Home' Greymouth Star : November 15th 2014 Contents “The world is on the brink of a new
Cold War. Some say that it has already
begun,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last
president of the Soviet Union and the
man who inadvertently administered a
mercy killing to communism in Europe.
He is 83 years old, he played a leading
role in ending the last Cold War, and he
is practically a secular saint. Surely he
knows what he is talking about.
No he does not. Not only has this new
Cold War not begun already, but it is hard
to see how you could get it going even if
you tried. The raw material for such an
enterprise is simply unavailable. You can
summon the ghosts of history all you
want, but they are dead and they cannot
Gorbachev was speaking in Berlin,
now once again the capital of a united
Germany, on the 25th anniversary of
the fall of the Berlin Wall. Even he
would agree that it turned out to be, on
balance, a good thing, but he is a great
deal more ambivalent about the collapse
of European communism and the
dismantling of the Soviet Union.
His original goal, and his hope right
down to the end in 1991, was to save
communism by reforming it, not to bury
it. He also believed, or at least hoped,
that if he could make communist rule
“democratic ” and user-friendly, he could
save the Soviet Union as well. But the
Soviet Union was just the old Russian
empire in new clothes.
Gorbachev was and is a romantic,
and he undoubtedly agrees with his
rather less cuddly successor as president
of Russia, Vladimir Putin, that the
collapse of the Soviet Union was “the
greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the
20th century.” So of course he ends up
defending Putin’s actions and blaming the
United States and Nato for this alleged
drift into a new Cold War.
It is all nonsense. Nothing could have
saved the old Soviet Union. It was the last
of the European empires to fall, mainly
because it was land-based rather than
sea-based, but only half its population
was Russian. When it finally dissolved,
15 different nations emerged from the
wreckage, and its collapse was no greater
a loss to civilisation than the fall of the
British or French empires.
And the main reason you cannot have
a new Cold War is precisely because
the “evil empire” (as Ronald Reagan
famously called the Soviet Union) longer
exists. There is only Russia, a largely
de-industrialised country that is run by a
kleptocratic elite and makes its living by
exporting oil and gas.
Russia has only 140 million people (less
than half the United States, less than a
third of the European Union), and its
armies are no longer based around Berlin
and all through eastern Europe. They are
750km further east, guarding Russia’s
own frontiers. They occasionally grab a
bit of territory that is not covered by a
Nato guarantee (Abkhazia, South Ossetia,
Transnistria, Crimea, Luhansk, Donestk),
but they dare not go any further.
So you could get a really unpleasant
Nato-Russian confrontation out of this
for a while (although it has not happened
yet), but not a real Cold War in the old
globe-spanning style. Russia just could
not hold up its end of it. As for World
War Three, do not worry. Putin cares a lot
about saving face, but not that much.
Which leaves the question: Who is
to blame for this regrettable hostility
between Russia and the western powers?
The west, in Gorbachev ’s view. In fact,
he had a whole list of complaints about
western threats, crimes and betrayals.
Nato broke its promise and let all the
Eastern European countries that had
been Soviet satellites during the Cold
War join Nato. It let Kosovo declare its
independence from Russia’s traditional
friend, Serbia. It launched wars of “regime
change” in the Middle East (Afghanistan,
Iraq, Libya) that Moscow disapproved of.
It even planned a missile defence system
that allegedly threatened Russia’s nuclear
deterrent (if you could believe that it
Diddums. Yes, Russia has been invaded
a lot in its history, but the licence to
be paranoid expires after 50 years. Of
course the eastern European countries
all clamoured to join Nato; they are still
terrified of Russia. The western great
powers do lots of stupid stuff and some
seriously bad stuff, and Russia has also
done a fair amount of both in the past
decade and a half under Putin.
The job of diplomats, and of leaders in
particular, is to avoid the really stupid and
dangerous stuff, and keep the rest to a
minimum. Barack Obama has been quite
good at that, as has German Chancellor
Angela Merkel. Putin used to be good
at it, but is not so good now, perhaps
because he has been in power too long.
His military inter ventions in Ukraine
have been alarmingly rash.
But nobody is going to go to war with
Russia over Ukraine. The Ukrainians were
told years ago that they could not shelter
under Nato’s security blanket, and they
have chosen to defy Moscow anyway.
