Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Russia and Syria’s President Assad want ‘to make a desert and then call it peace’. Thus accused British MI6’s spy Chief Alex Younger, showing how hard it is to recover from a classical education. (At a private, expensive fee-paying school, presumably.) Because he was quoting Roman historian Tacitus, who so reported Scottish chieftain Calgacus’ address to his men, rallying them to resist the invading armies of Rome. Hope Mr Younger realised whose ghost he was invoking: that of the most ardent admirer and advocate of Roman imperialism. Droll!

You learn from the head of MI6’s speech that Britain’s secret services have spies within the ranks of ISIS in Syria. Whom of course he designates as terrorists. The same jihadi lot who are ruthlessly targeted by Assad’s troops, with Russian backing. Was he comparing Islamic State with Caledonian freedom-fighter Calgacus? Odd because the latter was arguably defending his own land, whereas the Caliphate boys consist largely of foreign fighters, keen on slaying Syrian civilians, often in bloodcurdling ways. Don’t dig the analogy, I must say.

The spies who have infiltrated ISIS for Britain risk their lives. The result of being identified ‘could be their death’. You bet it could, Mr Younger! Fine example of English understatement, methinks. It would be a particular, unpleasant, slow and painful death, I should imagine, if Islamic State’s precedents are anything to go by. But then spying is not a nice job. You have to simulate friendship and active sympathy while harbouring enmity and hatred in your heart. An unenviable task, no matter how necessary. Spying is definitely a dirty job.

But why are the spooks risking that much? Money? Nope. It is to protect ‘their country and their religion’. Wot!?! Their religion? What religion could that be? Unless the MI6 boss has taken leave of his senses, it cannot be the Christian religion, could it? Imagine the headlines: ‘MI6 men fight for the Cross! Like the crusaders of old, they are combating the Saracen hordes! To save Britain from Islam!’ Not even the wildest fantasist would cook up a narrative like that. If Mr Younger lost his mind and did that, he would instantly sink into oblivion. But he is obviously a smart guy, so I conclude the ‘religion’ he alludes to can’t be Christianity.

Leaving aside Hinduism, Jainism and the Moonies as implausible, he must mean Islam, what else? So the British spies inside Daish are engaged in ‘protecting’ Islam. This too is peculiar for two reasons. First, ISIS means ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’. Its black flags are emblazoned with the Muslims profession of faith, the shehada: ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God’. That sounds pretty Islamic to me. It is not, on the face of it, a Christian slogan, is it? Of course, many claim Daish is a perversion of true Islam and that may well be true. Regardless, and here is the priest’s second point, what right, what authority has this infidel MI6 chief to legislate what is and what is not true Islam? Unless he secretly converted and is in fact an alim, a Muslim scholar, Mr Younger has not entitlement and credibility whatsoever to speak on such burning theological matters. Angels would fear to tread on that ground – unless they were demons, perhaps.

Perversely, the British chief spook bashes the Russians and Assad as the main culprits of the Syrian mayhem. Does he imply that ISIS will gain more recruits because of the onslaught against them? And the deaths of many innocent lives? Actually, if minds are so fanatical and warped to be attracted by the Caliphate’s ferocity, what difference would any ‘moderation’ make? More likely, it would be seen as a sign of weakness and be a stimulus to commit even more atrocities.
Delusion to suppose otherwise.
However, Mr Younger has an ace up his sleeve. It called…007! His ‘fierce dedication to the cause of Britain’. Huh! The cat is out of the bag! What a pearl! A beautifully revealing slip. As Semiotics Professor Umberto Eco showed in a perceptive essay, you only have to look at Bond’s gallery of villains to perceive how deeply xenophobic Ian Fleming’s creation was. Read the novels, pray. 007’s foes are all bloody foreigners. All display even physical marks of sinister diversity. Dr No, Le Chiffre, Blofeld, Emilio Largo, Mr Big, Scaramanga, Hugo Drax, Goldfinger... From Blofeld’s lobeless ears to Drax’s dental diastema to Dr No’s claw-like metal hands…geddit? Race too comes into it: Mr Big is black. Dr No is Eurasian, Drax German, Largo Italian…None is a Muslim, note – Fleming failed to predict Bin Laden. Still, this is Bond as a true Brexit hero!

Britain’s ‘ultimate protection’ lies in values, the chief spook says. Given the kind of man Ian Fleming conceived James Bond to be, I wonder: what kind of values?

All right, MI6 has managed to foil some terrorist plots. To that extent, it is needed. You don’t wish yourself or your loved ones to be blown up, do you? I only wish Mr Younger refrained from theological speculations. And also that he retired Bond from service for good.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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