Why the West’s Muslims must lead the fight against the enemy within

THE video – filmed somewhere in Iraq or Syria – is beyond gruesome as it begins with journalist, James Foley, kneeling impassively before a knife-wielding man garbed in black, like a ninja assassin, a ski-mask covering his face.

Moments later the 40 year-old US reporter, who went missing two years ago, is beheaded in what his captors blandly described as an ‘execution’.

Another American newsman, Steven Sotloff, who went missing in Syria, is facing a similarly grim fate, as are up to 20 other Westerners, who have disappeared in the Middle East.

Whether you believe in capital punishment or not – I don’t, but that’s a debate for another day – this was anything but an ‘execution’.

Foley’s decapitation was an act of unspeakable barbarity; a celebration of butchery carried out by a piece of scum who desecrates the title: ‘human being’

The slaughterer said he was ‘sending a message to America’, the fabled Great Satan of Islamo-fascism’s warped mythology.

Meanwhile, to add further shock to the horror show is news that the killer speaks with a distinctive London accent and is said to be called ‘John’.

There’s no doubt Brits are among the homicidal filth parading under the black banner of the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, with Western intelligence sources estimating their number as high as 600.

Apparently, they are also the most bloodthirsty and take huge delight in their grisly handiwork.

VIDEO NASTY: The IS thug identified in some media outlets as a Brit named 'John', prepared to behead US journo, James Foley

VIDEO NASTY: The IS thug identified in some media outlets as a Brit named ‘John’, prepared to behead US journo, James Foley

A 16-year-old girl from the Midlands recently tweeted a photo of herself against a backdrop of severed heads, while a dead IS fighter was identified as English by his Liverpool Football Club season ticket and another by his membership card from an Ealing, West London, gym.

So, I’d wager, somewhere in Britain an impressionable kid, perhaps from a decent, god-fearing, Anglo-Asian family, will have seen the monstrous clip online and thought, ‘Hey, that’s cool and I want to be part of it, to fight, kill and die, if necessary, for the cause.’

Precisely what cause justifies such evil, perverted lunacy is beyond all comprehension. Equally so is the reason why some Muslim teens, brought up with all the advantages and values the UK provides, are drawn to it, like the student from Bristol, who chose IS, jihad and killing over studying medicine to save, not take lives.

What the cause demands, though, is chillingly transparent and intended to be delivered in stage payments of savagery.

IS is on a genocidal roll, proclaiming a Sharia ‘caliphate’ across the huge swathe of Iraq and Syria it now controls, where the bloodiest excesses of medieval cruelty are visited upon any man, woman or child who won’t embrace their fanatical take on Sunni Islam.

Hence, the spate of beheadings, disembowelments and crucifixions, the stonings to death and burials alive of minority unbelievers – including toddlers and women, who, if not murdered, are taken as sex slaves – like Christians and Yazidis, refusing to renounce ancient faiths that predate Islam.

The Kurds, Muslims whom IS considers heretics, currently stand as a bulwark against the advancing horde. But, lacking the hi-tech American weaponry IS filched from a craven Iraqi army in hasty retreat, tough Kurdish Peshmerga militia are left fighting a see-saw battle against an implacable foe.

Which is why even that most dovish of US presidents, Barack Obama, has been forced to send in fighter jets – supported by RAF planes, acting as ‘eyes in the skies’ – to curb what seems like an inexorable IS advance.

However, we are witnessing only phase one of the fanatics’ master plan.

Through its brotherhood of terror, IS’s aim is to extend the ‘caliphate’ westward and – mimicking Osama Bin Laden, whose Al-Qaeda cutthroats seem pussycats in comparison – its manifesto includes the return of Andalucía, formerly the Moorish province of El Andaluz.

Last week four civilians were found murdered in Egypt’s Sinai desert, their headless corpses the hallmark of IS, and its henchmen are said to be operating alongside Hamas in Gaza.

FLAG OF HATE: Copycat versions of IS's hideous black flag are said to have been flown in London and elsewhere in Europe

FLAG OF HATE: Copycat versions of IS’s hideous black flag are said to have been flown in London and elsewhere in Europe

In the harshest reality check so far from a European leader, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, warned, ‘The West is embroiled in a generational struggle against a poisonous brand of Islamic extremism that will bring terror to the streets of Britain unless urgent action is taken to defeat it.’

Cameron predicted the struggle will last ‘the rest of my political lifetime,’ adding, ‘The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home…it is our concern here and now.

‘Because if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. We already know that it has the murderous intent.’

Cameron’s warning, though, maybe too late: IS’s tentacles already snake into Europe, where copycat versions of its dastardly flag have been unfurled in pro-Hamas demonstrations in France, Germany, Holland and the UK.

Meanwhile, an estimated 260 IS thugs are said to have already returned to Britain, some vowing to raise the black standard over Big Ben.

And therein lies Britain’s dilemma. Because, in common with the rest of Europe where there are large, Muslim minorities, the nation is now in the front line of potential terror attacks from an enemy within.

Porous borders, an undermanned frontier security force and police intimidated by accusations of Islamophobia don’t instil confidence, either.

