Friday, 4 June 2010

Mad Mad World my Masters

I have reported my battles with the Black Dog of depression. This has been a long campaign; there have been truces and cease fire agreements, some wins and a few really serious wins for the dark canine where it was only my Samaritan training that kept me from self harm.

A little while back, whilst in almost headlong retreat, I set about some self-analysis. By dint of some serious journal writing, I identified that which seemed to open the kennel door. Without too much salacious detail, it was founded on a relationship dating back to 1950 when I was just 17. I never achieved a resolution and found myself asking all the What If and Where Now questions. Whilst I had the skill to trace people, I held off as I feared that any reunion could be dangerous to my life as it is now.

I thus learned to avoid too much introspection - peeking through semi-closed eyes from behind the sofa as this is OK in brief spells. But the World seems keen to introduce things that I suspect could be as harmful as 1950 revisited. Where is the Good News? No sooner was I coming to terms with a Crossbow Cannibal than we have the Cumbria Catastrophe. Tsunami led to earthquakes led to Ash Clouds. 9/11 led us to Afghanistan and 7/7. Blair transmogrified into Brown to be replaced by yet another bucket of Bollocks that is Coalition. And then the flotilla sailed in. Elsewhere one Korean country seems determined to do a practical test of its nuclear assets whilst the other Land of Morning Calm has its belligerence endorsed by America looking for a proxy warrior nation.

Minor nuisances skirmished in and around the major annoyances. What is it with the newspaper fascination for stings and outings? Why bother with £500,000 demands when people such as Blair charge very large sums for a couple of days a year as 'adviser' or special representative? And just what is it about Britain having Talent? I avoid it but the adverts show we are invaded by alien performances of body poppers, street dancers and Michael Jackson-inspired wannabees. I have the image of US has Talent drowning under a flood of Morris Men and Clog Dancers. Why the hell has Simon Cowell not been assassinated?

I once got quite close to a Jewish woman. She worked then for a UN quango thing but I had photographs of this bronzed Amazon tilling the earth with little more than a pointed stick. Her deliciously long and tanned legs ended with heavy boots. Over one shoulder a bag with seeds. Over the other, the strap of a sub-machine gun. Our first night of nakedness led to my finding a tattooed number on her arm; she never expanded why she survived longer than the ink drying took. She died in a traffic accident but we were together long enough for me to understand the scale and nature of dissent with Palestine.

I am able to see where the situation has got with the latter-day confrontations and have sympathy for the Palestinians. My depression risk here lies in the fact that there is no solution in sight. The stage is now occupied by political extremists who pose and strut but with absolutely no agenda that might bring peace to a troubled land. Why has mankind that can set foot on the moon failed to achieve a meaningful solution? The sort of money that, say, Saudi Arabia spends on supporting what to us are terrorists aiming to destroy would do much to ameliorate the life choices of some bare-footed, naked-arsed kid in Gaza. Exactly the same sort of kid that the money spent disintegrates in Kabul. The religion in those parts has some wonderful aspirations but is fragmented in impact by inter-nicene activity.

Money. Large sums donated to charities both long-term and for special disasters. World aid from the richer nations to 3rd world dwellers. But so little is achieved if one is an onlooker. People still in tents in tsunami-country. Women and kids walking miles with jugs of water balanced on their heads. Malaria and disease associated with bad or non-existent sanitation. Warfare where press-gangs target sub-teenage warriors. The ways that women are abused and humiliated. The richer nations have standing armies that could do so much but are employed slaughtering each other. Say five men dig a well a day - how many wells do we get from a battalion in six months? A deep trench latrine - four men and one day so set up 250 men for that same time span. Simples as my genus Suricata friend would say. Injections - my local GP clears a community hall of 500 people in an afternoon.We have tempted the medics that could do this in another country to come here and sew up drunks on a Saturday night.

It is not just that we seemingly lack the nous to get these things sorted - we are deficient in the will so to do. The United Nations is everything but United. The EU spends our money deciding such things as the appropriate colour for Health and Safety signs at a pedestrian crossing. African nations have multi-Nation Organisation - I rest my case.

As a kid from between 7 and 10 years old I was exposed to attacks from a Christian fundamentalist Aunt. I suspect she was concerned lest I had inherited the strange powers of her spiritualist mother. Whilst my parents were beating the Asperger devil out of me, she sought to fill me with religious knowledge and attitudes. I rebelled and she never did discover if I had 666 under the hair on my head. What I do know is that I cannot foresee any level of her influence that would have retained my belief in any form of God. I have no idea whether such an entity exists - I just question what She is doing. I know of the theory that things are sent to try us and it fits where applied to individuals. But, why try whole regions of the world. Legions of individuals. It just does not make sense. To me anyway.

I suppose that the sheer multiplicity of depression-inducing situations and events has one thing going for it - just so many that no one item predominates to act as a focus for the rest. That is what I shall have to tell myself.

How was it for you then?

A respected friend and I have been discussing the lack of comments on my work. Why so few?
I initially responded by saying that I wrote for myself and had little concern at what happened to my work once it was out of the birth canal. He then proved that I had written where I requested input and that the claimed indifference was a front to cover what might be rejection. Not everyone who takes the trouble to create feedback uses the comment facility; I get Blog-related messages on Twitter, Facebook and by email.
Whilst we were going backwards and forwards I had a comment clearance alarm on something I had written in 1998 which proved I know not what other than the fact that there were some readers out there. I did once have my Blogger guru @gemmak500 insert a hit counter on the template. This recorded a fair number of visitors from a number of locations but the comment count was low.
So, good people (or maybe, good person), here is a one time offer. Free and guaranteed genuine. Can you suggest a reason for the low Comment count? Does it matter to you as a reader? Should I court Comments by adopting any of the Make Your Blog Read tactics that exist? Make your views known - either in the Comment box or, if that is too cumbersome, by email to kepirouge& You know to swap the & for @ which is there to hold off spammers.
Appreciated. If sufficient response, I sort out some sort of matrix - might help others who blog in apparent silence.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Eyeless in Gaza

So, the UN has made an inquiry into the boarding of the flotilla,
"The Security Council takes note of the statement of the UN Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

"The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of Resolutions 1850 and 1860."
1860 reads "SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE, DURABLE, FULLY RESPECTED CEASEFIRE IN GAZA LEADING TO FULL WITHDRAWAL OF ISRAELI FORCES" There are very many more calls as to what has to happen; indeed, anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the history of Israel/Palestine would recognise that these were never going to happen. Full implementation is cloud-cuckoo land. Hamas knows no limits to its actions and does nothing to support any Resolution. THE bitter Israel-Hamas conflict has touched off Arab-Arab conflicts almost as bitter. Responsibility for the war in Gaza, and for the Palestinian fatalities there, was placed squarely on Hamas by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "We called the leaders of Hamas and told them, 'Please, do not end the truce', he said. Hamas ended a six-month truce with Israel two weeks before the Israeli attack.

An Abbas aide, Nimr Hammad, termed the rocket fire into Israel reckless. "The one responsible for the massacre is Hamas," he said. "Hamas should not have given the Israelis a pretext." Bassam Abu-Sumayyah, a columnist for the daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, accused Hamas of megalomania and said it had acted without even a little bit of political and security sense. It had behaved like a superpower.

The UN recommendation by the Secretary-General on the "need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calling for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards" shows what a raddled old prostitute that organisation has become. Does it have so little faith in its own status that it cannot organise such a inquiry itself?

An ex-UN big gun found reasons for what happened ""Former British ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock said there had been "immediate international rage" following the "unnecessary loss of life".

He said that Israel had to make sure weapons were not getting into Gaza "so some kind of defence is necessary but this was clearly not very well handled".

Sir Jeremy added: "It's past time by some years for serious international action to end the blockade and the virtual starvation of Gaza. This is not going to work as a way of dealing with the Palestinian territories over the long term."

Given the scale of Israeli actions prior to the flotilla sailing, it is hard to see what more they might have done when facing violence upon landing. The interception of the flotilla followed numerous warnings given to the organisers of the flotilla before leaving their ports as well as while sailing towards the Gaza Strip. In these warnings, it was made clear to the organisers that they could dock in the Ashdod sea port and unload the equipment they are carrying in order to deliver it to the Gaza Strip in an orderly manner, following the appropriate security checks. Upon expressing their unwillingness to cooperate and arrive at the port, it was decided to board the ships and lead them to Ashdod.
What does not seem to be getting much publicity is the claim by Israel's Ambassador to Britain that five other vessels in the flotilla were boarded without incident. The forcible action was all on one vessel. The injured and deceased are predominantly Turkish; the main agitator behind the flotilla being established. It was a repeat of a previous attempt to use the flotilla as a publicity generating device. "
It will be the ninth expedition to try to reach Gaza by sea. According to the Free Gaza movement, this time it will be bigger and better than ever. The last attempt to reach Gaza by sea was in June 2009 — then, Free Gaza ships were intercepted by the Israeli Navy off Gaza, and forced to proceed to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the cargo was impounded (some of it was later transferred by land to Israeli crossings and sent into Gaza). The activists aboard were jailed before deportation"
So, all were aware of what could happen and, in that respect, the latest operation was not such a piece of loose cannon work as has been alleged. It is for others to decide whether the past history, Turkish involvement and the politically aware and active passenger list led to hot-heads deciding not to go quietly this time.

Israel is criticised for an aggressive attitude and using more force than was necessary. But then, they always do. Always that is since being subjected to sudden and unannounced attacks by Arab nations. They are a small country and any well executed attack would be all over and done with before any international rescue could be set afoot. Israel is still technically at war with a number of Muslim countries since 1967 whose aim is the extinction of Israel.

I think few of us here in UK appreciate the part that Zionism plays in what goes on in Palestine and Israel. My own understanding - gained whilst employed by a Arab company - is that the bogey-man in Muslim eyes is the Zionist. Not all Israelis are part of that movement but get caught up in their politics and actions.

It may well be that the whole flotilla action is a storm in a teacup. The latest stage in something occurring in 'a strange land far away' Already, in the Twitter listing of what is hot and what is not, the flotilla question has been overtaken by Britain Got Talent and may well drop off the listing altogether. Maybe, the Gaza publicity campaign could end up as a winner. Remember this bit of history from our own past which has many similarities? "
Gandhi's men advanced in complete silence before stopping about one-hundred meters before the cordon. A selected team broke away from the main group, waded through the ditch and neared the barbed-wire fence. (...) Receiving the signal, a large group of local police officers suddenly moved towards the advancing protestors and subjected them to a hail of blows to the head delivered from steel-covered Lathis (truncheons). None of the protesters raised so much as an arm to protect themselves against the barrage of blows. They fell to the ground like pins in a bowling alley. From where I was standing I could hear the nauseating sound of truncheons impacting against unprotected skulls. The waiting main group moaned and drew breath sharply at each blow. Those being subjected to the onslaught fell to the ground quickly writhing unconsciously or with broken shoulders (...). The main group, which had been spared until now, began to march in a quiet and determined way forwards and were met with the same fate. They advanced in a uniform manner with heads raised - without encouragement through music or battle cries and without being given the opportunity to avoid serious injury or even death. The police attacked repeatedly and the second group were also beaten to the ground. There was no fight, no violence; the marchers simply advanced until they themselves were knocked down."

It worked for Gandhi.

Monday, 31 May 2010

They don't like it up 'em

"A Madrid hospital says Spanish bullfighter Julio Aparicio has returned to intensive care and is fighting an infection after a horrific goring in the throat by a bull.

Aparicio had left the unit and was recovering well on Monday following surgery to reconstruct his throat, mouth and palate, but outbreak of an infection forced a return to the unit where doctors placed him on mechanically assisted breathing."

In 1953'ish I was living in Gibraltar. I had a young Spanish girl who - er - did my washing. She was a maid for a Gibraltarian family and collected my dhobi as she passed my unit en-route home to Spain. I was generally able to arrange to swap my duties so that we could spend the week-end together at her flat in La Linea; the Spanish town just across the border.

When the corrida season started she suggested we visit the bull ring. I had no convictions either way about the national spectator sport so off we went. The atmosphere surrounding the ring was festive. Whole families were there with picnic and wine in those leather bota with very rough wine. Choice of tickets was sun or shade; I soon learned that sun and contents of the leather bottle did not mix.

The first couple of bouts man vs bloody big bull did little for me. In those days the bulls were ginormus compared to today but it all seemed a foregone conclusion. The bull was tried out to see how he charged and moved his head. Then men on horseback moved in with hollow-ended lances and took plugs out of the main neck muscles so as to ensure the animal kept its head low. Then came men on foot who ran at the bull and planted barbed spears near the main injury so as to liven the animal up. Then came to man in the glittery suit who made some - to me - very dangerous passes with the bull. That part was very theatrical but the kill was widely signalled. All the while, an off-key brass band played; changing tune as directed by the President when stage one had to move to stage two.

When the third bull came in I was losing interest. All a foregone conclusion. The overall thing was OK - much as a Premier league football match might be enjoyed. However, as I watched, the whole thing went tits up. The matador was the top attraction and this was the first time he had faced a bull that afternoon. He came in on the assessment stage and made a pass or two in a languid - almost bored - manner. As this is where the bull is still on top form and quite dangerous, there are not many attendants in the ring. As I watched, the bull caught his beautifully garbed tormentor amidships and tossed him high in the air. The bull then seemed to sink back and watch the man as he flew upwards and, as he descended, caught him like a close in-fielder on one horn. This entered close under the diaphragm on the left side and came out on the man's shoulder blade. He shook his catch once or twice and then dropped him.

The bit players ran in and distracted the killer; the bull-fighter would never fight again. The body was removed and one of the other matadors came out, put on a very abbreviated show and the bull was dispatched. Those few seconds changed my perspective for ever and I became a fight fan. Just a few miles inland from La Linea was San Roque which had the smallest ring in Spain. It also lacked the small retreats at the side of the ring where humans could escape beast. The fights were much more evenly contested there.

I never saw another death in the ring. Some wounding. I do not think I would bother visiting a corrida if I were to go back there; football has replaced it in the national profile. Back in '53 we were all a lot less aware of the issues that now centre on cruelty to animals. I became friends with a farmer who operated one of the biggest ranches devoted to breeding fighting bulls and it was a major source of income to the area. The slaughtered animals were sold off cheaply to local butchers and eaten by people who might not otherwise have seen a lot of expensive meat.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bloody money

Despite all it's troubles, the Government found time this week to write to me and let me have advance information as to it's plans. "Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, announced the publication date in a written statement to the House of Commons.
He also confirmed that relatives of those killed by the Army and the soldiers themselves, as well as some politicians, would see the report in advance of full publication."

The Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday will hit the streets very soon after 12 years of work. At a cost of almost £200 million we will all know what happened on that Sunday at the end of January 1972. I think I can last out the excitement that generates - I have known since the evening of Bloody Sunday. I was in Londonderry almost by accident. After some nine months in charge of the Army investigation Unit my bosses in London had finally found an officer who had committed some crime so heinous that the only punishment was to send him to Ulster. As part of his indoctrination, I took him to Londonderry to witness the protest march. This would be an opportunity to get close to a Northern Ireland riot which was many degrees more violent than a pub punch up after closing time.

As we went about the sites on the tourist trail, I saw many of the Parachute regiment who normally worked in Belfast and who were regular customers of mine. In chatting, I was told that they were there to inject a little backbone into dealing with any trouble that arose from hangers-on to the peace march splitting off and attacking the troops. So, New Bloke would get two lessons at the one time.

As the march got to near the usual flash-point, we two placed ourselves behind a company of Para who in turn were behind troops from the resident Londonderry battalion. The trouble kicked off when juveniles started to stone the foremost troops. They were then told to stand aside and release the paratroopers. They ran in on foot supported by a number of armoured vehicles referred to as pigs. They ran, we walked up behind them. However, almost immediately I heard the sound of a weapon being fired; just a single shot. I instructed that we should get offside and we left the area and made our way to an observation and command post overlooking that area of the Bogside. We heard further firing but it was difficult to locate the shooter(s) or identify the type of weapon because of the echo effects of the built-up area. In a short while we heard radio reports that a number of civilians had been shot and after about 30 minutes the score was up to 13 dead.

My new OC said he would take a back seat as he had no real idea as to what my unit did in such incidents. I used the radio in my car to summon back-up investigators from Belfast. We set up base in a RN centre where the Para had been accommodated prior to being deployed onto the streets. We commenced interviews - they all knew the procedure almost as well as I did.

By about 10 pm that night it was clear that there had been a serious breakdown in the way such operations were normally handled. By midnight, we had statements from all who had fired and from others who were able to add to that information. I went back to Belfast in the early hours and briefed HQ NI using the statements taken by that time. I had a unbreakable appointment in London and went off to that. By the time I got back, a special team had been set up to deal with the incident.

I never understood the demands for a public inquiry. The first one had many obvious faults. John Major had made a public statement that none of the deceased had been acting improperly. This did not quell the demands and, eventually, the nasty little toad Blair agreed to set up a tribunal as part of the cost of getting what he called a peaceful settlement. Strangely, the loved ones of all the non-combatants slaughtered by the terrorists of both factions were denied any such process. Indeed, all the IRA murderers we had managed to catch and convict were set free and given forms on which to claim damages.

At that time, Northern Ireland was a land of almost instant mythology. One side would make claims as to what happened. Their supporters would take this on board and it became a fact that was incapable of being overturned. The opponents would for ever hold that what had been said was the vilest and most black of lies. That this had happened with the events of Bloody Sunday became very clear in the preparation of evidence for the inquiry and when formal evidence was taken.

When counsel for the victims questioned me, they put their questions as if they were merely seeking confirmation of their established convictions and were not really questioning events. Lord Saville and his two colleagues were most effective in getting the right questions put; I'm not so sure about the quality of the answers.

So, nothing will be achieved. Those who signed up for the mythology will not have their narrow minds expanded, Someone will pontificate and make an apology based upon Saville. There is a strong rumour that Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland who was a Provisional IRA commander in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, told Blair that an apology would have sufficed. But no - heritage beckoned and we went into a process which was most likely the forerunner of Blair's disastrous decision to do his poodle trot over Iraq.