There has been a heated exchange of views in our comments sections on some of our recent posts dealing with Nazis, Communists, and other socialists, particularly on yesterday’s post, Tomorrow belongs to them, and the extract from Jillian Becker’s essay The Fun Revolutionaries, July 26, 2015 (posted in full under the title The Darkness of This World [Part Two], to be found under PAGES at the top of our margin). Today we post an article by Jillian Becker on the same subjects, with an explanation of how it came to be written.
A new production of Hamlet is being put on at the Barbican Theatre in London, starring the impressive actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. The director, Lyndsey Turner, sees generation rebellion as an important aspect of the story, and observes that the events of the play take place some 30 years after a war between Denmark and Norway (a war which Denmark won). The assistant-director, Sam Caird, wrote to me on June 8, on behalf of the director, asking me (as the author of Hitler’s Children) to come and speak to the company about generational rebellion in West Germany in the late 1960s, when the New Left movement protested against the parent generation of the Third Reich (which of course lost the Second World War). I felt honored by the invitation, but explained that I could not travel from America to speak to the company, much as I’d have liked to. Instead I promised them a paper on the subject. Here it is:
Generational Rebellion and its Effects in West Germany, 1967-1977
Most of the declared causes of the 1967-1968 student protest movement in West Germany were ideological. The protestors were for pacifism, and against authoritarianism, capitalism, militarism, nuclear arms, the re-armament of Germany, and – intimately associated with all that – “Amerika”. A more immediate cause, and the one they felt most strongly about, was university reform. They wanted more representation on the governing boards, and the dismissal of teachers who had been members of the Nazi party.
Immediately after the Second World War, the victorious Western allies had carried out a “denazification” campaign. It had worked well. Most West German voters became firm democrats. Their children grew up knowing what the Nazi regime had done, but its ideology was literally locked away from them. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, for instance, was inaccessible to post-war generations. One could look at it in a university library, but only if a professor certified that one needed it for approved research. With that sort of policy, the campaign went too far. All ideas should be critically examined.
Shame and guilt kept most parents from talking to their children about what they had done and thought in the years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, as a generation, the parents were stigmatized in the eyes of their grown children. Those fathers who survived the war had their personal authority weakened by the Nazi police state, and fathers and mothers alike were demoralized by defeat and the revelation of the death camps. The student protestors held the crimes – though not the defeat – against the older generation in general. Some of the more radical activists proudly proclaimed that they were doing what their parents had failed to do: denounce and defy the Nazi regime. They disregarded the fact that they were doing it many years too late. They saw Nazism in all authority – in the schools, the universities, the Federal government, the states’ governments, the press, the commercial world, the military, the police, the banks, and “Amerika”.
Among the fiercest of the student rebels were children of liberal parents. Their sons and daughters accused them of not doing enough to compensate for their past, and of hypocrisy – preaching egalitarianism but living in luxury while others were poor.
In fact, almost nobody in West Germany was poor. All classes had worked extremely hard; and aided by the Marshall Plan, by which America provided vast sums for reconstruction, they had succeeded beyond all expectation in creating astonishing prosperity. It was called an “economic miracle”.
And the student rebels have been called the “the spoilt children of the economic miracle” – ungrateful for the freedom and plenty bestowed on them. They were well housed, well fed, well educated, supplied with all the goods the cornucopia of the West could pour on them. What did they have to complain of?
The answer they needed came from the New Left political philosopher, Herbert Marcuse. He asserted that the apparently free peoples of the West were oppressed by plenty and repressed by tolerance. They were hoodwinked into an illusion of contentment by material abundance and ample choice, while they were actually subject to the vicious tyranny of big business, the military-industrial complex, and “American imperialism”. The student protestors, he declared, were the “advanced consciousness of humanity”, whose mission it was to lead the revolution.
It may seem strange that of all West Europeans, these young Germans, with their country divided between a Communist east and a free west, should be so easily persuaded that New Left Communism was preferable to liberal democracy. Some of them were even refugees from Communism, their families having fled to the West before the Berlin wall was built. How could West Germans be unaware of the poverty, the privation, the bleakness and anxiety of life on the other side of the Wall? Why did the students so naively swallow the Soviet line that the Russian-led Warsaw Pact was all for peace, while American-led NATO was a war–monger? Why did they so furiously demand that the West destroy its nuclear bombs, but not Russia? How could they not know that in the USSR rebels against the system were routinely imprisoned, tortured, killed? If they did know, the knowledge had little or no effect on their passionately held opinions. They blamed America for the war in Vietnam, the wretchedness of the peasants in South America, the oppression of the Iranians, and inequality everywhere; but the USSR they exonerated, and even admired, no matter what it did. Why? Because they accepted the lie that Communism is the opposite of Nazism, rather than its twin, which it is.
