Archive for August, 2005

Belfast Gonzo at Slugger O’Toole has a post on the leniency showed by a Northern Irish judge to persons convicted of rioting and assorted mayhem. He compares this to the sentences passed on persons found guilty of serious offences during the 2001 Bradford race riot, unfavourably, and compliments one of the judges on a shake’em rigid condemnation before the court. I think the Gonzo’s right in saying that (in effect) they’ve built up a tolerance to street violence that has to go.

But – ironically, I remember that lawyers for some of the Bradford rioters used exactly the opposite argument in an effort to get their clients off the hook. They pointed out that rioters in Northern Ireland frequently got away with, if not murder, similar levels of violence without serious jail time. I didn’t think, and still don’t, that this was a sensible argument. Wasn’t it Belfast that was the outlier? And, ahem, the results weren’t that great…(although it’s just come crashing across my mind that the 7th July 2005 was the fourth anniversary of the Bradford riot)

The Orwells, No.4

This (slightly belated) Orwell goes to Home Secretary Charles Clarke for his cunning deployment of cultural relativism as an argument in favour of deporting people to governments known to use torture. He said that criticism of his policy was tantamount to “latter-day imperialism” in an interview with the Financial Times, which gets him an Orwell nomination. TYR’s Orwell Awards, to be held at the end of this year, aim to reward the political abuse of the English language. We welcome nominations from the public, which can go either in the comments or to a.harrowell AT gmail.com.

This week’s nomination is indebted to Tom Griffin of The Green Ribbon.

There is also an honourable mention to the Local Government Association, for whoever it was told the press that local authorities were concerned that they were being “forced” to grant extended drinking hours because of “a lack of objections from the public and police”. Errr….look, the idea is that you’re only meant to ban longer drinking hours if people – or the police – object to them. Got that? Mind you, that passes more into the realm of “That’s Just Completely Fucking Stupid” than the Orwells.

Some weeks ago, I took issue with this post over at Soj’s, which discussed various apparent irregularities in the London bombings investigation (or at least the impression of it that appeared in the media) and drew some quite hefty conclusions based on the statements of one John Loftus, a “former Justice Department prosecutor” who regularly appears on Fox News.

Now, the thing that struck me about Loftus’s opinions as transcribed was that for someone who purports to be an expert on Islamist terrorism he appeared to think that Abu Hamza (the now-jailed chap from Finsbury Park Mosque with the hook) and Omar Bakri Mohammed, the now-deported founder of al-Muhajiroun, were one and the same man, despite the discrepancy in the number of hands. He also described al-Muj as “al-Qa’ida’s recruiting arm in Europe”, which is pushing it some, given that the organisation was never more than a couple of dozen British student fanatics and has never been (for example) the subject of charges as a conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism etc. Certainly they were an unpleasant and potentially dangerous lot, but this is pushing well beyond the bounds of the available evidence. Not only that, but he described the members of al-Muhajiroun as “Somali, Eritrean, the first group was primarily Pakistani” – although Hamza is an Egyptian who became a British citizen and Omar Bakri is a Syrian/Lebanese dual national living as a refugee in the UK before his, ahem, extended holiday in Beirut.

Clearly, Loftus’s knowlege of the subject is a tad rusty. Which would throw the various other statements he tossed out in that Fox interview in a very different light. He claimed that a) al-Muj was an MI6 front, b) that Omar Abu Bakri Hamza-Mohammed was being protected by the British secret services as a reward for services rendered in Bosnia, c) that Haroon Rashid Aswat was an MI6 agent and also an al-Qa’ida “Master Mind” behind both lots of tubombers, and much more besides. (He couldn’t explain why, or quite possibly didn’t know, that one half of his jihadi pushmepullyou was exploring prison halal food at the time of the attack.)

Who better than Mr. Loftus himself to vouch for his abilities? From his self-description:

“It is possible that John Loftus may know more intelligence secrets than anyone alive. As a former Justice Department prosecutor, Loftus once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files. As a private attorney, he works without charge to help hundreds of intelligence agents obtain lawful permission to declassify and publish the hidden secrets of our times.

Well, a lack of self-confidence is clearly not among his flaws. NATO COSMIC, eh? That must be something pretty superspook? I happen to know someone who held a COSMIC, but he certainly doesn’t think it makes him a terrorism expert. Just as well, because it’s (or it was) the one required by anyone who may be in a position to use a NATO nuclear weapon. That sounds terribly impressive, but it did include people down to the level of artillery troop commanders (i.e. lieutenants) in units that held the nuclear artillery rounds, individual air force pilots, and quite a lot of fairly junior naval officers. My own tame COSMIC, for example, was the anti-submarine warfare officer on a Leander Class frigate in the late 70s. He needed the clearance because the ship often carried a couple of Nuclear Depth Bombs against the possibility they stumbled on a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine and needed to finish it before it could launch. As the release authority could come only from NATO SACLANT or one of his deputies, a NATO clearance was needed.