They may pay a high price for that, and
the western alliance’s relations with
Russia may go into the deep freeze for
the remainder of Putin’s reign.
But it will be just a little local difficulty,
not a huge event that defines an entire
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Last week two nations stopped to watch
a great race — the Melbourne Cup.
As the field entered the barriers millions
of people paused to see what would
happen. As the race commenced some
horses sprinted out hard while some paced
themselves as they realised this was not a
short distance ahead but quite a marathon
in horse racing terms. Cheers could be
heard from the crowd urging the horses
and their riders on to the finish.
Perhaps each of us can relate to a race of
champions such as the Melbourne Cup
because we are in a race ourselves. The race
of life is certainly not an easy canter.
It is not done and dusted in a flash. Life
is a marathon and every person has a
course to run. We are all thoroughbreds,
designed by God to be able to carry
certain weights and to run our course.
Some of us lead from the front and
others appear to lag behind but we are all
heading home to a finish line.
We are not in this race alone. Firstly we
have other people running alongside us.
We all have trainers who help us hone our
skills and get race fit.
Surrounding us is a huge crowd of
onlookers who have raced before us. They
spur us on knowing that it takes faith and
commitment and courage to see this race
through to the end.
Hebrews 12:1b-2a says ‘... Let us run
with perseverance the race marked out for
us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer
and perfecter of faith ... ’
Ask God to show you His race strategy
for your life and stick to it. He has a
wonderful plan for you. You were born to
be a winner!
Keep going and do not give up! We are
cheering for you.
Paul and Julie Kenny
Greymouth Elim Church
4 - Saturday, November 15, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to email@example.com
uLetters to the editor
1492 - Christopher Columbus notes in
journal use of tobacco among Indians: the first
recorded reference to tobacco.
1889 - Britain’s William Friese-Green
patents his motion picture camera.
1923 - Rampant inflation in
Germany reaches a peak — its
currency standing at four trillion
marks to the dollar.
1942 - After three days of sea
battles around the Solomon Islands
in World War Two, the Japanese
suffer heavy losses at Guadalcanal.
1972 - Miloslav Harabinec shoots himself
dead after a shoot-out with police after failing
in an attempt to hijack an Ansett aircraft at
1979 - British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher names Sir Anthony Blunt as a spy
for the Russians and the “fourth man” in the
Burgess-Philby-MacLean spy ring.
1996 - Shine is awarded best film at the AFI
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
William Cowper, English poet (1731-1800);
Sir Frederick William Herschel, German-born
astronomer (1738-1822); General
Erwin Rommel, German general
(1891-1944); Petula Clark, English
singer-actress (1932-); Daniel
conductor-pianist (1942-); Frida
Lyngstad, Swedish singer of Abba
(1945-); Benny Elias, Australian
rugby league player (1963-); Rachel True, US
actress (1969-); Chad Kroeger, Canadian singer
(1974-); Lily Aldridge, American fashion
model (1985-) .
“In a time of war ... the task of news writers
is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that
the battle is expected, and after ward that a battle
has been fought, in which we and our friends,
whether conquering or conquered, did all, and
our enemies did nothing.” — Samuel Johnson,
English critic (1709-1784).
“On the first day of every week, each one of
you should set aside a sum of money in keeping
with his income, saving it up, so that when I
come no collections will have to be made. ”
— 1 Corinthians 16:2.
The Ngahere School’s
75th jubilee fell last
year but, to coincide
with the opening of
the new Ngahere School, jubilee celebrations
were deferred until this year. Today, a reunion of
old Ngahere School pupils will mark the official
opening of the new school.
The first Ngahere School, which Jane Algie
— the first name in the now historic register —
and 37 other children first filled, on March 19,
1888, no longer stands. It was reduced to ashes
by fire about 1911. Today, its successor will, after
50 years of ser vice, have its retirement officially
The new building is sited on an education
reserve which adjoins the Ngahere domain and
provides ample room for sport and recreation. It
is also equipped with a swimming pool.
It looks like some crazy house from down
some fair’s sideshow alley. There’s a ton and
more of dresses, shirts, hats and other clothing
oddments, all scattered about in merry profusion
and confusion. There is also a sign scrawled by
a finger on a dusty window that the place is the
“Greymouth Ladies Rest Room”.
