government Politics war

Orlando murders reveal darkness at the heart of the American project

At least fifty people have lost their lives at the hands of a homophobic murderer in Orlando, Florida in the Pulse gay nightclub. The number of dead is likely to increase since many of those taken to hospital are described as critical, and many more will spend the rest of their lives with crippling injuries.

One might think that such a tragedy would evoke huge human empathy but apparently not.

The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick,  tweeted as follows:

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

Do not be deceived:

God cannot be mocked.

A man reaps what he sows.

Galatians 6:7



Mr Patrick later deleted his tweet, explaining that it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding, but the Westboro Baptist Church was under no such illusions.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]God sent the shooter to the Orlando fag club![/dropshadowbox]


Still, with the WBC, at least you know what you’re getting, though not so much with Donald Trump, who immediately began tweeting, firstly with a cursory nod to the relatives of the victims and then with a full-blown chest-thumping congratulation of himself for warning about keeping Muslims out of the United States.

Now, it’s true that the killer, Omar Mateen, was a Muslim, but in much the same way Donald Trump is a Christian.

It’s also a fact that the killer was a US citizen, born and bred in the USA. But what’s even more undeniable is that, even though Omar Mateen was a private citizen and not a gang member or part of any political grouping, he was still able to purchase perfectly legally the sort of firepower that allowed him to massacre at least fifty people and maim as many more.

It’s also a fact that the murders took place in a state where anti-gay attitudes are deeply entrenched and where the State legislature has reluctantly rolled back its anti-gay laws only as a result of vigorous arm-twisting by the US Supreme Court. It’s a fact, furthermore, that these murders happened on the edge of the Bible Belt where fundamentalist Christians regard homosexuals as an abomination and where many people would hardly shed a tear at the killing of a gay man or woman. In addition, it’s a fact that these murders happened in a state where the gun laws are extremely lax.

Yet, despite all these things, cynics like Trump are getting away with the most outrageous conclusions.

According to Trump and his fellow travellers, the massacre didn’t happen because Orlando is in a state where gays are still a marginal community.

The massacre didn’t happen because rednecks would as soon string up a gay person as a black.

The massacre wasn’t facilitated by the fact that every random lunatic can buy an assault rifle.

The massacre didn’t happen due to extreme religious prejudice, or at least, not the sort of extreme religious prejudice we approve of.

No. The massacre occurred because of the other extreme religious prejudice. The sort we don’t approve of.

It makes no difference that both sorts of extreme religious prejudice come from the same book, the same band of wandering, murderous ignorant sheep herders and yet, as it turns out, the killer wasn’t even very religious, according to his ex-wife. In fact, he was just your average non-religious controlling wife-beating scumbag.

Or to put it another way, he was just another prejudiced anti-gay chest-thumping redneck.

Of course, that wouldn’t suit the agenda of Trump and his associates, so instead Omar Mateen has to be painted as a follower of ISIS who, of course, were more than happy to claim his actions as their own.

Normally in America (and how sad it is that anyone would be able to use the word normally but such is the state of things in that country) when a madman kills a large number of people, the authorities investigate and conclude in the end that the mass murder was committed by an unhinged person or in exceptional circumstances like Oklahoma, a domestic terrorist.

I have yet to hear of an American mass murder where a killer was described as a Catholic extremist or a Protestant extremist or a Shinto extremist and yet, somehow, when the killer has the remotest connection to a Muslim country, he can’t simply be a homicidal maniac like any normal Christian. The explanation has to lie in his religion, or in the religion of his parents or in the religion of someone he was descended from a thousand years ago, because that’s how Americans have been led to view the world: through a lens that allows only for good guys and bad guys, with the current bad guys being Muslims. One quarter of the world’s population, including the late Muhammad Ali.

Japanese-American people will understand this sort of thinking very well indeed since they were all imprisoned for the duration of World War 2 purely on the basis of their non-European features, in horrible concentration camps like Manzanar. Meanwhile, people with European faces suffered no such imprisonment, even though they bore the names of the arch-enemies. No German-Americans were imprisoned. No Italian-Americans were put in concentration camps. No Hungarian-Americans. No Croatian-Americans.

Indeed, a man with an Americanized German name, Eisenhower, was made Supreme Allied Commander and later became President. It’s hard to imagine, even today, a President Hashimoto or Katsumata.

It’s also hard to avoid the conclusion that despite the great talk about separation of church and state, America is, and has always been in its essence a European Christian project, conceived in an act of genocide and maintained in a huge act of continuing global warfare without end.

You’d have to conclude that in situations like this, Trump and ISIS are best buddies. A coincidence of interests, so to speak, between two equally unscrupulous political enterprises.

A very dangerous confederation of criminals and possibly one that could lead to another world war.