But, mindful of the harm being done to Islam’s image, moderates in the UK’s Muslim community have now said they will assist anti-terrorism officers in identifying those in their midst who harbour only hatred for the country that nurtured them.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said, ‘We are ready to support the police and intelligence agencies in their work to defeat terrorism and protect our nation.’

Those are wise and welcome words.

Because Britain’s population of approximately 3,000,000 Muslims, which can be very vocal when it wants to be, needs to stand up and be counted upon as never before in the war against the most evil scourge to plague the world since Nazism.

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How Iran conned the trusting West into the great Geneva ‘giveaway’

AT around 5 a.m. a week last Saturday, when the various parties yawned their way through the obligatory photo-shoot after the night-long charade that passed as ‘nuclear peace talks’ in Geneva, who had the most to smile about?

It was a no-contest, because the jubilant grins, lit up like a torchlight procession of skiers descending a Swiss Alp, all belonged to the Iranians.

And the biggest winner wasn’t even there. The crafty, turbaned 74-year-old, Ali Khamenei, a religious fanatic who styles himself Supreme Leader, was sitting several thousand miles away in Tehran, no doubt stroking his beard, eyes agleam at how the UN-anointed delegation of pliant diplomats, the P5+1, could be so easily conned.

After a decade of deceit, deception and time-wasting, the world’s premier purveyor of terror had won the most decisive war of words with the West since Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain back in 1938 his intentions towards Czechoslovakia were entirely honourable and pigs could fly.

So, following the shameful Munich Pact, say hello to the great Geneva ‘giveaway’. And, replacing the plucky Czechs, insert Israel, Saudi Arabia and most Sunni Muslim states, including Jordan and Egypt – in fact, all the West’s Middle East allies, who’ll be the first fall-guys in Obama’s gamble on appeasing a rogue state that doesn’t even bother to hide an ambition to extend its headbanging hegemony across the world’s powder keg.

No surprise, then, that the bunting also went up throughout the Islamic Republic’s vassal states: Iraq, where Shiite lackeys suppress Sunnis, Christians and Kurds; Syria, where Iranian arms and manpower underwrite the repellent Assad mafia; and Lebanon, indirectly ruled by Iran via its cutthroat proxies, Hezbollah.

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran's Foreign Minister, Javid xxxxxx, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the P5+1

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the UN-backed P5+1

Oh, and let’s not forget how it was hailed as a triumph by those woolly-minded bien pensants, the trusting Left-leaners, who’d give Beelzebub a free pass for inventing the Seven Deadly Sins. If they’re clapping, you know something’s gone badly pear-shaped.

So what precisely is the much-trumpeted deal that’ll prelude ‘peace in our time’ and had the Iranians believing they were floating on a Persian carpet to nuclear paradise, after a decade of biting sanctions?

From its narrow perspective, they insist it entitles them to continue developing dubious nuclear hardware it denied for years it ever had in defiance of six UN resolutions; au contraire, says the P5+1 – purblind America, a supine UK, the occasionally feisty French, scheming Russia and China, plus Germany – who claim they’ve rolled Iran back in exchange for easing financial manacles.

But, without digging deep into the nitty-gritty, here’s how one, independent US foreign policy analyst explained it, ‘Iran will get to pocket billions in [sanction] relief, use the funds to stabilize its economy, bolster its nuclear program and fund its global terror network.’

Indeed, that sentiment was echoed by Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who said the deal – ‘cave-in’ is more apt – represented ‘a big success for Iran.’

Underlining victory, he told Iran’s parliament last week that work would even continue on the Arak heavy water, plutonium plant in direct contravention of the P5+1 agreement.

But was it ever going to be anything than thus?  Short answer: No.

Because President Obama’s skewered vision of Western foreign policy has tilted 180 degrees on its axis in favour of opponents, not proponents.

Admittedly, especially in the Cold War era, some ‘friends’ – Chinese nationalist warlord, Chiang Kai-shek, the Shah of Iran and, briefly, Saddam Hussein spring to mind – were not exactly paragons of democratic virtue.

However, this most naïve of US leaders’ belief that he can placate lunatic, Islamic extremists is the most deranged, fanciful gambit of modern times, because they represent a bloc that not only vilifies the West, but has the avowed intention of destroying it.

Simply put, there cannot be a happy accommodation with radical, repressive, expansionist theocrats, who want a new world order based on a 7th Century credo, which defines Western liberalism as decadent, inferior and ungodly.

So an interim deal that’s just a dab on the footbrake of Iran’s headlong rush to tool itself up with nuclear goodies is about as useful as putting a nappy on an elephant.

And the question that shrieks to be answered is: if tough sanctions were working, why shelve them just on the dodgy premise the maverick Iranians – who freely admit they’ve brazenly lied in the past – will keep to a deal they’re already unpicking at the seams?

Meanwhile, in leading the world down Appeasement Avenue, another facet of Obama’s flawed psyche has surfaced: he’s shown he’s not averse to a tad of skulduggery either.

It’s now emerged that his sidekicks held back-channel talks with the Iranians – and, apparently, Hezbollah – for 12 months to slick up the detail, while the perfidious president lied through his pearly teeth to erstwhile allies that all’s well and will end well. Only he neglected to say for whom.

REPEAT ROUTE: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

REPEAT DEFEAT: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

Students of diplomatic cock-ups will remember how President Bill Clinton once tried to stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in 2001, only to end up being suckered.

