You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ tag.

Last Friday’s post was about the friction between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge but also Palace staff. (You can read my first post on them here.)

There were other signs that the Sussexes were a rather unusual Royal couple, which might have tainted the public’s opinion of them.

Political ambitions

Just days after their wedding in May 2018, Sebastian Shakespeare wrote an article for the Mail, ‘Why Meghan Markle for President isn’t crazy’ (emphases mine):

Meghan Markle is said to have told a former close associate that her ultimate ambition is to be president of the U.S. The conversation apparently took place after Meghan began her romance with Prince Harry.

‘Meghan was quite clear that she wanted to be president one day,’ the source claims.

It may sound fanciful, but the new Duchess of Sussex has held the ambition since she was a little girl. In 2015, she reportedly told the journalist Piers Morgan that she had not always sought showbusiness success.

‘As a kid, I wanted to be either the president or a news broadcaster like you,’ she told him …

And the claim appears to have caused consternation at Kensington Palace yesterday, with the Duchess giving her official spokesman permission to take the unusual step of issuing a public denial.

‘This conversation you describe with an associate is fictitious,’ the spokesman insisted.

I am, though, not the only one to hear rumours that Meghan still holds political ambitions.

Former Times editor Sir Simon Jenkins says: ‘Her friends and associates affirm that she is a political animal.

‘Such is her fame, she could perfectly well follow a route taken by a certain Ronald Reagan. She might lead for the Democrats against a Republican Ivanka Trump. All I can say is, why not?’

On November 17, 2018, the Duchess practised interfaith outreach in an official visit to a mosque near Kensington Palace:

PJ Media reported on the visit a week later, taking their source from The Telegraph:

In yet another shocking failure in a long line of interfaith outreach by Western governments since 9/11, The Daily Telegraph reports today that the American-born Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has been recently promoting a program associated with the notorious Al-Manaar mosque not far from Kensington Palace. The mosque has produced as many as nineteen terrorists — including “Jihadi John” and his Islamic State “Beatles” who tortured and beheaded Western captives in Syria.

The duchess has helped raise more than $250,000 for the Hubb Community Kitchen operated out of the mosque by promoting a cookbook that royal press agents have billed as celebrating “the power of cooking to bring communities together” …

The Grenfell Tower fire had taken place in June 2017, one of the worst blazes in London in decades. It is still spoken of today. Much community rebuilding had to be done, so one can understand that, but, according to The Telegraph, the Duchess had made earlier, ‘secret visits’ to the mosque:

In February it emerged the 37-year-old royal had made secret visits to the mosque in Westbourne Grove, which has also hosted Princes William and Harry, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in recent months.

An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), the anti-extremism think tank, has linked the mosque, opened by Prince Charles in 2001, to 19 jihadists, including Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John.

Research by the HJS suggests the mosque was once attended by three of the four “Beatles”, the Isil terror cell charged with guarding, torturing and killing hostages in Syria and Iraq. As well as Emwazi, Choukri Ellekhlifi, Alexanda Kotey and Aine Davis, all from west London, also have links with Al Manaar.

PJ Media pointed out that ITV News had also picked up on the Duchess’s prior visits:

An ITV News report earlier this week reported that the duchess has made numerous unreported visits to the notorious mosque in recent months:

Also:

The Sun reported last night that Kensington Palace was trying to distance Markle from the mosque, claiming that the community kitchen housed in the mosque is an independent project.

But this does raise questions about how royal officials decided to promote an effort so closely tied to the Al-Mannar mosque when reports going back to 2014 chronicled the role that the mosque played in the radicalization of “Jihadi John” and the ISIS “Beatles.”

The move to Frogmore Cottage: strain with the Cambridges

As my post from Friday says, by the time the wedding took place, many Palace staff as well as the Cambridges saw too much tension and outbursts involving the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It could no longer be contained.

On November 23, 2018, The Sun reported that the Sussexes were leaving Kensington Palace for the 10-bedroom Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the Windsor estate:

The brothers have always been incredibly close, but Harry and Meghan are setting up their home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Queen has given them Frogmore Cottage, which is having a multi-million pound refit paid for by the taxpayer.

It will provide ten bedrooms and a nursery for their baby, due in April. The couple are expected to move in next year.

A royal source said: “The initial plan was for Harry and Meghan to move out of their cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace and into one of the main apartments.

“But there has been a bit of tension between the brothers.

“Now Harry and Meghan don’t want to live next to William and Kate and want to strike out on their own.”

The cosy cottage the pair currently live in as previously home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before the couple moved into a 20-room apartment inside the palace.

They need more room and hope Frogmore Cottage will be ready in time for when they have the baby.”

Frogmore Cottage needs major building work to turn it back into a luxury family home, boasting 10 bedrooms & a new nursery plus space for a gym & yoga studio.

Currently it’s been chopped up into 5 units where palace staff have been living.

News of Meghan and Harry’s decision to leave Kensington Palace comes weeks after it was first reported that Harry and William would have separate courts in the future instead of using Kensington Palace as a joint office for them.

Nearly a year later, on August 27, 2019, The Sun reported that the Sussexes actually wanted to live in Windsor Castle, but the Queen said no:

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry wanted to move in with his grandparents and set up home in Windsor Castle, reports say.

It’s claimed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex asked the Queen if living quarters in the historic castle could be made available for them after they were married but the answer was a firm ‘no’, so they went on to renovate Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the estate …

The original castle in Berkshire dates back to the 11th century when construction was started following the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror.

Since the time of Henry I it has been used by the reigning monarch.

Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the 13th century which were later expanded upon by Edward III.

Frogmore Cottage, in the grounds of Frogmore House on the royal estate, was built in 1801.

On Christmas Day 2018, The Sun reported that all seemed to be well between the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex at Sandringham:

MEGHAN Markle placed a hand on Kate Middleton’s back in a show of unity as they today brushed aside rumours of a rift for a Christmas Day church service.

The sisters-in-law were all smiles as they joined the royal family at Sandringham for the annual service this morning.

And Meghan and Kate brushed off feud rumours as the former actress placed a hand on the Duchess of Cambridge’s back as they appeared to share a joke.

The pregnant Duchess of Sussex looked radiant in a navy £2,250 Victoria Beckham coat with £1,350 black boots as she held tightly to Prince Harry’s arm.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who wore a £3,000 red Catherine Walker coat and £650 burgundy “Halo Band” made by milliner Jane Taylor, walked apart from Prince William.

Kate teamed the festive look with matching gloves and a clutch bag, while the Queen was vibrant in a grey feathered hat and jacket with a bright pink trim.

Three weeks later, in January 2019, royal reporters were none the wiser about whether a feud was actually taking place.

On January 17 that year, The Daily Caller reported:

According to new reports by royal insiders Katie Nicholl and Leslie Carroll, the Duchesses may not be as at odds as we were previously led to believe.

Contrary to mainstream narratives pushed over the past several weeks, Markle and Middleton may not be feuding as much as  just feeling each other out.

“When [Prince] Harry met Meghan [as] the relationship was progressing, he was really keen to get Kate’s stamp of approval,” Nicholl tells ETOnline. “He wanted them to be close as sisters-in-law. I think they’re still in an early stage of their relationship.”

And while there very well could be some jealousy, that doesn’t necessarily equate hard feelings.

“Possibly, Kate does feel a little eclipsed by Meghan, who’s just come along to such huge media interests, public interests and being so successful from the start,” Nicholl added.

Of course, Harry and Meghan’s decision to move out of Kensington Palace this year — a rare decision for the Royal Family, who usually resides together at the palace during most of the year — fanned the flames of a rumored feud. It didn’t help that a report that Middleton left a meeting with Markle in tears before her May wedding quickly dominated headlines for weeks …

For what it’s worth, Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, isn’t buying the candy-coated reporting.

“People forget Meghan is an LA girl,” Seward suggested. “It’s very different for her to suddenly come here and marry into the royal family…I think Meghan thought she had an ally in Kate…Kate was pregnant and unwell. And then she had a new baby. So she couldn’t give Meghan the attention she expected. And I think that’s when things started to sour.”

So is it a case of misunderstanding? Or did the two women get off on the wrong foot? We’ll have to wait and see…

On February 5, The Daily Caller told its readers that it was Princes Harry and William who were allegedly feuding, not their wives:

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton’s alleged feud is reportedly really between Prince Harry and Prince William after the eldest offered some “brotherly advice.”

It reportedly happened when Prince William shared that he was “quite concerned that the relationship [with the Duchess of Sussex] has moved so quickly,” Katie Nicholl said in a clip from TLC’s “Kate v. Meghan: Princesses at War,” per E! News Monday. 

And that “‘You know, this seems to be moving quickly. Are you sure?’ And I think what was meant as well-intended brotherly advice, just riled Harry,” she added.

That advice reportedly translated to Harry that William wasn’t behind his decision to marry Meghan Markle.

Nicholl continued, “Harry is hugely protective of Meghan. He saw that as criticism. He interpreted that as his brother not really being behind this marriage. And I don’t think things have been quite right ever since.”

However, royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell explained that the alleged distance between the brothers is all about Markle’s influence on her husband.

“Everything I hear is that Harry is completely beguiled by Meghan, and completely enthralled to her and has changed considerably,” Lady Campbell shared.

Baby Archie

On March 4, 2019, Gateway Pundit‘s Niall McCrae didn’t sit on the fence when discussing the Duchess of Sussex’s baby shower:

Keep your seatbelts on, folks. According to Vanity Fair, Meghan revealed at her baby shower that her imminently expected will be raised as a gender-fluid child. Of course, this was denied by Buckingham Palace. But nobody would be surprised if this progressive princess, supported by her widely popular and slightly wild husband Harry, fully meant what she allegedly said.

It was predictable from the outset that Meghan would be a wrong ‘un (should anyone imply such inference, I attribute none of this to her ethnicity or American nationality, which freshen the Windsorhood). She is the epitome of the self-righteous, virtue-signalling, celebrity social justice warrior. Narcissistic Meghan wants to emulate and exceed Diana, and ensure that in future movies she will be not the actress but the actual heroine.

Never being a fan of Diana, my response to her untimely death in 1997 was coolly detached as I saw all those flowers, all those personal messages from people who never met her. However, Diana obviously fulfilled a need in society, and the outpouring of grief after the tragedy marked a turning point in British culture, from the traditional stiff upper lip to open emoting. As Tony Blair said when taking office earlier that year, ‘A new dawn has broken, has it not?’

We all wish Meghan and Harry a healthy and happy child. A boy is rumored, and perhaps that explains the gender fluidity. As a devout feminist, Meghan would probably be less keen on undermining the sex of a daughter: instead, she would be raised a strong female, preparing to right the wrongs of the patriarchal world.

On Monday, May 6, The Independent reported on ancient rules regarding royal custody of grandchildren. Keep in mind that this now pertains to King Charles:

… there is a fascinating law in place that means that Prince Harry and Meghan may not always have full legal custody of their child.

More than three centuries ago, a law was enacted that means the sovereign has full legal custody of their minor grandchildren, royal expert Marlene Koenig explains.

The law, called “The Grand Opinion for the Prerogative Concerning the Royal Family,” was introduced by King George I in 1717.

“George I did not get along with his son, the future George II,” Koenig tells The Independent.

“I believe it came about when the Prince of Wales [George II] did not want to have the godparent for his son that his father wanted – so George I got Parliament to come up with something.”

This means that when Charles, Prince of Wales becomes sovereign, he will have custody of his minor grandchildren.

According to Koenig, issues surrounding the law arose in 1994 when Diana, Princess of Wales separated from Prince Charles.

Diana expressed wishes to take their sons, Harry and William, to live with her in Australia, but couldn’t due to the regulations laid out by the custody law

Hmmm …

CNN tries to trap Trump on Markle

On June 1, CNN tried to trap President Trump into saying that the Duchess was ‘nasty’. Instead, he said (29-second point in the video):

No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.

Here’s the full exchange:

Another Twitter user, since deleted, observed — nearly correctly:

List of women Trump has used the word “nasty” to describe: -Hillary Clinton -Nancy Pelosi -Meghan Markle -Kamala Harris -San Juan mayor -Danish prime minister.

August 2019: the turning point

Valentine Low, the author of 2022’s best-seller Courtiers, tells us that, by August 2019, things were unravelling quickly for the Sussexes, who already had a US PR team lined up:

By August 2019, things were “awful and tense” within the Sussex household. There were also clues that Harry and Meghan did not see their long-term future as working members of the royal family. Their Africa tour was coming up, but there was nothing in the diary after that. Meanwhile, staff were increasingly aware of the presence in the background of Meghan’s business manager, Andrew Meyer, and her lawyer, Rick Genow, as well as her agent, Nick Collins, and Keleigh Thomas Morgan of Sunshine Sachs. The US team had been very busy, working on deals not only with Netflix but also a deal for Harry’s mental health series for Apple+ with Oprah Winfrey and Meghan’s voiceover for a Disney film about elephants.

The most the public knew at the time was that the Queen had arranged for the couple to go on a tour of Africa, as part of a goodwill sign towards the Commonwealth countries there:

While preparing for the Africa tour, the team was trying to persuade the couple that it would be appropriate to do an interview with the British media. Sam Cohen suggested Tom Bradby of ITV, who already had a relationship with Harry. Meghan was reluctant at first. Her attention was focused on the prospect of doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey. After thinking about it, however, Harry said they would agree. There was one proviso: he and Meghan could not do interviews together or be in the same shot. That would go against their deal with Oprah, which at that point was slated for the autumn of that year. (It eventually went ahead more than a year later, in March 2021.)

The Express was on to the Sussexes at that time.

On Saturday, July 28, the paper reported that the Sussexes’ job vacancies were no longer on the Clarence House recruitment site:

The American and the Duke of Sussex are no longer listed on the recruitment page of Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles’ website. Prince William and wife Kate however, remain there. One family friend said of Harry: “He wants to control everything and everyone he’s involved with. How he’s going to pay for it is another question.”

Under the recruitment tab of the Clarence House website vacancies are listed for staff keen to work for Charles and Camilla and the Cambridges.

Regardless of there being any vacancies available, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were listed at the top of the site, along with Charles, Camilla, William and Kate.

The couple are no longer there.

The suspicion the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now split from Prince Charles on his website also raises questions about funding.

The costs of Harry’s office and his royal duties are met by a stipend from the Prince of Wales.

Between them Harry and William share about £4million a year, with the lion’s share going to the direct heir to the throne.

But without his father’s support, Harry would have to turn to the Queen for funding – and she already has a lengthy list of people to support.

Meghan and Kate seemed to have patched up their differences with a visit to Wimbledon this summer.

But Meghan and Harry aides sparked outrage when it emerged there were rules on how to approach them in Windsor.

The Sun reports neighbours are advised against initiating conversations with the couple.

However, if Meghan or Harry start a discussion they are welcome to exchange pleasantries with the young couple.

They are also asked not to play with the couples’ dogs or request to see their baby, the report claims.

On Thursday, August 1, The Express had a follow-up article:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made big changes in their lives during recent months as they simultaneously became parents for the first time. The royal couple split from their charity partnership with Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge in January. Three months later it was announced Prince Harry would team up with US talk show legend Oprah Winfrey on a new TV series about mental health.

This was followed by the birth of their first son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 6, 2019.

Since then, Meghan and Harry have planned a forthcoming royal visit to South Africa in autumn.

They also raised eyebrows after citing their intention to raise Archie as a “private citizen” despite him being seventh-in-line to the throne.

The royal baby lives with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at their Windsor Estate home where they can maintain strict privacy …

Her mum, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles where she is a yoga instructor.

Doria has crossed the pond to visit her daughter and grandson but a royal expert has now revealed Meghan may be looking to set up house over there.

Emily Andrews told Yahoo’s The Royal Box the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may well purchase a property in the USA for work and personal reasons

The royal expert did not suggest that any purchase would mean a permanent move to the United States

She and Harry are expected to travel to the Queen’s official Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, along with other senior royals this summer.

The idyllic holiday home becomes the Queen’s two-month break from royal duties every July and August.

Vogue

On August 2, Meghan’s issue of Vogue that she had guest-edited appeared on the shelves.

