Everything I ever learned about realpolitik, you could have picked up from playing Civilization a few times. Has anyone ever given a copy of that most addictive of games to our leaders? When you take enemy territory, it creates destablization which may effect you at home unless you pump resources into your new cities and make the people extra happy and extra well-defended. This is so obvious, it is in a computer game; not only is it not rocket science, you actually need to get rid of any rockets the enemy was storing up to use against you because people do not like them. You make sure that key intellectual resources like libraries are preserved; you look after religious sensibilities; you maintain order.
How unlike Iraq.
In the old version of Civilization, an egregiously bad player would be told that they had achieved the level of Dan Quayle. My guess is that George W. Bush would be in there somewhere if the game still went that way.
Bush also decided to pre-empt all discussion of the Guantanamo bay detainees by announcing ex cathedra that they were bad men, who had been arrested in arms against the US. Except that this is not true - Muhammad Beggs was arrested in Pakistan running a school and the other UK resident guy whose name I forget was in prison for desertion, allegedly having fallen out with the Taliban. He may be lying and Beggs may have been keeping dodgy company, but these are the things you sort out in a proper court of law, with a proper defense.
It is shameful that Blair is not fighting harder on this one, and just as shameful that the Tories have no view. I am impressed that my old sparring partner Louise Christian is, as usual, on the side of the liberal angels on this one. It must annoy the fundamentalists that their best hope here is a stroppy white woman lawyer.
The issue is also that Islamic fundamentalism of the Taliban stripe, like much fundamentalist Christianity, is a cult and people get sucked into it in the way they do cults. And sometimes behave like total schmucks as a result. There is a civilized urbane Islam out there, but that is not what potential cultees tend to be drawn to. Beggs was secular educated to the extent of winning the Hebrew prize at school.
There is no evidence whatever that he did anything whatever wrong, or even that he was involved in anything other than charitable work, however cynical one may be about the sort of charity.
Interestingly, I was talking about the other guy to a friend who was being bullish.
'No possible grounds for doubting that he was a combatant', he said,' He was wearing their uniform.'
'He was in prison for desertion,' I said, 'what else were they going to give him to wear?'
'Oh,' he said.
Meanwhile, in another part of my brain, we have been watching UK QAF and I have been thinking hard about why it works so well. Part of the point is that both Vince and Stuart are aspects of a writer - Vince has all the empathy and Stuart has all the ruthlessnes. The scene at Phil's funeral where Stuart takes what Phil's mother said to Vince and turns it into ad copy is exactly what writers do all the time, if not quite so nakedly.
It is also weird to look at the Manchester scene of roughly now and map onto it the queer Manchester I knew in my teens in the Sixties and see continuity. This has happened to me a couple of times when reading Madchester novels - it is probably more obvious to me because I only went to Manchester occasionally and so I inhabited a cartoon version of it in my head.