A voice raised in support of the protestors was that of the journalist Ulrike Meinhof. She wrote for a leftist periodical, Konkret, owned by her husband. Her columns were ardently pacifist, anti-American and pro-Communist. Her foster-mother Renate Riemeck, who had fled from Communist East Germany, typified the attitude of liberal West Germans to Communism. She believed that “anti-Communism was the fundamental foolishness of the twentieth century”.
Through the early months of I967, the demos in the universities and on the streets grew ever bigger and more unruly, and clashes with the police ever more violent. The students hurled stones at the police and clubbed them with thick staves; the police charged and struck about them with their batons. (Only a very few of the marchers knew that Soviet agents had launched the movement. Not until the fall of the USSR did evidence emerge that it had funded the “peace movement” in Western Europe.)
On the 2nd June, 1967, there was a very large demonstration in West Berlin protesting a visit by the Shah of Iran, and in the midst of a skirmish a student was shot and killed by a police bullet.
For days and nights following the event there were meetings of student organizations for highly emotional discussions of what had happened and what should be done. There was general agreement that the shooting had proved them right – the fascist state was out to kill them. They must organize for resistance. They could only answer violence with violence. At one gathering, a young woman named Gudrun Ensslin shouted , “It’s the generation of Auschwitz – you cannot argue with them.”
Protest demos continued at intervals for another year. In February 1968, older citizens, including large numbers of trade union members, staged a massive counter-demo organized by the Berlin senate, to protest against the students’ revolt and “anarchy”. It was a rare public display of anger by the parent generation.
After the middle of 1968 the students’ movement faded. The majority of protestors were mollified by new university constitutions granting the students more say in the conduct of their affairs. But there were some who could not easily give up the heady excitement and return to normal life. And there were a few who did not find their way back at all.
In 1969 there were random bomb attacks on property, and though they harmed no people, they created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. The official explanation was that those responsible were “isolated individuals and small militant groups on the fringes of the New Left”. But not everyone believed it. Rumors spread of an “underground resistance” being formed. Gudrun Ensslin, the woman who had shouted that the older generation could not be argued with, and her lover, Andreas Baader, had firebombed a store in Frankfurt in March 1968.
They had been sentenced to three years in prison. But as the “fascist” authorities were in fact lenient to a fault, they soon let them out again, pending an appeal. The arsonists absconded, helped by sympathetic members of their parents’ generation: lawyers, parsons, teachers, professors, doctors, journalists, artists. As soon as asked, they provided the fugitives with cars, money, and apartments. Later they excused their weakness by pleading for the terrorists that “their hearts were in the right place, their aim for peace was good, only their violent method was wrong”.
When Baader was re-arrested and returned to prison, after he had been on the run for nearly a year, Ulrike Meinhof helped him escape again. She sought permission for him to work in a public library with her, and the all-too-soft authorities granted it. While they sat together in a room barred to the public, three raiders shot their way past two armed policemen guarding the prisoner, and got him out through a window. Ulrike Meinhof fled with them.
In their reports of the drama, the media designated Baader and Meinhof as the leaders of the group. They called it the “Baader-Meinhof gang”. At the same time the group itself took the name “Red Army Faction”. Its members robbed banks, shot policemen, bombed public buildings, maimed, kidnapped, tortured and murdered until most of them were caught and brought to trial.
At every point of the story until that stage was reached, the authorities of the Federal Republic of West Germany, far from exhibiting fascist tendencies, acted with so much restraint that it often amounted to foolhardy indulgence – at least partly because they feared to be accused of “authoritarianism”. It was the terrorists who acted like fascists.
Their generation could be called “Hitler’s Children” simply because they were born in the Hitler period. But when applied to the terrorist rebels, the label means more than just a generational relationship. It implies a family resemblance between the Nazis and the New Left activists.
An incident in their history illustrates the similarity. On June 27, 1976, an Air France airbus, on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris, was hijacked by two Germans and two Arabs. The pilot was forced to fly the plane to Entebbe, in Uganda, which was then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin (a keen fan of Adolf Hitler). The Jews were separated from the rest of the passengers. In return for the lives and freedom of the Jewish hostages, the terrorists demanded the release of fifty-three prisoners, of whom forty were held in Israel and six in Germany.
Among the Jewish hostages there were some who had been in Hitler’s concentration camps. Yet again they found themselves being sorted out from others by Germans, to be victimized and possibly killed. Again they were ordered about at gunpoint, slapped and shouted at to move quickly: “Schnell!” One of the captives showed the Germans his arm with a number indelibly branded on it, and told them he had got it as a prisoner of the Nazis. He said he had supposed that a new and different generation had grown up in Germany, but with this experience he found it difficult to believe that the Nazi movement had died. One of the hijackers snapped back that this was something entirely different from Nazism; that he was a member of the Red Army Faction, and what they wanted was world Marxist revolution. But the man with the number on his arm and the other Jewish captives could not see a difference.