ISIS hit by cutbacks

Daesh islamic state isis Islamic State / ISIS / Daesh has been forced to cut salaries in half, following a collapse in revenues, thus proving that there’s only one ruler in this world. The Iron Bank.

It can’t be easy for the men who control Daesh to admit that they have no money for their  fighters, their administrators, their priests, their police or their street-cleaners. After all, they promised the poor fools that God would provide, but there you have it.  They’ll brazen it out because these are men who have known humiliation in the past and who have overcome it.

These men, remember, are Saddam Hussein’s senior commanders, kicked out of a job during Paul Bremer’s insane purge of the Iraqi Baath Party and they’ll tell their demented religious puppets whatever lies they consider necessary to keep them fighting and getting killed. Besides, it’s not as if they planned to keep the same fools alive once they carved a new state for themselves out of the ruins of Iraq and Syria.

But isn’t it hilarious that Daesh are collapsing under money worries, just like the rest of us? Not only has their oil production been curtailed by bombing raids on refineries but now they have to deal with the collapse in world petroleum prices, just like the Saudis and the Canadian shale-sand polluters.

Did the men who control Daesh ever think they were part of a globalised economy? Of course they did. These men are all educated in Western universities and trained in Western military academies. They have tasted the finest of Irish and Scotch whiskeys, the best of French cognacs. The purest that Colombia could supply them. The keenest racehorses. The best cuisine. The sweetest invitations that money can buy. Delights undreamed-of by a Daesh foot-soldier from the sink estates of Birmingham, the alleyways of Marseille or the crushing poverty of a Tunis slum.

Imagine what would happen if these ignorant, homicidal, fanatical youths came to realise how well their masters are living. Would Saddam’s fat former generals find themselves swinging from lamp-posts? Actually, probably not, since these Republican Guard ex-officers are professionals and this has already been war-gamed by them. Unlike any US president in history, these boys have an exit strategy. They had it from the start, long before they began to create the fantasy that they called Islamic State — a cruel mockery dreamed up by people who were part of Saddam’s distinctly unIslamic vision.

When Daesh implodes, as it inevitably will, the men in the shadows will be long gone, but meanwhile it will be hilarious watching their HR department trying to cope with wage demands, go-slows, working to rule and outright strikes.

How  will they handle that? Will they behead everyone who refuses to operate the water treatment plants? And if they do, who will do the job instead? Allah?

Will the cuts affect the beheaders? Will there be cuts in beheading? Will output be reduced?

Will there be redundancies?

In many ways, ISIS has a lot in common with David Cameron, our own Enda Kenny or for that matter Donald Trump.  Slashing the salaries of public servants is something these politicians have dreamed of for years, but not one of them had the guts to cut wages in half.

Don’t be surprised if our government hires them.





Daesh and extreme Right find common ground in Paris attacks


On the face of it, you might not think that ISIS / Daesh and the French National Front have much in common. Daesh, after all, is an ideologically-driven extremist movement, committed to driving people apart, convinced of its own moral superiority and incapable of imagining it might be mistaken, whereas the National Front is …

Well, you decide.

One way or another, what can’t be denied is that, with the approach of next month’s regional elections, the big winners from the Paris attacks will be the extreme Right parties, including that led by Marine le Pen. Following the slaughter at the Bataclan and the other killings in the vicinity, it’s certain that an assortment of fascists and crypto-Nazis will be elected on a wave of public fear, loathing and paranoia unprecedented since WWII, and this, paradoxically, suits the objectives of ISIS very well indeed.

But there’s more.

Every time somebody blames the refugees, another Daesh strategist rubs his hands in delight because now he has managed not only to terrorise millions of refugees, but also to turn them into a perceived threat to the countries of the West without having to commit any resources at all. Simply by forcing  a large number of desperate people into mainland Europe, they might now have achieved the terrestrial equivalent of a fleet in being.

The Daesh leadership might be cynical and brutal, but it’s far from stupid and it has divined clearly that the sense of paranoia in Europe is strong. To put it another way, Islamophobia is its friend, and while that might seem puzzling, the truth is that Daesh cares nothing for the oppression of Muslims. After all, why would an organisation that oppresses and murders Muslims throughout the Middle East worry if a few thousand of them get a hard time in Europe? Daesh, as I have argued many times previously, isn’t even an Islamic organisation but a cynical secular product of the Iraq war, using Islam as a flag of convenience. A flag that will be discarded at a time of its own choosing, along with all the brainwashed, bloodthirsty fools who currently do its bidding.

