Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Inquiry blues

Much in the news is the opening of the Chilcott Inquiry. To my mind, this is just some sanctimonious attempt to shift national guilt onto a few individuals. Maybe think of them as scapegoats I suppose. This is a word that has gained currency of late as we look for individuals that we may blame for actions where we may have just a small smidgen of personal guilt. But beware, the real meaning of scapegoat is different. It is one who gets blamed by others for sins they wish to transfer. The goat is innocent. In current day parlance, it was fitted up. I have no concerns doubt about the sins of Bush and his little pet dog Blair. I saw and heard them tell us why they felt the need to go into Iraq. I saw and heard every one of those reasons turn into dust. Apologists may say that they were misled by others. The slime remains; they were the heads of powerful nations and had ample resources to check out what was allegedly fed to them.

That is why I consider the Chilcott inquiry as a worthless sham. It will, inevitably, turn out as a curates egg. Those who see black now will see black at the end. The white faction will stay white. Now it appears that those who have the most reason to have events explained - the Iraqis taken back a century or two - are unlikely to give any credence to its findings. It will wash over their heads as insignificant. Insignificant in its totality and in its detail. Their minds are made up. They and I are as one.

I would go along with this charade of an inquiry if I even slightly believed that anyone will face a trial as a result. Do not offer me the existence of a War Crimes tribunal. As with all things where too many cooks get involved in the making of broth, the mechanism is faulty. The odds of one man and a couple of unwilling advocates against world opinion are too heavily stacked in favour of a Corporate Decision. With a bit of obfuscation, I could get Oskar Schindler found guilty. His use of slave labour, adoption of Germanic ideas and actions - dreadful. Just cover up the List bit and he would be off to the cells.

The facts that are allegedly uncovered in any major Inquiry may well be indisputable. Then the conspiracy theorists get hold of them. The assassination of JFK is the prime example followed in our times by the 9/11 Commission. Whilst the sheer size and scope of these will certainly give up so much ground for suspicion, even small scale investigations get pulled apart. Think of David Kelly. The suicide finding is highly suspicious. If it wasn't suicide then it must have been murder. Plenty of reason to silence him. Or to use him as a grim warning to others who might think of opening up to the Press. Any unresolved doubt impinges upon Chilcott. If the sexed up claims stand there in isolation, they would be a major factor in what is put before the latest Inquiry. Leaving them out opens the way for the conspirators - what if lobby. I'll not even start on the Brazilian guy and the Underground train. How many can accept the finding there?

I have been involved on the fringes of a major Inquiry. I gave evidence at the Bloody Sunday thing and was also asked by one of the barristers looking after the soldier's interests to provide a analysis and commentary of their evidence on a daily basis. This Inquiry has already cost over £188 million pounds and I am told there is a further six months before the presses start to roll on any report. Just how this expenditure will change anyone's firmly entrenched opinions is beyond me. Another thought is who set the train off down the track. Puppet master Blair is who. Part of his cynical machinations related to the Good Friday concessions that was supposed to lead to cessation of IRA activity. Well, that didn't work did it?

So, sorry Chilcott old chap. So far as I am concerned, you are just wasting your time and a lot of money. If you do find some mouldering skeleton in some ministerial cupboard, it may get a decent burial but that is all.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Plodding on

As if the Boy Dave will not be under enough pressure in the event he gains a majority in the forthcoming election, he has been warned that he will face police action. Sir Hugh Orde, boss of the senior officers' union ACPO, has stated that he and a number of Chief Constables might resign if a Conservative government were to proceed with plans to bring the police under the control of elected local Commissioners. He saw this as an unwanted, and unwarranted, intrusion into how police forces operated. Cameron wants the Commissioners to have authority to hire and fire their chief police officers and to be budget controllers.

Now, I fail to connect what the Tories are intending to put into place with political control likely to have any effect on operational policing. Of course, it might be that the dismissal powers might hinge on how well the police fulfil their responsibility for maintaining law and order. But, what is so wrong with that - is it not democracy? The Commissioner might well say "I want you to do something about the gangs of feral youths terrorising pensioners on such and such an estate". I very much doubt that any publicly elected official would then go on to say how many men should be tasked, their hours and the means of control. And, even if one did go down that route, how is that interpreted as political? Cameron's intentions very likely originated after the spat involving Met boss Ian Blair and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. This did become political insofar as the then Home Secretary Busty Smith went head to head with Boris. It would not be unreasonable to say that Blair was rather partial to NuLabour ideas and politicised himself.

There have been a number of instances where the police have had full reign to do whatever they saw fit in operational terms. Not all of these reflected best practice or would appear as police manuals as perfect drills. The poor old Brazilian electrician went to his death after the police acted in accordance with a procedure where their actions allowed them to be instant judge and instant executioner. This foreign import was never discussed outside police circles. The circumstances where it would be employed - terrorism - could be understood. Maybe. Just. But, the Met were then showed to have very serious flaws in the way they went about controlling their sudden death mandate. Keeping a very vicious dog might be justified but letting one run loose in a school loses support. I am well aware that they were all cleared after an exhaustive inquiry. Here it was revealed that Blair had indulged in back-stairs contacts to bolster the actions of his storm troopers; we may not know the full extent of any other similar initiatives. Not they sort of bloke to have operational control of vicious dogs.

Another less than brilliant example of police work was the hounding into suicide and murder involving a mother and her educationally impaired daughter. Despite the fact that the attacks by local youths were in contravention of several Acts of Parliament, a senior officer said that these were merely anti-social behaviour and he was limited as to his course of action. The two deceased and a son all had serious mental and physical problems but were left to their own resources (nil) in the face of bullying gangs. This had gone on over seven years. I am sure there would have been a better result had someone been in a position to tell the police to stop faffing about and sort it out.

The police say that they are losing the respect of the general public. They have no one but themselves to blame. They have changed their appearance from good old PC Dixon to dress up like something from Star Wars. They have pressed for new legislation to ease their tasks and now issue little paper chits and impose on the spot fines. Radar guns. Tasers. A massive increase in power to stop and snoop. Yes - this has passed through the due legal processes but almost all on the nod. Can we be sure that locally elected Commissioners would not have queried these extensions of power? The 42 day thing was not a walk in the park once the politicians sat up and took notice.

I have little concern about the threat of mass resignations. I see it as an opportunity to do a little coppicing of dead wood that has grown into an aged and redundant agenda and style. No one is irreplaceable; even more so in a quasi-disciplined organisation where every Chief Constable has a deputy in place. And the deputy has an Assistant. Management of manpower in such circumstances is very easy.

Sir Hugh has also made a point about what he deems as political failure to merge the 43 or so constabularies into mega-forces set up to prioritise their anti-terrorism work. We have central resources that do this - MI5 and the relatively new Organised Crime Agency - and they would not be likely to benefit from another fish in their pool. I would imagine that Super Cops are even more likely to cause a feeling of estrangement from Joe Public.

I have come to the conclusion that Orde is quite happy to get involved in politics - when the issue is one he supports. His time at PSNI will have involved a large amount of wheeling and dealing with the Northern Ireland variant of politicians. Nuff said.

