Archive for July, 2005
Just to say there will be no ranting for the rest of the week, as I’m off to the West Highlands and am unlikely to have internet access, or for that matter a computer.
On terrorday last week I read a very worrying report in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard regarding an interview the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gave to Hurriyet. I haven’t been able to find any mention in the anglophone press, but it’s very important if true. Here is a link to Der Spiegel‘s report of it, anyway. The story is essentially as follows: Turkish PM goes to Turkey’s top newspaper – and threatens to invade Iraq. Erdogan sez, “we can’t stand much more, and if it’s necessary we will invade”. He’s referring to a recent rash of Kurdish guerrilla activity in the south-east. This is very serious indeed.
Bizarrely, though, I really can’t see what the benefit of invading Kurdistan is to Turkey; you have to assume that the Kurds will fight like hell, and will make use of any and all kit and money provided to the peshmerga in their role as part of the Iraqi army as well as whatever they can obtain from the Iraqi arms bazaar. And when they get to Mosul (or wherever)? What then? Try another thirty years’ coercion? Go home tamely? At the moment, Turkey is protected to a large extent from the jihad raging in Iraq: by the existence of Kurdistan. The Kurds hate jihadis like, well, bloody death hatred and kill’em whenever they get the chance. They’ve traditionally enjoyed good relations with such organisations as the CIA and the Israelis. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if an independent Kurdistan applied to join the EU. But once the Turks go in, you can rely on a large movement of the New-Old Iraqi Army up there to fight the Nato-linked, EU-corrupted apostate betrayers of the capital of the Caliphs. For the first time, they will recruit up north too. The Kurds may hate them, but if it comes down to a serious matter like land they’d make common cause with Idi Amin if it helped. And they, the jihadis, will take the war to Turkey itself.
If I was a Turkish spook, I wouldn’t be planning to attack the Kurds. I’d arm them, trade with them, finance them, and sleep soundly knowing I had one of the most bitter bunches of mountain killers in the world between me and the chaos in Iraq. And I’d still have the menace of invading them available. Just one thing: do not declare a sovereign state – yes, be one, but don’t say it. I wouldn’t want to be shot by my own side.
Another bizarre thing in the statement is that, according to the Turkish Army, US forces have been ordered to arrest the PKK leadership. If this is true, what happens to the Kurdish forces that make up the few effective Iraqi government units? And the US force (one brigade) up north does not look a lot in that case, aside from a lot of fools.
Well, now we know. The man the Met shot five times in Stockwell tube station was completely innocent. What went on in south London in the last two days (the shooting, the multiple arrests) was a major battle in the war that seems to be emerging about us. And we lost. Fortunately, the dead man was not a Muslim, or all hell would probably have broken loose. But it’s bad enough – imagine the cranking-up of the level of fear and the greater alienation from the police. One of the reasons suicide bombing works is precisely because the possibility of suicide bombers causes police and troops to shoot at anyone they suspect. Exactly this occurred in the first weeks in Iraq.
But the problem is worse than one shooting. Remember the time-line: he was under surveillance as a suspect, he was followed to the tube, they attempted to arrest him and he ran away, then they shot him. Surveillance is an incredibly resource-guzzling business; I recently read that a successful operation against an IRA Quartermaster in the early 90s used no less than sixty agents from the MI5 surveillance force, the Watchers, to say nothing of the police contribution. So, God knows what percentage of the available surveillance force was busy following an innocent man around, and ended up shooting him. Where is the terrorist they were meant to be following?
Another point: you may remember the long-running case regarding Harry Stanley, an Irishman who was shot by the Met because he was carrying a table leg in a bag, which some bloke in a pub convinced himself was a gun. The courts found the police guilty of unlawfully killing Stanley, the police appealed, the case continues. What happened to Stanley was that, in profound peace, someone shouted “Freeze! Armed police!” at him from behind. Now, I really doubt anybody who wasn’t expecting to be challenged by armed police would not have turned their head in the direction of the noise, especially if they’d been drinking. And they immediately plugged him. (It’s now in doubt, after re-examination of the forensics, whether he did in fact turn as the police claimed.) The man shot in the tube came from a country where it is not uncommon for people to be shot in the streets by some nameless authority for reasons that are never given, to one where the police do not even usually carry anything deadly. I suppose that was why, when he realised he was being followed by men with guns (in civilian clothes), he ran away. We are, however, now a country where you can be shot at any time for any or no reason.
There are the usual explanations. Split-second decision…need to maintain confidence..haunted for ever more. Of course, there is some truth to ‘em, but it wasn’t a “split-second decision” to put him under surveillance as a suspected terrorist, and if that had not happened he would never have been shot. Sir Ian Blair should probably resign, but it isn’t going to happen. We are, after all, at War.
Slightly off-topic, Robert Sneddon comments that:
” The Glock pistols and most other pistols don’t burst-fire. There are a few which can do this but only if they are mated to a shoulder-stock, and this would make the pistol very bulky and not able to fit into a belt holster. The H&K VP-70Z and Beretta 93-R are two such pistols.”
Some googling suggests otherwise, here for example, or here, which seems a better source. However, it’s the Glock-18 or -18C that is the select-fire version. Whether the police have them or not I dunno. That’s quite enough gunblogging.
..the reason why they shot the Stockwell tube “bomber” five times might be that a pistol like the Glock 17(I think) that fires bursts of three rounds as well as single shots, rather like a tiny submachine gun, was used. The point is that, if you need to be sure the target is dead (for example, because they are a suicide bomber) in a confined space, most weapons that would do it would probably also go straight through them and kill one or more random civilians. Using a much lighter round, but several of them, is a way round that.
Cricket update: Aussies now 140 for 3 after we were out for 155. Not critical yet, but we’ve got to cage the buggers quick or the run chase is going to be pretty tough.
“t has been sobering this past week watching some of my “woollier” colleagues (in Vicki Woods’s self-designation) gradually awake to the realisation that the real suicide bomb is “multiculturalism”. Its remorseless tick-tock, suddenly louder than the ethnic drumming at an anti-globalisation demo, drove poor old Boris Johnson into rampaging around this page last Thursday like some demented late-night karaoke one-man Fiddler on the Roof, stamping his feet and bellowing, “Tradition! Tradition!” Boris’s plea for more Britishness was heartfelt and valiant, but I’m not sure I’d bet on it. The London bombers were, to the naked eye, assimilated – they ate fish ‘n’ chips, played cricket, sported appalling leisurewear. They’d adopted so many trees we couldn’t see they lacked the big overarching forest – the essence of identity, of allegiance. As I’ve said before, you can’t assimilate with a nullity – which is what multiculturalism is.
So, if Islamist extremism is the genie you’re trying to put back in the bottle, it doesn’t help to have smashed the bottle. As the death of the Eurofanatic Ted Heath reminds us, in modern Britain even a “conservative” prime minister thinks nothing of obliterating ancient counties and imposing on the populace fantasy jurisdictions – “Avon”, “Clwyd” and (my personal favourite in its evocative neo-Stalinism) “Central Region” – and an alien regulatory regime imported from the failed polities of Europe. The 7/7 murderers are described as “Yorkshiremen”, but, of course, there is no Yorkshire: Ted abolished that, too.”
Is the man completely mad? Now, there are plenty of Yorkshiremen who sweat from the eyes and judder with rage at any mention of t’Boundary Commission of 1974 (or whenever), but blaming terrorism on it is truly amazing. And he waited – what? – all of two days after Heath’s death to draw a moral equivalence between joining the EEC and blowing folk up. Further down the story, he picks up on the Dilpazier Aslam row – but mysteriously doesn’t bother to attribute it to the, ahem, blogger who built it. Where, Sir, is your decency?
And, what with all the flagwaving (“Best of British, old thing”), you might even have thought he wasn’t a Canadian immigrant. Pah!
Reports of small explosions at The Oval, Shepherd’s Bush and Warren Street tubes, plus an “incident” on a bus in Hackney. Maybe I should make that last one clearer – they’re now reporting a small explosion on a bus in Hackney. Buses in Hackney probably experience dozens of incidents a day. One injury reported so far. Witnesses say they saw someone leave a large rucksack on a Victoria Line tube train before running like hell. Which puts the suicide bombing did-they-didn’t-they in another light. It is being suggested that the police are looking for someone on the surface at Warren Street…which is even closer to my office than Tavistock Square was.
But on the other hand, Australia are six down for 175 and Steve Harmison has been bouncing the ball off their heads all day. Convict captain Ricky Ponting copped one through the visor of his helmet that laid his cheek open. Now that’s fast. A couple of balls later he rattledly wafted at a good length and edged to Andy Strauss in the slip cordon. Good drills! Oh, make that 7 down, Warne run over by the Durham express. Whoops – 8 down now! Katich goes, caught behind, and it’s three so far for Harmison and looking damn like a five-for.