Kim Jong Il, the Beloved Leader of the pariah state and, unsurprisingly, a playmate of Iran’s Supreme Leader – don’t these loony despots adore grandiose titles – promised not to produce, test or deploy missiles and halt the export of nuclear technology.

Clinton’s chief coordinator, Wendy Sherman, noted then that Kim ‘appears ready to make landmark commitments’.

Alas, appearances can be deceptive and, predictably, the North Koreans reneged on every promise they made.

Ironically, witless Wendy was tasked by the visionary Obama to reprise her stunning debacle, this time with the Iranians. So, small wonder they’re cock-a-hoop.

Meanwhile, the US President looks still more a busted flush, his credibility holed below the waterline over the humbling, bumbling Middle East shambles created under his watch, while his ratings at home plummet to near-record lows.

At a seminal moment in world history, clearly Obama and his appointees – especially Sherman – are ignorant of the wisdom of Spanish philosopher-poet, George Santayana.

Just for the record, a century ago he wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

Obama’s a gullible President, who wants to believe the unbelievable

TO shamelessly plagiarise from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times and the worst of times for President Obama.

Putting aside for a moment his shambolic failures on the international stage – viz-a-viz the Syrian civil war, Arab Spring and the risible ‘talkathon’ of hot air that poses for negotiations with nuclear, hell-bent Iran – many US government functions shut down last week in what appears, ostensibly, to be a Congressional brouhaha over the nation’s budget.

It is not unprecedented and last happened 17 years ago under the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, without boring you witless with the technobabble of this, basically Republicans refuse to sign the blank cheque imposed on them to pay for the Democratic President’s flagship initiative, dubbed Obamacare.

There’s no arguing about its laudable aim to bring 30 million impoverished Americans a quality of cover approaching that enjoyed by a majority of the population, whose workplace insurance gives them access to much-prized medical treatment.

The questions are: is it an apt time to introduce such a far-reaching commitment and, when the US economy is only just rising from its knees after the worst economic slump since the 1930s, how many trillion of dollars will it cost?

The problem is the price-tag is a guesstimate, depending on which bean-counter you believe in a country long resistant to anything smacking of ‘socialised’, NHS-style welfare.

Plus, with Medicaid – a system the poor can to tap into – already in existence (along with Medicare for the elderly), Republicans ask why it’s not beyond the ken of the White House to introduce something less devise and more affordable, especially as polls show a majority of Americans disapprove of it.

TROUBLE AHEAD: Obama should win the battle of the US government shutdown, but there's more aggro ahead over the Debt Ceiling

I BELIEVE: Obama dearly wants ‘peace in our time’, but is he showing signs of placing too much trust in Iran’s sweet talk?

The Right-wing’s rather naïve gambit, however, has played straight into Obama’s hands. And, for once, he’s caught the ball, artfully outmanoeuvring the opposition with something along the lines of, ‘See, I told you Republicans don’t care about the poor.’

That is more than slightly disingenuous as several conservative administrations of recent times have consistently outspent their Lefter-leaning counterparts on poverty relief.

Regardless, it’s one-nil to Mr. President and he should go on to win this showdown, thereby boosting his approval ratings, which are abysmal for a two-term winner.

However sweet is victory, it could be short-lived, because Obama’s next financial hurdle comes later this month, when Congress will debate whether the US can borrow more than $16.7-trillion, known as the ‘Debt Ceiling.’

While the President was able to railroad through his outline plan for Obamacare during his first term – when Capitol Hill was pre-loaded with loyal Democrats – that case no longer applies.

And, gaffe-prone as they are, the Republicans won’t fluff this next chance to give the President a monumental lambasting.

While all this is internal, US politicking and of passing interest to the rest of the world, the collateral damage could do immense, further harm to American flagging prestige.

Firstly, with an ego the size of the Empire State building, Obama doesn’t want to go down in history as merely America’s first black leader; he wants to leave an enduring legacy, which Obamacare would be.

If it fails, his tenure in the White House will solely be distinguished for the colour of the occupant’s skin.

Because, such is the dearth of Obama’s achievements, few but the most purblind loyalists can argue the merits of his presidency, other than point out he’s telegenic and a compelling orator (even if most of his words ring hollow).

At home, he’s floundered as an economist; overseas he leads from the rear, a pushover for any tyrant with the temerity to call his bluff and ignore his warning (i.e. Assad, the Butcher of Damascus).

Woeful White House indecisiveness over the Egyptian uprisings has witnessed the country lurching back into a military dictatorship – still a far safer bet than the Islamic headbangers of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Next, the President virtually relinquished US foreign policy over Syria to Vladimir Putin. This was based on a vague non-commitment by the Russian leader to talk his client, Assad, into halting the gassing of innocent Syrians and, perhaps, come clean about the extent of the repressive regime’s arsenal of nasty weapons

Then, to compound his litany of spectacular miscalculations, Obama has now fallen for the charm offensive of Iran’s smiley, new president, Hassan Rouhani, who claims the oil-rich Islamic Republic want nothing more than to utilise nuclear power to energise a few tellies and vacuum cleaners.

WINNING BY A SMILE? Rouhani might show a more welcome side to Iran's regime, but how sincere is he about the nuclear impasse?