Friday, 20 November 2009

And fleas shall have lesser fleas

Lady Ashton. Not a name that trips off the end of the tongue; certainly not a prospective 'I'm a Celebrity'. Until last night that is. However, the trusty internet shows she has quite a pedigree albeit the posts she has held seem somewhat exotic and maybe at the margins of everyday life.

The surprise of her victory throws light on just how undemocratic some things can be but still pass muster. The political commentators spent a lot of time on the question of Blair as EU King designate but missed her altogether. She was nominated by the Labour party. The sort of questions she was asked at her post-election news conference showed that hardly anyone knew what she would be doing in her new job. She herself was not sure or so overwhelmed by her success that she gave no really useful answer. This question should have been very easily dealt with. One assumes there was some sort of Job Description circulated in advance of nominations but we, the People, did not get involved in this. There is a definition on the Net and it all sounds very high level stuff. Setting her career details against the specification for her new job is not easy; hard to see what she may have gained from being a Governor at her daughter's school that fits her for the EU bear-pit. Maybe that is why she was given the new job - no real threat to the 27 Big Beasts of the Union. She has given a early interview to the BBC in which she insisted that the fact that she had never been elected to office would not be a disadvantage.
"I'm humbled by it, in that I'm very conscious of those who have been elected. It's why I spent a lot of time in the European parliament. It's why, when I was leader of the House of Lords, I was very conscious of the role of the House of Commons," she said. She also said that 27 elected heads of government had all had a say in her appointment "and they all decided on me". Asked if she was the best candidate for the job, she said: "Over the next few months and years I aim to show I am the best person for this job."
She clearly has had training in answering the question put. I do not want to wait the "next few months and years" for her to demonstrate she can do the job that faces her from Day One.
I am somewhat concerned at the failure of the 'experts' to flag up this woman. To be au fait with world politics requires tremendous dedication and we rely upon the commentators to give us digestible précis of things that should concern us. They are opinion formers - even if we disagree with them they make us go off and find out what there is to know.

However, whilst I have doubts and questions as to her being selected. I take nothing but the utmost joy that the carpetbagger Blair was shown out of the tradesmen's entrance. Good riddance.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Would not change my life!

I have been thinking about that shared £90M Lottery. It is something that happens every time there is a significant win.
First thing I rationalise is that it is not really all that much. This luxury home in America would swallow up £55M alone and I have not fitted it out, put even one car in the garage or installed Sophia Loren as the housekeeper. Rest assured that I would not join the ranks of those who proclaim that "it will not change me". I would become totally unrecognisable - why else venture the £1 joining fee? Neither do I hold with those who say they did not want a massive win "just a million or so". There are many little projects for the £89M if that is really the way they want to go. Certainly, I would spread happiness about. Just a few miles up the road from my present home is a isolated farm. It lies at the head of a valley with not another house in view. There are woods all around. A small stream in the valley floor and a large pond.

There are four or five residences so I assume it is home to mum, dad and a few kids. That is how I would use it. Gather the family around me. Some ornamental black pigs and a few of those Great Dane-sized Dexter cattle. We would all do as we wished - work, play or work and play. A commune without the group sex or drugs. Similar conditions would apply to the farm workers; Ex-forces recruited from such as SAS; just to keep riff raff away.

Me - I'd travel. First class is so relaxing! America on a season ticket basis. I always liked the States. It is so big that one can find all one wants relatively easily. The raw beauty of the Grand Canyon area to places in Kentucky that look like super-Surrey hunting country. When that paled, off to Malaysia. I was there when it was Malaya and the White Man's Word was Law. A state I could resurrect in a small world given the change from that £90M. A few months - while the alterations were being done on the big house - I'd retrace my Army postings and bore everyone rotten with tales of daring do.

So many plans. So much opportunity.

Just the one problem really.

I do not buy any tickets.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

12 good men and true

The news that the 9/11 facilitator will stand trial in a civilian venue is heartening. I assume that he will have all the protection that is due to any accused person but one might suspect would be missing were he to be put before some military tribunal. Justice seen to be done and all that. were found not guilty whilst seemingly innocent people were sent away to break rocks. At the same time as I was thinking about the trial of someone who has already admitted the offence - and more - I was reading some accounts of famous trials held in the early 1900's. There were reports of seemingly wrong decisions being returned by the jury. Accused caught bang to rights "It's a fair cop guv"Advocacy then was allowed a looser rein and many legal eagles would have earned an equally nice life on the stage. I would be unwise to detail any current findings; Mike Mansfield guards his reputation. Safe I think to just say O J Simpson? One can see something of the Jury Effect in what passes for TV entertainment such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. The Inns of Court have an appeal process where a finding is deemed capricious but it seems this is rarely used. So, what would be the reaction if Mr. 9/11 were to be deemed not guilty? A poor performance from the prosecutor alongside a fine defence and a soupçon of 'let's not be beastly to the Muslims' and he might just walk. Lord Forbid. I cannot understand why we just get a crowd of likely level-headed clear thinking guys off the street to make what can be shatteringly life changing decisions. They are unlikely to have knowledge of psychology and only a weak understanding of sociology. Even worse, they may think they know what goes on in the mind of a unbalanced human or one who is quite settled into a life of crime. The aim of the defence has shifted from the old idea that they were there to see their client had all the protection and benefits he was due. Now, their intent is to have the man in the dock walk free. On the other hand, I have heard of "stealth" jurists stating during jury selection that they will be objective with the evidence but have no intention of doing so. Instead, they intentionally get on the jury using deception because they secretly want the accused convicted. The defence has only a limited number of challenges when a jury is being chosen. It then has to make specific protests. What chance of detecting someone who has had a relative killed by a drunk driver being empanelled in a driving under the influence case? It is not just being in the shoes of the accused. There are technical aspects as well. Some fraud cases will take two or more years to investigate and the skills of a specialist forensic accountant. How is that explained and made clear to a group of laymen? The guy who cooked the books will have taken advantage of loop holes - what will the 12 good men and women understand of those? It is not just that justice be seen as done to the accused - society demands it as well. Something needs to be done. The degree of risk that one might lose ones freedom is taken into account by serious criminals. They have to be controlled by knowing that if they do the crime they are going to do the time. Fluky verdicts can bolster their courage. So, maybe it is time we had a corps of jurors. They would be enlisted in accord with conditions much as now. They would be trained in law and given an insight into what makes humans tick. Their own antecedents would be known so that they were not selected to sit on cases sensitive to them. As a personal opinion, I would prefer to appear in front of a tribune properly selected and trained rather than just garnered from names on an electoral roll.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I'm a British soldier. Keep me out here

A couple of posts ago, I tried to explain why there is the apparent contradiction between the majority of civilians who want our troops out of Afghanistan and the soldiers who say there is good work being done and more to do; we will stay. I would like to think my crayoning on the walls of my padded cell created a response but I am not that big-headed. However, there has been a relevant blog and it goes deeper into the attitude of the blokes out in the hot and sandy places. There are those who do not 'do' links and for their benefit, I will include some of that excellent post by Major Smythe.

