Rod Liddle

If we won’t talk to John Cantlie’s captors, then why not have Qataris to do it for us?

We may pretend we don’t negotiate, but in private we natter away like there’s no tomorrow

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

It is a horrible thing to say, but I suspect that sooner or later we will begin to get irritated by the John Cantlie Show. Mr Cantlie is the British photojournalist who is being held captive somewhere in Syria by the maniacal and barbarous Islamic State. He has delivered two video lectures of a geopolitical nature, and we should assume that he delivers them under not only duress, but out of a very terrible fear too. However, he is fluent and very calm, insisting that the views he espouses are entirely his own. These amount to a castigation of the UK and the USA for refusing to do some sort of deal with Islamic State in order to procure his release; a view which, if you are in Mr Cantlie’s position, seems to me fair enough, even if it is probably wrong.

But there is also a broader analysis from the hostage — a warning that Barack Obama should not become embroiled in another war in Iraq, because this would lead to the sort of ‘mess’ unwitnessed since Vietnam. More video lectures have been promised, and one hopes that they will be forthcoming, because the alternative is that he will get his head chopped off by one of the possibly British-domiciled Muslim savages who abducted him from the Turkish border in the first place.

Clearly, Mr Cantlie has some sympathies with the people of Syria and Iraq, as does another hostage, the Mancunian taxi driver Alan Henning. Mr Henning was apparently on the verge of converting to Islam, for example, while Mr Cantlie has reportedly developed a great interest in Islam and, in particular, in the hundreds of western-based young Muslims who have turned up in Iraq and Syria to be cannon fodder for any of the competing groups of murderous religious zealots now tearing the place apart.

Fascism has always held a fascination for some of the inhabitants of soft, decadent democracies, I suppose. And it would be wrong and callous to argue — as I have heard some do — that Henning and Cantlie made their beds and that our collective sympathy should be tempered a little by this patent fact. We might agree with Cantlie, further, that nothing we have done in that benighted and medieval neck of the woods has benefited either us or them — whether it be government support for the rebels who fought President Assad or our latter position of wishing to bomb Islamic State from the face of the earth.

Because what began as a moderately angry middle-class expression of dissatisfaction with Assad’s unpleasant regime very quickly became a war waged by jihadis. We should have stayed out and kept our mouths shut, an approach we would have done better to follow in all of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings which so excited the gullible and half-witted liberals in the UK (including our then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the Prime Minister).

And of course we should not have invaded Iraq in the first place. I wonder if there are any of those liberals left who still believe that invading was the right course of action? And yet for years those of us who thought it criminal and a path to Islamist chaos were labelled as supporters of Saddam. These people see things in strictly binary terms, I suppose. But nor are the British jihadis of much use, either; they are derided by the Islamic State who see them, probably rightly, as useless and stupid and eminently expendable. The now famous decapitating imbecile Jihadi John is, for the moment, a useful idiot to Islamic State, no more than that.

But should we negotiate over the fate of British citizens, the Hennings and Cantlies of this world? Our official position is that we should not, and there’s an end to it — an echo of Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that we should never talk to terrorists. But of course, under Thatcher, we did talk to the terrorists of the IRA. The truth is, we always end up talking — much as we have done in Afghanistan with the Taleban.

Quite possibly the best solution is to insist that we will never talk to terrorists while in private nattering away like there’s no tomorrow. This seems to be the approach favoured by every other country that has had cause to engage with the events in Iraq and Syria. IS has just released 49 Turkish citizens (diplomats and their families, and soldiers) it had been holding hostage following a lengthy negotiation with President Recep Erdogan. The Turks of course swore blind that no money had changed hands — but in that case, why were the hostages released? The suspicion remains that Turkey gave various cowardly injunctions about refraining from abetting in a Nato attack upon ISIS; that is certainly the feeling in Washington.

In a moral sense, this is worse than simply bunging the lunatics a pile of wonga, surely. But it is not just the Turks. How do you imagine that the US hostage Peter Theo Curtis managed to get himself free? It would seem on the face of it to have been a deal brokered by a third party, the thugs of Qatar, who secured his release from the al-Nusra Front, part of the exciting al-Qa’eda franchise.

