May 30 - The French were so concerned about probable terror attacks on the 1998 World Cup that they contemplated kidnapping Abu Hamza, according to a book by Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, The Suicide Factory, scheduled for release June 19.
The authors wrote about a portion of the book examining these worries in the Times Online article French plot to kidnap Abu Hamza and save the World Cup and, whatever we may think of the lofty posturing by French politicians, that country's security organizations indicate more accurately the seriousness with which the French regard terror threats and the ruthless steps they are willing to take to thwart them:
Jean Pierre Chevènement, France’s Minister of the Interior, had one worry in particular. It was March 1998. In a few months the football World Cup was to be held in France, and it was a huge security headache. Algerian terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) had bombed the Paris Métro in 1995, and the architects of that atrocity — regarded in France as a deadly enemy — were still on the loose, living untroubled lives in London. The World Cup offered them an opportunity, and there were whispers in the intelligence world that something was being planned. It might take only a word from their spiritual guide Abu Hamza, an article in his newsletter, or a line in a communiqué pinned to the Finsbury Park mosque noticeboard to set the wheels in motion.The intent of this post is not to criticize the British; just as I've long regarded it as useless to issue solemn pronouncements of blame over U.S. (in)actions prior to Sept. 11, it seems that too many countries, even staunch U.S. allies in the war on terror, don't take Islamic terror threats seriously until there's blood on their homesoil (e.g., the Theo van Gogh murder) and others, like Indonesia, don't believe there's even a terror threat until it happens (e.g., Bali.)
There had been panic in 1997 when a newsletter carried a GIA logo in which the letters were arranged in the shape of a triangle.
Was it a signal that terrorists were going to target the Eiffel Tower? In 1994 four GIA men had hijacked an Air France jet in Algiers and threatened to fly it to Paris and smash into the tower. The plane was stormed by French commandos at Marseilles and the terrorists killed.
France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded co-operation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending teams of agents abroad to gather intelligence on Islamist militants. Hassaine was part of the team in London, recruited by France’s DGSE intelligence service, to be a spy inside Finsbury Park’s Algerian community and its mosque.
As far as the French were concerned, the British had entered into a Faustian pact with the extreme Islamist groups assembled in London. They were free to organise, propagandise and speak, as long as there was no threat and no trouble on British soil. Abu Hamza seemed to enjoy a friendly relationship with MI5 and Scotland Yard’s intelligence wing, the Special Branch. They called him regularly, invited him for meetings and were generally on cordial terms. (Emphasis added)
“But the French believed that this plot to attack the World Cup was real, that it was being drawn up in London and that Finsbury Park mosque was the capital of Londonistan. The names of many suspects were passed to the British – veteran terrorists arriving from around the world – but the British did nothing. They did not take it seriously, even when the French said that if anything were to happen they would declare publicly that they held the British responsible.”
In the event, France thwarted the threat to attack the tournament. The process of unravelling it began with the arrest of an Algerian terrorist in Belgium in March 1998. The man had been convicted in absentia by a French court in connection with the Paris Métro bombs in 1995, and was subsequently jailed by the Belgian courts for nine years for attempted murder, criminal association, sedition and forgery. In the three months before the World Cup began, more than a hundred North Africans were arrested in France, Switzerland, Italy, Britain, Belgium and Germany as suspected terrorists.
Of course those lessons we can learn from the many failures are valuable, but endless blame games tend to distract instead of focus us. One glaring case in point: how, exactly, did Farenheit 911 serve to secure the nation from terror attacks?
One thing this article does highlight is the urgent need for security agencies from different countries to work together. There is an interesting Cancon aspect to this because French security agencies had tried in vain to alert Canadian authorities about al Qaeda operative and Millennium Bomber (and Canadian refugee-applicant!) Ahmed Ressam, but those warnings were ignored -- and then he was caught by a U.S. border guard trying to enter the USA with a trunkload of explosives with the intent of bombing LAX.
Despite the well-earned reputation of French intelligence agencies, domestic security in that country remains troubled: the kids are at it again because, it is claimed, the French haven't addressed the root causes of last November's riots.
The French Parliament recently tried to relax labour laws in an effort to reduce the high unemployment of the nation's young -- especially the disproportionately higher numbers among the children of immigrants -- but the the labour unions and students forced a retreat. (Is it really so surprising that, when it comes to protecting their own comfortable incomes and job security, the French left-wing turns downright reactionary? /obligatory French bashing)
The French seem caught in their own Faustian deal, a state which, to larger and lesser extents, afflicts us all -- including the USA, where an irate American electorate demands border security but is only getting platitudes.
