Saturday, October 03, 2015

Australia’s 1996 Gun Confiscation Didn’t Work – And it Wouldn’t Work in America

By Mark Antonio Wright — October 2, 2015

Australian security worker Norm Legg sits atop a pile of guns during the government's 1996 buyback. Photo: AAP

Within hours of the gunfire falling silent on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon Thursday, President Obama stepped up to a podium and declared that America should follow the path of our Anglosphere cousins to reduce gun violence.

“We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings,” the president said. “Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

“Australia” is Obama’s preferred euphemism for that most cherished of gun-control ideals: mass confiscation of the citizenry’s weapons.

You will notice that the president doesn’t exactly spell out what following Australia’s model would entail. He speaks instead of “commonsense gun-control legislation,” “closing the gun-show loophole,” and “universal background checks.”

In the last 24 hours, New York magazine, CNN, and NBC have also sung the virtues of the Australian model.

But the Australian 1996 National Agreement on Firearms was not a benign set of commonsense gun-control rules: It was a gun-confiscation program rushed through the Australian parliament just twelve days after a 28-year-old man killed 35 people with a semi-automatic rifle in the Tasmanian city of Port Arthur. The Council of Foreign relations summarizes the Aussie measure nicely:
The National Agreement on Firearms all but prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, stiffened licensing and ownership rules, and instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation. Among other things, the law also required licensees to demonstrate a “genuine need” for a particular type of gun and take a firearm safety course.
The council’s laudatory section on Australian gun-control policy concludes that “many [read: gun-control activists] suggest the policy response in the wake of Port Arthur could serve as a model for the United States.”

Two questions should be asked and answered: (1) Did the post–Port Arthur laws lead to a clear reduction of gun violence, and (2) What would an American version of the “Australian model” look like?

Gun-control activists claim that the Australian model directly resulted in a pronounced fall in the gun-suicide rate and the gun-homicide rate. But these claims are disputable.

In August, Vox’s German Lopez wrote a piece that included a chart attempting to show a causal relationship between the Australian gun-confiscation regime and a reduction in the Australian suicide rate. “When countries reduced access to guns, they saw a drop in the number of firearm suicides,” Lopez wrote.

I noted at the time that:
While the chart does show a steady decline in gun-related suicides, the reduction occurred at the same time as an overall reduction in the Australian suicide rate. What’s more, firearm-related suicides had been declining in Australia for nearly ten years before the 1996 restrictions on gun ownership.
Vox’s own chart does not appear to show a causal link between gun control and a reduction in suicide rates in Australia.
Moreover, a look at other developed countries with very strict gun-control laws (such as Japan and South Korea) shows that the lack of guns does not lead to a reduced suicide rate. Unfortunately, people who want to kill themselves often find a way to do so — guns or no guns.

Did the Australian model at least reduce gun-related homicides?

That is hotly disputed.

University of Melbourne researchers Wang-Sheng Lee and Sandy Suardi concluded their 2008 report on the matter with the statement, “There is little evidence to suggest that [the Australian mandatory gun-buyback program] had any significant effects on firearm homicides.”

“Although gun buybacks appear to be a logical and sensible policy that helps to placate the public’s fears,” the reported continued, “the evidence so far suggests that in the Australian context, the high expenditure incurred to fund the 1996 gun buyback has not translated into any tangible reductions in terms of firearm deaths.”

A 2007 report, “Gun Laws and Sudden Death: Did the Australian Firearms Legislation of 1996 Make a Difference?” by Jeanine Baker and Samara McPhedran similarly concluded that the buyback program did not have a significant long-term effect on the Australian homicide rate.

The Australian gun-homicide rate had already been quite low and had been steadily falling in the 15 years prior to the Port Arthur massacre. And while the mandatory buyback program did appear to reduce the rate of accidental firearm deaths, Baker and McPhedran found that “the gun buy-back and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia.”

Would an American version of the “Australian model” perform any better?

In all likelihood it would fare worse. The Federalist’s Varad Mheta set down the facts in June:
Gun confiscation is not happening in the United States any time soon. But let’s suppose it did. How would it work? Australia’s program netted, at the low end, 650,000 guns, and at the high end, a million. That was approximately a fifth to a third of Australian firearms. There are about as many guns in America as there are people: 310 million of both in 2009. A fifth to a third would be between 60 and 105 million guns. To achieve in America what was done in Australia, in other words, the government would have to confiscate as many as 105 million firearms.
And an American mandatory gun-confiscation program — in addition to being unconstitutional — would be extraordinarily coercive, and perhaps even violent.

There is no other way around it: The mandatory confiscation of the American citizenry’s guns would involve tens of thousands of heavily armed federal agents going door-to-door to demand of millions of Americans that they surrender their guns.

That. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

If the president and gun-control activists want to keep saying “Australia” in response to every shooting in America, they should at least be honest about what exactly they are proposing.

