Street corner at World's End, London, 1954, photographed by Inge Morath:
From Syria's Children, a gallery at In Focus:
"A wounded Syrian girl stands in a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held area of Douma, east of Syria’s capital of Damascus, following shelling and air raids by Syrian government forces on August 22, 2015. At least 20 civilians were killed, and another 200 wounded or trapped in Douma, a monitoring group said, just six days after regime airstrikes killed more than 100 people and sparked international condemnation of one of the bloodiest government attacks in Syria's war."
I missed this, but there was a good interview with Quilliam founder Maajid Nawaz by Lucy Bannerman in the Times yesterday (£). In particular:
He is well aware of the criticisms repeated against him, often from other British Muslims: that he lacks credibility, that he is not representative. He says he has never claimed to represent anyone. The government stopped funding Quilliam in 2011. Since then, its profile has continued to rise, thanks to donations by unnamed charities and individuals. Yet so too has the number of British boys and girls leaving their bedrooms in Bethnal Green, Glasgow, Luton and Cardiff — the list goes on — to join the jihadists. At the latest estimate, 700 Britons have left to fight in the Middle East.
“We’re a small organisation of ten people trying to do what frankly should be everyone’s responsibility.” Perpetuating the problems, he argues, are the apologists on what he calls the “absurd regressive left, who are only happy when you’re attacking America”. He condemns the tone of a recent profile piece in The Guardian as “racist”.
“The expectation that the only real Muslim is a scruffy Muslim, somebody who is inarticulate and angry, that’s the racism of low expectation and it usually comes from privately schooled, Oxbridge-educated Guardian journalists. They’re talking to me, someone from a state school, who has been homeless, divorced; witnessed torture; been arrested and profiled at airports; had DNA taken from him; had every so-called angry Muslim grievance these so-called leftists are on about, yet they have the audacity to speak to me about my credibility and Muslim experience?
“They’ve never had to face the barrel of a police gun pointed at the their head because they’ve been racially profiled. They’ve never had to dodge a hammer from a neo-Nazi or be guided by a torturer’s grip as he walks you through the torture dungeons of Egypt. Yet they sit there and talk to me as if somehow my Muslim experience is somehow less credible than their silver-spoon, privately educated understanding of what a Muslim should be and the mere fact that I’m not angry is what upsets them the most.
“They would be happier if I was sitting here, saying to you: ‘Of course this country deserves to be blown up. What do you expect?’ Then they say: ‘Good Muslim.’ That’s the real good Muslim/bad Muslim game. That’s the biggest form of hypocrisy — between the champagne socialists and the shisha jihadists.”
After the recent Guardian hatchet job by David Shariatmadari, he has every reason to be angry.
Perez Prado was best known as "King of the Mambo" for his early 1950s hits like Mambo No. 5, when the mambo craze hit New York City. He was based in Mexico City for most of his life after he left his native Cuba, though. This is high-octave Mexican fun:
Pachuco was a Latino American subculture from the Forties and early Fifties, with snappily-dressed zoot suiters and gangster chic. Pachuco Bailerin just means Pachuco dancer - which is what we get here.
The frenetic pace and brass lines - not to mention the scantily-clad girls - remind me more than anything of merengue, originally from the Dominican Republic.
Jeremy Corbyn (yes, him again) has intimated that one of his first acts as Labour leader would be to apologise to the people of Iraq - for liberating them from one of the worst tyrants of recent times. Here's Nigel Biggar's response in the Times (£):
Jeremy Corbyn can apologise for the invasion of Iraq if he likes. But not in my name.
Saddam Hussein’s regime was monstrous. In the 15 years before the 2003 invasion it killed up to half a million of its own citizens. After the failed 1991 uprising in the south, its agents poured petrol down the throats of rebels and set them alight. Back in Baghdad the Special Treatment Department was busy dismembering living prisoners with chainsaws, squeezing their skulls in metal vices until brain-matter oozed out, and making parents watch their flailing children disappear under swarms of wasps in confined spaces. We know all this because it’s recorded on video. Such a regime deserved to be toppled; its vile nature was sufficient just cause for invasion.
Of course, we can’t afford to take on every nasty regime. So legitimate national interest must help us to discriminate. Fending off the threat that an atrocious regime like Saddam’s might acquire nuclear weapons as Pakistan had, North Korea has, Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya almost did, and Iran has only just been dissuaded from doing, gave the UK such an interest.
Yes, it turned out that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction and so the threat wasn’t immediate. But since no one doubts that Saddam was intent on getting them, a longer term threat persisted. As Dr David Kelly, the WMD expert sadly famous for his suicide, wrote on the eve of the invasion: “The long-term threat . . . remains Iraq’s development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction — something only regime change will avert.”