The Qataris, of course, are by far the greatest conduit of financial support for IS and indeed any other Sunni Muslim madmen who wish to impose some variant of a caliphate on the south-western quarter of the Middle East. To save the skins of Cantlie and Henning, we should be bullying the Qataris right now.

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  • Rik

    We need to adopt the Russian model against these swine when their diplomats were kidnapped they took very direct action {death and dismemberment} bully Qatar?? I suggest an explicit threat to those who support ISIL.Wont be so much fun exporting fundamentalist chaos if the risk is getting your throat cut and your testicles sewn into your mouth

  • Thersites

    You Brits weren’t always so squeamish. During the Indian Mutiny, Muslims who had taken up arms against the British were smeared in pig’s fat and then blown from the mouth of a cannon. No 72 virgins for them!

    • Mr Creosote

      We live in different times now …..I’m surprised the mention of “pig’s fat” did not fall foul of the moderator.

    • AndrewMelville

      A damn good thing too. Well done, the Raj. Too bad we have declined from those standards.

    • Bonkim

      The Brits were few – most of the British Indian Army was manned by Indians.

  • Meh. This is a disappointing piece Rob. Is your heart really in it?

    • Flintshire Ian

      It’s not up to the usual high standard is it? I wonder if Rod bunged Isabel Hardman a few quid to write it for him?

  • laurence

    Qatar, like other Middle Eastern $shit holes, is only of concern to us because of our chronic dependence on petro-chemicals. We have allowed these terrorist sponsoring backward cretins to purchase much of London, football clubs and so forth and inveigle themselves into the fabric of our finance-bound economy using money gained from selling us this oil. They bring no positives, only the vulgarity of conspicuous consumption and their primitive religious death cult. Would that some alternative to petrol be found and found soon, then we could leave Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and their ghastly cohorts to the obscurity they enjoyed before the discovery of oil.

    • AJH1968

      The Chinese are set to spend a fortune on Thorium reactors there have been some interesting papers published in this country as well. One does not need weaponry to deal a blow to extremists just carefully applied technology. The introduction of thorium reactors is still a far away, but it would deal the current group of troublemakers a serious blow. It is strange why the American right are so anti any attempt to replace oil. You would think that after the Arab oil boycotts of the 70’s, western Governments would have rushed towards Thorium and a more stable future.

      • jesseventura2

        Dropping the modern day versions of little boy and fat man especially when these vermin are throwing stones at a wall in large numbers would give them something to think about?

        • AJH1968

          A thorium hydrogen economy in the west would be the next best thing. Without oil, the capacity for mischief of these miscreants would be close to zero.

          • Bonkim

            not just energy – water, land and mineral resources are running out whilst populations exploding across the globe.

    • Yorkieeye

      Couldn’t agree more. The sooner they are all back in their tents selling each other camels the better. If the west is serious about ridding ourselves of this Islamic menace we need to find another way to power our vehicles fast.

      • Bonkim

        Or stop driving altogether. The earth is overpopulated and resources running out fast. No hope for mankind – one or two centuries at most if not decades.

    • William_Brown

      Absolutely right…

    • Terry Field

      The alternative is available NOW.
      It is called nuclear power.
      Crets like Sgolene Royal in France and Jane Fonda and such veg-heads have done what they can, but it IS AVAILABLE.
      Build hundreds of reactors in Europe, and tell the Russians and the towelheads to stick it.
      It is a bit expensive, but it will reduce climate disaster,and the felling of getting rid of the Arabs, the Persians and the Russians is worth every penny.

    • Alexsandr


  • beenzrgud

    200 years ago we would have simply gone in, crushed all opposition, and taken the oil. Eventually we figured out it was a lot cheaper just to support a local dictator to do the job for us, replacing them as and when they bit the hand that fed them. Somewhere along the line we have lost our way and created a world where we get rid of the dictators and allow chaos to reign. It may be PC but it ends up helping no-one.

    • Bonkim

      Crushing all opposition today – the opposition also have access to high-tech ordnance and capable of hurting us badly.

  • Why not do just whatever is necessary to take enough control of the finances of the countries that are funding these murdersous thugs. If that involves a little invasion of the odd oil state, no problem.

