I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The hideous ISIS attack on a Berlin Christmas market in many ways seems like an almost perfectly awful bookend to what has been a particularly awfully year. We will look back on 2016 as being the year when hate won hands down. It has been a dark year which opens up a dark and frightening future. We are entering a time of fingers crossed and hope for the best.

The crime ISIS committed in the capital of Germany is as bad as any crime can get. We shudder at the cold brutality. The complete and absolute lack of any kind of humanity. What they did was a long way beyond disgusting. It was plain evil.

And of course the crime has dominated the news. How could it not? And of course we have recoiled in instinctive horror. How could we not?
But is probably important to take a step back. To take a couple of breaths. To look at the horror with a measured eye. And once we do so, things get a little uncomfortable.

We don’t question such an event filling every corner of the news. It is huge. Of course it is. But we need to be clear about why it is so huge. The reason isn’t all that hard to find. Twelve completely innocent people were murdered in the coldest of cold blood. Why? For being white and Christian and European and Western. For being in the most liberal and tolerant city in the world. For being unwitting pawns in a ghastly game. These are all compelling reasons. But of course the biggest reason is easy to nail down. For these are people who are just like us. We go to Christmas markets. We are innocent Europeans who do no more than go about our daily business. We don’t deserve to be executed in the name of Jihad.

Had exactly the same atrocity been committed in the midst of the rubble of Aleppo, it wouldn’t have dominated the news. Had it happened in a market in a town in Northern Nigeria none of us have ever heard of, well, I guess it might not have made the news at all.

Some victims are just more newsworthy than other victims. White Christian Europeans are at the top of the newsworthy league table whilst Black African Muslims are way down at the bottom. Should we beat ourselves up about this? Not really. Human nature is human nature. It won’t change. We are the creatures of evolution and cannot be blamed for being so.

Next I guess we have to take a look at the 'Why?'. Obviously every politician who finds themselves in front of the cameras will spout the well worn party line. This is a wicked, senseless, cowardly attack on our way of life. This is an act of mindless cruelty.
But it isn’t of course and it is a shame our politicians are so incapable of being honest about the motives of ISIS. They are not so very hard to find. Germany is a problem for ISIS. The Jihadis rely on painting a very particular picture of us to their potential recruits. We are the wicked unbelievers who cheer the TV when American bombs rain down on Muslim civilians. We are the 'Kuffar' who want to see Muslims exterminated like cockroaches. So when Germany stepped up to the plate and showed such compassion and love to the victims of Assad’s war, it made things kind of hard for the bad lads with the long beards. Facebook was full of images of welcoming, smiling Germans handing out teddy bears to traumatised Syrian kids. This was a narrative they needed to change and to change quickly. They needed to make the German people be more like the British people and the American people. Angry and fearful and xenophobic and ready to vote for people promising drone strikes and carpet bombing and no Burkhas. The German people have been far too in touch with the better angels of their nature. ISIS need to bring out the worst in us. They need us to strike back with our cluster bombs. They need us to flatten Muslim schools and to disrespect Muslim women. In order for their people to learn to love ISIS, they need to be taught to hate us. They need to provoke us into doing things to make us hated. Nice, kind German people holding up ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs are the worst kind of nightmare for ISIS. Angry looking Germans marching to old Nazi tunes are absolutely perfect.

And the worst of it is the way our leaders dutifully dance to their tune. We never learn and we never will. The tabloids will bay for blood and the politicians will duly deliver it. We are so miserably predictable.

But we can take another step back and here is where it becomes very uncomfortable indeed. What exactly did ISIS say when they claimed responsibility for the attack? They said it was the work of one of their 'soldiers'. Yes. A 'soldier'. ISIS see this as a military operation with a clear goal. The mission was to brutally kill civilians in the heart of a German city? Why? To break the will and morale of the German people. To make the German people stop showing love and start demanding revenge. ISIS need us to be as bad as they say we are. They have a clear strategy. They are quite deliberately using maximum horror to make the German population change the way they are behaving. To break the policy of the German government.

Is this the first time such a strategy has been used? Of course it isn’t. And now an awfully uncomfortable truth edges out from the very deepest of shadows. It is a truth about as welcome as a despised uncle at a wedding.
Between 13 and 15 February 1945 the British Government ordered ‘Operation Thunderclap’. Hundreds of British bombers dropped 2500 tonnes of high explosive and 1500 tonnes of incendiary bombs on the German city of Dresden. We killed between 25,000 and 35,000 people. We will never know the exact number as many of the dead were quite literally melted in the firestorm we unleashed. It is worth noting that the death toll on day one of Hiroshima was 40,000. More, but not so very much more.
We knew full well there were barely any soldiers to be found in Dresden. We knew full well the streets were packed with desperate refugees running from the wholesale murder and rape being committed by the Red Army. We knew full well there was no strategic gain to be made by setting Dresden alight.

So why did we commit such an act of utter horror? Simple. It was a calculated act of brutality disegned to break the will of the German people. Here is what the Commander in Chief of Bomber Command had to say.

“I mention this because, for a long time, the Government, for excellent reasons, has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call Military Targets. I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.”   

And my word, were we ever true to his words. We proved we could keep up with the Jones’s when it came to cold murderous brutality. And we did indeed break the will of the German people. Three months later we won and Trafalgar Square was one big party. No wonder ISIS are using our playbook. Thank goodness they cannot begin to really imitate what we did to Hamburg and Dresden. On Monday night they killed 12. On that shameful night in 1945 we killed more than 30,000. We burned them alive. We melted them.

Of course we don’t want to look at this. And of course we don’t want to dwell on the crimes we have committed in the past. But we cannot escape the fact that the mass civilian killing we once indulged in paved the way to our greatest victory. ISIS are obviously happy enough to study the history we choose to sweep under the carpet. They are using our playbook. Let’s hope they never get the same result.
Way back then we had a popular saying. We said 'The only good German is a dead German.' And it was deemed perfectly OK to say this. It was very politically correct indeed. And in February 1945 we made the words come true. Big time. I guess ISIS are saying much the same thing now. And on Monday night they also made their words come true. Just not on the same scale.


  1. There you go holding a mirror up to ourselves. Hard for us to consider ourselves the 'good guys' when people do that. I've long held & voiced the view that 'their' suicide bombers are the technological equivalent of 'our' smart bombs; simply a means of delivering a precisely aimed parcel of explosives with no moral component whatsoever.

    That quote though: doesn't it read "the only good German (etc.)..."?

  2. There you go holding a mirror up to ourselves. Hard for us to consider ourselves the 'good guys' when people do that. I've long held & voiced the view that 'their' suicide bombers are the technological equivalent of 'our' smart bombs; simply a means of delivering a precisely aimed parcel of explosives with no moral component whatsoever.

    That quote though: doesn't it read "the only good German (etc.)..."?

  3. Mark,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the decision by the German High Command to attack civilian targets in the UK was subsequently seen as a mistake, was it not? Sure they caused heartbreak, but they didn't effect the outcome. Clearly Bomber Harris learned no lessons.

    Much like the doodlebugs and V2s, the drones have little or no impact on the military, and perhaps counter-intuitively harden the resolve of the civilians.