Every reporter will have experienced it and every one of us fails to actually tell the real truth when we are asked this recurring and obvious question: “Stuart, another soldier dead in terrible circumstances. Opinion polls show the public is against the war. Surely it must affect morale?” The real answer “Does it chuff, they love it.” Nothing wrong with that; no one can pass through the training and indoctrination that precedes deployment and be unaware that it is not all milk and honey. But then comes this: "why you and I and everyone wringing their hands about the poor soldiers facing horrendous conditions and danger totally don't get it. It is why they can kill people without question. It is why they joined up in the first place. If you think about it logically do soldiers, first and foremost, really want to build schools for poor Afghan kids? No, they want to kill Taliban. I am not saying this lightly, I am not saying they are bloodthirsty or in any way unprofessional. It is a simple fact: they are soldiers and soldiers fight wars and they are in one"

Now we are, in my opinion, entering the world of reality TV. Susan Boyle with stripes. "It was f****** great mate. The lads f****** loved it. Thank f*** we didn't lose anyone but we f****** twatted them – every time we went out. We knew where it would start, we knew what they would do and we just went out and tried to f*** them up. F****** brilliant." An opinion redolent of Sandhurst's finest is "Stuart, the lads did a great professional job. I think they relished the opportunity to engage with the enemy and implement the changes we and the ISAF forces have been tasked with achieving. The goals are difficult and achievements will sometimes be difficult to quantify but we feel we achieved a fair, if modest, degree of success." If you read of the extremely limited area they dominate and what that control costs in basic living conditions, still less lives, one must come to the conclusion that this particular group are achieving very little that is productive. Too small and lacking the power to spread their ground. What merit in holding a few square yards of terrotory? Would we have applauded guys who dug in and stayed on the Normandy beaches? Lived below Monte Cassino in a slit trench? Nothing is actually being gained. They are there solely in defiance of the enemy. Neither the soldier or the officer will ever admit that emotion overrules reason. And discussion of withdrawal is met with the sentiment along the lines that our leaving now would in some way dishonour those who have given their lives. I have a basic objection to that statement - I think their lives were taken from them rather than they gave them. I would have serious qualms about the mentality of anyone stepping onto a 'plane at Brize who last words to his kith and kin were along the lines "I am off now to give my life for England and for Gordon Brown". I and may others have demolished the theory that our mere presence in Kalbul keeps terrorists off the streets of Kensington. The latter day jingoism is supported by the eulogies for the deceased - framed again in that Officers' Mess style. In any case - even if every soldier really met the qualities attributed, is that any reason to be glad he gave his life? It is all rationalisation - the end scene of Life of Brian.

This desire merely to kill the enemy has further, darker, aspects. There is very little respect for the Taliban - he is just an animated Figure 11. Despised. Not an equal. Now, military training teaches the recruits that they are a organised and disciplined body. They live together, eat together and suffer together. When the physical toughening work is in train, they are shown that the failure of one brings extra pain on the others who have passed muster. It is left to the group to convince the laggard that he can and must keep up. He will, in the language of the barrack-room, be 'beasted'. I'll not detail the occasional cost of this process other than mention a few key words such as Deepcut, Danny Boy, Abu Mousa, Bread Basket. They will never appear on any Regimental colours. Some of our warriors have extended beasting to captured enemy and I am convinced this has a direct link back to the sort of sentiments expressed by the sergeant in Helmand. Looking back at the Americans in Vietnam and, even further back, the French in Algiers shows it is not a National failing but one connected with the warrior class.

Vietnam has, in my mind, a further connection. The call to leave Afghanistan attracts the response "What would happen if we did pull out (insert rhetoric re Pakistan, access to WMD, Islamic influence in the area, responses from Israel)" Exactly what was said about Vietnam. And yet, Hell did not boil over. There was Pol Pot but even he and his kind did not last. My mind does not venture into high moral considerations but I have a certain repugnance at the thought that we sustain highly trained military personnel whose only aim and ambition is to kill. Not just on a Ten Commandments level either. The only end for the 'Kill 'em all and let God/Allah sort them out' attitude is total eradication of the enemy. Getting them to an IRA-style realisation that they cannot win so should negotiate does not work with religious fundamentalists. We would have to kill every man and young boy child capable of procreation. Better kill the women of breeding age as well. That is Endex for such as portrayed in the 'Truth about our boys'. It isn't going to happen and employing the tactics there is immoral. Our soldiers deserve better thinking and action intended to do more than preserve status quo.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Kill the fatted sacrificial lamb

The Confused One is seeing just what sacrifices he can make in his spending plans. Given that the 'plans' resemble the agenda of an alcoholic out in Glasgow on a Saturday night, this will be difficult. Seems he has been watching the TV again - the words 'nothing ruled out' and 'nothing ruled in' have been used. Translated, that means that any form of treachery, back-stabbing and downright lying will all be considered if accompanied by suitably worded press releases that nothing will suffer.
What has confused me slightly is that if we can live with cuts to the monetary plans, why was the apparent excess ever written into the Budgets? It is not as if we were on the crest of a wave when the Chancellor last stood up and regaled us with his dream scenario. The sort of thing this is likely to bring about has been signalled by Balls - Balls the Minister that is, not balls the planning. He has been accused of making a U turn just six months after proclaiming that education would be ring-fenced against any cuts.
He said a £2bn saving could be achieved through merging comprehensive schools into "federations", with one overall head taking charge of up to six secondaries. Cutting the cost of heating, lighting and repairs to schools by 10 per cent could also save up to £800m a year, he said. Squeezing teachers' pay from 2011, and forcing schools to spend money in reserve are also part of the cost-cutting plan. Given the crap inspection reports that individual schools have received under 1 head per school, the idea of a part-time head is ludicrous. The new form of federation would require much cooperation from the teachers and he surely will not get that with his pay squeeze and rumours of 3,000 headcount reductions. This cess pit of industrial relations and planning will save £2 billion. He says. We are not told if the saving takes account of redundancy payments (if these even exist in the protected world of teachers) and works necessary to achieve the merging of comprehensives. I doubt it.

We are told that doomsday scenarios have been drawn up in several departments. The Department for Transport is vulnerable as it is planning big infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail and a new high-speed rail network. However, Lord Adonis remains committed to both projects and will fight to keep them.

Defence could also be hit hard. Both the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, and the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, have already been summoned to Downing St to discuss their department's spending plans.

We live in an age where the number of zeroes in a cost figure does not seem to cause a great deal of concern or surprise. I was glancing through the weekend issue of thick papers and there were whole pages of homes for sale northwards of £1 million with a fair sprinkling of 2s and 3s in the millions section. The governmemt casually writes of billions; I even saw something about a trillion somewhere in a forecast. We are not going to get far in that sort of market with 2.5% off the rate of VAT.

We need a big fat sacrificial lamb. Sacrifice that and maybe our Lord will smile upon us. I see a couple of candidates. My one devoted reader will possibly be surprised when I reveal these as defence related. Only loosely defence related to be sure but from that area of the profit and loss account.

There is Trident. As presently constituted, it appears to be a a fearsome piece of kit - one would think that in relation to the days of MAD. a war winner on its own.
It is up for revision. Quite hefty revision it seems. What does not seem to have been visited with any great thoroughness is the requirement. "We have one that is tired. Must get a new one" may well have been OK a few months back but our financial world has changed. Clare Short may be a scary old biddy just waiting a Union card to open Macbeth but she is a lightening rod for opinions. She cautioned that a new system would make us a US poodle - maybe that is where Blair got the idea of being just that?

