Last week Bashar al-Assad attacked his own people and killed many of them with poison gas. President Trump ordered that two US ships patrolling the eastern Mediterranean fire cruise missiles to destroy the Syrian airfield from where the gas was carried and the aircraft that carried it.
We were delighted that he did. We cheered. The mass-murdering tyrant Assad and his allies and supporters, Russia and Iran, were being shown that the United States was no longer going to stand by while they committed such atrocities. We also applauded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement that Assad must go.
We invited our readers, both here on The Atheist Conservative website and on our Facebook page, to tell us what they thought about President Trump’s action.
Few agreed with us. Most said that Assad should be left in place because who knew what would follow his deposition. We argue that whatever followed, Syria could hardly experience worse than it has under Assad’s rule.
They argued that there was no firm evidence that Assad was responsible for the gassing. Some wanted him to be blamed and punished fairly, justly, as in an American court of law; not taking his past record into account; looking only at this particular atrocity and whether the evidence was strong enough for him to be found guilty of it.
Some declared that they had until now been Trump supporters, but his stroke against Assad had changed their view of him.
How many, we wonder, of those who voted Donald Trump into power now think he has done something so wrong that they regret their choice?
We cannot know. We do not trust the polls, and there is not going to be another presidential election in the near future to give the answer.
We can only point out that if we lose Trump, we lose the war. He is all we’ve got between us and the end of our civilization.
What war? How will it be the end of our civilization if we lose it?
Let’s look round the world and see what’s happening.
This is from an article at Gatestone by Guy Millière, titled Geert Wilders and the Suicide of Europe:
For years, the Dutch mainstream media have spread hatred and defamation against [Geert] Wilders for trying to warn the Dutch people – and Europe – about what their future will be if they continue their current immigration policies; in exchange, last December, a panel of three judges found him guilty of “inciting discrimination”. Newspapers and politicians all over Europe unceasingly describe him as a dangerous man and a rightist firebrand. Sometimes they call him a “fascist”.
What did Geert Wilders ever do to deserve that? None of his remarks ever incriminated any person or group because of their race or ethnicity. To charge him, the Dutch justice system had excessively and abusively to interpret words he used during a rally in which he asked if the Dutch wanted “fewer Moroccans”. None of Wilders’s speeches incites violence against anyone; the violence that surrounds him is directed only at him. He defends human rights and democratic principles and he is a resolute enemy of all forms of anti-Semitism.
His only “crime” is to denounce the danger represented by the Islamization of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe and to claim that Islam represents a mortal threat to freedom. …
What is happening in the Netherlands is similar to what is happening in most European countries. In the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, the number of no-go zones is rapidly growing. Islamic riots occur more and more often. Ethnic gangs are growing more violent. Ethnic cleansing is transforming neighborhoods. Jews are leaving for Israel or North America.The Muslim population is sharply increasing. Radical mosques are proliferating. Islamic organizations are everywhere.
Politicians who dare to speak the way Geert Wilders does are treated the way Geert Wilders is treated : scorned, marginalized, put on trial.
The vision of the world in Western Europe is now “hegemonic”. It is based on the idea that the Western world is guilty; that all cultures are equal, and that Islamic culture is “more equal” than Western culture because Islam was supposedly so long oppressed by the West. What adherents of this view, that the West is guilty, “forget” is that Islam long oppressed the West: Muslim armies conquered Persia, the Christian Byzantine Empire, North Africa and the Middle East, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and the Balkans, and virtually all of Eastern Europe. The Muslim armies were a constant threat until the marauding Ottoman troops were finally turned away at the Gates of Vienna in 1683.
This European vision also includes the idea that all conflicts can be peacefully settled, that appeasement is almost always a solution, and that Europe has no enemies.
It also stands on the idea that an enlightened elite must have the power, because if Adolf Hitler came to power through democratic means eighty years ago, letting people freely decide their fate might lead to ill.
The dream seems to be of a utopian future where poverty will be overcome by welfare systems, and violence will be defeated by openness and love.
Repeat: Islamic terrorism “will be defeated by openness and love”.
It is this vision of the world that may have prompted Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to open the doors to more than a million unvetted Muslim migrants, despite a migrant crime wave and an increasing number of rapes and sexual assaults. The only candidate likely to beat Angela Merkel in this year’s German elections is a socialist, Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president.
In France, Marine Le Pen, the only candidate who speaks of Islam and immigration, will almost certainly be defeated by Emmanuel Macron, a former minister in the government of François Hollande — a man who see no evil anywhere.
It is this vision of the world that also seems to have led British Prime Minister Theresa May to say that the Islamic attack on March 22 in Westminster was “not an act of Islamic terrorism”.
This romanticized, utopian vision of the world also explains why in Europe, people such as Geert Wilders are seen as the incarnation of evil, but radical Islam is considered a marginal nuisance bearing no relation to the “religion of peace”. Meanwhile, Wilders is condemned to live under protection as if he were in jail, while those who want to slaughter him — and who threaten millions of people in Europe — walk around free.
Of all the countries in Europe where the indigenous Europeans have capitulated to Islam, the one most eager to submit to that supremacist totalitarian conqueror is Sweden. Recently a jihadi drove a truck into a crowd of Swedes, killing four.
What will the Swedes – what remains of them – do to save themselves from Islamic terrorism?
They will ban the use of vehicles in Swedish cities:
Virginia Hale reports at Breitbart:
Cars and other vehicles “have turned into deadly weapons”, and should be banished from cities to stop attacks like the one in Stockholm from happening in future, according to Aftonbladet editorialist Eva Franchell.
Crackdowns on immigration or extremist ideology are not the way forward when it comes to terror prevention, according to the veteran journalist, writing after Friday’s terror attack in Stockholm left four people dead.
Instead, it is cars — which she calls “effective murder machines” — that Franchell says “[which] must simply be removed from city centres and places where people gather, if people are to be protected in future”.
Vehicles are “easy to steal, and so nothing has been able to stop their advance”, writes Ms. Franchell.
“It just isn’t reasonable that a big truck can be driven right into one of Stockholm’s busiest streets on a Friday afternoon right before Easter.”
Noting how it is a popular destination for tourists, Franchell says the city centre must be a “safe environment” for visitors to enjoy. She described it as “remarkable” that it is possible to drive around the Swedish capital’s medieval old town.
Outlining her vision for a car-free Stockholm, she argues: “Most problems with regards to mobility and public transport can be solved, and deliveries to shops and restaurants could take place at times when people aren’t out on the streets.”
“Vehicles have been allowed to dominate our cities for decades and it’s the people who need space. It’s vital now that cars be regulated,” the piece concludes.
The idea of reducing the number of cars in Swedish cities was backed last month by Sweden’s environment minister, who argued that driving is a gender equality issue as well as a matter of shrinking the nation’s carbon emissions.
“Cars are driven largely by men so by giving a lot of space to cars; we’re giving a lot of space to men — at the expense of women,” Karolina Skog explained.
Cars are evil, and the need to get rid of them is a feminist issue. Two big important fights to be engaged there, with cars and sex inequality.
So are we and President Trump in a very small minority of Westerners who think that we should use all our strength to defeat Islam and its helpers and allies?
We don’t know. But there are voices raised on our side.
This is from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, by Yaakov Lappin:
The conflict in Syria has long ceased being a civil war, becoming instead a clash between coalitions and blocs that divide the entire Middle East.
The Iranian-led axis is the most dangerous and highly armed bloc fighting in Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not an independent actor, but rather, a component of this wider axis. In many respects, Assad is a junior member of the Iranian coalition set up to fight for him.
Russia joined the Iranian axis in 2015, acting for its own reasons as the pro-Assad coalition’s air force, helping to preserve the Syrian regime.
This coalition enabled the Assad regime to conduct mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Syria, while also using unconventional weapons against civilians in an effort to terrorize rebel organizations into submission.
