers, dispensing earthy wisdom to the little blighters.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 08:30 AM | TrackBack

War vets on the rampage in Zimbabwe

. Sadly, as this BBC News 24 story makes clear, they don't mean veternarians. Though I can't help thinking that most of the actual veterans of Zimbabwe's war against white rule, which ended in 1980, must be getting a little old for all this. Like the "students" who took over the US embassy in Iran at about the same time it must be a prudently polite term for "ruling party thug".
Posted by Natalie Solent at 06:54 AM | TrackBack

Bye Bye, Taliban. Or Taleban.

Soon it won't matter how I spell it. Here's the Times on your last hours.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 06:17 AM | TrackBack

November 16, 2001

Americans are converting en masse to Islam

according to this article in WorldNetDaily.I confess I found the scenes described in Boston rather hard to credit. CAIR are jerks, but Dr Fatihi is obviously no Bin Ladenite, and there is something appealing about his enthusiasm. Perhaps, like so many Conservative canvassers in the last election, he mistook politeness for support.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:37 PM | TrackBack

I've had a soft spot

for Oliver Letwin ever since he incautiously said during the election campaign that the Tories would cut zillions off public expenditure. Here he is defending the rights of Wee Frees to call the Pope the antichrist. As a Catholic myself I'd really rather they didn't, but I'm recommending the article in order to get my Campaign for Real Free Speech discount.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 11:11 AM | TrackBack

Just a reminder of what all this is about.

More info on the last minutes of Flight 93. I wondered at first whether the story of Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers' brave end would turn out to be a comforting myth. But no, seems you really can make a difference.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:50 AM | TrackBack

No Title

Hello Planet Earth. You could have a free gift waiting for you says this article in the Independent. Soon YOU, Planet Earth, might be able to park your shiny new 35 billion outside your lovely home in the solar system. You have three years to claim, so DON'T FORGET, post your claim form to Doha now. Good luck, Planet Earth!

Don't let my little bit of fun up there make you think the trade talks don't matter, or that there is no great prize at stake. (Though that figure of 35bn does appear to pop up from nowhere in the last paragraph.) Anyway, real people really do win things from competitions. I know 'cos my brother won a video camera (way back when they were a big deal) from a competition on a beermat. Then he forgot himself at the presentation ceremony and asked for a rival brand of beer.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:14 AM | TrackBack

Two views of China

First go to the China Daily News site. Modern China: bright, funky website, uncensored news about bank robberies, you name it. Now click the "Communist Party 80th Anniversary" button on the right. Timewarp! No need to read this stuff, people, you have lives after all. I don't so I did: "Socialism is growing in China" is the only line to raise a smile.

The Falung Gong button above does not take you to a game show, as ignorant westerners might think from the name and the bouncy typeface.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 02:14 AM | TrackBack

November 15, 2001

Having got over my paranoia

attack, I popped into Ain'tNoBadDude, read the stuff about the poor wee delicate souls at the BBC who can't stomach the word "terrorist", and put in a link to Dawn magazine's letters page like he asked me to.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 04:09 PM | TrackBack

I wanted to balance

the sweet but clueless letter in Dawn magazine just posted with some similar Costnerish examples from our own wonderful press. But the *$!&%* internet is usleless today, so I'll watch some paint dry instead. Last time it was this slow, it was because....
Bad thought. Excuse me while I check the news.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 01:28 PM | TrackBack

International relations: all our problems solved

in this letter to Pakistan's Dawn magazine.

Need for a just world order

The time has come to concede to everyone his right and to eliminate imperialist rule in different parts of the world. We must also eliminate imperialism in the new form when big and prosperous countries exploit poor and small nations. If we want to save the world and live in peace, we should establish everlasting "justice" in the world. In this process we shall also have to democratise and reform the United Nations and rescue it from imperialist clutches.

We propose that an "international conference" be summoned under the aegis of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the United Nations to focus attention on every "trouble spot" in the world and take decisions by simple majority to restore the rights/and lands to the legitimate owners even if the imperialists have ruled over those lands for centuries.

The conference should also take decisions in cases of self-determination and independence struggles by various nations of the world.

When just and equitable order will be established, all nations will live in peace and the international community will live as a big happy family.

When the international conference grants to the nations of the world, whether free or subjugated, their legitimate rights, real peace will dawn on the world.