Daesh cares as much for Muslims as it does for the results of the All-Ireland camogie final because at its heart, Daesh is not a Muslim organisation but a nationalist one, using Islam as a cover. Daesh cares enough for Muslims that it slaughters them by the  hundreds of thousands and remarkably, this fact goes unreported in Western media. On the same day that Daesh murdered 120 people in Paris, an atrocity that has dominated world headlines, they also murdered 43 people in Beirut, thus attracting the undying enmity of Hezbollah, but attracting little or no attention from the European press.

The senior thinkers behind Daesh were all trained by the Americans and the British. They’re either former high-level military commanders or formerly-influential leaders within the Iraqi Ba’ath Party prior to Paul Bremer’s utterly stupid decision to remove them from office. Daesh  has about as much allegiance to Islam as Saddam Hussein did, and that should come as no surprise since the strategists who control it are all former Saddam loyalists.

But yet, they have managed to recruit thousands of religious fanatics, skilfully manipulating their rage against an interventionist West and turning them into an army of sorts, motivated by religious stupidity of the most extreme kind, much like every religious militia all the way back to the Crusades.

Anyone wishing to understand the simmering rage of the Middle East towards the West need look no further than the straight-line borders, dictated by no natural boundary, no river and no mountain range, drawn by two gentlemen, Mr Sykes and Monsieur Picot who, in their immense hubris, chose to delineate their countries’ respective spheres of influence with lines casually sketched on a map, perhaps with the aid of a cigarette packet and a glass of good brandy.

Sadly, Monsieur Picot’s draughtsmanship has resonated in horrifying fashion in his nation’s capital almost an exact century later.

French President Francois Hollande has, perhaps unwittingly, lent to Daesh a degree of legitimacy by calling the Paris attacks an act of war — normally a term no government uses to describe actions by a group it wishes to characterise as terrorists. Was that a mistake or was it, in the arcane and subtle world of diplomacy, an olive branch to Daesh? Who knows?  But M. Hollande must surely be aware that his threat of merciless war against Daesh rings hollow, given the history of much greater powers who tried to inflict massive force in an asymmetric war and failed. We need only think of the Soviet Union’s disastrous adventure in Afghanistan, an action that ultimately helped to dismember the USSR. And of course, who could forget Dick Cheney”s invasion of Iraq on behalf of Halliburton, an incursion that, while it earned Cheney’s company an estimated $39 billion, utterly discredited US foreign policy and left a psychological scar on an entire generation? As well as leading directly to the current refugee crisis and the collapse of Syria.

Hollande’s statement, it seems, is intended for domestic ears only, perhaps in a futile effort to steal back some of the  votes Daesh has gifted to the National Front.

Unlikely bed-fellows.






ISIS claims responsibility for Russian plane crash in Egypt

PutinIf I were ISIS (and I’m not — are you listening CIA?), I wouldn’t be telling the Russians I brought that plane down even if I did it. There is no way I’d be telling those cold-blooded motherfuckers anything of the sort. Does ISIS seriously think it’s a good idea to be waving their dicks at a country run by a former KGB torturer? Are they that stupid?

Whatever you might think about the Americans, and Jesus knows they have enough to answer for, from Korea all the way through Viet-Nam, Chile, El Salvador and  Nicaragua, right on up to the current age with their ludicrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they have some vestigeal respect for the rule of law, however tenuous. Every now and then, one of their spooks goes to jail for torture, or they throw some inbred redneck cracker to the dogs for abusing an Arab.

Pathetic, we all agree, but yet far ahead of anything the Russians do.

You see, Russians never admit anything. Russians will fucking kill you and there will be no congressional investigations, no inquiries and no Supreme Court oversight, however weak. There will be no journalists annoying the government, however ineffectually. They’ll just kill you and if you don’t die they’ll kill you again.

You might think this is a major withdrawal from my normal demonisation of the USA but nothing could be less true, largely because I have never demonised the USA, unless you happen to be the sort who regards legitimate questioning as a personal attack. If that’s the case, you have my sympathy.

No indeed. We must keep questioning the USA as long as it seeks to appropriate all western culture and claims to act on our behalf. Russia, on the other hand, cares nothing for my culture or yours. They won’t wring hands or agonise if they kill the wrong people.

Putin doesn’t care.

And that’s why I’m saying to ISIS that it probably isn’t a great idea to be claiming they brought down that Airbus. Unlike the effete Westerners, the Russians aren’t shocked by those Youtube videos of beheadings and burnings. All they’re thinking is, Do that to us and you are fucked.

ISIS, you’ve done that to them. You are fucked.


Related posts



MSF hospital bombing in Afghanistan is a war crime

NATO forces, led by the United States, bombed a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan. They repeatedly attacked the hospital for more than an hour, killing 22 people including at least twelve volunteer doctors.

Subsequently, the Afghan government attempted to justify the attack by claiming that the hospital was being used by militants, whatever that word might mean, prompting the MSF charity to express its disgust and forcing the US military to admit that they were not, in fact, under fire, and that the multiple air strikes had been called in by the Afghan authorities.