Feeling confident by its growing control of Syria, Iran also uses its regional coalition to arm, finance, and deploy Shi’ite jihadist agents all over the Middle East, and to attack those who stand in the way of Iranian domination.
The Iranian-led axis has been able to spread violence, terrorism, and Islamic militancy without facing repercussions.
Until recently, the United States focused its attention exclusively on Sunni jihadist threats – ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups. While these terrorists certainly need to be attacked, turning a blind eye to the activities of the more powerful radical Shi’ite coalition did nothing to stop the region’s destabilization. In this context, Assad’s numerous crimes against humanity went unanswered.
This helped embolden Assad to use chemical weapons. It also gave the Iranians confidence to magnify their meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and to target many other states. The end result is Iran’s enhanced ability to export its Khomeiniest Islamic fundamentalist doctrine.
That sent a troubling message to America’s regional allies, who, in the face of these threats, formed a de facto coalition of pragmatic Sunni states – a coalition that includes Israel.
On April 6, the U.S. sent a signal that something may have changed. A cruise missile attack on an Assad regime air base, in response to a savage chemical weapons massacre in Idlib, Syria, was, first and foremost, a moral response to an intolerable act of evil.
But the strike also carries a wider prospective message about Washington’s new willingness to enforce red lines against Assad and his Shi’ite allies.
Potentially, it is an indication that the U.S. is willing to use its military prowess beyond the objective of targeting ISIS, and that it recognizes that Sunni jihadists are not the only global security threat that warrants the use of military force.
Statements by senior Trump administration officials indicate that a shift has occurred. “What you have in Syria is a very destructive cycle of violence perpetuated by ISIS, obviously, but also by this regime and their Iranian and Russian sponsors,” National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster told Fox News Sunday.
Russia must choose between its alignment with Assad, Iran, and Hizballah, and working with the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday. The firm comment was made hours before he touched down in Moscow for talks.
According to U.S. officials, the April 6 missile attack destroyed 20 percent of Assad’s fighter jets. It represents the first time that Washington has taken military action against a member of the Iranian-led coalition.
The strike could evolve into a “dialogue of deterrence” that the U.S. initiates against dangerous actors. These radical actors all have “return addresses”, and are likely to prove responsive to cost-benefit considerations, despite their extreme ideology. They may think twice before considering further development and usage of unconventional weapons.
Washington is now able to exercise muscular diplomacy – the only kind that is effective in the Middle East – and inform all members of the Iran’s pro-Assad coalition that the deployment of unconventional weapons will not be tolerated. It can also begin to rally and strengthen the pro-American coalition of states in the Middle East, who seek to keep a lid on both ISIS and Iran.
With American officials indicating that they are “ready to do more” in Syria if necessary, signs suggest that the strike represents the start of a policy of deterrence, and leaving open future options for drawing additional red lines.
In theory, should Washington decide that Iran’s transfer of weapons and extremist Shi’ite military forces to other lands has reached unacceptable levels, or that Iran’s missile development program has gone far enough, it could call on Tehran to cease these activities. This call would carry substantially more weight following last week’s missile attack on the Syrian airbase.
The U.S. is in a better position to inform Assad and his allies that there is a limit to how far they can go in pursuing their murderous ambitions.
While the objective of creating a renewed American deterrent posture is vital, it should not be confused with plans for wider military intervention in the seemingly endless Syrian conflict.
There is little reason to believe that conventional weapons use against Syrian civilians is going to stop any time soon, or that the enormous tragedy suffered by the Syrian people is about to end.
And there is certainly no indication that the U.S. is planning to initiate large-scale military involvement in this failed state.
Hence, the missile strike should be seen for what it is: an attempt to boost American deterrence, which can then be leveraged to restrain radical actors that have, until now, been operating completely unchecked.
That is a message that will likely be heard loud and clear not only in Damascus, but also in Tehran, which has not given up its long-term ambition of building nuclear weapons.
North Korea, which helped build Syria’s plutonium nuclear plant (destroyed in 2007 in a reported Israeli air strike), and which maintains close links with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, can be expected to take note as well.
If a policy of strategic deterrence follows the strike, it could have an impact on a coalition that is not just keeping Assad’s regime alive, but spreading its radical influence in many other areas.
In Syria, the Iranian Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) oversees ground operations across many battlefields to prop up Bashar al-Assad. Iran has gathered and armed tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members from across the region into Syria, and manages a local force composed of 100,000 members. They fight alongside the Syrian Arab Army against Sunni rebel organizations, thereby increasing and entrenching Iranian influence.
The IRGC and its elite Quds Force are also helping to fill Hizballah’s weapons depots in Lebanon, with a vast array of surface-to-surface projectiles that are all pointed at Israel, often using Syria as an arms trafficking transit zone. Syria acts as a bridge that grants Iran access to Lebanon, and allows it to threaten both Israel and Jordan.
Jordan, an important U.S. ally, is deeply concerned by Iran’s actions in Syria, as evidenced by recent comments made by King Abdullah, who told the Washington Post that “there is an attempt to forge a geographic link between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah/Lebanon.” IRGC forces are stationed within a mere 45 miles from Jordan’s border, he warned, adding that any hostile forces approaching the Hashemite Kingdom “are not going to be tolerated”.
Hizballah, a Lebanese-based Iranian Shi’ite proxy, evolved into a powerful army by sending 7,000 to 9,000 of its own highly trained members into Syria’s ground war. It helped rescue the Assad regime from collapse, and took part in battles stretching from Aleppo to the Qalamoun Mountains northeast of Damascus.
Last year, the Arab League and the Sunni countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council all declared Hizballah to be a terrorist entity.
Just as Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have poured into Syria, the same has happened in Iraq, where 100,000 fighters supported by Tehran fight alongside the Iraqi government forces against ISIS. The IRGC’s network extends to Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah forces, who receive Iranian assistance. Ansar Allah, a heavily armed Shi’ite military force, fires ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia on a regular basis.
The IRGC and Hizballah have been linked to a recent large-scale terrorist plot in Bahrain.
If the message addressed in the cruise missile strike is followed up with a strategy of deterrence, addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei as much as it was addressed to Assad, the U.S. could begin projecting to the world that it recognizes the threat posed by Shi’ite jihadists as much as it takes seriously the threat from their fundamentalist Sunni equivalents.
Washington’s campaign to pressure Russia to distance itself from its Middle Eastern allies could play an important part of this message.
It will take more than pressure. It will take war. If we want to save ourselves, we need all the cruise missiles we can make, and probably all the nukes too.
But if the West has no stomach for war, then it will perish in a state of “openness and love”, congratulating itself on its virtue: its fairness, its peacefulness, its generosity, its tolerance, its refusal to be racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, or sexist. A great moral victory. And then – no more fairness, peacefulness, generosity, tolerance. No women driving cars. Just Islam.
Why was the corrupt and undemocratic European Union (EU) brought into existence?
The Germans wanted to dissolve their guilt – for starting two world wars and perpetrating the Holocaust – in the sea of a European superstate. Which they knew they could dominate through their economic strength.
The French wanted to be part of an entity that was more populous, more prosperous, and more powerful than the United States of America, even though it meant sharing power.
The ambitious politicians of Western Europe wanted a bigger stage to strut on. As well as a perpetual ride on a gravy train.
Eastern European nations had a more respectable motive for joining the EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union, under whose heel they had suffered for some 40 years: they saw the EU as a shelter from renewed Russian imperial ambition. Some of them – notably Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – are now defying dictatorship from Brussels, the EU capital, by refusing to admit unlimited numbers of Muslim “refugees”.
The annual budget of the EU is about 145 billion euros ($153 billion US dollars). By its own accounting, 4.7% of the budget is lost in fraud and corruption. That is some 6.97 billion Euros.*
It employs 33,000 people.