The Spectator rightly objected to the Duchess’s perceptions of life. She appears to think that it’s not what you do that matters, it’s what you look like that counts. Look at Harry in the photo — a completely different person:

The issue featured the Duchess’s supposed heroines.

Author and journalist Douglas Murray wrote about it for UnHerd‘Meghan and Harry are playing a dangerous game’:

… Meghan Markle, otherwise known as the Duchess of Sussex, has guest-edited the September edition of Vogue. The contents of the issue are perhaps unsurprising. As well as inevitably celebrating prominent women, such as the teenaged school truant Greta Thunberg, the Duchess has also set out to prove that women don’t need men to give them status. Something she has done by including an interview with her husband, Prince Harry.

This in itself has drawn a certain amount of comment, and will not have calmed fears some people had that a highly political figure marrying into the nation’s most necessarily non-politically opinionated family might cause problems down the line. The fact that Meghan Markle’s pre-Harry politics might be best described as ‘woke’ is in some ways unimportant – a prominent Donald Trump-supporting Republican marrying into the Royal Family would raise similar concerns, to say the least.

The worry was that Prince Harry’s marriage to Ms Markle would end up tipping him towards her political path, fears that will not have been calmed by his appearance in the high-end fashion magazine. In the royally-guest-edited issue, Prince Harry talks about a number of things, the headline-grabber being his claim that he and his wife would not have more than two children because of its impact on the environment and climate change …

It is the Prince’s follow-up comments, however, that dish up the problem, less for his audience than for the Prince himself. Watching Prince Harry beginning to play the game of identifying ‘unconscious bias’ is like gazing at a hapless amateur juggling with loaded pistols; it is enough to make any well-disposed person want to scream “Stop” and seize the guns from his unsuspecting hands.

The comments appear in a conversation between the Prince and primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, on the subject of what humans can learn from chimpanzees. At one point Dr Goodall says that children do not notice skin colour, to which Harry adds: “But again, just as stigma is handed down from generation to generation, your perspective on the world and on life and on people is something that is taught to you. It’s learned from your family, learned from the older generation, or from advertising, from your environment.” Well perhaps …

One of the most extreme forms of – generally unconscious – bias that people demonstrate throughout their lives is towards attractive people, and not only in the selection of partners. Study after study shows that good-looking men and women stand a better chance of promotion in their chosen field of work than people who are average-looking or actively unattractive.

For instance, it may be carefully suggested that the editor of September’s issue of Vogue would not be editing September’s edition of Vogue if, rather than the acclaimed beauty she is, she looked rather more like a member of the Addams family. Or indeed an average-looking member of the general public. There may be many reasons why Prince Harry requested Meghan Markle’s hand in marriage, but her looks must have – consciously or otherwise – at least counted in her favour on the way to the altar.

Another form of bias that people express throughout their lives – again, consciously or otherwise – might be an inclination towards someone who is financially or socially secure. I should never want to accuse a Duchess – or any other member of the Royal Family – of any variety of bias. And yet it seems possible that in her search for a husband Ms Markle may have demonstrated some form of bias (unconscious or otherwise) towards thrones and their heirs. I will put the point no stronger. But in her search for love, Ms Markle must have met many people. Perhaps she met many princes and mingled with many a duke. But it is striking, at the very least, that of all the people who appeared across her path, the one she ended up marrying in a low-key ceremony at Windsor Castle happened to be the second son of the Prince of Wales.

Balmoral no-show — part 1

It was a given that the Royals joined the Queen during her summer holiday at Balmoral and participated in her favourite country pursuits.

However, the Duchess was fussy.

On August 11, The Sun reported:

MEGHAN Markle might fake a headache to avoid taking part in blood sports when she visits the Queen in Balmoral, a royal expert has claimed.

Sports like hunting and fly fishing are much-loved group activities at the Queen’s summer retreat in the Scottish highlands.

With a 50,000 acre estate comprising of grouse moors, forestry and farmland, animals to hunt are in no short supply in Balmoral.

But the Duchess of Sussex, 38, who follows a vegan diet during the week, isn’t a fan of hunting – despite her husband Prince Harry being taught from a young age.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, royal editor Robert Jobson said: “Meghan, however, who rather disapproves of such blood sports, may choose to feign a headache.”

BBQs and picnics are thought to take place daily at Balmoral, regardless of the Scottish weather, as the royals are so fond of all things outdoorsy.

“It is hunting which is perhaps the biggest passion”, Robert added of the royal hobby, which includes shooting birds and deer.

“Her Majesty shot her last stag in 1983 near to the Spittal of Glenmuick, in a spot that is now called The Queen’s Corry.

“But she still attends shoots and drove Kate to a grouse shoot when the couple visited a couple of years ago.”

This I did not know. Wow:

The Queen was taught to stalk deer by her late cousin, and best friend, Margaret Rhodes.

Returning now to Meghan:

Earlier this week, a source told Fabulous pescatarian Meghan would try fly fishing to appease her father-in-law Prince Charles.

They added: “But there will no softening on Meghan’s stance against hunting, any stag or deer hunting fills her with horror.

“Venison will not be one of her menu choices for sure.”

However, the Queen was also fussy. And, after all, Balmoral was her estate.

Five days later, on August 16, The Sun told us that Her Majesty despised ripped jeans and wedge heels. Meghan loves both:

It has been reported that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will make their first trip to the Scottish castle this summer, but the Queen has her firm views on correct attire.

Speaking to Fabulous Digital, the source said: “The Queen is no favourite of jeans so the US boyfriend look and ripped jeans will be left in Frogmore Cottage along with any wedges which her Majesty hates with a passion.”

Meghan Markle has often demonstrated she is a fan of wearing denim, and recently caused a stir when she showed up at Wimbledon wearing jeans …

It is thought this year Meghan will visit the castle for the first time, where the Sussexes will be given their own wing, as well as enjoying a traditional afternoon tea with Her Maj.

A source told the Sun on Sunday: “The Queen and Prince Philip adore the couple and, of course, their new great-grandson Archie, and they have invited them to Balmoral for a few days.

“It is testament to Meghan that she has been given this invite. It’s a huge honour.”

However, they did not go, according to the Mail‘s September 6 report:

aides insisted the Sussexes were too busy working on charitable projects to join the Queen at Balmoral this weekend

There had been rumours that the Sussexes would be joining the monarch at Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands this week with their baby son Archie.

But while most of the Royal Family have made the long trek up to Aberdeenshire, Harry and Meghan actually have no plans to fly to Scotland at all.

Sources close to the couple insist that the decision should not be seen as a ‘snub’ – and Harry only rarely goes up to the Queen’s Deeside estate nowadays.

The US Open

Instead, the Duchess made plans to fly to New York to see her friend Serena Williams compete at the US Open.

Serena Williams was said to be hesitant as she lost at Wimbledon when the Duchess was in the stands:

Despite the long flight and a stressful delay for Meghan, sources have claimed that Williams’ coaches aren’t massively thrilled that the Duchess has come to support her friend, as she could distract her from the game in hand.

They are said to be concerned due to the fact that Williams lost when Meghan attended her last match at Wimbledon.

A source told Page Six: ‘Serena asked her coach about Meghan coming when she won last night and everyone is worried, as tennis players are very superstitious, and Serena lost when Meghan came to watch her at Wimbledon.’

The source added that Williams’ aides were concerned that the trip was a publicity stunt.

However Williams is said to ‘adore’ Meghan and ‘wouldn’t have a word of it’.  

It is not yet known where in New York Meghan will be staying and who she will be staying with, however she is thought to have flown first class for the two-day trip across the Atlantic.    

It comes just days after her husband spoke out about sustainable travel at an environmentally-friendly tourism event in Amsterdam. 

And last month he is understood to have given a passionate barefoot speech about saving the planet at Google’s £16million climate change summit in Sicily.

Meghan’s 7,000 mile journey to New York and back is expected to generate 986kg of carbon dioxide

The article has a helpful map showing all seven flights that the Sussexes took between August 6 and September 6 in Europe.

Harry excused his flights as follows:

He took a scheduled flight to Amsterdam this week to promote Travalyst, a scheme for environmentally-friendly tourism.

Speaking at the event, the prince refused to apologise for his recent private flights, saying: ‘I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial.

‘Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity [to fly privately] based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe – it’s as simple as that. 

‘For me it’s about balance. It’s not a decision I would want to take, but if I have to do that, I will ensure that I balance out the impact that I have.’ 

Harry dismissed concerns over his carbon footprint by insisting that he ‘offsets’ his emissions by donating to renewable energy incentives and planting trees. 

Returning to tennis, it seems that Serena Williams’s coaches were correct. Meghan’s presence and Williams’s loss coincided, as the Mail told us on September 8:

Tennis fans have accused Meghan Markle of jinxing Serena Williams last night as she watched the tennis star lose and fail to secure an historic 24th Grand Slam at the US Open, just months after she attended Williams’ defeat at Wimbledon.

The Duchess of Sussex, 38, was called a ‘bad luck charm,’ with fans citing the resounding loss at the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep and the year before at SW19 to Angelique Kerber.

The Royal was the centre of attention in New York as she watched with Williams’ mother Oracene Price but the pair were left disappointed as the former number one was beaten 6-3, 7-5, by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Balmoral no-show — part 2

As for Balmoral, the Mail article continued:

Prince Harry and Meghan’s absence from the trip has left Her Majesty ‘hurt and disappointed,’ the Mail on Sunday understands, at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together at her favourite time of the year.

The Queen is already said to be ‘baffled’ by Meghan and Harry’s inability to steer clear of PR calamities, and is concerned that her beloved grandson and his new wife are failing to listen to their team of advisers.

On September 8, The Sun told us:

THE QUEEN was left “hurt and disappointed” when Meghan Markle skipped visiting Balmoral in favour of her last-minute trip to New York over the weekend.

In opting for the US Open instead:

she snubbed the Queen’s invite to attend the Highland Games – something that proved a disappointment according to royal insiders.

The Mail on Sunday described the move as an “outright snub” adding that Her Majesty “is ‘hurt and disappointed’ at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together.”

According to insiders the monarch had been looking forward to “a few days of merry chaos” with her great-grandchildren, including Archie who is still yet to visit the Queen’s summer home with Harry and Meghan claiming he is “too young.”

While Meghan was watching Serena Williams:

the Queen was joined by Prince Charles and Camilla at the Braemar Gathering Highland Games on Saturday …

The Queen is currently staying at her nearby summer residence Balmoral where she last night hosted Boris Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds.

But the Prime Minister was forced to cut short the anticipated weekend-long visit after a turbulent week.

One week later on September 16, The Express reported:

The Queen “does not want to talk about the Sussexes” according to claims from a royal insider. People spending time with Her Majesty, 93, have reportedly been told not to mention Meghan Markle or Prince Harry. Leading royal expert Quentin Letts tweeted the bombshell remark this week, claiming it was the only subject that was strictly banned from discussion.

That is really bad.

As the King would say, ‘Dear, oh dear’.

The article continues:

Letts tweeted on Friday: “Friend of an acquaintance was about to go riding with HMQ.

Was given v firm advice ‘Talk about anything except one subject.’ Brexit? ‘No, The Sussexes.'”

This comes after claims of clashes within the royal family.

The Queen was reportedly left “deeply disappointed” by Meghan and Harry’s hostile behaviour.

Several royal sources claimed the monarch was not impressed with the way Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have acted since marrying last year.

She is reportedly “disappointed” with their behaviour as representatives of the British monarchy around the world.

There is plenty more to come about the Sussexes. Stay tuned.

Advertisement

The first part of my series on former Health Secretary Matt Hancock can be found here.

It summarises where he is today, having finished third in a British reality show in Australia for a cool £400,000 and deciding not to run again as MP for West Suffolk.

It details the first months of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, through to the end of April as the news covered it.

To offer balance, today’s post covers the same period in Hancock’s own words. He has just published his Pandemic Diaries, which he co-authored with former Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

Isabel Oakeshott’s view

Not being able to imagine who on earth would want to collaborate on a book with our historically authoritarian Health Secretary who left his wife in June 2021 for his adviser/girlfriend, I was interested to read Oakeshott’s justification in The Spectator, posted on December 7, 2022.

Excerpts from ‘The truth about Matt Hancock’ follow, emphases mine:

Matt Hancock and I have almost nothing in common. For starters I’m terrified of spiders and hopelessly squeamish. I physically retched as I watched him eating unmentionables in the Australian jungle. Far more importantly, we fundamentally disagree over his handling of the pandemic …

This country paid a catastrophic price for what I see as a reckless overreaction to a disease that was only life-threatening to a small number of people who could have been protected without imprisoning the entire population. As each day passes, more evidence emerges that shutting down society for prolonged periods to ‘stop the spread’ and ‘protect the NHS’ was a monumental disaster.

Hancock, obviously, disagrees. The Rt Hon Member for West Suffolk is not just unrepentant: he still wholeheartedly believes that as health secretary during the pandemic, he made all the right calls. He is utterly scathing of anyone who argues that repeated lockdowns were avoidable; does not have the slightest doubt over any aspect of the government’s vaccine policy; and thinks anyone who believes any other approach to the pandemic was either realistic or desirable is an idiot.

How then could I have worked with him on his book about the pandemic? Some of my lockdown confidantes suggested it was a betrayal and that he should be punished, perhaps viciously so.

I wanted to get to the truth. What better way to find out what really happened – who said what to whom; the driving force and thinking behind key policies and decisions; who (if anyone) dissented; and how they were crushed – than to align myself with the key player? I might not get the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but I’d certainly get a good dollop of it, and a keen sense of anything murky requiring further investigation.

In the event, Hancock shared far more than I could ever have imagined. I have viewed thousands and thousands of sensitive government communications relating to the pandemic, a fascinating and very illuminating exercise. I was not paid a penny for this work, but the time I spent on the project – almost a year – was richly rewarding in other ways. Published this week, co-authored by me, Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries are the first insider account from the heart of government of the most seismic political, economic and public health crisis of our times.

I am not so naive as to imagine that he told me everything. However, since he still does not believe he did anything wrong, he was surprisingly inclined to disclosure. In an indication of how far he was prepared to go, the Cabinet Office requested almost 300 deletions and amendments to our original manuscript. Under pressure from me and out of his own desire that the book should be both entertaining and revelatory, to his credit, Hancock fought hard to retain as much controversial material as he could. The resulting work is twice as long as I originally intended, and half the length he wanted it to be.

Pandemic Diaries: January to April 2020

The Mail has been serialising Pandemic Diaries over the past week.

Excerpts from the first exclusive extract follow, beginning on New Year’s Day 2020.

Wednesday, January 1:

Standing in my kitchen in Suffolk after a quiet New Year’s Eve, I scanned my newspaper for clues as to what might be lurking around the corner. The only thing on my patch was a news-in-brief story about a mystery pneumonia outbreak in China.

There were enough people in hospital for Beijing to have put out an alert. It reminded me a bit of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) back in 2003, which killed hundreds, mainly in China and Hong Kong. I asked my private office to put together a briefing and made a mental note to raise it when I got back.

Sunday, January 5:

There are now 59 cases in China; seven of these patients are seriously ill with breathing problems.

Tuesday, January 7, when Parliament had returned from Christmas recess:

I found the PM [Boris] in the voting lobby looking like he’d had a good Christmas and revelling in all the congratulatory back slaps from colleagues. We walked through the lobby together, and I told him about the new disease.

‘You keep an eye on it,’ he said breezily. ‘It will probably go away like all the others.’

In more trivial news, a picture of my Union Jack socks has somehow gone viral after I was pictured on my way into Cabinet yesterday. My old university friend and communications specialist Gina Coladangelo was not particularly impressed. She thinks they’re a bit Ukip.

Saturday, January 11:

First death from the virus in China — at least, the first one they’ve told us about.

Friday, January 17:

When I got into the department, Chris Whitty — whom I appointed Chief Medical Officer last year, and who is known informally as the Prof — asked for a word. Calmly, in his ultra-reasonable way, he explained that he thinks the virus has a 50:50 chance of escaping China. If it gets out of China in a big way, he says a very large number of people will die.

At this point, Boris was preparing for our official exit from the European Union at the end of January. Everyone’s attention, not surprisingly, was on Brexit. Hancock’s push for a Cabinet Office Briefing — COBRA — went unheeded.