—Mark Antonio Wright is an assistant editor at National Review.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Obama’s Syria debacle

October 1, 2015
A picture taken on September 12, 2015 shows Russian T-80 tanks during a performance marking the Tankmen Day at a training ground outside St. Petersburg. -AFP
“Russia hits Assad’s foes, angering U.S.”
— Headline, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 1
If it had the wit, the Obama administration would be not angered, but appropriately humiliated. President Obama has, once again, been totally outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin. Two days earlier at the United Nations, Obama had welcomed the return, in force, of the Russian military to the Middle East — for the first time in decades — in order to help fight the Islamic State.
The ruse was transparent from the beginning. Russia is not in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Kremlin was sending fighter planes, air-to-air missiles and SA-22 anti-aircraft batteries. Against an Islamic State that has no air force, no planes, no helicopters?
Russia then sent reconnaissance drones over Western Idlib and Hama, where there are no Islamic State fighters. Followed by bombing attacks on Homs and other opposition strongholds that had nothing to do with the Islamic State.
Indeed, some of these bombed fighters were U.S. trained and equipped. Asked if we didn’t have an obligation to support our own allies on the ground, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter bumbled that Russia’s actions exposed its policy as self-contradictory.
Carter made it sound as if the Russian offense was to have perpetrated an oxymoron, rather than a provocation — and a direct challenge to what’s left of the U.S. policy of supporting a moderate opposition.
The whole point of Russian intervention is to maintain Assad in power. Putin has no interest in fighting the Islamic State. Indeed, the second round of Russian air attacks was on rival insurgents opposed to the Islamic State. The Islamic State is nothing but a pretense for Russian intervention. And Obama fell for it.
Just three weeks ago, Obama chided Russia for its military buildup, wagging his finger that it was “doomed to failure.” Yet by Monday he was publicly welcoming Russia to join the fight against the Islamic State. He not only acquiesced to the Russian buildup, he held an ostentatious meeting with Putin on the subject, thereby marking the ignominious collapse of Obama’s vaunted campaign to isolate Putin diplomatically over Crimea.
Putin then showed his utter contempt for Obama by launching his air campaign against our erstwhile anti-Assad allies not 48 hours after meeting Obama. Which the U.S. found out about when a Russian general knocked on the door of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and delivered a brusque demarche announcing that the attack would begin within an hour and warning the U.S. to get out of the way
In his subsequent news conference, Carter averred that he found such Russian behavior “unprofessional.”
Good grief. Russia, with its inferior military and hemorrhaging economy, had just eaten Carter’s lunch, seizing the initiative and exposing American powerlessness — and the secretary of defense deplores what? Russia’s lack of professional etiquette.
Makes you want to weep.
Consider: When Obama became president, the surge in Iraq had succeeded and the United States had emerged as the dominant regional actor, able to project power throughout the region. Last Sunday, Iraq announced the establishment of a joint intelligence-gathering center with Iran, Syria and Russia, symbolizing the new “Shiite-crescent” alliance stretching from Iran across the northern Middle East to the Mediterranean, under the umbrella of Russia, the rising regional hegemon.
Russian planes roam free over Syria attacking Assad’s opposition as we stand by helpless. Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of state beseeches the Russians to negotiate “de-conflict” arrangements — so that we and they can each bomb our own targets safely. It has come to this.
Why is Putin moving so quickly and so brazenly? Because he’s got only 16 more months to push on the open door that is Obama. He knows he’ll never again see an American president such as this — one who once told the General Assembly that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation” and told it again Monday of “believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.”
They cannot? Has he looked at the world around him — from Homs to Kunduz, from Sanaa to Donetsk — ablaze with conflict and coercion?
Wouldn’t you take advantage of these last 16 months if you were Putin, facing a man living in a faculty-lounge fantasy world? Where was Obama when Putin began bombing Syria? Leading a U.N. meeting on countering violent extremism.
Seminar to follow.

Thursday, October 01, 2015


A day with ominous implications for New York's residents.

October 1, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 1.04.58 PM
Ahmed Mohamed shakes hands with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio

Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old who was arrested for taking a clock that looked like a bomb to MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, has attained mega-celebrity status at breakneck speed: he has been showered with gifts by Microsoft, courted by Mark Zuckerberg and MIT, invited to the White House, and much more. He received a VIP reception at the United Nations, where he met an admiring Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. 
What could be next? Maybe Pope Francis, ever anxious to appease Muslims, will make him the first living person to be canonized a saint; in the meantime, Ahmed will have to be content with the proclamation of Ahmed Day in New York City – a day with implications far more ominous than Ahmed’s ever-smiling countenance betrays.
Why is Ahmed Mohamed the world’s hero of the moment? People are wrongfully arrested all the time, and numerous children have fallen victim to schools’ zero-tolerance policy for weaponry, with suspensions for guns drawn on paper, pop-tarts chewed into the shape of a gun, and the like. But Ahmed Mohamed, according to the mainstream media narrative (endlessly dinned into our ears by those who are apparently aware of how implausible it is, and who think frequent repetition will put their lie over), was not arrested because of overzealous application of the zero-tolerance policy, but because he was a Muslim. School officials, you see, were so indefatigably “Islamophobic” that they singled out Ahmed for this harsh treatment, when if he had been a blond Methodist, they would have looked at his replica briefcase bomb and patted him on the back for his ingenuity.
And so Ahmed Mohamed is a living monument of “Islamophobia,” a sign of how racist rednecks victimize innocent Muslims in the U.S. on a routine basis, and to the enlightened Left, that makes him a hero of heroes. On Ahmed Day in New York City last Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James lauded him as a role model. Comptroller Scott Stringer likewise gave him a framed commendation and tweeted, “Ahmed Mohamed is a role model for all NYers.” Hard-Left Mayor Bill de Blasio told him, “Keep doing what you’re doing,” and tweeted: “A young man builds a clock and starts a movement.” 
In what sense is Ahmed Mohamed a role model? What kind of movement has he started? To answer those questions, it is useful to recall two men who never got a Day proclaimed in their honor in New York City: Lance Orton and Duane Jackson. In May 2010, they were both working as vendors in Times Square when they spotted an unoccupied, illegally parked Nissan Pathfinder smoking, reeking of gunpowder and emitting sparks. 
It was a car bomb, parked there by an Islamic jihadist named Faisal Shahzad, who explained in a video that “jihad, holy fighting in Allah’s course, with full force of numbers and weaponry, is given the utmost importance in Islam….By jihad, Islam is established….By abandoning jihad, may Allah protect us from that, Islam is destroyed, and Muslims go into inferior position, their honor is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligation and duty in Islam on every Muslim.”
Orton and Jackson prevented Shahzad from fulfilling his obligation and duty to wage jihad by quick action: they alerted police, and Shahzad’s car bomb was defused before it could explode. Orton explained his actions by noting that he was a veteran and repeating the familiar counter-terror adage: “See something, say something.”
But what would have happened if Faisal Shahzad’s Nissan Pathfinder had not been rigged to explode at all, but was just, say, an innocent fireworks display? What if Faisal Shahzad had been arrested for this fireworks display after Orton and Jackson alerted police, only to charge everyone involved with “Islamophobia”? If Faisal Shahzad’s car had turned out to be innocent, in today’s political climate Orton and Jackson would be the objects of intense mainstream media vilification as “Islamophobes,” and Shahzad would be shaking hands with Barack Obama.
Ahmed Mohamed is a role model and the originator of a movement, all right. He is the killer of the “see something, say something” ethos – at least when it comes to Muslims. While non-Muslim students may still run afoul of the zero-tolerance for weapons policy in schools for pop-tart guns and pointing their fingers and saying “Bang,” school administrators will now think twice about subjecting Muslims to such suspicion, no matter how suspiciously they’re behaving. 
The upshot of this ridiculous adulation of Ahmed Mohamed will be that Muslim students will now be exempted from scrutiny for bringing suspicious objects to school: to subject them to such scrutiny would be “Islamophobic.” Will some enterprising young jihadi take advantage of this favorable new situation, and make a clock that really is a bomb? If that ever happens, will Mayor de Blasio apologize for Ahmed Day? Will Barack Obama apologize for feting the lad at the White House? Of course not. For the Left, accountability is “McCarthyism.” And so St. Ahmed will continue to go from love fest to adulatory love fest, with the only people happier about it all than his Leftist adulators being Islamic jihadists.

Codename: Liberal

New York City honors a monster

By Kevin D. Williamson — September 30, 2015

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in March 1951.

New York’s city council has taken it upon itself to posthumously honor Ethel Rosenberg, a Soviet spy who helped, in her modest way, the worldwide Communist enterprise to murder some 100 million people.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was joined by three city-council members earlier this week in issuing proclamations honoring Rosenberg for “demonstrating great bravery.” They also affirmed their belief — in spite of heavy evidence to the contrary — that she was wrongfully executed for her role in the Soviet spy ring dedicated to stealing information about the U.S. atomic-bomb program in order to give Stalin et al. another weapon in their battery of terror.

Daniel Dromm, who for his sins is a Democrat representing Queens on the city council, said: “A lot of hysteria was created around anti-Communism and how we had to defend our country, and these two” — note that two — people were traitors, and we rushed to judgment and they were executed.”

There is practically no one left defending the innocence of Julius Rosenberg — even his children have admitted that he was a traitor and a spy. The only people who doubt the guilt of his wife, Ethel, are those with a very strong ideological resistance to the facts of the case. Among other things, we have the word of Nikita Khrushchev, who writes in his memoirs of the help the Rosenbergs, plural, provided in the Soviet nuclear-weapons program; we have the communications of the Soviet spymaster to whom they answered, who in his missives to Moscow describes Ethel as an operative; we have the Venona papers, the declassified Soviet archives in which that same handler, Aleksandr Feklisov, writes of Ethel’s role in recommending new espionage recruits, etc.
Yes, there are instances of conflicting testimony in the case, as there are in every mugging, and Ethel’s brother, who had originally omitted any mention of his sister’s role in the spy ring, changed his testimony when his wife told a different story. None of this is enough — not nearly — to outweigh the plain archival evidence in Soviet records.

There is some controversy, a matter of historical trivia, about whether the Rosenbergs were effective spies; some Soviet scientists involved in the nuclear-weapons program have dismissed the information they provided as useless. Being a bad spy, however, is not a defense against espionage charges. The record is clear that in the matter of the crimes with which they were charged — treason and conspiracy to commit espionage — the Rosenbergs, both of them, were guilty as charged.