Chairman, Muslim Commonwealth Movement, Karachi

There you are then. Get going.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 01:19 PM | TrackBack

A newly discovered blog

, like a new planet, has swum into my ken. It's the alarmingly-named The Edge of England's Sword. Good articles on Jim Bennett's "Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism - take two out of three", on not believing the Guardian, and (you have to look in the archives for this one) safety fascists killing Bonfire night.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:43 AM | TrackBack

Simon Hoggart is very funny

about discreet British government gloatingover events in Afghanistan in the Guardian today. Hey, I'm British and it doesn't stop me. Gloat, gloat, gloaty-gloaty-gloat.Gloaty gloaty gloaty gloateeeeee.... gloat gloat.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:34 AM | TrackBack

November 14, 2001

The impromptu cross

made of fire-blackened, salvaged planks of wood, still stands amid the ruins of the old Coventry cathedral. The guide told me that it was put up the day after the raid by an unknown hand. Cynic that am, I wondered if it was erected to be seen more by men than God. No matter. If it was propaganda then it was inspired propaganda and it must have given comfort to many.

I mention the Coventry raid because it took place 61 years ago today. 568 people were killed that night. The total number of British victims of aerial bombardment in WWII came to 60,447. The German toll was ten times higher. Both governments had underestimated the stoicism of their own people, and of their enemies: despite the bombing, commerce and industry went on in both countries, hampered but not ended.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 07:34 PM | TrackBack

At last I understand.

This world is not real. Philip K Dick was right; soon this computer will melt away leaving only a bit of paper marked "computer". I know all is illusion, because not only did I agree with Polly Toynbee this morning, I also, at least when it comes to the House of Lords, agreed with... No. I can't bring myself to say it. Him, anyway.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:24 AM | TrackBack

Trif leader in the Telegraph

from Janet Daley. It's about Kabul again. I can't seem to think about anything else. In fact... oooagh...mmmf... I just can't stop myself, I've got to say it... YO!

Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:53 AM | TrackBack

From the Guardian letters page:

Alina Lebedeva (Flower power, November 13) has thwacked with her carnations the most high-profile admirer of Islam in Europe [she referred to Prince Charles, who was hit with a flower by a peace protester], which makes her the perfect figurehead for one of the most misguided protest campaigns in history. While the people of Mazar-i-Sharif dance in the streets, protesters in London insist they would have been better off languishing under the Taliban. I have yet to read an interview an Afghan who does not to welcome the bombing, albeit with reservations. Is this the first time protesters have attempted to save people from military action from which they did not wish to be saved?
Anne-Louise Crocker
Shoreham, Kent

Possibly not the first time - Vietnam and Cambodia might say the same. Gosh, I've changed.Did I really write that?

Posted by Natalie Solent at 06:49 AM | TrackBack

Dazed and confused, I stagger from the rubble.

A new world is out there. Can it really be true? Unbelievably, it can. I have agreed with Polly Toynbee twice in two weeks. She even talks about "our victory". Still silly about patents though.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 06:37 AM | TrackBack

November 13, 2001

Anyone from the Northern Alliance reading this?

Please, please, please don't kill the Taliban prisoners you take. I know they are bastards. I know you have gone out and re-taken your capital city from foreign oppressors. But which is better? That all these people are mourned by their families as matyrs - making their sons into more enemies for you, or that they go home (after doing time for their crimes) and say, "The Afghan people hated us. We were defeated, and had to beg for mercy. My son, stay home and never get into shit like your Daddy did."
Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:51 PM | TrackBack

Jolly times in Kabul.

How many times has anyone had cause to write that without irony in the last twenty years, I wonder? It may yet sour, but while it lasts go to BBC News 24 and enjoy this report from John Simpson, who seems to have liberated Kabul himself.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:42 PM | TrackBack

No Title

Yet more on my burgeoning obsession with libertarian tendencies in Harry Potter: Cornelius Fudge IS David Blunkett. Consider: Fudge is afraid, and with good reason. So he lets the Dementors into the civil society of the magic world, and gives them power over persons convicted in hasty and fearful tribunals. And Voldemort laughs. Gadzooks, this all started off as a joke.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:36 PM | TrackBack

Reader John Weidner

, of San Francisco had this to say about my Harry Potter blog:
On the downside, Harry Potter is suffused (probably quite
unconsciously) with the disastrous British idea that the very best
students should expect to slide into a career in government, while
only goof-offs like the Weasley twins will become inventors and

A just point, but in response I observe that the Ministry of Magic does not get that good a press in the later books. And the entrepreneurial Weasley twins are portrayed as much more cool than big brother Percy the wannabe civil servant. OK, OK, so I don't really know anything about Ms Rowling's political beliefs. But a rather interesting and subtle point that occurs to me is that even non-libertarians see a unregulated world as much more natural than a regulated one. Perhaps this is merely a reflection that for most of our history we were far less coddled.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 05:51 PM | TrackBack

Paul Foot in the Guardian today

has this in the second half of his column:

'Blair's sermons on the war in Afghanistan have become less bellicose in recent weeks, and there is a reason for the change. He was knocked off his perch by the vast demonstration on October 13. He will be even more shocked by the demonstration against the war this Sunday.