A WINNING SMILE? Rouhani might show a warmer face of Iran’s hard-line regime, but can he break the nuclear impasse?

Despite snubbing Obama during his recent visit to the UN, Rouhani – who freely admits to lying to UN arms inspectors – the pair held a president-to-‘president’ telecon, which greatly enthused the reluctant leader of the Free World.

The trouble is, like his odious predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is barely in charge of his own turban, let alone the country. The real – and only – power in Iran lies with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who could be realistically described as the organ-grinder to Rouhani’s monkey.

At least Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, isn’t deceived by Iran’s duplicity and doesn’t go along with Obama’s new-found optimism that the nuclear impasse can be sorted in a couple of months.

Netanyahu warned the UN on Wednesday that Rouhani is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing, pulling the wool over the West’s eyes’, determined to engineer a political thaw, end hard-biting sanctions and advance dangerous nuclear ambitions.

He added that Israel believes Iran already has enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb, if it is processed further into weapons-grade fuel.

And Netanyahu emphasised that Tehran, which has threatened to ‘wipe the Jewish state off the map’, is building long-range missiles to deliver nuclear payloads, a conclusion the US government shares.

Nonetheless, the gullible Obama continues to be an avid believer in ‘peace in our time’, a slogan which will no doubt resonate with older readers (I suggest younger ones Google it).

Meanwhile, I wonder if the US President is interest in buying my car – an ageing, but thoroughly roadworthy VW, with only 120,000 kilometres on the speedo?

To him, it’s a snip at $100,000 or near offer. Heck, I’m sure he’ll be bidding.

Low hopes for Kerry’s ‘roadmap’ finding a highway to Middle East peace

It’s tempting to write off John Kerry’s efforts to undo one of the most intractable knots challenging world diplomacy before it’s even generated a wisp of steam.

But last week, in Washington, the US Secretary of State at least started the ball rolling by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, if only for talk about talks.

Kerry has set a nine-month timeframe for his peace roadmap to flourish or flounder, as all other attempts have done since both sides signed up to the 1993 Oslo Accords.

But if all ends in acrimony, it should produce one, valuable indicator: we’ll find out which of the antagonists sincerely wants to reap a peace dividend, not widen the great divide.

Oddly, despite not even the starriest-eyed optimist prepared to bet a red US cent on the outcome, as the craziest region on earth goes madder by the minute this might be a propitious time to break the longest-running Middle East impasse.

PEACE-SEEKER: No-one is better on John Kerry's Mid-East 'roadmap' reaching its aim of an Israel-Palestinian deal

PEACE-SEEKER: No-one is better on John Kerry’s Mid-East ‘roadmap’ reaching its aim of an Israel-Palestinian deal

Surrounding by chaos and bloodletting in Syria and Egypt – plus another Lebanese civil war looming – even a frosty peace with a Palestinian-West Bank state would allow Israel to concentrate on the far greater existential menace of a nuclear Iran (and plenty are betting the mad mullahs will have their weapon by the end of 2014).

And a deal would also leave Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, crowing, because it would deliver a triple-whammy to his arch foes, Hamas.

The murderous bigots of Gaza are already isolated, following the ousting of their Muslim Brotherhood buddies in Egypt and they’re in Iran’s bad books for refusing to back the Assad tyranny in Syria.

So, if only predicated on the theory that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, Abbas and Israel’s premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, have some common cause.

Israel, however, is nothing if not pragmatic. It has twice pursued the ‘land for peace’ route, with Egypt and Jordan, returning huge swathes of territory both lost in the 1967 Six Day War, when their invading armies were routed.

In Jordan’s case, it ceded control of a West Bank it grabbed illegally in the 1948 War of Israel Independence to the Palestinians, while Egypt gifted them the Gaza Strip.

A chilly peace continues to exist between the two Arab nations and Israel, but this never prevented shockwaves of Palestinian terrorism, ultimately forcing the Jewish state to construct a wall round itself, resulting in suicide bomb attacks plummeting by 90%.

Meanwhile, with everything in play under Kerry’s ambitious plan, the duplicitous Abbas still tried to insist on pre-conditions, first calling for talks to be based on the 1948 armistice – the indefensible ‘Auschwitz Lines’ in Israeli parlance – which never set borders.

Much to Abbas’s chagrin all historical evidence – i.e. UN Resolution 242 in 1967, which called for ‘secure and recognized boundaries’ and the Oslo Accords, which promoted ‘mutually-agreed’ land swaps – ignored the 1948 ‘lines’, thus exploding more myths Palestinian propagandists have tried to peddle to a gullible world for years.

PEACE GESTURE: Israel PM, Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release 81 hardened terrorists

PEACE GESTURE: Israel PM, Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release 81 hardened terrorists

Similarly, Abbas must have known his call for ‘refugees’ right of return’ would fall on deaf ears, since the 650,000 who originally fled or were ejected 64 years ago have now multiplied to 4.5 million.

With Israel’s population of around eight million – and already including 1.5 million Israeli Arabs, who enjoy lifestyles and freedoms unmatched anywhere in the Arab world – absorbing such a colossal influx would be demographic suicide.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu pre-empted an Abbas demand by freezing any new plans for West Bank settlement construction.

