The seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 has not unnaturally attracted much attention with the French, US ,Russian and UK heads of state in government commemorating what is likely to be the last time the veterans mark the occasion(anybody old enough to have stormed the beaches that day is pretty much either dead or a pensioner by now).
For my part I am uncomfortable with the whole business of commemorating war, esp the virtual veneration of the so-called "Greatest Generation" of Americans who grew during the Great Depression and fought in WW and/or Korea.
Yes, they WERE brave(extraordinarily so in some cases) and we owe them an eternal debt of gratititude for helping to destroy the crazed regimes of Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini, but I for one am unhappy with the "Sgt Rock syndrome" to name a popular DC title and its soldier hero. For a start, the so-called "Greatest Generation" harbored racist, sexist and homophobic prejudices that are rightly held unacceptable nowadays( I am aware that these prejudices were not unique to America at the time byt Western societies asa whole but they STILL make me acutely uncomfortable).
Secondly, what makes the so-called "Greatest Generation" better than those Americans who fought King George III's Redcoats to secure the nation's freedom from Colonial rule, or did so to save the Union and free the slaves in the Civil War of 1861-65 or participated in the "long twilight struggle" against the Soviet Union during the Cold War or are doing so nowadays in the "War on Terror" as either Special Forces( US Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, Delta Force and other elite formations of the US military) or as CIA operatives???
Perhaps the best epitath to the brave men who fell on BOTH sides( no I am NOT implying a moral equivalence between Axis and Allied causes-only noting that a brave man is a brave man irrespective of the uniform he wears) is FDR's statement that "we fight not for conquest- but to put an end to conquest!"
Am I the only one who finds the whole business(or non-business more like it) of the trading of US Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for several Taliban leaders currently held at "Gitmo" profoundly mystifying?
Firstly, as painful as it may be: there are times when prisoner exchanges/releases may be mandated- after all not just the US exchanged Soviet spies for CIA operatives or Western tourists held ontrumped up charges of espionage during the Cold War- even commando- minded Israel and the UK have engaged in prisoner exchanges or releases- esp when a conflict is either winding down or peace negotations are underway( pace the Good Friday Agreement- "Release the prisoners" is always an emotional cry in Ireland- and anyway John Major's government conceded the central point when it freed soldiers convicted of murder in Northern Ireland such as paratrooper Lee Clegg and the two Scots Guardsmen, Fisher and Wright, largely due to a lobbying campaign by not jsut their respective regiments but by the "pop" press).
Whether or not Bergdahl "deserted" is for the US Army to decide( desertion in a combat zone is a capital crime under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice- as the hapless Eddie Slovik- see his "Wikipedia" entry- found out; he was the last American soldier to be shot for desertion in January 1945) but I for one am rather at a loss as to what Obama's conservative critics expect him to have done. True, releasing terrorist prisoners often encourages more hostage taking- but as the Afghan conflict is winding down anyway so no harm, no foul!
To my mind, the hue and cry over Bergdahl's release is nothing more than a ginned up "scandal"(shades of "Benghazi-gate" by Republicans still deep in denial over their successive defeats by Obama in 2008 and 2012's US presidential elections.
A young woman mentioned in Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger's rambling "manifesto" is reportedly "devastated" by his claims that she "bullied" and "humiliated" him( and by implication caused the six murders-seven if you count Rodger's suicide) according to her father, so much so that she has gone into hiding lest she become the target of "copycat" killers( I Know her name but as there are enough crazies in this world without encouraging them and I do not want an innocent person's blood on my hands I will not mention it- a quick internet search will do so)
Denying his charges, her father claims she hardly knew Rodger and had no contact with him since he left school as well as pointing out that it would be physically impossible for a petite 10 year old girl(as she was then) to bully a twelve year old boy, and that in reality she is one of the gentlest , sweetest persons around. Even allowing for parental bias, this propensity to blame anyone for this tragedy -no matter how irrationally( as Rush Limbaugh did when he blamed the shootings on Barack Obama and the Democrats) is deeply disturbing.
The ancient Hebrews used to symbolically place all their people's sins on a goat and send it out into the wilderness to die-hence"scapegoat"- someone punished or condemned for the sins of others as this young woman is.
it must be a deeply painful experience for her- may God be with her!