I've been talking to Salma Yaqoob, 30, a psychotherapist and mother of two, who has lived in Birmingham all her life and chairs the coalition against the war in that city. She was inspired for the first time in her life to take part in public protest when, on a visit to the city centre in the week after September 11, she was ostentatiously spat upon. "It was not so much the spitting but the fact that no one protested about it."

She went to an anti-war meeting, and helped to organise another one, in Small Heath, attended by 2,000 people. She tells me that 50 coaches have already been organised to bring people from Birmingham to London on Sunday, and she expects many more. "My eyes have been opened by this war," she says. "What is especially shocking is how much has been kept from us - we don't even know, for instance, how many innocent people have been killed by the bombing."

She says the strength of the anti-war coalition is that it cannot be written off as a collection of usual suspects. "If we were only CND, people would say we were exclusively white middle class; if only socialist, we would be the loony left; if only Muslim, and I am a Muslim, we could be dismissed as religious. It's the fact that we are all together with so many people who are none of these things that makes us so very strong." '

Now I am saddened - really saddened, not tactically saddened - that Ms Yaqoob was insulted for wearing Moslem dress, and that no-one came to her defence. But, tell me, what on earth does it have to do with the question of whether the US is right or wrong to make war in Afghanistan in response to the WTC attack? I can see what connection the yob who spat at her made, but what connection does a reasoning human being make?

I have a happy fantasy that Sunday's Stop The War demo will have to be called off, the war having been stopped by being won. Not very probable, I grant you, but it might be interesting to see the effect that scenes of rejoicing in Mazar and Kabul have on the numbers. I just pray the Northern Alliance maintain discipline, historically weak-to-nonexistent in Afghan armies.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 03:16 PM | TrackBack

Famine is coming soon to Zimbabwe

according to this Times story. September 11 saved Mugabe from the inconvenience of scrutiny. "Security of property" sounds like an eighteenth-century squire's excuse of the rich for starving the poor, doesn't it? Took me a while to learn that security of property is the dyke that holds off famine. Ask the Russians. Ask the Chinese. Ask the Africans. Don't ask the Irish, because they have rarely looked hard at their own history, but you could try asking an Irish historian.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 02:45 PM | TrackBack

Rumour Mill turning.

Here's an odd story about US soldiers allegedly held by the Taliban from the Times of India, reported in Muslim News. While you're visiting Muslim News, turn back to their front page, and be amazed at their choice of running order: student elections in Palestine trump the fall of Kabul.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

Non-seriously depressing news

from Instapundit. Glenn Reynold's brill weblog has passed the half million visitors mark, after three months. He is destined to be even more famous than he is already because he inspired.... danaaa!.... me to start a weblog. So why is this depressing? Because he appears really pleased that he has been donated a whole $1,100 for his prodigious output. Now don't get me wrong, if I saw $1,100 lying on the street I would stoop to pick it up. Let me go further: for $1,100 I would parachute into Kandahar dressed as a nun - well, maybe not, but it's clear that weblogs are not the way to make one's fortune. Sigh.

PS I can't find the exact link on Instapundit. Is the whole $1,100 thing a phantasm of my dosh-strapped mind? Never mind, you can always read about the Boulder penises instead.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 01:15 PM | TrackBack

Northern Alliance on the outskirts of Kabul

One of the odder rules of war is that "fanatics run both ways". It was Moslem fanatics - the Sudanese "fuzzy wuzzies" - who broke the British Square. Kipling's poem was written in an era when no one, least of all the British soldiers whose language it borrows, gave a monkeys about the use racist terminology, but it gives the enemy full credit for courage. Yet defeat for fanatic armies has often meant rout. In 1945 the Soviets swept through Japanese-ruled China in operation August Storm. (Never heard of it? Nor have many people. The atomic bomb wiped it from the popular mind.) Those same Japanese who had thrown themselves over cliffs rather than surrender at Okinawa just... lost the plot. The metaphor is deliberate. This wasn't in the script! They surrendered in droves. May it go thus in Kabul .

Posted by Natalie Solent at 08:43 AM | TrackBack

November 12, 2001

Another plane crash in New York - cause unknown.