But what about the lies for which Mr Corbyn is so keen to apologise? There weren’t any — at least, not on this side of the Atlantic. The claim that Iraq possessed WMD was a serious mistake, but an honest one. It wasn’t fabricated by Washington and London, but was shared by all other western intelligence services, as well as Russia’s. In 2000 German intelligence reckoned that Iraq would have nuclear weapons capable of hitting Europe by 2005....
Without doubt the coalition’s planning for post-invasion occupation was woefully inadequate, and its consequent inability to secure order was a major failure. For that it deserves blame. But if an apology is fitting here, it’s not for too much intervention, but too little: the problem wasn’t too many boots on the ground, but too few.
What’s more, the vast majority of the 200,000 casualties of the ensuing anarchy were killed, not by American or British soldiers, but by Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda terrorists. And unless we subscribe to the racist view that non-westerners can’t be blamed because they aren’t full moral agents and only do bad things as the passive effects of western causes, then the primary responsibility for the carnage must rest with the perpetrators.
Most important, the coalition didn’t walk away from its mistakes. Rather, it strove to correct them by sustaining a costly military commitment for seven years, achieving a dramatic improvement in Iraq’s stability by the end of 2007.
Six years later, the Times’s Anthony Loyd, a journalist with more than twenty years’ experience of covering conflicts, was able to report that “contrary to the perception among western publics . . . the lot of the clear majority of Iraqis today is measurably improved. Many have a better quality of life, greater freedom of expression and more opportunity than during Saddam’s era.”
Since then, of course, things have taken a turn for the worse. For that the responsibility lies mainly with prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian government, but also with President Obama’s abandonment. Whether Iraq’s future can be retrieved from its current woes depends partly on how we respond to the new government’s pleas for help.
Five years ago I asked a group of young Iraqi professionals what they thought about the invasion. Their spokesman replied: “It’s good that it happened. It could have been done better. And it isn’t over.”
I cannot disagree. So Mr Corbyn will have to apologise without me.
Biggar, for what it's worth, is Regius Professor of Moral Theology at Oxford University.
Jeremy Corbyn again. This time it's Nick Cohen with the pointed stick:
Jeremy Corbyn encapsulated everything that was deceitful about his campaign to be leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition when he claimed he wanted to prioritise “the needs of the poor and the human rights of us all”. From the point of view of the poor and the oppressed, his words were a grim joke.
Like many from the Left’s dark corners, Corbyn does not believe in the human rights of “us all”. He is concerned only with the rights of those whose oppression is politically useful. If the oppressed’s suffering can be blamed on the West, he will defend them. If not, he is on their enemies’ side.
A short and far from comprehensive tour of the regimes Corbyn has supported includes the geriatric Cuban dictatorship, the corrupt and extraordinarily incompetent Chavistas who have come close to bankrupting oil-rich Venezuela, and Russian imperialists who have used force to redraw Europe’s boundaries.
You will not understand how a sickness on the Left has spread from the fringes to the mainstream, unless you pause, take a deep breath, pour a stiff drink and contemplate the strangeness of that list for a moment....
The malaise on the modern Left becomes evident only when you remember what century you are living in. Russia does not pretend to be socialist now. It is a dictatorial kleptocracy, whose oligarchs stash their stolen money in Mayfair, Saint-Tropez and Palm Beach, and whose leader sends his armies over Russia’s borders to grab the territory of neighbouring states. Putin boasts to the world that he wants to be the leader of its reactionary and illiberal forces. He is committed to adventurism and the repression of minorities, particularly homosexuals. Modern Russia is the heir to the Tsarist empire, which 19th-century liberals and socialists feared above all other powers.
Corbyn, like so many on the far Left, does not fear Russia. Nor does he care that UKIP and the French National Front defend Putin because they admire a regime that loathes the European Union as much as they do. The far left has never been comfortable with the EU either. However, it indulges Putin because, as Corbyn explained in the old Communist daily, the Morning Star, “the EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe”. From this, it follows that all attempts by the former occupied nations of Europe to protect themselves from their old imperial master are American-backed provocations which goad a justly affronted Russia. Or as Corbyn put it, “The expansion of Nato into Poland and the Czech Republic has particularly increased tensions with Russia.”
We have a politician at the forefront of one of Europe’s great parties telling Poles that their country has no right to defend itself against an expansionist Russia. The man I suppose I now have to call the leader of the British Left is defending a classically reactionary power. Those who have kept their eyes open won’t be shocked. Opposition to the West is the first, last and only foreign policy priority of many on the Left. It accounts for its disorientating alliances with movements any 20th-century socialist would have no trouble in labelling as extreme right-wing.