I should declare my prejudice on this issue; I have never quite understood what is so "honourable" about "honour killings" such as the recent one in which a pregnant Pakistani woman was stoned to death by her own family simply because she had "dishonored" her family by falling in love with a man of whom they disapproved.
It is true that "honour based" murders are not unique to Arab or Muslim societies such as Pakistan and occur in many cultures(including Latin or African ones)which are NOT majority Muslim( BTW as with FGM- female genital mutliation, "honour killings do not seem to be expressly mandated by the Koran-so much for the charge that criticism of both FGM and "honour killing" is either "racist" or even"Islamophobic"made by some commentators).
In view of the recent murders by Elliot Rodger( aka the "Virgin Killer" as some British tabloids have taken to calling him) in Isla Vista, California, allegedly prompted by misogyny( four of his victims were in actuality men and only two women), it is worth observing that for all its faults and follies, America and other Western societies are light years ahead of other countries( assuming of course that making this point is not seen as "Islamophobic" or "racist")
The first thing to note about Elliot Rodgers and his armed rampage is, contrary to his misogynist ramblings on a now defunct site, is how FEW women he killed in actuality- four men to two women in toto.
Whilst he violent and premature death of any person irrespective of sex is a tragedy,it therefore does NOT justify the witterings about "patriarchal terrorism" made on some leftist and feminist websites.
Not that one side has a monopoly on hypocritical and politically motivated cant. Case in point the "woe is me" wailing by men's rights activists, the gun lobby and political conservatives all bellyaching that they were being unfairly "demonized" by the liberal press as well as claims that the tragedy was being "exploited in order to push a political agenda"!( as if the political Right was averse to such tactics remember those conservatives who blamed the 9/11 attacks NOT on violent jihadists but on "socialists, feminists and liberals")?
Clint Eastwood once joked that if you go far enough to the Left you get the same idiots coming at you from the Right.
Case in point: former Nixon speechwriter and all around paleoconservative(ie extreme right winger) Pat Buchanan has recently been kissing up to "anti_Obama" and "traditionalist Christian" Vladimir Putin, citing his opposition to "moral relativism of the West" based on opposition to gay rights.
Well , times have certainly changed- in the 20s and 30s, it was left-wingers such as Paul Robeson, H.G.Wells, Hewlett Johnson aka "The Red Dean Of Canterbury" who functioned as the Kremlin's "useful idiots" nowadays it's righti wingers like Pat Buchanan and our own Nigel Farage who perform this role.
Dear Pat: during the Vietnam War you and your fellow conservatives were busy intoning "America: love it or leave it!"(as if refusal to support government policy implied that those who did so remained in the US purely on sufferance) since you self evidently prefer Vladimir Putin and his theocratic/kleptocratic regime to that of Barack Obama's- shouldn't YOU "leave America" as you self evidently no longer love it???(failing that you can always emigrate to Saudi Arabia or Iran or any other theocratic regime)
Should there be a memorial to Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers(who was hacked to death next to Woolwich Barracks a year ago by a pair of Islamist fanatics)? Some say yes- others argue that it might become the the target of either Islamists or far-Right extremists such as the BNP or the English Defence League.
I propose a compromise: there should be a memorial to the late Drummer Rigby but it should be located within Woolwich Barracks per se so that it cannot be the target of public attacks or rallying point by either Islamists or BNP/EDL headcases.
Yes, you saw correctly. I used the phrase "war criminal" to describe Royal Marine sergeant Alexander Blackman, convicted of murdering a wounded Taliban insurgent in 2011 who had his 10 year sentence cut to eight by the Court Martial Appeals Court (due to alleged post traumatic stress disorder that led to him murdering said unnamed insurgent) but had his conviction rightly upheld along with his dismissal from the Royal Marines in disgrace. I am fully aware of the gravity of this phrase but given that Sgt Blackman committed the very same offence- the wilful murder of a POW( for which both the UK and US tried and in several cases-executed Germans and Japanese officersfor after WWII albeit in their cases on a very much wider scale see Wikpedia entries for "Le Paradis massacre" "Malmedy massacre" "Stalag Luft III massacre"), allowing his appeal would have effectively have legitimized such (mis)behaviour in future conflicts- with the risk of retaliation by the enemy( be they insurgents like the Taliban or conventional military forces) against caputred British servicemen.