All but four of the Jewish hostages were rescued by Israeli commandos. Along with the Arab hijackers and 48 Ugandan soldiers, the Germans were shot dead.
Did the terrorists themselves really believe that their actions would inspire a general uprising in West Germany? Or were they just playing a very dangerous game? As they had no obvious cause of their own to justify their tactics, they have been called “the fun revolutionaries”. They themselves feared not being taken seriously, which is why some of them, including Meinhof, Baader and Ensslin, went to Jordan in June 1970, to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and undergo “urban guerrilla” training.
The PFLP is an Arab nationalist and Marxist group, founded by a Greek Orthodox doctor, George Habash, who believed that his fight for the Palestinian and Arab nationalist causes was a necessary part of world revolution. He and his men came to despise the German men as soft, inept – and unserious. Both sides disliked each other, though Meinhof said that the training was “much more fun than sitting at a desk with a typewriter”. After two months the Germans returned home.
It was with the PFLP that some members of the group later co-operated in the hijacking of the Air France plane to Entebbe. Three of the six German prisoners whose release was demanded were “Baader-Meinhof” members, but Andreas Baader himself was not on the list. And by that time Ulrike Meinhof was dead, having hanged herself a few weeks earlier. New terrorists joining the “armed struggle” were not sorry to be rid of them. And their former helpers in the general population had finally lost sympathy with them. Meinhof had been given up to the police by a teacher with whom she had sought asylum.
Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin all killed themselves in prison: Meinhof in May 1976, before the court had given its verdict at their trial; Baader and Ensslin in October 1977, after they were sentenced to “three times life plus fifteen years”.
Some members of the gang admitted when they were caught that they had joined because it was “so romantic to go underground and make revolution”. Meinhof might have come close to convincing herself that she was working effectively towards the transformation of the world, but she became ever more confused, to a point where she was rapidly losing her reason. Ensslin, volatile and truculent, and Baader, a doltish bully and natural delinquent, finally understood when the judges pronounced their sentences that what they had done would not be admired, or excused, or forgiven. The game was over.
Their last hope was for martyrdom. They tried to make their suicides look like murder by the “fascist” state. They fantasized that their deaths would enflame multitudes to rise and avenge them by making revolution at last. Of course nothing of the sort happened. They neither led nor inspired a Communist uprising in West Germany. But all the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed, the Berlin Wall came down, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.
An afterword: What did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union think of them? A Moscow publication of the late 1970s said (rather to my dismay) that I was right to call them “Hitler’s Children”. And it explained that the CPSU scorned them because they were “left-wing Communist individual terrorists” – meaning they were not controlled by the Party – and as such, according to Leninist doctrine, they were not acceptable participants in the “revolutionary armed struggle”.
Jillian Becker June 2015
Of course yet another “deadline” (hahahaha!) has been passed in the Capitulate-to-Iran talks now going on and on in Vienna.
And according to the latest report by Omri Ceren – all of whose reports have so far proved to be accurate – the US is preparing to cave yet again. (And so will the rest 0f the P5+1 group – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany – ostensibly participating in the negotiations but really just letting the US lead the verbal dance to surrender.)
Notice that the European Union is also represented there by Frederica Mogherini, grandly named the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The parties missed another deadline this morning, and talks are now expected to go through the end of the week. Mogherini told reporters this morning: “I am not talking about extension. I am talking about taking the hours we need to try to complete our work.” (?) The overwhelming consensus from press and analysts here in Vienna nonetheless hasn’t changed: the parties will indeed announce some kind of agreement before they leave, though it will almost certainly have details that will need to be sorted out in future negotiations. How that aligns with the administration’s legal obligation to provide Congress with all final details the deal is anyone’s guess at this point.
Meanwhile the Obama administration and its allies are laying the groundwork for another U.S. collapse, this time on inspections. Couple of indicators:
(1) They’re giving up on promising “the most robust inspection/verification regime in history”
Here’s President Obama during his April 2 speech about the Lausanne announcement: “Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history”.
Here’s White House spokesman Josh Earnest at the beginning of May echoing the boast: “what President Obama has indicated must be part of any nuclear agreement… is the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program”.
But now here’s White House validator Daryl Kimball talking to Politico a couple days ago: “this particular agreement will establish the most extensive, multilayered system of nuclear monitoring and verification for any country not defeated in a war“. Catch the caveat about wartime defeat? …
For 20 months the administration promised Congress that Iran had been sufficiently coerced by sanctions that Tehran would accept anytime/anywhere inspections. Many in Congress disagreed and urged the administration to boost American leverage by working with the Hill to pass time-triggered sanctions. The administration responded with two different media wars that included accusations – including some by the President – describing lawmakers as warmongers beholden to “donor” money. Congress was right and the administration was wrong. Why would lawmakers now accept a weaker inspection regime than what the administration said it could secure, and what administration officials smeared lawmakers for doubting?