Now, if Loftus really did have that clearance, I’ll take a wild guess and say the US Top Secret Nuclear referred to the same job but in the US National chain of command as opposed to the NATO one. According to his site again, he mentions having been an officer in the US Army before becoming a prosecutor, via a rather odd journalistic career that swerves from Nazi-hunting to investigating dealings between the Bush family and Nazi Germany to super-neocon war cheerleading. The reference is to “a covert operation that changed the course of the Yom Kippur war”. Now, there was indeed one such, which was the airlift of US equipment to Israel. Rather, it was meant to be covert, but as the kit eventually went by USAF C-5 and C-141 aircraft and arrived in daylight, it didn’t stay that way. I would have thought, if I was a superspook terrorism expert who knew not just that Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri were different men but also what they had for breakfast, I wouldn’t need to big-time myself by boasting about irrelevant stuff.

Why this rant, and why now? Well, Lofty has gone and done it again, by broadcasting the address of someone he thought might be The London Bombings Mastermind. Not that the chap had lived there for three years, but hey, a terr’s a terr. Even one who quit The Movement back in ’97 because he thought Omar Bakri was a dangerous nut, and has now shuttered his corner shop and gone into hiding for fear of the mob. And Loftus’s source for the charge that the poor sod was The Leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the US?

(wait for it)

……Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed himself! (Note – link may need Bugmenot.com login, scroll down once you’re there.)

Unfortunately, Blogger chose yesterday to eat all the HTML below the Viktor Bout index post in the sidebar. I’ve just finished restoring it, but unfortunately the blogroll is currently restored to a previous state and quite a lot of links have gone. This will be restored in the next couple of days. It’s nothing personal.

Meanwhile, I advise everyone to watch Talkingpointsmemo.com like a hawk as Josh just said that a major revelation regarding “Russian arms dealers” and Republican politico Tom DeLay is in the offing. I’m going to guess this means our friends in the east, in some form or other.

Today’s Sun headlines with PARAS TO BLITZ DRUG LORDS. What on earth can they mean? For a horrible, sick-throat here-we-go moment I thought they were reporting some half-bright great idea from No.10 to send the Parachute Regiment into, say, Holmewood or Feltham, or perhaps any number of dinner parties, on a desperate mission to blast those evil pushers. But no, thank God. A closer look shows that they are talking about the coming deployment of NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ as well as the 16th Air Assault Brigade to Afghanistan as a reinforced and extended version of ISAF. But – that’s been well known for a year now. It’s called Operation HERRICK, and it’s been multiply reported in the national and international press, and it’s even on the ARRC website, arrc.nato.int. The first call for volunteers from the TA went out a couple of weeks ago.

So why on earth is it news all of a sudden? And what is all this DRUG LORDS crap? The chief tasks of ARRC, including the two battalions of Paras in 16AAB, will be firstly to keep the warlords deterred, and secondly to chase the Continuity Taliban up and down mountains. They might do a modicum of poppy-destroying too, but given the total-strategic realities, not too much. After all, trying to suppress the Afghan heroin export trade as a contribution to peace there would be like abolishing oil in an effort to pacify Iraq.

What it does do, though, is put a super-sensation screamer on the Sun‘s front page, and one with plenty of Sunny signifiers – the Parachute Regiment, a warry photo of a WAH-64D attack chopper, DRUG LORDS and, dear God, the BLITZ. Now, what else might somebody think of printing this fine Monday?

Hmmm – perhaps the Met’s discovery of the quantum television camera? You know, the one that’s both working and not working at any given moment depending on whether the Metropolitan Police or ITN observes it. Like Schrödinger’s cat. Nope, though. Look! Paratroopers! I think the Sun used to have a Page 7 Fella as well as the Page 3 Girl, but at least they didn’t go *that* far…well, I hope not, because I haven’t opened the thing.

There hasn’t been any Viktor Bout content here for quite a while..but fortunately, I now have some more interesting data. Everyone now knows about the flights between Baghdad International Airport and Dubai – they are still going on, by the way, under the IATA codes for Irbis, British Gulf, and Phoenix – but what about Baghdad’s other airport, Al-Muthanna? This field, located near the centre of the city, has been mostly known as the location of an Iraqi CDC-then National Guard-then Army base that gets suicide-bombed with depressing frequency, usually aiming at the queue of recruits trying to get in. However, yesterday there were four flights between it and Dubai..

At 0430, flight no. FC007 left Dubai for Baghdad (al-Muthanna). This is Falcon Express Cargo Airlines, the Fedex subsidiary that at one point was chartering dubious An-12 and Il-76 aircraft and has been doing some, ah, sporting flying into various parts of the country (the joke was that the movie Air America was part of line training there). The aircraft is a Fokker F27. Given that Muthanna airfield is next door to the Green Zone, I’d suspect this is a parcels/postal run.

At 1000, flight no. XU101 leaves Dubai for the same destination. XU is African Express Airways, a company registered in Nairobi. The aircraft is a Boeing 727.

At 1400, flight no. FC008 returns from Baghdad/M to Dubai. At 1600, flight no. XU102 does the same.

What do we know about African Express? There are only two 727s in its fleet – 5Y-AXB, serial no. 19565, and 5Y-AXE, serial no. 21611. This latter one is leased out to something called “Ishtar Airlines”, about which nothing is known except that it is based in either Baghdad or Dubai. Ishtar has the leased African Express 727, and one 737, registration A6-ZYC, serial no. 22679. This aircraft is leased from Dolphin Air of Dubai. Dolphin is the renamed Flying Dolphin, which was formed out of the assets of Santa Cruz Imperial by Viktor Bout and a certain sheikh, currently a minister in the UAE Government. At the moment, Dolphin is leasing one 737 to Iraqi Airways – the same one, 22679, as is on lease to Ishtar, weirdly, and operating two other aircraft itself. These are a 707, A6-ZYD serial no. 20718, and another 737-200, A6-ZYB, serial no. 21928.

Two other Dolphin aircraft, both 737s, are now with an old friend of ours – Phoenix Aviation of Kyrgyzstan. Serial numbers are 22632 and 21960. Their current registrations are respectively EX-632 and EX-006. A further 737, s/n 21926, A6-ZYA, is leased to Cameroon Airlines.

Now, African Express’s fleet includes an aircraft they bought from – Phoenix Aviation! Boeing 707 5Y-AXG, s/n 19369, was once 9G-ACZ for Phoenix, before passing through many hands and eventually being destroyed at Kinshasa in a crash. And another that used to belong to the now-notorious Air Leone in Sierra Leone. Leone is the renamed Ibis Air Transport, a company set up by the mercenaries around Strategic Resource Corp, Executive Outcomes and Sandline International. And, in passing, let’s not forget that Tim Spicer, ex of Sandline, has contracts in Iraq. The plane is a DC9, registration 5Y-AXF, s/n 237, formerly 9L-LDG.

5Y-AXE, meanwhile, originated with an obscure outfit called HA Airlines in Jordan, that bought three ex-Iberia 727s in 2001 but only completed the deal on one of them. HA was renamed Star Air in 2004, and moved headquarters to either Damascus or Bahrain. Who, pray, is Star Air? You may not be surprised to hear it’s one Paddy McKay, who founded Air Leone as an Equatorial Guinea firm after they were run out of Freetown in September, 2004. Sierra Leone thought they were dodgy enough to cancel their AOC! Jordan followed suit in January, 2005, forcing the name change and move.

Just to finish off, A6-ZYB of Dolphin Air was bought from a firm called Trans Air Congo in Kinshasa. Where have we heard of them before? Well, you may remember a photo of an Antonov 12, registered 9L-LEC, s/n 4341803, on the ground in Baghdad in January 2004 wearing “Skylink” titles. Later information showed that it had been delivering the new Iraqi currency – a job, I seem to remember, Tim Spicer’s Aegis Defence Services had a piece of. That aircraft was next photographed with TAC, in Kinshasa, looking sorry for itself, before being destroyed in an accident somewhere in the eastern DRC. And where did TAC get another An-12, serial no. 4342404, from? Why, Santa Cruz Imperial of Dubai. And where did it end up? Something called “Inter Transavia” in Kyrgyzstan.

Update: We interview Paddy McKay.

Chemicals

I’m really disappointed, having read more reports about the discovery of an “insurgent chemical factory” in Mosul, to discover that the first reports that made it a “chemical weapons” story weren’t true. The irony would have been perfect. But, of course, an idea whose time has gone dies terribly hard – even though there isn’t, apparently, any reason to think chemical weapons were prepared there, the word “chemical” still triggers off the Pavlovian response that – Yes! We’ve Found The WMD! Chemical, famously, is a bad word, as Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog would tell you. Of course, any explosive is a chemical, and a weapon too. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the lab was producing drugs, either, whether for purely criminal ends or to fund insurgent activity.

More seriously, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to be trying to brew up certain kinds of poison gas, Tabun for example, in an improvised lab. I wonder, though, if they would find it worthwhile in terms of the effort invested, given the impact they can get from the same investment in explosives? The only two recorded terrorist/guerrilla chemical attacks, carried out by Japanese cultists, needed extensive and expensive preparations in order to make sarin and release it on the underground, but killed only as many people as they might have done with primitive explosives.

