The Adolf Awards
Fanfare (that's all the fans of the Billy King column) [yeah,
all 2 of them - Ed]. Trumpets. Razzamatazz. Yes, folks, the
one you've all been waiting for, the Adolf Awards. That's
our very own annual tribute over the last few decades (yes
- these awards go way back to 'Dawn' magazine days) to those
who have done conspicuous disservice to peace, human rights
and the environment over the last year, our sort of Immobile
Peace Prize. Of course they are named after that great and
skilled tax evader (as 2004 revealed), the most famous twentieth
century figure to boast in the name Adolf. It's not quite
a clean sweep for George Bush and the USA this year since
Britain makes a strong showing, and Ireland is also well represented
in the medals table (no doping this time).
The King Canute/Cnut/Knud/Knut
Perpetual Cup for Services to Global Warming
George W Bush and the US administration for continuing to
resist the waves around their feet (King Canute was actually
showing sycophantic courtiers his limitations - King George
Bush knows no such limitations). Who are the real knuts here?
The Karl Marx Socialism Award
None other than Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who proclaimed himself
'one of the last socialists around' in a country which is
one of the most socially divided in Europe. Or maybe he was
a bit wide of the Marx if he thought 'Das Kapital' was a paean
of praise to capitalism as the highest possible form of human
Political Survivor of the Year
Incredibly, incredibly, it is David Trimble again. Who would
have thought that he could survive as leader of the Ulster
Unionist Party (though not as the ostensible FM of the OFMDFM)
after his party had been overtaken in the polls by Ian Paisley's
DUP. An amazing performance for those who remember the time
when Ulster Unionism changed leaders at the drop of a hat.
Bank for the Year (Customer Services)
The Northern Bank for making cash withdrawals easier, particularly
£26 million in one fell swoop. This is where the XXX
(insert your choice of initials) did their counter feat; the
Hugh Orde-nance survey blamed the IRA.
This is getting boring. George W Bush and Tony Blair share
the award yet again. Bertie Ahern gets a dishonourable mention
for Services Rendered Through Shannon Warport.
It has to be the USA, with special mention for destroying
Falluja and killing thousands of civilians and very few resistance
fighters. The USA also gets the Arch Enemy of Archaeology
Award [Subdivision, Destruction of Ancient Artifacts] for
wrecking a significant amount of the ancient city of Babylon
by having had a military base there.
Pseudonym of the Year
P O'Neill of the IRA wins hands down for not wanting his weapons
of war to be destroyed and photographed.
Paisley Pattern of the Year
Ian R K Paisley, for continuing to say 'no' just like every
Internment Camp of the Year
Belmarsh Prison, England, where the UK has its own little
Guantanamo. It was, after all, the British who invented the
'modern' internment camp in the Boer War, and introduced it
in part of the UK (Norn Iron) in the 1970s, so how fitting
that this award for imprisonment without trial returns home
to Britain, just like the Olympics went to Greece. Such detention
without trial has now been judged illegal and will be replaced
by house arrest and monitoring - more repressive laws and
we will have to see how this is used, these measuires being
applicable to British as well as foreign citizens.
Promotion of Torture Gold Award
There were two nominations in this category. The first was
for Islamist militant military groups in Iraq who attack any
target irrespective of the threat to civilians and behead
their abductees. The second is for the USA which has approved
'torture light' at the highest level and been putting it into
practice in Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere. The award goes
to .... The USA, because it is some time since a 'democratically
elected regime' (this time around), and the country with the
most military firepower, has been so blatant in its advocacy
of torture, providing justification and succour to repressive
regimes around the globe while the USA proclaims itself for
'freedom' and against 'terror'. A remarkable achievement.
Most Influential British Prime
Minister Never (Transatlantic Award)
Tony Blair. The real state of British influence on US policy
is shown by the length of time it took to get the remaining
British prisoners in Guantanamo repatriated.
Environment Award (Disimprovements)
The government in the Republic for refusing to introduce a
carbon tax or introduce effective measures to combat increases
in global warming emissions. They'll be swimming round the
mountain when they come.