(2) A new talking point is that the IAEA’s technology makes up for the P5+1 collapsing on inspections
This appeared in two articles yesterday (the NYT and the Daily Beast). The two stories are fantastically geeky reads about the IAEA’s toys, but that’s not what the administration officials and validators wanted to focus on. Instead you had Energy Secretary Moniz telling the NYT that the technology “lowers the requirement for human inspectors going in” and Kimball telling the Daily Beast that the technology meant that the IAEA would be able to “detect [nuclear activities] without going directly into certain areas”.
This argument is terrible and scientists should be embarrassed they’re making it.
In its story the NYT quoted Olli Heinonen – a 27-year veteran of the IAEA who sat atop the agency’s verification shop – all but rolling his eyes:
Mr. Heinonen, the onetime inspection chief, sounded a note of caution, saying it would be naïve to expect that the wave of technology could ensure Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. In the past, he said, Tehran has often promised much but delivered little. “Iran is not going to accept it easily,” he said, referring to the advanced surveillance. “We tried it for 10 years.” Even if Tehran agrees to high-tech sleuthing, Mr. Heinonen added, that step will be “important but minor” compared with the intense monitoring that Western intelligence agencies must mount to see if Iran is racing ahead in covert facilities to build an atomic bomb.
The most fundamental problem is that IAEA procedures require physical environmental samples to confirm violations. They can use futuristic lasers and satellites to *detect* that Iran is cheating. But to confirm the cheating they need environmental samples, and usually multiple rounds of samples. Without that level of proof – which requires access – the agency simply wouldn’t tell the international community that it was certain Iran is in violation.
That’s before even beginning the discussion about why technology can’t make up for access to people, facilities, and documents – without which the IAEA won’t even know where to point its lasers and satellites.
But this is what the administration has left: the Iranians can’t be expected to grant anytime/anywhere access but that’s OK because the IAEA has cool toys.
Have the Iranians conceded anything? Is there anything the US has not conceded?
Has the whole performance been nothing but a charade to cover Obama’s determination that Iran should get its nukes?
Why would he want that? To make sure Islam is a strong force in the world? So the state of Israel will be destroyed? So the United States will be a weaker force in the world?
Or …. ?
Hear, Oh Greece! And Bernie Sanders fans! And Pope Francis!
Margaret the Great on the virtue of inequality and the vice of egalitarian thinking:
Watch out for the harm the well-meaning do!
Sam Westrop writes at Gatestone:
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has accepted an invitation to become chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR). The ECTR boasts an advisory board comprising a dozen European presidents and prime ministers. It describes itself as a non-governmental body that “fosters understanding and tolerance among peoples of various ethnic origin; educates on techniques of reconciliation; facilitates post-conflict social apprehensions; monitors chauvinistic behaviours, proposes protolerance initiatives and legal solutions”.
Behind all this jargon, Blair and the ECTR claim to promote religious belief and dialogue as a means to challenge hate speech and extremism. Writing in The Times, Blair and ECTR President Moshe Kantor state:
It is our firm belief that it is not religion or faith per se that causes or foments conflict. It is the abuse of religion, which then becomes a mask behind which those bent on death and destruction all too often hide. … The ECTR brings together parties and political leaders who have been at the heart of some of the world’s most difficult conflicts to foster dialogue. Our projects also tackle conflicts from the ground up — focusing on the root causes of intolerance, which are usually ignorance of other faiths and cultures — and so the ECTR takes its message to schools and universities around Europe to encourage tolerance and reconciliation.
The ECTR’s mission is explained in a document entitled A European Framework: National Statue for the Promotion of Tolerance. This “framework” is currently being brought before parliaments all across Europe. For Blair and the ECTR, however, “tolerance” seems not to be freedom of expression, but an Orwellian standard of behaviour to be rigidly enforced and regulated by government.
“Tolerance,” the ECTR claims, is “respect for and acceptance of the expression, preservation and development of the distinct identity of a [religious, racial or cultural] group”.
Proponents of individual liberty, however, argue that true tolerance means tolerating views that we dislike. In a free society, there is no requirement to show “respect” for such views, merely to accept the right of free people to express them.
“There is no need,” the ECTR explains, “to be tolerant to the intolerant.” It seems that European “tolerance” means only tolerating a European agenda.
The notion of “group rights” is deemed to trump individual liberties. The ECTR calls for European countries to introduce a number of “criminal offences punishable as aggravated crimes”, as part of a Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance. These crimes would include:
(iii) Group libel…
(iv) Overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia or anti-Semitism.
(v) Public approval or denial of the Holocaust.
(vi) Public approval or denial of any other act of genocide the existence of which has been determined by an international criminal court or tribunal.