In other news, University College Hospital has apparently been “sealed off by police”. Part of it is just across the road, but it looks normal enough. Oh, that should read *armed* police, and someone says they’ve seen men in chemical protection gear, although you never know and they could be Ronald McDonalds.
Just to round off, I’ll say this: at the end of the Dutch wars in the 1600s, De Ruyter and Tromp’s ships sailed up the Medway to burn the fleet at anchor, taking a complacent government by surprise and incidentally boosting Samuel Pepys’s career. In 1941, not far off three hundred years later, a Free Dutch warship collided with the anti-submarine boom across the Medway. The admiral in charge – the Flag Officer C-in-C, Nore – signalled “What, again?“
Update, 1502: It’s now being reported that four explosive devices were placed but seem to have failed to explode, although the BBC is saying they were “dummy bombs”. Sure the electricity system’s all right, Beeb? No power surges or anything? Police now confirming they’re at UCH. In Shepherd’s Bush, meanwhile, there’s supposedly a suspect package on. There is some mobloggage here, with video of a pub being cleared here. Usual liveblogga suspects are operating normally. And LAY OFF THE DAMN MOBILES.
Update, 1508 Tim Worstall comments at Nosemonkey’s that the attack is so amateurish it could almost be the BNP trying to stir up racial tension. Funny he should say that. Their führer, Nick Griffin, is on trial at Leeds Crown Court today, and according to a “source” in the building the fascists were raising quite a bit of hell outside.
Update, 1526 Apparently, staff at UCH have been told to look for a 6ft 2in black man with wires sticking out of a rucksack. Not like he’s going to merge into the background.. Wonderfully, there are multiple reports of someone fiddling with a bag, hearing a small bang or pop, and then either exclaiming something or looking “extremely dismayed”. It must be deeply embarrassing – you press the tit or pull the wire or push the button, expecting a blinding flash and then paradise, but all you get is an artificial fart and a tubeful of people staring at you. Terrorism’s answer to premature ejaculation. Darling, this doesn’t usually happen to me…
Update, 1532 A man has been arrested outside the Ministry of Defence and taken to Richmond House. (According to Perfect.co.uk) This is weird – Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, is the Department of Health!
In the really important story of the day, the Australians are all out for 190 in forty overs. And Steve Harmison got his five-for – 11 overs, no maidens, 5 wickets for 43. If I were them I’d be shitting bricks, look what happened in the cricket two weeks ago.
Update, 1739 Well, everything seems to be calming down. Two men have supposedly been arrested but they are looking for an unknown number of fugitives. The UCH alarm has been stood-down. One wonders how stupid you’d have to be, having failed to blow up, to go to hospital..but then it would fit with what seems to have been a case of piss-poor performance from the general enemy. Meanwhile, the first demented yank troll has arrived and is poisoning the atmosphere over at Worstall’s. Commenters are saying some sort of crisis is going on at Ludgate Circus, right on The Street Of Shame. Pity there’s only AFP, the Jewish Chronicle and the Beano left there to watch.
And I’m really pissed off by the fucking CRICKET. 49 for 5. Ouch. Oh well, we’ll do what we’ve always done. Improvise, adapt and overcome.
Good afternoon, hello, and welcome, ladies and gentleman, to this week’s inaugural Orwell Awards Ceremony! This week’s Orwell goes to Ms. Beverly Hughes, who scooped the palm by naming her all-new scheme to issue all teenagers with a smart-card that would “allow them to access activities and sports” and could be revoked if they don’t behave. Naturally, Ms. Hughes didn’t want to mention that this won’t work without a Really Big National Database of all teenagers, to go with the really big national database of all children (and their parents) her department already wants to set up.
So, she invented a new misuse of the English language for political ends. The Academy, of course, has created the Orwell Award to recognise excellence and best practice in the political misuse of English. For naming this latest stealth ID card project “Opportunity Cards”, an Orwell Award nomination to Beverly Hughes!
