Ten years ago, in a late-night bar, I got into a heated argument with a Libyan Muslim — let’s call him Tariq — about Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.
Did Rushdie deserve to be murdered for writing a novel? I asked.
Certainly, said Tariq, slamming his beer glass on the table.
What did he do to deserve this death sentence?
He disrespected the Prophet.
Really? And did you read the book to decide for yourself if Rushdie genuinely disrespected the Prophet?
No. But I read photocopies.
Photocopies of what — the whole book?
I see photocopies of pages and he disrespected the Prophet.
Who selected those pages?
People. Some people selected pages and photocopied them to distribute.
How many pages?
Two. Three. I don’t know.
Do you know that Rushdie makes no mention at all of the Prophet in that book?
Yes he does.
How do you know?
I am told so and I believe it. He must die.
Because you’re a fervent Muslim.
But you’ve had about eight pints of Heineken. You’re drunk.
Now, I am in Ireland. It is different.
And you have a girlfriend.
Yes indeed. Lovely girl. And she’s not the only one.
You’re having sex with all these women.
I am in Ireland now. In Europe. It is different.
Salman Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses in Britain. In Europe. And he said nothing about Muhammad. It’s a book about a guy who looks a lot like the prophet. It’s the Life of Brian, Tariq, for fucksake!
Life of Brian mocks a Prophet too. That director also deserves to be killed.
It was Monty Python.
I don’t know him, but he should die too.
Where are you going with this mindset? We used to meet regularly for a pint, but after that I gave up on Tariq and his bizarre ability to believe two contradictory things at the same time. Even though he said nothing about the Prophet, poor old Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding and to this day must watch out for a murderous attack, simply because he wrote a work of fiction.
Years later, when Jyllands Posten, the Danish newspaper, published caricatures of Muhammad, there was worldwide uproar among fundamentalist Muslims, although not immediately. It took some time before those who wished to stir up outrage were able to spread the images to mountainous villages in Pakistan where, conveniently, there was a ready supply of effigies to burn. That’s the great thing about remote mountainous Pakistani villages. They always have plenty of flags and effigies just in case someone is unexpectedly overtaken with a severe case of religious outrage.
Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist, was the subject of a murder plot because he drew a sketch of the Prophet with the body of a dog. An Islamic group offered a reward of €70,0000 for his murder, with a €35,000 bonus if his killers slaughtered him like a lamb, by cutting his throat. I was a bit worried at the time, due to my Papahund series, but thankfully, nothing came of that.
Here we are in 2012, with yet another murderous rampage taking place because some Muslims choose to be offended by a depiction of the Prophet, this time in a ludicrous short film called Innocence of Muslims. I’m careful to say some Muslims because the majority are embarrassed by the childish and juvenile reaction to this piece of rubbish. I watched it earlier and it reminded me of a play put on by a particularly talentless year of first-year engineering undergraduates. Literal-minded, turgid, badly acted, badly produced and childish.
But of course, these are descriptions you might equally apply to the fools who have been storming embassies in protest at the little clip. Literal-minded, turgid, and childish, as for instance in this Australian protest. It’s hard to escape the irony of a child calling for murder in a democracy where his parents’ beliefs are protected by law, and where they’re free to publish anything they wish, no matter how hateful.
The people demanding that Obama do something about the film appear to be missing a significant point. Having thrown off tyrants and despots all across North Africa, they seem to be insisting that Obama behave in a tyrannical and despotic manner, which hints that perhaps they’re happy enough with oppression, as long as it comes in a flavour that suits them.
Not too long ago, an Irish justice minister introduced a provision under new legislation, dealing with the issue of Blasphemous libel. This was rightly condemned as ludicrous, and nobody expects to see any prosecutions under such a law, but it still remains on our statute books until such time as space can be found to remove it permanently.
Offence is a very subjective matter. What you consider perfectly acceptable is something I might find deeply offensive. On the other hand, what I like might offend you to the core. If I switch my sensitivity trigger to the Extreme setting, where almost everything offends me, does that earn me the automatic right to silence everything you say? Should religious belief have a status superior to everything else, and if so, why?
Here are people, just like Christians, Jews and Scientologists, who believe in things that cannot be demonstrated. Things for which they have no evidence at all. Why would we accord them rights over and above people who believe other unproven things? If I decided that everyone who criticised The Smiths should die, what would happen? That’s right — you’d laugh at me, and quite properly so.
If scientists decided to murder everyone who questioned General Relativity, where would we be? That’s right — we’d be back in the Dark Ages, which is precisely where this insane Muslim obsession with killing your enemies is leading us. Or to be more precise, it’s where these mullahs are dragging us, since they’ve never left the Dark Ages.
Offence is never given. We do what we do and we wait to see what people make of it.
Offence is taken. Being offended is a deliberate, positive action, and the more willing you are to be offended, the more offence you’ll find in the world.
That’s why we can’t start to define things as being intrinsically offensive in and of themselves. If we start doing that, we’ll hand a veto to every nut, crackpot and extremist on the planet who’s out there waiting to be offended. We can’t let the lunatics decide what’s acceptable, unless we all want to live in an asylum. Unless we want all our standards to be decided by homicidal lunatics.
And anyway, so what if I disrespect your Prophet? Would we tolerate Scientologists issuing threats against everyone who laughed at L Ron Hubbard? Would we be happy if the Moonies murdered people who ridiculed the ludicrous Reverend Moon?