Wednesday, January 22:

I found out tonight that Sir Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service, is blocking my push for a meeting of COBRA. Infuriating!

Thursday, January 23:

No 10 has grudgingly agreed to let me make a statement to the Commons about the virus. No 10 are still saying calling COBRA would be ‘alarmist’. What utter rubbish.

Friday, January 24:

Dominic Cummings [the PM’s chief adviser] thinks Covid is a distraction from our official withdrawal from the EU next week. That’s all he wants Boris talking about.

On Saturday, January 25, Hancock worried about evacuating Britons from Wuhan. He contacted then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who agreed to put a plan into place. On Sunday, Hancock was frustrated to find that civil servants were drawing up advice on whether, not how, to evacuate UK citizens there.

Monday, January 27:

Coronavirus is now the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed.

The next day, Tuesday, a meeting of 30 people took place to discuss the virus, including SAGE members Chris Whitty and Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who would be regulars on our television screens in the months to come. This is where the alarmism started.

Tuesday, January 28 (see photo):

In his characteristically understated way, sitting at the back peeling a tangerine, Chris Whitty quietly informed everyone that in the reasonable worst-case scenario, as many as 820,000 people in the UK may die. The transmission is so high that almost everyone would catch it.

The whole room froze. We are looking at a human catastrophe on a scale not seen here for a century.

I asked what we needed to do to accelerate a vaccine. Professor [Jonathan] Van-Tam said developing a vaccine normally takes five to ten years, but there’s a team in Oxford working on an Ebola project that can easily be switched to the new disease.

‘I want it by Christmas,’ I said.

On Wednesday, Boris’s PMQs went as usual, with no mention of the virus. Hancock was frustrated.

Wednesday, January 29:

I called the head of the World Health Organisation to try to persuade him — for the second timeto declare a public health international emergency. But China runs various projects in his private office, so he is scared stiff of upsetting them.

Thursday, January 30:

The Wuhan Brits are on their way back. I’ve had a showdown with officials and lawyers over what to do with the evacuees when they land at RAF Brize Norton.

PHE [Public Health England] thinks they should be greeted with a smile and a leaflet and asked nicely to go home and stay there for a couple of weeks. I said they should go straight into quarantine. PHE started hand-wringing about human rights. ‘OK,’ I said, ‘let’s get them to sign a contract before they board. In return for the flight, they agree to go into quarantine. No contract, no flight.’ I was told the contract wouldn’t be legally enforceable and was too draconian. ‘Do it anyway,’ I instructed.

The World Health Organisation have finally declared the virus a public health emergency. The risk level in the UK has now gone from low to moderate.

PHE’s audit of PPE [personal protective equipment] came back and did not lighten my mood. There’s no clear record of what’s in the stockpile, and some kit is past its ‘best before’ date. I’ve instructed officials to work out what we need fast, and buy in huge quantities.

Friday, January 31:

The Wuhan flight touched down at Brize Norton. The RAF crew and all our officials were in full hazmat suits, but the poor coach drivers taking them into quarantine were in their normal work clothes. Who on earth would give protection to air crew but not bus crew?

The UK left the EU on schedule. I remember the parliamentary contributions from Conservative MPs about the wonderful plans they had for the nation. It was a glorious time to be alive.

Meanwhile, Downing Street’s attention would turn to the pandemic in February.

Hancock tries to paint himself as a supporter of personal liberty in this next diary entry.

Tuesday, February 4:

As a [classical] liberal, I’ve always believed people make the best decisions for themselves. Now we are contemplating actions that could bankrupt millions of businesses and interfere in literally everyone’s lives. It is a very, very strange feeling; not me at all.

Hancock says that Boris, rightly, was still unconcerned.

Tuesday, February 11:

Driving home down the Harrow Road [in London], I looked at the crowds spilling out of the pub on the corner and tried to imagine what it will be like if we have to shut these places. I felt like I inhabited another world, that no one outside had yet seen into.

Hancock finally got his COBRA meeting.

Wednesday, February 12:

Back in the COBRA room today for a civil service exercise to rehearse what we’ll do if the virus runs out of control. We role-played how we would do our jobs in two months’ time if the very worst-case scenario has happened and hundreds of thousands are dying.

Where in Hyde Park would the burial pits be? Who would dig them? Have we got enough body bags?

Worst of all was agreeing a protocol to instruct doctors which lives to save. Do we treat the young, because they have more years to live, or the old, because they are more vulnerable? Horrific decisions.

Public Health England (PHE) had bad news for Hancock.

Tuesday, February 18:

PHE says our current approach of tracing all contacts of anyone who’s infected is unsustainable. Apparently they can only cope with five new cases a week. This is infuriating since only a few weeks ago they told me they had the best system in the world.

I had no idea that China was buying testing services from Britain’s Randox. Hmm.

Thursday, February 27:

PHE has outright refused a request from Randox, the UK’s biggest testing company, for coronavirus samples. Certain senior public health officials are absolutely allergic to anything involving the private sector. Evidently they’d rather risk lives than set aside these ideological objections.

No such sniffiness from the Chinese, who are snapping up Randox’s services.

At the beginning of March, public health posters and announcements about coronavirus began appearing.

Sunday, March 1:

We’re telling everyone to wash their hands more frequently and encouraging parents to get their kids to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice to make sure they do it for long enough. What I really wanted people to sing was the national anthem.

Sadly, I was overruled, as the collective view seems to be that happy birthday is ‘less divisive’. Since when is the national anthem controversial? Sigh.

Thursday, March 5:

First two UK deaths — a horrible landmark.

Saturday, March 7:

There’s a crisis looming with ventilators. We have nowhere near enough. If the worst comes to the worst, we may need to put out advice on how to care for a critically-ill relative at home, a terrifying prospect for most people.

I took a few hours off today and took the kids to Planet Laser in Bury St Edmunds [in his constituency]. It involves charging around in the dark in a ‘battle suit’ firing lasers at other players. I was looking forward to forgetting about coronavirus for an hour or so, but no such luck: it turned out that one of the games is called Infection.

Every time a player’s laser hit one of the other players, they would get ‘infected’ with a disease. In between attempts to dodge the fictional virus, I kept having to dart out to respond to urgent messages about the real one.

By March 8, the UK began experiencing a shortage of bathroom tissue. People were bulk buying. Rice was another product in short supply. Hancock says that he and his wife bought a huge sack of rice.

Another thing in short supply were hospital beds.

Monday, March 9:

In my box of official papers this evening was a scientific briefing suggesting the NHS could have a deficit of 150,000 beds and 9,000 ICU spaces.

Tuesday, March 10:

I’ve instructed PHE to produce plans for how they will get testing up from 1,000 tests a week to 10,000. I don’t care who does these tests — just that they’re fast and accurate.

Thursday, March 12:

While the Prime Minister was standing before the nation declaring we’re doing everything possible to save lives, PHE have advised to stop all contact tracing. They’ve basically given up, having become overwhelmed by the number of cases. Infuriating!

March 12, 2020 was the day of the last lunch my better half and I had with friends in Mayfair before lockdown. None of us would have believed that we would not see each other again until August 11, 2021, by which time indoor mask restrictions had been lifted.

Friday, March 13:

A call with my fellow G7 Health Ministers. Everyone sounded terrified.

Also from that day:

Simon Stevens [NHS England chief executive] says frail elderly patients who don’t need urgent treatment need to be discharged from hospital, either to their home or to care homes. He’s spoken to the PM about it and is determined to make it happen.

Saturday, March 14:

In just three days, the numbers have doubled. At 10am I went to Downing Street to talk to the PM and others. We wrestled with all the issues. What measures? How long? Would people comply? Are we doing enough to make sure the NHS can cope?

We were all struggling to get our heads round the enormity of what we were discussing. Boris set out the case for and against each option. After everyone had had their say, we collectively made the decision: to close large swathes of society.

Monday, March 16:

Cummings, [communications director] Lee Cain, Whitty and I went into Boris’s study garden and finessed the message he was going to give in a televised press conference. Then, at 5pm, it was time. Looking as grave as he ever does, Boris told the elderly and vulnerable they are going to have to stay at home for 12 weeks.

That day, Hancock issued his first guidelines to Parliament and the public:

Tuesday, March 17:

I’ve been told we have a billion items of PPE in a warehouse in the North-West. ‘Hooray!’ I thought. Just one problem — we can’t get it out. It turns out that it’s in a huge storage unit with only one door. Ergo, only one lorry can pull up at a time. What a classic government fail.

It was my son’s 12th birthday today, almost all of which I missed. My family is already paying a heavy price for this crisis.

Also from that day:

A bonkers proposal from the Ministry of Justice to let prisoners out, as they’d be easier to manage if they’re not in prison. Yes really: they actually thought this might be a goer. I was emphasising [my opposition] so hard that all of a sudden my chair could take the strain no longer and ripped, tipping me unceremoniously on to the floor.

Hancock advised that the public could pose any questions on his Instagram account:

A few days before, Hancock appealed to retired NHS practitioners to return to the health service to help in the pandemic effort. On Saturday, March 21, he said that 4,000 nurses and 500 doctors were returning:

Good Morning Britain‘s Piers Morgan quickly got into panic mode:

Sunday, March 22:

Crunch meeting in Downing Street, at which the Prime Minister weighed up all the options. He’s famous for this, so it’s impossible to know in the middle of the meeting where he’s going to end up. It’s his way of making big decisions. Today he agreed to a formal lockdown as soon as possible.

Monday, March 23:

At 8.30pm, the Prime Minister gave his address to the nation. From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction: you must stay at home . . .’

In my own household, I found an old computer in the attic and have set it up for our youngest, though I’m not sure how online school is going to work for a six-year-old. With me largely absent, it’s tough on the family.

Hancock led the coronavirus briefing for the first time on Tuesday, March 24. He described himself as being ‘unusually nervous’.

Tuesday, March 24:

Driving down Park Lane there wasn’t a single other car on the road — not one. I sat in the back of the car feeling almost sick. All I could think was: What have we done?

The nausea wouldn’t last long, however. Hancock would soon grow into his newly found power.

He had many messages that day:

He announced a war footing for the British public:

The first Nightingale hospital — relatively unused — was opened.

Hancock ordered NHS and care home staff to report to work:

He issued contradictory advice about working between addressing the House of Commons and the coronavirus briefing later that day:

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said that too many Tube workers were off sick to run a full service. This left the trains that were running packed to the gills:

Hancock said that lockdown was not guidance and that police would enforce it:

Meanwhile, the airports were open to all arrivals:

On Wednesday, March 25, Hancock expressed his gratitude to the 405,000 Britons who were volunteering in the pandemic effort:

Friday, March 27:

A nurse called first thing this morning to say I’ve got Covid. I called [the PM’s press secretary] Jack Doyle to break the news. ‘Erm, that’s interesting, as we’re just about to announce that the PM has tested positive, too,’ he replied. To cap it all, the Prof [Chris Whitty] also has symptoms.

He later announced his positive diagnosis:

Sunday, March 29:

My throat hurts so much that I can’t swallow and I can’t eat or drink. [My wife] Martha has also got it, along with our daughter and our live-in au pair.

Meanwhile there are still dire supply issues with PPE. The BMA [British Medical Association] is going nuts. It’s not as if I think it’s acceptable: it’s not! There’s just no quick fix. When the whole world is after it, it simply isn’t possible to get as much as we need as fast as it’s required.

Monday, March 30:

The government-owned company that gets PPE supplies to hospitals across the NHS has effectively collapsed. Total disaster.

I’m absolutely furious that the people who are meant to be experts in logistics have been unable to cope because there are too many actual logistics. WTF? We’ve been buying more from China, but the immediate problem is still lorry access to our storage facility in the North-West, where there’s only one door. Funnily enough, nobody has been able to magic up any extra entrances, so we’re still stuck with single lorryloads at a time.

On Thursday, April 2, Hancock announced his audacious and controversial plan of getting 100,000 coronavirus tests done by May 1, something for which he was derided by the media at the daily coronavirus briefings.

Also from that day:

Negative tests won’t be required prior to transfers/admissions into care homes. The tragic but honest truth is we don’t have enough testing capacity to check anyway. It’s an utter nightmare, but it’s the reality.

Under the circumstances, we must make sure that anyone going from a hospital into a care home is kept away from other residents. I hope this message filters through and is followed.

It’s been a choice between very difficult options. If we keep people in hospital, the NHS will be overrun. If only we had more tests.

Friday, April 3:

A 13-year-old boy who died from Covid was buried without any mourners yesterday. His parents weren’t even at the graveside because they were self-isolating. I felt almost physically sick reading it as my own boy, just a year younger, slept peacefully in the room next door.

I told Boris and he was shocked and upset. He tries not to let on, but he is actually a very emotional man. He was coughing through the call. He’s very worried about looking weak: ‘A general’s job is to show strength, not weakness,’ he told me ruefully.

Also from that day:

Officials are still insisting that Justice Secretary Rob Buckland wants to release thousands of non-violent prisoners to take the pressure off the system. I keep writing ‘NO’ in large letters on submissions asking me to sign this off. It’s obvious the public won’t wear it, yet the idea keeps going back and forth on paper.

After about the third iteration I called Rob Buckland, who to my astonishment told me he’d been advised that I was the one who wanted to release them.

Unfortunately, this still wasn’t the end of the matter. Clearly someone in Whitehall still thought it was a good idea and kept pushing it, to the point that the PM asked to talk to us both. I made my views crystal clear.

‘We cannot lock up literally everyone in the country except prisoners, who we instead release!’ I spluttered.

Saturday, April 4:

President Trump has randomly and dangerously declared that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid, despite a total absence of the evidence. What an awful, awful man.

The next day, the Queen gave a brief message of support to her subjects, ending with ‘We’ll meet again’, echoing Dame Vera Lynn’s famous song from the Second World War.

Shortly afterwards, the nation received alarming news.

Sunday, April 5:

I was just about to go to bed when my phone rang for the umpteenth time. It was [Cabinet Secretary] Mark Sedwill, who informed me that the Prime Minister was on his way to St Thomas’s Hospital ‘as a precautionary step’. Boris is still furiously texting everyone.

Everyone knows that a Prime Minister isn’t admitted to hospital unless it’s something very serious. And so it turned out to be.

Monday, April 6:

Boris has been taken into intensive care. Everyone is stunned. I’m told there’s a 50:50 chance he’ll end up on a ventilator; and if that happens, we know there’s a 50:50 chance he will die. The minute the news came out, pharma companies started calling my private office with offers of experimental drugs.

On Tuesday, Hancock surmised Boris was in intensive care because coronavirus affects the obese.

Wednesday, April 8:

Boris spent a second night in intensive care. I worry about losing a close colleague and friend. When you spend time with Boris, it’s impossible not to like him.

He’s endlessly funny and engaging and thinks differently and more laterally than anyone I know. This can bring its challenges when straight-line thinking is required, but for grasping the big picture there’s no one like him.

Nobody speaks of it, but there is a ‘worst-case scenario’ plan for if Boris doesn’t pull through. We couldn’t possibly have a normal Conservative Party leadership election, so the Cabinet would have to take a quick decision, advise the Queen and rally round.

Boris left intensive care on April 9. He left hospital at the weekend. He then went to Chequers to recuperate, accompanied by his then-partner Carrie Symonds, who was in the final weeks of her pregnancy with their son Wilf.

Care homes were Hancock’s focus for the rest of the month — and the summer.

Wednesday, April 15:

From today, everyone going from hospital into social care will be tested and then isolated while the result comes through.

Saturday, April 18:

Care homes haven’t yet grasped the fact that we’re only going to get out of this if we test, test, test. According to figures I received today, the average care home has carried out 0.5 tests, which is exasperating, given how hard we’re working to increase capacity.

Also from that day, another tempest brewed over PPE supplies, which is still a hot topic in Parliament, even today:

Hundreds of businesses are approaching the department offering to manufacture this or that. Half the time nobody returns their calls, even with big companies such as Primark.

The problem is weeding out time-wasters and chancers – of which there are many – without missing opportunities. One company with a good product got so p***ed off they sold everything to the Scottish NHS. 

