Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Head up arse time

My friend Cogito Ergosum writes
"Thankfully, we are now on the short strokes of the intellectual raping that goes with the lead into a General Erection. We are bombarded with allegation versus allegation, comments upon comments and the ravings of the self-important seeking employment somewhere within easy reach of the trough labelled Westminster. But the latest SillyMillieism (http://bit.ly/1CEznAM) has to be up there amongst the better examples of panicking"
Having been an apprentice, I can really appreciate what he is suggesting and I cannot see it going any further than the LibDem's pledge on tuition fees the last time the Magic Wheel was spun. I have grasped the figure of 80,000 but cannot be arsed to see if that is annual or over the 5 years he is hoping for. At the 5 year rate, it equates to 16,000 year on year.
No mention seems to be made as to who these might offer these opportunities. An apprentice cannot contribute anything to the bottom line until they have undergone the full gamut of training. They will take up the time of qualified employees required to teach and monitor their efforts; are there enough regular workers capable and willing to impart their knowledge? Nothing is learned by 'sitting alongside Nelly' so extra office equipment or workshop machinery would be required. Together with a work space where our old friend Health & Safety comes into play.
That covers finding a vacancy - who will deal with costs of compliance? Some forms of apprenticeship may well require day release for concentrated tuition. Some form of examination as the years pass so there are many additional costs. We have seen what a hash the education system makes of implementing a long established curriculum. That connects to the base entry standard of 2 'A' levels where the culture of appeals and re-sits is already well settled.
What would be the pay for an apprentice? Back in 1952 I received the weekly sum of 30/6d (£1.52'ish for new readers) Doing the calculation to get today's equivalent gives us £41 a week so that explains another problem.
Maybe Ed should stick to bacon sandwiches?

Monday, 10 March 2014

My rights, your rights. All wrong

A few miles away from me there is a rest area adjoining a roundabout off the main A1 road. It is nicely secluded, screened by trees and with a footpath down to the river. There are toilets which were always clean and fresh. I say 'were' but the whole facility is now shut with massive concrete blocks shutting off the only access.
Why? Because a large group of 'travellers' colonised the place for a fortnight or so and, when finally moved on, left piles of rubbish and filth behind.
The usual excuse for this sort of vandalism is that there are not enough officially designated sites for travellers and they have to stop somewhere - it is part of their life-style. We have a Naked Rambler who exercises what he sees as his right to ramble in the buff. There are many things I would like to do as a 'right' if I had the brass neck to set them up.
The official stop-overs for the fraternity soon become unavailable as families occupy them on a semi-permanent basis. The saga of Dale Farm shows the complexity of the issue. The costs to tax-payers cannot be justified in these hard economic times.
As I see it, there is a simple solution. These should be in place for a location. A set time limit needs to be imposed for presence on a site. Areas designated as rest areas should also have a definite period limiting stays - say, 60 hours. After these periods, eviction is guaranteed without recourse to legal action; a similar bar is needed to avoid travellers seeking legal permission to stay or to resist being moved on.
At the designated time, the travellers would be reminded of the limitations. Those who refused to vacate should be towed away from the prohibited area. Once on a public road the normal sanctions should be used. If a vehicle fails to meet MOT standards there are directives as to limitations and use. Checks should be made as to driving licences and insurance. There is provision for vehicles to be seized and even destroyed. All of these should be considered.
These actions put responsibility where it belongs; I might decide on a change of life style. If I decide it is my right and life style to swim amongst sharks then the results are purely my choice

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Rattling a blunt sabre


This is a letter appearing in today's Telegraph. The writer talks of his time with a major Corps serving in Germany in 1968 but it is the final paragraph that concerns me. I would hope that no one is asking the question as to preparedness; should there be some gung-ho subaltern doing so he should be chopped off at the knees. In 1968 we still had forces capable of putting on a show. We would be hard pressed now in finding sufficient troops to fill a good size trench. Let me make no criticism of the good General. But then, I saw little wrong with Colonel Blimp.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Welcome to MY world: That other shoe

Welcome to MY world: That other shoe: "Waiting for the other shoe to drop" was a phrase I heard often when working with Americans; I thought they had created it but it ...