#share#The Communist movement worldwide murdered some 100 million people over the course of the 20th century. The Soviet enterprise specifically, to which the Rosenbergs were fiercely committed — they are described as “devoted” in the Soviet literature — had at the time of the Rosenbergs’ recruit already intentionally starved to death some 8 million people in Ukraine for the purposes of political terror. I do not wish to include them here, but put “Holodomor” into Google images if you want a visual indicator of this. And the many crimes against humanity committed by Joseph Stalin and his regime were no secret.

So, why the hesitation to admit plainly that these monsters were monsters and deserved what they got?

It is more than symbolic that Julius Rosenberg’s Soviet codename was: Liberal.

As in the case of Alger Hiss, the American liberal intellectual class simply cannot bring itself to believe that the villain of any story is one of their own. The villain has to be a figure from the outer darkness, some atavistic American throwback — a Nixon, a McCarthy, a J. Edgar Hoover — motivated by something sinister and occult. The facts of the case can never be the facts of the case. Hollywood screenwriters, State Department bosses, and Lower East Side radicals working for the Soviet Union? “No, no, they’re only being targeted because they’re homosexuals, or intellectuals, or Jews.” (The ironic contrast of these imaginary persecutions with the actual Soviet record on homosexuals, intellectuals, and Jews never occurs to them.) “It must be hatred, or bigotry, or self-interest, or political ambition, or something.” It may have been the case that Joe McCarthy was a bigot, that Hoover was a weirdo, that Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy were not averse to the prospect of political advancement; but it also was the case that there were Americans in influential and sensitive positions working as part of a criminal conspiracy to advance the interests of a homicidal, terroristic, mass-murdering, psychotic operator of gulags and death camps.
“But, McCarthy was mean!” Not mean enough. Not by half.

Karl Marx, in whatever spectral afterlife the old monster is enjoying, must be smiling as American history repeats itself, moving on from tragedy to farce. Just as denunciations of the “Red Scare” were used to draw attention away from the crimes of American individuals and institutions undertaken in service of the Soviet Union, now cries of “Islamophobia!” are being used to muddy the waters in the matter of the participation of American and Western people and institutions in the worldwide Islamic jihad against the West. From the New York Times, we learn: “More British Muslim men have joined ISIS and the Nusra Front than are serving in the British armed forces.” 
Here in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations operates openly and with the full protection of the law, in spite of its being identified by the Department of Justice as an unindicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which a phony charity was used to channel money to Hamas. (My colleague Andrew C. McCarthy, who knows a little something about Islamic terrorism, has done a great deal of work on CAIR, e.g., here.) Another group with Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood links holds the titles to hundreds of American mosques. Odd? Worrisome? “Islamophobia!”

Prediction: In 30 years, when they’re renaming Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan “Osama bin Laden Plaza,” some jackass from Queens will deliver a homily: “A lot of hysteria was created around Islamic terrorism and how we had to defend our country . . . ”

Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A life in Intrigue: Frederick Forsyth talks exclusively to GL Magazine

