It’s hard to suppress a feeling of schadenfreude when reading accounts of the crusaders going to the Holy Land in support of Christianity and finding that the indigenous Christians were often the lowest of the low, whereas the infidel leaders, rich and educated, were much more like those whom the Western leaders instinctively admired and wanted to meet. And these Christians were technically heretics, their religious observances thick with dodgy practices, their allegiances fixed on Patriarchs nobody had heard of or respected.
George Osborne says that on the basis of the ‘keys’ forecasting system George W. Bush will be President next year and Michael Howard will be in No. 10 In the next few months George Bush and John Kerry are going to spend more than $1 billion trying to win the presidential election, while everyone else is going to spend millions of dollars trying to guess the result. They needn’t bother. The result is already obvious.
The minister had been stood up. Here we were in Bamiyan, in the heart of Afghanistan with Her Majesty’s drugs-busting minister Bill Rammell, and there was no sign of the Afghan farmer who had reportedly given up growing poppies in favour of dried apricots. He seemed an unlikely enough character in any case. Perhaps he never existed.
Protected by a phalanx of armed Special Branch officers, we had flown into Bamiyan in a C-130 Hercules to catch up on the British-led counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan, a country that supplies 95 per cent of the heroin on our streets.
I forgot: you need coins or a pre-paid Metrocard for the New York buses, and one morning several weeks ago, as I stood at the eastbound stop on the corner of Broadway and 125th Street, I realised I had neither. Only notes. Two other men were waiting for the M60, the cross-town bus — the one I was to take to the Harlem railway station — and there was no time to go in search of change. Through the broad arch of the iron bridge over 125th Street, which supports an elevated section of the Broadway subway line, I saw a bus coming from the Hudson, and I turned to the more together-looking of the two men and asked him if he had change for a couple of dollar bills.
Over the next few days we shall see countless images, in photographs and on film, of the men who won the second world war. The D-Day generation can claim to have been the last that had a genuine measure of greatness. These were not, for the most part, professional warriors, for whom the services had been a vocation. They had been plucked from civilian life, in many cases straight from school, to defend their country and win the bloodiest war in history.