That other shoe

"Waiting for the other shoe to drop" was a phrase I heard often when working with Americans; I thought they had created it but it seems it may have been we Brits who coined it for them. It came back to me when thinking of the phone hacking as now being described in the Wade & Coulson trial now in progress. Why did we not hear far more of the revelations so easily captured from the mobile telephones of the rich and famous or the pseudo-rich ad famous? After all, the surveillance industry has many nifty little gadgets for eavesdropping and I have not heard anything about their being used. Most companies have premises swept for electronic bugs but a device does not have to be in the physical cartilage of the offices.
These musings led me to think deeper. Did anyone do widespread or targeted eavesdropping or was it impending interest that directed the buggers? For example, was anyone dropping in on the conversations of that 'fragrent' wife of an erstwhile Lord? Why did we not hear long ago about la sauce hollandaise? Given what passes as politics in America there must have been rich pickings hanging on low branches. Not that we would want daily situation reports - we have the Daily Wail and the Sun for such stuff - but those times when someone goes on a updated Tea Party. Mention of the Wail reminds me that the Daily Mirror used to have a feature called The 3am Girls. These were not even undercover but were party girls with loads of front and large ears. There was a report that when Posh was in America and Beckham mania was high a 3am girl was established in America just to hone in on the buzz. Not a big step from party going to the surveillance shop one would have thought.
We do seem to have come upon hacking a little late. It was 1989 that our bonnie Prince contemplated resurrection as a Tampax. That was captured on a simple scanner and the story is that Special Branch had a number of recordings from various sources. The technical advances in communications have killed off the scanner routes but modern day interception of phones is not difficult anyway.
Of course, once one gets into the depths of theorising about this, it can go haywire. Could it be that the current drama of flooding is the result of some secondary Thames Barrier created by abandoned phones dumped in the Thames? And, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the Metropolitan Police Underwater Search Team were told they were going under to find a mobile phone.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Right hand meet left hand.

I have been following the hoo ha about the Snowdon revelations. Yesterday's performance by the three Big Brothers of our intelligence agencies left me with more doubts than it provided reassurance.
Foremost in my thoughts has been the very fact that Snowdon, and the Wikileak community were able to gather the vast amount of information that they did. The drive of objections regarding Snowdon is that he has revealed how we go about intelligence gathering and just how pleasing this insight has been to Al Queda et al.
One would like to think that this supposed previously unknown information was well protected with high levels of access and limited need to know. Snowdon was not Top Man in any int unit and Assange got his treasure from a very low ranking soldier. So - how was it possible for this vast hoard of documents to be transmitted without any of its supposed guardians suspecting that a mole was in their lawn?
Much was made that our foes would gain benefit from knowing the mechanics of our surveillance. They apparently would change their procedures so as to make their conversations impenetrable. I was a user when working of the adage that what man invents, man can circumvent. Our experts are operating in a free and sophisticated world with very big budgets and full access to the black arts of IT. Benefits that are (or should be) unavailable to the terrorist plotters. It does not require a master's degree to work out why so many of their casualties met their end whilst talking on a mobile telephone to the background of a loud droning overhead.
That raises a further concern for me. Great emphasis was made yesterday that we are constrained by the law. Yesterday also saw a Royal Marine SNCO convicted of murder after killing a wounded insurgent. This with a background of drones in Pakistan, Somalia and other war zones arbitrarily dishing out death and destruction to whole families without so much as a perfunctory challenge.
And another worm has started. It seems that the Border Agency had information regarding illegal immigrants but failed to investigate effectively. 49.00 tip offs lead to 2695 investigations. As a result, 660 people were deported - aabout as many as one sees in Tesco on a busy morning.
The whole intelligence and counter-terrorist community is just crying out for Talbot Rothwell's Carry On films to be re-written.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Droning on