These measures are staggering assaults on free speech.
Particularly damaging is the proposed criminal offense of “group libel” – the notion that defamatory statements about a group of people are actionable by individual members of that group.
Group libel has no basis under British law. In 1993, a British court ruled in Derbyshire CC v Times newspapers that governmental entities could not sue for libel because it would lead precisely to undemocratic restrictions on free speech. Group libel laws, such as the ECTR is proposing, would allow extremist religious and political movements to censor reporting and criticisms of their beliefs.
In Britain, Public Order Acts already criminalize incitement to violence. If, for example, a neo-Nazi activist advocates that Jews should be murdered on the streets of London, he would likely be prosecuted.
The ECTR, however, wants to go much farther. As an “aggravated crime”, group libel, the ECTR’s framework explains, also means “defamatory comments… with a view to… slandering the group, [or] holding it to ridicule”.
Blair is repeating his old mistakes. In 2006, his government was condemned for its attempts to criminalize anyone who “intends…to stir up religious hatred or was reckless as to whether religious hatred would be stirred up”.
After losing a vote in parliament and after politicians, comedians and journalists forcefully argued that such proscriptions would censor honest criticism of religious groups, Blair was forced to accept amendments to the legislation.
To criminalize ridicule would be disastrous. In a free society, no one has the right not to be offended. As Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said in 2006, the proposals were an attempt to “appease” some minority groups.
Along with criminalizing – in the name of tolerance – views that the ECTR deems intolerable, Blair’s group also proposes Orwellian means of regulation to further its “tolerance” ideology. “The Government shall ensure,” the ECTR advocates, “that public broadcasting (television and radio) stations will devote a prescribed percentage of their programmes to promoting a climate of tolerance.”
In addition, government funded bodies will impose and enforce such tolerance, with the ECTR framework calling on governments to “establish a National Tolerance Monitoring Commission as an independent body — composed of eminent persons from outside the civil service — vested with the authority to promote tolerance.” A separate governmental body will also be set up to “supervise the implementation” of the Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance.
The ECTR also lobbies for “entrenching state funding for religious institutions into law”.
Once again, Blair seems unable to learn from his own follies. Under the Blair government, the authorities poured millions of pounds of funding into the pockets of religious groups, which the government believed would challenge extremism and terrorism. Publicly-funded groups, however, included Islamist organizations connected with terrorist movements.
The current Prime Minister, David Cameron, has since noted:
As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’, and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. … Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement.
Europe needs to divorce the state from oppressive interest groups; it should not do the opposite and embrace them further.
The ECTR’s proposals only serve to reinforce the dangerous flaws of multiculturalism policy. Under this system, people are classified as members of religious and cultural groups, not as individual citizens with individual rights. By defining individuals by the groups to which they belong, you deny individuals their own voice and rights of citizenship.
In a recent case before London’s High Court, a British judge ruled that an illegal immigrant who beat his own son should be forgiven because of the “cultural context”. In other words, the law should protect only white children; the ruling implicitly condones the beating of minority children — all in the name of diversity and tolerance. Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality Commission, described the decision as “the effective abandonment of the migrant family’s child on the altar of multiculturalism”.
As an extension of multiculturalism policy, the ECTR’s proposed measures seek to protect the various groups by which European states classify their citizens. Such laws and regulation would further divide Europe into tribal groupings, composed of various religious, ethnic, cultural and political movements – all in competition with each other for government patronage and support.
By criminalizing our freedom to criticize religious movements, or even to express intolerant thoughts, and by offering legal protection to religious groups from ridicule or insult, Blair and the ECTR would destroy the most important tenet of individual liberty: freedom of expression.
A free society cannot proscribe toleration of the intolerant. Actual tolerance requires free citizens to tolerate views they dislike.
We should certainly not, as the ECTR advocates, be forced to “respect” views that the government declares suitable.
In a democracy, the law is designed to protect individuals against the agenda of oppressive interest groups. But Blair and the ECTR are proposing the very opposite. Under government-enforced “tolerance”, extremists would flourish, honest critics would be silenced, freedom of expression would be criminalized, and, in deference to religious and cultural “groups”, the individual would lose his right to be an individual.
An outraged Briton makes a point about Islam and asks a question that needs answering:
Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly Commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, deplores the abandonment by the Western world of the values that made it strong and great, and explains why he admires and defends Israel. (We have a difference of opinion with him over the expression “Judeo-Christian values”, but heartily agree with everything else he says.)
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.
In the video below, Pat Condell, our fellow atheist, speaks eloquently about the many ways in which Islam is offensive.
