View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 30 November 2009

Befehl ist Befehl

John Demjanjuk, aged 89, is standing trial in Germany for his part in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor deathcamp - I referred to this last week. He is an ill man, and I would not be surprised if he did not make it to the conclusion of his trial in May 2010. However, Mr Demjanjuk has fought extradition to Germany for 32 years. However, he states that he only followed orders.

As an ex-serviceman I know that orders should be followed. However, even the lowest ranking soldier has the liberty not to follow orders. You can refuse to jump off a high cliff, even if a general tells you to do so. You can decline to participate in torture, abuse of prisoners or other violations of the Geneva Convention. Mr Demjanjuk had that liberty - even if it could have meant he got the bullet himself. He did not just stand idly by - he actively participated in mass murder on an industrial scale.

Minarets not allowed

The Swiss people have voted to ban the construction of minarets on mosques in Switzerland. There are currently 4 minarets in the country, with about 100 Islamic prayer houses. The reason for the ban is that it would infringe on Swiss culture, which is predominantly Christian. A worrying development. The same reasoning is being deployed by far right parties across Western Europe, such as those found in Holland and the UK. Anyone who manages to gather 100,000 signatures can call for a nationwide referendum in Switzerland.

It is deplorable that the Swiss cannot get themselves to allow expressions of multiculturalism in their country, in a world which is continually on the move, and where people from various cultures mix across the globe. I am aware that a reluctance to allow expressions of faiths, other than the one most common found in a country, is not restricted to Europe.

Monday 30 November

Today is St Andrew's Day, dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland. First Minister Alex Salmond will initiate proceedings today to have a referendum on independence for Scotland. It will not quite go the way he wants; Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party run a minority administration, and most of the other parties in the Scottish Parliament are opposed to full independence.

It is a cold day, and tonight will see a widespread frost, with the mercury down to -5C / 23F. I expect to hear even lower values from some of the notorious cold spots across the Highlands. At least the sun is out, in amongst the infrequent light showers. The birds are quite happy gobbling up the old bread that lies scattered under the trees for their benefit.

Reports from Washington State suggest that the man, suspected of carrying out the shooting of four police officers yesterday, may have died of gunshot wounds, sustained in an exchange of gunfire with one of his victims. Maurice Clemmons, aged 37, is a convicted criminal who had been sentenced to 95 years in jail for aggravated robbery. His sentence was reduced by the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

A boy aged 4 was killed by a dog last night in Liverpool. A woman aged 63 was injured as she tried to separate the dog from the boy. When police arrived, they destroyed the dog which was in an 'agitated state'. Investigations are on-going.