Drones. No, not idle bees but those buzzy things that America uses to despatch those skulking beyond the reach of ground forces in lands where governance is poor or partial to terrorists. It seems that our government are concerned at our involvement. My learned friends are retained. The Americans would seem to be fireproof; they simply said it is not a crime to attack drone strikes against terrorist suspects overseas. That nice Mr Obama says it is 'in full accordance with the law'
There would seem little point in maintaining GCHQ if nothing is done with the information it plucks from the ether. We are allies with USA in the war on terror. There would seem no suggestion that we - the Brits - are in any way physically involved in drone attacks. If, for example I know that a gang of Asians are grooming very young girls for what amounts to prostitution, my proper course is to report this to the police. It is for them to take action. Or not.
So, with the simplicity of mind of the child who saw that the Emperor was naked, I would be perfectly happy to confirm that there were instances where we had followed the spirit of the war on terror and passed information to CIA or whoever. What they did with it was their business; we accepted it was their right to make their laws in their country. We did not issue or request that a drone be deployed; GCHQ was adding to any intelligence file maintained in and by a foreign ally.
Yes - it is a grey area. Evasion by us is not the answer here. There is clearly an agenda. The Pakistani lawyer involved in the current shindig is reported as saying "Once we find out if they do provide information then the debate will pass on to the killing of British Nationals" We should not take the worm of this fishing trip. The whole ethos of intelligence is that it be secret. The terrorists know very well that we have the capability and intent to tune into their telephones. They are wily enough to know what comes from this intelligence.
The question of fronting up is not just drones. We are drawn into rendition. My simple mind has an explanation for this also - render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. If it be ruled that information may not be passed to an ally them damn sure it will apply to bodies also. We must not take even one small step back in our war on terror. We are told that it is this war that is the reason our forces are being killed and maimed in Afghanistan. I cannot countenance anything which would prevent that war being furthered anywhere in the world. If GCHQ can find anyone suspected of being involved, then it is right that we pass that to add to the files.

Monday, 21 May 2012

What's it all about Alfie?

I was a keen young theater- goer at the time when Lionel Bart was filling London show-houses with his hits. I saw Fings two or three times and it struck a chord then but my appreciation of the words of the song is stronger now when I view just what we have lost since my youth.
My belief is that we started to lose our way in the years immediately after the 39-45 War. We had seen the way the American GIs went about things and became fascinated with the American way of life. For them it worked. USA was a very diverse place with cultures and life styles from all the poor and oppressed that flooded in through the piers of Ellis Island. We did not have this; we had been nett exporters of poor and oppressed from Highland clearances and potato blight. Slowly but surely we became the 49th State. Our cars began to look American, we ate Spam, ballroom became rock and roll, the streets started to be paved with chewing gum and nylons covered chilblain blotches. It did not stop there. American management styles came to the workplace. Automation.
We have not handled the changes very well. We had other matters on our mind. Our colonial heritage was being dismantled. Iron Curtains and Cold Wars. Our place in world affairs was surrendered bit by bit to The United Nations; one of whose charters was to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms. Action that we had entrusted to a District officer responsible for many square miles of African real estate now became the subject of endless discussion at the UN. This loss of our status was added to by the influences of the European Court of Human Rights and the stresses and strains of the Eurozone. We have gone from a plastic America to an invertebrate worm.
The first duty of Government is the defence of the realm. What was supposed to be a review of likely demands upon our armed forces and how these would be met turned into a financial compromise. Delivery times on new ships were extended regardless of developments likely to increase the killing power of new weapons. The cost of the Army was used to determine how many personnel we could afford and not how many we might need to counter an unknown threat. We have troops on operations allegedly entered into so as to reduce the risk of terrorism on our streets. Lives are being lost and ruined but we still suffer home-grown terrorism such as the 7/7 explosions on London transport services which were planned and executed without our intelligence or police forces becoming aware of what was afoot. Our efforts in Afghanistan have inspired terrorists and led to the opening of branch offices throughout countries of the Muslim crescent.
There was a problem with the other arm of defending the Realm. Our police and criminal justice system had many problems not always of their own making. The tradition of policing by consent, which used to make Britain the envy of the world, is in danger from political interference that is alienating the police from the public.
Meanwhile, the style of governance was in flux. The Tories had been long in opposition and, as is quite normal, had been thinking what they would do if they were returned to power. They came up with a manifesto that was written to appeal to those who wanted change. Where they fell down however was that they did not look beyond the Golden Dawn of New Conservatives. Their Power Point schemes lacked depth. We Will was OK but How We Will was not explored and this led to abandonment, delay and U-Turns when pipe dreams were brought up against implementation; all seized upon by by the disenfranchised Socialists. The need to go into coalition with the Liberal Democrats meant more confusion and compromise and internal dissatisfaction amongst the turnip Tories. 
The general public had much they wanted to see changed. Immigration controls and racial integration. Welfare benefits. Our apparent inability to run our own affairs in the face of decisions reversed by the Court of Human Rights. And then, the money men let us down. They had been allowed to run things their own way; firms were making profits, banks were paying bonus and other benefits. Everything in the garden had seemed rosy. But this was illusionary; a mirage. The government took little time to decide what should be done and spent even less time on explaining their decision and the implications. As government departments and industry announced their economy measures, something akin to panic spread and disillusion and discontent spread fanned by the main stream media. This, added to the U Turns and false dawns, put more pressure on the coalition.
There seems to be no way out. The Eurozone is in free fall and we are tied into that. There seems to be nothing that our government can do to rectify our situation. Truly, Fings Ain't what They Used To Be.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011