Britain will be tied to the US in world affairs for "decades to come" if Tony Blair pushes ahead with a decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, his former cabinet colleague Clare Short has warned.

The former international development secretary was speaking at a meeting in the Commons at the launch of a campaign to stop the UK from committing itself to developing a new generation of nuclear weapons when Trident becomes obsolete. She said: "Replacing Trident will tie UK foreign policy to US policy for decades to come. It would prevent the UK from acting with others on global warming, poverty and conflict, and perpetuate our role as US poodle."

Although Trident's life could extend another 20 years, Mr Blair has insisted that a decision on whether to replace it must be made in the current parliament, because of the time involved in developing new nuclear weapons.

He has called for a consultation on the future of Britain's deterrent. But the budget for the Atomic Weapons Establishment, at Aldermaston, has been doubled to £1.5bn over the next three years, prompting suspicions that a decision to develop new weapons has been made. Officially, the increased spending is to make sure Trident is kept up to date.

Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said: "It is highly questionable whether a non-independent British nuclear weapon still serves any useful purpose. "Replacing Trident would come at an estimated cost of £15bn to £25bn; surely this could be better spent elsewhere

The casual mention of some £25 billion was made in 2005. Given the way that costs go into orbit on defence matters, that must now be other other side of £60 billion.. Ultra tempes Ultre mores. The playing field has changed. Looking back a few years we saw what Cruise missiles can do with high explosive. As poodles, our masters would not permit any escalation into a nuclear scenario. Whilst statesmanship is now of a lesser quality, we saw what can be achieved when push came very near to shove over missiles in Cuba. A nuclear deterrent is a fine sounding thing. I think of the man who kept a dead cat in his bedroom in Surrey and explained it was there to keep tigers out of his bedroom. He justified the mouldering moggy on the grounds that he had never seen a tiger in his bedroom since he put it in place. Is there a remaining nuclear threat that demands a deterrent?

There other fatted calf that could be sacrificed is/are the two aircraft carriers. The situation here has been detailed far better than I can - follow this link if you are still with me. The boys in dark navy blue reckon they cannot serve their commitments without the carrier capability. Don't doubt it but has anyone revisited those commitments to see just how relevant they are in today's scheme of things. We hear that they were valuable assets in the Gulf. Valuable - yes. I question essential or were they used just because they were there. I go back to the Cruise missiles that came from a fleet of common or garden cruisers etc. As for the point that they serve as a air cover asset in Afghanistan? I do not know the range of a carrier-borne plane and just how much overhead time one has when it has flown in from sea side. Swift availability of that air asset is essential - we have seen the sort of losses that arise when helicopters are not promptly available or fast jet bomb runs are delayed.

We need to foresee changes in Rules of Engagement. Who knows what will come out of the sad case where the Germans authorised bombing of hijacked tankers surrounded by crowds of they knew not whom. Our enemies in sandy places are cynical enough to ensure they take a couple of women and a few kids on any attack so as to ensure that they will not come under fire on withdrawal. There is a Apache cockpit camera video where men quite clearly planting an IED lead charmed lives just because there is some kid loitering around. The protection carries on even when the kid joins the bombers and it was only the Will of Allah that brought things to a head when the device exploded prematurely. Restrictions on action where there might be civilian collateral deaths are an important part of the new COIN policies. Do we really need £40+ billion Tridents to deal with this.

Those two projects, if scrapped, would give Nero Brown a handy saving and not make a real change to the price of fish as things are today or foreseen in the future. The gallant heads at MOD could languish in the sun of his thanks and the real needs - helicopters, feet on the ground, medical back-up, you name it - protected from the petty and spiteful restrictions they currently suffer.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

On the 8th September, 'arry Aintworth said, amongst other wittering, ""My top priority will be continuing to make progress with the campaign in Afghanistan, by ensuring that people throughout Defence are doing all they can in every area to support the campaign, by continuing to ensure that our people on operations have the equipment they need, and by making the case for the mission in Parliament and public"
Then, just a few hours back he warned that there would have to be severe cuts in defence spending becuase the public would not stand for them. What a clown the man is. How the hell did some over-promoted shop-steward get the job he has?

Monday, 14 September 2009


Is that not a wonderful sight - as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

The concern over the kid illustrates why the concern of collateral is sometimes unreasonable. He later came along with stuff for the bombers.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Young lives wasted

I recently Twitted on the deaths of our troops in Afghanistan. I created a hash tag #wastedlives. I have been questioned on this – the waste bit is challenged. I need to clarify my thoughts and intention.

The men we are losing are in the prime of their lives. They are all described post mortem as wonderful people, devoted to their careers, the families and the Regt/Corps. Their loss ruins lives of parents, wives, kids who should all have had the benefit of a son, husband and father.
Instead, they were put into situations without adequate support - equipment wise or politically. At the instructions of someone who had either no idea why he was sending them or did not care except it seemed a good idea at the time. We still do not know what the aim was. The rules and regulations prohibit them from having any say in their being committed. The old story of do as you are told. Birkenhead drill.
My point is that their lives were wasted. Everyone should have gone on to old age and attainment of their potential. No good point has or will be served by their sacrifice. Like planting an oak and then chopping it down after a few years. The fact that they accepted the risks and were willing to surrender their lives is immaterial. They were indoctrinated into this attitude. If they were not so conditioned, none would go into battle. That is what training is all about. I did some daft things in a number of IS situations and never had the attitude that I would be happy to die or that my death would achieve anything. My mantra was "My mum did not raise me to die in (wherever)" My death would have illustrated the adage that when one withdraws ones hand from a bucket of water, there is no sign it was ever there.

Recall the scenes we are shown when soldiers depart. The cry to them is “Come home safe”. No urging to become some martyr – that idea only comes when one is trying to make sense of a senseless loss.
I cannot imagine I am different from those who did not make it. I'm sure you know of DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). World War. They mean "It is sweet and right."  Wilfred Owen uses it in his foremost World War 1 poem.
Dulce Et Decorum Est belongs to the genre of sonnets, which expresses a single theme or idea. The allusion or reference is to an historical event referred to as World War I. This particular poem's theme or idea is the horror of war and how young men are led to believe that death and honor are same. The poem addresses the falsehood, that war is glorious, that it is noble, it describes the true horror and waste that is war, this poem exhibits the gruesome imagery of World War I, it also conveys Owens strongly anti-war sentiments to the reader. He makes use of a simple, regular rhyme scheme, which makes the poem sound almost like a child's poem or nursery rhyme. Owens use of excellent diction, compelling figurative language, and extremely graphic imagery, shows that not only is war terrible and devastating but it is also horrific. It was set amidst the khaki abattoirs in France. Think also of the Norniron thing about "I'd die for my country" It was often said that we would be better with people who would live for their country.
No - their lives were taken from them. It was a poor bloody swap or bargain. In a non-military setting one might say "His death was a tragedy - he had so much going for him". Waste is defined by my betters.
I am not alone in the ‘waste’ arena. David Davies has said
our strategic indecision will throw away all the tactical victories that our brave young soldiers buy with their lives.” In a strong attack on Labour’s handling of the war, Mr Davis also said that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair had “wasted six years and many lives” as a result of a flawed strategy and lack of resources.
Lord Paddy Ashdown said
"I fear that we are now - and it is a scandal - wasting the lives of our young men and women who we are putting in the front line in the most difficult circumstances when our political leaders have failed to produce any kind of plan that can take advantage of the victories they win over the Taliban at great cost.
That is what was in my mind when I created @wastedlives. It is a tag that will continue to be used by me

