Monday, July 25, 2005


Just to say there will be no ranting for the rest of the week, as I'm off to the West Highlands and am unlikely to have internet access, or for that matter a computer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Turks Are Coming! (Maybe)

On terrorday last week I read a very worrying report in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard regarding an interview the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gave to Hurriyet. I haven't been able to find any mention in the anglophone press, but it's very important if true. Here is a link to Der Spiegel's report of it, anyway. The story is essentially as follows: Turkish PM goes to Turkey's top newspaper - and threatens to invade Iraq. Erdogan sez, "we can't stand much more, and if it's necessary we will invade". He's referring to a recent rash of Kurdish guerrilla activity in the south-east. This is very serious indeed.

Bizarrely, though, I really can't see what the benefit of invading Kurdistan is to Turkey; you have to assume that the Kurds will fight like hell, and will make use of any and all kit and money provided to the peshmerga in their role as part of the Iraqi army as well as whatever they can obtain from the Iraqi arms bazaar. And when they get to Mosul (or wherever)? What then? Try another thirty years' coercion? Go home tamely? At the moment, Turkey is protected to a large extent from the jihad raging in Iraq: by the existence of Kurdistan. The Kurds hate jihadis like, well, bloody death hatred and kill'em whenever they get the chance. They've traditionally enjoyed good relations with such organisations as the CIA and the Israelis. I wouldn't be at all surprised if an independent Kurdistan applied to join the EU. But once the Turks go in, you can rely on a large movement of the New-Old Iraqi Army up there to fight the Nato-linked, EU-corrupted apostate betrayers of the capital of the Caliphs. For the first time, they will recruit up north too. The Kurds may hate them, but if it comes down to a serious matter like land they'd make common cause with Idi Amin if it helped. And they, the jihadis, will take the war to Turkey itself.

If I was a Turkish spook, I wouldn't be planning to attack the Kurds. I'd arm them, trade with them, finance them, and sleep soundly knowing I had one of the most bitter bunches of mountain killers in the world between me and the chaos in Iraq. And I'd still have the menace of invading them available. Just one thing: do not declare a sovereign state - yes, be one, but don't say it. I wouldn't want to be shot by my own side.

Another bizarre thing in the statement is that, according to the Turkish Army, US forces have been ordered to arrest the PKK leadership. If this is true, what happens to the Kurdish forces that make up the few effective Iraqi government units? And the US force (one brigade) up north does not look a lot in that case, aside from a lot of fools.

Some more here - Die Welt

The Battle of Stockwell: We Lost

Well, now we know. The man the Met shot five times in Stockwell tube station was completely innocent. What went on in south London in the last two days (the shooting, the multiple arrests) was a major battle in the war that seems to be emerging about us. And we lost. Fortunately, the dead man was not a Muslim, or all hell would probably have broken loose. But it's bad enough - imagine the cranking-up of the level of fear and the greater alienation from the police. One of the reasons suicide bombing works is precisely because the possibility of suicide bombers causes police and troops to shoot at anyone they suspect. Exactly this occurred in the first weeks in Iraq.

But the problem is worse than one shooting. Remember the time-line: he was under surveillance as a suspect, he was followed to the tube, they attempted to arrest him and he ran away, then they shot him. Surveillance is an incredibly resource-guzzling business; I recently read that a successful operation against an IRA Quartermaster in the early 90s used no less than sixty agents from the MI5 surveillance force, the Watchers, to say nothing of the police contribution. So, God knows what percentage of the available surveillance force was busy following an innocent man around, and ended up shooting him. Where is the terrorist they were meant to be following?

Another point: you may remember the long-running case regarding Harry Stanley, an Irishman who was shot by the Met because he was carrying a table leg in a bag, which some bloke in a pub convinced himself was a gun. The courts found the police guilty of unlawfully killing Stanley, the police appealed, the case continues. What happened to Stanley was that, in profound peace, someone shouted "Freeze! Armed police!" at him from behind. Now, I really doubt anybody who wasn't expecting to be challenged by armed police would not have turned their head in the direction of the noise, especially if they'd been drinking. And they immediately plugged him. (It's now in doubt, after re-examination of the forensics, whether he did in fact turn as the police claimed.) The man shot in the tube came from a country where it is not uncommon for people to be shot in the streets by some nameless authority for reasons that are never given, to one where the police do not even usually carry anything deadly. I suppose that was why, when he realised he was being followed by men with guns (in civilian clothes), he ran away. We are, however, now a country where you can be shot at any time for any or no reason.

There are the usual explanations. Split-second decision...need to maintain confidence..haunted for ever more. Of course, there is some truth to 'em, but it wasn't a "split-second decision" to put him under surveillance as a suspected terrorist, and if that had not happened he would never have been shot. Sir Ian Blair should probably resign, but it isn't going to happen. We are, after all, at War.

Slightly off-topic, Robert Sneddon comments that:
" The Glock pistols and most other pistols don't burst-fire. There are a few which can do this but only if they are mated to a shoulder-stock, and this would make the pistol very bulky and not able to fit into a belt holster. The H&K VP-70Z and Beretta 93-R are two such pistols."
Some googling suggests otherwise, here for example, or here, which seems a better source. However, it's the Glock-18 or -18C that is the select-fire version. Whether the police have them or not I dunno. That's quite enough gunblogging.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Just to add my mite to the speculation pile

..the reason why they shot the Stockwell tube "bomber" five times might be that a pistol like the Glock 17(I think) that fires bursts of three rounds as well as single shots, rather like a tiny submachine gun, was used. The point is that, if you need to be sure the target is dead (for example, because they are a suicide bomber) in a confined space, most weapons that would do it would probably also go straight through them and kill one or more random civilians. Using a much lighter round, but several of them, is a way round that.


Cricket update: Aussies now 140 for 3 after we were out for 155. Not critical yet, but we've got to cage the buggers quick or the run chase is going to be pretty tough.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Barnoldswick Moor - Or War!