Why, I do not know but I am tempted to write a blog page today after such a long break from production. Maybe it is auto-suggestion that end of year needs some mark of passage or the hosts of year end items in the media. In keeping with the end of year theme, I am just going to review 2011 as it concerned me and mine. It could be that I will stray outside the calendar year; flow of consciousness and all that.
The major item must be that I seem to have halted the losses of memory that led me to worry about dementia. These losses were quite frequent about the beginning of the year. I would be in a conversation and speaking freely when I would stop suddenly because I could not remember a name or a place or even an item. Apart from annoying me, it tended to embarrass the person to whom I was speaking - rather as if I were afflicted with a stammer. The absentee word would come to me unbidden some five or so minutes after I needed it.
I did some delving about on the Internet and the early onset of dementia seemed to be the most likely culprit. I reasoned that I needed to raise the use of my brain - kick it into fitness as it were. Crosswords and puzzles bore me so that route was out but I happened to see a young mum reading to her child from a Janet and John-style book. The child was learning from repeatedly seeing and hearing a word until it formed a groove in it's brain; rather like a tennis player practising a forehand drive again and again until little thought was required once that shot had been chosen. If I formed a collection of words or images I could keep the names in my mind
Thus began a furious winnowing of drawers, cupboards, albums and computer files until I had a large box of memory-inspiring objects. I am lucky to have a clever daughter whose forte is organising and she made these into a scrapbook some seven or eight inches thick. I have a DVD with music and another with images. I spent time dipping into this scrapbook.
Where possible, I expanded upon an item. Yes, that is us at the beach in Benghazi. What is that big building behind us? It is a hotel - the Berenice. Did we ever go there? Yes often. There was a casino on the ground floor and a cellar night club. I and my team had free entry to both on the understanding that we would deal with any trouble makers. One night one of the high rollers took me under his wing at the casino and I won a considerable sum of money with his guidance. This brain-fodder may seem very Mickey Mouse but the embarrassing hiatus do not now occur.
What else? We have the benefit of a first class GP group and a equally good hospital. With my doctor's support I underwent a sort of medical MOT and had orifices checked, bulk prodded and just about everything I would have had to pay many pounds for with a private medical organisation. Behind it all was my realisation that age and physical condition would most likely determine what treatments I would receive. I was mindful of the total rejection of a general anaesthetic when I had my dental clear out and such treatment as I was receiving was aimed at dealing with the symptoms rather than the underlying medical condition. We changed some medications and it seems there are a few miles left on the old jalopy The financial upheavals seem to have passed us by. We have not made any drastic changes to our life style but manage to end each month with more 'in' than 'out'. I was scornful of pension schemes until I had some sort of epiphany when I left the Army in 1974 and thank the ER guy who showed me the error of my ways.
I have to admit that I have not matured too well; I am still Mr Grumpy. The highlight in this connection was a long-running and heated objection to the instruction of the recycling guru that we would have to have and use a wheelie bin. The front door of our flat opens directly onto the street and we have no outside ground at all. The so-called adviser wanted to place our bin directly in front of our door on the pavement of a narrow road. I thoroughly enjoyed objecting on one issue at a time until I had some seven or eight points where the faults of his suggestion were clearly stated. Eventually, after some five months, I had a terse one-line email saying that the bin proposal had been withdrawn.
I used to follow politics; no actual involvement other than voting but the twists and turns and confidence tricks emanating from Westminster. This coalition effort is such that I have really lost interest in politics. The whole nation gets aroused to indignation at the slightest excuse and on the most flimsy of evidence. I would like the power in some two or three years to conduct a poll asking what people then remember of all the 'major' interests of today. I suspect Jordan will be better remembered than Fox and his 'assistant' Now seems appropriate to withdraw from patriarch duties. My children and their children are all, touch wood, settled into their careers or the foundations of such. The light touch seems to have worked. That must be quite enough of a year end piece. Only remains to wish anyone who has got this far a Good 2012 and many years ahead. May you all get what you wish for.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Timendi causa est nescire.