There are 28 member states and 24 official languages. Every document has to be put out in all 24 languages.
The EU leaders see their supra-national, “post-nationalist” union as a model for world government.
The Council of the European Union governs by decree. The European Parliament consists of elected members but they do not have the power to legislate. They can approve or reject a legislative proposal, or propose amendments. In other words they give advice, but the Council is not legally obliged to take it. It is treated as mere opinion. For appearance sake, and as a result of case-law decisions by the EU Court of Justice, the Council must receive that opinion before it can act on its own decision. This is pure gesturism. The ritual salutes democracy without adopting it.
In sum, the EU is a political and economic monstrosity. It cannot and will not endure.
Elections this year in the Netherlands may well bring Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom into power. If so, there could be a referendum on whether the country should leave the EU (though legislation would be necessary to make this possible), and a majority vote in favor.
Nationalist movements in France and Italy may also bring those countries to leave the EU.
All of which threatens the continued existence of the rotten, superfluous, and positively harmful European Union.
From Gatestone, by Timon Dias:
At its core, what is the EU? And why, despite its vast resources, does it seem perpetually unable to make sense of the world and meet its objectives? …
First, there’s the EU’s primary internal contradiction: EU federalism is an ideology that propagates post-ideologism; a culturally amorphous post-ideological world. … It is acting as if the world has already arrived at this so badly coveted post-cultural/ideological end station.
This is why the EU’s foreign minister is convinced political Islam should be part of the solution for Europe’s bicultural malaise. It is why for almost a decade now, the EU is maintaining it is reasonable to expect a German fiscal discipline from Greece ― a country in which tax evasion has been a central pillar of its culture ever since it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire some 600 years ago. It is why the EU fails to grasp the fact it’s deepening the migration crisis by acting as a ferry service for human traffickers. It is why the EU refuses to acknowledge an inherently expansionist religion like Islam views Europe’s open borders as an invitation to conquest. And it is why it was caught off guard by the mass rapes in Cologne etc. …
In short, the EU is treating the world as if it’s already an earthly EUtopia in which everything can be solved through dialogue and the right subsidies. And that’s why it will keep on chasing facts until its imminent demise.
But there’s something even more fundamental obstructing the EU’s ability to solve crises.
The EU is artificial and unnecessary.
What is the EU? The EU is a government looking for people to govern. It didn’t evolve organically from a community’s desire to be governed.
It was an elitist ideological hobby project ― one that European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans a few weeks ago referred to as:
Arguably the most successful peace project in human history.
This, however, is a deception. A deception so pervasive, it has become the most pivotal element of the Eurocrats’ belief system. But the EU is no peace project. It neither caused nor consolidated peace.
True peace is being able to hurt one another, but simply not wanting to. In 1945, after centuries of conflict, European nation states finally reached this status. Subsequently, the European Economic Community (EEC) consolidated this peace in 1958 by entangling the French and German economies.
The EU came afterwards, without there ever being an actual need for it ― the continent was peaceful and that peace was consolidated. …
So, if the EU neither caused nor consolidated peace, what is the EU’s fundamental raison d’être? The simple answer is: it has none.
There is nothing fundamentally positive about Europe, that could not exist without the EU.
This is no trivial matter.
Because the EU is a highly artificial and non-organic governing body, one without a fundamental raison d’être, the EU’s priority objective, at all times, is self-preservation. Even when this means not solving problems at all.
The euro and migration crises serve as prime examples. The EU is not only not solving the euro crisis, it’s prolonging it by insisting fiscally dysfunctional member states remain member states, simply because their ejection from the EU would endanger and obscure the EU itself.
The same is true for the migration crisis. It’s not hard to solve. To simply stop being a ferry service for human traffickers and implement the very straight forward Australian model, is hardly rocket science. It’s no coincidence Australia’s migration architect claims Europe doesn’t even seem to be trying to solve this crisis.
In 2016, 490,547 migrants reached Europe. The total number of asylum applicants is almost 2.5 times higher at 1.205 million, which is a modest drop from 2015’s 1.323 million. During the first months of 2017, almost 13,000 arrived by sea.
So what is the EU’s priority during the migrant crisis?
Instead, the EU’s highest priority seems to be preventing nation states from bypassing the EU, by taking their own measures against the crisis.
For if that were to happen, the EU would lose its “greatest achievement”: the federal control of European national borders, without which, the EU is nothing.
The EU must go.
The nation-state with strongly defended borders must be resurrected as an ideal.
The British showed the way with Brexit – its majority vote last year to leave the EU.
President Trump lights the way for the European nations with his slogan, “Make America Great Again!”
*We quote an article on EU corruption by Richard Milton.
Have the EU’s accounts for the past 19 years been signed off by the auditors or not? The EU says they have been signed off, while critics in parliament and the media say they have not. So who is telling the truth about the accounts? What are the real facts?
First, a little background to the controversy. Since 1977, the EU’s budget has been audited annually by a body called the European Court of Auditors, based in Luxembourg. The Court is nominally independent, although it is funded by the EU.
In the 1980s, the EU’s budget became the subject of allegations of fraud, so in 1988 the EU formed UCLAF – the Unit for the Co-ordination of Fraud Protection.
A decade later, In 1997, the Court of Auditors investigated UCLAF and discovered that it was dealing with 40 cases of potential corruption, conflict of interests, favoritism or just bad management. Many of the cases had been brought to UCLAF by members of staff of the Commission reporting their suspicions about other officials.
In a report described as “devastating”, the Court revealed that no-one had been prosecuted for fraud and no-one was likely to be prosecuted, because UCLAF had no powers of investigation or arrest and there was no European prosecutor to take on such cases. It recommended that UCLAF be replaced by, in effect, an economic FBI with the staff and the powers to police the EU’s huge budget – a fully fledged operational fraud squad.
Later the same year, 1998, Paul van Buitenen, an assistant internal auditor in the European Commission’s Financial Control Directorate, turned whistleblower and wrote directly to the European Parliament expressing his “discontent with the way the Commission services are dealing with irregularities and possible fraud”.
His whistleblowing led ultimately led to the resignation of the Commission presided over by Jacques Santer. His reward was to be suspended with his salary halved. He fought back and his exposures triggered the collapse of Santer’s Commission.
In the wake of the “Santergate” scandal UCLAF was replaced by a new organization, OLAF [Office européen de lutte anti-fraude]. This was said to be an improvement since OLAF had more staff, more money and clearer guidelines and was described as representing a move towards a more serious investigative prosecuting body. But it remained the case that only national member states could take legal action against suspected fraudsters – the same central weakness that had defeated UCLAF.
OLAF is notified of some 12,000 cases of possible fraud every year, and says that it adopts a “zero tolerance” policy towards corruption and fraud in EU institutions. In reality, OLAF must be somewhat more tolerant than “zero” as it investigates only some 200 cases per year – that is to say 98% of reported cases go uninvestigated.
This is the most likely explanation of the fact that, since 1999, OLAF has sent only 335 people to jail and recovered only 1.1 Billion Euros of EU money – less than one-thousandth of the amount unaccounted for.
One other obstacle to OLAF nailing anyone inside the EU is that EU law gives EU officials immunity from prosecution both while they work in the EU and then for the rest of their lives for any acts committed in the course of their duties. Even if OLAF managed to put together a case against an EU employee, he or she could not be prosecuted anyway.
This long history of corruption and fraud brings us to the case of Marta Andreason, who in 2002 was appointed the EU’s first Chief Accountant, the director responsible for budget execution and the EU’s accounting officer.
From the start, Andreasen was critical of the EU’s accounting system for being open to fraud, criticisms she raised with her superior but to no effect. She voiced her doubts to Commissioner Michaele Schreyer and the Commission President Romano Prodi, and when she got no reply approached members of the EU Parliament’s Budget Control Committee.
