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Australia Diary Australia


Conrad Black opens his diary

9 June 2010

12:00 AM

9 June 2010

12:00 AM

Coleman, Florida

It is a unique sensation to await a US Supreme Court decision in a low security US prison, on appeal of charges of which I am innocent. Seven years and most of the fruits of my 37 years in the newspaper business have gone. Once in the maw of the US prosecutocracy, strange and bad things happen. Yet when the correlation of forces is as one-sided as when the US government attacks any individual, mere survival becomes fulfilling. As Brendan Behan once confided to my father, ‘The instinct of self-preservation is creditable.’

And in the abstract, it has been interesting. The inflammatory and defamatory lies (‘a $500 million corporate kleptocracy’, ‘the piggy bank’, etc) have been debunked. We’re down to whether the redesignation by an associate, of $2.7 million, at no cost to the company, voted to me and disclosed and publicly discussed, constituted ‘honest services’. We will have to await my civil suits to learn why our companies were destroyed, wiping out $2 billion of shareholder value, while the sponsors of the prosecution enriched themselves by $300 million, and to plumb the more extreme defamations of the early days.

My time here has had some unexpected rewards through my efforts as an English tutor and US history teacher. I have met some undoubtedly dodgy characters, but none whose ethics struck me as inferior to some of the prosecutors and judges I have encountered. I am grateful for email access, which has allowed me to become a columnist in Canada and the US. The prison email system also enables me to keep in touch with the growing number of my supporters, who are particularly appreciated at a time like this, when these travails have grown from the routine corporate corruption case originally claimed into something of a cause célèbre about prosecution overreach.

Too many people are too depressed about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. These things happen, they are terrible, but they end, and more fail-safe methods result. I have often been critical of President Obama; his presidency has been bizarre in many ways, but not the least in the fact that Obama, who has vastly exceeded the enthusiasm of any predecessor in espousal of ecological interests, and was trying to drum up support for a $100 billion annual fund for 77 less developed countries just a few months ago at Copenhagen, should be perceived as mismanaging this crisis. I thought his initial response a refreshing contrast from the former president’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, and there is probably no popular way to deal with such a disaster, but he has appeared unbecomingly frazzled at times. No one envies him, but dealing with grave problems is what leaders of countries are supposed to do.

Max Hastings’s book on Mr Churchill seems deservedly to have received generally good reviews. All concede Churchill was the heroic leader of anti-Nazi resistance in the darkest and finest hours. But when the Allies were winning, he wanted to attack German-occupied Europe everywhere except France, and resisted the Normandy invasion almost to the end. Roosevelt worked hard and subtly to arrange Stalin’s support for the invasion of France. Churchill’s CIGS, Brooke, wrote in his diary that Stalin’s support of it was motivated by his conviction that it would fail, weakening Germany and assisting his own westward advance. That may have been correct, but Roosevelt was right. He was concerned about Russia coming too far into Western Europe, or about a separate peace with Hitler, which was discussed in 1943, one or other of which would have happened without a serious second front.

More importantly, he is replanting Churchill’s greatness on the firm ground of the saviour of 1940 and 1941, and of his humanity, decency, and qualities as a romantic adventurer, a paladin of civilisation. As long as the Churchill legacy relied in significant measure on the false disparagement of Roosevelt (an astonishingly cunning but cynical man whose slippery personality Max captures well), it was vulnerable. In a jejune review in the New York Times, the inevitable Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote, ‘Mr Hastings doesn’t do subtle.’ He has here, very affectingly, on Churchill’s human qualities.

New Labour won consecutive full terms for the first time in the party’s history but has left the country far worse off than when it started. I have seen too many incoming governments in too many places, with bright, peppy leaders flourishing new brooms who are sent packing in a few years in the same undignified manner as their predecessors, to take it all very seriously. The new people that I know fairly well, William Hague, Michael Gove, and Iain Duncan Smith, will, I’m sure, be excellent. I would have more faith in the regime if the PM’s heavenly mother-in-law, Annabelle Astor, were in charge. There is no excuse for the country to be in such a mess, but I believe in British luck.

We have our European friends to thank for driving Turkey into the arms of the Islamic militants, by treating them for 30 years as flea-bitten mendicants holding a begging bowl at the door of Europe. The only solution to what I assume the doyennes of the London Season, as they look down their noses as if their fish had gone off, are still calling ‘the Jew problem’ is and always was the fulfilment of the world’s, including Britain’s, promise of a secure, permanent, Jewish state, within borders that allow for a viable Palestine state. If the Turks want to throw in with terrorists, they should be expelled from Nato. A coalition of the willing is feeble enough, but an alliance of both opponents and enablers of terrorism would be absurd.

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