I watched the rugby this morning. The 5:30 am start was needed to erase the memory of our 'team' yesterday. I say 'team' but that is the least applicable description for them. I saw two matches this morning and the team work there was so clearly visible. The teams from South Africa, Australia and from New Zealand contained a range of skin pigmentation and my mind went back to Capetown in 1956. Our troopship sailed in on Christmas Eve; we were the first troopship to go round the Cape since the war time convoys. The dockside was awash with the good burgers who hoovered up the soldiers and whisked them away. I was ship's policeman so it was duty for me. I commented on the hospitality to a local police officer who informed me it was not all it seemed. Apartheid was still in force and the greeting crowd would only have taken those who matched their ethnicity. Integration seemed to have worked well for the three teams and I thought about the problems we have with mixing immigrants with home-born. It seems that there is racism in Australia as well as New Zealand and South Africa.When I looked further I found that all three countries had formal rules regarding who was allowed into the country
I wonder if our chaotic immigration 'controls' would benefit from such formal procedures.
OK - light relief now. I said I would seek out some blogs that might be included in mine. I suspect that poetry does not get casually Googled by those seeking to pass idle time. I have an interest in words and hunt about in poetry. So, http://newpoetries.blogspot.com/" try this. Last bit to tidy up. The title of the blog? Translates as "The cause of fear is ignorance"