The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband, says he will ban and punish “Islamophobia” if he becomes Prime Minister, which he very well might if his socialist party wins the forthcoming general election. He is saying this in order to woo Muslim voters. Most Muslim votes go to the Labour Party, but some Muslims say that voting at all is wrong because only Allah must govern mankind. Also, Ed Miliband is Jewish. Are the Muslims who go to the polls likely to cast their votes for a Jewish leader?
If he gets into 10 Downing Street and has his Party make it a crime to criticize Islam, what will happen to Pat Condell? We are pretty certain he won’t stop making his videos, speaking freely, and expressing loud and clear the highly moral loathing and fully justified contempt he has for the criminal religion of Muhammad.
Obama’s courting of Castro, Putin, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and the King of Saudi Arabia; his appointment of policy advisers who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood; his rude eviction of the bust of Churchill from the Oval Office, his bullying of the President of Israel, and his cold-shouldering of Canada over the Keystone oil pipeline are signs that he is – what? Could they be read as indications that he is biased towards Communism and Islam, and is not at all keen on the values and polities of the West?
They could not only be easily read as that; it would be difficult to interpret them any other way.
Yet half the voting population cannot see it. Or if they can see it, they must like it, since they twice voted him into power.
But what are we saying? Half the adult, literate, sane people of the United States of America prefer Communism and/or Islam to their own free republic? Surely that cannot be true?
So what else could account for what happened? Well, perhaps most of them simply paid no attention to Barack Obama’s ideologies – although they could easily have discovered them before his first election to the presidency – and voted him into power for the purely racist reason that he’s black and they wanted (paradoxically) to show they were against discrimination on the grounds of race? And didn’t that prove they were nice people?
Now they’ve seen what a terrible mistake it was not to take his ideas and affiliations into account, they won’t do anything like that again – will they? They won’t again choose a president for such an extremely poor “reason”? A candidate’s race, color, ethnicity, or gender will not be seen as a qualification in itself for supreme power?
And next time they’ll be sure to take a candidate’s ideology into account – right?
We quote from an article at Front Page titled The Arabian Candidate, by William Kilpatrick:
In The Manchurian Candidate, the son of a prominent right-wing politician is captured by the Soviets and brainwashed in a secret Manchurian location. His task is to assassinate a presidential candidate, thus ensuring the election of the demagogic vice-president. …
The film has several parallels to current events. The main difference is that in those days, Americans had to be brainwashed into serving enemy interests by psy-ops teams. Nowadays, they come self-brainwashed with some indoctrinative assist from the American educational system.
In the film, a scary lady with leftist sympathies who looks vaguely like Hillary Clinton manipulates her husband into high political office. In real life, a scary lady with leftist leanings [who is Hillary Clinton] … manipulates herself into high political office.
In her case, teams of brainwashers are not required, since she has brainwashed herself into believing that foreign governments are dumping truckloads of cash into her family foundation because she’s such a charming and intelligent woman. And also because Arab sovereigns like nothing better than to do their part to improve the lives of the poor, the hungry, the environmentally underserved, and kids who need braces — in short, the very causes for which the foundation was founded.
Another similarity is that in the film, the [scary lady] character has some sort of hypnotic power over her son, the unwitting assassin. Whenever it begins to dawn on him that something funny is going on, she flashes a Queen of Diamonds playing card and he falls into a catatonic state of complete obedience. In the present situation [Hillary Clinton] has merely to flash the gender card and, presto, skeptical voters fall back into line.
There are parallels to other movies as well. Today’s Queen of Diamonds has a secret server in her home so that her exchanges with foreign dono- I mean “diplomats” can’t be traced. I’m not sure if the server takes up only one room of the palatial house, or a whole suite of rooms. And who knows what’s in the cavern-like basement? It’s all faintly reminiscent of those James Bond thrillers in which the villain’s remote island estate sits atop a vast underground military-industrial complex.
At some point the analogy breaks down. You could still convince a sixties audience that leftists were willing to sell out the country. We, on the other hand, have convinced ourselves that we live in a brave new world where such things never happen — at least, not in modern Western societies. No one would dare to pull a fast one on us because we’re just too smart. … So if it were discovered that Arabs controlled the White House, we would shrug our shoulders and say, “At this point, what does it matter?”
The Clinton-Arab connection actually goes back to the time when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and worked to secure a hefty Saudi contribution to a Middle-Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas. But let’s skip all that and fast forward to relatively recent times when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed her longtime aide Huma Abedin as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department. When it was discovered that Abedin’s family was deeply involved in the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, very few eyebrows were raised. After all, even President Obama had relatives in the Muslim Brotherhood. So it would have been silly to make something of it.