Right. I intend to make this a regular feature. Every week, we’ll have an Orwell nomination, and at the end of the year we’ll do a poll for the annual Orwell Award. (I’m thinking of this as – not a statue – but a badge of some kind. Perhaps an ID card?) The question is, though, whether the Orwells are a Ranter responsibility in the same way Worstall takes care of the Britblog Roundup or whether they should circulate, like one of the various Carnivals. Either way, if you have a comment, use the comments. If you want to propose someone for an Orwell, put the name and a link to the example in a sealed email to a.harrowell AT gmail.com.
That is all.
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In all the excitement, I didn’t bother to write about the “Reid memo” regarding a proposed drawdown of western forces in Iraq. Yet another big story broken by the Times‘s Michael Smith, the document suggests that US forces might be down to 66,000 next year and UK forces to 3,000. Among “Risks” given in the document were that the Japanese engineer battalion might quit if their force protection was provided by the Iraqis, and that the Australians might not hang around either. Well, obviously. If a drawdown of foreign forces is in prospect, it seems overly hopeful to think the other foreigners won’t notice.
I doubt very much if this is realistic. There has been plenty of this already. Drawdowns from Iraq are always just around the corner, and there has been much unfavourable news about the new-Iraqi forces recently (ghost recruits, corruption, general crapness). The only way this plan could be achieved would be to, in essence, accept partition and civil war. Presumably, the British withdrawal would be made possible by giving the SCIRI a free rein to run the state they want. (Anyone else spot that the governor of Basra was demanding a bigger share of oil revenue yesterday? “The patience of the sons of the south will not last forever”. Sumer here we come.) And much of the US withdrawal would come from…wait. There is only one brigade up north as it is (the 173rd Airborne), and its main function is to deter the Kurds and Turks from attacking each other. Now, with 170,000 troops concentrated in central Iraq and Baghdad, we don’t control territory well. How well will we do with 66,000, given that only small commitments elsewhere can be liquidated?
If this “plan” will happen, it can only happen in the context not of “drawdown” leaving the Iraqi government in charge, rah rah and Rule, Britannia, because it will mean abandoning much of urban Iraq, but of retreat. Would you want to be in the 66,000? I wouldn’t. This only makes sense as the first phase of a phased withdrawal leaving the New-Old Iraqi Army, the SCIRI and the Kurds to fight like cats in a sack.
There still seems to be a lot of doubt as to exactly how the bombs were triggered, or in other words whether or not the killers were true suicide bombers rather than own-goals or unwitting assassins. Amongst other things, property belonging to one of them was found at both the Edgware Road and Aldgate explosion sites. Now, no-one has ever managed to blow themselves up twice, and I’d hazard that no-one ever will, so either one of the other killers was carrying some of the other’s goods (why? how?) or one of the bombs was placed on a train and detonated by a timer, while the bomber set off to bomb a second train. That, of course, would cast doubt on whether or not the other bombers were intentional suicide bombers.
There’s a lot of tinfoil hattery bubbling about around this. I will only say that what is most important is that bombs were exploded, and that all the bombers seem to have died in the attack. The Postman argues that they might have been recruited to move drugs and that they were under the impression this was another load. Well. I suppose it’s a possible explanation, but without more support, I feel most of the non-suicide/unwitting assassin theories are wishful thinking.
The latest source of doubt is that, apparently, they bought return tickets at Luton station and paid the parking fee. Well, buying a return ticket is not the obvious act of a suicide bomber, but there is a historic precedent of a sort. On the 21st October 1916, the Austrian prime minister Karl Graf von Stürgkh was assassinated in the Hotel Meissl und Schadin’s restaurant on the Hoher Markt in Vienna as he enjoyed a post-lunch cigar. Stürgkh, an unmourned militarist thug on the far right of political Catholicism who had campaigned vigorously for war, had unknown to himself convinced Friedrich Adler, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers’ News), that he was a tyrant bent on expanding the war after he refused to allow parliament to be recalled. Adler sat down at a table, drank two glasses of beer, paid his bill, then drew a revolver and shot the prime minister three times, before sitting down to await the arrival of the police.
Adler was put on trial, but the trial was interrupted by the army authorities on the grounds that his speeches from the dock were a subversive influence. Instead a secret military tribunal sentenced him to death, but the death of Emperor Franz Josef II and his replacement by Karl I, who tried to get out of the war, led to his sentence being commuted to life imprisonment. The revolution of 1918 released him. He outlived everyone else involved, including the restaurant once famed for offering 14 different kinds of Tafelspitz, which was destroyed by the RAF one night in 1943.