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A disaster rehearsed

I have been reading about the fall of Singapore. When I lived in Malaya I had heard much from old Colonial types about the Japanese occupation and I was interested in getting some of the truth out of the urban myths. The early chapters deal with the decisions that were taken with regards to the defence of the main harbour. Immediately, I was struck with the impression that I was reading a far more modern history.
The powers that be had convinced themselves that any attack would come from a sea-borne enemy. The hinterland of the Malayan jungle was deemed to be too difficult for Asian troops. These were assessed by our military experts as of low grade - even described as afraid of the dark. This showed total disregard for the performance of the Japanese army in recent confrontations. The Japanese had shown themselves capable of coordinating land, sea and air attacks. All this was ignored. Military HQ in Singapore decided to install very large artillery pieces to cover the sea approaches. Second thoughts were for a naval fleet to extend the reach of the defence. There was deemed to be no spare capability of RN vessels but Their Lordships were reassuring that they could deploy a few ships from the Indian fleet 'if any threat developed'. The nascent RAF took on board the idea of reach and made a case for air power where torpedo carrying aircraft would be a good defence.
Thus began inter-service rivalry. There were no facilities for a naval presence and no suitable airfields. Bibs and bobs of budgets were dug up and a start was made on docks and landing grounds. Then it was decided that there was a need for a chain of airfields from India to Singapore. More debate and chewing of military mustaches. The whole fiasco was set against a decision that there would be no attacks within a 10 year timescale. The whole exercise was a rehearsal for the recently undertaken Strategic Defence Review such as was undergone recently.
The book is a well researched publication as one would expect from Professor Richard Holmes; a writer sadly missed. I recommend it.
I also recommend today's lost child of a blog - as warned in my last blog.
’m not a typical holiday person. I believe that the feelings of peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women) have become overshadowed by the fuss of hosting dinner parties and shopping.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Play it again Sam

I have been wandering out in the outer space of the Internet looking for interesting stuff that has been overlooked. No No - not that. I used to keep statistics on this effort and was surprised at just how many hits were recorded. Sometimes, very respectable. Whilst many came, few were moved enough to comment or do anything to spread the word. Had I not looked at my meter, I would have thought that it was just time and energy wasting. However, as I only do it for my own amusement I am not concerned. There must be many two-finger pokers who agonise over their blog; content, style or illustration.
Way way back, I used to have a sort of supplement to my work - I called it The Guest Blog. Each of my efforts would have one blog chosen by me and reproduced in its entirety. That drew comments where the main oeuvre did not. I propose to reintroduce this idea but with just a link and to draw attention to two or three each time I do something. Criteria for selection is very open - it has to impress me for some reason is what it might boil down to.
I will wander off into the 'net milky way and tee a few up. So - watch this space.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Rights. And wrongs

I have been following the Dykes Farm story. Sad life I know but some 12 years ago we had a smaller version just the other side of my fence when I lived in Kent. A jolly band of travellers had bought a cherry orchard. Agricultural land. After a while they moved in a couple of caravans on the pretext that these were for casual labourers working in the orchard. They then developed a barn and moved in more 'labourers'. Members of their extended family of course. Then came electricity. No mains sewerage of course.
The whole thing grew and grew. It seemed the local council were powerless to act; what was being done apparently followed a path used by genuine agriculturists. I was not too bothered - what was going on was mainly out of sight and I had made it plain to the capo di travellers that petrol was cheap and matches also. I left before the saga came to any proper denouement. I am not going to detail the Farm dispute but it does seem to follow the pattern of Grandma's Steps I saw in Kent. It does seem that the wanderers were stiffed by the local council who sold them the land, allowed some development and then barred it in half the site. Put that down to a failure of the lucky white heather.
Another facet of my sad life is an addiction to Twitter. It does seem to attract publicity of all sorts of special interest groups. I am told that Facebook has much more of the same. Sufferers of xxx illness seek special recognition and easement of something or other. They have agendas. At the same time, those suffering from yyy afflictions are rowing the same boat. The whole range of the alphabet has someone or other pressing their case. I have not attempted to compile a spreadsheet of the assorted demands but it must follow that what is done for the xxx'rs will conflict with the expectations of the bbb'rs. Whilst I have a number of areas where I would like to claim an exception from the ordinary Joe. Alas, I cannot find an umbrella group. I stand at risk that those who do gain recognition and special treatment could well impinge on what I do now or would wish to do. Drowned in a sea of special cases. The demands are not always understandable to the man in the street anyway. The homosexual rights campaigners gained civil marriage rights. Now they say the procedures are too hole in the corner (no pun intended) and demand the full panoply of a straight wedding, I cannot understand why. Their lifestyle is not ours. What extra do they get - we all know of Elton John's relationship to his wheel-barrow pushing friend.
To me, this is all part of the mongrelisation of our country. I was around and knew the Dunkirk Spirit. We had a common purpose, worked together, we suffered together (mostly) and we triumphed together. Our economic state now could do with some of that Spirit. However, there is no Kabul Spirit, Karachi Spirit. What we do have is groups demanding sharia law, the killing of animals by sawing holes in their necks and for female mutilation and forced marriage of minors. The Cricket Test of spiritual nationality does not cover these. I was brought up to offer my seat on public transport to the disabled and to those pregnant. I saw no sign that this was observed the last time I was on a train. Doubtless, there are groups pressing for legislation on this - it should not be needed and is not likely to lead to any real change if introduced.
Were I to start a Twitter campaign, it would be Give Me Back My Country. Possibly need to add Dude at the end of that. There will be those who mention rickets, TB, inadequate housing but I would seek to go back to 1930s UK. With hindsight, all those problems would be solved - it would be in the Manifesto so was bound to happen (pause for ironic laughter). A hankering to get back to those values may be the secret of popularity of Downton or Upstairs Downstairs.
I don't see it happen. But allow old men to dream whilst they dribble.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Now it can be told