By Corrie Bond-French
By GLmagazine  |  Posted: September 26, 2015

Pilot, journo, writer, spy. Four words, a line filched from Le Carre, and there you have it; a neat summation of nigh on eight decades of an extraordinary life and career, with an incendiary revelation fizzing away between the covers.
Except Frederick Forsyth, the novelist who lit thriller tinder when he first penned The Day of the Jackal back in the 1970s, doesn't consider his endeavours in subterfuge to be quite so dangerously revelatory anymore.
It is fascinating stuff, and the irony is not lost that he is visiting Cheltenham next Friday for an extremely rare foray into the Literature Festival landscape to talk about his memoirs in The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, as GCHQ looms large in the background. "I don't do many," he tells me. "I'm notorious for it, but the reason for it is that I am naturally reclusive."
Frederick Forsyth needs little introduction. One of the world's best-known and best- selling writers, he has written some of the most instantly recognisable titles of recent times, and it's quite an oeuvre, including The Day of The Jackal, The Odessa File, Dogs of War and The Fourth Protocol for starters. Many have been made into hit films (Day of The Jackal launched Edward Fox's career and Michael Caine and other such acting luminaries have been happily available for roles). In short, Frederick's contribution to the world's bookshelves set the standard for meticulous research and plausible, realistic plot-lines.
His modus operandi is devastatingly effective: plots assembled with the precision of a Swiss pocket watch; characters and dialogue that linger convincingly long after the last page is turned and the cover dog-eared. It is possible to find oneself in Forsyth cold turkey. I have a cherished picture of my father and myself on holiday when I was 13. We are both in clover reading Forsyth. But he hadn't written that many books back then and we both read quickly. Cue the violins.
But the reason why his novels have endured in popularity for more than 45 years now, is because his cool, reportorial prose spins a convincing yarn; a yarn that unravels with unnerving authenticity. Frederick truly has been in the thick of it, with friends in high and low places and the occasional sleeping with the enemy thrown in for good measure.
Frederick's life story could trump any fictional tale, and lady luck has been a benevolent if not thoroughly indulgent mistress. If his life was a Bond film, she would slink up to him in the casino, kiss the dice and shake his cocktail (so to speak). As Frederick tells me, Bond is 'pure fantasy', but you get the picture. Lucky Frederick. Ergo lucky us.
And what a life he has had. Read on, and imagine you're in a bar, Frederick is beside you, taking a long drag on a Rothmans and regaling you with anecdote after anecdote: you'll have the book in a nutshell.
An academically gifted and, thanks to the prescience of his parents, multi-lingual only child, Frederick rejected the idea of a Cambridge education, opting instead to fulfil his dreams by becoming the youngest RAF fighter pilot at just 19.
He survived an horrific car crash at 20, his hand narrowly saved from amputation thanks to a fortuitously located retired surgeon, and his severed ear was reattached. His hearing was unaffected, but Frederick is no prize-winning golfer. And just as an aside, he also narrowly avoided being raped at knifepoint in Paris when he produced a larger knife, and he even had a stint as a trainee matador.
After earning his wings and completing the National Service he had chosen over that Cambridge degree, his desire to travel prompted his decision to train as a journalist. He earned his reporting chops on the Eastern Daily Press. Then luck struck again.
On what he thought a doomed attempt to get an interview in Fleet Street three years later, Frederick, disillusioned, sought solace in a bar, where a friendly chap struck up conversation. It transpired that he had trained at the same newspaper and knew Frederick's mentor well.
He immediately took young Frederick back to his place of work, which just so happened to be Reuters. Before the sun was over the yard arm they had sussed that Frederick was fluent in French, German and Spanish, and he found himself in Paris as Reuters' foreign correspondent at just 23 years old.
In Paris he covered the repeatedly unsuccessful assassination attempts on President Charles De Gaulle, and he found himself idly musing on the idea that perhaps a lone hitman would be a more successful option...
The following years were just as remarkable. His next move was to become Reuters man in East Berlin. At the height of the Cold War, Frederick was evading the Stasi past Checkpoint Charlie, whilst nearly triggering world war three, then occasionally sleeping with the enemy…
He went on to cover the Biafran War, falling out with the BBC and going freelance. He started writing to earn money, but when The Day of the Jackal hit the bookshelves, his fate as a writer was sealed. He now lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife Sandy, spending time with his two sons and grandchildren. Living, as he tells me, a simple and occasionally scruffy life.
"Basically it is. I spend most of my time around the house in canvas jeans and a farm work shirt, and sometimes I don't shave! Wow! No, I enjoy spending time here. Anyone thinking I've got to have caviar, nah! A ploughman's lunch at the Jolly Cricketers and I'm perfectly happy," said Frederick.
But, as revealing as this may be, it is remarkably only a couple of years since Frederick wrote The Kill List, when his unwavering perfectionism prompted a research trip to Mogadishu, Somalia. He was 75 at the time, and Sandy was not impressed. So did he miss the thrill and danger of it all?
"I didn't really miss it, that's too much. The last time I was, I suppose, in a dicey situation was writing The Kill List. I decided I had got to describe Mogadishu, Somalia and I read some stuff online but it was absolutely pathetic. It wasn't anything like what I knew what it must be, and I read some other writers who clearly hadn't been there. One could tell by just looking at what they had written about Mogadishu and Somalia generally, they just hadn't been there.
"So I said I'm going to have to go, and my wife Sandy said 'you're a damn fool, you're not the youth you used to be'. I said 'I'm 75, but on the other hand, I've got to go'. So I went. So that was that. There was a possibility of something happening there, but to say did I miss it? No, no. I've reached the stage now at 77 that I'm perfectly happy, to play with the grandchildren and take the Jack Russells for a walk. I don't really need to go into the weird situations anymore!" I venture that such a trip at 75 was still quite remarkable, and Frederick chuckles.
"She said if you ever do that again I'm going to sue you with Fiona Shackleton!"
Sandy can probably sleep more easily now, as Frederick has no plans to write another thriller.
"I said the last one would be my last novel. I still think it will be for a whole range of things. I haven't got any other stories that intrigue me, and also the complexity of technology nowadays in that world, the underworld, so to speak, is just baffling me. I can't even understand it. So the old days – and I almost said the good old days – when you had things like microfilm and you wrote things on paper, they're long gone. I think your spook today is just sitting there tapping things into a screen, which I can't find very dramatic!"