It’s probably just a coincidence that while working for the Clintons, Huma herself was the assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs which — you guessed it — is a Muslim Brotherhood journal. Before that, and while still interning at the White House, she was an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at George Washington University. The MSA was the first Muslim Brotherhood organization in the United States and George Washington was the first Muslim president. Well, the latter hasn’t yet been firmly established, but it’s just a matter of time until those Saudi-funded Mid-East studies professors at the University of Arkansas and the Saudi-funded professors at Georgetown (Bill’s alma mater) discover the prayer rug in the attic at Mount Vernon. It’s also probably a coincidence that, like her boss, Huma conducted State Department business using her own personal e-mail address, connected, one supposes, to the same master server that served her master so well … er, mistress.
Abedin also worked until recently for the Clinton Foundation. Again, this is no doubt a pure coincidence and, as the old saying goes, it has nothing to do with Islam. … Today’s government officials seem curiously lacking in curiosity. In 2012, Michelle Bachmann and four other House members wrote letters to the Inspector Generals of several government agencies asking them to conduct an investigation into Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the government. They were particularly concerned about Huma Abedin in view of her family connections and influential position. They noted thatthe Clinton State Department had “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests”.
The request was dismissed by numerous congressmen and senators as “offensive”, “insensitive,” and even “hurtful”. By that time the machinery of the “Islamophobia” industry was already in high gear and it was deemed prudent even by Republicans to defend Abedin and to damn her accusers …
Still, the case for an inquiry seemed strong. … Even if Abedin was innocent of any wrongdoing, the State Department’s own guidelines about foreign family connections would disqualify her for a security clearance for such a sensitive position.
But then, again, a lot of people in sensitive positions don’t seem to qualify for a security clearance. For example, if all your closest relatives were leftists or communists, if your chief mentors were, respectively, a member of the Communist Party and a radical left-wing preacher, and if you used to hang out with known terrorists, you probably couldn’t get a job as a night watchman at an auto parts warehouse. On the other hand, if someone with the same background throws his hat into the presidential ring, he can become Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, and get to set foreign policy.
He also gets to appoint Secretaries of State. It shouldn’t be any surprise if they turn out to be the kind of people who can’t be bothered with security checks. Such people seem to live in an ethereal realm that puts them above suspicion and above conflicts of interest. Normally, when a Secretary of State receives tens of millions in donations from countries that support the spread of a radical ideology, it would be a sign that something is terribly wrong. For an analogy, ask yourself if you would keep someone on at your firm if she had access to sensitive trade secrets and yet received huge gifts from rival corporations while conducting company business on her private server.
You would probably get rid of her pronto. But that’s only if you apply the normal rules of logic — which apparently don’t apply to Secretaries of State appointed by President Obama.
Now comes a surprise – or at least, a surprise to us. We did not know that John Kerry has family connections in Iran. How much does it explain?
If you applied such logic, you might also think there was something awkward about the fact that current Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter is married to an Iranian who has extensive family ties in Iran. …
The FBI usually won’t grant security clearance to “individuals who are married to nationals of an enemy nation or have family members living in that country, for fear of divided loyalties or, more simply, blackmail”.
Of course, you would have to be some kind of conspiracy nut to think that having vulnerable in-laws in Iran would in any way compromise Secretary Kerry’s negotiations with the representatives of a country whose leaders routinely indulge in “death to America” rhetoric.
Undoubtedly, the President consulted with his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about the matter. Since Jarrett was born in Iran and spoke Persian as a child, she would, by current standards of expertise, be assumed to have deep insight into the Persian mind. She could have assured the president that “Great Satan” and “Death to America” are typical of the rhetorical exuberance that characterizes the rich and vibrant Iranian culture. Moreover, she could have allayed any concerns about blackmail. Anyone who has studied Cliff Notes on Islam knows that blackmail runs counter to the deeply held beliefs of the mullahs.
Jarretts’ family left Iran when she was five, but apparently those five years were enough to qualify her as an expert on Iranian affairs. According to Discover the Networks, it was revealed in 2012 that for several months, Jarrett “had been leading secret negotiations with representatives of Iran’s Supreme leader … in an effort to normalize relations between the U.S. and Iran”.
The mind spins at the – what’s the word? — the audacity of it all. But the curious thing is not that there are people in high places willing to put self-interest ahead of the national interest. Such people are always with us. The curious thing is that the American people and the American press accept it with such equanimity.
During the Obama-Clinton-Kerry-Jarrett-Abedin years, Russia seized the Crimea, ISIS seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, the Taliban re-established itself in Afghanistan, allies stopped trusting us, enemies were emboldened, the Middle East was set on fire, and the Army was drastically reduced. Oh, and the way was cleared for Iran to have nuclear bombs. Future generations — if there are any — will wonder what we were thinking.
What we were thinking, they may discover, goes something like this (in shorthand brain language): “Mustn’t think that! Mustn’t say that! Not nice! What will people think!” You’d have to go back to the Victorian era to find another society with so much concern for propriety of thought and speech. … A sort of suicidal etiquette that chokes off common sense has grown up in our society. Under the rules of the new etiquette, we aren’t allowed to say that the Emperor has no clothes. We dare not even point out that the Emperor and his ministers appear to be throwing open the gates to the enemy.
