Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Times of London

Iranian-Funded Press TV’s British Bank Accounts Frozen

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

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Stone’s Apologies Don’t Erase Link Between the Left and Anti-Semitism

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

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The Worst Brit PM: Loser of the Colonies or Appeaser of Hitler?

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

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Is That With or Without the Swans?

Fox News reports:

The State Department has unveiled its plans for an extravagant new embassy in London, an expensive crystal cube that features a 100-foot moat among its defenses — but the hi-tech hive is already facing angry salvos from fuming taxpayer watchdogs.

The new structure, reported by the Times of London to cost $1 billion, would set a glittering jewel in the crown of American presence abroad, even as soaring deficits and unemployment continue to threaten the economy at home.

A billion? Well, moats don’t come cheap. Needless to say, taxpayer groups are up in arms. This from one anti-waste activist: “’Some of the amenities really seem kind of ridiculous and almost medieval,’ said [David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste], criticizing plans for the moat, which will be dug as a security measure to separate the embassy from a busy road nearby. ‘Are they going to have turrets and sword fights?’” Well, aren’t we getting something out of this? A really big building and lots of happy British construction workers, it seems:

The new embassy, designed by the Philadelphia-based firm KieranTimberlake, features far more amenities in its 500,000 square feet, including lofted halls and beaming “light art,” a bit of aesthetic diplomacy the State Department hopes will be more popular than the old embassy’s ominous bald eagle sculpture that has glared down at passing Londoners for 50 years.

And it is Britons who may be benefiting most from the new construction, said Williams, who did not expect to see many jobs created for struggling American workers in the massive project.

Now this is just, yes, just a billion dollars in a federal budget of more than a trillion. But it does suggest that the era of frugality and fiscal sobriety is not yet upon us. What does Dame … er … Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have to say about this one? Perhaps she can make her case for the State Department’s new digs, metaphorically speaking, of course, before the new debt commission that had to be set up because the “real” government can’t control its spending. It seems it’s just too hard for the elected branches of government and the ever-growing permanent bureaucracy to do their jobs. After all, it’s not like they’re spending their own money.

Fox News reports:

The State Department has unveiled its plans for an extravagant new embassy in London, an expensive crystal cube that features a 100-foot moat among its defenses — but the hi-tech hive is already facing angry salvos from fuming taxpayer watchdogs.

The new structure, reported by the Times of London to cost $1 billion, would set a glittering jewel in the crown of American presence abroad, even as soaring deficits and unemployment continue to threaten the economy at home.

A billion? Well, moats don’t come cheap. Needless to say, taxpayer groups are up in arms. This from one anti-waste activist: “’Some of the amenities really seem kind of ridiculous and almost medieval,’ said [David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste], criticizing plans for the moat, which will be dug as a security measure to separate the embassy from a busy road nearby. ‘Are they going to have turrets and sword fights?’” Well, aren’t we getting something out of this? A really big building and lots of happy British construction workers, it seems:

The new embassy, designed by the Philadelphia-based firm KieranTimberlake, features far more amenities in its 500,000 square feet, including lofted halls and beaming “light art,” a bit of aesthetic diplomacy the State Department hopes will be more popular than the old embassy’s ominous bald eagle sculpture that has glared down at passing Londoners for 50 years.

And it is Britons who may be benefiting most from the new construction, said Williams, who did not expect to see many jobs created for struggling American workers in the massive project.

Now this is just, yes, just a billion dollars in a federal budget of more than a trillion. But it does suggest that the era of frugality and fiscal sobriety is not yet upon us. What does Dame … er … Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have to say about this one? Perhaps she can make her case for the State Department’s new digs, metaphorically speaking, of course, before the new debt commission that had to be set up because the “real” government can’t control its spending. It seems it’s just too hard for the elected branches of government and the ever-growing permanent bureaucracy to do their jobs. After all, it’s not like they’re spending their own money.