But let’s be clear. Even if the hospital was being used as a major military base by opponents of the Afghan regime, the staunch regional “allies” of the USA,  it would still have been a war crime to attack it. According to the Geneva Conventions, it is always a war crime to attack a civilian target.

It defeats credulity to think that the US military would not have been aware they were attacking a hospital containing civilians and volunteer medical staff. They knowingly attacked a civilian installation and therefore, by definition,  they committed a war crime.

Here are the relevant extracts from the Geneva Conventions.

Protocol 1

Additional to the 

Geneva Conventions, 1977



Section 1:
General Protection Against Effects of Hostilities
Chapter I: Basic Rule and Field of Application


Article 48 – Basic rule

Parties shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.

Article 51 – Protection of the civilian population

1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in all circumstances.

2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.

4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:

a. those which are not directed at a specific military objective;

b. those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or

c. those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a natureto strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:

a. an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

b.  an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

6. Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited.

7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.

8. Any violation of these prohibitions shall not release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians, including the obligation to take the precautionary measures provided for in Article 57.

Chapter IV: Precautionary Measures
Article 57: Precautions in Attack

1. In the conduct of military operations, constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects.

2. With respect to attacks, the following precautions shall be taken:

a. Those who plan or decide upon an attack shall:

i.   do everything feasible to verify that the objectives to be attacked are neither civilians nor civilian objects and are not subject to special protection but are military objectives within the meaning of paragraph 2 of Article 52 and that it is not prohibited by the provisions of this Protocol to attack them;

ii.   take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects;

iii.  refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;

b.  an attack shall be canceled or suspended if it becomes apparent that the objective is not a military one or is subject to special protection or that the attack may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;

c.  effective advance warning shall be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.

3.  When a choice is possible between several military objectives for obtaining a similar military advantage, the objective to be selected shall be that the attack on which may be expected to cause the least danger to civilian lives and to civilian objects.

4.  In the conduct of military operations at sea or in the air, each Party to the conflict shall, in conformity with its rights and duties under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, take all reasonable precautions to avoid losses of civilian lives and damage to civilian objects

5.  No provision of this article may be construed as authorizing any attacks against the civilian population, civilians or civilian objects.



Politics war

Rate My Syrian

Now that Ireland is back on its feet and the chatterati are feeling free to wander out again with their organic Dolce & Gabbana Himalayan toad-skin crystal-purses, we’re all about the sympathy. We’re much better now than we used to be in the brash years when we were exploiting au pairs. We’ve learned our lesson.

So I was thinking.

Since the current wave of Syrian refugees is predominantly middle class, why not set up a service matching refugees to hosting families?

People from certain leafy suburbs wouldn’t like to be shocked by discovering that their refugee was only a bricklayer or a taxi driver back in Damascus and you could understand that. How could they expect the children to be driven to the Gaelscoil by somebody  with no professional qualifications? There are more victims in this tragedy than just the refugees.

So here’s what I was thinking, to make sure the citizens of South Dublin don’t suffer too much from the Syrian crisis.

I was thinking we could set up a system based on social cleansing.

The Irish naval ships in the Mediterranean could apply a questionnaire to weed out refugees who are in any way working class.  I’m not suggesting that they should be sent back to Syria, but maybe they could be dropped off in Greece, or someplace with poverty.

After that, when our selected refugees arrive in Ireland, we could invite participating families to bid for their Syrian of choice.  Obviously, some families will prefer a dentist while others would prefer to have a doctor polishing their car. Families with secondary-school children might want to have a mathematics teacher while others would prefer to have a retired professor of archaeology, though obviously that would depend on how capable the professor would be of cleaning the floors and keeping the grounds generally tidy. You wouldn’t want a lazy professor hanging around the house.

I’m going to set up a website.  RateMySyrian.

It’s a win-win. If you don’t like your Syrian, you can swap him for a Syrian somebody else doesn’t want.

We can set up a secondary market in unwanted Syrians.

What could possibly go wrong?


Politics war

We’re all responsible for helping the Syrian refugees

We live in a world where toddlers are washed up on a beach like bags of trash tossed from a passing ship, and still our local micronazis try to paint these victims as aggressors of some sort. A swarm of Muslim ideologues ready to destroy our culture and our history.

An army of dead, drowned Islamic toddlers trying to destroy our way of life.

We live in a world of utter obscenity.

I apologise for posting this image, but it has to be done. If anyone finds it offensive instead of finding it unutterably sad, I’m sorry for them. I truly am sorry for them.  This is the moment when a Turkish policeman discovered a drowned toddler on the beach at Bodrum, a place where many Irish holidaymakers bask in the Mediterranean sunshine.

syrian toddler bodrum


I can’t speak for you, but this picture tears my heart out. I want to scream. I want to take the pitchforks and the torches to the filthy hovels where our local micronazis cower. I want to drag them out of their lice-infested mattresses and I want to force them to look at this obscenity.