    • Freedom

      It did, and it was. The Left cries most about the worst offenders. That’s why I hate it.

    • Alexsandr

      lets have sanctions against quatar, and sequester their assets in the EU and n america

  • philiphuw

    Was it right to invade Iraq in 2003? Depends whom you ask. The Kurds and the Marsh Arabs were delighted we went in and couldn’t understand why it took so long to decide to remove the wort mass-murderer of Muslims in modern times. Also delighted were relatives of the 40,000 political prisoners a year that were being executed by Saddam (you work it out). Also delighted were relatives of the 500,000 Iraqis who perished owing to United Nations sanctions in the years preceeding the invasion. I bet Kuwaiti citizens and members of the Iranian army (who’d seen millions of their comrades killed in a brutal war in the 80s) were not too unhappy either. Iraq wasn’t like Hertfordshire until we spoilt it you know.
    It’s not ALL our fault either that some Iraqis chose to spend their new-found freedom slaughtering each other in market places because they followed slightly different interpretations of the same religion.
    Even so, fewer people have died in Iraq in the years following the invasion than died in the same period before it. In the absence of the now discreditied extrapolation from the “Lancet”, the best estimate comes from Iraq Body Count at (a still appalling) 140,000. Fewer than have died in Syria where we didn’t intervene.

    • Freedom

      Hear hear, hear hear hear! (Copied, saved, and will be redistributed.) I really wonder what is wrong with people, sometimes. Anyone would have thought that Saddam was a nice bloke or something. Not to mention his sons. (I try not to think about it.) At the bottom of this is anti-Westernism, and the sheer anti-freedom malice of the Left.

    • Christian

      Your ignorance is staggering. A modern secular state replaced by Islamic savagery and chaos and you have the audacity to ask ‘what’s the fuss all about?’. Astonishing.

      • philiphuw

        I certainly haven’t said “what’s all the fuss about”. What has happened there since 2003 is appalling. What happened there before our intervention was worse. Furthermore, if you think Iraq was a “modern secular country” then perhaps it is you who is ignorant.

        • Christian

          You therefore think that Iraq under Hussein was archaic and theocratic? Millions dead, a country in chaos and falling to pieces and that’s better than before because you can’t admit to being wrong. Astonishing. Any women engineers, doctors, teachers etc in Iraq now do you think? Plenty under Hussein.

          • philiphuw

            Why don’t you try to refute the figures in my original post Christian? You assert “millions dead”. I say rubbish. The Lancet extrapolation is hogwash. I am certainly not saying in any way that Iraq is anything other than a basket case. I am saying fewer people are dying there now than when Saddam and his crime family ran the place. Then one truly could talk about victims in the millions. Perhaps you think the deaths of innocent Muslims matter only when you can somehow blame them on the west. I believe they matter all the time. It’s also worth noting that two-thirds of Iraqis still think toppling Saddam was the right thing to do. But you, thousands of miles away in your safe European home, know better of course.

          • Shenandoah

            According to Christian, mass murder and torture of anyone that squeaks (including a doctor that had had the nerve to complain that the country spent money on warmaking against Iran rather than medicine for its children) is perfectly OK as long as some sort of claim for feminism can be made. He clearly has no idea what life was like for human beings under the psychopathic Hussein regime. He obviously never heard about what they did to women, either. But the world is full of useless idiots, and he’s one of them.

          • Christian

            The lancet report is hogwash? It certainly has it’s critics but it also has it’s prominent supporters. It’s also peer reviewed. Let’s see what it’s competition is like: “In July [2006], for example, the Ministry of Health reported exactly zero violent deaths in Anbar Province, in spite of the contradictory evidence we saw on our televisions. Is that a surveillance network on which our understanding of what is going on in Iraq can depend?”

          • Christian

            Your source for the poll of Iraqis? Yes, I think we should be more concerned when people die because if decisions made by our government. I’m old fashioned like that.

          • philiphuw


            Scroll down to Iraqi public opinion. They may not care for their liberators, but it’s actually 77% who thought toppling Saddam was “worth the hardship” that followed.

          • Christian

            That was 2005, a bit of water has flowed under the bridge since then

          • Freddie Frampton.