Mark Steyn:
"t has been sobering this past week watching some of my "woollier" colleagues (in Vicki Woods's self-designation) gradually awake to the realisation that the real suicide bomb is "multiculturalism". Its remorseless tick-tock, suddenly louder than the ethnic drumming at an anti-globalisation demo, drove poor old Boris Johnson into rampaging around this page last Thursday like some demented late-night karaoke one-man Fiddler on the Roof, stamping his feet and bellowing, "Tradition! Tradition!" Boris's plea for more Britishness was heartfelt and valiant, but I'm not sure I'd bet on it. The London bombers were, to the naked eye, assimilated - they ate fish 'n' chips, played cricket, sported appalling leisurewear. They'd adopted so many trees we couldn't see they lacked the big overarching forest - the essence of identity, of allegiance. As I've said before, you can't assimilate with a nullity - which is what multiculturalism is.

So, if Islamist extremism is the genie you're trying to put back in the bottle, it doesn't help to have smashed the bottle. As the death of the Eurofanatic Ted Heath reminds us, in modern Britain even a "conservative" prime minister thinks nothing of obliterating ancient counties and imposing on the populace fantasy jurisdictions - "Avon", "Clwyd" and (my personal favourite in its evocative neo-Stalinism) "Central Region" - and an alien regulatory regime imported from the failed polities of Europe. The 7/7 murderers are described as "Yorkshiremen", but, of course, there is no Yorkshire: Ted abolished that, too."
Is the man completely mad? Now, there are plenty of Yorkshiremen who sweat from the eyes and judder with rage at any mention of t'Boundary Commission of 1974 (or whenever), but blaming terrorism on it is truly amazing. And he waited - what? - all of two days after Heath's death to draw a moral equivalence between joining the EEC and blowing folk up. Further down the story, he picks up on the Dilpazier Aslam row - but mysteriously doesn't bother to attribute it to the, ahem, blogger who built it. Where, Sir, is your decency?

And, what with all the flagwaving ("Best of British, old thing"), you might even have thought he wasn't a Canadian immigrant. Pah!

Thursday Terror Blogging

Reports of small explosions at The Oval, Shepherd's Bush and Warren Street tubes, plus an "incident" on a bus in Hackney. Maybe I should make that last one clearer - they're now reporting a small explosion on a bus in Hackney. Buses in Hackney probably experience dozens of incidents a day. One injury reported so far. Witnesses say they saw someone leave a large rucksack on a Victoria Line tube train before running like hell. Which puts the suicide bombing did-they-didn't-they in another light. It is being suggested that the police are looking for someone on the surface at Warren Street...which is even closer to my office than Tavistock Square was.

But on the other hand, Australia are six down for 175 and Steve Harmison has been bouncing the ball off their heads all day. Convict captain Ricky Ponting copped one through the visor of his helmet that laid his cheek open. Now that's fast. A couple of balls later he rattledly wafted at a good length and edged to Andy Strauss in the slip cordon. Good drills! Oh, make that 7 down, Warne run over by the Durham express. Whoops - 8 down now! Katich goes, caught behind, and it's three so far for Harmison and looking damn like a five-for.

In other news, University College Hospital has apparently been "sealed off by police". Part of it is just across the road, but it looks normal enough. Oh, that should read *armed* police, and someone says they've seen men in chemical protection gear, although you never know and they could be Ronald McDonalds.

Just to round off, I'll say this: at the end of the Dutch wars in the 1600s, De Ruyter and Tromp's ships sailed up the Medway to burn the fleet at anchor, taking a complacent government by surprise and incidentally boosting Samuel Pepys's career. In 1941, not far off three hundred years later, a Free Dutch warship collided with the anti-submarine boom across the Medway. The admiral in charge - the Flag Officer C-in-C, Nore - signalled "What, again?"

Update, 1502: It's now being reported that four explosive devices were placed but seem to have failed to explode, although the BBC is saying they were "dummy bombs". Sure the electricity system's all right, Beeb? No power surges or anything? Police now confirming they're at UCH. In Shepherd's Bush, meanwhile, there's supposedly a suspect package on. There is some mobloggage here, with video of a pub being cleared here. Usual liveblogga suspects are operating normally. And LAY OFF THE DAMN MOBILES.

Update, 1508 Tim Worstall comments at Nosemonkey's that the attack is so amateurish it could almost be the BNP trying to stir up racial tension. Funny he should say that. Their führer, Nick Griffin, is on trial at Leeds Crown Court today, and according to a "source" in the building the fascists were raising quite a bit of hell outside.

Update, 1526 Apparently, staff at UCH have been told to look for a 6ft 2in black man with wires sticking out of a rucksack. Not like he's going to merge into the background.. Wonderfully, there are multiple reports of someone fiddling with a bag, hearing a small bang or pop, and then either exclaiming something or looking "extremely dismayed". It must be deeply embarrassing - you press the tit or pull the wire or push the button, expecting a blinding flash and then paradise, but all you get is an artificial fart and a tubeful of people staring at you. Terrorism's answer to premature ejaculation. Darling, this doesn't usually happen to me...

Update, 1532 A man has been arrested outside the Ministry of Defence and taken to Richmond House. (According to This is weird - Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, is the Department of Health!

In the really important story of the day, the Australians are all out for 190 in forty overs. And Steve Harmison got his five-for - 11 overs, no maidens, 5 wickets for 43. If I were them I'd be shitting bricks, look what happened in the cricket two weeks ago.

Update, 1739 Well, everything seems to be calming down. Two men have supposedly been arrested but they are looking for an unknown number of fugitives. The UCH alarm has been stood-down. One wonders how stupid you'd have to be, having failed to blow up, to go to hospital..but then it would fit with what seems to have been a case of piss-poor performance from the general enemy. Meanwhile, the first demented yank troll has arrived and is poisoning the atmosphere over at Worstall's. Commenters are saying some sort of crisis is going on at Ludgate Circus, right on The Street Of Shame. Pity there's only AFP, the Jewish Chronicle and the Beano left there to watch.

And I'm really pissed off by the fucking CRICKET. 49 for 5. Ouch. Oh well, we'll do what we've always done. Improvise, adapt and overcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Orwells

Good afternoon, hello, and welcome, ladies and gentleman, to this week's inaugural Orwell Awards Ceremony! This week's Orwell goes to Ms. Beverly Hughes, who scooped the palm by naming her all-new scheme to issue all teenagers with a smart-card that would "allow them to access activities and sports" and could be revoked if they don't behave. Naturally, Ms. Hughes didn't want to mention that this won't work without a Really Big National Database of all teenagers, to go with the really big national database of all children (and their parents) her department already wants to set up.