I want to shout at them. Here is your Muslim invader, you ignorant, rabble-rousing arseholes. Your identity is not my Ireland. 

Now. Who’s responsible for creating the flood of refugees out of Syria and into Europe?

Well, let’s just hold our horses right there. What flood of refugees?

Of the 22 million people living in Syria before the war, twelve million are now homeless.

According to UNHCR figures, almost eight million are internally displaced within Syria, which is a polite way of saying that they live in fear and squalor in the land they once thought of as their own country.

Another four million are refugees in neighbouring lands, principally Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, though the numbers in each country are not what you would expect.

The two huge countries in the region, Egypt and Turkey show a stark disparity. Egypt, with a population of 90 million, has taken 130,000 refugees while, in contrast, Turkey, population 78 million,  has taken almost half of all fleeing Syrians — nearly two million desperate displaced people.

Down the scale, tiny Lebanon with a population the same as Ireland, has accepted 1.2 million while Jordan has taken in 600,000.  Israel, of course, has taken none, by contrast with poor shattered Iraq, destroyed by years of war following the 2003 invasion,  which has welcomed a quarter of a million.

What does that leave for the European Union, the world’s richest trading bloc, with a population of half a billion?

Only a tiny fraction of all displaced Syrians — 270,000 people — are seeking asylum in Europe.  To put that in perspective, Lebanon on its own is caring for five times as  many refugees.  So much for swarms. So much for floods of migrants, as some people like to call these desperate people fleeing murder by ISIS, by Jabhat al-Nusra and by Bashar al-Assad, each in their own way created by the West, of which we are a part and from which we benefit massively.

Returning to the question. Who is responsible for the flight of Syrians?

Right now, the major source of fear is ISIS, which, as I have argued elsewhere, was created directly as a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, the UK and Australia, with assorted other participants to lend it legitimacy.

Therefore, it’s possible to make a strong case requiring the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to carry the major burden of looking after ISIS victims but guess what? That’s not going to happen and in truth, it makes little difference to Europe since the numbers are so small in relative terms.

If Europe accepted every last refugee from the Syrian war, we’d be taking in one person for every 2,000 of us.

Surely two thousand Europeans could afford to rescue a single toddler from death on a Turkish beach?



Lusitania Commmemoration

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the day the Lusitania sank, torpedoed by the German submarine U-20, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger, a 29-year-old officer in the Kaiserliche Marine.

Lusitania was the flagship of the Cunard Line, a magnificent vessel of 44,000 tons capable of nearly 27 knots and devouring 800 tons of coal a day to produce the steam that drove its four turbines.  Not only did it have no equal in opulence, with even the third-class passengers enjoying a level of luxury they had never experienced at home, but it also had no equal in the military world.  Lusitania could outrun any enemy vessel, whether on the surface or beneath the sea.

That was no coincidence, since the British Admiralty had a major involvement in the ship’s design, and as a consequence, when war broke out Lusitania was designated as an auxiliary naval vessel.  Lusitania was funded by British government money, with the understanding that in the event of war breaking out, the ship would be converted to an auxiliary cruiser.  That was the agreement Cunard had with the government and that was the basis on which they received the money to build the Lusitania.

Lusitania was equipped with a new power plant, the Parsons turbine that produced almost twice the power of the latest battlecruisers in the Navy fleet.  Was that fair?  Who knows?  That was what Cunard agreed to, though it’s far from certain that they informed their passengers of the arrangement.

What is certain is that Lusitania was designated as a warship from the moment the contract was signed, and was recognised as such by all foreign governments from then on.

This is all the information Walther Schwieger had available to him on the 7th May 1915 when he chose to launch a torpedo at a ship filled with civilians, though you would have to ask yourself what was going on in this man’s head.  He must have known that he was about to kill thousands of innocent people.

Is it possible that indoctrination had rendered him incapable of making moral judgements for himself?  Was Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger in some way a precursor of the horrors that his countrymen would inflict on the word a quarter century later?

Perhaps, but if we engage in this sort of speculation, we find ourselves drawn into much more difficult questions and the reasons are obvious.

If Schwieger was a mass murderer for sinking the Lusitania in time of war, then what was Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris who destroyed the city of Dresden, a place of immense architectural merit but no military relevance, and what was Curtis Le May, who directed  the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Are our morals perhaps a little elastic?

Maybe, but our souls remain human and we can still share the suffering of our fellow human beings which is why our nation held the Lusitania commemoration at Cobh yesterday.