Why would people not ridicule a man who had sex with a nine-year-old and still claimed to be the moral leader of an entire movement?
What is it with medieval maniacs beheading people? Here we are again, with Taliban lunatics cutting the heads off people for attending a party.
What’s that about? What is wrong with those who use religion to impose a miserable, life-hating point of view on normal people?
I think it has nothing to do with the particular religious ideology they claim to follow, and everything to do with a sort of societal insanity.
Right now, the focus is on Muslim lunatics, thanks to GW Bush’s War on Tourism, although anyone looking at the United States would wonder which is the more extreme religious fundamentalism, Islam or American Christianity. After all, while extreme Islam has been responsible for murdering three thousand people in New York, you might argue that extreme Christianity has killed many times that number, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let’s remember, Saddam Hussein had nothing whatever to do with the 9-11 attacks, and yet a big lie was sold to the American public by the likes of Cheney — an insinuation that the Iraqis had somehow attacked the United States. This was a doubly-ironic lie, since most of the attackers were Saudi and represented the views of the most vile, hypocritical and extreme Islamic ideology on the face of the planet.
Irony upon irony. Hypocrisy piled on top of hypocrisy. It didn’t suit GW Bush’s media machine to acknowledge that he and the Saudis were tightly bound up with each other in business, just as his Vice-President was. And it didn’t suit the Saudi royal family to admit that they have no interest whatsoever in religion, and that, once they arrive in the West, they drink and whore just like any other Middle-Eastern billionaire.
A scapegoat had to be found and that scapegoat might easily have been trained in Despot Central Casting. Saddam Hussein ticked all the boxes of the Vile Dictator test, apart from one: he was not religious. In Saddam’s Iraq, you were free to follow any religion you wanted. You were free to be an atheist if you so chose. It was no handicap to be a woman: you could follow any career you wanted, regardless of your gender, much like you could in Bashar al-Assad’s present-day Syria, as long as you didn’t oppose the government.
And yet, in insular America, Saddam was portrayed as an Islamic extremist terrorist. On that basis, every redneck in the States saluted the flag and got behind Our Heroic Boys as they marched on those bad guys who attacked New York, even though those bad guys had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of September 11. Thus we had an army of young men defending the United States from an enemy who had never attacked it in the first place.
It was I Am Legend made large. An entire nation failed to understand that it was the bad guy. And back home, the Baptist congregations continued to Praise the Lawd, while remaining completely oblivious to the fact that they and the orthodox Muslims they hate are exactly the same. Does it just come down to a difference in presentation? If you machine-gun civilians from an Apache while playing the Killers, is that somehow better than setting off a suicide bomb while reciting the Koran?
Religion and State are separated by constitutional guarantee in the United States, and yet there’s no chance of being elected President if you happen to be an atheist, or gay, or even unmarried. Why is that? If that restriction existed in the Middle East, what would we call it?
I have no time for religion. I think it’s a form of mental illness, and in saying that I include Islam, Christianity, Shinto, Judaism, Buddhism and all the other disorders. But at the same time it’s true that religions go through cyclical changes. In the 21st century, certain Islamic factions are engaged in murder, as are certain Christian sects, including those who currently hold power in the United States. In Palestine, the homicidal and insane Hamas is in power, giving the Israeli army an excuse to crush the ordinary Palestinians in the world’s biggest concentration camp. In the 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, as he came to be known, saw no difficulty with slaughtering Muslims in the Middle-East, yet despite that, he earned the respect and honour of all Europe. More recently, on our doorstep, we saw the Croatian Ustasha, one of the most evil regimes of the 20th century inflict genocide on their fellow Christians, the Serbs, and on the Jews, during the second world war. And of course, we witnessed the German extermination of the European Jews, a monumental crime with few parallels.
I’m appalled at the behaviour of the medieval Taliban beheading people in Afghanistan. But I’m also appalled at the behaviour of the US armed forces destroying Iraq, a country that never attacked them. And I’m appalled at what the Nazis did to the European Jews. I’m appalled at the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. I’m appalled at what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rwanda. I’m appalled at what the Israelis did to Gaza. I’m appalled at the ignorant Islamic idiots who who reacted as they did to the Jyllands-Posten article. And I’m appalled at the sectarian murders on both sides of the conflict on this island, carried out by people who were either evil or ignorant.
Sometimes I lose patience with people who make comments on this site, as one did recently, reminding me that Muslims wouldn’t put up with my attitudes the same way Catholics do. It’s usually accompanied by a reminder that Catholics don’t kill their critics these days. This is an extraordinarily uninformed comment, combining a slur against Muslims with a physical threat against me.
Here’s what I think about religion. It’s insane. It caters to people’s need for a little bit of magic in their lives, but it doesn’t mean anyone needs to be a murderer. Most people, whether they happen to be Christian, Muslim or atheist, just want to lead a quiet, peaceful life without lunatics stirring things up.
You can tell at one glance what a journalist thinks of a country by the words he chooses to describe it. A country with a government is a place you’d take a chance on visiting. You might like it there when you arrive, or you might not, but at least you know it’s civilised, with its nice, friendly, western-style government. Regimes, on the other hand, are evil and oppressive. There are no regimes in Western Europe or North America, only governments, but in the Middle East, regimes are everywhere, apart from Israel. And of course the Gulf oil states, which we like to stay on friendly terms with. Even though they are not democracies, they don’t have regimes. Instead, they have ruling families. Not vile despots, tyrants or dictators. These places are run by uncles and aunts and grandmothers, brothers and sisters, and the heads of state are kings.