Even the Labour Party is writing in with suggested names of companies and individuals who could help – apparently without doing any due diligence on the offers.

Hancock sensed that not everyone in Downing Street or the Cabinet wanted him to succeed.

Monday, April 20:

Crunch week for hitting my testing target of 100,000 tests done by May 1. There’s an uncomfortable amount of speculation about my career depending on it. [Dominic] Cummings is itching for me to fail.

Friday, April 24:

Downing Street called my office saying I needed to schedule a quick call with the PM. I was looking forward to it, until I switched on Zoom to find the PM at Chequers flanked by Cummings and about a dozen other advisers. Rishi [Sunak] was there, looking sheepish. I realised instantly what was going on: an attempted ambush.

Boris opened with some gentle warm-ups, then Cummings started the shelling, subjecting me to a barrage of questions about my department’s response: on PPE, testing, NHS capacity, ventilators. Every so often, one of the others would pile in. Most questions seemed to be based on inaccurate media reports.

It was utterly exhausting, but I’ve lived this for months now, 18 hours a day, pretty much every day, so I am on top of every detail.

When they finally ran out of ammunition, I pressed ‘Leave Meeting’, sat back in my chair, checked my body for shrapnel wounds and saw that I was broadly intact. Next?

To be continued tomorrow.

While Nigel Farage took a two-week break from his early evening GB News show, actor Laurence Fox, who also founded the Reclaim Party, was his guest host.

What a surprise viewers had on Tuesday, October 4, 2022, when Fox spoke to Donald Trump on the phone:

It was an excellent interview, done in segments, after which a Democrat or a Republican appeared on air to give his or her views of what Trump had just said.

This is the full hour-long episode:

Fox began by reviewing Trump’s accomplishments while in office, pointing out that he got elected in 2016 because he could connect with millions of Americans and didn’t come off as an elitist like Hillary Clinton did:

America’s 45th president told Fox how surprised he was at Boris Johnson’s change of focus during his premiership, saying that he ‘went woke’:

This GB News article has more (emphases mine):

Donald Trump has called former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “woke” in a surprising attack on his ally.

In a world exclusive GB News interview, the ex-US President said Boris Johnson “went liberal all of a sudden” in a “crazy” move.

Trump called Mr Johnson a “good guy” but criticised him for “changing” as he spoke to Laurence Fox.

The 76-year-old said: “Boris was a friend of mine, perhaps he still is but I haven’t spoken to him in a while.

“The problem Boris has is he went liberal all of a sudden, and I think that is crazy.

“He’s a good man but something happened to him, he changed, he went for windmills all over the place and he went a little bit wokier than I believe he is and I think ultimately that is the thing that got him out.

“I don’t think it was the party [Conservatives] I think that was just an excuse.”

Although Trump has not met Boris’s successor Liz Truss, he is favourably disposed towards her:

Trump also said that he was surprised at the criticism Truss’s mini-budget received (more here):

The Telegraph reported on that part of the interview:

Former US president Donald Trump had said that he backs new Prime Minister Liz Truss and that he thinks “very highly” of her.

Speaking on GB News to Laurence Fox, Trump said of Truss that he liked “some of the things she’s done”, adding that he had “cut taxes very substantially and we did much more business and she’s done that”.

He said that he thinks “very highly of her and she had a great send-off from the Queen”, adding that as it was the late Queen’s last meeting it was a “big deal”.

Joe Biden’s former Chief of Staff appeared but she didn’t respond to anything Trump had said. She only wanted to bang on about how ‘divisive’ he had been as president. Talk about living in a parallel universe:

In a separate interview, Greg Swenson from Republicans Overseas UK lauded Trump’s economic policy and said that more countries around the world should implement them:

Trump discussed his own major accomplishments during his four-year term, which brought criticism from an adviser to both the Bush II and Clinton administrations. Fox ended this man’s three-minute rant by telling him to go and have another espresso:

Trump rightly told Fox that, if he were still president, there would be no war in Ukraine:

Former Royal Navy Commander Dr Chris Parry agreed:

Trump was discreet about his meeting with King Charles III a few years ago and offered his support to the new monarch. Trump also reminded us that his mother was Scottish:

GB News reported:

He told Laurence Fox: “I think he’ll probably not discuss certain elements of what he believes, in my opinion.

“I think Charles is going to do very well, he’s got a great way about him, I think he did very well during the ceremony [Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral].”

Despite his warm feeling towards the royal, Trump admitted he does not hold look upon Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as favourably.

He told GB News: “I’m not a fan, I was never much of a fan of her [Meghan].

“I don’t get it, but I hope he’s [Harry] happy, he didn’t seem too happy and he doesn’t seem too happy.

“I thought she was disrespectful to the Queen, which is a no no, you can’t do that.”

The Telegraph had more:

“I know him very well, quite well. And I spent a lot of time when I was over there as president with him. And with his wife [who] was absolutely lovely, by the way, and we had a good time together,” he said.

As for the King’s popularity versus his mother’s, he said:

Probably difficult when you’re the King you want to have 100% of the people love you like the Queen did. The Queen had – everybody loved her, right? She didn’t have that kind of an agenda.

And yet, you know, she was a very strong woman. I got to know her too. She was a very strong woman, a great woman.

The interview ended with a discussion about biopics. Fox plays Hunter Biden in My Son Hunter, released on September 7.

Trump said that, if it were ever to happen, he hoped that Fox could play him in a biographical movie:

Oh, that voice!

He enthused for another minute or so about Fox’s accent, then, with both parties happy, the call came to an end.

Fox’s interview style is conversational, something Trump would appreciate. What a great hour of television.

Having watched BBC Parliament for the better part of three years, I can only conclude that today’s Conservative MPs are a frustrating bunch.

Many of the older hands, who were elected when David Cameron was Prime Minister (2010-2016), seem more like Liberal Democrats. The Thatcher-era MPs who remain are what she would have called Wets.

Many commenters on conservative fora are at their wit’s end. Their complaints are many. Why have Conservatives outdone Labour in economic policy? Why are odd subjects taught in our schools instead of the three Rs? Why can’t police get a grip on real crime? Those are just a few of the questions Britons have.

On August 12, The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley and Steven Edginton discussed British conservatism in one of their Off Script conversations. What is it? What should it be like?

This video is 51 minutes long and is well worth watching for frustrated conservatives. Don’t be put off by the title. Immigration comes into the conversation only halfway through and only for a few minutes:

Tim Stanley makes excellent points, summarised below.

The most important thing to note is that conservatism changes over time. Benjamin Disraeli was a great Conservative Prime Minister, but his conservatism would not be applicable in our time. Harold Macmillan was another great Prime Minister of his day, succeeding Labour’s Clement Attlee. He responded to the challenges of the postwar 1950s. His brand of conservatism would be irrelevant in our times. Similarly, Margaret Thatcher met the challenges of the late 1970s and the 1980s. Stanley said that invoking Thatcher at every turn today is not helping matters, because we often mis-remember things that she did. He said that some commentators have turned her into a punk libertarian, when she was anything but. He says she was a Conservative with a strong streak of free-will Methodism.

Of our two Conservative Party leadership candidates this year, he says that Rishi Sunak is a technocrat, with all that implies. Liz Truss is a child of the Thatcher years. Both became MPs during David Cameron’s time as PM. They tend to think the way he does and only differ on the way they would handle tax cuts. In this area, Sunak adopts the early Thatcher strategy of delaying them. Truss adopts the strategy of her later years, when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor. On everything else, they are remarkably similar. It’s a politically generational trait.

Stanley came to conservatism from Marxism and stood as a Labour candidate for Parliament when he was younger. He thinks that Truss’s conversion from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservative Party is one she will not fall away from.

Stanley says that Kemi Badenoch, whom he admires greatly, is probably the only MP who studies social issues intently. He thinks she has watched a lot of Thomas Sowell videos on YouTube, because she quotes him a lot.

He thinks Badenoch could be a real agent for change if she ever becomes PM. He warns that few world leaders can effect change on their own. He cites Donald Trump, who could not fight off the Swamp. Our equivalent is called the Blob and is comprised of the same elements: the metropolitan elite and, intersecting as in a Venn diagram, the media and the civil service. Somehow, those groups need to be persuaded to change their minds over time in order for politics and society to improve.

Stanley says that today’s Conservative MPs are ignoring two elements of British life that has seen us through the centuries: family and the Church. (Stanley is a practising Catholic.) He said that MPs must find a way of putting those front and centre into policy making discussions. (That’s a pretty radical idea for a former Marxist.)

He also advocates consistency in policy positions. He cites Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn as two excellent examples of that. Their opinions have not changed over the past few decades, he says, and this is what makes them popular among their respective supporters.

As for today’s younger voters opting for Labour, he says that some will and some will not. He said that it all depends on how much impact today’s economic and social issues are having on them. He cites the young generation of the late 1960s, most of whom still vote Labour. He says that their personal experience from that time was so strong that they never changed when they hit middle age. However, there are others who will move from a more left-wing to a conservative stance. Stanley himself and Liz Truss are two great examples of political conversion.

You’ll probably want to know what Stanley thinks of our immigration mess. He says that we have dealt with EU migration well, but, as far as the Channel crossings are concerned, he compares them to a door that has all sorts of locks on it yet is kept open, serving no purpose at all. He suspects that most Conservative MPs don’t mind the tens of thousands of young men arriving on our shores every year. If they did object, he says, they would have done something by now to stem the flow.

I highly recommend this video, because no one else I’ve heard has said the things that Tim Stanley has. I now view conservatism in a new way.

Last week I posted about the comedian Jerry Sadowitz, whose Fringe show was cancelled by Edinburgh’s Pleasance Theatre.

We have seen more examples of the demise of free speech, particularly in the UK, in 2022.

Restaurant’s help wanted ad

In February 2022, Steve Bothwell, who owns the 27-year-old Aberdeen restaurant Cafe 52, placed a no-nonsense advert online in an attempt to hire more staff:

The job advert went viral on Twitter

On February 28, Scotland’s Daily Record reported that the advert went viral and received much online how-dare-he criticism, included in its article.

However, the ad’s wording spells out what Steve Bothwell wants: a hard-working employee who is focused on continuing the excellent reputation of the restaurant rather than his or her social identity politics.

I admire a man who says he doesn’t want mask wearing Guardian readers, virtue signallers and self-testers. I wouldn’t, either. He was also right to say that hospitality works only when staff:

leave their egos in their lockers.

He gave an interview to the paper (emphases mine):

Speaking to the Daily Record he said: “I don’t regret the wording [of the job advert], but I wish people would get on their pins about more important issues.

“I’m not banning anyone. The advert was tongue in cheek.”

He added: “I’ve had three good applications this morning off the back of the advert.”

Some weeks later, one of The Guardian‘s restaurant critics, Grace Dent, had lunch at Cafe 52. Wow! If any of my readers are in Aberdeen, this place looks great. It’s right across the street from Aberdeen Market.

Dent’s review, complete with must-see close-up photos, appeared on April 1, but this was no April Fool’s joke:

The menu was full of delicious-sounding things such as cullen skink, hot smoked mackerel, and Normandy chicken casserole with leeks and tarragon. As I loitered by the door, something about the cafe’s name rang a bell, then, to my glee, I realised this was the place whose owner famously doesn’t like Guardian readers, and who earlier this year penned a job advert banning them. Perhaps I should have been offended, but there was a bread-and-butter pudding made with crumpets on the menu, plus, to quote Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

… This charming, long, narrow strip of a bistro has survived for more than 25 years without the likes of me, and is these days serving a sort of boho, rustic, French-Scottish, casual-elegant menu to a unending stream of walk-ins. Cafe 52 has no need for my pronouncements.

Dent was complimentary about the servers as well as the food. So, the advert worked!

She described the food as follows:

I like Aberdeen a great deal, and spent three wonderful days there alone, talking to strangers and eating …

But Cafe 52 was my favourite. Proprietor Steve Bothwell … has created a place where glorious food matters, and I can say beyond doubt that my restorative bowl of Normandy chicken casserole will be one of the greatest things I’ll eat all year. Chicken soup – or stew, in this case – does touch the soul, and a good one is as close to a cuddle from Mother T herself as you can get. This one featured five or six chunks of soft, stewed breast, thigh and leg in a clear tarragon broth with the very occasional chunk of soft potato or slice of garlicky mushroom, and was way more than the sum of its parts. This stew, topped with a vivid pink bundle of pickled red cabbage, was a wonder, with fragrant tarragon the hero ingredient. I ate it with a side of kale, deep fried and laced with chilli, which is the only way to treat it – that is, mercilessly …

Steve Bothwell’s mother, who is in her 80s, makes all the desserts. Amazing:

Bothwell’s octogenarian mother makes all the puddings at Cafe 52, and just two spoons into her crumpet bread-and-butter pudding I felt the need to check with the staff if anyone had written down the recipes for her carrot and brandied fruit cake or her coffee cake with rum syllabub. The bread pudding is a fearsome, rib-sticking challenge of a dessert, with crumpet after crumpet smothered in sweet, eggy custard and served with vanilla ice-cream. It’s the sort of dish that makes guests at other tables wink and wish me luck, as if I was some sort of amateur at this game. The first four or five spoons were sublime, all sticky and compelling; I was living my best life.

The owner also asked if she had enjoyed her lunch:

“Yer stew all right?” he asked, semi-begrudgingly, as if he didn’t really care what the answer was going to be, but was curious anyway.

“Incredible,” I said. “I loved it.”

“Fine,” he said, and walked off without another glance in my direction. I have paved a way for all of us. Just don’t go in carrying this newspaper.

Edinburgh Fringe’s best jokes

Speaking of Scotland, the Edinburgh Fringe is supposed to be — and once was — the world’s edgiest comedy festival.

It was last held in 2019 and resumed again this year.

Each year, a series of comedy awards are bestowed upon the best talent. They were once sponsored by Perrier and propelled comedians to stardom. Now it seems that the UK comedy channel Dave has assumed the mantle.

On Monday, August 22, The Guardian gave us the top, award-winning jokes from the 2022 Fringe.

At best, these are Christmas cracker jokes, most of which a 10-year-old could tell:

1. I tried to steal spaghetti from the shop, but the female guard saw me and I couldn’t get pasta – Masai Graham (52%)

2. Did you know, if you get pregnant in the Amazon, it’s next day delivery? – Mark Simmons (37%)

3. My attempts to combine nitrous oxide and Oxo cubes made me a laughing stock – Olaf Falafel (36%)

4. By my age, my parents had a house and a family, and to be fair to me, so do I, but it is the same house and the same family – Hannah Fairweather (35%)

5. I hate funerals. I’m not a mourning person – Will Mars (34%)

6. I spent the whole morning building a time machine, so that’s four hours of my life that I’m definitely getting back – Olaf Falafel (33%)

7. I sent a food parcel to my first wife. FedEx – Richard Pulsford (29%)

8. I used to live hand to mouth. Do you know what changed my life? Cutlery – Tim Vine (28%)

9. Don’t knock threesomes. Having a threesome is like hiring an intern to do all the jobs you hate – Sophie Duker (27%)

10. I can’t even be bothered to be apathetic these days – Will Duggan (25%)

Dire.

On Sunday, the topic came up for discussion on Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation show for GB News (54:43 to 58:00):

Doyle’s guests, fellow comedians, deplored the level of comedy at this year’s Fringe.

One said that there are ‘tastemakers’ who nominate comedians for an award and go on to nationwide shows.

Another said that, if this trend continues and edgy comedians like Jerry Sadowitz aren’t allowed back in, it will spell curtains for the top Fringe venue:

The Pleasance will die.

Another intimated that the establishment wanted to reshape comedy into something anodyne:

These big venues are getting large donations from the Scottish Government.

That might well be true. I read or heard somewhere that someone from the Scottish National Party owns a few comedy clubs in Edinburgh.

Hmm.

Censored television shows versus nudity

On the topic of censored comedy, British actress Vicki Michelle from the classic sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo! weighed in last week on the current preference for saucy reality shows over reruns of old family-oriented shows.

‘Allo, ‘Allo! satirised the Second World War and was a huge hit that ran for ten years. Until recently, it, and other classic sitcoms from the 1960s through to the 1980s, were often shown on the BBC.