People came from all over the world, but principally from Britain, Canada and the USA, to honour the family members they lost in this disaster.  They came to acknowledge not only the loss of their family but also the commitment of people from Queenstown, as it was known in those days, who abandoned their daily work to go out on the water and save survivors if they could, but also to bring the dead to land in a respectful way.

It isn’t easy to find a respectful place for the dead as anyone will tell you who has experience of maritime matters.  And as anyone with experience of such matters will tell you, that is all that should be said about it.

Here are some pictures from a commemoration that took place between those who lost family, those whose relatives cared for the victims and representatives of those who fought a war that caused the disaster.

All of them found peace.

Lusitania commemoration 006


Lusitania commemoration 010


Lusitania commemoration 015

Lusitania commemoration 011


Lusitania commemoration 016


Lusitania commemoration 017



The coffin-ships of North Africa

Nobody with compassionate blood in their veins should be able to ignore a coffin ship, especially since we sent so many of them from these shores, and yet the wholesale destruction of human life in the Mediterranean is ignored.  Nine  hundred people drowned the other day in a single incident, with most of the victims locked in the hold of the ship, suffering a painful, agonising death as the vessel rolled over.  Their bodies will never be recovered nor mourned by their families.

Italian navy rescue asylum seekers

Each of those desperate people had paid traffickers €1,000 for passage to a new life in Europe, and all of them were trying to escape the desperation of conflict and oppression.  They found themselves herded onto grossly unseaworthy vessels, crewed by other refugees with a little seafaring experience, and cast adrift on the  Mediterranean with barely enough diesel to get them as far as Greece or Italy.

That’s close to a million dollars a boat for the Libyan traffickers who operate this vile trade.  Gadaffy used it during his dictatorship to apply pressure to European governments.  When they gave him what he wanted, he choked off the trade, and when it suited him, he launched a flood of immigrants into the EU.

What we’re seeing now is an appalling exodus of desperate people from Syria, Eritrea, sub-Saharan Africa, all seeking someplace to have a life and raise their children in dignity and peace.  Many of the conflicts they flee from were caused or exacerbated by the activities of European governments, European companies and  the EU itself, just as the activities of American business and political entities did exactly the same.

Syria itself is the product of French and British interference in the  Middle East, just like Iraq.  Many people escaping from ISIS are running away from a thing created in large part by Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad,  following the USA’s pointless and illegal invasion of Iraq.

Western hands are not clean in this appalling surge of human misery and therefore the EU needs to take responsibility for its share, just as the United States does.  But at the same time, Italy is not responsible for all the misery of Africa and the Middle East, and should not be forced to absorb the entire stream of immigrants from North Africa, any more than it should be expected to take responsibility for the entire rescue effort.

If the European Union means anything, it should take collective responsibility for dealing with this human disaster, though we can hold no high hopes.  After all, this is the same European Union that left member states like Ireland swinging in the breeze when the banking crisis broke.  This is the same European Union that ignored wholesale slaughter on its doorstep between 1992 and 1995, when white Europeans in Bosnia tore each other to pieces and inflicted  mass slaughter on  helpless civilians.

If the EU could ignore what happened in the land of the Winter Olympics, does anyone seriously believe this European Union will care one jot what happens to Arabs or Africans?  The evidence says otherwise, as anyone who remembers the Rwanda slaughter will attest.

Lyndon B Johnson once said in the Vietnam era, Get those goddam burnt babies off my TV.

The EU’s only priority will be to make sure the Libyans stop drowning so publicly.






YU: The Lost Country. A Yugoslav in search of a vanished identity.

Dragana Jurisic was 16 when Yugoslavia began to disintegrate as competing nationalist movements started to resurrect once more the poisonous internecine hatred that had already brought so much hurt to the Balkans.  Once more, less than fifty years after World War 2 ended, Europe was going to experience a savage conflict, although this time it would be all the more bitter, since it was conducted by people who knew each other, who spoke the same language, who had been schoolfriends, studied in the same military cadet schools.  People who, at the height of the conflict, were still able to radio each other across the lines to ask how the wife and kids were getting on.

It was 1991.  Dragana was out with three friends, just messing around, when they came to the riverside walk and found it deserted, apart from groups of armed men.  Across the river was Bosnia-Herzegovina while off in the near distance was Serbia.  Go  home, the armed men told them. Run.  And so the war in Croatia kicked off, with the Yugoslav People’s Army, the JNA, making war on its own people.