Just heard that a plane to the Dominican Republic has come down in Queens. Although certain parallels to the 11 September attack, such as the 9.15am local time of the explosion, suggest another terrorist attack, other arguments point to an accidental cause. New York's sufferings go on.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 04:31 PM | TrackBack

Various sceptics

think the Telegraph's video (see 11 Nov) from Osama Bin Laden is either fake or does not, in fact, admit that his boys carried out the WTC attack. As a tail covering measure, I'll remind you that I did say, "if confirmed". But I don't think my tail needs covering quite yet, so let it wag some more. (1) Digital fakes aren't that good. Not yet. Not for so long and complex a production as a closeup for several minutes of a famous human face talking. One day fakes will be that good, and then we shall return to the age of testimony on oath.
(2) Does he admit it? It has been plausibly argued that the brotherhood of Islam is so strong that they all talk as if the act of one was the act of all. OK so I don't speak Arabic, but it seems pretty clear to me. Miles of talk about how wonderful the destruction of the WTC was, and then "our terrorism is good terrorism." If he's not saying he did it, what is he saying?

Personally I think all this fooling about is a replay of the Provisional IRA's reaction after the worldwide horror following the bombing of a Remembrance Day ceremony at Enniskillen several years ago. First silence. Then "we didn't do it." Since then, alternation or parallel running between "we did do it and we don't care" and "we meant the bomb to go off at some other time, honest". Possibly the WTC, like Enniskillen, was a "spectacular" under the charge of subordinates that came out more spectacular than the paymasters had planned.

Posted by Natalie Solent at 01:03 PM | TrackBack

Politicians vs Lawmakers

"Politician" gets you a sneer. "Lawmaker" gets you respect. Perhaps that's why Home Secretaries these days so love making laws. Quite a few good quotes in this Telegraph leading article on civil liberties being eroded in the present war
Posted by Natalie Solent at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

Stop the war! Open a MacDonald's in Kabul

This document, of fundamental importance for the peace of the world, was posted on the Libertarian Alliance Forum.

"No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against
each other since each got its McDonald's." --TF, 1999


By Thomas Friedman

Every once in a while when I am traveling abroad, I need to indulge in a
burger and a bag of McDonald's french fries. For all I know, I have eaten
McDonald's burgers and fries in more countries in the world than anyone, and
I can testify that *they all really do taste the same.* But as I
Quarter-Poundered my way around the world in recent rears, I began to notice
something intriguing. I don't know when the insight struck me. It was a
bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald's in
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald's in Tahrir Square in Cairo and
the McDonald's off Zion Square in Jerusalem. And it was this:

No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each
other since each got its McDonald's.

I'm not kidding. It's uncanny. Look at the Middle East: Israel now has a
kosher McDonald's, Saudi Arabia has McDonald's, which closes five times a
day for Muslim prayer, Egypt has McDonald's and both Lebanon and Jordan have
become McDonald's countries. None of them have had a war since the Golden
Arches went in. Where is the big threat of war in the Middle East today?
Israel-Syria, Israel-Iran and Israel-Iraq. Which three Middle East
countries don't have McDonald's? Syria, Iran and Iraq. How about
India-Pakistan? I'm convinced they could still blow each other up, because
they both now have nukes, but only one of them -- India -- has fries to go
with them. India, where 40 percent of the population is vegetarian, has the
first beefless McDonald's in the world (vegetable nuggets!), but Pakistan is
still -- dangerously -- a Mac-free zone.

I was intrigued enough by my own thesis to call McDonald's headquarters in
Oakbrook, Illinois, and report it to them. They were intrigued enough by it
to invite me to test it out on some of their international executives at
Hamburger University, McDonald's in-house research and training facility.
The McDonald's folks ran my model past all their international experts and
confirmed that they, too, couldn't find an exception. I feared the
exception would the Falklands war, but Argentina didn't get its first
McDonald's until 1986, four years after that war with Great Britain. (Civil
wars and border skirmishes don't count: McDonald's in Moscow, El Salvador
and Nicaragua served burgers to both sides in their respective civil wars.)

Armed with this data, I offer "The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict
Prevention" -- which stipulates that when a country reaches the levels of
economic development where it has a middle class big enough to support a
McDonald's network, it becomes a McDonald's country. And people in
McDonald's countries don't like to fight wars anymore, they prefer to wait
in line for burgers.

from THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE: Understanding Globalization
by Thomas L. Friedman, 1999, New York [Farrar-Straus-Giroux]


Posted by Natalie Solent at 09:54 AM | TrackBack

November 11, 2001

Osama changes the party line.

If confirmed, this story from the Telegraph is the most important development in the war so far. Bin Laden's latest video now says that he did do it, it was terrorism, and that's good. Why do I rate this poxy little video as such a big deal? Because all evasions are now stripped away. Everybody in the world, choose your side now.
Posted by Natalie Solent at 08:39 AM | TrackBack