But there have been some baffling espionage-related cases in recent times that could be straight out of one of his books, such as the Litvinenko poisoning and the unexplained death of former GCHQ worker Gareth Williams, whose body was mysteriously found in a padlocked holdall in his bath five years ago. So was it foul play – reminiscent of a Forsyth-esque plot?
Frederick concedes: "It might have been, because obviously it was weird, and inexplicable, and I don't think we ever got to the bottom of it properly and we never will now. And occasionally murders, and it was clearly murder I think, but there are murders of course that are never ever solved and this may well be one."
So is his contacts book locked up safely in a vault now? Frederick laughs: "It's right in front of me – I'm staring at it!" Never say never, eh Frederick?
"I don't know about other writers, but I think we all have this in common: we need isolation to write. Some people are at their desk every day writing, then they re-write. I mean Jeffrey Archer does about 15 or 16 rewrites. I couldn't. That would drive me potty. I mean, to go all the way back to page one and start again? No! I just do one, meticulously careful, but just one copy and that goes to the editors. But I do prepare meticulously, I do the research over six months and then write over two. The only thing I don't have any more is deadlines.
"One of the things I like about it is that, unlike commerce for example where it's all about market share, you don't have to crush anybody else to be successful, it can be gentle. So if I see another young man having a blistering success I am delighted, because there's room."
And his admission in the book about his role as an asset for MI6 may well ruffle Whitehall feathers yet.
"Well, it's called asset or agent but really it's errand runner. I just ran a few errands, that's all," he tells me.
"A lot of people back then in the Cold War did, as I never cease to say, a lot of business men were approached. If you were going to a trade fair in a rather difficult to get at city, it was 'would you just do a little favour for us? If an envelope came under your hotel door would you put it in your attached case and bring it home?' And most said 'yeah, yeah'. It's why we had, or have, a brilliant intelligence service at a very cheap rate. The taxpayer is not being short-changed, believe me!"
Is he expecting any reprimand for his
contra-Official Secrets Act admission?
"I may be rebuked yet! It's the big word isn't it? S.P.Y. The media, and I know you are of the media and it's like shoving heroin to a junkie, but it wasn't so spectacular. James Bond was a fantasy, and always will be a fantasy. The stuff that was really pretty much accurate the way it was, was the George Smiley stuff. But that came from David Cornwall (aka John Le Carre) of course who was in it, and now admitted belatedly that he was. But he was on the staff you see, I was never on the staff. I was just serving as a volunteer and occasionally, now and again.
"And again the phrase 'over twenty years'. It was four or five things over that span, just errands, favours. And the only reason that I felt that I would be allowed was because I didn't ask. There might be someone miffed down there that I broke the code. But I just think it's so far back and we've had so many released secrets now; the 30-year rule cabinet documents, private and very secret memos exchanged between Prime Ministers which were all released under the 30-year rule, and I'm talking 45 years ago. And you know, East Germany has gone, the Stasis have gone, the USSR has gone. Communism has gone, except in the Labour party!" he laughs.
"It was a different world, and I don't see how anybody could be endangered by some Boys' Own paper anecdotes of 45 years ago. I don't know, the professionals might say 'I shouldn't have told anybody anything', but then I do remember far enough back to when we never officially told anyone we had an intelligence service."
Frederick is hard-pushed to say which of his thrillers was the most enjoyable to write.
"Oh Lord, I can't recall, I really can't. But the most traumatic was the stuff in Biafra. That was at the other end of the scale because that did scar me. I was there two years in a hell hole situation and I watched many, many children die of starvation… a black and white picture in the paper or even on TV is not the same as being there. So Biafra was revelatory and horrible and to this day I can't forget it."
But, the horrors of conflict aside, Frederick happily acknowledges that he has had more than his fair share of good fortune.
"I had a wonderful childhood. My father was in his way a great man. He was just a shopkeeper, but a kind, decent man.
"I have had amazing luck. I have some outbreaks of ill luck, like when I foolishly entrusted the guardianship of all my life savings to a man I thought was a friend, who turned out to be a conman and a swindler, and he embezzled all of my life savings going back to zero at the age of 50, and I had to start all over again... but most of my luck has been the other way, it's been good.
"I look back with great gratitude, but I don't quite know who to thank! I'm not a great believer but I will have to make my mind up soon; I may have to meet him!"
Frederick reads mostly non-fiction, and he finds the last 50 years the most interesting time to read about. He reckons more change occurred within the last 50 years than in the previous 200. It has been an interesting time to live through.
And he is still bemused that his creation of The Jackal has passed into common-parlance for hit men when the Venezuelan assassin Carlos the Jackal was exposed and later caught.
"I was asked 'why did you name him (The Jackal) after Carlos?' And I went pink 'I didn't! The press named Carlos after Jackal! I wrote Jackal in 1971 and he was exposed in public in '74!"
He is still very good friends with the film's Jackal, actor Edward Fox, they met for lunch at The Ivy just last week: "Edward's a great guy – we met just as I described in the book."
Frederick tells the tale in his book of the man who read his palm when he was in hospital. He was loath to do it, Frederick insisted, and his predictions have been remarkably accurate this far.
"Well, like all fortune tellers he was very vague, but he was pretty accurate on most of the things about the personal life: the sons, the wives, and writing, he seemed to foresee that. He said one day you will write creatively, and I said 'Oh really?" It wasn't what I had in mind. I was 20 years old and as far as I was concerned I was just dedicated to becoming a journalist. Is that writing? Well, yes it was, but it's not novels. But he did say that I would pop off one day, over 80 he said. I specifically remember that! Alone, and far away in a foreign land in the sun, which seems to indicate that it would be in the Caribbean somewhere, but I'm not going yet!"
Frederick has a picture on his study wall, of 'the old codger sitting in his spitfire', as he puts it. He finally got to fly the spitfire he had dreamed of since he was five years old last year. There are two pictures here. Look at them; the sheer joy on his face is the culmination of childhood dreams. Look again; that is a five year-old child.
So: Spitfire pilot, journo, writer, spy, husband, father, grandfather, friend and occasional political thorn in the side. Is there anything that he would change? It seems those boyhood dreams still count.
"For me it's very simple. I would have loved to fly with the few, just that, but I was 16 years too young
"I've had a lot of fun, I've had a great time and, well, I did the best I could."