Let’s see: The people of the United States elect as president a man they know very little about. When it becomes obvious that he has deep leftist sympathies combined with deep Islamist sympathies, they elect him again. He, in turn, appoints one Secretary of State who is beholden to Arab largesse, and then, after she steps down, he replaces her with a man who … has close family ties with Iran.
This time at last, in the coming election year, the Republican candidates whose broadcast debates will have the attention of millions of voters must take advantage of their opportunity to break through the protective wall the mainstream media have put round the Obama administration and the Democratic candidates. They must make all this – the ideology, the motivation, and the practices of Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and the rest of the gang – so well known to the electorate that no one who can read, watch TV, listen to radio, attend a political rally, or receive news through any medium, will be able to avoid knowing it. Or avoid knowing how perilous it is to their freedom, their safety, and even their survival.
Then if most voters choose Hillary Clinton for president …
Terrorism is a method.
It is not an ideology, or a movement, or a conspiracy, or a policy, or an aim.
Its users might be an organized movement that conspires to adopt the tactic; and a state might use it against its own people as a matter of policy. But terrorism itself is simply a method. A tactic.
Terrorism is not hard to define:
Terrorism is the systematic use of violence to create public fear.
As a method of intimidation it is as old as mankind and will surely continue to be used as long as our species continues to exist.
It has been used for various types of causes, such as religious (eg. the Catholic Church with its Inquisition; Protestant powers such as Calvin in Geneva, the Puritans at Salem); commercial and criminal (eg. the Mafia); and political, by rebels, and revolutionaries, and adherents of diverse ideologies.
Whether terrorism is used by a small group like the Weather Underground or the Baader-Meinhof gang; a large group like the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland and England, or Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in Peru; or a state like the Third Reich or the USSR, it is a method of instilling fear into many more people than it can directly attack so they or their rulers will do or not do what the terrorists want done or not done. That is why the attacks need to be random. Though you have done nothing personally to affront the terrorist organization doing its evil deeds in your corner of the world, you must be made to understand that their bomb could be in the bus you take to work or your child takes to school, and so could as easily kill or maim you or your child as anyone else.
The mentality behind terrorism is similar to the mentality of the racist. The users of the method target individuals indiscriminately because they “belong” to a group or class that the terrorists designate their enemy. You are a member of a political party that they oppose. You have a nationality they don’t like. You are a capitalist. You work for the “military-industrial complex”. Or you are one person in a national collective under a despotism that would keep you obedient.
Terrorism punishes the innocent. If a tyrant is killed, it is not terrorism; if his infant children are killed as “collateral damage”, it is.
Can the use of terrorism ever be justified? It is the moral question every terrorist needs to answer for himself. He alone makes the decision to do the deed. It is no excuse that he is obeying others. He – or she – is still responsible even under threat. The exception of course is when – for instance – a person is forcibly strapped into a suicide vest, deposited in a public place, and is detonated without taking any action himself. Islamic terrorists use children in this way.
An argument is sometimes put forward by persons – usually academics – who want, for various and usually disgraceful reasons, to discourage action against this or that terrorist organization, that the number of people who are hurt or killed in a specified period by terrorist action is smaller than the number killed by (eg) car accidents in the same time span. But an accident is by definition nobody’s fault. Because terrorism is a moral question, depending on people making decisions and implementing them, such comparisons are not only invalid but invidious.
What of war? Does that not harm and kill many innocents? Of course. But when war happens, all normal constraints are abandoned and the moral questions are changed. Was Churchill right to have Dresden bombed flat? Was America right to drop nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If more people were saved by these acts which brought war to an end than were hurt and killed by the actions themselves, were they good or were they evil?
The morality of war is open to argument. But clear acts of terrorism can be carried out within wars, and need to be unequivocally condemned. For instance, in World War Two, the Germans massacred all the inhabitants (642), men women and children, of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944, in reprisal for one of their officers being captured and held there. It was plainly a “war crime”, and plainly an act of terrorism.
What – it is sometimes asked – of random violence used against a conqueror occupying your country in war? Is that terrorism? And even if it is, is it not justified? Not an easy question to answer. The best one can do to decide the morality of (eg) blowing up a train that is bringing enemy reinforcements into your country but also bearing some of your fellow countrymen, is to ask whether the action would make most of your fellow countrymen feel more safe or more threatened. If the answer is “more safe”, it could be argued that the act was therefore justified. But much depends on what an action is, whom it kills and in what way; on the circumstances of the occupation, and on whether it is oppressive or comparatively benign. In each case, judgment is needed.
Communism and Islam are inherently terrorist ideologies.
Jillian Becker March 18, 2015
(Jillian Becker was director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Terrorism 1985-1990)