So, she invented a new misuse of the English language for political ends. The Academy, of course, has created the Orwell Award to recognise excellence and best practice in the political misuse of English. For naming this latest stealth ID card project "Opportunity Cards", an Orwell Award nomination to Beverly Hughes!

Right. I intend to make this a regular feature. Every week, we'll have an Orwell nomination, and at the end of the year we'll do a poll for the annual Orwell Award. (I'm thinking of this as - not a statue - but a badge of some kind. Perhaps an ID card?) The question is, though, whether the Orwells are a Ranter responsibility in the same way Worstall takes care of the Britblog Roundup or whether they should circulate, like one of the various Carnivals. Either way, if you have a comment, use the comments. If you want to propose someone for an Orwell, put the name and a link to the example in a sealed email to a.harrowell AT

That is all.

It Had To Happen...

Spam reaches its logical extreme. A few minutes ago I received the following unsolicited commercial mass email:
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You bet it is. How shitty is this? Spammers spamming me with spam in a bid to make me pay them to spam others.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Let's Get Back Where This Blog Belongs - In Iraq!

In all the excitement, I didn't bother to write about the "Reid memo" regarding a proposed drawdown of western forces in Iraq. Yet another big story broken by the Times's Michael Smith, the document suggests that US forces might be down to 66,000 next year and UK forces to 3,000. Among "Risks" given in the document were that the Japanese engineer battalion might quit if their force protection was provided by the Iraqis, and that the Australians might not hang around either. Well, obviously. If a drawdown of foreign forces is in prospect, it seems overly hopeful to think the other foreigners won't notice.

I doubt very much if this is realistic. There has been plenty of this already. Drawdowns from Iraq are always just around the corner, and there has been much unfavourable news about the new-Iraqi forces recently (ghost recruits, corruption, general crapness). The only way this plan could be achieved would be to, in essence, accept partition and civil war. Presumably, the British withdrawal would be made possible by giving the SCIRI a free rein to run the state they want. (Anyone else spot that the governor of Basra was demanding a bigger share of oil revenue yesterday? "The patience of the sons of the south will not last forever". Sumer here we come.) And much of the US withdrawal would come from...wait. There is only one brigade up north as it is (the 173rd Airborne), and its main function is to deter the Kurds and Turks from attacking each other. Now, with 170,000 troops concentrated in central Iraq and Baghdad, we don't control territory well. How well will we do with 66,000, given that only small commitments elsewhere can be liquidated?

If this "plan" will happen, it can only happen in the context not of "drawdown" leaving the Iraqi government in charge, rah rah and Rule, Britannia, because it will mean abandoning much of urban Iraq, but of retreat. Would you want to be in the 66,000? I wouldn't. This only makes sense as the first phase of a phased withdrawal leaving the New-Old Iraqi Army, the SCIRI and the Kurds to fight like cats in a sack.

Return Tickets

There still seems to be a lot of doubt as to exactly how the bombs were triggered, or in other words whether or not the killers were true suicide bombers rather than own-goals or unwitting assassins. Amongst other things, property belonging to one of them was found at both the Edgware Road and Aldgate explosion sites. Now, no-one has ever managed to blow themselves up twice, and I'd hazard that no-one ever will, so either one of the other killers was carrying some of the other's goods (why? how?) or one of the bombs was placed on a train and detonated by a timer, while the bomber set off to bomb a second train. That, of course, would cast doubt on whether or not the other bombers were intentional suicide bombers.

There's a lot of tinfoil hattery bubbling about around this. I will only say that what is most important is that bombs were exploded, and that all the bombers seem to have died in the attack. The Postman argues that they might have been recruited to move drugs and that they were under the impression this was another load. Well. I suppose it's a possible explanation, but without more support, I feel most of the non-suicide/unwitting assassin theories are wishful thinking.

The latest source of doubt is that, apparently, they bought return tickets at Luton station and paid the parking fee. Well, buying a return ticket is not the obvious act of a suicide bomber, but there is a historic precedent of a sort. On the 21st October 1916, the Austrian prime minister Karl Graf von Stürgkh was assassinated in the Hotel Meissl und Schadin's restaurant on the Hoher Markt in Vienna as he enjoyed a post-lunch cigar. Stürgkh, an unmourned militarist thug on the far right of political Catholicism who had campaigned vigorously for war, had unknown to himself convinced Friedrich Adler, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers' News), that he was a tyrant bent on expanding the war after he refused to allow parliament to be recalled. Adler sat down at a table, drank two glasses of beer, paid his bill, then drew a revolver and shot the prime minister three times, before sitting down to await the arrival of the police.

Adler was put on trial, but the trial was interrupted by the army authorities on the grounds that his speeches from the dock were a subversive influence. Instead a secret military tribunal sentenced him to death, but the death of Emperor Franz Josef II and his replacement by Karl I, who tried to get out of the war, led to his sentence being commuted to life imprisonment. The revolution of 1918 released him. He outlived everyone else involved, including the restaurant once famed for offering 14 different kinds of Tafelspitz, which was destroyed by the RAF one night in 1943.

Groping Towards Solution

Everyone knows what we should do about the danger of home-made jihadis. The Muslim community must do more to confront the extremists in their midst! And, on the other hand, we must strive to understand how these people came to commit such sickening acts. That's the robot consensus. As Tim Worstall's strapline would put it, though, it's all obvious or trivial. What is meant by "confront"? What is meant by "community"? What is meant by "extremist"?

Actually Existing Phil has been attempting to do some of this unpacking using the context of Italy's own home-made terrorist movement and the responses of the state and the analogous source community, in this case the broad Left. He estimates that the "scene" from which the Red Brigades' operatives were drawn numbered some 2,000 people, which is eerily similar to the former Metropolitan Police chief John Stevens' figure for the total number of potential jihadis in the UK. Just for that reason, that campaign should be worth studying. Here, Phil argues that, in fact, the Italian Left did exactly what was asked of it by the state, which was also what is now asked of "the Muslim community". That is to say, the Italian Communist Party launched an internal ideological campaign against those it perceived to be real or potential sympathisers. (Please bear in mind from this point that from around 1976 on, the PCI was committed to a parliamentary road to socialism and continued membership in the western security architecture, including both NATO and the EEC, or at least a European economic community if not *the* European economic community.)But, of course, the party leaders could not resist the temptation to a) include in the set of "extremists" anyone whose views did not fit their own preferences or threatened the historic compromise with the Christian Democrats and the office, funds and legitimacy it brought with it and b) to use the extremist brand to demonise their rivals on the Left.