Now they are all on a paid-subscription streaming platform called BritBox. It’s odd that the British paid in television tax to see these shows, now they are expected to pay again to see them.

BritBox has put content warnings on ‘Allo, ‘Allo! and other programmes from that era.

Television and streaming services are dictating what we can and cannot see.

On August 19, Vicki Michelle gave an interview to The Mirror, which The Telegraph reprised:

A string of content warnings for TV series was issued last year by streaming service BritBox – a collaborative venture between the BBC and other broadcasters – including one advisory note which told viewers that ‘Allo ‘Allo! featured “outdated” material.

Comedy is being neutralised – or nuked,” Ms Michelle said. “I think 80 per cent of this country would love comedy like ‘Allo ‘Allo! to be made again, so 20 per cent might take aversion to some of the content.”

The series which ran from 1982 to 1992 was set at the Cafe Rene in the town of Nouvion and followed the comic troubles of proprietor Rene Artois – played by Gorden Kaye – as he juggled the dangers posed by British airmen, the French resistance and Nazi occupiers.

The humour stemmed from innuendo and mockery of national stereotypes and accents, and in 2021 Britbox warned modern audiences about the supposedly dated content of the decades-old programme, with a note stating: “This classic comedy contains language and attitudes of the time that may offend some viewers.”

BritBox explained at the time that certain classic programmes required advice on the “potentially sensitive language or attitudes of their era”.

The actress objects, pointing out the near-obscene content of some of our reality television shows, both visually and orally:

Michelle argued that contemporary television is far more offensive than the comedy now deemed worthy of content warnings, telling the Daily Mirror: “People eff, blind and use the c-word on telly and that’s considered fine.

“And on reality TV people make love under a sheet, and that’s fine. There was none of that in ‘Allo ‘Allo!. I don’t think there’s anything in there that would upset a normal person.

She added: “‘Allo ‘Allo! didn’t send up anyone in particular – we sent up everyone.

“It was a family show where the adults got the double entendres and the children just thought the situations were funny. You can see someone on telly in a bikini and their boobs out.”

Let’s look at it another way. If Blazing Saddles were shown on television now, it would only be seven minutes long:

https://image.vuukle.com/7be2fc3b-e0e9-40d3-9ac0-27c21ba272b2-04dc70c2-ca8f-4962-a68e-f88f450a7770

Free speech, Salman Rushdie and the average Twitter user

Along with many millions, I hope that Sir Salman Rushdie is making a steady recovery from his attack less than a fortnight ago.

Conservative commentator Emma Webb told Andrew Doyle on his show last night (see video above) that no publisher would dare print anything like Satanic Verses today. Publishing houses are self-censoring, as if there were a blasphemy law in place:

This year, a few high-profile arrests have been made in the UK with regard to tweets that have caused other Twitter users ‘anxiety’. Not long ago, a middle-aged man was pinned down by five police officers in his garden, so it is a bit rich of Boris Johnson to come across as a big supporter of free speech in Salman Rushdie’s case when the average Joe is being arrested for lesser offences:

https://image.vuukle.com/63ebaa37-331d-4dc2-90ad-c81b2ee54efe-cafde0c8-a6fc-4408-83c4-e703a8da3b2c

On that subject, lefty lawyer Jolyon Maugham rightly condemned the attack on Rushdie, then asked who has a platform on which to speak.

Well, I do wonder.

A reply to Maugham’s tweet told the raw truth of the matter. The Left used to advocate free speech when they thought theirs was censored. Now that the leftist point of view is ubiquitous, they censor any opposing view:

https://image.vuukle.com/42c85f62-4bbb-4aff-b15a-100d5034d7aa-1ad7eb2a-b8f4-4af7-8869-fd9bce9ea47c

Scarily, this clampdown extends to health issues now.

Censorship of coronavirus vaccine opposition

The truckers’ protest in Ottawa in February showed how draconian censorship can get.

The men and women were protesting against the Canadian government for mandating coronavirus vaccines as a condition of employment. Justin Trudeau took the extraordinary action of freezing some protesters’ — and contributors’ — bank accounts.

On March 8, The Spectator‘s Jane Stannus wrote an excellent article about this, just as Premier Justin Trudeau visited the UK: ‘Where’s the outrage over Trudeau’s trip to Britain?’

She wrote:

Trudeau used the Emergencies Act to allow banks to unilaterally freeze accounts and assets, not only of participants in the peaceful Ottawa freedom convoy but also of anyone who supported the protest financially – all without a court order and legal immunity. And insurance policies of participants were subject to cancellation. Nothing says ‘free country’ like being able to freeze the assets of your political opponents without notice, judicial oversight, or possibility of legal recourse, on suspicion of having donated $25 to a trucker who parked in front of Canada’s parliament because he didn’t want the government to take away his job

Perhaps this seems unfair. Trudeau may have invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act to resolve a parking problem. An error in judgement, but in the end he rescinded it.

Quite true. But not before he suspended Canadians’ rights to due process and to peaceful assembly. Or delayed the Act’s debate in the Canadian House of Commons until after the protestors were forcibly removed by police. Or cynically strong-armed its approval through the House of Commons via a confidence vote – cleverly changing the subject of the vote to whether or not MPs wanted to call an election. And remember too that he hinted that the Act would be needed for months to come. Can the country ever be considered truly safe when – at any time – a truck driver apparently going about his business might approach the heart of Canada’s capital city and run up the Canadian flag, thereby magically metamorphosising into a terrorist?

Trudeau lifted the Emergencies Act on 23 February when it became apparent that the Canadian Senate was likely to vote against it. The next day, Russia attacked Ukraine and both national and international attention turned elsewhere – doubtless to the Liberal government’s great relief.

But anyone who thinks Trudeau has learned his lesson is sadly naïve. In a speech to the Toronto Ukrainian community on 4 March, he had the audacity to deplore the ‘slippage in our democracies’ and express concern about countries around the world ‘turning towards slightly more authoritarian leaders’. Why is this happening? According to Trudeau, it’s because ‘misinformation and disinformation’ are allowed to be shared on social media, thus ‘turning people against the values and the principles of democracies’. Right. To preserve democracy, what we need is censorship?

For all Trudeau’s talk, the real threat to Canadian democracy is not the truckers’ movement, whose actions revealed that large numbers of Canadians just want a return to normal life. No: the real threat to democracy is Canada’s ideologically driven leadership, seizing more and ever more unchecked power so as to force Canadian society into the mould of a collectivist utopia. It would be nice if the British parliament cared enough to discuss it.

Lord Ridley — Matt Ridley — pointed out that it was quite the opposite for the British parliament with regard to President Donald Trump. MPs wanted to ban Trump for ‘hate speech’:

When Trump came to the UK, neither House of Parliament extended him an invitation.

Yet, when Trudeau uttered real hate speech against people who did not want to be vaccinated, that was A-okay with our parliamentarians:

Fortunately, he was not invited to address Parliament.

He did, however, address EU parliamentarians in Brussels. A German MEP, Christine Anderson, took strong exception to Trudeau’s actions over the truckers’ protest and pointed out his love of Chinese coronavirus policies.

This very short video is a must-watch. Anderson’s English is flawless in every respect:

I don’t know what the reaction was, but at least she said it and he was there to hear it.

GB News’s Mark Steyn has been interviewing British family members of those who have died from the coronavirus vaccine and have been receiving compensation (£100,000) from the British Government.

Unfortunately, many are heartbroken as they share their stories on Twitter and other social media platforms. Not only do they get harsh feedback from readers accusing them of lying, but the social media moderators accuse these people of peddling mis- or disinformation.

This has been going on not only in the UK, but also in other Western countries.

Alexandra Marshall, the editor of the online edition of The Spectator in Australia, says the censorship is taking place because the push to get people to take potentially harmful vaccines has been a ‘global error’, one that, in some countries, could result in class action lawsuits. This catastrophic failure is too big to fail and no politician wants to jeopardise his or her career by facing a legitimate pushback from citizens. This video is from May 11:

The Online Safety Bill

Meanwhile, our Conservative Government has put forward a potentially damaging Online Safety Bill, notionally designed to protect the most vulnerable but which, in reality, will ‘protect’ — restrict — everyone else.

Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that she wanted to stop social media ‘pile-ons’. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Guido Fawkes explains in a Twitter thread:

Who is going to define what a ‘pile-on’ actually is?

And will different rules apply online and offline? Think of newspapers:

On May 11, Kathy Gyngell, editor of The Conservative Woman, wrote:

YESTERDAY marked a black day in British history. It was the most repressive Queen’s Speech ever. A reversal of Britain’s centuries-long march to freedom. 

It contained not one, but a number of ‘innovative’ measures that threaten to curtail our basic rights, including our freedom of speech and movement, under the guise of what are, I am afraid, spurious claims to reform the law and protect us.   

The proposed new Bill of Rights and a series of other state interventionist and regressive measures will make it harder for any who ‘dissent’ the official narrative – whether on ‘pandemic’ policy, vaccine risks or further lockdowns – to air and share their critiques and evidence, or to publicly protest against such curtailing of our rights. 

The Bill of Rights is set to replace current Human Rights law in the name of curbing an incremental rights culture. However, it will quite specifically undermine, if not take away, individual choice and responsibility when and where it is deemed to conflict with the State’s definition of the common good.  

Back in March, I asked whether this was the reform of human rights we need? My answer was that it emphatically was not. I argued that the proposed legislation is a perversion of the traditional notions of rights and duties, and a mendacious and threatening one at that.  

Who will decide what those broader interests of society may be? The Government, the World Health Organisation, or any other international public health body with undue influence over our political masters? The last two years of irrational lockdown and all but compulsory vaccination, all in the name of the higher public good, fills me with foreboding. 

The proposed Online Safety Bill is also deeply worrying. Under its terms, ‘major social media firms will face fines worth up to ten per cent of their global turnover if they fail to tackle illegal content getting on to their sites under reintroduced duty of care plans to protect users from online harms’.

At the rate we at TCW are already being censored, under the notion of ‘harms’, this also bodes very ill for us and any other dissenting or free speech site

The proposed Public Order Bill and its additional police powers, also in yesterday’s speech, again would be welcome if it was restricted to stopping eco-protesters blocking roads and inflicting fuel shortages on motorists, and not used against peaceful protest against government policy.  

However, it will allow police to ban suspected troublemakers from attending specified events. Does that mean Piers Corbyn, for example? I defend his right to protest and so should anyone. Does it mean in fact any government critic or opponent could be singled out? How will it be interpreted? The degree to which the police are already politicised and discriminate does not augur well … 

All this proposed new legislation needs to have a bright torch shone on it. We need to protest against it and remember those of centuries past who gave their lives for today’s, now to be curtailed, freedoms.

I could not agree more. It is difficult to believe that Conservatives have come up with this unholy intrusion into our lives and thoughts.

Labour have since said that they would take these laws even further once — or if — they are ever in power. We would do well to take them at their word.

On June 27, Lord Frost urged Conservatives to scrap the Online Safety Bill. The Daily Mail reported:

The Tory peer claims the Online Safety Bill contains so many flaws ‘it is hard to know where to start’.

He singles out for criticism the fact that it will outlaw comments on social media that would be legal in the real world.

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, says the move will be ‘highly damaging’ to free speech and will benefit only the ‘perennially offended’ who want to be protected from anything they disagree with.

He says: ‘A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law. The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the wastepaper basket.’

It is hoped that a new Prime Minister will sink this bill once and for all in September.

I certainly hope so. We have bigger worries right now.

My advice to social media users? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The 150th birthday of Speaker’s Corner

In late June, advocates of free speech gathered at London’s Speaker’s Corner to celebrate its 150th birthday.

The day before, police arrested a female Christian apologist at Speaker’s Corner because she wore a tee shirt with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon featuring an image many think should not see the light of day.

I do not know if this was the same lady who was brutally attacked with a knife there some months earlier for giving a defence of the Christian faith.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, was at Speaker’s Corner on its 150th birthday and gave Mark Steyn his report, including one about the Christian lady:

Young pointed out that, in Victorian times — certainly leading up to the founding of Speaker’s Corner in 1872 and beyond — people were much more able to speak their minds than they are today.

Young lamented the fact that not many people were present at the 150th birthday celebration. Nor did the mainstream media cover such an important event.

He said that, if people want to read or hear free speech, they now have to go online.

Conclusion

The great irony in all of this censorship is that it took a Russian emigré to the UK to point it out.

Author, comedian and podcaster Konstantin Kisin is putting his views, personal and historical, into a book on the subject: An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.

On July 10, he discussed free speech with Andrew Doyle and told him that, right now:

We are in the late Soviet stage …

He went on to describe how his grandfather fell foul of this in Stalin’s Soviet Union. He lost his job and ended up in a gulag as a result.

Here’s the video:

It is sad that it takes an emigré to point out how far down the rabbit hole we are.

That said, thank goodness for Konstatin Kisin. I hope that people listen to him and read his book.

We must defend free speech at all costs.

Over the past month, Neil Oliver has had some exceptionally good Saturday night programmes on GB News.

While his shows are a must in my household, for those who haven’t been tuning in, his shows over the past month have contained even more insight than usual.

This video is from February 26, 2022, the week when Russia invaded Ukraine:

Oliver’s editorial begins at the 5:00 point. He rightly wonders what the invasion is really about. He says that he cannot rely on mainstream media to tell the truth.

However, he also discusses the situation in the West and says that we do not realise how exceptional our era of individual liberty and freedom over the past few decades has been.

He points out that we are taking it for granted.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen Western governments become authoritarian. He points to Justin Trudeau, who condemns Putin when he himself has had the bank accounts of protesting truckers frozen because they protested against mandatory vaccinations. Oliver says that the sheer hypocrisy of it all is stunning.

He also lambastes the leaders in New Zealand and Australia for authoritarian measures during the pandemic, making the point that, given mankind’s natural inclination towards dictatorial policies, Western leaders are happily following along. Therefore, we need to keep an eye on what they are doing and call them out accordingly.

He says that we need to get serious: stop worrying about identity politics and pronouns. Instead, we have our freedoms to defend.

At the 21:00 point, he interviews a journalist to discuss what is really happening in Ukraine. The journalist said that China is also a player in this situation. Although it looks to most people as if Russia and China are enemies, they have a common goal: to bring down the West.

At the 23:00 mark, welcomes Sebastian Gorka to give his views.

Gorka says that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would not have happened had Joe Biden not pulled out of Afghanistan last year. He says that President Trump would have managed Afghanistan much differently and that, consequently, the Ukraine invasion would not have happened.

Gorka also brings up energy independence, which Trump initiated in the United States and warned Europe about in 2017. (Everyone laughed. They’re not laughing now.) Gorka said that it was ‘moronic’ for Biden to reverse Trump’s energy policy in the US.

On Biden, I was heartened to see another article in The Telegraph which has been critical of him.

On March 28, the paper’s Nile Gardiner asked, ‘Will Europe finally wake up to the truth about Joe Biden now?’

He writes (emphases mine):

It is amateur hour on the world stage from the Biden Presidency. His visit last week to Europe was a train wreck, from his bizarre press conference in Brussels to the ad-libbed final words of his speech in Warsaw. 

At times Mr. Biden looked dazed and confused, struggling to command his sentences, and drifting into incoherence. The messaging was muddled, forcing even the president’s top officials to disown their own leader’s comments.

In 20 years in Washington, I have not seen a White House more disorganised, incompetent or mismanaged, in both the president’s and vice president’s office. It has a distinctly Monty Python-esque feel to it. Having visited the Trump White House on multiple occasions, and met with the former president several times, I can attest it was a model of efficiency compared to what we’re seeing now.

On no fewer than three separate occasions, Biden’s own staff had to clarify or even refute the words of their commander in chief. Biden officials had to explain to the world’s media that he was not calling for US troops to go into Ukraine, that the United States would not respond to Russia with chemical weapons if Moscow used them, and that the Biden administration was not seeking regime change in Moscow. These are big misstatements, not minor gaffes, with major global ramifications, and a direct impact on the war in Ukraine

There is a major lack of discipline in messaging from the Biden administration, and clearly deep-seated divisions as well among policy staff. Biden himself has been stung by the charge from political opponents that he has been weak over Ukraine, as well as by sinking poll numbers, and is trying to overcompensate with tough rhetoric on Putin. His own aides are trying to rein him in. As a result, confusion reigns

By contrast:

Donald Trump used to come under heavy fire from the French, Germans and European elites at Nato summits, and his message was not always popular. But he was far more effective than Joe Biden at getting results, increasing defence spending, and shaking up the complacent status quo in Europe

True!