            He has no source and no facts Christian, just some stupid opinion poll. Anyone can look up the facts on-line and see what the truth is. A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.…, this is from an article in 2006. Just that figure alone is much, much more than Saddam Hussein killed in his whole lifetime. 2008 had over 7,000 deaths, as for 2014 the list keeps rising.

          • philiphuw


            Have a look at the above. With an open mind, ask yourself whether it is more plausible to believe the surveys (including one revealed by wikileaks) that agree on a figure of around 150,000, or to seize upon either of the two that put the toll far higher.

          • Freddie Frampton.

            Here is the polls from wikipedia:

            Family Health Survey151,000 violent deathsMarch 2003 to June 2006Lancet survey601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deathsMarch 2003 to June 2006Opinion Research Business survey1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflictMarch 2003 to August 2007PLOS Medicine Survey[2]Approximately 500,000 deaths in Iraq as direct or indirect result of the war.March 2003 to June, 2011

            None of them are even up to date with the most recent one being 2011 so the real death toll will be much higher than any of these. Even if you totalled them up and divided by 3 for an average it would still be well over half a million.

          • Freddie Frampton.

            Why don’t you back up your figures Philip! A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred., this is from an article in 2006. Just that figure alone is much, much more than Saddam Hussein killed in his whole lifetime. 2008 had over 7,000 deaths, as for 2014 the list keeps rising.

      • Terry Field

        That is the key problem. The western populations have no concept of what they are faced with by Islam.
        Islamic peace is clearly defined…………….where every human being on earth bends to pray to Allah five times a day.
        We use and hear words, but we do not understand what the muslim means.

        • global city

          According to Islam we live in the House of War…that is that part of the world that has not yet submitted to Islam. Until we do that will not change

          • Terry Field

            Indeed. Yet the political class tells the children there is no problem, no incompatibility, and the Muslim community is like the Archers but with towels on their heads, except, for unfathomable reasons, when their little Britons ‘do’ jihad.
            Barking mad. Our leaders in Britain are criminal in the lies they tell.

    • jesseventura2

      Get some therapy you prize Ahole?

    • Freddie Frampton.

      What absolute rubbish, even more people are dying right now as a result of our last invasion. Our governments excuse for going back in is that we created the mess and now we have to sort it out. Thing is they will never sort out the mess, they will only ever make it worse.

  • Terry Field

    They seem to like embroidery.Have they been on the Great Sewing Bee ?????

  • Freedom

    These people see things in strictly binary terms, I suppose.

    Just wait one cotton-picking minute, Rod Liddle. I supported the Iraq intervention — as did 14 (count ’em) U. N. resolutions against that godforsaken h-ll-hole — because the whole country is a lunatic asylum and a cradle of the sickest sorts of terrorism.

    We defeated the Saddam psychos. But some of the psychos got away to Syria — the same country where it was plausibly said that WMDs were stashed, unless Saddam was lying the whole time about those (never mind his attacks on the Kurds and his complete willingness to use any disgusting means at his disposal). And because Iraq is a failed largely medieval nation of warped religious fanatics, we didn’t get rid of every fanatic there, either (as if that would even have been possible.) So your argument is basically that because we didn’t get rid of every d-mn louse, our mission was not a legitimate de-lousing mission. Because we fumigated Satan’s Own Den of a few very dangerous lice, but we didn’t get rid of Lice, As A Species, therefore we were wrong to go into Iraq.

    You do see the problem with your reasoning, don’t you, Rod?

    • SchtenGraby

      I’m sure your nude gulf is lovely.
      (despite bad gag agree with all you’ve said 🙂

      • Freedom


    • Freddie Frampton.

      For every fanatic you kill even more will arise. Why not let countries in the M.E deal with the M.E, it has nothing to do with the West, yet alone worth sacrificing innocent lives for.

  • sebastian2

    “laurence” is correct and certainly many would share those sentiments. However, their is no immediate alternative to the gas and oil they produce. Moreover, if you think these regimes odious – which they generally are – consider the alternative: the Muslim Brotherhood and Isis plus their affiliates that either combine or, as seems most likely, descend into permanent bloody opposition with each other; and “control” the fossil fuels in the meantime A nightmare however you look at it that poses great dangers for western democracies dependent on stable supplies. The Gulf States pay these murderous guys money to stay away. They don’t want Isis anywhere near them.

    Will this work? Possibly not – or at least, not for long. The fundamentalist ideology has a powerful appeal for both the weak minded and for those resentful at Sheikhs’ decadent “western” practices and monopoly of wealth. There are many idle, bored and susceptible young men among those Sheikhs’ own citizens and who could be recruited into a “righteous” struggle. Paying everyone off plays for time.

    But time like this is temporary. We can’t hang around hoping to extend it. Instead, we have to demolish Isis and reduce their territorial threat as soon as we can. But we have to do more as well. We have to engage in the ideological battle – which we can win – with a medieval and recidivist cult – mohammedism – of questionable origins, outrageous and unsustainable claims, of deplorable intentions, and of serial failure when in power. And that battle begins in Britain where it’s taken far too much of an unchallenged hold. We cannot indulge in in Iraq/Syria and we can’t indulge it in, say, Rotheram either.

  • jimmy

    Sad to say but sending over the bombers is just what IS wanted. In recent weeks the Press, apparently ahead of Obama and Cameron, were reporting that IS leaders were moving women and children into areas they knew would be targeted. Every man who returns home to find his family has been killed by a missile – whether it be British or UAE it is presented as an act by the USA – will be far more likely to join IS.

    We should just walk away from that area. It isn’t our business to say who should run things there and even when we intervene we get it wrong. Only very recently Obama and Cameron were desperate to bomb al-Assad – consider than for one moment; had we done it IS would now have their own air force.

    Their expansion will ultimately be blocked by Turkey, Iran, Israel etc as they run up against the borders of stable countries with real air forces.

    But for now IS have a trump card – the people of Iraq know they have been invaded by the US, humiliated and broken in a futile war. And the groups who stood up against the US and ultimately drove them out were the Islamist groups. Now as we go back to fight we force people there to make a choice: Side with IS or the West. Many here will be shocked how many join with IS. Our particular western repulsion at beheadings is very recent and very unusual in human history. In Iraq it’s normal. Saddam killed people. The US kills people. IS kills people. So to many there it is a wash so they choose sides in different ways.

    Just as the the Second World War forced many in the East to join either the evil of National Socialism or Communism because in war one has to make a choice and fight to live, so our latest bombing raid in Iraq will force people to take sides, force people to defend the right of their people to have their own territory and probably vindicate the narrative IS have been pushing, that the west hates Islam and will crush an Islamic State.

    Ultimately we can’t control what happens there. A war of unimaginable cost, tens of thousands of American troops, air strikes, helicopter gunships etc only made the Islamic extremists stronger and we left Iraq humiliated. And now just using air strikes will have the same impact. The terrorists will melt away, innocents will die and we will make more enemies.

    Vietnam slowly became a better place, and continues to do so, as the US stopped bombing the country. The same will eventually happen in the Middle East if the West just walks away. Keep fighting wars and ultimately death and extremism will result.

  • jimmy

    Worth adding that reported this morning, because of our bombing raids in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra have now allied themselves with IS, while before they were fighting them tooth and nail. They see Islam itself under attack, they announced, and will fight back and have stated they’re ready to fight for decades – something that notably the West won’t be willing to do.

    Bomb people, start wars and you force men to make a choice as to who they stand with and nothing will push men to stand with IS like us raining down bombs on Iraq – especially as they will unfortunately kill women and children too, no matter how technologically advanced they are, innocents are always killed – look at Israel’s experience.

  • global city
  • Bonkim

    John Cantlie knew the risks of his misadventure fully well and jumped in again. A freelance journalist, no reason for Britain to bend its rule not to negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers.

  • Smiffy51

    Oh dear Mr Liddle, did your teenage nephew write this drivel?

  • Fergus Pickering

    Do not be afraid to be a supporter of Saddam. He did more for his country than the ridiculous kings who preceded him or the useless mouth-frothing Ismaists who came after.

  • Freddie Frampton.

    Great article, if only the UK government would think more like this instead of being hell bent on making more mess and sacrificing the lives of our own citizens.