Because of her doubts, she refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts and went public with her concerns. She suffered a similar fate to Paul van Buitenen before her, and was sacked for speaking out (“failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”.) In reality she was fired for refusing to sign the account and embarrassing the Commission by letting the cat out of the bag about the extent of fraud.
A series of other EU officials tried to blow the whistle on the fraud and corruption of their colleagues and all received similar treatment, Dorte Schmidt-Brown, Robert Dougal Watt and Robert McCoy. …
At this point, in 2002, EU officials realized that they could no longer conceal or ignore the extent of fraud and corruption in the EU budget and that they must act to try to restore public confidence in the EU’s financial affairs. So they did what most large bureaucratic organizations do in these circumstances. When you cannot change the facts, you change the way the facts are presented. So the EU turned to public relations to solve their problem.
From 2002 until the present, the Court of Auditors continued to audit the budget annually, but they no longer signed off the accounts as a whole. Instead, they have split the budget into two sections – the part to which they are willing to give a clean bill of health, and the part to which they are not willing to give a clean bill. The Auditors refer to this second part as its “opinion on the underlying payments which have been negative or adverse”.
To justify this change in established auditing procedure it came up with a number of arguments. The budget is too big and too complicated for us to expect them to account for every penny. Every large organization has amounts missing and unaccounted for. We can’t expect the EU Auditors to know every little thing that goes on inside member countries. The bit that’s not signed off is “only” a few per cent of the budget so it’s not worth making a fuss about. And, in any case, said the Auditors, although we do not know where the money went or who took it, we can say that it definitely wasn’t fraud or theft.
“Errors”, said the auditors, “do not mean that EU money is lost, wasted or affected by fraud.” When asked to give an example of some money that had gone missing that wasn’t fraud, the EU said, “A farmer was granted a special premium for 150 sheep. The Court found that the beneficiary did not have any sheep. The corresponding payment was therefore irregular.” The missing money is accounted for by changing the word “fraud” to the word “irregular”. …
Remember, the question we are trying to answer here is … “Have the EU accounts been signed off for the past 19 years?” And the only honest answer to this second question is clearly, “No, they have not been signed off.”
What the EU has done is not to make extra efforts to get to the bottom of its accounts and sign them off, but to change the normal rules of accounts auditing so that they no longer apply to the EU, and to change the meaning of ordinary English words to try to persuade us that this procedure is acceptable. …
The amount not signed off by the Court of Auditors was “only” 4.7% of the budget. The problem is that 4.7% of the budget is 6.97 billion Euros …
In an article on the suicide of Europe, containing much we agree with, the excellent and erudite Victor Davis Hanson writes at the National Review:
Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.
And it is that point in particular that we want to discuss.
But first – the important points he makes:
Because of what Europe has become, it now has few viable choices in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism. Its dilemma is a warning to Americans that we should turn away from a similar path of national suicide.
After suffering serial terrorist attacks from foreign nationals and immigrants, a normal nation-state would be expected to make extraordinary efforts to close its borders and redefine its foreign policy in order to protect its national interests.
But a France or a Belgium is not quite a sovereign nation any more, and thus does not have complete control over its national destiny or foreign relations. As part of the European Union, France and Belgium have, for all practical purposes, placed their own security in the hands of an obdurate Angela Merkel’s Germany, which is hellbent on allowing without audit millions of disenchanted young Middle Eastern males into its territory, with subsequent rights of passage into any other member of the European Union that they wish. The 21st-century “German problem” is apparently not that of an economic powerhouse and military brute warring on its neighbors, but that of an economic powerhouse that uses its wealth and arrogant sense of social superiority to bully its neighbors into accepting its bankrupt immigration policies and green ideology.
The immigration policies of France and Belgium are unfortunately also de facto those of Greece. And a petulant and poor Greece, licking its wounds over its European Union brawl with northern-European banks, either cannot or will not control entrance into its territory — Europe’s window on the Middle East. No European country can take the security measures necessary for its own national needs, without either violating or ignoring EU mandates. That the latest terrorist murders struck near the very heart of the EU in Brussels is emblematic of the Union’s dilemma.
As far as America is concerned, a fossilized EU should remind us of our original and vanishing system of federalism, in which states were once given some constitutional room to craft laws and protocols to reflect regional needs — and to ensure regional and democratic input with checks and balances on statism through their representatives in Congress. Yet the ever-growing federal government — with its increasingly anti-democratic, politically correct, and mostly unaccountable bureaucracies — threatens to do to Americans exactly what the EU has done to Europeans. We already see how the capricious erosion of federal immigration law has brought chaos to the borderlands of the American Southwest. It is a scary thing for a federal power arbitrarily to render its own inviolable laws null and void — and then watch the concrete consequences of such lawlessness fall on others, who have been deprived of recourse to constitutional protections of their own existential interests.
Europe’s immigration policy is a disaster … Europeans — for a variety of 20th-century historical and cultural reasons — often are either ignorant of who they are or terrified about expressing their identities in any concrete and positive fashion. The result is that Europe cannot impose on a would-be newcomer any notion that consensual government is superior to the anarchy and theocracy of the Middle East, that having individual rights trumps being subjects of a dictator, that personal freedom is a better choice than statist tyranny, that protection of private property is a key to economic growth whereas law by fiat is not, and that independent judiciaries do not run like Sharia courts. It most certainly cannot ask of immigrants upon arrival that they either follow the laws of a society that originally made Europe attractive to them, or return home to live under a system that they apparently rejected.
All good so far. Then:
I omit for obvious reasons that few present-day Europeans believe that Christianity is much different from Islam, and apparently thus assume that terrorists might just as well be Christians.
But he hasn’t omitted it, has he? A bitter regret has stepped quietly into the article and lingers by the door – a regret that Europe has (broadly speaking) abandoned its religion.
He goes on, cogently again:
… In Europe, immigrants are political tools of the Left. The rapid influx of vast numbers of unassimilated, uneducated, poor, and often illegal newcomers may violate every rule of successful immigration policy. Yet the onrush does serve the purposes of the statist, who demagogues for an instantaneous equality of result. Bloc voters, constituents of bigger government, needy recipients of state largesse, and perennial whiners about inequality are all fodder for European multicultural leftists, who always seek arguments for more of themselves. …
Which is the case in America too. As he says:
The same phenomenon is with us in the United States … [where] importing the poor and the uneducated expands the Democratic constituency. …
The Western therapeutic mindset, which maintains that impoverished immigrants should instantly have what their hosts have always had, trumps the tragic view: that it is risky, dangerous, and sometimes unwise to leave one’s home for a completely alien world, in which sacrifice and self-reliance alone can make the gamble worthwhile — usually for a second generation not yet born.
Demography is Europe’s bane. One engine of unchecked immigration has been the need for more bodies to do the sorts of tasks that Europeans feel are no longer becoming of Europeans. …
Again that is also true of America.
But more curious is the reason why Europe is shrinking — the classic and primary symptom of a civilization in rapid decline.
Europeans are not having children for lots of reasons. A static and fossilized economy without much growth gives little hope to a 20-something European that he or she can get a good job, buy a home, have three children, and provide for those offspring lives with unlimited choices. Instead, the young European bides his time, satisfying his appetites, as a perpetual adolescent who lives in his parents’ flat, seeks to milk the system, and waits for someone to die at the tribal government bureau. After a lost decade, one hopes to hook up with some like soul in her or his late thirties.
The last eight years in the U.S. have seen an acceleration of the Europeanization of America’s youth.
Socialism … insidiously takes responsibility away from the individual and transfers it to the anonymous, but well-funded, state. … Why seek children and the honor of raising and protecting them when the state can provide all without the bother and direct expense? Why have a family or invest for the future, when the state promises a pleasant and politically correct old-age home?