What happened was that the Communist Party essentially wasted away, becoming increasingly beholden to the centre-right, whilst also alienating those to its Left. Extreme-Left terrorism and support for it actually increased as the party piled up new enemies. In essence, the party-base (the "leftist community") found that the official party represented their views progressively less, and that the movements that did were given a choice between joining the party in the government's boat, or be lumped in with the nutters and suffer the ostracism and police harassment that would entail.

Of course, an important point in Phil's analogy is that the similarities are still deeper. The coalition of industrial workers and intellectual lefties who made up the "leftist community" were seen by the PCI leadership as their own inalienable fief. The British Labour Party has frequently demonstrated a similar attitude towards Muslims in its Lancastrian and West Yorkshire fortress seats. Talk to the right "community leader" and they will get out the vote in the best Tammany Hall fashion. The Tories, incidentally, attempted in the 2001 election to reverse frame this by appealing to the citizens of Bradford West that they "should vote for someone from their community", or in other words that their candidate was a Muslim whereas the Labour candidate was a Sikh. It didn't happen, and Mohammed Riaz, local councillor and William Hague's "Race Adviser"/token Asian, trooped off into obscurity. (This weirdly American ward-boss political culture, by the way, showed up to worst effect in the Birmingham vote-rigging scandal.)

Phil's conclusion is that such a strategy (of tensions?) would benefit the Labour Party's partisan interests, but would undermine the fight against terrorism in the same way it did in Italy. Stepping off the kerb of reviewing Phil, one of the key points that emerges from almost all accounts of the suicide four's history is that they did not seek ideological satisfaction or inspiration in the mosque, or at least not in their mosque. There were clandestine meetings in a shutdown youth centre, and journeys of many miles to seek out particular preachers. This strikes right to the core of the problem. The "Muslim community" as non-Muslims perceive it - mosques, bearded old chaps in committees and such - which also produces the community powerbrokers of Brum could not have informed on them because they were living outside it. This is why people care about finding imams who will preach in English (I nearly wrote "in the vernacular" - there is something uncanny about exactly the same debates of the time of William Tyndale being rehearsed in 2005), and why it is necessary that they do engage with current politics. One point missing from the current blogswarm around the Guardian trainee and alleged jihadi Dilpazier Aslam is that, in his article that exercises the Right so, he made a very important point. If the mosque does not mention Iraq, that is not enough to seal it off as a topic of debate. Not letting the peasants read the Bible didn't prevent the Reformation, but it did mean that they would organise secret societies to do so.

What would a Euro-Islamic, by analogy with Euro-Communist, party look like? Or if you prefer, an Islamic Democrat party by analogy with Christian Democracy? (Don't forget that European CDs were mostly created to represent the Right in countries that had recently been fascist.)Would it be laughed out of court as an obvious sellout, drift to the extremes, or could it be more like the Turkish Justice & Development Party? Before crapping your pants, consider the definition of Eurocommunism used above. A parliamentary road to democratic socialism and no truck with the Warsaw Pact or the USSR. What might be similar minimals of acceptability for an IDP/EIP?

So, let us look at the possible strategies: 1. is the neo-Italian strategy of tensions, which we have just discussed in detail. 2. is accommodation. 3. would be some sort of Harry's Place-esque liberal-hawk British version of laicité. 4. would be pure repression. Well, we've just dealt quite harshly with 1. Some of 2. is probably essential. 3 is silly. Without getting into the debate about French hijabs, whether or not it would have been a good idea 40 years ago is irrelevant. Trying to implement it now would only fuel the fire without much benefit. However, it might be useful in selling 2. 4 is, in essence, having the police be extremely unpleasant to Muslims, and in all probability Sikhs, Italians, Greeks, Hindus and anyone else an idiot might think was one. It won't work, either, for the simple reason that it's always the one you didn't see that gets you. Has anyone else noticed that the 7th of July bombings essentially marked the bankruptcy of Blunkett/Clarke's antiterrorist strategy, which was basically that we knew who was a terrorist and all that was needed was the power to detain without trial/deny communications/monitor at all times? Why hasn't he resigned?

Saturday, July 16, 2005


It's worrying me just how many bloggers are flipping over into tinfoil land lately. There may have to be revisions to the blogroll...

How the hell did I miss that?

David McDuff@A Step At A Time:
"While Yushchenko believes that the Ukrainian troops have shown themselves "to be true professionals and patriots," (Channel 5, August 10, 2004) other coalition members do not share this opinion. During military skirmishes last year, Ukrainian troops reportedly retreated and U.S. and British troops had to be called in to regain control over the area.

Corruption is a major problem. Major-General Serhiy Savchenko, commander of Ukrainian forces in Iraq, was arrested in February at Kyiv's Borispil Airport, when he and other officers were caught "escorting" coffins containing $300,000 in cash (Ukrayinska pravda, June 13). The practice of transporting contraband (i.e. narcotics, cash, etc.) in coffins, rather than the remains of soldiers, has a long history going back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."
Fill in the Viktor Bout bit here...

This sounds, by the way, like a case for the Office of Sleazy Intelligence:
"Lefties tend to be drawn towards D-Day, and visions of a mighty host liberating a continent from fascism. And as I understand it, righties tend to sniffle over the Battle of Britain, which harks back to the days of individual combat by champions and so sets British history in a pleasingly organic context.

Not me. I would have been a sleazy intelligence officer, baffling the jerries with double crosses, triple thinks and quadruple bluffs from my headquarters, the Office of Sleazy Intelligence.

As I see it, the Office of Sleazy Intelligence was located in seedy-genteel quarters round the back of Shepherd Market, handy for the Café Royal and subject to constant patrolling by Ladies of the Night with their fur coats, high heels and small dogs.

“Doing business?” they would ask as I sauntered past and skipped up the rickety stairs. Of a kind madam, of a kind. Very special business as it turned out, business involving gold bullion, exploding rats, inflatable tanks and secret pornography.

My own office, the head Office of the Office of Sleazy Intelligence, would be stuffed to bursting with bonded whisky, crisp reichsmarks, silk stockings and other items for the equipment and consolation of haunted ladies, destined for France and inevitable doom in the Cellars of the Gestapo.

Later, I would follow the victorious hosts of democracy to the Continent. Theirs would be the honour and the glory. I’d settle for half the German treasury, obtained in return for two crates of spam and a carton of Craven A."
Wouldn't we all, Jamie...Getting back to business, I really must take steps about, which will mean a detailed refutation. Either that or an exploding rat and a ton of inflatable bullion.

Well, Back To The Terrorblogging It Is, Then

So we know now: the terrorists set off from various parts of Leeds, some unfamiliar, some familiar to me. This depressed me so much I couldn't really be bothered to blog about it, but we may as well let it slither out in the open. Leeds was always very different to Bradford; it wasn't in Leeds that copies of The Satanic Verses were burned or where I was chased towards a police dog squad by the mob during the 2001 race riot. Partly, I suppose, this was just the divisions being lubricated by money, as Leeds even at worst was always richer than its twin city. Not, though, that there weren't really nasty districts like Gipton or Chapeltown (a few years ago). But it wasn't from there that the killers came. Another argument is that unlike Bradford, Leeds had a long and honourable tradition of accepting migrants (the Kindertransport kids being exhibit A, followed by the immediate post-war West Indians). But that shouldn't be overstated - Bradford's history includes very considerable German influence starting in the 19th century. We don't boast about it, but Bradford even produced its own Nazi, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, führer of the Nazi Party's Germans Overseas Organisation and intimate of Rudolf Hess. Now that's what I call multiculturalism.

But it happened. I fear that whatever real unity or tolerance existed is now under serious threat. I also suspect that it existed far less than we boasted of it. We may recall that, to take an iconic Yorkshire example, West Yorkshire's Pakistanis formed their own cricket league, the Quaid-e-Azam League, named for Mohammed Ali Jinnah. You might think, and I did, and no doubt I was taught to think, that this was a fine local institution. But the reason for its existence was simply because its founders couldn't join the horde of existing league cricket clubs. It was 1992 before anyone not born in Yorkshire could play for Yorkshire; although one of the first new recruits was Sachin Tendulkar, no less, I can't think of anyone from Muslim Yorkshire who's got very far at Headingley. In my own sport, Rugby League, I can think of only two: Ikram Butt of Featherstone Rovers and England, and a scrum-half from Leigh (in Lancashire, of course), Sarfraz Patel, who bamboozled the Keighley defence all afternoon as the Leigh fan directly behind me jeered him until he was warned to shut up by the stewards. One of the killers was a cricket fanatic.

Yes, I know it's a slightly frivolous example, but I think it illustrates the point. Only at best was Yorkshire in the 1980s and 90s "multicultural". At worst, it was a ramshackle coalition of interests, as Lord Curzon belittled the Indian Congress; just a collection of mutually uninterested, rather than necessarily hostile, groups inhabiting the same space without making contact. And the best and the worst were simultaneous. Bradford could burn while Keighley was peaceful, so it was always possible to point out the good in response to the bad. Or vice versa: see the American blowhards falling over themselves to denounce Britain and laud France, when on Wednesday, July 6th, Tony Blair was a saint to them and Jacques Chirac on a par with Saddam Hussein. And see the BNP busily spreading the poison. Nosemonkey of Europhobia was the first, I think, to point out that their targeting of Dewsbury might have contributed to the killers' recruitment. Well, I'm really pleased to see that the BNP's challenge in the Barking council election has tanked. After the "bus-bomb" leaflet, they got just what they deserved. And this is serious. According to Juan Cole, a key goal in al-Qa'ida thinking is to turn western societies fascist. Terror will lead to repression, repression to radicalisation, radicalisation to more terror.

This is an interestingly Western insight: it is, of course, Hegelian logic, the dialectic, hacked out like a chunk of code and wired into the ideology of jihad. Interestingly, every totalitarian movement has at some point found this doctrine useful: it was at the very foundation of communism, fascists enshrined it as the Backlash Strategy, now the jihadis have grabbed it. In itself, it is a powerful explaining force, but in the version they us it is disgusting. (It's also anti-Hegelian - after all, the conflict of thesis and antithesis brings forth synthesis, but these people certainly do not want to incorporate any of the values of the detested enemy.) So, let us get this completely clear: people who argue for measures of revenge against broad groups ("Muslims", "immigrants" - you provide the rest) are traitors. They are doing the enemy's work.

Oh, by the way, Richard Garcia: I'm glad you are taking such a heroic anti-terrorist stance - 12,000 miles away in Japan, according to your IP address. Fascist expats piss me off deeply, because you give me a bad reputation when I have to visit places you live. (You can probably guess that, no, I'm not a social worker.) When you've finished reciting the Scum's editorials, I'd advise you to consider the relative levels of terrorist threat we are subject to, then fuck off.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I Really Don't Want To Write About Terrorism

Last night, having walked from work up to Highgate (in an hour, which I think isn't bad going and at least got me there before it rained), I spent most of the evening with curry and a few beers, watching the blanket wall-to-wall TV terror until I decided that I didn't want to see the same photos again. It didn't seem like a good idea at all to keep rehearsing this stuff, so I decided to shut it off and do the washing up. But, of course, this morning there were the newspapers. On the 390 bus, I sat reading the Grauniad, crammed with terror stories and half-page photos (and that was by no means the least restrained coverage - the Daily Express took it on itself to somehow discover 38 more deaths, and all the small-formats/tabloids ran full front page photos) as it went extremely slowly through King's Cross, past the sealed-off entrances to Russell Square and took the whole of its schedule to get to Gower Street, where I bailed out to walk the rest of the way. (Traffic is just as plentiful today as on any normal day, but the continuing cordons around some of the bomb sites have fucked up the flow, and the fact that only half the Tube is running does the rest.)

In the office, my email inbox(es) are stuffed with terrormail - condolences (for what - I'm not the one who suffered), a request from a radio station in Arizona for an interview, yards of fuckwit troll abuse. The blogosphere is talking of nothing else. I have to scan about thirty news sites for business reasons, but of course they are all flooded with terrorism. Even the specialists are talking about how well the telecoms system held up. The masterpiece was the report that, whilst everyone else suffered, Skype users could speak as they pleased. This is surely not the time for advertorial. Someone in our HR department recently quit, and there was a lunch do in a nearby bar, where - of course - everyone talked about terrorism. I'm terror'd out. It doesn't even worry me.

But needs must when the devil drives. First up, that "power surge". Thanks for the comments regarding how the attack would have first become apparent at underground control. I take your point, but both the Grauniad and the Handelsblatt, the German FT, this morning report that according to a "London Underground source", the "surge" was a "communications ploy". The stations affected are, it turns out, on different electrical circuits. I remain angry about it because I think the public has shown that we are quite grown-up enough to deal with the truth. At no time yesterday did I see any sign of trouble or panic of any kind, even tramping through Kentish Town the mood remained entirely civil.

On the way north, I was phoned up by a colleague at The Sprout who argued that "it didn't seem like Al-Qa'ida; thirty wouldn't be enough". I replied that the Cats' Protection League could be ruled out, and that even al-Qa'ida made mistakes. It strikes me that it could have been much worse, and the why deserves thought. It was certainly a propitious day for terrorism: the G8 in session in Britain, with much military and police effort directed there. The risible caricature fanatic Abu Hamza going on trial. An Israeli minister in town, and the Olympic win (which took the Mayor and various senior civil servants off to Singapore). But at least two of those were unpredicted - was it a rushed job? (And if so, was the bus bomb an unintended consequence?) It's called overdetermination - they are all reasons, but you can't tell which combination is the right one. There's something of a blogodebate as whether this means that the "Power of Nightmares thesis" is finished. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have fully grasped that Adam Curtis never suggested that Islamist terrorists didn't exist; just that al-Qa'ida as anything other than a set of ideas doesn't.

A set of ideas - an ideology - is the most threatening thing there is, anyway. And that is why Ken Livingstone came up with the best speech of the lot, ten times better than either Blair's first, crappy, effort or his second (platitudinous) go.
I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
Fuckin' brilliant. Whilst we're on that topic, another possible reason: Nosemonkey points out that two out of four - in fact, three out of four if you include the wilds of King's Cross - attacks took place in areas of sizeable Muslim population. Were they aiming for a backlash strategy? Dunno, but it's worth thinking about.

By the way: Apparently I've been put on a List of "Lefties making political points". Thanks. That's why I have a blog. (Billy Bragg: If you've got a blacklist, I want to be on it..) Presumably, had I called for a Christian Holy War for Monotheism that would have not been a political point? Or more accurately, I wouldn't be on your ridiculous list although I'd been making political points all over the shop. What with you, and Richard Chichakli calling me a Nazi on his new website, if I'm not making the right friends, at least I'm making the right enemies.

Oh, and Martin Geddes of Telepocalypse is worth quoting:
"anyone who thinks the British will be their ideological slaves under threat of violence hasn’t read their history books very thoroughly. Too many of our ancestors have crawled out of lice-filled trenches to emerge into freedom for you to stand any hope of victory."

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Well, I've taken my life in my hands and gone out to our local Italian caff to get some lunch. The streetscape is surprisingly normal, perhaps rather quieter than usual but even that could be explained by the rain (the Policeman's Friend in action). People are going about their business, traffic is moving; not very much traffic, though. The pubs seem fuller than usual for a Thursday lunchtime. The Middlesex Hospital, just across the road, has no Accident & Emergency role, so presumably this explains the calm. At the Cafe Verona, there seemed to be more takeaway orders than usual; terrorist bastards forcing us to change our way of life.

As a telecoms type, I should point out that O2 and Vodafone's networks are down for all intents and purposes (and are presumably operating telephone preference control to keep official traffic moving). Orange are up, but were down earlier. T-Mobile scooped the palm, with no apparent interruption of service. Readers in London will surely notice the need to minimise your use of phones and keep the lines clear. Use the internet instead.

This morning, I took my usual train into Waterloo and skipped down to the Bakerloo. The line had just been de-suspended, so there were more people than usual. After pulling out of Waterloo, the driver made an announcement that a major power failure had occurred "in the Baker Street area" and that the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, and Circle lines were suspended. Baker Street is not that far from the office, and I wondered if there was power there. I decided anyway that if there was going to be a power cut I'd rather be on the surface, so got off at Charing Cross. I phoned my editor's desk phone, but he wasn't in. I then delighted Osama by catching - what else - a bus north towards Oxford Circus. On Oxford Street I got off near a cross street that leads to my office. The driver was listening to a very long message over the bus system Private Mobile Radio (this would have been 0915 or thereabouts).

I learnt of the crisis from the web not long afterwards.

Back at the office, life continues as (un)usual. A couple of minutes ago, an army Lynx helicopter flew over heading north. At midday, everyone broke off to watch Tony Blair's address to the nation. About a quarter of a mile from one of the bus bombs, we all seemed a lot less rattled than he does. He repeatedly broke off, searched for words, and stuttered. Churchill it wasn't.

Update of an Update: To commenters - I agree the title of the last post is pretty strong, but I believed at the time the invasion of Iraq would make terrorism more likely. And I was extremely angry - I still am - about the "power surge" story. I suppose the point was to "avoid panic", but you can't get away from the fact that evacuating the Tube and transferring passengers to buses seems to have played into the terrorists' hands. I wouldn't have got on a bus for thousands had I known. It's also been suggested that the first sign of trouble might have been a power surge, but surely the explosions can't have been that ambiguous. Either they were lying to us or this was a weak spot in the emergency response, which seems to have been outstanding.

Blair Gets His Iraq Reward!

A succession of explosions has occurred at Underground stations in central London. The entire system has been shut down. A bus is reported to have blown up in Russell Square. The British Transport Police originally gave out that the Tube bangs were due to a "power surge".

Presumably, then, the bus was one of the many electric buses on the capital's streets. London is famed for its highly efficient trolleybus system. Not. No, the government is lying to us. The total and utter cunts! Power surge, my arse!

From my office window, for what it's worth, I can see blue flashers, stalled traffic (well, that's hardly unusual) and an editorial floor emptying with eerie rapidity. And - for a couple of seconds - they just sounded the fire alarm. How stupid can you possibly get? Naturally, we'd be far safer in the streets - with the terrorists. I, personally, intend to stay until they shoot my desk out from underneath.

The day after the Olympic announcement. Whilst Bush is in the country, and half the police force humping the sodden hills of Perthshire for his protection. Manoeuvre warfare? They've got all you need.

UPDATE, 1046: The National Grid is now quoted as follows by BBC News:
"The National Grid, which supplies power to the Underground, said there had been no problems with its system which could have contributed to the incidents."
Link. Fuck'em.

UPDATE, 1133, the BBC is now speaking of "multiple explosions". No. 10 Downing Street, for its part, says it doesn't know if it's a terrorist attack. Really, these people are like a cult without its guru when Blair's away. Here, the stayers-on are reacting rather well; I just finished an interview with a chap from the Open Base Station Initiative, my colleague Sean is getting on with some work, Nicky is answering the phones of the fled to reassure their friends. And - shock - my editor, who was coming from Clapham by tube, has just arrived this moment, reporting troops in the streets. By his description they are infantry or medics, no repeat no NBC kit or signals vehicles, which is all good.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Swinging Spetsnaz Infrared Anorak

I am the fifth result on Yahoo! for "spetsnaz anorak". I am also the 13th result on Google for princess diana assassination. And why on earth am I getting referrals from (I've no idea whether the link is SFW, because I'm at work and don't dare click on it.) They seem to head for my archives for September, 2003. Most strange. I'm also the 15th Google for improvised explosive device infrared triggers.

This, incidentally, is a list of the top 40 search requests:

yorkshire ranter 172
the yorkshire ranter 25
richard chichakli 23
jetline international 18
ranter 18
xv179 16
custerbattles 14
chichakli 11
teebah airlines 11
bbc stupidity 8
bill boakes 6
viktor bout 6
john towers 6
stevens express leasing 6
pakistaniporn 6
shanaz rashid 5
latif rashid 5
imad saba 5
jetline sharjah 5
iraqbabes 5
goliaf air 5
yorkshire 5
ali kleilat 5
lin homer 4 4
tl-acu 4
empire of mogilno 4
gay wank 4
ramsan kadyrov 4
alex harrowell 4
kingdom of papala 4
kh55 missile 4
victor bout 4
jeff wode 4
transafrik 3
jet line international 3
hussain al-khawam 3
commodore michael clapp 3
lord browne gay 3
techtronic rover

Update: Chris Lightfoot has this to say: The "wife swapping" referrer is presumably referrer spam -- many sites automatically post URLs of referring pages (e.g. as a list of recent searches finding the site), so spammers can manipulate this to advertise their site simply by making requests to your site with a "Referer: url-of-spam-site" header.

What a disappointment.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Brief Link: Glucksmann

A Step at a Time quotes French philosopher Andre Glucksmann:
"Et j’ai vérifié cela très vite par la suite, parce qu’en Yougoslavie, l’ancien chef communiste, Milosevic, a gardé le pouvoir, et a organisé des épurations ethniques, c’est-à-dire qu’il a fait des guerres qui ont fait 200 000 morts au moins. Il a martyrisé, torturé, exercé une dictature en faisant une union sacrée entre l’extrême-droite nationaliste et raciste, fascisante, et l’extrême-gauche. L’important ce n’était pas l’idéologie, mais la pratique, qui était en fait d’origine stalinienne. Et quand j’ai vu démarrer la guerre en Tchétchénie, je me suis dit : Milosevic fait des petits, la leçon de Milosevic passe de Belgrade à Moscou. Et donc, j’ai pris position contre tout de suite."

Mike has a fine post about ships and cranes. This fits with the last post, by the way: I really think any serious effort at modern Socialism has to think in terms of learning practical things, of having many trades...but I'm slightly drunk.

What I Write: Rather Than Why

I write about, mostly, the abuse of power in a variety of forms. I'm pretty sure I'll never run out. But that isn't enough. You look at the title of this blog, and the strapline, and the link as to what the original Ranters were after. But I don't think it's clear enough what I'm on about.

Ranters, as the link I gave as a definition says, were one of the world of wild-arsed left/Protestant sects/movements that appeared from the ranks of the New Model Army in the civil war. Many similar groups, as well as the Ranters, took part in the famous Putney debates between the leadership around Fairfax and Cromwell and the Agitators, the tribunes of the rank and file. Putney, of course, is now a terribly well-off district of west London. My train races through every morning on my way to work. Bizarrely, the traces of the indigenous revolutionary tradition are all in the bourgeois neatnesses of west London, too: Gerrard Winstanley is buried in Barnes cemetery, his Digger republic existed on St. Georges Hill in Weybridge, the debates took place up the line in Putney. Ranters, though, are distinguished by two factors I care about: the first is that they refused the notion of sin and espoused a sort of primitive existentialism. Now, I don't even support that much. But I'm fairly sure that there's a huge leap from the religious idea of sin to the rationalist idea of crime, from enchaining mystery to John Stuart Mill. And you need to start somewhere. The other is pathetic: they came from villages that are as familiar to me as forks. I recommend, by the way, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas in the English Revolution, by Christopher Hill, and Religion and the Decline of Magic, by Keith Thomas, if you want to understand this stuff.

Winstanley, a Lankie anyway, was a believer in total public ownership of the means of production. I'm not. I am, though, strongly convinced that capitalism can, and does, misallocate as badly as government can, when it gets the chance - Viktor Bout is exhibit A, by the way - and that therefore we need a taut sail between the two. Right-wing people always love to talk about personal responsibility. We should ask them why they do not want much more direct democracy. I believe that the lowest level of democratic organisation is good. I also believe, dragging the scale up, that organisation is good. To be less nonsensical, functional integration between nations works.

I am not a pacifist. War exists. There are two basic routes to world peace that people suggest, and there are good reasons against them. The first is disarmament. That's good, but presumably all states could maintain a police force of some sort for their own needs. And, in the absence of armies, that would be capable of starting a war. The other is the World State. A world state, though, would carry the risk of becoming a world tyranny. You cannot flee world tyranny. And would it be possible to resist it? The Thing could bring its Papua New Guinea Regiment to crush rebels in Wharfedale. Best, then, to accept the reality of states and violence, and to practice the avoidance of war.

It's deeply important for the left to realise that we have to understand warfare, and talk sensibly about military matters, and accept that the soldiers are a big chunk of the working class, that with the destruction of industry they are one of the last big working-class, tradesman employers. That is a main purpose of this blog. I am a civilian, but I think if you read back through the Iraq posts you'll find I've been right more often than not.

What is it that I want? I aim only for a society that offers a (and this is a phrase George Orwell made a cliche) decent way of life to all. That shouldn't be so difficult. Yes, the market mechanism is a fine allocating system for goods and services. It's also shown it can be a terrible one for certain incentives and a great incentive to cheat. Government planning has the same faults. We need diversity of ownership on the supply side - much more important than nationalisation, which is suited only to certain natural monopolies.

ID Cards: Where Next?

Well, despite my repeated statements that we are going to win, the ID Cards Bill got through its second reading by 31 votes after some 40 MPs either abstained or didn't show up. Fix on that: they didn't bother to turn up. Gape at the depth of crapness. And write to them. Remind them that the scheme cannot possibly work. There are 44 million people who would need cards issuing. Assume that they must use the card once. The best performance achieved in the government's own ID test was a 96% success rate; or, to put it another way, a 4% failure rate. Engineers bandy around the phrase "five nines" to describe the level of reliability required in serious applications - that is, 99.999% reliability on 99.999% uptime. But even if that was achieved, even if the system was as reliable as the public-switched telephone network, there would still be 44 misidentifications in our very much watered down experiment. I've said this before, but it bears repeating.

Now consider that those 44 million people use the cards more often; Charles Clarke infamously suggested they might be checked when renting a video. That is silly, but it's no less silly than his suggestion that the best way to counter the emergence of a database society is to build a huge database of everyone in society. Say 100 times a year. 4,400 misidentifications. There are three possible endgames: the project fails before launch, amid total public humiliation and vast waste of money; it launches, misidentifications are frequent and people get locked up for no reason; it launches, misidentifications are frequent, and people simply don't check the cards, rendering it completely pointless. Of course, no.2 might lead speedily to no.3, and there's also the possibility that some other workaround appears, or widespread forgery, or the core database servers fail and take out the whole shebang. What our little exploratory calculation (serious engineers call it a "feasibility study") tell s us is that biometrics don't scale. This even goes for fingerprinting; get a big enough population and there will eventually be repeats, or at least cases similar enough to not be distinguished. The reason fingerprinting works, of course, is that as a rule you are only dealing with a tiny subset of the population, those who might reasonably have been at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.

Biometric national ID's problem is that it's like investigating a crime solely by taking dabs and going house-to-house around the whole country looking for matches. It could either be effective and intolerably draconian, or ineffective and intolerably annoying. And annoying ineffectiveness is considerably easier to achieve.

Iraq's New Economy

Read this now. The London Review of Books on epic corruption in Iraq, including the apparent disappearance of Iraqi Airways:
"‘A complainant alleged that Iraqi Airlines was sold at a reduced price to an influential family with ties to the former regime. The investigation revealed that Iraqi Airlines was essentially dissolved, and there was no record of the transaction.’ Most of the 69 criminal investigations the CPA-IG instigated related to alleged ‘theft, fraud, waste, assault and extortion’. It also investigated ‘a number of other cases that, because of their sensitivity, cannot be included in this report’. At around this time, 19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5 million, were found on a plane in Lebanon which had been sent there by the American-appointed Iraqi interior minister."
The "influential family" is that of Sheikh Hussain al-Khawam, owner of Teebah Airlines, which provides all the new Iraqi Airways' aircraft, which are mysteriously registered in Sierra Leone (as previously blogged, but no bugger seems to care).

Now check this out: Iraqi Airways-titled B727 9L-LEL on the ground at Baghdad. This aircraft, serial number 21483, was formerly used by KAM Air, the Afghan airline associated with heroin-smuggling, prisoner-smothering warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, old friend Viktor Bout, and convicted cocaine smuggler Chris Barrett-Jolley. Teebah provided several other aircraft for KAM, some of which also passed by Phoenix Aviation. Phoenix is a Kyrgyz-registry, Sharjah-based company whose name has been used by various Viktor Bout-related companies in Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria and the UK since 1994. Its alumni include (you guessed it) CBJ. Its current aircraft roster includes planes apparently shared with Santa Cruz Imperial of the UAE, another gun-running outfit connected with Bout and a senior UAE government minister. And here is one of its aircraft, Boeing 737 EX-450, serial no. 20450, on the ground in Baghdad. This link shows three Phoenix flights a day between Baghdad and Dubai, all using B737-200s. That's as well as British Gulf International An-12s and even a daily flight by Irbis Air Co. of Kazakhstan and, of course, Sharjah. Irbis, I repeat, is a company that the US Department of the Treasury has placed on an asset-freeze blacklist. The flight is listed as using a Yakovlev 42 aircraft. There is only one Yak42 at Irbis, registered UN-42428, serial no.4520422306016, so it is this one. It's officially leased to Sudan Airways, but as this photo demonstrates, it's still carrying the Kazakh registration that traces to Irbis. And the flights take place using Irbis's ICAO code: BIS. Moving swiftly on, the Sharjah Airport arrivals for today show an Irbis flight, BIS6372, from Balad South East airfield. Balad is a US Air Force facility: so why was it permitted to take-off again having landed there? Interestingly, the same flight number is also scheduled into Dubai from Baghdad at 1830 local time today. During the last week, Irbis flights have also taken place between Sharjah and Bagram AFB in Afghanistan, as well as between SHJ and Kabul.

And there are also flights between Iraq and Ras al-Khaimah, operated by Jupiter Airlines: which doesn't officially exist. But it is on this list of companies dissolved by the Congolese government. You can probably guess what sort of thing you'd have to do to get dissolved in the DR Congo. But aircraft with a history in West Africa are now turning up in the ranks of KAM, Teebah, FAG, Phoenix and such operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know I'm a mystery jet bore, but this is serious. These people are parasites. They infect societies like maggots, helping to create a criminal war economy, John Robb's Bazaar of Violence. Within the last ten days, we've heard that the Iraqi rebels have targeted the government's audit capability (see the LRB story and also this excellent post from Jamie Kenny), that the rebels are exporting looted antiquities, that another key export of the New Iraq is fifteen-year-old prostitutes, not to mention acting as an entrepot for heroin. As well as the deadly cocktail of military expertise and suicidal fanaticism, there is also a potent war economy emerging in Iraq to fund it. (By the way, one source on the Iraq/smack story is quoted as saying that "you can't have peace, security and development without drugs control". Bollocks. You can't have drugs control without peace, security etc; if you can't stop people blowing policemen up, it's pretty clear you can't stop them selling drugs.)

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