Now it may be argued that the Taliban does not observe or regard itself being as bound by theGeneva Convention( had the circumstances been reversed, the insurgent would have killed Sgt Blackman or any other British soldier or Royal Marine as casually as you or I would swat a fly), so why should we?
This argument is specious- just because our enemies do not subscribe to the rules of war, that is NO excuse for us to do the same! The Taliban may not acknowledge the Geneva Convention but Her Majesty's Forces(which obviously includes the Royal Marines) most certainly do and woe betide anyone who seeks to break them- pace Sgt Alexander Blackman!
Alert readers may have heard of the case of the pregnant Christian woman in Sudan who has been sentenced to die for "apostasy"( even though she has NEVER been a Muslim in the first place; she was raised a Christian by her mother after her Muslim father abandoned the family).
I ask again: where is the outrage(esp amongst liberals or leftists)? A more likely answer is that they are too preoccupied with the "straw man" of "Islamophobia"
(esp in the wake of the conviction of "hate preacher" Abu Hamza by a New York federal court and his likely life sentence in Florence ADX"Supermax" prison). it now seems likely that the execution of this woman will at least be postponed until she gives birth or until she has weaned her child, but it is STILL an outrage. (International human rights laws give an individual the right to practise or change his or her religion)
For the record, "Islamophobia" exists in reality- just as anti-Semitism does, but to paraphase the late American humorist Mark Twain, its extent has been grossly exaggerated(mainly by the sort of self interested Muslim who bears a suggestive similarity to the pro-Israel partisan who cries "anti-Semitism" at the drop of a hat).
Oh well, to quote the Church Father Tertullian- "the blood of martyrs is the seedbed of the Church!"
The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram and its recent kidnapping of over 200 Christian schoolgirls( with threats to sell them into forced marriage- ie sexual slavery- and presumably forcible conversion to islam) has been widely criticized by just about everybody from actress Anne Hathaway to US First Lady Michelle Obama- with the exception of sections of the far Left(pace the Socialist Workers Party) that usually purports to be concerned with the rights of women( the most recent edition of "Socialist Worker" made no reference to the abduction of the schoolgirls far less their coercive conversion to Islam).
One presumes that Boko Haram's anti-Western outlook trumps concerns about women and "infidels"( the phrase Boko Haram-means "Western education is forbidden/outlawed"),as Observer columnist Nick Cohen has repeatedly suggested.
Which of course begs the question: why DO groups like the SWP( whose slogan is "We stand with the Muslims"- although the group is coy about whether this amounts to condonation of oppressive and brutal behaviour by Islamist groups like the Taliban- whose attitudes to women, "infidels" and free thinking Muslims can best be described as reactionary in the most literal sense of the word -even more so than Lefebvrist( Tridentine rite) Catholics) or fundamentalist Protestants, insist on flacking for or at the very least soft peddling behaviour and polcieis that it would unambigously condemn when practised by Christians of any denomination?
Those with long historical memories might note that the charge of "Islamophobia" has suggestive similarities to those who criticized "useful idiots" who defended Soviet(esp Stalinist) policies during the Cold War by charging "anti-Sovietism" or "reactionary mcCarthyite red baiting" for critics of Soviet policies. True, some of those critics such as the late William F.Buckley, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and of course Joseph McCarthy did little favours to the cause of Western liberty and freedom with their irresponsible claims but that is not the point,
The SWP would argue that "Islamophobia" tended to colour the Western media's (and by implication the public's) attitude to Boko Haram, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Even if that were true, this is an intellectually ludicrous claim- rather like blaming anti-Communism for the Cold War between the USSR and the West- which came first the chicken or the egg( prior to Bin Laden's declaration of war against America in 1996/97, and more recently 9/11 few took the claim of "Islamophobia" seriously)
Thankfully most Western commentators have realized that human rights are indivisible and reject "boo words" such as "Islamophobia".