However, by attempting to impose his own agenda over Kerry’s, uncertainties arise as to whether the PA president is actually sincere in his quest for peace or whether he’ll invent a  smokescreen excuse to abort the talks and blame Israel for their breakdown.

The Jews have a word for such outrageous impudence: chutzpah, best defined by the allegorical story of a man convicted of murdering both his parents, who pleaded for clemency from the judge…because he was an orphan.

However, as a positive gesture, Netanyahu agreed to phase the controversial release of 81 Palestinian prisoners – all vicious, hard-core terrorists, who have cold-bloodedly slaughtered and maimed thousands of Israeli civilians – and put any potential peace deal to a referendum.

With an overwhelming majority of Israelis favouring the creation of a viable, non-belligerent Palestinian state, subject to final terms, the plebiscite should be a formality.

In stark contrast, after decades of Palestinians being drip-fed a diet of hate-filled, anti-Semitic bile, Abbas faces a hard sell if his people are to accept peace with the Israelis, regardless of the boundless commercial, economic and social benefits it guarantees.

A snapshot of attitudes on the Palestinian ‘street’, as revealed by a recent Pew Survey shows how deeply they are locked into a medieval mindset: 40% believe suicide bombing is justified, 89% think homosexuality is immoral, that women must always obey their husband and favor the imposition of Sharia law, while 45% believe honor killing is permissible.

PEACE PARTNER? Arafat spurned peace, but will Mahmoud Abbas break with Palestinian tradition and give peace a chance?

PEACE PARTNER? Arafat spurned every deal offered, so will PA boss, Mahmoud Abbas, break with tradition and give peace a chance?

Additionally, Abbas’s leadership ratings are in tailspin and his credentials as a potential peacemaker are woeful.

In line with the established custom and practice of many Arab regimes, his presidency is tainted, because his term in office expired over four years ago and he adamantly refuses all calls for new elections.

With a bankrupt exchequer reliant on US and EU bailouts (plus, to some extent, Israel) – though with no significant contribution from his rich, Arab brethren, who frankly detest the Palestinians – Abbas’s presidency is rife with cronyism and graft.

There is little or no financial transparency and civil servants have gone unpaid for months.

In April, former World Bank economist, Salam Fayyad, acrimoniously quit as prime minister and in June, his replacement, Rami Hamdallah, an independent academic, resigned after only two weeks in the job.

Both cited clashes with the autocratic president and his chums from the Fatah party.

So the key question is: will Abbas give peace a chance and break with the traditions of his predecessors – Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Hitler-worshipping Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and venal, money-laundering despot, Yasser Arafat, who, in the words of Israel’s late, eminent Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, ‘Never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’?

The world waits with hope – and places no bets on peace breaking out.

 

 

 

Why you never find a ‘peacenik’ when you need one (clue: the ‘anti-war’ lobby only picks fights to fit its political agenda)

There’s only one given in warfare and it’s that people get killed, maimed or wounded, mostly minus discrimination between innocent civilian or trained military.

Even the shortest conflict on recent record, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which broke out at nine a.m. on August 27, 1896, and finished 40 minutes later, claimed 501 casualties.

However, now it seems the debate regarding victims, whether in or out of uniform, has progressed to something bordering on the darkly ridiculous. Because, it’s no longer a simple matter of who war’s grim harvest reaps, but what strikes the deadly blows.

For instance, last week four Western intelligence agencies – the CIA, MI6, France’s SDECE and the Israeli Mossad – confirmed that a ‘red line’ had been crossed in the vicious, internecine Syrian conflict by the use of chemicals, probably the nerve agent, sarin.

This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time such weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) had been used in the Middle East.

They certainly didn’t induce insomnia in Saddam Hussein, after he ordered the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja, in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War. And my guess is they’d get a hero’s reception from Hamas and Hezbollah.

However, under the arcane rules of conflict etiquette, antagonists usually agree to abide by the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning such WMDs.

Even Hitler, who had no compunction in gassing six million defenceless Jews and countless others with cyanide-based Zyklon B, drew back from employing chemical agents on the battlefield. Maybe experience of being temporarily blinded by mustard gas in WW1 weighed heavily even on his psychopathic conscience.

The dilemma facing the West over poisoned gas attacks in Syria is where to pin blame. The odds are heavily stacked in favour of Bashar Al Assad being the culprit, but President Obama is demanding incontrovertible proof it wasn’t the motley bunch of rag-tag rebels – which includes elements of Al-Qaeda and rabid Salafist extremists – ranged against the Demon of Damascus, however unlikely that scenario is.

Quite what America will do when cast-iron evidence is presented is, as ex-US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said, an ‘unknown known’ or even a ‘known unknown.’ Take you pick from Don’s gobbledygook.

But that’s not to belittle the fact that a ‘red line’ – as laid down by Barack Obama and, more emphatically, by Hillary Clinton in her tenure as US Secretary of State – has been crossed. And, if such boundaries are to mean anything, some kind of counter-measure has to be fashioned, especially since an estimated 70,000 Syrian civilians have already perished and a million-plus more have become refugees.