In-sin-er-ator of the year
The proposed Cadaver, er Indaver, plant in Cork. And the Insinuator
Award goes to those who suggested it was safe.
World Development (Reneging on
Why, it's our very own Taoiseach Bertie Booster and Irish
government again. Having made a solemn promise, at the UN
and elsewhere, to reach 0.7% of GNP for aid and development
by 2007, the current rate is around 0.42% and it will not
reach 0.7% until......we don't know because we haven't been
told, the government didn't have the common decency to set
an alternative date for reaching the target. As one of the
richest countries in the world (sic), a 1% GNP aim would actually
be quite modest, let alone 0.7% or the current 0.4%.
Global warning (2)
In the damp, wind and rain of an Irish winter it might be
easy to miss the signs of global warming. It might be, for
example, if you weren't a gardener. But if you look the signs
are there. Flowers blooming much later and earlier than heretofore
(schizostylis still bloomin' blooming in the new year, some
narcissae (daffodils) in bloom in Botanic Gardens, Belfast,
ten days before Christmas, three ladybirds seen at a neighbour's
allotment around new year, people mowing their grass in January).
Twenty years ago I reckoned on there being a heavy frost before
the end of October, defining 'heavy' as -3 degrees centigrade
or lower, enough to make all nasturtiums turn to mush. Now,
and notwithstanding some snow on Christmas Day and once since,
we have not had a 'heavy' frost yet as I write in late January
and some of the nasturtiums still look quite happy. Not a
problem for us at the moment apart from the aphids and other
pests who will survive better. But a big problem on a global
scale as glaciers and ice caps melt, the winds blow stronger,
weather patterns change, and the Gulf Stream moves or ceases.
There'll be trouble ahead.
The normally careful Mary McAleese did put her foot in it
with her remarks about Nazis instilling an irrational hatred
of Jews "in the same way that people in Northern Ireland
transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example,
of Catholics, in the same way that people give to their children
an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different
colour...." She subsequently apologised for her clumsy
wording and acknowledged, as she always would have done, that
sectarianism is a shared problem for both Catholics and Protestants.
But the problem is partly that any comparison
with Nazi Germany is always regarded as over the top, because
they committed the worst genocide of the twentieth century
and possibly history and are rightly vilified for it, that
and their power-hungry war-mongering. But I feel it is a mistake
to set the Nazi regime aside and say we should not make comparisons
with it. If it is treated as something completely 'other'
then we feel we cannot possibly repeat the same mistakes as
then. We can.
The fact of the matter is that the routinisation
of racial and other hatreds is a common phenomenon. In Nazi
Germany polite society continued its normal path. Lack of
contact and constant propaganda meant the others could be
scapegoated. Those who could have intervened to prevent disaster
failed to try to do so until too late. Children were brought
up to hate through irrational horror stories about the other.
Nationalistic pride was used as a means of control and a divide
against anyone else. Most of these points have also been true
in a way about Northern Ireland before and during the Troubles
- admittedly in a rather different scale and way than Nazi
Germany but true nonetheless.
Those who do not learn from history are
not destined to repeat it but they are certainly leaving themselves
open to repetition. The idea that we are 'better' than the
German people of, say, the early part of the Nazi regime,
leaves us open to think such atrocities could not happen on
any scale here. In fact all sorts of atrocities happened in
Northern Ireland, on all sides, admittedly on a miniscule
scale compared to the deeds of the Nazi regime. That regime
was particularly adept at the routinisation of hatred. But
we have drunk from the same cup. That is what is really so
scary, not that no comparison is possible with aspects of
the Nazi regime but that so many comparisons are possible.
But it is not considered acceptable to say so.
The scale and the extent of crimes and
hatreds in Nazi Germany set it apart in western Europe. But
millions upon millions were killed in Uncle Joe Stalin's USSR,
and Mao's China. A book like Christopher R Browning's "Ordinary
Men - Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution
in Poland" shows how ordinary people can become part
of extraordinary atrocities. Two examples spring to mind which
would tend to point to agreement with Mary McAleese's expressed
thesis, if taken on a cross-community basis; the dispatch
of 'Protestant' paramilitaries to kill Jesuit priests in Portadown
(fortunately, they failed to find their house), and the Darkley,
south Armagh, mission hall massacre where 'Catholic' paramilitaries
shot dead Protestants at worship. To say these two examples
do not portray an irrational hatred across the divide in Northern
Ireland is to fly in the face of logic. And it would take
a brave person to say that some of that hatred was not inculcated
at mother's and father's knees.