Without a Second Amendment or much of a defense budget, Europeans not only divert capital to enervating social programs, but also have sacrificed any confidence in muscular self-protection, individual or collective.
Even postmodern nations remain collections of individuals. A state that will not or cannot protect its own interests is simply a reflection of millions of dead souls that do not believe in risking anything to ensure that they are safe — including their own persons and those of their family. Finally, Europe is Petronius’s Croton. It does not believe in any transcendence as reified by children or religion. If there is nothing but the here and now, then why invest one’s energy in children who live on after one dies? Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.
Europe’s perfect storm is upon us. A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort. In the Middle East, the fundamentalists are growing in numbers, and they most certainly do believe that their own lives are nothing in comparison to the Phoenix-like resurrection of their Caliphate and the sensual pleasures in the hereafter that will reward their martial sacrifices in the here and now. Of all the many reasons why immigrants to Europe so often dislike their generous hosts, the simplest may be because they so easily can.
… It would take another St. Jerome (“All were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew. Who could believe this?”) to chronicle the Western tragedy.
As a general rule, whatever Europe is now doing, we should do the opposite — for our very survival in an increasingly scary world.
So, an article saying much that needs to be said.
But we come back to this: Europe “does not believe in any transcendence as reified by children or religion. If there is nothing but the here and now, then why invest one’s energy in children who live on after one dies? Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.” And: ” A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort.”
His argument is that Europeans now do not think, or feel, or believe that there is any larger purpose to be served than the achievement of their own private personal ambitions and pleasures; no goals beyond their own individual lives worth putting their energies into. Previous generations believed they had a posterity in their children, the continuation of their families; and/or in the immortality of their nation; and/or in a spiritual afterlife.
And that is true. They did.
Then their nations were taken away from them, blended into a monstrous political entity called the European Union. What Frenchman, or Italian, or Englishman will ever say: “Breathes there a man with soul so dead/ Who never to himself has said/ This is mine own, my native … European Union”?
And what of their losing the desire for descendants? That’s harder to explain. In addition to the fading away of marriage, the dread of the expense of children, the shrinking from the emotional risk of entering into the responsibilities of relationships, there is a much larger source of discouragement; what one might call a cosmic despair: our knowledge of global doom. By “global doom” I don’t mean “global warming”, but the certainty that this world in which we exist and act, will one day itself cease to exist. It may be only in about 3 billion years that the final doom will come upon it, but go it will, for sure.
Whether or not those explanations are the right ones – perhaps among many others – it is a fact that Europeans are not having enough children to ensure the survival of their nations, even if they were to take back national sovereignty from the bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU.
This means they are discarding the future, as individuals and as a bridging generation between their nation’s yesterday and tomorrow. And because they have no future to work or build for – what have they to defend? So when another culture, a savage culture that arose and remains in the ignorant Dark Ages and knows nothing of the physical destiny of this planet, invades their continent, and increases with many children, and believes that making war ensures their endless and dominant continuation on earth and immortal happiness after death, there is nothing effective standing in its way. No one to bar the gates. No one to fight back. The imaginary spokesman of the dying European culture with no stake in the future says, “Come in, if you want to. Take what you want. Do as you will. I won’t be around much longer to know or care what happens here.” (“A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort.”)
Hanson suggests that the Europeans’ discarding of the future, and consequent abandonment of the greatest civilization the human race has ever attained, is not only tragic – which it is – but also immoral. He implies this by adding to the causes – familial, national – that kept European Man going for centuries, the cause of religion. He plainly considers it a highly desirable thing that human beings should believe that their time on earth is not the whole of their existence. He believes in an afterlife as formulated in Christian doctrine. The quality of that afterlife for each individual may depend on how the individual Christian behaves in his earthly life. Hoping for heaven, he will be good according to the precepts of his faith. (Now that is true of Catholics, whose church allows that good works as well as “the grace of God” can bring one to heaven. But many Protestant sects, most notably Calvinists and Lutherans, teach that only God decides your eternal destination, and he does that even before you are born, so what you do can make not a jot of difference to the iron ruling. The only encouragement such churches offer the faithful is that if you live dutifully, obedient to the commandments of your God, you will be perceived as a person destined for heaven, and thus perceived, you may live in hope.)
One way or another, Christianity – Hanson seems to assume – helped Europeans be strong in defense of their inheritance, prolific in procreation to ensure their posterity, and above all continent in their appetites for the hope of heaven.
And that may very well have been true. But we deny that lack of religious belief now is a cause of the self-inflicted doom of Europe. It seems plain to us that lack of interest in this life – beyond personal attainment and pleasure – is at work.
Atheism does not assume that “ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be”. Some atheists might assume it, but there is nothing about atheism that logically involves any such assumption.
Atheists are more likely to strive harder in this life to know, to achieve, to build, to love and hate, defend and attack, as well as to think and enjoy, than those who believe that their final, greater, and possibly happier destiny is in another world. Atheists who learn and build are very likely to want descendants to continue their discoveries, further their achievements, and add to their works, since only those they beget and what they bequeath will survive their death.
By that reasoning, atheism could have been the salvation of Europe. We might propose that far from the loss of Christianity dooming the European nations, it is the legacy of Christianity as self-abasement, non-resistance to evil, the choice of self-sacrifice, and the love of martyrdom that has primed Europeans through their inherited moral culture to let this death happen to them. And if that is so, what we are seeing is the logical end of Christian history in the age of science.
But as the Christian religion peters out in disbelief, its acolytes perish unresisting at the hands of other – passionate – believers.
Now if only Muslims could be persuaded to abandon their faith, their belief that they must conquer and subdue all others and gain an afterlife in paradise … what then? Europeans might still be dying out, but at least not in agony and terror.
… is bewildered by the Trump phenomenon.
Trump is not our ideal presidential candidate, but if he is voted into the presidency, we will understand why.
It is easy to see why the entrenched, corrupt, political aristocracy of either political party should fear the challenge of Donald Trump.
But there is a special reason why Democrats fear him.
The Democratic Party has become a socialist party. And the immediate menace threatening socialism in the US, is Trump.
Rachel Marsden writes at Townhall:
Greece is the birthplace of Western civilization.
But that was a very different Greece!
It’s also the birthplace of the kind of crisis that threatens every Western nation neglecting to pay attention to what’s happening here [in Greece].
[One gets a sense] from talking to people that crisis is the new normal, and that many are adapting to a situation that should have long ago led to revolt.
People here don’t revolt, they simply move. The eurozone’s provisions for the free movement of people allows Greek citizens that opportunity. The unemployment rate in Greece as of November was 24.6 percent. In other words, of the people who are still bothering to look for work, a quarter of them can’t find any. So what do they do? The younger ones leave for other countries to seek employment or training. Others stay and live with family or rely on government support and hope that things eventually turn around.
While globalization allows Greeks to escape if they so choose, it has also been the catalyst for the country’s problems.
Greece was doing just fine [in a dull socialist sort of way -ed] when its governmental and societal institutions operated in a vacuum and there was nothing competing with them. The state was the largest employer, people could retire with a pension as early as age 50, unions held incredible power, and everything was controlled by a nepotistic establishment elite.
But then the world got smaller due to technology and trade, borders became less of an obstacle, and the economic engine of this massive welfare state expatriated itself. Thousands of Greek companies have moved to Bulgaria and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Greece is on the front line of an influx of migrants fleeing from the war-torn Middle East, adding more social welfare cases to an already overburdened system.
Even among all these concerns, there was another preoccupation that kept coming up among people I met: Donald Trump. Many Greeks don’t know what to make of him or his popularity in America.
Nor do they have a very accurate grasp of his positions.
One gentleman insisted repeatedly that Trump “likes war”, despite the Republican front-runner’s overwhelmingly non-interventionist foreign policy positions.
