Here we are, 41 years down the road, and I’m once again writing for The Spectator’s Christmas issue. This is a triple one, so I want to make it count. In my sporting days, trying too hard was as counterproductive as not trying hard enough, so let’s see if this principle also applies to the written word.
Eighty-five thousand Yemeni children may have died of hunger, and 10,000 men, women and children have been killed, most of them by indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes targeting civilians, and that murderous megalomaniac Mohammed bin Salman and his Gulf allies are responsible. Just think of the enormity of the crime: 85,000 under-fives starved to death in the cruellest way possible by those overfed criminals in Riyadh. Then picture George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and Prince Charles smiling, laughing and breaking bread with such men.
And then switch your attention to Manchester, and Manchester City. Owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has a bottomless well of wealth at his disposal as the son of the absolute ruler of the Gulf state Abu Dhabi, the club is lording it over the opposition, having collected every star available. Although fairness on the pitch is not the owner’s strong point, behind the scenes it’s even worse: ever since the Gulf camel-drivers took over, the club has worked tirelessly to get around Uefa’s financial fair play regulations. (Inflated sponsorship deals masking covert cash injections from down south — you name it, they’ve pulled it.)
I could have told anyone who would listen that the moment Gulf or Saudi money is involved, rules no longer apply. These people do not play and intend never to play by the rules, because they know that our best and brightest will genuflect and spread their cheeks for them and then say thank you. So how about Fifa and its craven and crawling president Gianni Infantino fining Manchester City £5 billion for cheating and sending that money to Yemen in food parcels?
Let’s not get our hopes up. Perhaps if they were to lobotomise 99 per cent of those who govern football, a punitive fine and a Christian gesture towards those miserable wretches in Yemen might become a possibility, but not before. In football it’s all take, take, take, and in Saudi and the Gulf it’s now all kill, kill, kill.
A few years back, when Baroness Lambert was still alive, I spent a weekend in the company of Kenneth Roth, her house guest and the executive director of Human Rights Watch. Roth was collecting and I was a giver. I asked him in public if any of my moolah would reach the prison camp that is Gaza. To his credit, in front of a mostly Jewish crowd, he answered in the affirmative, and with brio. Some rich bum — Gstaad is full of them — sneered, and I upped my contribution. Roth was terrific in standing up to someone who immediately called him a self-loathing Jew. (So what else is new?)
I have now given up on Trump and his stooge Kushner to stand up to the Saudis. Money is more important to them than morals, so schools, hospitals and weddings will continue to be targeted by the Saudi and Gulf coalition — all done with Uncle Sam-provided ammo.
This is such a human catastrophe that the mind reels. The Turks, who murdered 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago, are now posing as defenders against murder. The Likudists — I will not write Israelis because there are some very good Israelis who loathe what Netanyahu and the settlers are doing to the Palestinians as much as I do — are in cahoots with the Saudis and the Trumpists against the Iranians, who are trying to protect their Shiite brothers from Uncle Sam’s bombs and are defined as terrorists for doing what the Americans do for Israel. Why is it OK for America to give three billion per year to Israel for arms, and not OK for Iran to help Hezbollah and Hamas to protect the minority Shiites?
Never mind: life’s unfair, as we all know, and the immoral and amoral usually win. Isolating Iran, an ancient culture, is Trump’s trump card. The widespread famine and disease, the thousands of deaths by starvation of innocent Yemenis, all take second place to the Trump, Netanyahu, MBS troika’s bid to make America great again. I was a Trump fan until now. But I have seen the light. Instead of curbing the export of the most evil ideology known to us at present, Salafist Islam, the Donald is encouraging it. Khashoggi was no angel. He was for the Muslim Brotherhood and for al-Qaeda. He’s now a hero-martyr because he wrote occasionally for Bezos’s Washington Post. Journalists see themselves as sacrosanct, and he was one of them. If only they had made as much noise when the Turks were killing Armenians and Greeks.
The detestable stench emanating from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia is alleviated slightly by the coming of Christmas. Good will to almost all men is what I say, and especially to you, dear Spectator readers. Happy Christmas.