(Broken link fixed)

The Orwells, No. 3

Time again to nominate a name for the TYR Orwell Awards, issued at the year’s end to the person responsible for the most egregious political misuse of the English language…this week was difficult, partly due to a lot of candidates but also because none of them quite had that spark of sinister inspiration that distinguishes a genuinely dangerous mindset.

There was the entire Saudi government, for saying that Britain has to do more to combat Islamic terrorism. There was the announcement, which I originally took for a joke, that the White House is planning to stage a huge parade and country & western concert to drum up public morale under the title “The Support Freedom Walk”. There was previously nominated Hazel Blears with the idea of “rebranding” ethnic minorities to make them more loyal.

But, at the last moment, Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, scoops this week’s Orwell nomination with an interview with the Guardian in which he suggested passing new legislation to tell the courts how to interpret the Human Rights Act “to give weight to the rights of the state”. The rights of the state! Not even the rights of the individuals who might get blown up – the state. Now, this may sound not-so-bad. But the bit he wants to order the judges to reinterpret is none other than Article 3, which prohibits torture.

What he wants, but will not say it, is an Act that takes away the force of Article 3, that permits the state to connive at torture and argue that its own rights prevail over those of the tortured – that, in fact, the ends justify the means so long as they conform to the raison d’état. Naturally, if you or I were to torture Lord Falconer on the grounds he represents a danger to our security, and one has to admit that the temptation is there, we should not be able to call on this new legal principle in our defence. And, in British legal history, I think this is a very new principle. So new, in fact, that it deserves more honest consideration.

As it aims to grant rights to commit torture, or to allow persons to be tortured, which is much the same thing, I think his lordship should call his new legislation the Inhuman Rights Act. It encapsulates the principle perfectly.

Recommendations for next week’s Orwells – a.harrowell at gmail.com, or use the comments.

For the weekend, I’ll leave you with this, from another Yorkshireman who might even have occasionally been something of a ranter..

The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint,

And all the reports on his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a

saint,

For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.

Except for the War till the day he retired

He worked in a factory and never got fired,

But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.

Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,

For his Union reports that he paid his dues,

(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)

And our Social Psychology workers found

That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.

The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day

And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.

Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,

And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.

Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare

He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan

And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,

A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content

That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;

When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.

He was married and added five children to the population,

Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his

generation.

And our teachers report that he never interfered with their

education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Yesterday was Lords Reform Day in the blogosphere, marking 94 years of the statement in the Parliament Act 1911 that it was time to have an upper house established on a “popular rather than hereditary foundation”. Strangely, among the many bloggers who responded to a call on Pledgebank to contribute, there was a remarkable degree of consensus. Many, many bloggers were drawn to the idea of a House of Lords chosen by lot, on an analogy with jury service. (Total disclosure: I am forever barred from the jury room, having worked for the Crown Prosecution Service. Which is a pity because I’d love to take part.) Even Tim Worstall, who suggested what was essentially a new hereditary peerage, embraced the notion of chance as an elector.

Why this curious degree of blogospheric harmony?

I commented over at Jamie Kenny’s (who spoke out for election by lot) that it’s probably because every blogger thinks they could do better given the chance, somewhere down the depths of the unconscious. Otherwise they wouldn’t blog in the first place.

(Note: in the comment that originated this post, I committed an outrageous cockup by attributing the title of the post to Adam Mickiewicz. God knows why. It was Shelley!)

Dog Bombs!

Chris Morris has apparently joined the Iraqi insurgency:Link.

On a barren stretch of road in northern Iraq, a dog rigged with explosives approaches a group of Iraqi police officers. Detonated by remote control, the bomb tears the dog apart but doesn’t harm the cops.

In a war where the line between civilian and soldier is blurred, even man’s best friend has been caught up in the combat. U.S. forces hail their trained dogs as heroes, but to insurgents, canines provide the means for a more sinister goal.

Iraqi police cite the recent use of dogs rigged with explosive devices in Latifiya, just south of Baghdad, in Baqubah in central Iraq and in and around the northern city of Kirkuk…[snip]…Abdel Salam Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Assn., a hard-line Sunni Arab clerical organization sympathetic to insurgents, called the practice un-Islamic. “Our religion does not permit us to hurt animals,” he said, “neither by using them as explosive devices nor in any other manner.”..

Now, now. You’d better stop exploding the puppies or you won’t go to heaven…yes. The Chris Morris Archive returns this:

Stretchcast Originally broadcast on 09/02/1994
Top gits tonight: evidence mounts that the Police have taken to eating suspects, the IRA launch a campaign of dog bomb attacks in mainland Britain, a top scientist delivers a shock report on near-death experiences, and Alan Partridge presents his World Cup Countdown to ’94. So long as Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan doesn’t lose the news, that is.





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