So eventually evidence of British torture and mistreatment
of prisoners has emerged from Iraq. Am I alone in not being
surprised? It is not that the British, as occupiers go, are
not relatively 'civilised', and they certainly pride themselves
on their softly, softly approach compared to the US forces.
But abuse, ill-treatment and atrocities go with war on all
sides. Just look at what happened in the little war in Northern
Ireland, a limited affair in a number of ways, and the fact
that all sides got their hands exceedingly dirty through torture,
ill-treatment and wanton killing - no one can hold up those
same hands and say "we did everything right and by the
book". Then think of Iraq where the scale of the violence
is of a totally different magnitude, where the USA can push
several hundred thousand people out of a city and destroy
most of its infrastructure, and the world does nothing and
says nothing. In war the first casualty is truth. But the
second casualty is members of the civilian population. And
the third is decency and morality.
The USA and UK thought briefly they had
won a great victory and liberated the Iraqi people from Saddam
Hussein and secured 'democracy'. The jury is still out on
the recent elections and what they may have achieved, but
the last two years of war has inflicted yet more suffering
on the long-suffering Iraqi people (both due to sanctions
before the war, Saddam Hussein's brutality, and US/UK military
involvement since), and the occupiers' policies have fomented
sectarianism between Sunni and Shia. Let us hope that there
is some way forward, a way out for the people of Iraq (and
thereby for the USA and UK) but the relative success of the
recent elections doesn't mean the USA and UK are out of the
Finally, a great quote from Peter Ustinov
which appeared in a recent Pit Stop Ploughshares e-mail; "War
is the terrorism of the rich; terrorism is the war of the
POTUS another cactus
George W Bush was in fine ideological form for his inaugural
address second time round, about taking freedom and democracy
everywhere - "it is the policy of the United States to
seek and support the growth of democratic movements in every
nation and culture, with the ultimate end of ending tyranny
in our world.....The survival of liberty in our land increasingly
depends on the success of liberty in other lands.". Well,
some lands. Not quite everywhere. Not where the countries
concerned, however dictatorial and repressive they may be,
or how much torture is used, are already allies of the USA
and give the US whatever it wants in terms of military cooperation.
For example, you'll see no mention of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
or Uzbekistan as members of the axe(l) of evil to grind. As
recently as 2002 we see the USA providing secret military
support to a coup that failed in Venezuela to overthrow the
democratically elected populist leader, Hugo Chavez; the history
of Latin and Central America in the twentieth century is littered
with such interventions.
Democracy, when it agrees with US policies,
is fine and when it doesn't....well, bring in the CIA, the
marines and whoever else. And authoritarianism is also fine....when
it agrees with the USA. It all reminds me a bit of democracy
in ancient Greece. If you were a free man and could vote,
you made the decisions (the USA or rather its ruling elite
today). It was progress on what went before but if you were
a slave then you got on with whatever the 'free men' owned
you to do. The world hasn't really changed much, has it, in
a few thousand years....... And when George Bush in his inaugural
address said "By our efforts, we have lit....a fire in
the minds of men" he was referring to the fire of freedom;
more significant may be the fire of hatred which he has sown
in even more minds.
Well, that's it for another month,
by the end of January we (in the Northern hemisphere that
is) start to see the evenings getting a bit longer, and with
global warming the spring flowers are already starting to
kick in [since when did flowers start to 'kick in'? - Ed]
[Give over or I'll kick something else in - Billy] [Oh, violent
threats now? - Ed] [No, just idle boasts and loose badinage
- Billy] [I think you're getting really 'bad' 'in' 'age',
in your advanced years - Ed]. So, see you in March, the month
named after the god of war (remember our interview with the
selfsame Mars in NN113).
Take care, Billy.
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).