But there is no resting in this old building. To
the contrary the atmosphere is all hustle and
bustle and the five women who have been busily
engaged in it can testify to this fact. The building
is an old store in Herbert Street, currently being
used as the costume production factory for the
wardrobe to dress the cast of Showboat. And
the quintet under the guidance of wardrobe
mistress Mrs Doris Rea has the responsibility
for providing all the necessary items.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
The great race
No new Cold War
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev makes an impression with his hands in cement as he visits the former Berlin Wall
border crossing point Checkpoint Charlie last week.
he site in Mecca where the
Prophet Mohammed is
said to have been born is
about to be “buried under
marble” and replaced by a
huge royal palace.
The work is part of a multibillion-dollar
construction project in the holy city which
has already resulted in the destruction of
hundreds of historic monuments.
The project, which began several years
ago, aims to expand the al-Masjid
al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, to cater
for the millions of pilgrims who make
their way to the holy city each year for
the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all
Muslims are obliged to make at least once.
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam
because of its link to the birth of the
prophet, and because it is the site of the
Kaaba, a cube-shaped building made from
black granite and said to have been built
by Abraham. The Grand Mosque is built
around it, and Muslims face towards it
when they pray.
Many have looked on aghast at the
destruction of hundreds of historic
buildings and monuments to make way
for the Grand Mosque’s expansion.
According to the Gulf Institute, based
in Washington, up to 95% of Mecca’s
millennium-old buildings have been
destroyed, to be replaced with luxury
hotels, apartments and shopping centres.
Last week, the remaining 500-year-
old Ottoman columns, commemorating
the Prophet ’s ascent to heaven, were
destroyed, Dr Irfan Alawi of the British-
based Islamic Heritage Research
He said the House of Mawlid, thought
to be where the prophet was born in 570,
was likely to be destroyed before the end
of the year.
The new royal palace is to be built for
King Abdullah, the formal custodian of
the mosque, for his visits to Mecca. Plans
for the building include the site of the
House of Mawlid, which has recently
been closed to pilgrims.
The plans have been verified by an
independent source who said many critics
of the construction process were unwilling
to speak publicly for fear of being
punished by the regime.
Saudi Arabia is ruled by the strict
Wahhabi version of Islam, which
prohibits the worship of any object or
“saint ”, a practice considered “shirq”, or
The destruction of historic sites was
defended recently by Saudi Arabia’s
Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin
Abdullah al-Sheikh. According to
Press TV, Iran’s English-language news
organisation, he said the demolitions
were necessary and that the nation should
thank the Government for the work,
which was increasing the capacity of the
The rooms of the House of Mawlid are
under the ground, and in 1951 a library
was built over them to preser ve them.
This has now been closed to pilgrims.
Signs on the building warn worshippers
against praying. “ There is no proof that
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)
was born in this place, so it is forbidden
to make this place specific for praying,
supplicating or get blessing (sic),” it says.
Alawi, one of the few voices to publicly
oppose the destruction, claimed that
religious police were posted outside the
library to prevent worshipping. “ The site
of the prophet ’s birthplace has again
come under imminent threat of being
permanently forgotten under concrete and
marble,” Alawi said.
“Now that Hajj is finished, the 24-hour
construction work has started again. They
have finished the expansion on one side of
the mosque. The royal palace, which will
be five times bigger than the current royal
palace, is to be built into the side of a
mountain and will overlook the mosque.
“Between now and December the library
and the rooms of the House of Mawlid
are likely to be built over. It ’s inevitable
that it will happen. It will be history.
It will be gone. We are saying, ‘L et us
excavate that house and preser ve these
rooms that are still there’.”
In September it was revealed that even
the tomb of the prophet — which is in
the holy city of Medina in the al-Masjid
al-Nawabi mosque — was not off-limits
for some hardline Wahhabis.
The article, which revealed that calls for
the removal of the tomb had been made
in a 61-page consultation document,
caused an outcry in the Middle East, and
forced a denial from the Saudi authorities,
who had previously refused to comment
on the construction works.
Details of that plan were circulated
to the Committee of the Presidency of
the Two Mosques. Several pages of the
consultation document were published in
the presidency ’s journal.
— New Zealand Herald
The Abraj Al-Bait Towers with the four-faced clock stands over the holy Kabaa at Mecca.
Mecca under marble
Links Archive November 14th 2014 November 17th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page