Everyone knows, a king is not a dictator but what’s the difference? Well, the obvious one is that a king’s family have ruled a country longer than the family of a dictator. While it’s true that all kings started out as dictators, you don’t just become a monarch overnight. It takes a while.
We need hardly concern ourselves with that other class of ridiculous autocrat: the Tinpot Dictator. Everyone agrees that we can support him as long as he’s useful and then send in fifty well-trained men with boot-polish on their faces to decommission him at four in the morning.
Until he became a despicable tyrant in western eyes, Muammar Gadaffi was the Libyan Leader. While Saddam Hussein did America’s bidding, he was the Iraqi Leader, but then he tried to trade his oil in euros, and suddenly he became a brutal despot who must be toppled. (Note: tyrants and despots are always toppled, never removed or deposed).
Back in the 80s, all the Warsaw Pact countries had regimes headed by dictators with brutal interrogators, while we, on the other hand, had governments with intelligence services. And they didn’t have a civil service like us either. They had a State Apparatus. Bashar al-Assad has his secret police, a thoroughly swarthy and unshaven bunch of assassins, unlike the clean-cut, sharply-dressed agents of Homeland Security, or the affable old Etonians in MI5.
What happens when an invader arrives?
Well that depends on who the invader happens to be and who’s being invaded.
When the Nazis invaded France and Poland, a well-organised resistance movement grew up. Resistance. Not guerrillas or even insurgents. Certainly not terrorists. The left-leaning Greek partisans were hailed as freedom fighters until Germany surrendered, and then they became dangerous Commie terrorists to be crushed by the victorious Allied forces.
Iraqis fighting against the invasion of their country, needless to say, were never called Resistance. They were insurgents (a term that only acquired pejorative overtones after the US invasion). They were near the top of the vileness scale : worse than activists, worse than extremists, worse than fanatics, they were terrorists., and what an interesting word that is. Terrorist. One who uses terror as a means of furthering a strategic objective. That, of course, would not include Sir Arthur Harris, who regarded the flattening of German cities as a relatively humane method , nor would it include Curtis leMay, who masterminded the fire-bombing of Japan. Nor would it include Dick Cheney, even though he did all in his power to sell the US public a huge lie, that Iraq had something to do with the 9-11 attacks.
What’s a militant? Does it include people like Donald Rumsfeld or Tony Blair or GW Bush who started two wars?
It all depends what language you speak and what uniform you wear. When the media spoke of foreign fighters in Iraq, we all knew they didn’t mean the American soldiers from the other side of the planet. They were talking about neighbouring Arabs from two hundred miles up the road.
Extraordinary rendition was not torture, because you were simply handing your prisoners over to a friendly state, whose interrogators, unfortunately, have fewer moral scruples than your own, and fewer legal restrictions on what they might do to a captive. Locking people up in Guantanamo was not imprisonment without trial — anathema to American notions of liberty. It was internment of suspected terrorists, and when the T-word comes into the equation, all other considerations may be abandoned.
I remember a few years back, Robert Fisk describing the constant Israeli use of the word terrorist to describe anyone they disagreed with, or who criticised them. In his book Pity the Nation, he told of a car with three or four foreign journalists being strafed by a warplane. The incident was later reported in the papers as an engagement with a vehicle carrying terrorists.
As Fisk put it terrorist, terrorist, terrorist. The mantra that silences all argument.
It even comes down to the physical objects used by soldiers, or fighters or insurgents, or activists, or extremists, or militias or defence forces or warring factions. Take your pick. Each carries its own layer of innuendo, with defence forces at the very top of the virtue tree even when they happen to be bombing a crowded civilian neighbourhood into rubble. They’re defence forces, and they carry nice friendly M-16 carbines, unlike the Soviet-made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles used by their evil, Islamic fundamentalist extremist terrorist enemies.
Of course, it works the other way round too, doesn’t it? In the eyes of people like Iran’s Ahmedinejad, America is the Great Satan and Israel may be extinguished without a second thought. Osama bin Laden saw no contradiction between his Islamic beliefs and his mass murder of thousands. Brutal dictators like Saddam and Gadaffi didn’t blink at the thought of inflicting total war on their own people. Bashar al Assad, the cultured, urbane ophthalmologist, is content to unleash on innocent civilians his security forces, or army, or militias, or shadowy armed groups or fighters sympathetic to the regime. Whatever flavour you’re having yourself. Naturally, there’s no reporting of the other side in that conflict, which is that the UN observers are being withdrawn because the freedom fighters / resistance / insurgents / activists / militias are shooting at them.
It’s never simple. Facts are always blurred and nuance is always added by the choice of words.
How do you feel about religious-based genital mutilation of children?
Horrified, I imagine.
The chances are that you recoil at the very notion, and yet such mutilation is legal in many countries, including Ireland.
Did you know that? Did you know that here in Ireland, it’s perfectly legal for a clergyman to mutilate an infant’s genitalia? It has been so for generations, but only for certain religions.
For some reason, the teachings of Judaism and those of Islam are sufficient reason to permit the surgical removal of a vital part of an infant boy’s genitalia, without medical justification.
In this country, we quite rightly abhor the practice of female circumcision, and we prosecute anyone who attempts to carry out such a barbaric operation, yet we tolerate male circumcision, even when the only justification for it is the fact that certain religions require it and it has been carried out for thousands of years.