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven't much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven’t much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

As an aside, what strikes me as odd is this vile crime against humanity has barely raised a peep from the lippy, self-appointed ‘peace lobby’ – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Stop The War Coalition, War On Want et al – who believe they hold the patent on the moral high ground.

So where are the protest marches against Assad? Why no  banners hoisted high? What’s happened to the masses who throng Trafalgar Square? Have rabble-rousers, like George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn, been inexplicably struck mute?

No, the unvarnished truth is there’s nothing in it for them; unlike Iraq or Palestine/Gaza, say, Syria lacks a far-Left, anti-imperialist/Western narrative and if they can’t cherrypick their agenda, the ‘peaceniks’ retreat into the shadows.

Which is exactly where they’ve been skulking during the last decade, as the implacable headbangers of Iran lie, obfuscate and torpedo talks about their nuclear ambitions, while inching ever closer to an atomic bomb.

Perhaps, too, CND has become passé, because it’s achieved zilch since its inception in 1957, except drum-banging and giving purblind appeasers the odd day out. In fact, it might as well transpose its initials to CDN and accepted it Can Do Nothing.

But, hark! I hear the rumble of a grumble festering in the ranks of the pacifist diehards, though it’s not remotely connected to Assad’s murderous tactics in keeping his grisly mitts on Syria or Iran’s mad ayatollahs threatening Armageddon.

Instead, its unrighteous indignation is aimed at a ‘smart’ weapon in the West’s arsenal call the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – a.k.a. UAV, Reaper or drone – which has been employed for some time against Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres, mainly holed up in the hostile badlands along Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

What’s raised the dander of the do-gooders is the drones are now being controlled by trained pilots based 3,500 miles away from the battlefront, in RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

And, according to the ‘peace lobby’ that’s grossly unjust, even in an asymmetrical war against an enemy that wears no uniforms, doesn’t mass in serried ranks, pursues a ruthless terror strategy and uses the local populace as human shields.

Rafeef Ziadah, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, claims: ‘Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.  Now is the time to ban them – before it is too late.’

Democratic oversight and accountability to the public?’ What utter drivel, because since when did we hold a plebiscite every time a NATO squaddie lines up a terrorist in his crosshairs?

And too late for what? Saving Allied and civilian lives? Terminating religious fanatics, who want to impose a 7th Century religious credo on the world, enslave women, decapitate homosexuals, persecute infidels and export terror attacks to distant New York, London and Madrid?

One can only presume Mr. Ziadah and those who share his hypocritical alternative universe will be happy to sit on the next Clapham omnibus that gets eviscerated by a jihadi suicide bomber.

Or perhaps he ought to listen to John Taylor, who lost his daughter, Carrie, in the 7/7 London attacks and speaks for a great many more decent, enlightened folk than the entire ‘anti-war’ lobby put together.

He said: ‘If Al Qaeda wants to fly aircraft into buildings and send people with backpacks on to trains, I am quite happy for us to use UAVs, drones and the lot. It is part of modern warfare. These people brought the war to us, so anything we can do to stop them killing us and our soldiers I am quite in favour of.’

This isn’t the sentiment of revenge, but common sense. Because if wars must be fought – and, incredible as it may seem to the ‘peace-at-all-costs’ fraternity, nobody but nutters want them – we’re entitled to use whatever legitimate weapons we possess to protect ourselves.

If we didn’t, and the views of Messrs Ziadah & Co had prevailed 75 years ago, by now all in the UK would be speaking a language other than English.

As the conspiracy mill grinds out lies, if anyone bumped off Hugo Chavez it wasn’t me

Let me begin by emphatically denying any culpability in the demise of Hugo Chávez, the thuggish, Venezuelan overlord, who shuffled off his mortal coil this week, aged 58, from pelvic cancer, as some of his doctors have now confirmed.

It would have been convenient if I’d had the odious autocrat ‘retired’, as the intelligence community mundanely refer to such ‘black ops’. However, I didn’t, so the wild conspiracy theories fanned by Chávists – no, they’re nothing to do with Wayne and Colleen Rooney – continue to gain traction.

According to them, someone slipped their Commandante, as he was known, a killer Mickey Finn virus while he was doing what he loved best, hectoring the world and squandering his nation’s oil riches. It was much in the manner of his soulmate, Iran’s nutter-in-chief, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a likeminded megalomaniac, who fritters away his country’s petroleum wealth on pipedreams of becoming a regional tyrant.

Obviously, the Yanks – rumoured to be aided and abetted by neighbourhood villains, the Colombians – are in the conspiracy frame for arranging Chávez’s date with his Maker.

All the same, in the far-flung unlikelihood someone fingers me, my alibi is: I was watching EastEnders.

I was also glued to the everyday story of quasi-incestuous Cockney folk when Chávez’s bosom buddy, Yasser Arafat, slid off the plate and I remember being transfixed to the goings-on in Walford when North Korea’s fruitcake, Kim Il Sung expired.

So, as Dot Cotton would say, ‘Nah, it weren’t me wot done it, but I’ll  ‘ave a sweet sherry all the same.’

Not that anyone’s denials will halt the conspiracy theory mill grinding into overtime.

Strange, though, that every time a nasty pops his clogs – unless there is incontestable proof he was terminated, as in the cases of Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden – the loonies and mischief-makers don their thinking caps. And, thanks to the wonders of the internet, every hair-brained, crackpot, beyond-belief fantasy takes root.