As Neil Oliver says, our leaders are not up to scratch.

Furthermore, we, the general public, must also stop being complacent about civil liberties and our Western freedoms. As we saw in the pandemic, our leaders can take them away instantly, without any qualms. Restoring them will take much longer.

No Briton in any position of influence likes President Donald Trump.

That outlook extends to 99% of the British middle classes.

Throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I couldn’t help but think that, were President Trump still in the White House, Putin never would have dared to try it.

Finally, a British journalist has spoken up, saying the same thing.

Enter The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, a never-Trumper, who wrote ‘Trump was right on Russia. He could have been its deterrent’, published on Monday, March 7.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Donald Trump is like one of those Roman emperors who everyone hated at the time but historians later admit was prophetic …

Putin took Crimea in 2014, under Obama, and invaded Ukraine in 2022, under Biden, so it’s reasonable to guess that this invasion wouldn’t have happened under Trump because it didn’t.

Trump says this is because he told Putin he was ready to drop a bomb on Moscow (“he sort of believed me like 5 per cent or 10 per cent – that’s all you need”), which is embarrassing if a lie and terrifying if true, but it does fit with the substantive record of his administration.

This is a good contrast between the Obama and Trump administrations:

Obama resisted sending lethal aid to Ukraine; Trump did so. From 2017-19, the Trump administration carried out 52 policy actions against Russia, ranging from sanctions to military action against Putin’s client Bashar al-Assad. When Assad used chemical weapons under Obama, America did not reply with force. When he tried the same trick under Trump, Trump hit a Syrian airbase with 59 tomahawk missiles. Separately, US commandos engaged directly with Syrian soldiers and Russian mercenaries. The details were classified but the President bragged about it at a fundraiser.

Trump was also right about NATO:

Trump called out the bad; he mocked the pretensions of the good. At the 2018 Nato summit, he demanded that his allies spend more on the military and pointed out that they were buying energy from the very country, Russia, that they expected America to protect them from. The West wasn’t just sanctimonious, it was cheap and greedy, and its decadence was sapping its deterrence.

Contrary to what Trump haters say, he wanted NATO members to stump up their fair share of cash to keep it going. The US was — and still is — overwhelmingly funding NATO, although Germany has been doing better. Britain is in second place, after the US.

Although labelled as an isolationist, Trump went to the troubled areas and leaders of the world no other US president wanted to get involved with. He attempted to broker a deal with North Korea. He succeeded in the Middle East, with influential Arab countries and Israel. For all of his bellicosity, which these leaders respected, he was a man of peace, not war.

Stanley says:

Trump, despite being labelled an isolationist, stood in a long line of Republicans who asserted the best way to avoid a fight is to signal to your opponent that if they lay one finger on you, you’ll break their nose.

Stanley mentions the parlous state of affairs with Biden and other Western leaders:

does anyone doubt that Biden’s incompetent withdrawal from Afghanistan encouraged Russia to try its luck? Weakness escalates tensions; politicians typically try to extricate themselves from the resulting crises through over-reaction – to bomb North Vietnam or surge troops in Iraq – and now there is talk of imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. If we don’t do it, says Zelensky, we are complicit in the murder of citizens. His anger is righteous. But the same Westerners who tell us Putin is insane and desperate can’t then advise us to risk nuclear war with him. When a house is on fire, we try to put it out: we don’t show our solidarity by burning down the whole street.

Stanley points out that Trump did not have time for idealism:

Another common notion is that the Ukrainians are defending the universal principle of “democracy”, when what they’re really fighting for is their homes. That’s a noble cause and we’re right to back them, but Trump regarded such ideological abstractions as artificial, expensive and best avoided. All nations are in competition, he would argue, regardless of political system, and their goals are shaped by history and geography. Russia wants, and will always want, a buffer zone to the West. Trump had no problem with that, in theory, and it was a mistake to needle Moscow with the threat of Nato extension.

On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Stanley rightly concludes:

Given the obvious blow to Pax Americana that the invasion has inflicted, it’s hard to imagine that a second-term Trump would have tolerated it.

Too right!

Personally, I doubt that Trump will run again in 2024, although he might.

If he doesn’t, I hope that the Republican candidate adopts a similar position of toughness.

It’s the only language some world leaders understand.

On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, a retired CIA man, Douglas London, wrote an article for Just Security: ‘CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region: Afghanistan, Not An Intelligence Failure — Something Much Worse’:

Douglas London is that former counterterrorism chief. He worked for the CIA for 34 years. Nowadays, he teaches at Georgetown University, is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute and is author of the book The Recruiter, which details the changes in the CIA post-9/11.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Until his retirement in 2019, he was responsible for preparing security assessments for President Trump about Afghanistan. He volunteered in the same capacity for then-candidate Joe Biden.

Withdrawal — how and when?

He writes that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has long been predicated with ‘what-if’ scenarios (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

The U.S. Intelligence Community assessed Afghanistan’s fortunes according to various scenarios and conditions and depending on the multiple policy alternatives from which the president could choose. So, was it 30 days from withdrawal to collapse? 60? 18 months? Actually, it was all of the above, the projections aligning with the various “what ifs.”  Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.

He says that Biden and Trump viewed withdrawal differently, citing Biden’s speech of August 16 (emphases mine):

In his prepared remarks on Monday, President Biden stated, “But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” That’s misleading at best. The CIA anticipated it as a possible scenario.

By early 2018, it was clear President Trump wanted out of Afghanistan regardless of the alarming outcomes the intelligence community cautioned. But he likewise did not want to preside over the nightmarish scenes we’ve witnessed. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.

Douglas London outlines the various scenarios:

Scenarios for an orderly withdrawal ranged from those in which the United States retained roughly 5,000 troops and most of the existing forward military and intelligence operating bases, to what was determined to be the minimum presence of around 2,500 troops maintaining the larger bases in greater Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Khost, as well as the infrastructure to support the bases we would turn over to Afghan partners. The larger of these two options was judged more likely to prevent Afghanistan’s collapse for 1-2 years and still provide for a degree of continued U.S. counterterrorism pressure; the smaller footprint was more difficult to assess but allowed flexibility for the United States to increase or further reduce its presence should circumstances rapidly deteriorate. (It would be valuable if commentators and news coverage included a greater appreciation of how such contingency-based assessments work rather than conflating assessments.)

Initially, even a “Kabul only” option included the retention of the sprawling U.S. Bagram Air Base and other intelligence facilities in the greater capital area through which the United States could project force, maintain essential logistical, intelligence and medical support to Afghan operated bases, and retain some technical intelligence collection and counterterrorist capability across the country. But without any U.S. military and intelligence presence beyond the Embassy in Kabul, faced with a Taliban military and propaganda offensive, and undermined by Ghani’s fractious relationship with his own national political partners, the intelligence community warned the government could dissolve in days. And so it went.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a questionable special representative

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was America’s special representative during the Trump administration’s negotiations.

In 2018, he was a private citizen who had contacts with a number of Afghans. Douglas London said that the intelligence community did not trust him because he was:

dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises.

Because the withdrawal plan was popular with voters in 2020, the Biden camp also endorsed it:

Moreover, from my perspective, they appeared to believe that negative consequences would be at least largely owned by Trump, the GOP, and Khalilzad, whose being left in place, intentionally or not, allowed him to serve even more so as a fall guy. For the candidate, who had long advocated withdrawal, the outcome was, as it had been with Trump, a foregone conclusion despite what many among his counterterrorism advisors counselled. President Biden himself has said as much in terms of his mind being made up.

There was a rather naïve confidence among Biden’s more influential foreign policy advisors that the Taliban’s best interests were served by adhering to the agreement’s main points. Doing so, they argued, would guarantee the U.S. withdrawal, and leave room for more constructive engagement, possibly even aid, should the Taliban come to power.

The Taliban’s PR offensive

Meanwhile, the Taliban were becoming more aware of the importance of a PR offensive aimed at the West:

The Taliban learned a great deal about the utility of PR since 2001, and maximized their access to Western media as highlighted by Taliban deputy and Haqqani Taliban Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani’s apparently ghost written New York Times OpEd. The reality, of course, as the intelligence community long maintained, was that the Taliban’s control over the country was predicated on isolation from the rest of the world, rather than integration. International recognition, global financial access, and foreign aid were not going to influence how the Taliban would rule.

Also:

Momentum the Taliban needed to secure their adversaries’ cooperation was facilitated by a robust propaganda machine that, in many instances, successfully manipulated the media into positive, disproportional coverage from the outset of their offensive in casting their conquest as inevitable. Neither the Afghan government nor the United States could ever effectively counter the Taliban’s persistent and savvy media efforts given the need to protect sources and methods, legal restraints, and an unfortunate lack in investment and imagination.

For Afghan politicians, money talks

Greasing palms is part of Afghan life among those in power locally and regionally. Money can also determine one’s political alliances, which can be fluid:

U.S. policy makers were also cautioned that the broad coalition of Afghan politicians, warlords and military leaders across the country benefiting from the money and power that came with a sustained U.S. presence were likely to lose confidence and hedge their bets were U.S. military forces and intelligence personnel to withdraw. Further, that President Ashraf Ghani’s stubborn resistance to the Afghan political practice of buying support and his dismantling of the warlords’ private armies would weaken their incentives to support the government. Switching sides for a better deal or to fight another day is a hallmark of Afghan history. And U.S. policy to impose an American blueprint for a strong central government and integrated national army served only to enable Ghani’s disastrous and uncompromising stewardship.

On that topic, Britain’s talkRADIO has been interviewing another seasoned American counterintelligence specialist, Malcolm Nance, who said that, over the past year at least, the Taliban were co-opting other Afghans, including those from the country’s Western-backed army.

He said that it did not have to be that way, since he went into Afghanistan in November 2001. The US could have done the job in short order, had Bush II not switched priorities to Iraq:

Keeping the money aspect in mind, Douglas London describes how the 2021 debacle unfolded. Al Qa’ida also played a part:

The clock began to accelerate when US military and intelligence elements withdrew from Kandahar on May 13, and thereafter closed remaining forward operating bases and “lily pads,” the term used for temporary staging areas under U.S. or coalition control. By the time Bagram was closed on July 1, the United States and NATO had also departed Herat, Mazar I Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and other locations I am not at liberty to name. The Taliban was moving in even as we were packing up. They were quite likely joined by the many al-Qa’ida members (some of whom had enjoyed Iranian sanctuary),-if not direct operational support, augmented further by recently released comrades the Taliban set free from Afghan detention at Bagram and elsewhere.

Policy makers were also aware of the Taliban’s effective use of a parallel “shadow government” structure maintained since losing power that provided for reliable lines of communication with local elders across the provinces, as well as government authorities, often owing to shared family or clan connections. To an American it might be surprising, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for an Afghan military commander or police chief to be in regular contact even with those faced daily in combat.

The Taliban was thus well positioned to negotiate and buy rather than fight their way to successive conquests, itself an Afghan tradition. Moreover, the Taliban was prepared to quickly rule and provide services in the territories coming under its control. And by prioritizing the periphery to secure borders and the lines of communication required to sustain an insurgency, striking first from where they were defeated in 2001, the Taliban clearly learned from history, whereas we still have not. But where did the money come from to finance this campaign?

Persuading low level government fighters and functionaries to turnover their weapons and abandon their posts was well within the Taliban’s means, but it was undoubtedly more expensive securing the cooperation of senior officials with the authority to surrender provincial capitals. Layer on that the need to pay the surge of their own fighters, many of them essentially part-time and seasonal. Payroll and care for the families of fighters killed and wounded is often the greatest expense for the Taliban and its terrorist partner groups, and in Afghanistan, likewise the most important incentive to attract fighters.

Where Taliban money comes from

The Taliban finance themselves from a variety of sources, from drug trafficking to donations from other foreign countries:

The Taliban’s finances are complicated, more so by a structure which is not monolithic, and heavily dependent on the vast international criminal network operated by the Haqqani Taliban Network in the East, and somewhat autonomous regional commanders in the West. Revenues are variously drawn from taxes imposed on locals, narcotics trafficking, foreign donations-largely from Arab Gulf countries, real estate (some of which is abroad), the extortion of mining companies operating in areas under their control–many of which are Chinese government parastatals, and other foreign governments. Pakistan has long been a principal backer, but Russia and Iran increased their investments to court the group in recent years. Moreover, both benefited decidedly from the Taliban’s swift, bloodless conquest that expeditiously purged and humiliated the United States, and minimized what might have been a violent, prolonged fight that increased regional instability and the flow of refugees.

Dichotomy between US Department of Defense and CIA

Douglas London noted the disparity of opinion between the Department of Defense and the CIA:

in grading their own homework, the U.S. defense establishment only exacerbated the problem. While it’s little surprise the Department of Defense was unwilling to objectively evaluate the resolve and capacity of those they trained, equipped, and advised to resist a forthcoming Taliban offensive, their rose-colored depictions of achievement over 20 years flew in the face of reality, and was consistently challenged by the CIA’s more gloomy, albeit realistic projections.

Conclusion

He concludes:

there was no intelligence failure by the agency in warning either Trump or Biden as to how events would play out. Operating in the shadows and “supporting the White House” will prevent the intelligence community from publicly defending itself. But the failure was not due to any lack of warning, but rather the hubris and political risk calculus of decision makers whose choices are too often made in their personal and political interest or with pre-committed policy choices, rather than influenced by (sometimes inconvenient) intelligence assessments and the full interests of the country.

It is difficult to see how the Afghanistan debacle can ever be rectified now, especially after 20 years.

As to what happens going forward, unfortunately, the grim possibilities are endless.

More on Afghanistan tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post covered the intractable situation in Afghanistan from Alexander the Great through to America’s involvement as of 2018.

I ended with an article by Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve, who wrote an article for the Indian Center for Diplomatic Studies, ‘China Moves into Afghanistan As Part of Its Global Expansion Mission’.

Lithium and other minerals

China’s involvement in Afghanistan will become much deeper. The country’s mineral deposits, lithium in particular, are much sought after. This is what the US withdrawal on August 15 means:

The tweeted article is by an Indian scientist, Ameya Paleja, writing for Interesting Engineering: ‘With Taliban, Is China Eyeing Afghanistan’s Mineral Deposits?’

Paleja writes (emphases mine):

The abrupt removal of the US forces has left a political vacuum that China seems eager to fill. The Week reported that Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a Taliban delegation earlier in July and the two have agreed on a bigger role for China in the “future reconstruction and economic development of the region.”

China had made some inroads in mining projects in 2008 with a plan to mine copper out of what is believed to be the second-largest copper reserve in the world. However, progress on the project had been slow. Its next target could be the rare earth elements like lithium that China currently mines and exports from its mainland to fuel the electric transformation of transportation in the US and Europe.

Lithium-ion batteries are now ubiquitous in almost all electronic appliances and even working as storage systems for grids powered by renewable energies.  However, China would be happy to move the operations to another country, given the environmental risks entailed in the process. 

Therefore, it is curious that Joe Biden abruptly ended US involvement in Afghanistan, known to be the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’.

Where was that expression coined? In the United States, by their own defence department:

Yet, for whatever reason, Ameya Paleja points out that the 2020 United States Geological Survey (USGS) report:

does not even mention Afghanistan in the list of global lithium reserves

Newsweek invited Nigel Farage to write an editorial on Biden’s perilous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Farage wrote about the lithium deposits:

A commentator on GB News this week said that China plays the long game. Western countries think four or five years ahead. China looks 10 to 20 years ahead.

In reading Farage’s article, one might be forgiven for thinking that China started putting the pieces together some years ago, even before electric cars became a thing:

Afghanistan’s lithium reserves were first identified during geological studies carried out in the 1980s by the Soviet Union. At that time, the discovery did not resonate with most people because demand for the mineral was fairly low. After the Americans arrived in Afghanistan 20 years ago, they sought to back up the work done decades earlier and, in 2007, the United States Geological Survey discovered vast deposits of iron, gold, copper, cobalt and lithium. This discovery remained largely unknown until 2010. Yet media reports from that year confirmed its significance to modern industry, saying that Afghanistan was on course to be one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo that was unearthed at the time even stated that the country could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It should be noted that Joe Biden was vice president when that memo became widely known.