Another kept repeating that Trump is “dangerous”, referring to his direct manner of speech. What’s dangerous, I explained, is when only platitudes are allowed in public discourse, even as things fall apart.
Trump-style tough talk is the flashing sign at the exit ramp to Disasterville. Diplomatic niceties are a luxury that go by the wayside when the voting public is fed up. And if there isn’t a Trump-style leader to champion those frustrations in an acceptably democratic context, then populist movements of the sort that we’ve seen in Europe recently fill that gap. …
But Trump represents something far more important that seems to escape everyone here: the interests of the individual over those of the establishment.
In discussions about Greece’s problems, very rarely are the concepts of personal power and individual responsibility ever evoked, but these concepts might be the only hope of establishing long-term viability for this country.
Granted, this would require a massive cultural shift, coupled with a complete revamping of the country’s institutions. Greeks would have to be taught at a young age about entrepreneurship and the freedom to create and innovate on their own – and Greek government would have to clear the path for them to do that. There has to be a change in the national mindset, and it must start with the government itself. Rather than feeling obligated to support citizens from cradle to grave, Greek leadership should grant citizens more responsibility for taking care of themselves.
Growth isn’t going to come from some kind of national or European directive that’s shoved down people’s throats by the political class. The individual is the unit that generates value.
Why hasn’t this been taught here? It may be that the system is so entrenched that no one has considered the alternative as an option. It may also be that the concept of individual self-sufficiency would dilute the power of the ruling elites. It’s no wonder, then, that many Greeks consider entrepreneur Donald Trump’s brand of independence to be so dangerous.
Some Europeans can see that their doom is approaching ever faster and becoming ever more certain.
Among them are some who wish it were not so.
But even after people have been massacred in the capital of France by Muslims, the politicians who opened the doors of Europe to the Muslim invaders insist on keeping them open.
One journalist is angry about it and says so.
We quote an article by Leo McKinstry at the Express online:
SEVERAL millennia were required to build European civilisation but its impending destruction has been the work of just a few years, carried out by a cadre of irresponsible, unpatriotic and deluded politicians led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Dressing up their vandalism as compassion and their cowardice as moral superiority, these leaders have created an immigration crisis so profound that the very existence of our European culture and heritage is under mortal threat.
The tragic paradox of the obsession with free movement and the abolition of national identities is that Europe in any meaningful sense will probably cease to exist this century.
As the social revolution accelerates traditional values of democracy, freedom and solidarity will be replaced by conflict, sectarianism, oppression and intolerance.
Increasingly Islamified, barbaric and poverty-stricken, Europe will become indistinguishable from large swathes of North Africa and the Middle East.
Even the stupendously high levels of mass immigration over the past two decades are now dwarfed by the colossal flood of new arrivals that has occurred since the early summer when Merkel made her woefully illconceived pledge that Germany would welcome anyone claiming to be a refugee.
She may have thought that the open-door policy would provide a counter to Germany’s appalling record of aggression since the 1860s but in reality by wrecking Europe’s social fabric she has added to the long catalogue of Teutonic crimes.
It is thanks mainly to her that so many African, Asian and Middle-Eastern migrants are coming to our shores. In October alone a record 218,000 of them crossed the Mediterranean, more than the entire total for 2014.
Absurdly some metropolitan elitists complain that Britain has failed to join in this demographic upheaval since our Government has said that we will only take 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
This ignores the crucial fact that the current annual immigration rate is officially more than 630,000-a-year, with most of the new settlers hailing from outside the EU. How many more are Britain and Europe expected to take?
The potential influx is almost limitless. The United Nations says that globally there are at least 60 million people classified as refugees while more than 1.2 billion live in dire poverty. But the numbers are already proving catastrophic.
A mood of fear hangs over disintegrating Europe. …
Ultra-liberal pro-immigration Sweden has seen some Muslim neighbourhoods in its cities turned into no-go areas, while Malmö has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.
The fraught scenes of chaos in Eastern Europe are replicated at points on the British border, such as Calais, where the vast 6,000-strong migrant camp descends into even greater squalor and tension.
But 95 per cent of the squatters there are not refugees but are tough, fit young men mainly from Africa who have no right to be in Europe at all. If our politicians had any guts they would close down the camp and deport its freeloading residents.
But instead the British taxpayer is being asked to fork out £3.6million a year for improvements at the camp, which will only attract more. The same tensions can be seen at a British RAF base in Cyprus, where a group of migrants are being given shelter and food after landing on the island.
Instead of showing any gratitude some have created disturbances and burnt their tents, hardly the behaviour of people genuinely fleeing persecution. “We want to go to England,” said one, displaying a spirit of petulant entitlement.
It is clear that Europe is now unable to cope. The Greek island of Lesbos has run out of burial space, while tiny Slovenia has 13,000 migrants passing through its borders every day, also setting fire to tents.
Even Germany is struggling. There have been mass brawls at several migrant reception centres and in a chilling echo of the country’s totalitarian past the German authorities are seizing property to provide accommodation for the arrivals.
In one startling symbol of how European society is being overwhelmed the village of Sumte in the north-east is about to see its population increase by 700 per cent through the import of 750 asylum seekers.
As winter approaches and the weather worsens the migrant crisis is set to escalate. A new wave of sentimentality will be unleashed by much of the media, peddling manipulative images of the suffering of the refugees.
Eager to parade their humanitarian credentials politicians will open the doors even further and impose even greater burdens on European taxpayers. So the cycle of decline will gather momentum.
None of us ever voted for our demise.
But without any democratic mandate that is what the politicians have inflicted. One nurse in Germany, who is being evicted from her Nieheim flat so it can be used for migrants, told a reporter last month: “I find it impossible to understand how the city can treat me like this.”
Her experience could be a metaphor for the peoples of Europe.
The scale of this political treachery is almost incomprehensible.
Almost? How can it be understood at all? Why have recent generations of European leaders invited hostile barbarians into their countries to replace their own populations?
Do they reflect and respond to a suicidal mood among most Europeans? A geno-suicidal mood it could be called.
The reluctance of Europeans to have children suggests that geno-suicide is – at least half consciously – intended.
But why, having attained through time and struggle such an unprecedented height of prosperous civilization, do the European peoples want to give up their happy way of life, see all they have built destroyed, and let their tribes die out?
From today’s Washington Post:
In a move sure to increase pressure on Greece’s flailing banks, the European Central Bank (ECB) on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program, raising fears that Greece could soon go completely bankrupt.
The move put a swift crimp on Greek leaders’ jubilation after winning a landslide endorsement from their citizens to reject Europe’s austerity demands and seek a new bailout bargain. Now they must seek a bargain before the money runs out within days, which would likely force them off the euro.
Greek bank heads had said that banks could run out of cash as soon as Tuesday if the European Central Bank (ECB) held firm against them. If the banks fail, it would bring Greece’s economy to a halt, raising the risk of a humanitarian crisis if citizens lost access to food and medicine. …
A senior Greek banking official said after the announcement that Greek banks had been provided with enough money to last until Wednesday evening.
Hear, Oh Greece! And Bernie Sanders fans! And Pope Francis!
Margaret the Great on the virtue of inequality and the vice of egalitarian thinking:
The EU has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name, a parliament whose powers subtract from those of national legislatures, a bureaucracy no one admires or controls and rules of fiscal rectitude that no member is penalized for ignoring.
George Will writes at the Washington Post:
Now come Greeks bearing the gift of confirmation that Margaret Thatcher was right about socialist governments: “They always run out of other people’s money.” Greece, from whose ancient playwrights Western drama descends, is in an absurdist melodrama about securing yet another cash infusion from international creditors. This would add another boulder to a mountain of debt almost twice the size of Greece’s gross domestic product. This protracted dispute will result in desirable carnage if Greece defaults, thereby becoming a constructively frightening example to all democracies doling out unsustainable, growth-suppressing entitlements.