Except that they couldn’t have been its own people, since Yugoslavia no longer existed, but then, what exactly was the JNA?  An army without a country?  The entity that had bound Yugoslavia together for five decades was suddenly an oppressive terrorist force that would shortly reduce parts of Croatia to rubble, paving the way for even worse terrorists, such as the criminal Arkan’s Tigers, the thug supporters of Red Star Belgrade, and the White Eagles, directed by the brutish academic genius, Vojislav Seselj, the youngest PhD Yugoslavia ever produced, now reduced to a thug.  Both groups would go on to follow the Yugoslav People’s Army through Eastern Slavonia, tossing hand grenades into cellars full of cowering civilians, abducting patients from Vukovar’s hospitals and murdering them, using rape as a weapon of terror.


On the other side, long-dormant passions would emerge, driven by Croatia’s dark past.  The country that produced the worst Nazi collaborators, the Ustase, would once more spawn sectarian, xenophobic, murderous paramilitary groups, as Colonel Bob Stewart revealed to the world when he confronted Croat murderers who had slaughtered 101 Bosnian Muslim villagers at Ahmici.  One leader of these factions, Mate Boban, a former Communist, saw the Muslims as irrelevant, and formed common cause with his “brother in Christ” Slobodan Milosevic, the former Communist Serbian leader (some would say the puppet-master) to carve Bosnia up between Croatia and Serbia.

Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian President, shared Boban’s vision of a Greater Croatia,  cleansed of Serbs and Muslims, even though he had fought the Germans as a Partisan.  It’s still hard to comprehend how Tudjman and Milosevic maintained a close, if covert, working relationship even when the JNA was destroying cities in Croatia, and when Arkan’s thugs and Seselj’s killers were terrorising the civilian population, but they did, and what’s more they put it on the record in a remarkable BBC documentary, The Death of Yugoslavia.  Creating a Greater Serbia and  a Greater Croatia was their joint aim, even if they had nothing else in common.

Who can explain why Tudjman chose to provoke such fear and paranoia among rural Serbs in Croatia?  Why did he do that?  Why did he assault the civil service, attempting to remove as many Serbs as possible, when he must have known that the urban middle-class Serbs posed no threat at all to his government?  Why did he reintroduce the chequered flag so quickly when he must have known that it was seen as a symbol of the hated Ustase by many?  A symbol as potent as the Swastika.  Why did he outlaw the use of Cyrillic script in official documents, thus alienating every Orthodox Serb in the country?

It’s impossible to know, but actions like these caused massive fear among rural Serbs, especially in the Krajina region and particularly in Knin, where a  local dentist, Milan Babic, became the focal point for a Serb uprising, thereby playing into the cynical hands of Milosevic.  Fifteen years later, Babic, in a fit of remorse for what he had visited upon what he called his “Croatian brothers”, killed himself in a prison cell, but not before the flame he lit had consumed much of Croatia and all of Bosnia.

Dragana Jurisic was only 16 when this conflagration sparked.   Before long the conflagration would consume not only Yugoslavia but the very apartment in which she lived, along with her father’s thousands of photographic negatives and all her LPs.   In what she describes as a bureaucratic genocide, millions of people who identified as Yugoslavians were wiped out, converted to Croats, Serbs and Bosnians by the heartless logic of political ideology.  It was a grim, if unknowing, echo of the Ustase in the 1940s, when thousands of Serbs were forcibly converted from Orthodox to Catholic in order to turn them into Croats.

How can we account for this sort of behaviour among plainly civilised people?  After all, despite the stereotypes inflicted on the Balkans by self-interested politicians and journalists in the more westerly nations, the fact is that Croats and Serbs are an educated and sophisticated society, among the warmest and most welcoming of folk, provided they don’t fear for their safety.

I once put this question to a taxi-driver in Croatia.  He was a kind man of infinite patience, who happily gave up his entire day to take us around and show us the sights, for a modest enough fee.  Curiously, I discovered later that even though he and his wife are Croat, they speak Italian at home.  I was interested in his take on Operation Storm in 1995, when the Croatian Army, newly re-armed by their old ally, Germany, crashed into the Krajina region and expelled a half million people who had lived there for centuries.  In a mixture of broken English, broken French and broken German, I tried to get his view.  How can such a thing happen?

He shrugged.  I win war, I take your house.   You win war, you take my house.  Is natural.

No, I thought.  It isn’t.  It’s not a bit natural.   But I wasn’t going to intrude on his easy-going nature by arguing with him about such a huge issue, though the question still troubled me, just as it had done in previous years when Serb forces dispossessed Croat and Bosnian alike, just as Israeli settlers evicted Palestinians and took over their homes.  Just as Hutu had murdered Tutsi in Rwanda.

What is that?  What causes kind, decent people to believe that they can murder, imprison and dispossess their neighbours, people they went to school with, people they knew and played with as children?  How does an average man, a plumber perhaps or a baker, suddenly develop the skills to draw up lists, requisition warehouses, hire buses and sequester all those he hates in a makeshift concentration camp at a moment’s notice, just as the Serbs did at Omarska?

Had the hatred always been there, in this case hidden under a Yugoslav skin?

The jewel wasp is a remarkable insect that knows precisely how to take over a cockroach.  First it stings the insect to temporarily paralyse its front legs.  Then it injects a precisely-measured amount of venom into exactly the right place in the cockroach’s brain to disable its  escape instinct.  Having achieved that, it leads the docile insect by the antenna, like a farmer leading a cow, to a tomb, where it lays an egg that will eventually become a larva.  The larva burrows into the cockroach and eats it from the inside out, taking care not to kill it, and at the same time spreading an anti-microbial layer to ensure that it has no competition as it consumes its host, until it eventually bursts out of the used-up husk, a newly-pupated jewel wasp.

I can think of no better analogy for the sort of evil ideology that has consumed not only the Balkans, but just about every country in the word.

What wasp stung Yugoslavia?

Slobodan Milosevic, of course, with his Gazimestan speech in 1989, where he invoked the ancient Serbian sense of persecution. Serbs are the only people in the world who feel more persecuted than the Irish, and Slobo understood this very well as he reminded the crowd that Serbia had been robbed by the Ottomans in 1389.  Irish people will understand this mindset very well.  Six hundred years of oppression.

Of course, the location was important, in the heart of Kosovo at a time when tensions were so strong between Kosovar Serbs and ethnic Albanians.  Slobo addressed a million Serbs who had been transported to Kosovo Polje,  the Field of the  Blackbirds, from all over Yugoslavia in a massive nationalist display of intimidation, replete with ludicrous symbols invoking everything from the blood of Prince Lazar to  the Orthodox cross.  It was a bizarre performance from a man who, only five years previously, had been a committed Communist, but it worked.  Slobo, the new Serbian Prometheus, had stolen fire from Heaven, though he had yet to understand that it would consume him and all around him.

We all know how that ended.

Dragana Jurisic, daughter of a Croatian father and a Serbian mother, went on to earn a degree in psychology from the University of Rijeka, followed by a Masters and a PhD in photographic research at the University of Wales.  She then discovered Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West, a massive, two-volume account of a journey through Yugoslavia in 1937, setting out in precise detail the itinerary, including dates and times of every journey, every arrival and every departure.   It was only four years later that the Axis powers invaded, splitting Yugoslavia into many fragments but never truly subduing its spirit.  In the end, as we know, the Axis powers failed to defeat Yugoslavia, and the native Ustase collaborators and their German friends beat many hasty and ignominious retreats, but not before they had created such obscenities as the Jasenovac extermination camp, commanded at one time by a Franciscan called Filipovic, whom the inmates referred to as Brother Satan.

When a friend told me that this talk was being presented by someone who spoke about the Serbo-Croat language, I knew there was something special afoot, since this is the touchstone of the silly division between one Yugoslav and another.  It reached its nadir during the early Bosnian parliament sittings when the Serb faction and the Croat faction demanded interpreters, even though their linguistic differences amount to little more than an accent in a country smaller than Munster.  Imagine a Tipperary TD demanding an interpreter for a Cork TD.  It was, and is, as silly as that.

Dragana decided to follow Rebecca West’s travels through Yugoslavia and it wasn’t an easy journey.  Using only an old Rolleiflex medium-format camera and confining herself to 24 shots a day, she encountered all manner of obstacles, not least of which was her obviously-Serbian name.  It wasn’t a help in Croatia, but it was a positive hindrance in Kosovo, where she was seen as a spy by paranoid policemen, followed everywhere and arrested more than once.

The project resulted in a series of images collated into an exhibition called YU: The Lost Country, but the story isn’t quite finished yet.

I had the privilege to hear Dragana’s presentation of this story at Limerick School of Art and Design, and throughout the talk, I heard her speak of a search for her lost nationality.  It was hard not to ask where she was going with this logic, considering what nationalism has bequeathed to Europe in the form of war and oppression, but the talk ended with an acknowledgment of precisely that point, for which I was glad.   Does it make any sense to be searching for a national identity, when the nation you yearn for has been torn apart by nationalism?

And yet, despite all the nationalistic nonsense, many people continued, and continue, to regard themselves as Yugoslavian, while other people, who promoted hatred for no good reason, are beginning to reassess the wisdom of their actions.  Serbia is in economic trouble.  Bosnia is a joke, a patchwork of unworkable municipalities based on the ridiculous Vance-Owen Plan.  Croatia is the only one with any possibility of economic success.

They had a wonderful country.  A free country.  A country with a high standard of living where citizens were free to travel, to study, to debate, discuss and disagree.  They had a country with an ancient tradition and a sense of brotherhood absent in so many other places.

And they broke it, for no good reason.


This is Dragana Jurisic’s website.