This is not a good reason to permit anything. We did many things for thousands of years that we would these days regard as barbaric, but it took a German court to put it in perspective. This was a particularly brave decision for obvious reasons, since Jewish groups are outraged about it, some of them calling the decision anti-Semitic.
In truth, it’s not a whole lot different to the Irish courts’ decisions about Jehovah’s Wtnesses trying to prevent blood transfusions for their children. You can’t apply biblical criteria to your children’s health in a secular society.
The case involved a Muslim doctor who circumcised a child which was later admitted to hospital for heavy bleeding. The doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm. According to the regional court in Cologne, the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”.
The court made the point that a child could decide at a later stage of life to be circumcised, but that the parents didn’t have the right to inflict such an injury on a toddler, and who could argue with that?
Not surprisingly, the court’s decision caused utter uproar among Germany’s Jews and Muslims.
The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, described the court decision as an outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries.
It’s hard to see how this is a valid argument in favour of child injury. We have been mutilating boys for centuries and we believe we should because God said so. Allow us to keep doing it.
No. Just stop.
If a Nigerian put forward the same argument in favour of female mutilation, would anyone support him?
I see no difficulty with a grown man, Jewish or Muslim, deciding to be mutilated, but in a civilised society, I can see no justification for inflicting it on a young child. Can you?
There are parodies, there are wind-ups, and then there are acts of lampoonery so extreme that you have to applaud them for their sheer brass balls. I know this. I’ve tried all sorts of piss-takes over the years but always blinked at the crucial moment.
I once put a video of the sky on Youtube and claimed it was a vision of the Virgin Mary.
It was immediately attacked by people with no sense of humour, and the attacks continued long after I gave up and admitted it was a joke.
You see, the world is full of people who don’t get parody or irony, but I have to make a confession here. Just this very evening I was taken in by the best parody website I have ever seen. I even posted one or two outraged comments on Facebook and the Twitter Machine, for which I apologise. Yes, I am a knob-end. I was talking with my irony detector swiutched off.
What website am I talking about?
None other than the splendid Islamic Vanguards, run by a lad called Admin al Islam. In this post, he points out that rape is connected to women dressing and acting immodestly. I can’t put it better than Admin, so I”ll quote him exactly as he writes.
If there are men who simply cannot control their desires – and there are, if there are women who dress and act in an inappropriate manner to attract attention – and there are (I seriously doubt that tight blouses, short skirts and high heels are worn for comfort) then it behoves us as concerned citizens to address these issues.
Wonderful parody, but it’s not easy to pull off, if you’ll forgive the expression. If Admin can keep a straight face under attack, he will achieve a result. It’s a truly world-class example of parody, but he needs to be careful and stay in character at all times. As I myself know only too well, the mask can slip. At the slightest sign of a giggle, the entire spoof is exposed.
If I had the decision to make, if I was in Admin’s place, I wouldn’t dignify this post here with a reply. Instead, I’d ignore all external discussion and remain committed to the central mission of laughing at the ridiculous Sharia law.
Admin’s site is truly great, and what a wonderful wind-up at a time when we need a laugh.
Many thanks to Admin al Islam. Keep it going. Best piss-take I’ve seen in years.
It’s hard to take the name seriously. Rick Santorum.
Please, Miss Ellie. Don’t sell the business to Rick Santorum.
It doesn’t work. No matter what way you say it, he sounds like a character out of Dallas. Look at that side vein. How could you trust a man who combs his hair like that?
If Rick Santorum gets his filthy paws on mah awl wells, I’m gonna shoot him down like the skunk he is.
Rick Santorum. If you made him up no-one would believe you but there he stands in all his judgementalism and smugness. Get that man a Stetson and a rhinestone shirt. What a strange land America is. In Europe, conservative politicians lean towards the right, but when they drift into the sort of swivel-eyed religious ranting characteristic of Santorum, we stop calling them conservatives and start calling them lunatics. Not so in America, where a presidential candidate can feel comfortable blaming contraception and same-sex marriage for all the country’s problems.
In Santorum’s world, marriage is a privilege, not a right, and its purpose is to produce and raise children. According to Santorum, sex should be “procreative“. Logically speaking, that rules out marriage for post-menopausal women, and for men with a low sperm-count. It also rules out men who have a vasectomy, but of course, given his extreme Catholic views, Santorum would probably regard such men as mortal sinners unfit to be married in any circumstances.
Apart from the recent blasphemous libel debacle, it’s been a long time since we in Ireland endured politicians as limited by ultra-orthodox Catholic opinions as Rick Santorum is, and yet when such people held power, we suffered from the same overbearing sense of moral superiority that the United States has been working itself into for decades as it continually reminds us that it leads the free world, whatever that is. I suspect that the average Iraqi civilian didn’t feel particularly free as the might of the US military smashed that country to bits in the name of a spurious democracy, but at least Bush was a fake, a cynic, a fraud and we could all see that his veneer of Christianity was nothing more than a sop to the crazies of the Bible Belt.
This fellow Santorum seems to be completely obsessed with sex, and not in a healthy way. His sexual obsessions resemble much more closely the people he claims are a threat to world peace: fundamentalist Islamic clerics. He believes there is no such thing as women’s right to control their fertility. He doesn’t believe that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
He’s pro-life, naturally, just like all presidential candidates must be, but being pro-life isn’t the same as being against killing. No indeed. One of the first things President Santorum plans to do is bomb the hell out of the Iranian nuclear facilities, and who knows what else. Any leader driven by religious certainties instead of rational analysis is a liability and a danger to world peace, such as it is. It’s hard to see much difference between the fundamentalism of Santorum and the religious lunacy of Iran’s Ahmedinejad. If it comes to a fight between the US and Iran, it will be Christian mullah versus Islamic mullah.
Some Democrats take the view that Santorum is an asset to them, dividing the Republicans and robbing their challenge of any credibility while, for the same reasons, many Republicans despair at the shenanigans of the candidates for selection, but it’s not that simple.
Santorum is articulate. He doesn’t come from the wealthy and privileged background that produced Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. The only thing all three candidates have in common is a ridiculous name, but that’s nothing unusual in America. If it comes to a head-to-head with Obama, Santorum will be able to exploit the president’s vulnerabilities by accusing him of being a pampered Liberal, a member of the academic elite and out of touch with the needs of the average Joe. Santorum comes from a working-class family and he speaks persuasively to the blue-collar constituency. He’ll tell them, with sincerity, that he doesn’t think they should have to suffer for the wrongdoings of the banks, and that message will resonate, because he really means it.
Obama would wipe the floor with Romney or Gingrich, but maybe not so much with Santorum.
He might be a religious lunatic, but he’s not a fool. This guy can talk and he understands where his core support lies.
President Ahmedinejad, meet President Ahmedinejad.
Every year, I wonder how I’m going to fill these pages for the next twelve months, but you know what? This stuff writes itself. Alll you have to do is open your ears and your eyes, look around and there it is — nonsense wherever you gaze. Stupidity, insanity and a fair sprinkling of fun even in these dark times.
January began with a fine musical tribute to our late and dear friend Des O Dwyer, one of the most wonderful electric guitar players ever. It played to a packed Dolans’ Warehouse, and if there had been room for another thousand people, they’d have come as well.
I put a load of stills and videos here. Have a look, listen and enjoy.
This is a music town. As someone said to me the other day, if you threw a stone you’d hit a musician, and the finest of the crop were on stage to remember their friend who passed away far too soon only a short few months previously.
By coincidence, that very same day, Bruff RFC won the Munster Senior Cup and this passionate little piece by Johnny Hogan, former Bruff hooker, celebrated his joy at the victory.
Gerry Rafferty died and towards the end of the month, Bock reached 3,000 posts of unmitigated drivel.
February brought us the ridiculous sight of disabled abuse survivors being prevented by a policeman from attending Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s liturgy of repentance, on the orders of church officials.
The government allowed a bank to fail and burned its bondholders, but the only problem was that it happened in Denmark, not Ireland.
March opened with the unthinkable: Ireland beating England in the cricket world cup. A gang of lunatics from this town went to India for the tournament and attended the match, even appearing on the television, waving a flag for Limerick.
Sadly, a jury failed to agree on the identity of the scumbag who murdered Shane Geoghegan and the man who was accused walked free. Since he must be innocent, only he knows why he winked at the bereaved family as he left the court.
April kicked off with a nice, if narrow victory over Leinster.
It was followed by a very strange incident involving the Gardai policing the Corrib gas protests, in which a conversation in a squad car was inadvertently recorded on a confiscated video camera. I had fairly strong views on this, because, although I think the Corrib project is straightforward theft, I still didn’t like the PC spin that was put on this. Talking of PC, some people weren’t too happy when I asked what jokes should be allowed.
Haughey’s family donated his yacht to the State and made a big deal of it, even though it should have been seized from the old crook years ago as the proceeds of corrupt transactions.
The Nyberg Report was published, inquiring into the operations of the Irish banking sector. It concluded that everyone was either incompetenet, corrupt or stupid. No surprises there.
Meanwhile, an Irish businessman, Peter Bond, scraped a few cheap bucks by sneering at Christopher Hitchens’s cancer diagnosis. A vile piece of work, we’ll waste no more time on this shitbag.
Limerick City Council decided that our ancient heritage counted for nothing and began smashing down ancient cellars in pursuit of even more traffic on the streets, despite the fact that we’re in a recession and the worst of it is gone.
Classy or what?
May came in with a crash as the Coronas played the Milk Market — a wonderful new venue right in the heart of Limerick.
That was after Riverfest, another fun day in the city.
It was also the day the Americans whacked Osama bin Laden in an operation where they entered the territory of an ally without prior warning and conducted a military operation to kill a man. On the other hand, since bin Laden was living in the middle of a suburb where Pakistan’s top generals all live, it was understandable that they might have felt it wasn’t a great plan to tell these people what was happening. One way or another, nobody really cared.
Of much more concern was Professor Morgan Kelly’s prediction that Ireland will become bankrupt due to our bank bailout, but again, nobody cared, because this is Ireland, and we don’t do taking things seriously.
Catdigg cheered us up, as we knew it would and we look forward to many more.
And I did a little one-man show in front of a small audience.
Garret the Good died, a man of integrity in a time of thieves. He was baffled, though not as conflicted as some loyalist and republican extremists who found common cause opposing the Queen’s visit to Ireland. Despite all my vast reserves of cynicism, I thought the old bird was sincerely bent on addressing some of the old enmities, as was Dave the PM who broke with all protocol and accompanied the Monarch on the state visit which lasted a full four days, even shedding a manly tear during the speech by Mary McAleese. In the world of buttoned-up diplomacy, this was a huge statement of intent.