Last week's Sunday Telegraph made much of a story that our troops were being encouraged to report improper conduct by our soldiers whilst engaged in the action against Iraq. Adverts had been placed in magazines likely to be read by troops and these added that the information could be given anonymously if the informant so wished. Information gained would go to a specialist team.
The Secretary of State has set up the Iraq Historic Allegations Team ("IHAT") to investigate the allegations with a view to the identification and punishment of anyone responsible for wrongdoing. He has also set up a separate Iraq Historic Allegations Panel ("IHAP") to ensure proper and effective handling of information concerning cases subject to investigation by IHAT and to consider the results of IHAT's investigations, any criminal or disciplinary proceedings brought, and any other judicial decisions concerning the cases, with a view to identifying any wider issues which should be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has not ruled out the possibility that a public inquiry into systemic issues may be required, in the light of IHAT's investigations and the outcome of the existing public inquiries, nor that there may be prosecutions in the light of those outcomes, but he says that it is premature to set up such a public inquiry now while these other inquiries and investigations are going on.
These IHAT inquiries had a checkered history almost as soon as the team was instituted. The PIL has a history of going back in history and then lodging demands for an investigation.
The main investigation into the sort of incident alleged has now reported it's findings. Pretty grim reading. Mention is made of a conspiracy of silence; this was first commented upon following the court martial of a number of soldiers charged with the assault upon an Iraqi civilian.
By the end of the trial, all charges against the remaining defendants were dropped due to a lack of evidence, including a charge of manslaughter against Cpl Payne.
Mr Justice Stuart McKinnon criticised the soldiers for failing to properly answer questions and accused them of putting up a "wall of silence".
So, rather a long preamble to what is my reason for this edition. In 1970 I was sent to Northern Ireland as a Warrant Officer of the Army Investigation Branch. There was a very small detachment of investigators but I was on the strength of the Provost Marshall NI as an assistant. One of the first things I was asked to look at was the way the Army dealt with internal security incidents where troops had opened fire and killed or wounded a civilian. There were also a number of serious allegations regarding the way that our forces had acted during house searches or arrests. Prior to my arrival, these had not been investigated by the resident team. If the incident or the claims were considered to be serious or widespread, a group of investigators would come from the mainland and deal with them. This was often many weeks after the incident and the claims had already made their way into local history as fact. They were then trooped out every time allegations were made as to Army conduct.
I very soon realised that any contemporaneous routine investigation would not suffice. The normal line of questioning of witnesses building up to the interview of a possible offender was tortuous. Scene of crime techniques were not possible whilst areas were still disturbed and forensic facilities in the province were limited. This meant that the findings were so delayed that Urban Myth prevailed.
When our forces respond to an incident they are required to make a immediate radio report to their HQ. This was known as a Contact Report and was very short and rudimentary. I felt there was scope here for the service investigators to assist. We would attend as soon as a contact report was made. If possible, we would go to the scene of the incident and record written statements from the military personnel, These would not follow what were then known as Judges Rules where evidence was taken with a view to presentation at any trial. I presented the idea to senior RUC personnel, The Coroner and HQ NI and a protocol was established. Copies of the statements taken would be passed to the relevant RUC commander for their consideration. If they considered that legal action should be instituted against military personnel that individual would be re-interviewed in full accord with the Rules, A neat device but quite legal. I left Ulster in mid-1972 and the protocol was working as designed. It also survived without criticism in the Lord Saville inquiry into events on Bloody Sunday.
I have no direct knowledge of the procedures used in Iraq. There is a strong suggestion that the Ulster protocol was not followed. It is only my assumption that this may well have led up to the situation which created IHAT. There is a similar unit in NI but that looks at all deaths and not just those involving HM Forces.
There may be other IHAT work that results in a public inquiry. Mr Shiner has other arrows in his quiver. The latest report says it finds no evidence of institutional brutality, Well, it was only looking at one incident so a pattern would be hard to find, The numbers of soldiers who piled into Baha and his fellow detainees was pretty impressive though. There is some history that the Baha inquiry may have missed.
Whilst it may be unsettling to seek to further the IHAT work by way of anonymous reports it is little different to the procedures of Crime Line and another forces police organisation Getting the true details is an essential duty. Think of the concept of one bad apple. I prefer the idea of a bad barrel that turns good apples bad. The voices of human rights groups are very loud and we risk losing the approval of our actions if these are furthered by dubious means.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Lord now lettest thou thy servant.....