Not just Corbyn and his supporters but much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist “gaffe” of their opponents. Without pausing for breath, they move on to defend radical Islamist movements which believe in the subjugation of women and the murder of homosexuals. They will denounce the anti-Semitism of white neo-Nazis, but justify Islamist anti-Semites who actually murder Jews in Copenhagen and Paris....
After yesterday's Sudanese cleric and his forceful views on evolution - "This Darwin was crazy in the head...He was completely insane" - we have now a Sudanese journalist airing his own particular views on monkeys and their descendants. He starts normally enough, before heading off into the weird:
The black macaque is in danger of extinction due to hunting and due to loss of its natural habitat. These monkeys are found in the islands of Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia; silver macaques live in the Far East, including in China and Japan. Macaques are friendly and pleasant, and are very similar to humans. Some believe that they are the offspring of their Jewish forefathers whom Allah transformed into monkeys.
It is indisputable that there are monkeys of Jewish origin; none deny this but those who do not believe in the Koran that Allah brought down to Muhammad. Allah said of these monkeys of Jewish descent: "And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the Sabbath, and we said to them 'be apes, despised.' And we made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded [them] and a lesson for those who fear Allah' (Koran 2: 65-66).
[According] to the [Koranic] story, Allah forbade the Jews to work on the Sabbath. [It tells of] one village of Jews where they fished for a living. The fish would appear in multitudes on the Sabbath, and vanish on Sunday. These Jews felt sorrow and anger, and, against Allah's commandment, devised a scheme whereby they would imprison the fish in netting on the Sabbath without drawing them out of the water, and at dawn on Sunday they would pull them out. Several of their prophets prohibited them from doing this, but they were undeterred, as was their custom. [For this reason,] Allah punished them and transformed them into monkeys.
The rest of the Jews [who did not violate Allah's directive and were not transformed into monkeys] did not want to live near [the Jews who had been transformed into monkeys] and banished them to the mountains. The [Jews who had become monkeys] continued to multiply, and were finally forced to disperse throughout the world. It seems that they chose to settle in the countries of Southeast Asia and the Far East, as can be seen today.
What is interesting is that there are two species of macaque – black and silver. This corresponds to the two types of Jews, of two [skin] colors: the Ashkenazis, of European origin, and the Sephardis, of Asian origin.
It is noteworthy that Darwin ([who was] of Jewish descent) kept the world preoccupied for a long time with his theory that man is descended from apes. Apparently, he arrived at this assumption from his study [of] the history of some of his forefathers amongst the Jewish monkeys.
The problem of the macaque is that the Hindus and Buddhists of Southeast Asia and the Far East hunt them for food, and make folk medicines from them. What is astonishing and amazing is that most of the countries where there are increasing numbers of macaques are Islamic countries...
It is known that Jews always feel comfortable with and prefer to live, reside, and settle amongst the Islamic peoples, because they feel secure among them... The proliferation of the Jews in Spain, and later in the kingdom of Morocco, and currently in Palestine provides good proof of this factual observation.
It should be noted that that the Jews were subjected to isolation and degradation throughout all of Europe, and particularly by the Nazis in Germany under Adolf Hitler's leadership. Today, macaques have received some attention and interest, because people fear that they could become extinct.
On Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, a photographer took several photos of them, and was surprised to learn that these monkeys have a happy family life, just like humans. He was also surprised to see that they behave like humans when asked to stand or sit so that they can be photographed. These monkeys are astoundingly adept at posing for the camera.
It may be superfluous to say that the film industry, and the talent of posing for the camera, are the preserve of the Jews. Most of the groundbreaking film actors and actresses, in [both] Hollywood and Paris, were and still are of Jewish origin.
This article, by one Mus'ab Al-Mosharraf, has been posted at Elaph, which according to the MEMRI introduction is a well-known and popular liberal Arabic website that never normally features this kind of offensive nonsense. They've even, apparently, published articles condemning the custom of calling Jews "the offspring of apes and pigs." Perhaps the other way round - apes as the offspring of Jews rather than Jews as the offspring of apes - doesn't somehow seem so bad.
Paul Berman's latest Tablet piece, on Baathist adaptability, ISIS, and the failure of political theory in the face of savagery:
The Arab Baath Socialist Party in its two branches, Iraqi and Syrian, has turned out to be the worst affliction the Arab people has ever endured and a still worse affliction for the Kurds. It is true that, ever flexible, Baathism’s branches have diverged over the years..., even aside from the plunge into Islamism. But each new adaptation has proved to be expert at slaughter.