However, in Chavez’s case, there’s method in the madness of concocting a fiendish plot to cast doubt on nature taking its course.

Apart from playing to Latin America’s obsession with a populist martyr (think Evita Peron), the red-shirted Venezuelan Leftists, whom Chávez bossed from for 14 years, desperately need to kindle the flame of his memory to keep their grasping mitts on the nation’s helm, because they were the chief beneficiaries of his ‘Bolivarian’ revolution.

These uncivil servants are the ones who man the vast tranche of needless ‘ministries’ he created and they needed his magic oratory at the polls, each time the fear of being rumbled in an election haunted them.

And Chávez never let them down. He was a master at mind-bending the masses’ will to his needs and those in his nepotistic, bureaucracy-batty United Socialist Party. He was also a dab hand at hiding behind a veneer of democracy, though, in reality, he always had the last word – usually a foul-mouthed one.

Having snatched the country in a coup d’état in 1999, the ex-army officer embraced a crude form of ‘ex-parliamentary’ rule that extended to suppressing the centre-Right opposition, emasculating the judiciary, stifling the electoral commission and censoring the independent media.

Freedom House listed Venezuela’s Press as being ‘Not Free’ in 2011 and Reporters Without Borders criticized the Chávez regime for ‘steadily silencing its critics’, branding Venezuela ‘now among the region’s worst Press freedom offenders.’

BYE BYE BULLYBOY: Chavez unleashed a new repertoire of repression on Venezuela

BYE BYE BULLYBOY: Chavez unleashed a new repertoire of repression on Venezuela

Yet, Chávez’s recipe of red-hot socialism, heavily laced with nationalist fervour and tinged with religious zeal, resonated elsewhere in the region. Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Paraguay and even bourgeois Uruguay saw power shifts to the Leftists, for whom ‘statism’ was the war cry. Rafael Correa, in Ecuador, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales were Chávez’s most fervent copycats, riding roughshod over their national parliaments, supreme courts and constitutions, on the hallowed altar of ‘anti-imperialism’.

Only Chile and Colombia resisted the temptation and stuck, more or less, to credible, transparent democracy.

So, regardless of a commodities boom in which mineral-rich South America should have been a major winner, the countries that followed in the ranting demagogue’s wake – surging Brazil apart – have merely experienced corruption, inflation and dire shortages.

Naturally, Chávez’s defenders will insist he purged the country of just such malaises orchestrated by the old, Rightist cabal, which is partially true. What they don’t say is that he was the architect of an entirely new repertoire of repression, which saw the crime rate – particularly murders – soar unimaginably.

And, as always with neo-Marxist polemicists, there was always a convenient scapegoat for a country’s self-inflicted ills.

As Cristina Kirchner presides of Argentina’s woeful economy, she shifts blame to Britain’s refusal to negotiate away the Falkland Islands, while Morales goes ballistic about territory lost to Chile in the 19th century.

This behaviour is the hallmark of the autocrat and Chávez based the template for Latin America on the Fidel Castro model.

Unsurprisingly, then, he chose pariah allies…Iran, North Korea, Syria, the local states he urged to go beyond the democratic fringe and Ken Livingstone, when, as mayor of London in 2000, he welcomed Chávez, declaring he was ‘the best news out of Latin America in many years’.

If a person is judged by the friends they keep, such company speaks volumes for Hugo Chávez.

And so, too, were the enemies he cherry-picked, principally the Great Satan to the North, the USA, at whose door Venezuela’s many ills were laid. The first President Bush was tarred a ‘monkey’, the second a’devil’.

Almost with his dying breath Chávez underscored his scorn for Western values when he ordered the expulsion of a US diplomat from Caracas, as he scurried back and forth from Havana for medical aid, while teetering on the precipice of the hereafter.

The Commandante also despised the International Monetary Fund, the ‘rich’, and the then Columbian leader, Álvaro Uribe, for taming the Chavez-back Maoist insurgents of FARC and introducing a reformist, liberal agenda.

So who can claim surprise that Chávez’s lackies are crying foul and a claiming a dastardly plot was behind the death of their sainted leader, a great man of the people for the people, who conveniently forgot his people?

All I know is: don’t blame me. I was watching Jack Branning duffing up Phil Mitchell at the time. But if the Queen Vic was a real pub, I’d be in it…drinking a toast to one less bullyboy stalking the planet.

It’s only ‘Hasta la vista, baby’…Hillary deserves to return as Madam President

Rarely do American Secretaries of State leave their mark as indelibly as the man behind the Oval Office desk. Most retire into obscurity and, apart from rare exceptions – perhaps remembered more for ineptitude than diplomacy – few leave a legacy of achievement to match that of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Naturally, no-one can hold public office without detractors and the legion of Hillary-bashers will continue deriding her as, variously, The Wicked Witch of the West Wing, Shrillery, The Bride of Clintonstein and worse.

Unforgiving feminist ultras will also ceaselessly attack her for sticking like a *dingleberry to her philandering hubby, Slick Willy, during a presidency frequently mired by scandal and tales too tall, they’d shame Baron Munchausen.