Frederick will appear at Cheltenham literature festival on Friday at 2.15pm.
for tickets call 0844 880 8094
Frederick Forsyth: The Outsider is out now, priced £20.

Europe’s Migrant Crisis Is Simply Muslim History vs. Western Fantasy

Progressive Europe erased or rewrote its own history. Now they can't recognize an invasion by people to whom history is everything.
September 29, 2015

Syrians fleeing the war rush through broken down border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale in Sanliurfa province. (AFP/BULENT KILIC)

The world as understood by Islamic nations varies wildly from the Western nations’ understanding of the world. Whereas Muslims see the world through the lens of history, the West has jettisoned or rewritten history to suit its ideologies.
This dichotomy of Muslim and Western thinking is evident everywhere. When the Islamic State declared that it will “conquer Rome” and “break its crosses,” few in the West realized that those are the verbatim words and goals of Islam’s founder and his companions as recorded in Muslim sources — words and goals that prompted over a thousand years of jihad on Europe.
Most recently, the Islamic State released a map of the areas it plans on expanding into over the next five years. Not only are Mideast and Asian regions included, but the map includes European lands: Portugal, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, parts of Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, Crete, and Cyprus.
The reason for this is simple. According to Islamic law, once a country has been conquered (or “opened,” as the euphemistic Arabic words it), it becomes Islamic in perpetuity.
This, incidentally, is the real reason Muslims despise Israel. The motivation is not sympathy for the Palestinians — if it was, neighboring Arab nations would’ve absorbed them long ago, just as they would be absorbing all of today’s Muslim refugees. No, Israel is hated because the descendants of “apes and pigs” — according to the Koran — dare to rule land that was once “opened” by jihad and therefore must be returned to Islam. (Read more about Islam’s “How Dare You?” phenomenon to understand the source of Islamic rage.)
All of the aforementioned European nations are seen as being currently “occupied” by Christian “infidels” and in need of “liberation.” This is why jihadi organizations refer to terrorist attacks on such countries as “defensive jihads.” One rarely hears about Islamic designs on European nations because they are large and blocked together, altogether distant from the Muslim world. Conversely, tiny Israel is in the heart of the Islamic world, hence it has received most of the jihadi attention: it was a more realistic conquest. But now that the “caliphate” has been reborn and is expanding before a paralytic West, dreams of reconquering portions of Europe — if not through jihad, then through migration — are becoming more plausible, perhaps more so than conquering Israel.
Because of their historical experiences with Islam, some central and east European nations are aware of Muslim aspirations. Hungary’s prime minister even cited his nation’s unpleasant past under Islamic rule (in the guise of the Ottoman Empire) as a reason to disallow Muslim refugees from entering. But for more “enlightened” Western nations — that is, for idealistic nations that reject or rewrite history according to their subjective fantasies — Hungary’s reasoning is unjust, inhumane, and racist.
To be sure, most of Europe has experience with Islamic depredations. As late as the 17th century, even Iceland was being invaded by Muslim slave traders. Roughly 800 years earlier, in 846, Rome was sacked and the Vatican defiled by Muslim raiders.
Some of the Muslims migrating to Italy vow to do the same today, and Pope Francis acknowledges it — yet he still suggests that “you can take precautions, and put these people to work.”
We’ve seen this sort of thinking before: the U.S. State Department cited a lack of “job opportunities” as reason for the existence of the Islamic State.
Perhaps because the UK, Scandinavia, and North America were never conquered and occupied by the sword of Islam — unlike the southeast European nations that are rejecting Muslim refugees — they feel free to rewrite history according to their subjective ideals. Specifically, they stress that historic Christianity is bad and all other religions and people are good. Indeed, books and courses on the “sins” of Christian Europe from the Crusades to colonialism abound. (Most recently, a book traced the rise of Islamic supremacism in Egypt to the disciplining of a rude Muslim girl by a Christian nun.)
This “new history” – which claims that Muslims are the historic “victims” of “intolerant” Western Christians — has metastasized everywhere, from high school to college and from Hollywood to the news media, institutions which are becoming increasingly harder to distinguish from one another. When U.S. President Barack Obama condemned medieval Christians as a way to relativize Islamic State atrocities — or at best to claim that religion, any religion, is never the driving force of violence — he was merely being representative of the mainstream way history is taught in the West.
Even good, authoritative books of history contribute to this distorted thinking. While such works may mention “Ottoman expansion” into Europe, the Islamic element is omitted. Turks are portrayed as just another competitive people, out to carve a niche for themselves in Europe with motivations no different than, say, the Austrians, their rivals. That the “Ottomans” were operating under the distinctly Islamic banner of jihad, just like the Islamic State is today, is never made clear.
Generations of this false history have led the West to think that being suspicious or judgmental of Muslims is unacceptable, and that Muslims need to be accommodated. Perhaps then, they’ll like the West.
Such is progressive wisdom.
Meanwhile, in schools across much of the Muslim world, children are being indoctrinated into glorifying and reminiscing about the jihadi conquests of yore — conquests by the sword and in the name of Allah. While the progressive West demonizes European/Christian history — when I was in elementary school, Christopher Columbus was a hero, when I got into college, he became a villain — Mehmet the Conqueror, whose atrocities against Christian Europeans make the Islamic State look like boy scouts, is praised every year in “secular” Turkey on the anniversary of the savage sack of Constantinople.
The result of Western fantasies and Islamic history is that today Muslims are entering the West unfettered in the guise of refugees. They refuse to assimilate with the “infidels,” and form enclaves — in Islamic terminology, ribats – that serve as frontier posts to wage jihad against the infidel one way or another.
This in not conjecture. The Islamic State is intentionally driving the refugee phenomenon, and has promised to send half a million people — mostly Muslims — into Europe. It claims that 4,000 of these refugees are its own operatives:
Just wait. … It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only in Syria but in all the world, and we will have it soon, inshallah.
It is often said that those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. What happens to those who rewrite history in a way to demonize their ancestors while whitewashing the crimes of their ancestors’ enemies? The result is before us. History is not repeating itself; sword-waving Muslims are not militarily conquering Europe. Rather, they are being allowed to walk right in.

Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles TimesWashington TimesJane’s Islamic Affairs AnalystMiddle East QuarterlyWorld Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013. Ibrahim’s dual-background -- born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East -- has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ludwig von Mises: Scholar of Free Markets and Prophet of Liberty

By Robert P. Murphy
September 29, 2015

September 29 marks the 134th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig von Mises, the tallest giant of the “Austrian School” of economics. Although Mises is not a household name, Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek once referred to him as “the master of us all.” To this day, professional economists and laypeople alike learn from the writings of a man I consider to be the most important economist of the twentieth century.

One of Mises’s earliest achievements was to bridge the two fields we now call microeconomics and macroeconomics.Originally, the classical economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had embraced variants of a labor theory of value in their teachings. Then, during the so-called Marginal Revolution of the 1870s, economists replaced the labor theory with the modern subjective theory of value, which sees all market prices as determined ultimately by the underlying preferences of consumers. It doesn’t matter how many labor-hours it takes to manufacture a product, according to subjectivism; if nobody really wants it, it will fetch a low price.

Economists gradually recognized the superiority of the new “subjective marginal utility” approach, but by the dawn of the twentieth century they still thought this worked only for “micro” explanations. The theory could explain, for example, how many bananas traded for how many apples, but economists still thought they needed an entirely different, “macro” framework to explain the money prices of goods.

Enter Ludwig von Mises. In his 1912 book, translated with the title The Theory of Money and Credit, he showed how to apply the theory of marginal utility to explain all market values -- even the value of money itself. In so doing, Mises put individual money prices, and the purchasing power of money, under the umbrella of a unified theory of value.

In the same book, Mises also unveiled what is nowadays called Austrian business cycle theory. Contrary even to some other free-market thinkers, he did not think that the typical boom-bust pattern in market economies was an intrinsic feature of capitalism. Instead, Mises argued that they originated in unsound banking practices, often instigated by a nation’s central bank. When banks expand credit in order to provide “cheap” loans, this artificially lowers interest rates to below their natural level, sending businesses and entrepreneurs a false signal that encourages unsustainable activity throughout the economy.

In particular, investment projects that are not justified by market fundamentals now appear profitable at the lower interest rates. The illusion created by the increased investment and spending can generate a period of apparent prosperity, but the economic boom rests on quicksand and eventually leads to a bust. According to Mises, rather than trying to restore the economy by engaging in deficit spending and monetary “stimulus,” the government should prevent the business cycle from getting started in the first place, by abstaining from central bank policies that make credit unnaturally cheap and induce the unsustainable boom.

In the 1930s, Mises’s theory was rapidly winning adherents among professional economists as the best explanation for the Great Depression. That is, until the charming John Maynard Keyes bamboozled almost everyone with the false promise that governments could deficit-spend the economy’s way back to health. To this day, most academics as well as the financial press adhere to the Keynesian notion that economic slumps are the result of consumer pessimism and inadequate spending.

But Mises’s most celebrated achievement by far was his critique of central economic planning. First in a 1920 academic paper and later in his 1922 treatise, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, Mises explained that the central planners in a socialist commonwealth faced an insurmountable hurdle, one even more fundamental than the problem of poor incentives.

Because a socialist state owns all of the “means of production,” Mises noted, there could be no market prices for farmland, factories, barrels of crude oil, and all of the other inputs used in a modern economy. But in the absence of market prices, he explained, there could be no rational way for the government’s central planners to compare the costs of their economic plans with the benefits they hoped their plans would yield.

Even after their production strategies were implemented, they would see only a list of specific quantities of outputs (so many houses, diapers, restaurant meals, nylon stockings, etc.) to compare to a list of specific quantities of inputs (so many cords of wood, tons of steel, man-hours of engineering labor, etc.). Any comparison they could make, however, would be meaningless. Without the profit-and-loss test that market prices make possible, the central planners would have no way to determine whether or not their production plans made any economic sense.

Clearly, Ludwig von Mises was not only a giant of the Austrian school of economics. He was also one of the greatest social scientists in world history. In addition to his profound contributions in technical economics, including in monetary theory, business cycle research, and comparative institutional analysis, he was an unyielding advocate of individual liberty who understood like no one before him the ideas and practices necessary to secure the fruits of Western civilization. Mises asked the average citizen to learn the basic principles of economic science and remember them while voting at the ballot box. He knew that the blessings of economic freedom are available only in societies in which the government doesn’t sabotage the market.

Robert P. Murphy is a Research Fellow with Independent Institute and Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. His new book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action crystallizes the key insights of Mises’s greatest treatise.

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