Only, why do they slaughter people? The Islamic State in particular, with its Baatho-Islamist cadre—what is its motive? On this point, too, there is no mystery. The Islamic State has been eager to reveal its own thinking. The Islamic State slaughters for religious reasons—which is to say, for reasons that are bound to seem incomprehensible to us. It is piety that requires the efficiently organized jihadis to slaughter the poor unoffending Yazidi minority in Iraq; and to slaughter the Shia, which they have been doing for many years now, one suicide bombing after another; and to slaughter Christians; and would surely require them to slaughter the Jews, if only the Israeli Defense Force would do them the kindness of getting out of the way. Given the opportunity, the Islamic State would slaughter most of the world, if I understand the takfiri doctrine correctly. Slavery, too, is piety, in these people’s eyes. They pray before raping.
And they have prospered! Their successes bear out political theory on a few points, but mostly they are a rebuke to political theory. They are the enemy and conqueror of every doctrine that has ever supposed human behavior to be predictable. This is the bafflement... They have scored a triumph over every theory of human progress that has ever been proposed. They are not the first people to score such a victory. We have needed their reminder, though. In recent decades we have liked to tell ourselves that, after the Nazis, mankind has learned its lesson. But mankind is not a lesson-learning entity. Civilizations can learn lessons. But civilizations come and go. Impassive mankind remains uninstructable and stupid, such that, if once upon a time the barbarities of the 7th century thrilled and inspired a substantial portion of mankind, we can be confident that 7th-century barbarities will remain forevermore a viable possibility.
David Shariatmadari, it will be remembered, is the Guardian editor who recently penned that hatchet job on Maajid Nawaz. Now it turns out, thanks to some research by London-based Iranian blogger Azarmehr, that Shariatmadari may have some undisclosed - and somewhat embarrassing - family connections in Iran:
It can now be said with a high probability of certainty that Dr Ali Shariatmadari, one of Ayatollah Khomeini’s closest political lieutenants and the man entrusted with purging the country’s universities of suspected secular and ‘un-Islamic’ intellectuals, and particularly Leftists, is his mysterious uncle....
Much sound and fury in Korea over the past week as the two sides traded insults, with a great deal of concern over threats of escalation from the North. Nothing happened, of course, and now an agreement of sorts has been reached:
South Korea has halted its propaganda broadcasts into North Korea as part of a deal to defuse tension.
Seoul had begun the loudspeaker broadcasts, which infuriate Pyongyang, after a landmine at the border injured two of its soldiers earlier this month.
The tensions bubbled over in a brief exchange of fire at the heavily guarded border last Thursday.
The deal was reached after the North, which initially denied planting the mine, agreed to express "regret".
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye said the deal "could serve as an occasion to resolve all inter-Korean issues through trust".
Well yes, it could serve "as an occasion to resolve all inter-Korean issues through trust", but it won't. There is no trust - as President Park well knows.
As usual in these matters it's the North which has more reason to be pleased with the outcome. It all started when a couple of South Korean soldiers patrolling in the South Korean section of the DMZ were seriously injured by land mines. There's little doubt that these were placed there by the North Koreans - who then proceeded to fire artillery shells across the border. Unsurprisingly President Park was furious, and demanded an apology.
She hasn't got one though. In #2 of the six items which form the agreed deal (as presented by the KCNA), the North merely express their regret over the DMZ explosions - no culpability admitted. In return the South have ceased their propaganda broadcasts (see here for details of what was in the broadcasts, and why they angered the North so much).
So as usual the North has paid no price for its aggression - as was the case with the May 2010 sinking of the Cheonan, or the bombardment of Yeonpyeong later that same year - and the whole episode can be portrayed internally as another triumph for the Great Marshal Kim Jong-un. The South, meanwhile, has shown how readily it will settle for any deal in the face of an unpredictable adversary which delights in military brinkmanship. Joshua Stanton - whose analysis is worth reading in full - takes item #1 of the agreement as an implicit promise of a payoff to the North. It all looks very much like appeasement.
Cleric Muzammil Faqiri, in an address at a Sudanese university:
Some students have addressed questions to me. The first question: "I am a Muslim, but I read books by Darwin. A friend of mine brings me these books. What's your advice?"
First of all you must stay away from this friend. What would you do if you had a friend who uses drugs? Your friend is a Communist who brings you Communist books. This Darwin was crazy in the head. He was completely insane. The flies buzzing around here are better than Darwin. By God they are, because they praise Allah. Darwin, on the other hand, was a polytheist, an infidel, and an atheist. He denied the existence of Allah, just like the Communists here....
A Communist would not tell you straightforwardly to become a heretic. He would say to you: "Come to a lecture. There will be 17 girls and two boys there." This is their trap. This is the bait they use to catch you. 17 girls and two boys! These girls are all foundlings, and nobody knows where they came from. They are all trash. Perhaps they fell off a garbage truck. A week later he says to you: "We have a red night". "What is a red night?" you ask. He says: we have this and that. He deceives you. Gradually he lures you with songs, girls and immorality. Eventually you deny the existence of Allah and say that your father was an ape.
Yep, that's how it goes.