Posted via email from John's posterous

Friday, 4 September 2009

3rd September - a day in history

September 3rd 1939 was a momentous day in the history of Great Britain. It was a day on which the Nation announced that it would no longer accept the actions of a tyrant. A dictator who suborned his own people and led them astray with false promises and actions that had festered in his diseased mind over a long period of time.
September 3rd 2009 was such a day. A Junior minister in the Department of Defence resigned and gave his reasons for this step. Eric Joyce, a former major, included these points in his letter of resignation:
I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets. Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.
I do not think the British people will support the physical risk to our servicemen and women unless they can be given confidence that Afghanistan’s government has been properly elected and has a clear intent to deal with the corruption there which has continued unabated in recent years.
This declaration should lead on to the removal from a position of power another latter-day tyrant. A dictatorial bully who led us astray with false Budgets promising health, education and wealth. His unelected access to power followed a long period where he had been brooding at what he would do the day he got the foreman's job. We know the attitude of those who get the foreman's job at last.
Now he is to make a speech to the Nation - those who care to listen anyway - reaffirming his dedication to the supposed cause in Afghanistan. Well, of course he has to act as if he were delivering the Mark Anthony eulogy. He cannot now confess that he supported the other power-crazed imbecile who got us into this mess and also did not make any effort to withdraw when Blair went off to pastures new and far far richer ground. He surely cannot be so badly informed as to think that the only base for AQ is Afghanistan and the Taliban R & R leave camp that is Pakistan. All they need is an Islamic country that will ignore their presence or make them welcome in the name of the grand Umma.
Once domiciled in their New Jerusalem they can attack whomsoever they please. They have the funds to travel. The wide range of countries used by the 9/11 plotters illustrated that their sort of terrorism can be located world-wide. Our own 7/7 experience showed that they can even deploy on our streets. So - that should destroy the claim that fighting them in a place far away will stop them killing us in our homes That other tyrant tried that anyway and it did not work for him. This country is capable of looking after itself. I suppose he has the alternative of claiming we are there for some other reason. I cannot see they have any greater claim to the truth than his Sharia el Magi vs Tottenham Court Road claim.
Joyce did the gentlemanly thing and let 'arry Aintsworth know in advance that he was going. 'arry's boys primed him as to what he should say when the day came. He described Joyce as a junior member of his department and claimed that the picture he painted was not recognised by the majority of his department. I do not doubt that is true but he made his ripost with that arrogance and bluster worthy of Fred Kite. He never gave a moment's thought to the possibility that he and his supporters were wrong. He should replace his office junior with a little boy of the same substance as the lad who pointed out the truth regarding the Emperor's clothing.
Fred Kite? Just a snippet to relieve the sombre note

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Just wandering about in the dark corners of the Internet when I came across something called the Liverpool Care Plan. I will provide a link but, in the interests of safety and good mental health, I would like to show you something that will ensure you are in a happy frame of mind at the outset.

Right. That was jolly wasn't it? Now, I feel I can take you to the core of my blog - The Liverpool Care Plan. I can reveal now that everyone reading this - and indeed, all those not reading this that this Care Plan is something that will surely have a massive impact upon - quite literally - your lives.
Liverpool? Easy enough. City on the coast up in the North West. Scousers and scallies. Lovable rogues. Hard times and hard people as befits the North West. European City of Culture and all that. Good Philharmonic band.
Care? I am going to cheat a bit and just cut and paste a few lines here.
The Oxford English dictionary says:
• noun 1 the provision of what is necessary for the welfare and protection of someone or something. 2 Brit. protective custody or guardianship provided for children by a local authority. 3 serious attention or consideration applied to avoid damage, risk, or error: handle with care. 4 a feeling of or occasion for anxiety.
• verb 1 feel concern or interest. 2 feel affection or liking. 3 (care for/to do) like to have or be willing to do. 4 (care for) look after and provide for the needs of.
— PHRASES care of at the address of. take care 1 be cautious. 2 make sure (to do). take care of 1 keep safe and provided for. 2 deal with.
Nice cosy word isn't it? Remember the 'nice' association.
That just leaves us with Plan. This out of my head - the pedantic can Google it. I reckon strategy, scheme, idea, proposal, plot or design will cover that.
So - the whole phrase again. The Liverpool Care Plan. Nice (that word again) cosy thing signifying looking after works. Now, time to get specific The Liverpool Care Plan in all it's glory. Quite a bit to take in but what it boils down to is how the doctors care for and plan your treatment in your final hours. Doctors. Final Hours. Scary eh? You would be very scared if you read an analysis of what it is about. Go on - I dare you. This kicks in when you are 65. Believe me - one thinks that is a age that is far far away but the bugger just creeps up on you. Impotence, thinning hair, dodgy memory, people who speak quietly - all things that distract us whilst the body clock ticks on.
Don't take my word for what may well appear at your bedside clothed in a white coat and expression of concern. See what the learned Journals say
  • The Liverpool care pathway (LCP) is the UK’s main clinical pathway of continuous deep sedation and is promoted for roll out across the NHS. Rietjens et al’s study highlights some serious weaknesses in its design.
  • The eligibility criteria do not ensure that only people who are about to die are allowed on to the pathway. They allow people who are thought to be dying, are bed bound, and are unable to take tablets on to the pathway. In chronic diseases such as dementia, dying can take years, but such patients may be eligible. Reitjens et al’s paper shows that GPs often put patients on to such a pathway without palliative care advice. A pathway for general use should minimise opportunities for early or inappropriate use.
  • Murray et al are concerned that sedation is being used as an inexpensive alternative to assessment and specialist treatment. The LCP recommends sedatives and opiates . . .
  • Adrian J Treloar, consultant and senior lecturer in old age psychiatry

so, he should know

Even the Daily Telegraph has got into the act. Note the nice little panel to the left which amplifies the information. File it alongside last week's report from the Patients Association that very large numbers of aged patients were being pushed over the edge with cruel treatment - and they were not even prisoners of the War on Terror.

That should be enough to keep a few awake. Not 65 - but I bet you know someone who is? Someone you love?