Possibly wrong that I, who have no belief in that sort of thing, should steal from The Book for a title. However, I have always hedged my bets and one never knows who might be listening.

Today is my birthday. Thank you for congratulations, best wishes, Mazel tov, whatever. I had never imagined that would sustain for 78 years on this planet - or any other. I had never been terrible solicitous about my health and welfare right from climbing the tree when my father came and told me I had better get down as war had been declared. I was not evacuated - my parents held that if they were dead, I might as well be also.
The Army claimed me and I was able to get to most parts of the world where the Union flag few. Objectors to this threw stones and fired bullets and I walked among this unharmed. My trade involved investigating - not all my finds came quietly when told to get their strides on because they were nicked. I occasionally drove very rorty rally cars with only minor shunts.
At the the beginning of my 40s I moved away from Action Man's world and resorted to using my brain. I was asked for my opinions and people paid me for my advice. I got involved in preparing budgets for millions of pounds, fighting to explain why I wanted all this money and then controlling the expenditure thereof. I drove many miles on busy roads. The stress was something I grasped like a true adrenaline junky.
And then, in due course of time, I retired. The challenges were put beyond my reach; like a steel fire shutter deployed. I took to hill walking - always without human company but often with my dog. All the adrenaline went out of my life. There were no challenges any more. I felt like Teddy thrown in the corner and abandoned.
Then the physical side started to let me down. Glasses, no real teeth. I was at the mercy of minor illnesses and recovery became longer. Breath was in short supply and I had a season ticket to the local GP. All very frustrating; the remedies seemed to be dealing with the symptoms and not the root illness.
Some months back I realised that my memory was failing me. I would be talking about something and a word I wanted would not come out of the files. Then, for no apparent reason, the word would come into my mind unbidden. I walk from one room to another for some purpose only to find myself wondering why I am in that particular room. I sometimes need two attempts to pick something up - I drop it the first time. I knock things over.
I realise that in the scale of some peoples suffering, all of this is a walk in the park. Well, I sympathise with them but this does little for me in my cocoon of advancing mush. I look back at the few occasions when I might have gone out in a blaze of glory and white light and wonder if what I actually did at those times was worth it in the light of my present state.
So, I want no more congratulations. good wishes or Mazel tov. Just a farewell please. "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace"