Saturday, 25 December 2010

Year End update

Well yes - the last one was Finis but I think I can allow myself the luxury that the Big Writers indulge in where they repeat their old stuff and get paid fresh lineage or whatever. They also make some forecasts as to what is coming; I'll play this if the mood takes at the right spot.

Main spot for us here was the wedding of daughter Caroline. We all had a super time as so carefully arranged by the bride.

External event? Hard to say in truth - it is a toss up between the pseudo-government we now have or the constant traffic and noise of Wikileaks. I have never understood the concept of coalition governments. If one has any political beliefs, that is it. This is what I want and none other. I am content to do a little wheeling and dealing within the manifesto of one party but that is it. To assemble a government from bits and pieces is, to me, like making something half Lego and half Meccano. We are seeing the strains already where a party has made pledges, been unable to sustain them and have to go the way of the major coalition partner. Their public stance has changed but they retained their private positions and belief. "Business Secretary Vince Cable's made critical remarks about the Coalition to undercover reporters. The Prime Minister and his deputy negotiated the minefield and the personal chemistry between them was still good. But they got little credit as more explosive comments by Mr Cable about Rupert Murdoch were leaked during their press conference. He kept his Cabinet post, minus media regulation, but at a cost to him and both leaders. It seemed as if Mr Clegg needed the most prominent left-leaning Liberal Democrat inside the tent and that Mr Cameron was powerless to sack him. It was a messy end to the year, and a reminder that, however strong their personal relationship, the two partners could not escape the stresses and strains inherent in any coalition." The two under-cover reporters who had trapped Cable had other scalps. None serious but evidence that the coalition was not really two parties united. They have just over four years to run before they go back to the electorate and there is much troubled water ahead as the austerity moves are teased out, implemented and experienced. The Tory party has had a long time away from the levers of power and the Liberal Democrat group are hauling a wagon with one wheel with a team of three legged horses.

I find myself cold on the topic of Wikileaks. The much-claimed security risk is, as I see it, over-stated. My experience is that if anyone is aiding our forces, he will be known to the terrorists. Whilst the compounds are family units, there is little that goes on in the village that is missed. Meets with military patrols or sudden evidence of financial uplift are a rich source of gossip. The Afghan forces have almost unlimited access to all our encampments and are ripe for pressure to inform. In all the drama that surrounds accusations of theft of documents we seem to hear little of the 2.5 million who have entitled access. The latest cache that was opened is just gossip sent home and risks no one and no thing. It must be an incredibly naïve nation that thinks they are free of back-door reports to America. Or any other major power come to that. I cannot rid myself of the belief that there is a hidden agenda in the attacks on Wikileaks.

Afghanistan lingers on. There are ample admissions that it cannot be solved by military might alone. Sure, we get reports of leading Taliban personalities being taken off the board by Special Forces but this does not seem to lead to any rank and file laying down their arms and going home. Sooner or later the potential commander of B squadron 1st Taliban Irregulars will set up camp in Pakistan. Yes - we have the drones but I wonder how long for? Much is made of the extreme discretion and care in Afghanistan only to hit known terrorists and the scale of kills in Pakistan does not square up with this concept. I can see that the deployment of these unmanned weapons is OK if Pakistan has approved it but it is what the drone does that could well be deemed illegal. Those whose views are blinkered to human rights only could have a good case. One such has described his view of the matter "I have met innocent victims of drone strikes, people who have been injured or lost family members due to faulty intelligence or because they were considered acceptable collateral damage. (Reports indicate that up to one third of those killed are civilians and hundreds of innocent civilians have died in drone strikes since 2004). There is no assistance, no compensation, no acknowledgement of their losses" I suppose there is a possibility that some hard-nose General will press for coalition troops to enter Pakistan. They demonstrably cannot cope with natural disasters still less deploy assets to fight Taliban in areas where the Government writ means little.

Only alternative is talks. Terry has already said it will not negotiate all the while that there are foreign feet on their soil. I see little benefit from getting the corrupt and self-serving Kharzi government having talks. We might be able to cobble up some version of the agreement that allowed the Russians to leave.

Just where would withdrawal get us? All it would achieve would be to put Afghan Army and security forces in place of the coalition troops in keeping the terrorists under some form of limited control. With the fairest mind in the world, I cannot see them achieving this where we have failed. Our surge to the front would soon become their surge to the rear. I am unsure where this will all end; I suppose we will have to await Wikileaks of 2020 to find out.

We have been living under the threat of terrorist action in UK for some while. The Christmas holiday would have been a good time to get maximum publicity for such an attack and the latest arrests by the Anti-Terrorism Group may be related. However, I saw they asked for extra time to hold those detained and wonder if all is going as swimmingly as advertised. Back in the day when I did somewhat similar work, the criteria was that we had developed sufficient evidence so that all that needed to be said was "Get your trousers on, you're nicked" and there was little questioning needed other than to confirm what we knew as suitable evidence. The arrest and conviction figures do not seem to indicate we need Judge Roy Beam. According to the Home Office:
* During 2009-10, 30% of terrorism arrests in England, Scotland and Wales resulted in individuals being charged
* Of these charges, 48% were for terrorism offences
* Over the same time period, 57% of those charged under terrorism legislation were convicted
* From 2006-10, only six people have been held for 28 days without being charged. 48% of 30% etc. does not seem very comforting, especially where one considers the resources we put in the field.

This gilding of the lily is also suggested where we consider the police performance when the car carrying the Heir to the Throne and his consort was attacked in London by an off-shoot of those demonstrating about University fees. Never mind why the car was routed so close to a demonstration that was out of proper control but the close protection squad were out of touch here. We now know that they were alerted by those officers viewing the demonstration but there is no sign of them when the car came under attack. Normal duty PCs - yes.
There was a suggestion that the two teams were not on a common communications network - not unusual or unexpected given the traffic coming from the riot. The suggestion that there was a Royal protection officer in the front passenger seat seems weak given that the rear passenger window was open leaving space for someone to poke Camilla in the ribs with a pole. The suggested advance warning from the main body of police has to be viewed in the suggestion that two, at least, comms channels were in use. The role of the protection squad then was to deploy closely around their Royals until the driver was able to move away. It was our macabre joke that we were really bullet catchers. Seems that a large shrug of the shoulders is all that will come of the incident.

What of the future? I find myself confused and unsure of the recent past so any Cassandra impersonation is ruled out. Suffice to say that in world events I see little improvement or anything good down the road ahead. In my own little world, I am more confident - me and mine can influence somewhat what happens. We are all fit and well(ish) and that must be a major benefit. Perhaps I can just add the Wood's Toast which is frequently heard at family gatherings. It always imparts a nice warm feeling. "Here's to those who love us. Sod the Rest" Feel free to use it.

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