(A goal and an assist to Newsbeat1 because the latter link led me to the first link. How about them Oilers?)
Oct. 25 - Last May British MP George Galloway scornfully challenged Sen. Norm Coleman to produce evidence that he had received oil vouchers from Saddam Hussein during the former's testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which at the time was investigating the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program. Well, the evidence been produced (Senate panel accuses British lawmaker) and the U.S. Department of Justice will be asked to consider charging Galloway with perjury and obstruction of congressional proceedings.
The British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, proclaims Galloway's wife 'received £100,000 from Iraqis':
The Palestinian-born wife of George Galloway, the Respect MP, is accused today of receiving $149,980 (about £100,000) derived from the United Nations Iraqi oil-for-food programme.George Galloway had been scheduled to go on tour in the eastern U.S. with Jihad Jane and Cindy Sheehan but the trip was abrubtly cancelled last month.
A report by an investigative committee of the United States Senate says the money was sent to the personal account of Amineh Abu Zayyad in August 2000.
The report includes bank records showing a paper trail from Saddam's ministries to Mrs Galloway. It states that the Iraqis handed several lucrative oil-for-food contracts to the Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, an old friend of the Galloways. A month later, on Aug 3, 2000, Mr Zureikat allegedly paid $150,000 minus a bank commission of $20 from his Citibank account number 500190207 into Mrs Galloway's account at the Arab Bank in Amman.
The senate team also says that a $15,666 payment had been made on the same date to a Bank of Scotland account belonging to Mr Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay. Last night Mr McKay said he had no recollection of the alleged payment.
Senate staff said at a press conference yesterday that they would send their report to Britain and Jordan for possible action against the Galloways and Mr Zureikat.
July 11 - The lessons of the past are thought to contain advice for the present. To what extent our imperfect understanding of history can guide us now is still a subject for disagreement, but I think there is little room for debate on the impact a figure as the Queen can have when she appears publicly and openly days after a homeland attack in one war to celebrate the victorious end of an earlier war.
The Queen defied the threat of terrorist attack yesterday to ride down the Mall in an open-top Range Rover at the head of veterans of the Second World War.Whenever I read someone who bitterly laments the decadence and pleasure-seeking impulses which seemingly dominate Western society I think back to an era of flappers, bobbed hair, speak-easies, and raccoon coats that caused an even earlier generation to despair and I smile - but with respect, for those hedonists came to be known as "The Greatest Generation."
Against the backdrop of the London bombings, she made her gesture in front of a crowd of 250,000 people as Britain celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.
Earlier, when referring to the attacks during a speech in Horse Guards, she invoked the courage of the wartime generation.
"It does not surprise me that, during the present difficult days for London, people turn to the example set by that generation of resilience, humour, sustained courage, often under conditions of great deprivation," she said.
"That example and those memories should be kept alive by younger generations as they in their turn strive to keep the peace in our troubled world."
Buckingham Palace said the use of the open-top Range Rover had been planned long before Thursday's Underground and bus bombings and it had been decided to keep to the arrangement.
"It was the same vehicle the Queen used for the Jubilee celebrations," a spokesman said.
After her procession along the Mall, with Prince Philip at her side and standard bearers of the Royal British Legion behind her, the Queen joined other members of the Royal Family on the Palace balcony in scenes reminiscent of 1945. [See here for one example.]
As is noted further down the article in a portion relating to the morning service at Westminster Abbey, What should have been a service of farewell to the dead of 60 years ago became a moment to remember the dead of the previous 72 hours. Those words remind remind us that whereas defeating fascism was the task of an earlier generation, the struggle with terrorism is our bookmark in the history books and it is our task to achieve victory.
The Daily Telegraph article about the services in Westminster Abbey and other links on yesterday's events are quite moving and there is also a link on that page for more photographs.
July 9 - The hunt continues for Mohammed al-Gerbouzi:
A Moroccan granted British citizenship is being hunted by anti-terrorist forces investigating the London bombings.Ahem. A Spanish policeman was killed and several wounded when the Madrid suspects blew "themselves" up.
As detectives warned the suspected Al Qaeda cell that blitzed the capital leaving more than 50 people dead was primed to strike again, a Europe-wide request for information on Mohammed al-Gerbouzi was circulated around police forces.
The request for details on the 45-year-old father of six, who has a British passport after being granted asylum in the mid-1990s, was sent by British police to European counterparts within hours of the three rush-hour Underground explosions and one bus bomb on Thursday.
He is already wanted for questioning in connection with the Casablanca and Madrid terror attacks, which investigators say have striking similarities to the London attacks.
Spanish investigators who led the probe into the Moroccan bombers that left 191 dead in the Madrid attacks are due to arrive in London to help British police in the inquiry into England's worst terrorist attack.
Detectives fear the terror cell of at least three bombers still at large from the Underground bombings have stockpiled enough explosives for another series of devastating attacks on the transport network.
Scotland Yard said they were keeping an open mind on a claim by a previously unheard of group called the Secret Organisation Group of Al Qaeda of Jihad Organisation in Europe that it carried out the attack.
Police believe the men may have met at King's Cross before going to place their deadly packages and officers are searching through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage. It is believed that the security camera on the top floor of the bus was not working properly, however.
A Brussels-based European police official confirmed yesterday that they had been asked for information on the whereabouts of Gerbouzi.
A former pupil of radical cleric Abu Qatada - said to be Osama Bin Laden's European ambassador - Gerbouzi is alleged by the Spanish authorities to have spoken to some of the Madrid bombers twice in the hours before they blew themselves up as police closed in.
Gerbouzi lived in England with his wife and six children. In April last year he is said to have vanished from his ground floor flat in Kilburn, North-West London.In case you missed this and want to know more about Gerbouzi, Michelle Malkin linked to an April, 2004, article from the Sunday Mirror about Gerbouzi UK's terror fear: Cleric we can't kick out. and to this item on Gerbouzi, aka Abu Aissa at the Counterrorism Blog.
Last night Gerbouzi's family said claims he is linked to the London bomb attacks were fantastical.
(Mail link via Neale News.)
July 8 - The sturdy Londoners returned to work today, which I believe is British for "the terrorists can FOAD."
News reports are now placing the death toll at 50 for yesterday's terrorist attack in London, but it's expected to rise as many bodies have not yet been removed from King's Cross because the structural integrity of the subway tunnels has been too severely compromised.
The death toll from the Tavistock Square double-decker bus is 13.
It seems somehow wrong to feel relief that the death toll is comparatively low, but there it is.
Need it be added that a manhunt is underway? The claims of the "Secret Organization of al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe" have not yet been proven, but it seems to be a starting place.
It appears that at least two unexploded devices were found (police conducted "controlled detonations" of them) which confirms one of yesterday's rumours. Although news reports state that timers, not cell phones, were used to set off the explosives, the Met still says they are not sure how the bombs were detonated. Any involvements of suicide bombers remains unproven.
Also, the explosives were apparently aboard the trains, not buried in the tunnels as some speculated.
Yesterday, the ever-blithering CBC was trying to "puzzle out" what the goals of terrorists might have been. Winds of Change lists the goals Norm Geras identified which might help sort out that "puzzle" for the CBC.
With all the talk about the relatively small amount of explosives used, I suddenly remembered the joint British-Canadian operation in which 8 men in Britain and Mohammed Momin Khawaja in Ottawa were arrested in simultaneous raids and the seizing of nearly half a ton of ammonium nitrate in London in March, 2004. Khawaja, known as "the Enabler," is still in custody here and the information that led to his arrest remains under security seal. It is said that information is being protected so as not to compromise the criminal trials of his alleged accomplices which are to begin soon in Britain.
Of course I don't know if there is a connection, and I'm more or less speculating about whether there are even grounds to speculate, but MI5 reportedly learned from surveillance and the use of lip readers that the men discussed bombing targets in and around London.
Michelle Malkin has extensive coverage on the hunt for those who planned and carried out yesterday's attacks here, and it seems the search is centering around one Mohamed Guerbouzi who has already been implicated in other terror attacks, including the 2004 Madrid train bombing, yet lived openly in London this past decade. My jaw stayed on the floor as I read the entire post as well as one she posted earlier on how Britain has become the center of terrorists organizations.
Michael Yon writes that American soldiers in Iraq are angry about the attack, viewing it as Attacking Our Family.
I am no longer dismayed by the failure of so many in Toronto to have similar sentiments despite this country's British heritage, but I too need to be reminded sometimes that Toronto is only a small part of this vast country.
Adams invokes Churchill and calls for a leader to roar to remind the enemy that we have the heart of a lion and Younger Pitt invokes Michael Joseph Savage whose 1939 speech declared that Canada would back Britain to the hilt.
The U.S. State Department flew the British flag at half-mast yesterday as an expression of our sympathy and solidarity. I believe this is the first time the flag of a foreign nation has ever flown from that mast, and I think it a beautiful gesture reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth II's request that the Palace Guard play the Star Spangled Banner on Sept. 11.
I am living proof that the phrase "too tired to be angry" is wrong. I am still cold with fury about the attacks, but I've had less than 4 hours sleep in the past 48 hours and have an irresistable impulse to throw my cat off my pillow and fall asleep while he glares at me. (I get my fun where I can.)
July 7 - Many of those making public statements are using the word "atrocity" so I'm honouring their chosen description as well as their flag.
15:55 - I watched BBC for as long as I could stand it. Found Darcey's solution more to my liking: Kill the sons a bitches.
Flea has issued a stern rebuke to Howard Moscoe and makes an astute observation at the end of the paragraph as to where sympathies for any fundamentalism that depends on hate leads. You think it inappropriate today? No, friends; it is exactly appropriate today. The enemy believes tolerance and diversity are the problems, but one of our most treasured values is that we judge others on the content of their characters. Let that remain our standard.
13:25 - Amazing. Londoners are crossing the bridges to begin their treks home or to whatever public transit is running. Never forget that just as Sept. 11 exposed the depth of evil it also revealed courage and resilience.
I feel as though I'm starting to breath again, and regaining some perspective.
One note: many of us know people on this side of the Atlantic who are going through their own hell as they try to contact loved ones in London. This is intensely personal for them and I'd feel instrusive linking under such circumstances, but you know who you read or know who might be in agony right now, right?
Heh. Robert has his own thoughts on the "unity" this is supposed to bring us and pays his own special tribute to Fingerpointer Galloway.
13:04 - London police report 37 dead, but again, that doesn't seem to include the casualties from the double-decker bus. But it does appear that the death toll will be far lower than that in the previous attacks in NYC, Bali and Madrid.
Nice report on Fox from Sky-TV. The reporter, Alistair (something) mentioned that Londoners are expected to behave much as New Yorkers did on and after Sept. 11. (See Rudy Giuliani's remarks below for a wondrous synchonicity. We can take strength from one another.)
Whoa, London police have warned people to "run as fast as they can" from Victoria Station. Fox is reporting that a suspicious package has been found there.
I guess there will be a fair bit of that kind of "run now, wonder later." Doubtless a great many bags and packages were left as people were evacuated from the stations, but count me as someone who would prefer to respond to a false alarm than a victim of willful stupidity.
12:40 - NYC Mayor Bloomberg is stating solidarity with London as well as reassuring New Yorkers that they are taking all possible precautions there.
Sir Rudy Giuliani is in London (which is why I refer to him by his title) and, when interviewed earlier on Fox, he casually mentioned that, during the dark days following Sept. 11, New Yorkers took as role models the comportment of Londoners during the blitz of WWII. Very. Well. Done, Rudy.
11:27 - Toronto Transit Commissioner (TTC) board member and Toronto City Councillor Howard Moscoe is in serious need of ... strong words issued in his general direction.
The TTC is officially in vigilance mode. I watched the press conference on CP 24 during which the Mayor, TTC CEO (?) Ducharme were briefing the press and public about security measures that have been taken here in Toronto and Moscoe intruded with a smug "we don't have any troops to withdraw from Iraq so we should be okay" comment which kind of missed the mark as the "massacres in Afghanistan" were among the accusations issued by the "we are the al Qaeda wing of Europe and there's nothing you can do about it" website posting in which they also took credit for today's barbarous atrocity in London.
TTC Commissioner tried to return the focus of the press conference on track but Moscoe had to stick his ... foot in his mouth again; I'll give credit to Toronto Mayor David Miller for eventually intruding and, without directly confronting Moscoe, cutting in to reassure the Toronto transit-riding public that they were taking all proper precautions to ensure their safety.
So what's with this:
"I didn't see the advisory, but I think there's a pretty low probability of something like that happening here," said David Crombie, a Toronto businessman, as he exited King Street subway station. "Even if I had, it wouldn't have changed my habits."He's a freaking former mayor, known by many as The Perfect Little Mayor. This city makes me nuts.
PM Paul Martin officially offered his condolences and notes that thus far, no Canadians appear to be among the casualties. Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty is in London but not among the injured or dead.
Martin also confirmed that he has spoken to national security adviser William Elliott.