I'm off to my solicitor to arrange my own departure rules. I'll call it the Everton Alternative Arrangements I think.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


The whole world and his wife seems to have spoken out about the release of the Libyan. (I would name him but I suspect it would cause my spiel chucker to go into meltdown). I have some thoughts on the topic and offer them for anyone who is seeking the views of the cantankerous right wing.
Firstly, the American point of view. Whilst I accept their right to comment in critical terms, I cannot give them any influence arising from those thoughts. It seems to be based upon the fact that we have gone back on our word. This word was given to them way way back and we now know far more than we did at the time we gave the undertaking that the guilty party would end his life in a British prison. There is now much more doubt about whether the man is in fact guilty. I consider this to be a major factor in the 'breaking our word' situation. Another factor in the demands from America is that the speed with which things moved caused many to speak out before they knew the true basis for the decision. It would be easy to criticise the American sense of fair play and justice derived from legal facts. Right back to the lynch-mob up to the widespread bombing of Libyan targets following an explosion in a Berlin nightclub there was a tendency of bomb now, investigate later. If I have any recognition of the American case, I take it from the actions of Jim Swire; father of one of the deceased and a leader in a parents of deceased group. He can understand why the release took place.
So much for the American POV. I would like to se this condemnation taken further. Given that we cannot keep our word and blithely toss aside solemn undertakings - their view and not mine - it must surely be unwise to trust as as allies in  the prosecution of any significant joint enterprise. I'm sure you can all see where I am going here. We would seem to be the last country on earth to be in any coalition and can bring our troops home with no heart ache or problem. Trade - trade with the Americans has always been on the basis that they hold all the cards. They are masters at tariffs. Their much vaunted Lend Lease programme when we faced extinction was drawn on very firm marketing processes and we were saddled with debt for a very long time. No regard as to how Hitler's and Tokyo plans would have prospered if our island-wide aircraft carrier sank. The days of the Marshall Plan are long behind us. Tourism reductions. Big deal; we faced the same downturn when the Lockerbie incident was new and as terrified Americans were too scared to fly. Anyway, only a very small proportion of Americans hold passports and even less have used them.
So - that is the American angle so far as I see it. The furore spinning around the watering holes of our politicians both at Westminster and in Edinburgh's House of Sticks is potentially much more damaging. It seems now that Brown has done the washing of the hands equally as well as Pontius Pilate . 
My attitude is that he has now removed himself from any responsibility, he has no grounds for any further comment. To hide behind Lord Mandy of Randy and have the protection of that man's waspish tongue is cowardly in the extreme. The boy Dave and the Lib Dem chap are merely making their winging calls for an inquiry for party political grounds and not from any desire for clarification. The Scottish Minister has explained his motives to exhaustion of all listeners; what more would an inquiry serve?
We have heard that there was an objection to having the Libyan die in a British jail and this was for humanitarian reasons. I can see another motive. There would be rioting on the streets of Libya and these could have a detrimental effect upon trade when British companies reviewed the security of their assets and personnel. I was responsible for arranging the recovery of wives and children from Tripoli of a major US oil company following the burning of the US Embassy in Tripoli. Many were almost catatonic. The cancelled appeal connects here. What if journalistic enterprise in running their own non-official appeal concluded that the Libyan was innocent. Imagine the ire and harm that would cause when linked into the death of a sick and innocent man in a far away country?
There remains the  question that Scotland's action was related to trade; so far denied. Why deny it? It seems strange that America threatens trade sanctions as part of indicating disapproval but then cries foul when we do something to preserve trade.
This whole thing has gone on long enough. Let us find something else.

Posted via email from John's posterous

Friday, 28 August 2009

Just testing

This is just a test to check if posterous works on my eee netbook with it's hybrid OS. If you post to blogs and suchlike, posterous.com is great and saves a heck of a lot of hassle. Try it. Just do what I have done - compose to post@posterous, write your spiel and send it away.  In that phrase which is beginning to annoy - simples!

In the career of glory one gains many things; the gout and medals, a pension and rheumatism....all of these fatigues experienced in your youth, you pay for when you grow old. Because one has suffered in years gone by, it is necessary to suffer more, which does not seem exactly fair.

Elzear Blaze - The Military Life

Posted via email from John's posterous

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Just wandering through the ether this morning and my eye was caught by this
Things move so quickly these days. No sooner had Kenny MacAskill made his decision to have al-Megrahi flown back to his native Libya than the backlash had begun. Without particularly meaning to, Scotland suddenly found itself in the unenviable position of being the first nation to really nark Barack Obama. And, to be honest, we kind of thought someone else would have got there first.
The internet was awash with outrage. "Boycott Scotland!" was the cry on message boards the world over. In particular Americans, so long proud to claim Scottish ancestry, were encouraged to cease buying our products and show us exactly how pissed off they were. Websites like www.boycottscotland.com sprung up, with hints and tips about how to damage the country that had so slighted them.

These vehement proclamations might have defeated a lesser country, but the Americans had forgotten two important aspects of the Scottish character.

One, we also know how to use the internet and two, we like nothing more than a good rammy. And enter the rammy we have.
That is most certainly true. Whilst my sojurn here has found the Scots to be tolerant (of me anyway) there can be no doubt that they insist on having their say. I suppose it is born from their stubborn resistence to English attempts to subjugate them over the centuries.

Read some of the current responses

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Art - but am I arty enough?

This is from a series of images claiming that upcoming photographers can match the bad old boy of almost porn Helmut Newton.
The shot below (in the Trabant workshop?) does present an image of a gritty and polluted Eastern Zone. Even the 7 or 8 years ago that I was there in Berlin, things were better than what I see here. Newton's work has a sparkle to it that lifts him above the allegation that his images are the other side of near the knuckle.

What I get from this image is sense of a broken down, abused and rusty old joy rider. And I don't like her shoes either! Helmut lends himself to stuff ideally suited to being turned into posters

Monday, 24 August 2009

I have been going on about the government's tactic of justifying our stay in Afghanistan by the threat that failing to engage them there would allow them to bring the fight to us here in UK

Well. Seems as if I am not the lone voice crying in the wilderness after all. No less a person than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said

"Al Qaeda is still "very capable" of carrying out a terrorist attack on US soil"

Clever of Brown to bring out all that stuff about released Libyans so as to distract public attention from our making a nonsense of yet another of his spins.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Day dream believer.

Guy from the Adam Smith Institute day-dreamed Letters To The Editors whilst wandering around in the Lake District, As he had no mobile internet with him (tut tut) they were never sent. This should have gone to The Times. I think it is just so right and proper, I've given it the oxygen of publicity here.
Sir, Your leading article of August 11 is misguided. Decades of bitter experience have shown that no amount of military might can win a 'War on Drugs'. Indeed, all such interventions actually achieve is to raise the market price of these substances, and give the cartels an even greater prize to fight over. The human cost of this failure is enormous. Surely it is time to accept that the only sensible solution is to take narcotics out of the hands of gangsters, and legalize, licence and regulate their production and sale. As well as depriving criminals of a lucrative market, this would have considerable health and social benefits, reducing the incidence of overdoses and poisoning, and making treatment of addicts much easier. Empirical evidence from Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001, bears this out.