May was also the month, of course, when we provided Diageo, a multinational corporation, with a huge advertising coup by having the US president drink a glass of its beer. Did we bring Barack Obama to one of our high-tech IT industries? No. Did we show him the essence of our green island by conducting him around a food-producing facility?
No. We took him to a pub and fawned on him as he swallowed a pint of Diageo beer in front of the cameras.
Score for reinforcing national stereotypes, Ireland!
May was also the month in which Leinster beat Northampton to win the Heineken Cup, coming back from an absolute drubbing in the first half to hammer their opponents in the second. There was nothing I could feel for them but admiration.
This month, I discovered the most insane company ever. Ainsworths. Supliers of homoeopathic remedies to the British royal family. If you need homoeopathic remedies based on
Rat’s blood, the wreck of the Helvetia, tofu, sausages, Viagra, microwaves, carpet, ham, sardines or dog-shit, these are the very people for you. I am not making this up.
It was also the month I started pointing out that spraying your name on things is not art, and in consequence attracted a shitstorm of abuse from assorted narcissistic idiots.
Further afield, they finally nailed Mladic, the murderer who slaughtered countless thousands in Bosnia.
June. I begin my fightback against the graffiti fascists by setting up an exhibition of uncommissioned street art based on litter. This is the output of the artist known only as GOWL, who works exclusively in cigarette butts and sweet-wrappers.
June was the month when a UN commission exposed the scandal of slavery in Ireland and I started to examine the census records in earnest and went through the lists of those who inhabited the Good Shepherd unofficial women’s prison, which is now home to Limerick School of Art and Design. In this place, women and girls were locked up by heartless, abusive nuns, with the collusion of the Irish state. The independent and free Irish state, run by Irish people for Irish people.
Around this time, the shafting of David Norris as a presidential candidate began to gain momentum, when the Independent’s political editor Fionnán Sheahan wrote an innuendo-filled piece calling his integrity into question. The vultures were circling.
Michael Noonan briefly gave us pause when he announced that We don’t think the Irish taxpayer should have to redeem what has become speculative investment. But of course, as we all know now, he was whipped into line by his colleagues, just as the Greek prime minister was later forced to obey the diktats of the European project. No more of that talk from Baldy, I suspect.
Further afield, the Bahreini authorities shot and tortured their citizens including many doctors, while the RCSI stood silent and failed to speak out for its many graduates imprisoned by the regime in that country. When it came to a contest between money and ethics, the College of Surgeons went for the obvious choice. Bucks.
In mid-July, the Commission of investigation into the diocese of Cloyne published its report, a damning compendium of incompetence and evil. Bishop John Magee failed to address the problem, concealed relevant facts and lied to the HSE about his policies on protecting children., but at least he had the decency to apologise even if it was in a grudging sort of way and from a safe distance.
Towards the end of the month, Enda Kenny stunned everyone by condemning the Vatican and the Papal Nuncio for failing to cooperate with investigations into child abuse. It was a Bishop Brennan moment and nobody quite knew how to react, least of all the Vatican which seemed shocked into silence. Nobody — certainly no Irish politician — had ever spoken to them like this before, and they promptly withdrew their ambassador in a huff. I was quite proud of the Father Ted Taoiseach that day, I have to admit.
The Pope wasn’t the only all-powerful world figure to get a slap in the face that month. Rupert Murdoch had to endure humiliation of his own as News International underwent public dissection like never before. Needless to mention, nobody here took the slightest pleasure in the discomfiture of Murdoch or Charlie Brookes.
August brought the fatal blow to Norris’s chances when a nasty little troll slipped the knife between his ribs. The same troll had often contributed to this site and was an active propagandist for the Israeli government who clearly didn’t want a man like Norris in the Irish presidency.
Steve Jobs stepped down from Apple this month, but it seems to have been a singularly uneventful period because I can’t find much else to remind us of.
Let’s move on to September which started with the Dale Farm travellers losing their appeal against eviction from their illegal halting site. Every sort of PC nutcase, including Vanessa Redgrave was out defending the travellers who were facing disaster, including having to return to their five-bedroom houses in Rathkeale.
Limerick Gay Pride was its usual demented fun, although I wasn’t able to last the whole day. Still, though, it was a good laugh for a man of my age. I go on this every year and it’s always something that makes me proud of Limerick, apart from the occasional down-with-this-sort-of-thing protesters. They disappointed me this year by failing toi turn up when I was all prepared to get their pictures and do a bit of video. Damn you, intolerant religious protesters, for being so inconsiderate. Here’s a few pics.
Gadaffy was executed like a dog at the side of the road after being sexually assaulted and I have to say that I found the entire thing repulsive. He was a murderer, a tyrant, a despot, but he was also a human being. Worse, I think those who did the things to him that have been reported are lesser men for it. So much for the Islamic code.
Meanwhile, silly old Greece thought it was a democracy and called a referendum on the EU loan, otherwise known as a bailout when talking about Ireland. They weren’t long finding out the reality.
November. Within a few days of his statement on the Greek referendum, Papandreou is summoned before Sarkozy and Merkel to receive a lesson in realpolitik. He’s sent back to Greece with a flea in his ear and is shortly deposed in fa vour of a compliant EU technocrat. The end of democracy in Greece.
Not long afterwards, Earth narrowly avoided impact with a giant asteroid that would have rendered all talk of the Euro academic as its impact wiped us out and replaced us with a kind, gentle, contemplative species, but sadly, this was not to be. The planet remains in the grip of the most destructive animal it ever spawned.
Shane Geoghegan’s family retained their dignity in the face of shocking violence and ignorance, finally bringing their Pitch for Shane to fruition. This was a wonderful statement of civilisation in the face of unlettered savagery and a distillation of the innate decency the Limerick people possess.
Who could fail to smile at Michael D winning the presidency? Let’s forget the ridiculous Sean Gallagher and the equally ludicrous Dana for a moment, and let’s give thanks that we elected a man of decency and intellect to the role, instead of a failed businessman and TV game-puppet, or a demented right-wing Catholic country singer.
He’s not the worst.
We had a bit of a controversy later in the month when a fool who had been elected as mayor of Naas announced that he wouldn’t represent black Africans. They were too rude, he said. Instead of telling rude people to behave themselves, as he was fully entitled to do, Darren Scully decided that all black Africans were off the agenda, and in doing so, he made a national laughing stock of himself.
Gavin Friday lifted my spirits a few days later with his decadent, syncopated, mitteleuropäische posturing, redolent of the Weimar Republic before the deluge, much like our little republic today. As he strutted around the stage, it was hard not to imagine Berlin between the wars, or indeed, any other European city. The difference is that these days, we’re no longer exempt by virtue of neutrality. This time, we’re right in the firing line.
They’ve invaded, smashed and dismantled a country that never attacked them. They’ve disrespected, dislocated and humiliated an entire culture. A society based on personal dignity that they forced to endure the horrors of Abu Ghraib, of midnight raids on homes, of men forced to the floor in front of their families. In any other land, those who fought against invaders would be called heroes. If an Israeli or an American or an Irishman resisted a foreign army, they’d be called patriots or The Resistance, but in Iraq they were called insurgents.
The US introduced Islamic militancy to a land that was formerly secular. They drove tanks through the Garden of Eden and now they’re saying Mission Accomplished?
Are these people living on the same planet as the rest of us?
Stop me now. We had a great night in Bourkes as the UL interactive media postgrad students put on a show of four short movies based on Bock short stories. We had a great night, and the event raised a few shillings for cancer research as well. What’s not to like?
Of all the videos, this one resonates with me, perhaps because it was the most heartfelt when I wrote it, but also because this was the one they represented most faithfully.
If you fought the German invasion of France back in the 1940s, people would say you were a member of the Resistance, but if you fought the American invasion of Iraq, you’d be an insurgent. A terrorist.
In the lead-up to the invasion eight years ago, the world was bombarded with statements by Bush and Cheney about weapons of mass destruction, the danger of death to millions of Americans, religious fanatics and 9-11.
Facts. Iraq was a secular, non-religious state. It had nothing to do with the World Trade Center attacks. Iraq never attacked the United States in any shape or form. Despite the vile nature of its leader, there was complete religious freedom there and women were accorded the same rights as men, unlike in Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9-11 attackers originated.
Oddly, even though Saudi Arabia had a close involvement with the 9-11 assault and Iraq did not, the US chose not to invade Saudi Arabia in order to depose the brutal dictators who run it, to bring democracy to the country or to grant human rights to its people.
If we’re going to talk about weapons of mass destruction, let’s mention North Korea, which has real nukes and real rockets. They were threatening to nuke Japan in 2003. Did the United States immediately send in an army to bring them democracy and put an end to weapons of mass destruction? Of course not. Instead, they invaded Iraq which had never shown the slightest aggression. Saddam must have been wondering what the hell he did. After all, he had even invaded Iran under orders from Washington. (Iran, by the way, is a country which hasn’t invaded anyone in hundreds of years. Watch this space.)
Barack Obama, a man who once denounced the invasion, gave a speech in which he made no mention of Iraqi deaths or injuries. It was all very reminiscent of the Vietnam debacle and subsequent spin, with much talk of sacrifice, and serving overseas, but no mention of the local people who bore the brunt of the violence. In the US case, service meant murder, humiliation and torture of peaceful people who posed no threat to the United States. It also meant that a formerly secular country became a breeding ground for demented religious fundamentalists.
The US has become the home of Christian fundamentalism, an ideology almost indistinguishable from Islamic extremism, yet the United States seems unaware of the irony that it quite literally drove a tank through the Garden of Eden, smashing all before it, destroying the culture that gave birth to modern Western civilisation.
The culture that gave us mathematics was destroyed by the culture that gave us Wal-Mart.
“It’s great to be in Libya, free Libya” said Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as he declared the end of NATO’s air campaign in Europe, ‘the most successful operation’ in its history. Gaddafi is gone. Libya is free, or at least free to be free. Or so we are told. NATO intervention has been a success. If NATO is claiming credit for the success of regime change should it not also accept some responsibility for the less creditable events that have resulted from its intervention?
The West intervened in Libya on 19 March with overwhelming coercive air power. (Formally NATO did not take over the coordination of the operation until 31 March and in the early days France and UK carried out most attacks under overall US command). Within hours of the intervention there were no Libyan aircraft to oppose the attacks and no anti-air capability worth the name. Yet despite 26,000 sorties including 9,600 strike sorties, the Gaddafi forces survived for seven months although losing thousands of personnel and suffering huge material damage in the NATO aerial bombardment. NATO, led by UK and France, exploited the protection of civilians not just to promote regime change but also to target Gaddafi himself and members of his family right up until the leader’s death on 19 October.
UN Security Council resolution 1973 was passed with some urgency (even haste) on the 19 March as Gaddafi forces approached Benghazi. Ten members of the SC supported the resolution including the US, France and UK of the permanent members and also Bosnia, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa. Significantly the other five states abstained. Russia and China were no great surprises. However when combined with the other three, Brazil, India and Germany, five of the world’s major powers were not prepared to give their support to the air intervention. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had warned NATO not to use the protection of civilians as an excuse for regime change which is precisely what happened. This will make it much harder to agree future resolutions at the UN allowing intervention by Member States in situations of internal disorder inside another Member State. There are obvious implications here for taking agreed international action on Syria which now looks remote even as the situation there continues to deteriorate with army deserters conducting increasingly effective military operations against the forces of the state.
Even within NATO there has been disagreement. Just 14 out of 28 NATO states participated in the operation with Germany and Turkey particularly vocal in opposition at various times. Three Arab countries, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan participated in various ways as did neutral Sweden.
There will also be distaste throughout the Arab world at the spectacle of NATO killing thousands of Arabs without suffering a single casualty in a seven month ‘war’. Despite playing God, NATO seems to have been able to avoid any responsibility for the chaos and human rights abuses that have flowed from the intervention.
The National Transitional Council has been supported almost unequivocally by the international media as the good guys and their raggle-taggle armies have been presented in a simplistic heroic light. Yet from the beginning the undisciplined nature of their forces was evident from the media footage. Even in the very early days one often wondered who the civilians of Libya most needed protection from. It seemed that the revolutionaries fled whenever they met strong resistance and generally relied on NATO air strikes to break the opposition.
There was great emotion after the death of Gaddafi with many citizens saying they had waited 42 years for this wonderful day. However NTC Chairman Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil spent much of those 42 years working within the Gaddafi system, eventually serving as Minister for Justice from 2007 to February 2011. He was sent to Benghazi by the Gaddafi Government in February to negotiate the release of hostages taken by the rebels. Only on 21 February did he resign and join the rebels although it should be acknowledged that he had a reasonably good reputation for protecting human rights while a minister. Other participants in the revolution had been servants of the Gaddafi regime for many years. Did they all suddenly discover a conscience together in February? Perhaps, but it is also possible that they were assisted in making this decision by other less public influences.
Libya on the map is a big square-shaped country but in reality its population is concentrated in a thin coastal strip 1100 miles long. There are about 140 tribes and clans divided into approx 14 major groups. Tensions are already apparent between these tribal groups within the NTC umbrella with the central Misrata tribes and tribes from the western mountains often estranged from the easterners in Benghazi. There is also a strong militant Islamic element working within the NTC. Huge quantities of modern weapons and munitions have fallen into the hands of civilians and the NTC has been slow to secure ammunition atorage areas. These weapons not only threaten stability in Libya but also in neighbouring countries such as Chad and Sudan.
Finally there is the lynching of Gaddafi on 19 October. As his convoy tried to break out of Sirte it was attacked and dispersed by a French air strike. After the convoy dispersed in different directions the segment with Gaddafi was attacked again by French aircraft. Why? Could this have been a coincidence? Was real-time information being relayed from the ground? How were these air strikes protecting civilians? The second strike is said to have killed about 50 of the70 persons in this convoy segment. The remaining 20 including Gaddafi and his son Mutassim were surrounded by NTC ‘fighters’.
The story of the end of Gaddafi is somewhat confused. It seems likely he was savagely beaten, probably sodomised with a knife or a stick, beaten with shoes and then shot by a fighter with an automatic weapon in the chest and head. There is apparent footage of his son Mutassim alive and well in captivity drinking bottled water. Yet he too ends up dead. The bodies are hijacked by the Misrata faction and treated in an appalling fashion contrary to Islamic practice before being buried in secret, thus preventing any forensic investigation.
However the muted reaction to these outrages is ultimately more worrying than the actions of the undisciplined mob itself. No western government has dared to criticise, let alone condemn, the NTC for these actions. The West has collectively turned the other way because he was a ’bad guy’ and however unfortunate, the actions of the mob seem to be deemed understandable in the circumstances. Is a new threshold being established for extra judicial vengeance? The US chose to execute the unarmed Osama Bin Laden and to flout Islamic ritual before dumping his body at sea. Why then should not the Libyans avoid the difficulties of a trial and unpleasant revelations in dealing with their ‘bad guy’? And where does summary vengeance end? It has been clear since the capture of Tripoli in late August that NTC forces have been engaged in summary executions and torture and have carried out actions approaching genocide against dark-skinned immigrants. There is much evidence of killings of prisoners during the long battle for Sirte including one site visited by Human Rights Watch which may just be the tip of the massacre iceberg.
Of course NATO has not been directly involved in any of these outrages. Nevertheless NATO cannot claim credit for the positive outcomes without accepting some responsibility for the negatives. Even with overwhelming military superiority NATO was unable to dictate the pace of the conflict and was unable to restrain its local allies. Once again it was demonstrated that coercive military power has its limits and that even massive military superiority does not guarantee a desired end state. The US and its allies have launched three very different wars over the past 10 years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Success was declared in all three cases. In the first two of these, victory was followed by brutal warfare accompanied by considerable human rights abuses. There is a good chance that the Libyan intervention will result in a similar moral muddle.