Almost 15 years after that survey, most of these mineral deposits remain unexploited as a result of the various problems which have overshadowed Afghanistan. Recently, however, rapidly rising commodity prices have proved just how vital lithium has become. This development makes Biden’s irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan even more difficult to comprehend.

Farage discussed China’s strategy in Africa, which clearly works for the continent’s leaders:

Despite its great size, China is surprisingly short on many of the vital minerals it needs to support its modern industrial revolution. To date, its Belt and Road initiative has used Africa to ensure vital supplies for the future, successfully securing the rights to mineral mining in many countries in that continent. In return, African administrations receive revenue for opening up their countries to the Chinese. The fact that some individual African politicians seem to have become extremely wealthy very quickly in recent years is not a coincidence.

Therefore, he says, China can use the same strategy with the Taliban, despite the Uighur situation:

I predict that exactly the same thing will happen in Afghanistan. True, there will almost certainly have to be a compromise over the appalling treatment of the 12 million-strong Muslim Uighur minority living in Xinjiang, but I have no doubt that China and Afghanistan will reach an understanding. China is desperate to forge links with the Taliban in order to obtain Afghanistan’s assets as quickly as possible.

Arguably, it has already begun to do so. It was announced this week that a Chinese consortium intends to reopen the Mes Aynak copper mine near Kabul, which is believed to contain some of the largest copper deposits in the world. The consortium, consisting of the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC Group) and another Chinese company, Jiangxi Copper, was awarded a 30-year, $2.9 billion contract in 2008 but halted work because of the pandemic. According to an unnamed source at the state-owned Global Times “We would consider reopening [Mes Aynak] after the situation is stabilised and international recognition, including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime, take place.”

Farage concludes:

Although guaranteeing the future availability and price of any commodity is difficult, in this particular situation one thing seems certain: the West’s green revolution has been dealt a major blow. In strategic terms, this underlines the madness of Biden’s withdrawal decision. Was the president poorly briefed, or simply not up to the job? Whatever the answer, the green revolution that has been planned by every G7 nation has suffered a setback. The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of blundering Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, August 17, Cynthia Chung of Canada’s Rising Tide Foundation wrote an article for Strategic Culture: ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

Chung wrote about the Chinese government’s interest in the Wakhan Corridor, about which I wrote yesterday. It is a slim tongue-shaped piece of eastern Afghanistan that borders China. Among other projects:

Beijing is also building a major road through the Wakhan Corridor, which would connect China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan.

The Wakhan Corridor project is fraught with risk, but the Chinese have been negotiating with the Taliban since 2019. From what Chung reports, the Taliban might sacrifice any concern for the Uighurs for the good of Chinese investment:

China has been undergoing negotiations with the Taliban since 2019.

The Wakhan Corridor is regarded as a rather risky endeavour having the potential to act as a corridor for terrorism rather than development.

Just a few weeks ago, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview that “China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan…if [the Chinese] have investments, of course we will ensure their safety.

On the issue of whether the Taliban might support alleged Uyghur militants against China in neighboring Xinjiang, Shaheen responded, “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs.

This may seem like empty talk meant to impress Beijing and earn more brownie points, but the Wakhan Corridor is narrow and will not be difficult to monitor. Thus Beijing is offering this in good faith but it is also an easy test to see how much substance is indeed behind such words, and the Taliban know this.

On July 28th, Taliban representatives met with Chinese officials in Tianjin. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi statedThe Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction there.

This is sending a clear message, that so long as the Taliban agrees to defend Afghanistan against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and serves to increase stability in the region, it will continue to have a seat at the negotiation table.

Trump’s withdrawal plan had wide approval

President Donald Trump presented his plan for American withdrawal from Afghanistan on February 29, 2020: ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’.

It placed a certain degree of trust in the Taliban to negotiate with the then-Afghan government.

It also met with wide approval from not only the UN Security Council but also Russia and China. Chung gives us an outline of Trump’s strategy. It included:

provisions including the withdrawal of all regular American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge that they would oppose al-Qaeda in their zones of influence and open up talks with the Afghan government. This peace agreement was also supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

Under this peace agreement there was to be an initial reduction from 13, 000 to 8, 600 troops in July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal by May 1st 2021 if the Taliban kept its commitments during this downscaling of U.S. military presence.

This agreement looked promising under the Trump Administration, and it was thought that it would be possible to work with the Taliban in securing peace and stability in Afghanistan, to counter al-Qaeda, and to allow for American troops to finally leave a country they had been occupying for two decades. And again, this was a proposal that was supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and the UN Security Council.

Even Gen. Nick Carter, the UK chief of the General Staff stated in an interview, “I think that the Taliban is not the organization it once was, it is an organization that has evolved significantly in the 20 years that we have been there…They recognize that they need some political legitimacy and I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting.

Trump was already discussing his plan the year before, in January 2019. On January 31, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) agreed, saying that it was not in any way ‘precipitous’. Who at the time could have imagined Biden’s precipitous move 17 months later?

The following day, February 1, Trump tweeted:

I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace

However, the Senate disagreed with a proposed withdrawal. Jesse Kelly, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote about it on February 4 for The Federalist: ‘Congress’s Vote To Keep War In Afghanistan Sells Out American Soldiers’.

It began:

The U.S. Senate cannot agree on anything. They are so mired in partisan gridlock, a resolution declaring the sky to be officially the color blue would fail along party lines. But there is one thing and one thing only they agree on: 17 years of our troops dying in Afghanistan isn’t long enough.

By a 68-23 margin, the Senate decided we haven’t spilled enough blood, broken enough soldiers (mentally and physically), or spent enough money. All for a now-aimless conflict in a part of the world Americans don’t even care about.

What began as an attempt to hunt down Osama bin Laden has now become a generational conflict where sons are patrolling the same areas as their fathers did. This no longer a war. This has become a hopeless mission to tame a part of the world that has never been and will never be tamed.

Afghanistan is a rugged, tribal nation with different interests than ours. As with so many parts of the world, the strong will rule over the weak there, and there is precious little America can do about that. That is why we’re now resigned to negotiating a peace deal with the very Taliban we’ve been fighting for 17 years.

He cited three Founding Fathers, none of whom thought that America should be the world’s policeman.

Kelly concluded:

Let us stop this. Let us revert back to an originalist foreign policy that lets America worry about America and Americans.

That’s not isolationism, as America must remain ever vigilant and ready to take on the evils of this world should they threaten her interests. Instead, it’s a foreign policy that focuses on neutrality, trade, and places high value on the life of the American soldier. Let us finally send neoconservative interventionalism to the death it wishes upon our troops.

With regard to the Senate vote, Rand Paul told Fox News:

He also suggested that it was time for the Senate to stop using US troops to further a prevailing narrative in politics and the media:

On September 7, Trump was ready to meet a Taliban delegation at Camp David, but the meeting fell through. He tweeted:

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to…

I don’t know what the next tweet said.

On Thanksgiving Day that year, while the media accused him of being on holiday, Trump travelled to Afghanistan to meet with American troops:

He was at Bagram Airfield:

On February 20, 2020, just nine days before Trump issued his ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,’ Mike Pompeo and his negotiators met with the Taliban in Doha and arrived at an agreement to further the Afghan Peace Process:

How was this going to work? Trump said that the US would keep an eye on the Taliban:

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said the Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the US for a long time

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Mr Trump added. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen.”

The agreement, fragile though it was, was signed on Saturday, February 29, 2020:

Trump expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the UN and NATO. Dr Fauci is there because coronavirus press conferences in the United States had already begun:

On March 1, however, Afghanistan was reneging on the release of prisoners. President Ghani said at the time that the release was a decision for the Afghan government, not the United States.

Nevertheless, by March 9, US troops began going home. American Military News reported:

Hundreds of U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan in line with the U.S. commitments announced in the recent U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

American service members are leaving Afghanistan, with no troops planned to replace them in the country, the Associated Press reported Monday following conversations with an unnamed U.S. military official. The withdrawal comes even as uncertainty persists around the Taliban peace agreement, as well as political upheaval within the Afghan government.

On November 16, several days after the hotly-contested election, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sided with Joe Biden and again said that Trump’s plan was premature:

However, freshman senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) urged Trump to press ahead in his final weeks in the White House:

The Concerned Veterans for America also urged Trump to act before he left office:

Unfortunately, by January 2021, President Trump’s hands were tied and, on Inauguration Day morning, as planned, he left the White House.

Biden and Afghanistan

On April 14, 2021, Joe Biden made an announcement about further troop withdrawals:

Biden said that he spoke with Obama and Bush before taking a decision:

The then-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed a conversation with Biden:

By July 8, however, the wheels were falling off the bus, even though Biden insisted there was no threat of Taliban takeover:

On July 9, the Taliban were already on their way to retaking control of Afghanistan, as you can see from this BBC map:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/sc17082101.jpg

By the time Biden created chaos on August 14 and 15, the Taliban had triumphed.

More on Afghanistan to follow next week.

How could Joe Biden end US involvement in Afghanistan so disastrously?

He made the decision unilaterally, leaving the nation in peril over the weekend, with horrific images unfolding across world media.

That said, by the time the US and UK entered Afghanistan in 2001 to rid the world of Osama bin Laden and terror, everyone knew that any operation there would be futile. The Soviets even pulled out in 1989.

In fact, Afghanistan was always an intractable place, a law unto itself throughout history.

Alexander the Great’s tenuous hold

Military historian Jamie Hayes wrote a gripping history of an ancient and weak conquest of Afghanistan, ‘Unwilling To Stop And Unwilling To Go On: Alexander the Great’s Afghan Campaign’.

Until his invasion of Afghanistan, Alexander the Great believed himself invincible (emphases mine):

Alexander the Great was undeniably the greatest military commander in history. He took over his father’s throne at just 20 years old and immediately began a campaign the likes of which the world has never seen. He fought battle after battle, forging the largest empire on earth—all without losing even once. As he rampaged across Western and Central Asia, he founded countless cities that stand to this day. Millennia after his death, military geniuses like Napoleon painstakingly studied his battles to learn from his success. He unquestionably earned his moniker—Alexander was Great.

With such a spotless military record, Alexander’s conquests seem almost like they were…easy. With his elite troops and unmatched tactical genius, he started from the unassuming Macedon in Northern Greece and wrought the largest empire the world had ever seen, spanning from Greece in the West all the way to India in the East. But while his remarkable conquests in Persia and his far-reaching campaign to India take center stage in the history books, there’s an often-forgotten chapter of Alexander’s legacy that was anything but easy.

Alexander’s campaign in Afghanistan has become a mere footnote in his legacy—perhaps because it was the region where the great warlord saw the least success. Like many other military superpowers would after him, from the British Empire to Russia to NATO, Alexander waltzed into Afghanistan with all the confidence in the world, but he left battered and bruised, with very little to show for it. The region chewed him up and spat him out, and while he never explicitly “lost” any battles in his time there, it’s hard to so he won much of anything either. In fact, historians have claimed that the brutal Afghan campaign marked a shift in Alexander—from infallible Golden Boy to a cruel, paranoid shell of what he once was.

Alexander the Great wanted to topple a man named Bessus, the only obstacle preventing the military commander from becoming king of the Persian Empire. Bessus had toppled Darius III (Darius the Great), the self-styled King of Kings of the Persian Empire. Bessus gave himself a new name, Artaxerxes V.

Incensed, Alexander believed that Artaxarxes V was a usurper and set about to right that perceived wrong. For that, he had to follow the new king into Bactria, which is part of modern-day Afghanistan.

Bactria proved to be highly difficult with regard to the terrain and the men who lived there:

… the conflict here was slow and brutal—guerrilla warfare and sieges that left Alexander and his men exhausted and disillusioned. The frozen mountains and blazing deserts of the region were a far cry from the battlefields they were used to, and “glorious battle” seemed to be a thing of the past.

Alexander spent two agonizing years in Afghanistan, a major chunk of his historic campaign across western and central Asia. Granted, he didn’t leave the brutal landscape empty-handed: His primary goal in Bactria was to capture the traitorous Bessus, and he accomplished that. The rival claimant to the throne of the Persian Empire was dealt with, and Alexander could rightfully call himself the King of Kings. But the price he paid for that luxury was extreme.

Alexander’s most successful enemy in Afghanistan was the land itself. He lost far more men to the frigid peaks of the Hindu Kush or the scorching Northern Afghan desert than to any military resistance he faced. And when he did try to engage enemy forces, he found himself playing a frustrating game of whack-a-mole.

Once he left, his victory was short-lived:

Fighting in Afghanistan was a Sisyphean task, and Alexander’s grip on the region started slipping the moment that he left. While it was considered a part of the enormous Empire that he left after his death, control of the territory was tenuous at best. Revolts began almost the moment that Alexander dropped dead, and they seemingly never truly stopped. Rebellion was simply a reality for any foreign state that attempted to claim sovereignty over the unforgiving landscape.

Nonetheless, he left a legacy with the foundation of several cities, including Kandahar. He also found a wife there:

He founded many cities as he chased Bessus across the region, some of which still exist today. The most notable is the city of Kandahar, which he named Alexandria Arachosia (in fact, it’s believed that the name Kandahar itself is derived from the Persian name for Alexander, Iskandar). He also found his famous bride, the beautiful Roxana, whom he loved above all others, in the region. But while Alexander left his mark on Afghanistan, Afghanistan also left its mark on him.

Centuries later, the British tried to control the country as did the Soviets. Both failed.

That would not stop another British foray nor did it stop the Americans.

The Americans tried their best

I have only a few bookmarks on the Americans’ long-term mission in Afghanistan.

In October 2009, Michelle Malkin found two reports about a deadly attack on US troops. She wrote (emphasis in the original):

An incredible account from ABC News reporter Karen Russo, who notes that wounded troops refused to leave the battlefield this weekend during the deadly siege at Kamdeysh:

Flying into the besieged Afghan base during a nighttime firefight this weekend is a harrowing mix of overwhelming noise, stomach dropping maneuvers and shadows hurrying through the gloom.

When the chopper lifted off moments later with three wounded soldiers, it left behind others who were wounded but refused to be MEDEVACED out of the combat zone so they could return to fight with their buddies.

As fighting at two U.S. outposts raged on the ground this weekend, the MEDEVAC team at a nearby base waited – with both patience and frustration.

Eight soldiers, all from Fort Carson, were killed that night. Malkin cited another report (emphases mine):

In the deadliest day for Fort Carson since Vietnam, eight soldiers from the post’s 4th Brigade Combat Team died in Afghanistan on Saturday when insurgents attacked a pair of remote outposts in Nuristan province

“My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost and to their fellow Soldiers who remained to finish this fight,” Col. Randy George, the brigade’s commander, said in a statement late Saturday. “This was a complex attack in a difficult area. Both the U.S. and Afghan Soldiers fought bravely together; I am extremely proud of their professionalism and bravery.”

Later that month, when Obama had been in the White House for less than a year, Global Research published ‘America’s Phoney War in Afghanistan’, which posited that the real reasons for being in Afghanistan were far removed from terror. Controlling the opium supply there was one real objective. The second was to maintain a bulwark against Russia and China.

Excerpts follow:

The US military is in Afghanistan for two reasons. First to restore and control the world’s largest supply of opium for the world heroin markets and to use the drugs as a geopolitical weapon against opponents, especially Russia. That control of the Afghan drug market is essential for the liquidity of the bankrupt and corrupt Wall Street financial mafia.

According even to an official UN report, opium production in Afghanistan has risen dramatically since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001. UNODC data shows more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past four growing seasons (2004-2007), than in any one year during Taliban rule. More land is now used for opium in Afghanistan, than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This is no accident.

It has been documented that Washington hand-picked the controversial Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun warlord from the Popalzai tribe, long in the CIA’s service, brought him back from exile in the USA, created a Hollywood mythology around his “courageous leadership of his people.” According to Afghan sources, Karzai is the Opium “Godfather” of Afghanistan today. There is apparently no accident that he was and is today still Washington’s preferred man in Kabul. Yet even with massive vote buying and fraud and intimidation, Karzai’s days could be ending as President.

The second reason the US military remains in Afghanistan long after the world has forgotten even who the mysterious Osama bin Laden and his alleged Al Qaeda terrorist organization is or even if they exist, is as a pretext to build a permanent US military strike force with a series of permanent US airbases across Afghanistan. The aim of those bases is not to eradicate any Al Qaeda cells that may have survived in the caves of Tora Bora, or to eradicate a mythical “Taliban” which at this point according to eyewitness reports is made up overwhelmingly of local ordinary Afghanis fighting to rid their land once more of occupier armies as they did in the 1980’s against the Russians.

The aim of the US bases in Afghanistan is to target and be able to strike at the two nations which today represent the only combined threat in the world today to an American global imperium, to America’s Full Spectrum Dominance as the Pentagon terms it …

Each Eurasian power brings to the table essential contributions. China has the world’s most robust economy, a huge young and dynamic workforce, an educated middle class. Russia, whose economy has not recovered from the destructive end of the Soviet era and of the primitive looting during the Yeltsin era, still holds essential assets for the combination. Russia’s nuclear strike force and its military pose the only threat in the world today to US military dominance, even if it is largely a residue of the Cold War. The Russian military elites never gave up that potential.

As well Russia holds the world’s largest treasure of natural gas and vast reserves of oil urgently needed by China. The two powers are increasingly converging via a new organization they created in 2001 known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). That includes as well as China and Russia, the largest Central Asia states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The purpose of the alleged US war against both Taliban and Al Qaeda is in reality to place its military strike force directly in the middle of the geographical space of this emerging SCO in Central Asia. Iran is a diversion. The main goal or target is Russia and China.

Officially, of course, Washington claims it has built its military presence inside Afghanistan since 2002 in order to protect a “fragile” Afghan democracy. It’s a curious argument given the reality of US military presence there.

In December 2004, during a visit to Kabul, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finalized plans to build nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia. The nine are in addition to the three major US military bases already installed in the wake of its occupation of Afghanistan in winter of 2001-2002, ostensibly to isolate and eliminate the terror threat of Osama bin Laden.

The Pentagon built its first three bases at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, the US’ main military logistics center; Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan; and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand, the largest US base in Afghanistan, was constructed a mere 100 kilometers from the border of Iran, and within striking distance of Russia as well as China.

Afghanistan has historically been the heartland for the British-Russia Great Game, the struggle for control of Central Asia during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. British strategy then was to prevent Russia at all costs from controlling Afghanistan and thereby threatening Britain’s imperial crown jewel, India.

Afghanistan is similarly regarded by Pentagon planners as highly strategic. It is a platform from which US military power could directly threaten Russia and China, as well as Iran and other oil-rich Middle East lands. Little has changed geopolitically over more than a century of wars.

Afghanistan is in an extremely vital location, straddling South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Afghanistan also lies along a proposed oil pipeline route from the Caspian Sea oil fields to the Indian Ocean, where the US oil company, Unocal, along with Enron and Cheney’s Halliburton, had been in negotiations for exclusive pipeline rights to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to Enron’s huge natural gas power plant at Dabhol near Mumbai. Karzai, before becoming puppet US president, had been a Unocal lobbyist.

By the time the article was posted, there was allegedly little terrorism threat left:

the National Security Adviser to President Obama, former Marine Gen. James Jones has made a statement, conveniently buried by the friendly US media, about the estimated size of the present Al Qaeda danger in Afghanistan. Jones told Congress, “The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

That means that Al-Qaeda, for all practical purposes, does not exist in Afghanistan. Oops…

If we follow the statement to its logical consequence we must conclude then that the reason German soldiers are dying along with other NATO youth in the mountains of Afghanistan has nothing to do with “winning a war against terrorism.” Conveniently most media chooses to forget the fact that Al Qaeda to the extent it ever existed, was a creation in the 1980’s of the CIA, who recruited and trained radical muslims from across the Islamic world to wage war against Russian troops in Afghanistan as part of a strategy developed by Reagan’s CIA head Bill Casey and others to create a “new Vietnam” for the Soviet Union which would lead to a humiliating defeat for the Red Army and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now US NSC head Jones admits there is essentially no Al Qaeda anymore in Afghanistan. Perhaps it is time for a more honest debate from our political leaders about the true purpose of sending more young to die protecting the opium harvests of Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, terror remained a by-product of the American presence in Afghanistan. One Afghan-American visitor was so affected by his time there that he returned to launch terror attacks of his own in the Chelsea district of Manhattan as well as in a shore town in New Jersey. He was from Elizabeth, New Jersey.

On September 19, 2016, the Boston Herald reported that a friend of the suspect said that the visit to Afghanistan was ‘life-changing’:

A man who described himself as a childhood friend of the 28-year-old busted today in connection with this weekend’s New York-area bombings told the Herald the suspect made a life-changing trip to Afghanistan two years ago

“At one point he left to go to Afghanistan, and two years ago he came back, popped up out of nowhere and he was real religious,” friend Flee Jones, 27, said of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami. “And it was shocking. I’m trying to understand what’s going on. I’ve never seen him like this.”

Police this morning released a photo of Rahami, an Afghan immigrant and U.S. citizen, wanted for questioning in the bombings that rocked a Manhattan neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town. Rahami was taken into custody after a gunfight in nearby Linden today at 11:20 a.m. (See that story here…)

The terror suspect’s arrest came after investigators this morning swarmed a chicken restaurant and apartment here in connection with the hunt for Rahami, Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage told the Herald …

Bollwage told the Herald the search began after five people were pulled over on the Belt Parkway last night in connection with the bombing in Chelsea. That led to the search of First American Fried Chicken and the apartment above it in Elizabeth, Bollwage said, but it was unclear how the people detained were connected to the restaurant.

In addition to the blast in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday that injured dozens, a pipe bomb exploded in a New Jersey shore town before a charity 5K race and an unexploded pressure cooker device was found blocks away from the explosion site in Chelsea. Yesterday, five explosive devices were discovered at an Elizabeth train station.

FBI agents as well as state and local police were in the eatery and the apartment upstairs, which are cordoned off by yellow crime tape. Investigators towed a black Toyota sedan away from the street in front of the restaurant this morning …

According to an Elizabeth resident, Rahami worked the register at the restaurant and was in charge when his father was gone.

A few months earlier, in June, the father of mass shooter Omar Raheem allegedly supported the Taliban and wanted to become president of Afghanistan. The Daily Mail reported:

Mass shooter Omar Mateen’s father Seddique Mateen recently visited Congress, the State Department and met political leaders during a trip to Washington, DC.

Mateen, who made the trip in April, is seen in social media posts posing in front of the State Department and Democratic Foreign Services Committee offices.

The Afghanistan native, who also regularly writes open letters to President Barack Obama, has expressed gratitude [to the] Afghan Taliban who hosts the Durand Jirga Show on a channel called Payam-e-Afghan, which broadcasts from California 

Dozens of videos are posted under Mateen’s name on YouTube, where he speaks on a range of political subjects in the Dari language.

One video shows him declaring his candidacy for the Afghan presidency.

Posts include topics such as ‘Rise Afghan people against Pakistan’ and ‘Intelligent service and Military of Pakistan real Enemy of the USA (sic)’.

In one video the elder Mateen holds up a sign that reads: ‘ISI Pakistan and Military is Destroying 14 years of US work in Afghanistan to cut AID to killers’.

Meanwhile, the Taliban were still terrorising children, revealing the fact that local government was superior to that from the nation’s capital, Kabul. On June 12, 2010, the Taliban hanged a seven-year-old boy in order to punish his family. The Telegraph reported:

Del Awar, aged seven, was taken at sunset and found hanging in an orchard at sunrise the following day.

Bruises and scratches around the young boy’s neck suggested his murder had been neither quick, nor easy, according to those who saw his slight body after it was cut down.

His death is widely believed to have been punishment for the stand taken by his family against the Taliban in their remote Helmand village.

Reports from the village of Heratiyan in Sangin district said Del Awar’s father, Abdul Qudoos, and grandfather, Abdel Satar, had grown tired of Taliban intimidation and the violence the militants attracted.

The family had either demanded rebel fighters stop using village compounds to stage ambushes or had refused a demand of £400 for machine guns, villagers reported.

The two men had been angrily denounced as Nato or US spies and unknown to them, Del Awar’s cruel fate was sealed.

The Taliban have denied the killing, but in Heratiyan where villagers must live under the reality of complete militant control, many privately doubt their protestations.

Awar’s father, Abdul Qudoos, was a poor man who could not send his children to school and did not have a feud with anyone, explained Maulawi Shamsullah Sahrai, a 50-year-old elder from the village …

For those accused of collaboration with the Nato-led forces or with Mr Karzai’s weak government, Taliban control often means rapid summary execution.

Afghanistan brought other peculiarities involving alliances through sexual relations. In 2014, an American couple sued the United States Marines for allegedly covering up the circumstances of their son’s death in 2012. The New York Post reported:

The shattered family of a Long Island Marine murdered by an Afghan rebel on an American military base in 2012 is suing the corps and top brass for allegedly covering up details of the incident, The Post has learned.

Relatives of Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., 21, of Oceanside, say his killer served as a “tea boy” for an infamous Afghan police chief who was allowed to operate out of the Helmand province compound despite his perverse reputation, according to the Brooklyn federal suit filed Wednesday.

Ainuddin Khudairaham walked into a gym on the base and shot dead Buckley, Cpl. Richard Rivera and Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson. He proclaimed himself a jihadist before being arrested.

Khudairaham was employed on the base by Sarwar Jan, a notorious Afghan police chief with a taste for young boys, drug dealing, and trading arms with the Taliban, the suit states.

He had already been ejected from another village for his unsavory activities and the US military compiled a dossier of his ugly exploits long before he arrived at Buckley’s base, court papers state.

Afghan women continued to be terrorised, as the Daily Mail reported on December 28, 2016, after Donald Trump had been elected president:

A woman has reportedly been beheaded by a group of armed men in Afghanistan after she entered a city without her husband.

The horrific act took place in the remote village of Latti in Sar-e-Pul province, which is under Taliban control.

Provincial Governor spokesman Zabiullah Amani told the Nation that the 30-year-old woman was targeted because she went out alone without her husband, who is in Iran.

The Middle East Press reported the woman had gone to the market to shop.

Under Taliban rule women are prohibited from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.

They are also banned from working or education and are forced to wear the burqa.

The Taliban have rejected any involvement in this latest incident

Gateway Pundit carried the story and said that Trump would bring better days:

There is hope, however because Donald Trump has publicly stated that ‘things will be different after January 20th’.

Terrorism persisted in Afghanistan. On April 13, 2017, Trump retaliated with a MOAB, Mother of All Bombs:

Here is a video of the MOAB:

A Fox News article from that time stated that the MOAB had been tested for deployment as early as 2003:

It was first tested in 2003, but hadn’t been used in combat before Thursday.

Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said the bomb had been brought to Afghanistan “some time ago” for potential useThe bomb explodes in the air, creating air pressure that can make tunnels and other structures collapse. It can be used at the start of an offensive to soften up the enemy, weakening both its infrastructure and morale.

“As [ISIS’] losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against [ISIS].”

President Trump told media Thursday afternoon that “this was another successful mission” and he gave the military total authorization.

Trump was also asked whether dropping the bomb sends a warning to North Korea.

“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” said Trump.

It was thought that the MOAB was launched in retaliation for the death of a Green Beret soldier. The Daily Mail reported that the Pentagon denied any revenge:

The blast killed 36 militants as it destroyed three underground tunnels as well as weapons and ammunition, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense said.

No civilians were hurt, he added.

U.S. forces used a 30-foot long, GPS-guided GBU-43 bomb, at around 7.30pm local time in the Nangarhar Province …

A crater left by the blast is believed to be more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide after it exploded six feet above the ground. Anyone at the blast site was vaporized

The Pentagon is denying that the attack was a revenge strike despite the fact that it came in the same area of Afghanistan where a Green Beret soldier was killed on Saturday.

Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar of the 7th Special Forces Group was cut down by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations. 

A WikiLeaks document, quoting a New York Times article, says that the CIA had built those tunnels with the help of their then-ally, Osama bin Laden, who had a degree in civil engineering. He tapped into his family’s construction equipment. They owned the Saudi Binladin Group:

From the White House, Sean Spicer confirmed the MOAB hit. Nearly two-thirds of registered American voters approved.

Weeks later, on May 7, the US confirmed they had taken out Afghanistan’s head of ISIS at the end of April. Reuters reported:

The head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, was killed in an operation on April 27 conducted jointly by Afghan and U.S. Special Forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, U.S. and Afghan officials said on Sunday.

Hasib, appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a U.S. drone strike, is believed to have ordered a series of high profile attacks including one in March 8 on the main military hospital in Kabul, a statement said.

Last month, a Pentagon spokesman said Hasib had probably been killed during the raid by U.S. and Afghan special forces in Nangarhar during which two U.S. army Rangers were killed, but prior to Sunday’s announcement there had been no confirmation.

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson said in a statement from U.S. military headquarters in Kabul.

Late that summer, on August 21, Trump gave a speech on the future of Afghanistan, stating that he was weary of the American presence. He said that the country would need to sort its own governance out. He told the terrorists that America was keeping a close eye on them. He threatened to withdraw funding for Pakistan if they continued to support terrorists. He requested help and support from India. The short version is here, but beware of the language from the person summarising it.

The full transcript of Trump’s speech is here. It is too long to excerpt. He delivered it before the first lady, Mike Pence and a group of American troops.

By October 13, Pakistan was helping the United States. That day, Trump tweeted:

Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.

Nearly one year later, on September 3, 2018 — Labor Day — an American soldier serving in Operation Resolute Support was killed in an attack on NATO forces. He was the sixth American to fall in Afghanistan that year.

Two days earlier, news emerged that China was encroaching on Afghanistan, specifically into the Wakhan Corridor, which connects China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan. This is a thin tongue-shaped area of land, which you can see in a map here.

On September 1, Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve, wrote an article for the Indian Center for Diplomatic Studies, ‘China Moves into Afghanistan As Part of Its Global Expansion Mission’.

He wrote that China was seeking to end the Afghan conflict and enhance their own strategic standing:

For many, it was a stunning development. China will build a brigade-size military training facility in the strategic Wakhan Corridor, the land bridge between Tajikistan and Pakistan, which is located in Afghanistan’s northeast Badakhshan province and borders China.

Although Beijing denied the claim that hundreds of Chinese soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan, a source close to the Chinese military stated, “Construction of the base has started, and China will send at least one battalion of troops, along with weapons and equipment, to be stationed there and provide training to their Afghan counterparts.”

For those who have been closely following growing Chinese influence in Afghanistan, the above report comes as no surprise.

A year earlier on August 14, 2017, Spogmai radio quoted the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense (translation): “A brigade base will be built to maintain the security of Badakhshan, which will be funded by China.”

The spokesman stated that China has steadily increased its military cooperation with Afghanistan and had, at that point, already provided $73 million in military aid.

Beyond the enormous geopolitical implications of a Chinese military base inside Afghanistan, the Badakhshan installation is the final security link between Tajikistan, vital to China’s commercial interests in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, China’s “all-weather” ally in South Asia.

It was largely unreported that China financed border outposts and deployed troops to Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, which borders Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and is part of the Wakhan Corridor.

Consolidating a Chinese presence in Badakhshan province, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Technology has discussed signing a contract with China Telecom for a fiber optic network connecting China to the Wakhan Corridor. No doubt, the intention is to couple that system to the larger network linking China with Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa.

China is already Afghanistan’s biggest investor. In 2007 it took a $3 billion, 30-year lease for the Aynak copper mine. China and Pakistan have offered to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. Some have concluded that the CPEC invitation is a prelude to positioning China as a mediator to end the Afghan conflict.

I will stop there and continue tomorrow.

Involvement in Afghanistan is an unholy mess, aided and abetted by China and its allies.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,544 other subscribers

Archive

Calendar of posts

February 2023
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,703,021 hits