There is something attractive about almost the whole of southern Europe being part of an immense and somewhat rigorous caliphate, as promised by the exciting Sunni Islamic movement formerly known as Isis. This new entity, stretching from Santander in what we currently know as Spain, to Cox’s Bazar on the Bangladesh and Burmese border, would handily encapsulate 98 per cent of the worst countries in the world, as defined by me out of rank prejudice, but also by various more scientific UN criteria.
It is a little disappointing, in my opinion, that Isis — or ‘The Islamic State’ as it now wishes to be known — has excluded both France and Italy from its plans — and yet it has seen fit to embrace Austria, as the northern tip of the caliphate’s Orobpa suzerainty. Perhaps they were a little hasty in drawing up their map and it’s a mere slip of the pen — only to be expected when they have so much work on their hands beheading and crucifying people for being slightly less deranged than themselves. If I were Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph or emir of this new entity, I would swap Austria for France — and maybe Belgium too. There are plenty of Muslims in both of these countries who would welcome the founding of a caliphate. They are not all the right Muslims, of course, and so some of them would undoubtedly meet a sticky end. But that’s a small price to pay.
Mr al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi (yes, yes, the name’s a bit of a giveaway, although he supposedly hails from Samarra, not Baghdad), has just announced that he is a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed — which, in his position, is a huge stroke of luck and a really positive selling point for his two billion or so prospective constituents. I assume he discovered this information on some local version of the television franchise Who Do You Think You Are? — and he must have been delighted at the result. Imagine if they’d revealed to him that he was actually a distant cousin of, say, Ariel Sharon or Rolf Harris? I bet he’d have kept that quiet. But luckily, it was Mohammed instead.
So — goodbye Spain and Portugal. That becomes the region of Andalus. No loss to me, frankly, although I’m optimistic we might be able to negotiate something with old Abu over Gibraltar — he can’t be much more antagonistic towards the Gibraltarians than the Spanish, can he?
Before this can happen, though, he has his work cut out eliminating the Muslim opposition from within the territories he already controls — the hand-wringing, ineffectual and passé liberals of al-Qa’eda, for example. And the old Mahdi Army, to whom he refers as ‘filth’. So we are some way yet from seeing a bit of discipline imposed upon the Spanish and Portuguese — although Mr al-Baghdadi has suggested that this should all be achievable within about five years, so fingers crossed but don’t count your chickens etc.
I heard Jack Straw, once our foreign secretary, suggest that the civil war which has afflicted Iraq ever since we illegally invaded the country 11 years ago, and which has recently taken a sharpish turn for the worse, would ‘probably’ have happened anyway, even if Saddam Hussein had been allowed to remain in power. This is a conceit as repulsive in its insouciance as it is staggering in its self-delusion. If it really is self-delusion, and not just a straightforward and downright lie. Straw and the hideous Blair cling to this notion much as a spider will cling to the side of a bath as the water rises beneath it.
They cling, too, to the even more reprehensible canard that because Saddam was a tyrant and a despot, nothing could possibly be worse than allowing him to continue running the country. It is of course incontestable that life is now far worse for Iraqis than it was in 2002, in every possible way. It is incontestable that many, many more lives have been lost as a consequence of us tearing the country apart than would have been lost as a consequence of Saddam’s brutality.
And it is incontestable that the threat to the United Kingdom has exponentially increased as a consequence of the war and its aftermath too. I can just about swallow the idea that the Blair government — by which I mean Blair, as I don’t think the cabinet’s heart was ever very much in it — believed it was doing the right thing by invading: the purblind arrogance of liberal evangelism knows no bounds, after all. It clearly came as a grave shock to Mr Blair that Iraq did not happily embrace secular, multi-party democracy, with all-women shortlists and maybe a semblance of PR to keep the Greens and Liberals happy, but instead deliquesced into chaos ending in an even more fantastically brutal Islamic state which threatens the entire region and beyond.
But then Mr Blair was shocked when, having urged the Palestinians to hold an election, they did so and dutifully returned Hamas to power — at which point he suggested they should hold the election again until they got the right result. There are geese with a better grip of geopolitics than Tony Blair, there are dust mites and bacteria. And this is leaving aside entirely the manner in which our then prime minister gerrymandered the country into launching the war against Iraq — the full extent of the chicanery and dishonesty we may never know.
But surely by now we know this: our interventions in the Middle East always — always — make things much, much worse. They make things worse for the benighted people of the region and in the end they make things worse for us. If you are ever tempted to doubt that, take a look at Mr al-Baghdadi, drawing up his map for world domination. A creature we created.
Postscript: Mr al-Baghdadi has since confirmed that Italy will be included in his new caliphate. I am glad to have been of assistance.