Somehow, though, both Clintons redeemed themselves and even Bill has reclaimed a measure of affection most thought unimaginable, especially after his outrageous claim that although Monika Lewinsky had sex with him, it wasn’t reciprocal (‘Ah wuz enjoin’ a ci-gar at the time,’ was his laughable excuse).

Hillary, meantime, was said to have only been given the job as US foreign minister by Barack Obama to stop her having a hissy fit after the ugly mud-slinging of the Democratic Party’s joust between the pair for the presidential nomination.

Without any prior diplomatic experience – except as hostess to foreign dignitaries in her eight years as First Lady – she was tipped to be a lame duck and cannon-fodder for the State Department mandarins.

Except, no siree, she wasn’t. In fact, she was anything but. And, though guile, charm, acute perception and hard-nosed determination, she refashioned American foreign policy following the gung-ho era of G ‘Dubya’ Bush – despite Obama making it transparent from Day One of his term the US would no longer be the world’s cop.

If anything, she has consistently outshone and outperformed her aloof Commander In Chief, leaving him exposed as more professorial more presidential, a ditherer not a doer, or – to use grid-iron football parlance – a quarterback who can’t deliver a Hail Mary, killer pass.

So, while Obama pondered, Hillary ploughed on, enduring one of the roughest, toughest rides of any Secretary of State.

Because, in stark contrast to the certainties of a Cold War nuclear stalemate between the West and the communist East, the world has disintegrated into an unpredictable, shifting morass, where – as Mali has just shown – conflict could ignite anywhere almost without warning.

As the old, secular dictatorial order throughout the Middle East tumbled like dominoes in a gale, Hillary gamely sought to maintain US influence on new regimes, mainly as anti-democratic as those they deposed, even if they gained power via the ballot box.

Undeniably, she was slow in confronting the Arab Spring, which overthrew Mubarak in Egypt, hoping against hope – reflecting the aspirations of all freedom-seekers – a tenable, democratic government would ensue, after the bloody sacrifices of the students and middle-classes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Instead, it heralded the dawn of the repugnant Muslim Brotherhood and is plunging the nation into fresh turmoil.

But, through Hillary, America sub-contracted assistance to the anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya to Britain and France, and wisely stayed out Syria’s civil war, where there’s every likelihood the opposition will replace Assad’s secular tyranny with Sharia-based despotism.

She also did her damnedest to bring sanity to prevail over the Israel-Palestine impasse. But Muslim Brotherhood cohorts, Hamas, only want to obliterate the Jewish state and fork-tongued Fatah, on the West Bank, can’t get their thick heads round the benefits of a peace dividend.

MADAM PRESIDENT? Hillary would be a shoe-in for the White House in 2016

MADAM PRESIDENT? Hillary would be a shoe-in for the White House in 2016

Meanwhile, Hillary urged Burma’s military to edge its way to democratic reforms, convinced China of the wisdom of distancing itself from the lunatic North Koreans and airbrushed nationalistic Russia off the diplomatic map, except where the pariahs of Syria are concerned.

And throughout all this, she had to deal with a United Nations General Assembly united on only one principle: its vehement hostility to the West (unless they were talking hand-outs).

Hillary also did her best in trying give the purblind Iranians a way to have nuclear power, minus a nuclear bomb, but there’s only so long anyone can be expected bang their head on a mosque wall.

Hence, there was never a more propitious time for her to quit office than now.

The US has all but exited Iraq and Afghanistan is on the back burner in relative diplomatic terms, after she forced Obama to agree to General David Petaeus’s ‘surge’ against the Taliban.

Whatever happens next to a Kabul regime so blighted by corruption, it make Spain’s money-grubbing sleazebags seem like choirboys, is up to her successor, newly-appointed, John Kerry.

Small wonder the former senator says, ‘I’ve got big high heels to fill.’

As an addendum, it’s well known within the Washington Beltway that taking out Osama bin Laden was at Hill’s behest. Again, Mr. President was a pretty passive bystander, not that it will inhibit him from claiming the credit.

So, after flying a million miles in US – and Western – interests, is it goodbye or just hasta la vista, baby for Madam C?

The political runes point to a ‘No’. On the contrary, with three years before the holographic reign of Obama fades away, if her health holds out, Hillary should be a shoe-in as the Democrats choice for the 2016 White House race, even aged 69 – a year younger than Ronald Reagan when he became President.

The world has witnessed Hillary Clinton as the consummate politico-cum-diplomatic high-achiever and the notion of a second Clinton in charge of America is making the Republicans wince.

After the debacle of Mitt Romney’s failure, their anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-immigrant philosophy is an auto wreck. It plays to no-one but the red necks, mainly in the old Confederate South and, as they’ll begrudgingly admit themselves, their antediluvian opinions don’t count for a mess of beans.

As Lloyd Green, former research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign, says, ‘Unlike her husband, Hillary is personally disciplined. Unlike Barack Obama, she has demonstrated an ability to connect with beer-track voters across the country.’

But will her gender be an impediment to her landing the ultimate office in the land? Not a bit, say pollsters, who reckon Romney’s lack of appeal to female voters was another reasons for his undoing.

So way to go, Hill, as the Yanks would say.

*Dingleberry: A small ball of excrement that sticks to the wool of a sheep’s backside (Dictionary of Slang)