The Spectator Diary

It is one of the great mysteries of modern geopolitics. How the hell has Condoleezza Rice got away with it for so long? There she is, Secretary of State of the United States and one of the most powerful people on the planet. It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran. She is the girl who threatens Ahmedinejad with Armageddon, or whatever our policy is. And yet if you read State of Denial by Bob Woodward (as you must) it is clear that she was the most stupefyingly incompetent National Security Adviser in the history of that office. She was warned, in some detail, about 9/11. The CIA made a special trip to see her on 10 July 2001 to say that al-Qa’eda was planning something huge and imminent, and that a ‘strategic’ response was necessary. Uh-huh, said Condi, and did zip; and at every stage in the catastrophic ‘War on Terror’ her behaviour is characterised by this same weird zen-like passivity. Soon after the invasion the question emerges: should the US send many more troops? Condi somehow fails to offer an opinion. The Americans’ first hapless proconsul, Jay Garner, asks her before setting out what the game plan is. Where is power to reside? he asks. Who do we want to run the country? You might have thought this was a fairly crucial question, but ‘Rice said nothing.’ When Garner’s successor, Jerry Bremer, makes the appalling mistake of de-Baathifying Iraq, she doesn’t seem to grasp the significance of what is going on. And yet she was so important in the decision-making process that she was one of only two people consulted by Bush before he made his decision to go to war. The whole thing is terrifying. I absolutely refuse to take seriously any American urgings to get tough on Iran as long as she is still part of the show. Rumsfeld was demonised until Bush finally whacked him. Colin Powell was whacked. How come Condi is still flying around telling us what to do? One of the many reasons for regretting the death of Robin Cook, Labour’s conscience over Iraq, is that he never had the chance to interrogate her. I was all set to write the headline, ‘Cook Turns Up Heat On Rice.’ It’s about time someone did.

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Train Service

Ten years in, and still they can’t make the trains run on time

There comes a moment in the twilight of any regime when the mood of the mob suddenly changes. An ugliness descends, a ruthlessness, a fury. It is the essence of all great putsches that by then the rulers have become too arrogant or isolated to notice.

If the Tsar had been smart enough to go incognito around the soup kitchens of St Petersburg in 1917, he might have had an inkling of what was to hit him. If Margaret Thatcher had put a scarf over her head and sneaked up Whitehall to have a peek at the poll tax riots in Trafalgar Square in 1990, she might not have been defenestrated by her party.

And if Labour ministers had the guts to use the Monday morning service of any First Great Western train, they would discover why the mood of the British travelling public is poised to go critical.

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Stanley Johnson & Saving Wildlife

Read about his adventures on the Galápagos archipelago with creatures from another age: giant tortoises, albatross, a booby, a huge turtle and a shark. Where he discovers a remarkable state of harmony between man and nature.

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More photographs on his website.

Tread softly among the iguanas
By Stanley Johnson in the Financial Times.

On The Galápagos:

If you measure the significance of a topic by how much media attention it receives, I would guess that last year climate change came close to ousting the Iraq war as the number one issue

It is only really since 1959 when the Galápagos was established as a national park and, subsequently, as a world heritage centre, that a proper framework has been created for safeguarding this paradise.

I didn’t hear anyone on the islands calling for the power and authority of the national park to be strengthened and expanded … without strong political backing at every level, I doubt whether the Galápagos miracle can long survive.

Here is a second article that featured in The Independent Magazine (Jan 6, 2006) about saving the addax in Niger.

Niger Wildlife: In search of the addax

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Playboy hunters with helicopters and Kalashnikovs are driving the Sahel’s fragile population of wild animals to extinction. Stanley Johnson travelled to Niger to witness the devastation

the wildlife of the desert is in free-fall and the root cause is hunting. Uncontrolled illegal unregulated hunting

Just a few years back, we would have seen hundreds if not thousands of gazelle in this area west of the Termit massif and north of Tesker. That day, we glimpsed only a handful

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The Independent: You ask the Questions

Check out this interview in The Independent on New Year’s Day. Great stuff.

Boris Johnson: You Ask The Questions
The shadow higher education minister answers questions such as ‘Why have you chosen to be a clown?’ and ‘do you ever regret being called Boris?’
Published: 01 January 2007
What are your new year resolutions? NERYS ST JOHN, London

Rise early. Work late. Eat less.

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Immigration Law

While the lawless laugh at us, we send good men to the dogs

Ah, the Home Office. As a lifelong connoisseur of incompetence, I have to say it gets better every day. You may remember that when John Reid took over, he made some Ratneresque remarks to the effect that his organisation was “not fit for purpose”. How amply his ministers and officials have striven to vindicate their boss!

Yesterday, the Home Office revealed to a stupefied world that the subject of one of its new draconian “control orders” had scarpered. Whoops, they said. He was here just a moment ago, said one of Mr Reid’s lackeys. We’re sure he’s somewhere about the place, said the Home Office, after the terror suspect defied the control order and scooted through the back of a mosque. We think he’s in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, they said; though I note that they have no evidence that he has left the country, and they did not exclude the possibility that he is, in fact, living in East Sheen and buying supplies of peroxide and chapatti flour on his way to work – where else? – in the Home Office.

As I ponder the Olympic standards Mr Reid and his team are setting for boneless protoplasmic uselessness, I suddenly understand why the Home Office is so called. It’s like your office at home – your home office, geddit? – and, in other words, it’s complete chaos. It’s a vast midden of abandoned filing systems and broken printers, and used coffee cups, and on every surface there are great, teetering piers of unopened mail.

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Greenhouse Gases

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If you want to be green – kill a cow

Stop, stop. I can feel the guilt building up already. I can feel the self-loathing welling in my skull, the horror at my appallingly affluent consumerist lifestyle.

In just a few short months, I will be taking the whole family off on holiday again, and once again our plane will contribute to the cat’s cradle of CO2 that is swaddling the globe. Out of the nozzles of the Rolls-Royce turbo jets the lethal vapours will spew into the defenceless stratosphere, and, far beneath us, a startled look will pass over the features of another poor polar bear as he plops through the deliquescing floes.

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Saddam Hussein

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Blair silent about death of Saddam

What, nothing? Not a peep, not a dickie bird? How long can Blair maintain radio silence? If some soap star had popped her clogs or some Newcastle striker had gone to the great subs bench in the sky, then you may be sure that the Number 10 machine would have chuntered out some tabloid-friendly quote.

This is the Prime Minister who once used an official statement to call for the release of “Deirdre” from her fictional Coronation Street jail — and yet he won’t give the nation the benefit of his views on the death of Saddam Hussein.

You will note that in the case of all the soap queens and pop stars whose deaths were marked by Downing Street, Blair had no personal knowledge of them, let alone responsibility for their deaths. In the case of Saddam Hussein, Blair was not only personally implicated, but for better or worse he has implicated the entire country.

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