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Iraq Proves the Pessimists Wrong

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

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Zeno of Elea’s Triumph in Iran

In the age-old battle of the philosophical postures — “nothing can possibly happen” versus “everything is about to” — Zeno’s logical paradoxes seem to be winning out for control of the Western mindset on Iran. I’m reminded of Zeno’s paradox that “motion is impossible” every time I see another development that quite obviously means Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Zeno, you will remember from Logic 101, posited that motion is impossible because every distance to be moved can be split in half in an infinite regression, while the supposed mover can be in only one place at a given point in time.

Of course, for practical purposes, we accept the reality of motion and predicate much of our daily lives on it. Nevertheless, many Westerners are using Zeno’s approach to perpetually argue that no matter what we discover Iran has been up to, it doesn’t mean there are going to be nuclear weapons coming out of it any time soon.

The Zeno Refrain started almost immediately after Monday’s revelation by the Times of London of an Iranian document that showed that the country was pursuing a uranium deuteride (UD-3) initiator — something only a nuclear weapon can make use of — as late as 2007. Never mind that A.Q. Khan and the Chinese have worked with UD-3 initiators for nuclear warheads. Never mind that the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported back in 2005 that Iran was pursuing the UD-3 initiator. Never mind that some of the foremost think-tank experts on Iran’s nuclear program, at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirm that “although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, it has no civil application.”

None of this, according to the same ISIS experts, means that this revelation is a “smoking gun.” Instead:

The document could describe work to develop and maintain a capability rather than being part of a program authorized to build nuclear weapons.  The document does not mention nuclear weapons and we have seen no evidence of an Iranian decision to build them.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office did tell the Times that the document “raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.” But since that’s been said about every previous revelation, the real question is how many more of these “questions” need to be raised before we drop the Zeno approach — which is summed up perfectly in this reader comment from the always useful Arms Control Wonk website:

Research into the physics of nuclear explosions (i.e. obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability) is different from pursuing an active weapons program (i.e. diversion of material, of which there is no evidence).

The buried premise is that, for our policy purposes, merely “obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability” is a different issue from “pursuing an active weapons program.” But just as Zeno could be made to look irrelevant by an arrow hitting its target or by Achilles overtaking the tortoise, so the hair splitters on Iran’s nuclear program are, with increasing frequency, made to look irrelevant by the repeated emergence of new information on Tehran’s intentions and activities. Their central error is looking for a smoking gun in the first place. A smoking gun is only available after the trigger has been pulled. What we look for beforehand is the time-honored intelligence pairing of intention and capability — and if we saw the set of Iran-related indicators piling up for any other nation, from Anguilla to Vanuatu, we would say it’s a nuclear-weapons program, and we’d say the hell with it.

In the age-old battle of the philosophical postures — “nothing can possibly happen” versus “everything is about to” — Zeno’s logical paradoxes seem to be winning out for control of the Western mindset on Iran. I’m reminded of Zeno’s paradox that “motion is impossible” every time I see another development that quite obviously means Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Zeno, you will remember from Logic 101, posited that motion is impossible because every distance to be moved can be split in half in an infinite regression, while the supposed mover can be in only one place at a given point in time.

Of course, for practical purposes, we accept the reality of motion and predicate much of our daily lives on it. Nevertheless, many Westerners are using Zeno’s approach to perpetually argue that no matter what we discover Iran has been up to, it doesn’t mean there are going to be nuclear weapons coming out of it any time soon.

The Zeno Refrain started almost immediately after Monday’s revelation by the Times of London of an Iranian document that showed that the country was pursuing a uranium deuteride (UD-3) initiator — something only a nuclear weapon can make use of — as late as 2007. Never mind that A.Q. Khan and the Chinese have worked with UD-3 initiators for nuclear warheads. Never mind that the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported back in 2005 that Iran was pursuing the UD-3 initiator. Never mind that some of the foremost think-tank experts on Iran’s nuclear program, at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirm that “although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, it has no civil application.”

None of this, according to the same ISIS experts, means that this revelation is a “smoking gun.” Instead:

The document could describe work to develop and maintain a capability rather than being part of a program authorized to build nuclear weapons.  The document does not mention nuclear weapons and we have seen no evidence of an Iranian decision to build them.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office did tell the Times that the document “raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.” But since that’s been said about every previous revelation, the real question is how many more of these “questions” need to be raised before we drop the Zeno approach — which is summed up perfectly in this reader comment from the always useful Arms Control Wonk website:

Research into the physics of nuclear explosions (i.e. obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability) is different from pursuing an active weapons program (i.e. diversion of material, of which there is no evidence).

