IT IS one of the great ironies of history that the criminal
folly of the invasion of Iraq should have produced, 12 years on, a
crisis that actually fulfils all the conditions for a just war - at
the moment when the Western powers are so weakened and demoralised
by their earlier, unjust war that there is really nothing they can
The armies went into Iraq at a time when most journalists did
not know that there were different kinds of Muslims, except
possibly that there were the fundamentalists and the moderates. Now
we all know that the distinction between Shia and Sunni matters.
The war in Iraq is now described in religious terms at least as
much as it is in ethnic ones. Last Friday, almost the whole of the
front page of The Times was taken up with a banner
headline "Wars of religion".
Hence the rush of stories about the Yazidi, in whom the world
took no interest at all until this month. When I look at the graph
of Google searches for the term since 2007, it is almost completely
flat for seven years, with tiny lumps around stories of massacres,
pootling ones by present standards. Then, in August 2014, it takes
off like a scared cat up a curtain.
This quite dwarfs the recent interest shown in "Iraqi
Christians", although that may be a measure of novelty rather than
concern. People do Google searches to find out things they don't
already know, or don't know they already know; and they think that
they know about the Iraqi Christians.
It is a noteworthy sidelight here that almost all the searches
on "Iraqi Christians" come from the US.
Now, Google searches aren't a good way of measuring political
engagement, but these graphs should still be rather grim reading to
anyone who thinks that there is widespread popular sympathy or
interest in the plight of the victims of the war out there.
Failing that, there are always the front pages of the popular
papers - the Daily Mirror's "Please Save us" balanced
against the Daily Express's "Migrants clamour to reach
Britain". This last sits rather oddly under a much smaller
headline: "New pressure on Cameron to halt horror deaths in
Of all the fantasies to adorn the Express front page,
the idea that David Cameron can "halt horror deaths in Iraq" is one
of the wildest, if least noxious.
THE previous day, the Express had explained on its
front page: "Why Britain must wake up to the Jihadist evil in our
midst", while the Mail warned against foreign convicts -
so much more evil than home-grown ones. But the oddest story about
the enemy within was the one on the top of the front page from
Nicky Morgan, the new Secretary of State for Education, who
succeeded Michael Gove. "Nurseries are at risk of being taken over
by religious extremists, the Education Secretary will warn as she
announces that toddlers are to be taught 'fundamental British
"In her first major policy announcement, Nicky Morgan will say
that local authorities will be obliged to use new powers to strip
nurseries of their funding if they are found to 'promote extremist
"She will also say that toddlers should be taught fundamental
British values in an 'age-appropriate way' as part of a drive to
protect children from religious radicals."
Yes, it's August, and nobody's heard of her; so she has to say
something to be noticed. But this still seems totally barmy. What
are the distinctively British values that you can teach a
It emerges later in the story that, for toddlers, the teaching
of such values is likely to include "learning right from wrong,
learning to take turns and share, and challenging negative
attitudes and stereotypes".
If it were really the fact that the values that a two-year-old
needs to learn are "fundamentally British" ones, then the world
would be doomed once the foreigners broke out of their boiling sea
of selfishness and flooded our lovely country, where all the
children play nicely with their toys and never bite one another . .
. unless they are football players, of course.
FINALLY, an excellent piece of mischief from CNN, which returned
to the palaces in which Roman Catholic bishops live in the United
Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, lives on Madison
Avenue, in a mansion that has been valued at $35 million. His
brother of Chicago has only 1.7 acres, and a house valued at $14
million. And he has to share it with two other bishops and a priest
- their nun-servants have a separate coach house to live in,
presumably for the avoidance of scandal.
But the real prize, I think, would be Miami, where the
Archbishop has a house on the shore of Biscayne Bay with six
bedrooms, six bathrooms, a swimming pool, and a tiki hut, whatever
that may be. I hope it eases the burdens of celibacy.