Tribes and that sort of thing

I had planned a blog about tribes in Afghanistan. About how tribalism would no accept democracy and would just sit it out until the Westerners convinced themselves that ANP (P for Police) and ANA (A is Army) had absorbed all the training and mentoring they needed. We would go home. The tribes would turn back to the life they knew so well.
But - my plans have come to naught. There is already a far far better analysis out there. Best I can do is point you in the right direction.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

We woz robbed - a chorus for many voices

I am a little confused regarding the angst over the manner in which the repatriated Libyan was greeted. Our politicians and most of America have represented the occasion as a Second Coming. It is not, it appears, the turn-out that was so distressing but that it was given to someone described as a Mass Killer. Milly Band gathered her skirts around her as if rape were inevitable. Americans are demanding the guy be ridden out of town on a rail and subjected to an end akin to that which was a high point of American justice not so long ago.
There was a strong case for an appeal. A process which, it would seem, was abandoned more to clear procedural hurdles than for any reason of weakness or content. Many of those who are so worried by the escape someone they deem to be a Mass Murderer would be well to the fore if it involved a Brit or a Yank facing ultimate punishment.
Amongst the allegations is one that the release was purely and exclusively an easement towards improving trade relationships between UK and Libya. Indeed, Gadaffi's son has gone public with this. The Foreign Office says the idea that trade follows the flag is nonsense and such a thing never passed their patrician lips. That could well be true - much as been made by the Brits that they were totally uninvolved in the decision of the Scottish executive.
Let us assume that trade was a factor. It would, clearly, have been just one factor. Legislation exists and there is the compassion for the walking dead going home to the heart of his family. Trade is not such a dirty word as it was when we had entrances exclusively for tradesmen. Our peripatetic golfer is heavily engaged in trade even with is high position on the Royal batting order. See what his latest plans were prior to the 'hero welcome' allegation
The Duke of York had been set to visit Tripoli in the first week of September for about three days in his role as Special Representative for UK Trade and Investment.
And then, of course, we have the meeting of Corfu's semi-resident The Prince of Darkness with that same son of Muammar. At a time when the lad was engaged in politicking for the release of his subject. Mandy has denied that the subject ever arose but why would a busy man waste his time. Also, it is inconceivable that the Mandy Minders would not have established the nature of the meeting in advance. Could they really have just been comparing the benefits of foreign buggers?

Social - No. Networking - Yes

Under pressure from the Youth Wing of the family, I signed up some while back to both Facebook and to Twitter. The pressure was subtle - as I would have suspected from the relevant individual anyway and took the form of a challenge. The suggestion was that Silver surfers could not hack it on the Internet and that triggered a Manchurian Candidate response from me.
I was quite receptive at first. At first. Just until I exercised my feeble knowledge and did a Google search. I then established that I was mixed up with a load of young tearaway as Serfdom commenced at 50 years of age. My failing powers were unknown to me. At the age of 50 I had been preparing, fighting for and controlling a budget of over £6 million, directing premises and property matters at more than ten offices throughout the UK and was lead consultant of a Facilities Management NHS contract worth just over £30 million. I was regularly walking over 20 miles a day in the hilly and virtually deserted parts of England and Scotland. I was at a muscle-not-posing-pouch-gym four times a week.
I could accept that there had been degeneration between my 50th. and 76th birthday but it was the arrogance of those who set up a age classification at 50 that dismayed and annoyed me. However, to withdraw myself from these two sites could well have intensified the calumny about age-related mental ability.
That rather extended lead-in is necessary background to clarifying my decision to leave both FB and Twitter. I had been a member of a number of discussion groups and forum where the exchanges were robust to the point of  being antagonistic and insulting. Some were run in accordance with the (pedantic) rules of Usenet where the ethereal corridors were patrolled by Moderators eager to banish on the slightest hint of a misdeed. So, there can be no suggestion that I cannot keep up. In fact, it is the lack of that sort of cut, parry and thrust that sees me walking off, Shane-like, into the sunset.
Examine the claim Social Networking. Twitter has been analysed as has Facebook. I can understand the networking bit. I have been careful in my choice of 'understand' because I was always - and remain - dubious about the premise of networking. My experience as a military detective and as a commercial executive was that such liaisons were considered essential to success but I had never followed the collection of business cards and names. I am a solitary sort of bloke; individuals are fine once I have sized them up but lists of people en-masse were not my thing. The discipline of establishing secretary and PA names, birthdays, wife's forename and golf handicaps was beyond me. I thought - and have proven time after time - that I had sufficient chutzpah to telephone or go see an individual who could assist me and get what we both wanted even though we might have started the day totally unaware of the other's existence. So, I have no need of the network side of either Twitter or Facebook. It was the absence of the claimed Social aspect that disappointed me.
I had been used to a reaction to my posts. I would post or read and contribute to a thread that interested me. Back would come a response and generally I was able to follow up on that. Others would gather and we might have ten or more all participating with a wide gamut of personal opinions. Sometimes these got personal when someone would go for the player and not the ball but I found ad hominem situations quite exciting. Facebook seems to attract the middle-class; nothing wrong with that but they are seemingly reluctant to contribute anything that might be described as 'not quite nice'. They retreat behind the net curtains.
Twitter appears - to me anyway - to have a wider range of contributor but a lesser participation. I do not know the figure but I suspect that the ratio of those registered to those who post or respond is very low. There is some - to me inexplicable - need to boast of 'followers' and 'followed'. Applications boast that they will have every Red Sea pedestrian following you in the space of 24 hours. Why the hell would anyone want that? What do they do when they have them? Tweetup gatherings are announced but, whilst these might be held in social settings such as a pub, it is clear that the main attraction is - you've guessed it. Bloody networking again.
After a while, I became bored. I felt that I was having sex with a woman too drunk to know what day it was or dining with a shy virgin who kept her knickers firmly in place with men's braces. Neither challenging or attractive. I thought I might attract responses by submitting contentious posts outside the normal patterns. Nothing. Then I started being (discreetly) abusive or annoying to others. Almost zilch. A return in the realms of decimal point 0 0 sod all.
So - that is why the Aged Parent and John Wood will mount up and ride off into the purple sage resisting any call to Come Back. I cannot say I did not enjoy my short exposures. But then, I cannot say that I enjoyed anything either. To those who tried - thanks. To the others, please carry on with the Networking and God Bless. I am off back to the cut and thrust of My World.

Posted via email from John's posterous

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Pretty girl becomes pretty lady

When my daughter was a small person, we used to get her into the mood for being photographed by showing her a camera and saying 'There's a pretty girl in there' Luckily, the majority printed were just that - a pretty girl. Examples are hanging on her walls as we speak. She has a new person now to make her look pretty. I reckon he is lucky like me - all that was needed was to press the button. She did the rest.
Mind you, it is in the genes of course!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 30 July 2009