The buried premise is that, for our policy purposes, merely “obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability” is a different issue from “pursuing an active weapons program.” But just as Zeno could be made to look irrelevant by an arrow hitting its target or by Achilles overtaking the tortoise, so the hair splitters on Iran’s nuclear program are, with increasing frequency, made to look irrelevant by the repeated emergence of new information on Tehran’s intentions and activities. Their central error is looking for a smoking gun in the first place. A smoking gun is only available after the trigger has been pulled. What we look for beforehand is the time-honored intelligence pairing of intention and capability — and if we saw the set of Iran-related indicators piling up for any other nation, from Anguilla to Vanuatu, we would say it’s a nuclear-weapons program, and we’d say the hell with it.

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Tivoli Gardens, Anyone?

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

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Let Aussies Fight

Normally only Americans protest when their allies refuse to contribute troops to Iraq or Afghanistan or impose crippling restrictions on those troops. (A German commando unit in Afghanistan is, for instance, forbidden from using lethal force.)

But many allied soldiers seethe privately that they are not allowed to do their job even in a good cause. Some of that seething has broken into public view in Australia where two army officers have published articles bemoaning the restrictions imposed on infantry units. As summed up by the Sydney Morning Herald:

Low-risk missions assigned to the infantry in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan have left soldiers “ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform” and made them a laughing stock among allies, say two senior officers who have spoken out against the Government and their military chiefs.

The officers, writing separately in the Australian Army Journal, say giving all potentially offensive actions to Australia’s special forces, including the SAS, has weakened morale and prompted many soldiers to question the future of the infantry.

The Times of London notes that Australia’s policies have had their intended effect by minimizing politically damaging casualties: “No Australian troops have been killed in combat in Iraq since the invasion but five, mainly special forces commandos, have been killed in Afghanistan.”

These rules of engagement were instituted by former Prime Minister John Howard, because he feared that suffering too many casualties would destroy political support for an unpopular mission. That’s a reasonable concern. Dutch and Canadian troops, among others, have in fact seen worrisome declines in support on the home front as a result of the losses they’ve taken in Afghanistan. But at some point America’s allies have to ask themselves what is the point of sending troops if they’re not allowed to fight? That not only undermines the rationale for the troop deployment in the first place but also undermines the morale of soldiers who are not allowed to soldier.

Normally only Americans protest when their allies refuse to contribute troops to Iraq or Afghanistan or impose crippling restrictions on those troops. (A German commando unit in Afghanistan is, for instance, forbidden from using lethal force.)

But many allied soldiers seethe privately that they are not allowed to do their job even in a good cause. Some of that seething has broken into public view in Australia where two army officers have published articles bemoaning the restrictions imposed on infantry units. As summed up by the Sydney Morning Herald:

Low-risk missions assigned to the infantry in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan have left soldiers “ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform” and made them a laughing stock among allies, say two senior officers who have spoken out against the Government and their military chiefs.

The officers, writing separately in the Australian Army Journal, say giving all potentially offensive actions to Australia’s special forces, including the SAS, has weakened morale and prompted many soldiers to question the future of the infantry.

The Times of London notes that Australia’s policies have had their intended effect by minimizing politically damaging casualties: “No Australian troops have been killed in combat in Iraq since the invasion but five, mainly special forces commandos, have been killed in Afghanistan.”

These rules of engagement were instituted by former Prime Minister John Howard, because he feared that suffering too many casualties would destroy political support for an unpopular mission. That’s a reasonable concern. Dutch and Canadian troops, among others, have in fact seen worrisome declines in support on the home front as a result of the losses they’ve taken in Afghanistan. But at some point America’s allies have to ask themselves what is the point of sending troops if they’re not allowed to fight? That not only undermines the rationale for the troop deployment in the first place but also undermines the morale of soldiers who are not allowed to soldier.

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Why Incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

While the international community is busy hammering out a new and more attractive package of incentives for Iran, the Times of London reports on the exposure of an clandestine Iranian missile facility:

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

This is the latest in a series of revelations about Iran’s military programs which Iran is trying to conceal from the world. In particular, as emerged from the latest IAEA report circulated last February, Iran has detailed designs of uranium metal hemispheres, re-entry vehicles and other components which would likely be needed to build a nuclear warhead and secure it on a missile like the ones Iran is developing at the site now exposed. Among other things, the IAEA report described

parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device.

Now, consider the Iranian case to date: Iran has just announced the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges – apparently of a more advanced design than the P-1 and P-2 centrifuges already operating at the Natanz nuclear site; Iran is alleged to have ballistic missiles that can accommodate a nuclear warhead; Iran is now developing ballistic missiles with a 4,000 mile range that could easily reach any European capital; Iran admits having a design for uranium hemispheres; Iran was already offered a long list of incentives in June 2006 and took two months to carefully phrase its response – “NO!”. So, why are the nations of the world trying to increase the incentive package for Iran exactly?

Technical hurdles are the only things that stand between Iran and the bomb. If an Iranian bomb is so terrifying a prospect – as both US president George W. Bush and French President, Nicholar Sarkozy have repeatedly acknowledged – is it not time for a bit more pressure to be brought to bear, rather than more incentives?

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A British Horror Movie

At a certain point it dawned on officials in West Yorkshire, England that something was amiss. That point: when children’s services authorities lost track of 205 (!) kids, of which they have since found 172. The missing 33 are girls who are feared to have been forced into Muslim marriages or made victims of “honor violence”—the often deadly assault on females practiced by Muslim fanatics who claim justification in Islamic scripture.

Ministers had local authorities launch a formal investigation. Which proved difficult. As the Times of London reports:

Campaigners say that a fear of being seen as racist, and misplaced cultural sensitivity, are preventing teachers from following up cases when youngsters are removed from classes.

Misplaced cultural sensitivity indeed.

When the Times reported this story on March 8th, they spoke to former policeman and “vulnerable persons officer responsible for Asian women in the Bradford district” (V.P.O.R.A.W.B., presumably) Philip Balmforth. The V.P.O.R.A.W.B. had this to say in reference to the cowardly proceedings:

If these girls are missing, who has been told? Who is doing anything about it? I want to know from every education authority, “How many children did you lose last year? And where are they?” At the moment, we just don’t know. It’s like knocking a nail into a piece of stone.

Words sensible enough to get him suspended, it turns out. Balmforth faces permanent dismissal for “damaging the reputation” of West Yorkshire Police by speaking to a newspaper without consent. A man who has reportedly helped thousands of young girls will be sacked for saying 33 young girls need help. Melanie Phillips, in the Spectator, reports that Balmforth may not have stood a chance, as his suspension was likely due to pressure from the “‘biraderie’ — the Punjabi word for the extended family — which now ran Bradford city council.”

While West Yorkshire girls fall victim to Body Snatchers, local officials imitate Stepford Wives. And the one man determined to deliver his city from this horror movie mash-up is now out of work. Just another overcast day in England.

At a certain point it dawned on officials in West Yorkshire, England that something was amiss. That point: when children’s services authorities lost track of 205 (!) kids, of which they have since found 172. The missing 33 are girls who are feared to have been forced into Muslim marriages or made victims of “honor violence”—the often deadly assault on females practiced by Muslim fanatics who claim justification in Islamic scripture.

Ministers had local authorities launch a formal investigation. Which proved difficult. As the Times of London reports:

Campaigners say that a fear of being seen as racist, and misplaced cultural sensitivity, are preventing teachers from following up cases when youngsters are removed from classes.

Misplaced cultural sensitivity indeed.

When the Times reported this story on March 8th, they spoke to former policeman and “vulnerable persons officer responsible for Asian women in the Bradford district” (V.P.O.R.A.W.B., presumably) Philip Balmforth. The V.P.O.R.A.W.B. had this to say in reference to the cowardly proceedings:

If these girls are missing, who has been told? Who is doing anything about it? I want to know from every education authority, “How many children did you lose last year? And where are they?” At the moment, we just don’t know. It’s like knocking a nail into a piece of stone.

Words sensible enough to get him suspended, it turns out. Balmforth faces permanent dismissal for “damaging the reputation” of West Yorkshire Police by speaking to a newspaper without consent. A man who has reportedly helped thousands of young girls will be sacked for saying 33 young girls need help. Melanie Phillips, in the Spectator, reports that Balmforth may not have stood a chance, as his suspension was likely due to pressure from the “‘biraderie’ — the Punjabi word for the extended family — which now ran Bradford city council.”

While West Yorkshire girls fall victim to Body Snatchers, local officials imitate Stepford Wives. And the one man determined to deliver his city from this horror movie mash-up is now out of work. Just another overcast day in England.

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IQ2

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

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Lucie Aubrac’s Fictions

Lucie Aubrac has died at the age of 94. She certainly lived an adventure in World War II, but what sort of an adventure even now nobody can say with certainty. Perhaps she was a heroine who took part in armed struggle against the occupying Germans. That was her view of herself, as expressed in her 1993 autobiography Outwitting the Gestapo, and as shown in Claude Berri’s film Lucie Aubrac in 1997. President Jacques Chirac uttered what might be called the official eulogy for her, saying, “A light of the French resistance has been put out tonight. Lucie Aubrac embodied the commitment of women in the resistance.” The obituary in the Times of London took the story of her heroism at face value, with no mention at all that an alternative version ever existed.

Lucie and her husband Raymond Aubrac, both Communists, joined the resistance group known as Libération-sud in Lyons after the fall of France in 1940. In June 1943, leaders of the resistance met in a house in Caluire, a suburb of Lyons, in order to receive orders from Jean Moulin, parachuted in from London as the representative of General de Gaulle.

The Lyons Gestapo was headed at the time by Klaus Barbie, a hardline Nazi and a sadist who personally tortured his victims. He and a Gestapo detachment burst into the house at Caluire, arresting Jean Moulin and eight others, among them Raymond Aubrac. According to Lucie’s story, she then visited Barbie in his headquarters and persuaded him to let her see her husband. During a visit, she and Raymond planned his escape, which took place that October when Lucie led an ambush on the prison van escorting her husband and others to a different prison. Moulin died under Barbie’s torture without giving away any secrets.

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Lucie Aubrac has died at the age of 94. She certainly lived an adventure in World War II, but what sort of an adventure even now nobody can say with certainty. Perhaps she was a heroine who took part in armed struggle against the occupying Germans. That was her view of herself, as expressed in her 1993 autobiography Outwitting the Gestapo, and as shown in Claude Berri’s film Lucie Aubrac in 1997. President Jacques Chirac uttered what might be called the official eulogy for her, saying, “A light of the French resistance has been put out tonight. Lucie Aubrac embodied the commitment of women in the resistance.” The obituary in the Times of London took the story of her heroism at face value, with no mention at all that an alternative version ever existed.

Lucie and her husband Raymond Aubrac, both Communists, joined the resistance group known as Libération-sud in Lyons after the fall of France in 1940. In June 1943, leaders of the resistance met in a house in Caluire, a suburb of Lyons, in order to receive orders from Jean Moulin, parachuted in from London as the representative of General de Gaulle.

The Lyons Gestapo was headed at the time by Klaus Barbie, a hardline Nazi and a sadist who personally tortured his victims. He and a Gestapo detachment burst into the house at Caluire, arresting Jean Moulin and eight others, among them Raymond Aubrac. According to Lucie’s story, she then visited Barbie in his headquarters and persuaded him to let her see her husband. During a visit, she and Raymond planned his escape, which took place that October when Lucie led an ambush on the prison van escorting her husband and others to a different prison. Moulin died under Barbie’s torture without giving away any secrets.

How did the Gestapo know that Jean Moulin and the others were in that house in Caluire? That someone tipped them off has always been evident. Suspicion fell on the Aubracs, but in preliminary investigations they were cleared. They were also unpopular because of the zeal and frequency with which they had accused people, after the war, of collaboration with the Nazis.

And then Klaus Barbie was captured in Bolivia, and brought to trial in France. He declared that Lucie Aubrac had, in fact, tipped him off. Prisoners did not escape the Gestapo, he emphasized with authority, unless the Gestapo wanted them to escape.

The Aubracs then submitted the issue to a group of French historians led by Moulin’s former secretary and biographer, Daniel Cordier, a keeper of the flame of the resistance. This panel rejected the accusation of outright collaboration, but pointed out numerous inconsistencies and peculiarities in the Aubracs’ version of events. Cordier expressed “profound disappointment” and dismissed Lucie’s book as fiction. The British writer Patrick Marnham, in his book Jean Moulin, examines the evidence very thoroughly. The book’s brilliant ending reconstructs that moment in Caluire and the underlying motives for the betrayal. Marnham does not say so in so many words, but lets it be clearly understood that he too suspects the Aubracs.

How difficult and dangerous were those times! Equivocal behavior was indeed forced on many in the French resistance. The truth of what happened that day in Caluire will surely never be known, and certainly not from listening to Chirac or reading the Times.

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News from the Continent: A “Pro-Israel” EU?

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has just accused the European Union of being too pro-Israel, despite the EU’s recent pledge of 264 million euros for Palestinian refugees. Abbas’s criticism is based on the fact that the EU, to its credit (and to the surprise of many observers), has stuck to its guns and refused to water down the three preconditions set by the Mideast Quartet for the resumption of direct aid to the Palestinians: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and respect for previous accords. Despite Russia’s active undermining of the Quartet’s position, the original consensus on these issues, formed in response to the electoral victory of Hamas in January 2006, has lasted longer than even the most dedicated pro-Israel activist could have expected.

Indeed, since coming to power, Hamas has played a central role in maintaining the consensus. The Islamist party has wasted countless opportunities to break the aid embargo. All that Europe has needed in order to set aside the preconditions is a few magic words—cloaked in the usual mantle of ambiguity—and no real action. A literature about the supposed two “wings” of Hamas even began to flourish to prepare the way for such an accommodation. We were told about the tension between the “moderates” inside the PA and the ideologues abroad, the military faction and the political faction, the ones we can talk to and those who just won’t make nice. The point of it all: to encourage the West to engage and aid the PA.

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Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has just accused the European Union of being too pro-Israel, despite the EU’s recent pledge of 264 million euros for Palestinian refugees. Abbas’s criticism is based on the fact that the EU, to its credit (and to the surprise of many observers), has stuck to its guns and refused to water down the three preconditions set by the Mideast Quartet for the resumption of direct aid to the Palestinians: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and respect for previous accords. Despite Russia’s active undermining of the Quartet’s position, the original consensus on these issues, formed in response to the electoral victory of Hamas in January 2006, has lasted longer than even the most dedicated pro-Israel activist could have expected.

Indeed, since coming to power, Hamas has played a central role in maintaining the consensus. The Islamist party has wasted countless opportunities to break the aid embargo. All that Europe has needed in order to set aside the preconditions is a few magic words—cloaked in the usual mantle of ambiguity—and no real action. A literature about the supposed two “wings” of Hamas even began to flourish to prepare the way for such an accommodation. We were told about the tension between the “moderates” inside the PA and the ideologues abroad, the military faction and the political faction, the ones we can talk to and those who just won’t make nice. The point of it all: to encourage the West to engage and aid the PA.

But even the “reasonable” wing of Hamas has refused to play along. Every time Europe’s political class might have been tempted to think that Israel’s nemesis had changed course, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza would obligingly remind them what the organization is really about. Renounce violence? Never. Recognize Israel? Not implicitly, tacitly, or otherwise. And why shouldn’t Hamas refuse? With Fatah in disarray, the Islamists might soon be the only game in town.

And it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Even if the EU holds firm, Abbas can still count on more than a few friends in Europe. With German bishops comparing Israel’s defense barrier to the walls of the Warsaw ghetto and with self-proclaimed dissidents in Sweden calling Israel an apartheid regime, political statements from Brussels amount to little more than a minority view, increasingly at odds with the European vox populi. Then there are those “moderate” commentators eager to punish Israel should it continue to defend itself. Anatole Kaletsky of the Times of London has concluded that Israel should be sanctioned if it attacks Iran, and that sanctions also should be threatened if Israel insists on maintaining “the post-1967 status quo.”

In the face of all this, it is difficult to maintain any pretence that the EU is pro-Israel, let alone too pro-Israel. But who knows? If Hamas keeps up its stream of shrill, bloodthirsty propaganda, even the willfully blind governments of Europe may no longer be able to pretend that the Islamists in charge of the Palestinian territories have turned over a new, moderate leaf.

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The New Anti-Islamist Intelligentsia

Yesterday Michael Gove, a Tory member of Parliament and the author of Celsius 7/7, a hard-hitting study of the London subway bombers, asked an audience of the New Culture Forum a highly pertinent question: “Are we seeing the emergence of a new anti-Islamist intelligentsia?”

Gove answered his own question emphatically in the affirmative, and provided chapter and verse, too. What adds lustre to his thesis is the remarkable fact that the most prominent voices now being heard in protest against the scandalous alliance of the Left with Islamo-fascism are themselves for the most part intellectuals with impeccable Left-liberal credentials. Gove singled out the journalists Nick Cohen (whose book What’s Left? How the Liberals Lost Their Way chronicles the Left’s great self-betrayal), David Aaronovich (who defected from the Guardian to the Times of London), and Christopher Hitchens, who needs no introduction for American readers. Nick Cohen is also a leading light among the group of liberal academics and writers who last year signed the Euston Manifesto, distancing themselves from the Leftist consensus.

Most remarkable of all, three of the most celebrated British novelists—Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Martin Amis—have all come out strongly against Islamism. Amis even describes himself as an “Islamismophobe,” but the real objects of his hatred are the “middle-class white demonstrators last August waddling around under placards saying ‘We Are All Hizbollah Now.’” As he observes, “People of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist, and genocidal. To put it another way, they are up the arse of those that want them dead.”

All of these prodigal sons are more than welcome in their return to what those who have always defended it fondly persist in calling Western civilization. Like many others, I have not forgotten Martin Amis’s essay “Fear and Loathing,” published in the Guardian a week after 9/11, in which he wrote: “The message of September 11 ran as follows: America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated. . . . We would hope that the response will be, above all, non-escalatory.” He and his intellectual compatriots have come a long way since then—at least on seeing the threat of radical Islam for what it is.

Yesterday Michael Gove, a Tory member of Parliament and the author of Celsius 7/7, a hard-hitting study of the London subway bombers, asked an audience of the New Culture Forum a highly pertinent question: “Are we seeing the emergence of a new anti-Islamist intelligentsia?”

Gove answered his own question emphatically in the affirmative, and provided chapter and verse, too. What adds lustre to his thesis is the remarkable fact that the most prominent voices now being heard in protest against the scandalous alliance of the Left with Islamo-fascism are themselves for the most part intellectuals with impeccable Left-liberal credentials. Gove singled out the journalists Nick Cohen (whose book What’s Left? How the Liberals Lost Their Way chronicles the Left’s great self-betrayal), David Aaronovich (who defected from the Guardian to the Times of London), and Christopher Hitchens, who needs no introduction for American readers. Nick Cohen is also a leading light among the group of liberal academics and writers who last year signed the Euston Manifesto, distancing themselves from the Leftist consensus.

Most remarkable of all, three of the most celebrated British novelists—Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Martin Amis—have all come out strongly against Islamism. Amis even describes himself as an “Islamismophobe,” but the real objects of his hatred are the “middle-class white demonstrators last August waddling around under placards saying ‘We Are All Hizbollah Now.’” As he observes, “People of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist, and genocidal. To put it another way, they are up the arse of those that want them dead.”

All of these prodigal sons are more than welcome in their return to what those who have always defended it fondly persist in calling Western civilization. Like many others, I have not forgotten Martin Amis’s essay “Fear and Loathing,” published in the Guardian a week after 9/11, in which he wrote: “The message of September 11 ran as follows: America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated. . . . We would hope that the response will be, above all, non-escalatory.” He and his intellectual compatriots have come a long way since then—at least on seeing the threat of radical Islam for what it is.

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