In January, Greek voters gave power to the left-wing Syriza party, one third of which, the Economist reports, consists of “Maoists, Marxists and supporters of Che Guevara.” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, 40, a retired student radical, immediately denounced a European Union declaration criticizing Russia’s dismemberment of Ukraine. He chose only one cabinet member with prior government experience — a former leader of Greece’s Stalinist Communist Party. Tsipras’s minister for culture and education says Greek education“should not be governed by the principle of excellence . . . it is a warped ambition”. Practicing what he preaches, he proposes abolishing university entrance exams.
Voters chose Syriza because it promised to reverse reforms, particularly of pensions and labor laws, demanded by creditors, and to resist new demands for rationality. Tsipras immediately vowed to rehire 12,000 government employees. His shrillness increasing as his options contract, he says the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are trying to “humiliate” Greece.
How could one humiliate a nation that chooses governments committed to Rumpelstiltskin economics, the belief that the straw of government largesse can be spun into the gold of national wealth? Tsipras’s approach to mollifying those who hold his nation’s fate in their hands is to say they must respect his “mandate” to resist them. He thinks Greek voters, by making delusional promises to themselves, obligate other European taxpayers to fund them. Tsipras, who says the creditors are “pillaging” Greece, is trying to pillage his local governments, which are resisting his extralegal demands that they send him their cash reserves.
Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister, is an academic admirer of Nobel laureate John Nash, the Princeton genius depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind, who recently died. Varoufakis is interested in Nash’s work on game theory, especially the theory of cooperative games in which two or more participants aim for a resolution better for all than would result absent cooperation. Varoufakis’s idea of cooperation is to accuse the creditors whose money Greece has been living on of “fiscal waterboarding.’ ” … His passive-aggressive message? “Play nicely or we will kill ourselves.”
Since joining the euro zone in 2001, Greece has borrowed a sum 1.7 times its 2013 GDP. Its 25 percent unemployment (50 percent among young workers) results from a 25 percent shrinkage of GDP. It is a mendicant reduced to hoping to “extend and pretend” forever. But extending the bailout and pretending that creditors will someday be paid encourages other European socialists to contemplate shedding debts — other people’s money that is no longer fun.
Greece, with just 11 million people and 2 percent of the euro zone’s GDP, is unlikely to cause a contagion by leaving the zone. If it also leaves the misbegotten European Union, this evidence of the EU’s mutability might encourage Britain’s “euro-skeptics” when, later this year, that nation has a referendum on reclaiming national sovereignty by withdrawing from the EU. If Greece so cherishes its sovereignty that it bristles at conditions imposed by creditors, why is it in the EU, the perverse point of which is to “pool” nations’ sovereignties in order to dilute national consciousness? …
It cannot be said too often: There cannot be too many socialist smashups. The best of these punish reckless creditors whose lending enables socialists to live, for a while, off of other people’s money. The world, which owes much to ancient Athens’ legacy, including the idea of democracy, is indebted to today’s Athens for the reminder that reality does not respect a democracy’s delusions.
The EU was formed in the first place because post-war Germany needed to dissolve it’s guilt in a greater political entity, and France wanted to be part of something bigger in order to win its one-sided competition with the United States for clout in the world.
It is an undemocratic, militarily weak, Islam-soiled, bleeding-hearted, oligarchic, dictatorial bureaucracy. It was always a foolish venture, as doomed to certain failure as was Communist Russia.
If Greece’s insolvency makes it drop out and so start the fall of the whole house of cards, that’s one good thing that modern Greece will have done for civilization.
Nearly a hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was brought to an end when the German-Turkish alliance was defeated in the First World War. Its former territories in the Middle East became independent states or temporary mandates of European powers.
Efraim Karsh, reviewing a new book* on the subject, corrects errors of fact on which its author relies – and which have been all too generally accepted.
The corrections are important, so we reproduce the entire article:
A century after the catastrophic blunder that led to the destruction of the then longest-surviving empire on earth, culpability is still ascribed to the European powers. Rather than view the Ottoman entry into the First World War on the losing side for what it was – a failed imperialist bid for territorial aggrandizement and reassertion of lost glory – the Muslim empire has been portrayed as the hapless victim of European machinations, driven into the world conflict by overbearing powers eager to expedite its demise and gobble up its lands.
Emblematic of the wider tendency to view Middle Easterners as mere objects, whose history is but a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, this conventional wisdom has proved remarkably resistant to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is no exception to this rule.
To begin with, in an attempt to underscore the Ottoman Empire’s untenable position on the eve of the war, Rogan reproduces the standard depiction of the protracted period preceding the empire’s collapse, or the Eastern Question as it is commonly known, as the steady European encroachment on Ottoman territory. “The looming prospect of a European general war”, he writes, “raised the imminent threat of a Russian annexation of Istanbul, the straits, and eastern Anatolia – and the ultimate dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among the Entente Powers. France was known to covet Syria, Britain had interests in Mesopotamia, and Greece wished to expand its grip over the Aegean.”
Reality, however, was quite different. Far from setting their sights on Ottoman lands, the European powers had consistently shored up the ailing Muslim empire for well over a century, saving it time and again from assured destruction – from Muhammad Ali’s imperialist bid of the 1830s, to the Balkan crises of the 1870s, to the Balkan war of 1912–13. And it was none other than Russia that acted as the Ottoman Empire’s latest saviour, halting its former Bulgarian subject at the gates of Istanbul, not once but twice: in November 1912 and March 1913. Several months later St Petersburg joined London and Berlin in underscoring “the necessity of preserving the Turkish Realm in its present form”.
All this means that by the outbreak of the Great War, the Ottoman Empire was scarcely a spurned and isolated power in danger of imminent destruction. Rather, it was in the enviable position of being courted by the two warring camps: the German-Austro-Hungarian Central Alliance wished its participation in the war, while the Anglo-French-Russian Triple Entente desired its neutrality. So much so that on August 18, 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, the Entente’s ambassadors to Istanbul assured the Grand Vizier of the empire’s continued survival were it to stay out of the war, while the British Foreign Secretary vowed the preservation of Ottoman territorial integrity “in any conditions of peace which affected the Near East, provided she preserved a real neutrality during the war”. Five days later, at Ottoman request, the three powers put down this pledge in writing.
Had the Ottomans accepted this guarantee and kept out of the war, their empire would have readily weathered the storm. But then, by the time the Entente made its far-reaching proposal, Istanbul had already concluded a secret alliance with Germany that had effectively transformed it into a belligerent. This, nevertheless, didn’t prevent it from maintaining the false pretence of neutrality vis-à-vis the Entente, or even feigning interest in joining its ranks, while at the same time laying the groundwork for war and exploiting Berlin’s eagerness for the immediate initiation of hostilities to extract substantial military and economic benefits.
Preserving the myth of immaculate Turkish victimhood, Rogan claims that “the Ottoman leadership had no wish to enter a general European conflict” and was grudgingly driven to the German embrace by the Entente’s indifference, if not hostility, to its predicament. His proof is the supposed French rebuff of an alliance proposal, allegedly made during a visit to Paris in July 1914 by the military leader Djemal Pasha, as well as the British requisition of two warships commissioned by the Ottomans. “The British decision to requisition the ships was treated as a national humiliation in Turkey and ruled out the possibility of any accord between Britain and the Ottoman Empire”, Rogan writes. “The very next day, 2 August 1914, the Ottomans concluded a secret treaty of alliance with Germany.”
The problem with these well-worn stories is that there is no shred of evidence of Djemal’s alleged overture (its only mention is in his memoirs, written after the war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with the clear aim of exonerating himself from responsibility for this calamity), while the requisition announcement was made on August 3 – a day after the conclusion of the secret Ottoman-German alliance.