Not truly a Eureka moment as I am not in the bath like old Archy was. Eureka as in the meaning of a sudden enlightenment.
I have been reading some accounts of the Communist campaign in Malaya during the early '50s. When I got out there, it was almost over but many of the restrictions were still in force or recent enough so that a newcomer could see what had been done to defeat Chin Peng's forces. My readings revived these memories and I went on to compare Afghanistan of today with those days and situations.
We had trained and supplied what became the CT force much as we had the mujahadeen. Our Force 136 fought the Japanese and the muja. the Russians. Both were successful campaigns but went on to become fresh fields of battle. Our enemy operated in areas where they had many advantages over us - the jungle and the wide open deserts and widespread communities. They were quite pitiless in punishing anyone whom they deemed had collaborated with us; these punishments were terror instruments in themselves. Children slaughtered in front of parents who were spared as living testimonies of helping the authorities. CT's needs were simple and they were quite capable of living off the country - simply taking what was needed from the non-involved peasants.
Tactically, they were devious and used quite simple plans of attack. Well sited ambushes. Booby traps. Explosives. Attack resources to draw our forces into areas where almost everything was in their favour. We had ample assets in terms of air power and artillery but were given little opportunity to deploy them. Our enemy was unconcerned at inflicting collateral damage but were well aware of our need to retain hearts and minds. We spent vast sums in direct operational costs - £1 million for every terrorist killed. We expended much money in local reconstruction which the enemy promptly destroyed at little or no cost to themselves.
Back then, Whitehall showed little involvement. The local European community of tin miners and rubber planters were very vocal and fiercely contemptuous of know nothing and care even less functionaries in England. The major US and UK companies involved in tin-tapping decided what was best for themselves and went about maintaining that situation. Even to the extent of supplying their estate managers with arms, ammunition and funny-money as required.
One of the most radical measures was the relocation of villages. These originally were scattered widely and provided life blood for the CT. Guarding the dispersed communities was almost impossible. Solution was to transfer inhabitants to purpose built villages built with an eye to their protection. Resistance to the moves was initially high but this was overcome but granting title to land in and around the village. This had a tremendous psychological effect. Transferees were given materials to build their own accommodation and transport to the new opportunity was freely provided. This initiative was branded by CT propagandists as a renewal of the Boer War concentration camps but the enthusiasm of the new villagers did not sustain this view.
So - where does this meld with our problem in Afghanistan?
Were we to repeat the relocation, we would have many advantages. The new compounds would be designed to afford public health and hygiene standards to raise the expectations of life for babies, children and adults. Pure water. Regular sanitation. Our reconstruction monies would go directly to the individual compounds to benefit the Afghans there. Not as some sort of Social Security handout to people squatting on their heels but to set up village industry and self-sufficiency. We would not transfer the poppy farming. Resistance to this should be overcome when alternative channels of income were identified, set up and supported. The design of the new would incorporate bases for ANA and ANP garrisons designed and fitted out to maximise their capability. Watch towers, fortifications, strong communications. Suitable trained (and indoctrinated) Afghans to form local councils in conjunction with the traditional grey-beards.
This will take time. And money. We are currently looking at involvement in the current mess for many years and the corruption takes a lot of the money. Devolving our attentions over the villages would reduce the opportunity for skimming central fundings. It would also need commitment. One thing America does well is handling large projects. Our own forces are renowned for small scale engineering. We surely Can Do - all it needs is will power.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Fight 'em on the beaches etc etc

The Government has taken a new stance in its attempts to convince us they are doing a good job. A new bogey-man has been deployed to stop Joe Public pressing that the troops come home from their exile in Afghanistan now it is clear that their sacrifices can never achieve any lasting improvement there. Brown first brought up the new spectre
Britain's offensive against the Taliban is showing signs of success, despite the heavy losses of recent days, says Gordon Brown.The Prime Minister said the campaign in Afghanistan was a "patriotic duty" to keep the streets of Britain safe from the threat of terrorist attack. In an interview with the British Forces Broadcasting Service, he paid tribute to the "sacrifice" of the 15 troops who had died since the start of the month in the bloodiest fighting the Army has seen in the Afghan campaign.
Britain's offensive against the Taliban is showing signs of success, despite the heavy losses of recent days, says Gordon Brown. "I know that this has been a difficult summer - it is going to be a difficult summer," he said. "These sacrifices that have hurt so many families in our country are ones that the whole of Britain will want to acknowledge."
Next it was the turn of his clear-eyed young acolyte David (Boy) Milliband who said 

Troops are fighting for the ‘future of Britain’ warns Foreign Secretary as the Afghanistan death toll rises. David Miliband spoke out following a surge in British casualties, which saw eight soldiers killed in just 24 hours.

This brings the death toll since combat began in 2001 to184, overtaking the 179 troops killed in Iraq.

Miliband today defended Britain’s continuing presence in Afghanistan saying that the country had to be secured to safeguard against future terror attacks on home soil.

He said: "We must ensure that Afghanistan can not again become an incubator for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on us.”

"This is about the future of Britain because we know that the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan have been used to launch terrible attacks, not just on the US but on Britain as well."

So, the USP of their published remarks is the avoidance of a war on terror being fought on the streets of England. Given the results of their  "War on" campaigns such as W.o. drugs, W.o. knives. W.o. want amongst many others the chance of a W.o. terror breaking out is something to be avoided like the plague.

If we are indeed fighting the W.o. terror as an away match, we seem to be missing the ground where it is being held. In 2002, analysts were reporting that Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who has taken over the command of the US-led campaign has admitted that the difficulties will grow because it will enable many, if not all, of the top Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders who are still lying low in small groups in Afghanistan, to flee into Pakistan.

Commander of the US-led forces in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Franklin L. Hegenbeck, said in an interview that virtually the entire senior leadership of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda has been driven out of eastern Afghanistan and is now operating with as many as 1,000 non-Afghan fighters in the anarchic tribal areas of western Pakistan. He claimed on the strength of intelligence reports that the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders were plotting terrorist attacks, including car and suicide bombing, to disrupt the selection of a new government in Afghanistan this month.

At least two senior Taliban leaders, Fazul Rabi Said-Rehman and Obidullah, have said in an interview that Taliban leaders are reorganising their militant religious movement and the Al-Qaeda was recovering fast. They said there was a split within Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, ISI, between those who share the Taliban’s ideology and those who support Pakistan’s alliance with the US. The two Taliban leaders who claimed that both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were alive, warned of some more suicide attacks on the US and Britain in retaliation for the war in Afghanistan.

So, not only have they placed themselves beyond the reach of significant Allied forces, but wherever they were they retained the ability to create terror in both UK and USA.

And then we have another view on the "War on ......" concept. The director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, put himself at odds with the home secretary and Downing Street last night by denying that Britain is caught up in a "war on terror" and calling for a "culture of legislative restraint" in passing laws to deal with terrorism.

Sir Ken warned of the pernicious risk that a "fear-driven and inappropriate" response to the threat could lead Britain to abandon respect for fair trials and the due process of law.

He acknowledged that the country faced a different and more dangerous threat than in the days of IRA terrorism and that it had "all the disturbing elements of a death cult psychology".

But he said: "It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary purposes."

Sir Ken pointed to the rhetoric around the "war on terror" - which has been adopted by Tony Blair and ministers after being coined by George Bush - to illustrate the risks.

He said: "London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement."

I see another attraction for a withdrawal of all our forces from Afghanistan. If AQ and its cohorts chose to further a war here, we would be fighting on a battleground where we have considerable advantages over the sandy place. We have something over 160,000 police. The 9,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan would be supplemented by the home reserve and there are those in Germany close at hand. I am sure that our intelligence gathering here would be more intensive and better targetted than it is now. We have Menwith Hill and CCHQ all involved in listening in to plots and plans. Take the prejudicial stance that anyone from a Muslim background could be a AQ operative or sympathiser and we wuld be able to target them on better 1 to 1 terms than the many in Helmund province. Anyone attempting to plant IED along the Mall or to set up mortars in Regent Street would come to notice. We have a fairly sophisticated cctv and number plate recognition network in place. The cost of supplying our overseas forces is considerable and a saving there could be applied to the crime prevention measures here.

For my money, I would be much happier with a crime prevention operation here rather than a war in Afghanistan. All we do there is irritate a lot of the people. Any determined assault we mount leads to civilian deaths by nature of the grossl;y disproportionate force deployed. There are no rules to this game. So, what is there to prevent AQ from initiating a - to use words Brown and Milliband understand - a war on terror here anyway? If they truly thought they could do this and there was any mileage in it - they would. That is what terrorism is about - spreading terror.

Posted via email from John's posterous