But even if the announcement had been made a few days earlier, it would have made no difference whatsoever for the simple reason that the terms of the Ottoman-German alliance had already been agreed on July 28. Moreover, it was the Ottomans rather than the Germans who had opted for an alliance within days of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 – weeks before the outbreak of hostilities; who were the driving force in the ensuing secret negotiations; and who largely prevailed over their German counterparts in deciding the alliance’s broad contours. As Kaiser Wilhelm ordered his more sceptical negotiators: “A refusal or a snub would result in Turkey’s going over to Russo-Gallia, and our influence would be gone forever … Under no circumstances whatsoever can we afford to turn them away”.
The truth of the matter is that the Ottoman Empire was neither forced into the First World War in a last-ditch attempt to ensure its survival, nor manoeuvred into it by an overbearing German ally and a hostile Entente, but rather plunged head on into the whirlpool. War, for the Ottoman leaders, was not seen as a mortal danger to be averted, but a unique opportunity to be seized. They did not seek “an ally to protect the empire’s vulnerable territory from the consequences of such war” but a powerful underwriter of their imperialist ambitions; and apart from their admiration for Germany and their conviction that it would ultimately be victorious, the Entente had less to offer by way of satisfying these ambitions, first and foremost “the destruction of our Muscovite enemy to obtain a natural frontier to our empire, which should include and unite all branches of our race” (in the words of the Ottoman declaration of war).
Just as the fall of the Ottoman Empire was not the result of external machinations but a self-inflicted catastrophe, so the creation of the modern Middle East on its ruins was not an imperialist imposition but the aggregate outcome of intense pushing and shoving by a multitude of regional and international bidders for the Ottoman war spoils in which the local actors, despite their marked inferiority to the great powers, often had the upper hand.
While Rogan occasionally alludes to this reality, these allusions are far too sparse and timid to break from the standard misrepresentation of the post-war regional order as an artificial Western creation. He aptly notes that “the map drawn by Sykes and Picot bears no resemblance to the Middle East today”, yet reiterates the standard depiction of the agreement as a colonial imposition rather than a British effort “to reconcile the interests of France with the pledges given to the [Arabs]” (to use Albert Hourani’s words), or indeed – the first-ever great power recognition of Arab right to self determination (well before President Woodrow Wilson turned this principle into a driving force of international politics). He similarly observes that Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia (or the Hijaz, as it was then known) “achieved independence within frontiers of their own devising”, yet parrots the conventional wisdom that the imperial powers outlandishly “imposed the borders and systems of governments of most states in the region”.
In fact, most states in the region were established pretty much as a result of local exertions. The modern state of Iraq, to give a prominent example, was created in its present form (rather than divided into three states in accordance with the existing realities of local patriotism and religious affinities) on behalf of Emir Faisal of Mecca and at his instigation, while Jordan was established to satisfy the ambitions of Faisal’s older brother Abdullah. Likewise, the nascent Zionist movement exploited a unique convergence of factors to harness British support to its national cause, to have this support endorsed by the international community and incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and to cling tenaciously to these achievements until their fruition in the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.
Eugene Rogan acknowledges that “the borders of the post-war settlement have proven remarkably resilient”. Yet he fails to draw the selfevident conclusion that this state of affairs reflects their congruity with local realities, instead echoing the common refrain that ascribes the region’s endemic volatility to the supposed dissatisfaction with these boundaries.
Had this actually been the case, Arab leaders would have seized some of the numerous opportunities they had over the past century to undo the post-Ottoman order and unify the so-called Arab Nation; and they could have readily done this by peaceful means rather than incessant fighting. But then, violence has hardly been imported to the Middle East as a by-product of European imperialism; it was a part of the political culture long before. And if anything, it is the region’s tortuous relationship with modernity, most notably the stubborn adherence to its millenarian religiously based imperialist legacy, which has left physical force as the main instrument of political discourse to date.
But to acknowledge this would mean abandoning the self-righteous victimization paradigm that has informed Western scholarship for so long, and treating Middle Easterners as equal free agents accountable for their actions, rather than giving them a condescending free pass for political and moral modes of behaviour that are not remotely acceptable in Western societies. Sadly, The Fall of the Ottomans signals no such paradigm shift.
* The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan. The review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post and the EU are finding it hard to understand the behavior of the newly elected far-left government of Greece.
It is doing things that could possibly be interpreted as signs that it feels friendlier towards Russia and China than to its fellow members the EU. But no one wants to jump to conclusions. It’s strange and puzzling, as the Washington Post reports it:
[Greece] is complicating Western efforts to take a tough line against Moscow amid an escalating Russian-backed insurgency in southeastern Ukraine.
The new dynamic was on display Thursday, with European foreign ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Brussels to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow just days after shelling killed 30 civilians in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. But amid Greece’s doubts, the ministers could agree only to extend existing sanctions while deferring any decision on new ones after hours of emotional debate.
“The discussion was open, frank and heated,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said in an interview.
Take note of that “heated”.
Although Greece is just one of 28 members of both the European Union and NATO, both organizations operate on a principle of unanimous consent, meaning any member can block policy with a simple veto.
After years of Russian support for populists on the far right and far left in an attempt to undermine European unity, the election of Syriza gives Moscow a potentially critical spoiler at the heart of Western decision-making. …
The prospect of a Russian beachhead inside Western alliances has stirred Cold War-style fears within European defense ministries this week. “If you can’t sit down in a NATO meeting in Brussels, dive into the intelligence and be sure that it’s not going straight back to the Kremlin, that’s a pretty significant and shocking development for the alliance,” said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank.
But just how far Greece’s new government will go in hewing to a pro-Russian line remains unclear. …
The threat of disruption to Europe’s Russia policy, some officials said, may be a mere tactic ahead of broader and, for Greece, more important negotiations to come over the terms of the country’s mammoth debt. Syriza has demanded that the country’s $284 billion bailout agreements be renegotiated, with a significant portion of the total forgiven and austerity restrictions lifted. …
In other words, members of the EU suspect that Greece may be blackmailing it: “Save our economy, or you may find you have big problems with Russia.” But they don’t want to think about that. They prefer to feel bewildered. So what, they wonder, is Greece playing at?
Before the party’s victory Sunday, Syriza’s leadership was outspoken in defending Russia against Western criticism. Last spring, Tsipras visited Moscow and met with Kremlin associates. Western sanctions, he said, were counterproductive.
“I’m sure the E.U. should conduct dialogue and seek peaceful ways out of the conflict together with Moscow and not impose sanctions on Russia,” Tsipras told the state-owned daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Since Sunday, Syriza has doubled down in its backing for Russia.
Tsipras had been in office for only hours Monday when he welcomed his first foreign visitor, the Russian ambassador.
The second was the Chinese ambassador.
Greece objected vehemently when European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday issued a statement condemning Moscow for the shelling of Mariupol [in the Ukraine] and asking European foreign ministers to draw up new sanctions. …
For Syriza, challenging the EU stance on Russia reflects an ideology “that says we have to be skeptical of certain things our European partners do because the EU is a capitalist, neoliberal enterprise,” said Spyros Economides, an international relations professor at the London School of Economics. For Russia, he said, support for Syriza is more “a marriage of convenience”.
Some Russian officials have responded to Syriza’s triumph with undisguised glee.
“Syriza’s victory will be a breakthrough and will destroy Europe’s liberal consensus,” Mikhail Emelyanov, head of the Russian Duma’s committee on economic policy, told the state news service RIA Novosti. …
But say it is not so! It seems as if … but no … surely not … we simply cannot be sure ….
“You have a lot of people asking themselves whether Greece is going to play the role of the Trojan horse,” said Ben Nimmo, a European security analyst and former NATO official. “But nobody really knows. … ”
A baffled EU. Unable to interpret the signs with any conviction. Lost in a cloud of unknowing.