11:00 - Add "barbaric" to the words of choice. Fox also has a time line (I'm finding logon times to news meda getting longer - perhaps as the West Coast awakens?)
10:29 - The emergency services are holding a press conference. They report 33 fatalities, 21 dead in the second blast at King's Cross but no numbers available yet on the double-decker bus; the British fatality tracking system is down; approximately 1,500 police personnel are deployed but they aren't recalling police currently assigned to the G-8 nor those off-duty as they anticipate they will need them in their due rotation.
All passengers are reported as having been evacuated from the subway.
I'm impressed: thus far, no really stupid or editorialized questions such as our press is apt to indulge in.
10:17 - I'm starting a second post and again referring everyone to Robert, who is now posting from his home in North London. The most recent post concerns advice from the Met (London police) which is totally common sense but as the words sink in they take us back to Sept. 11.
I missed which location (update: it's Edgeware) but Fox is reporting that one of the bombing sites is in a predominantly Arab neighbourhood. In the same minute (inasmuch as time has telescoped) they also mention that a website states that top Egyptian envoy to Iraq Ihab al-Sherif has been killed claiming he was an apostate.
I expect nothing from CAIR or their little sibling in Canada, but the message to London Arabs seems fairly clear, and I doubt there will be too many who will dare modify their condemnation of the London atrocity with "but" (or should that be I hope there aren't?)
July 7 - 13:40 - I wish I had thought to post this photo. Well done, Flea!
09:52 - Again, I'm quoting the entire article in full, this time from The Sun: Her Majesty shocked:
Her Majesty shockedGod Save the Queen.
By TERRY LAND
THE Queen has spoken of her dismay at the terrorist attacks.
In an open message, she said: “The dreadful events in London this morning have deeply shocked us all.
“I know I speak for the whole nation in expressing my sympathy to all those affected and the relatives of the killed and injured.
“I have nothing but admiration for the emergency services as they go about their work.”
The Queen is currently at Windsor after travelling from the Gleneagles G8 summit where she last night hosted a dinner for political leaders.
Buckingham Palace has been sealed off in the wake of the terrorist blasts with armed police and army personnel on guard.
July 7 - Updating as new reports come in.
The deadly situation at King's Cross continues to be a concern. Fox reports people are being treated on the platform in a desperate effort to save lives. I was afraid to say this earlier, but one feature of attacks in Israel have been bombs timed to go off as rescue personnel arrive. So far it looks as though at least that particular atrocity didn't occur.
09:20 - Fox reports Sky news reports 45 dead, 1000 injuried with 150 of those seriously.
I'm not sure how much longer I can hold together. I feel as though I'm moving rapidly onto fury after scarcely a pause at shock and horror, and although I've been on this for over two hours it seems more like 2 minutes.
Is this how it is supposed to work? Sept. 11 left me in shock and then tears for several days. The attack in Bali had me scrambling across the internet as I tried so desperately just to get information (stupid CNN) that it was awhile before the true enormity of that attack became apparent.
The shock after the Madrid attack lasted for several hours, yet it's been scarce two hours since I first learned of the London attack and I am into fury and moving rapidly to livid.
Stupid murderous bastards. Do they realize that resolute people become even more implacable when such events remind us how very much is at stake? Or do they have so little respect for us that they assume we just need more "lessons?"
Fury checkpoint passed. Screw livid. On to cold rage.
Fox just reported 300 injured.
08:35 - President Bush just made a brief statement. I think he's genuinely angry about the attacks. He did say he's already been in contact with the Secretary of Homeland Security back in the U.S.
I switch over to CBC in case PM Martin was making a statement but they seem somewhat behind events as the newscaster invited everyone to stay tuned as they puzzled out who is responsible and what their goals were. (Um, to kill people?) CITY-TV reports that the TTC (Toronton Transit) has not issued a threat alert but have advised personnel to be cautious.
08:26 - The BBC website has a page on which they are covering events as they unfold, and it looks as though they are updating regularly. The most recent entry is that "people are still trapped at King's Cross Station, and efforts are being made to rescue them." That's f***ing chilling.
Fox commentators note that this attack might help remind them that the biggest challenge confronting us this century is terrorism, not global warming.
08:01 - Fox confirms there were 7 bombs and they say al Arabiya reports that an al Qaeda associated group states they were responsibile for the attacks.
The first bomb in London went off at 8:42 a.m. These bastards just love to attack people who work.
07:25 - Fox TV is reporting rumours of more explosions on buses and a "suspicious" package has been retrieved. Expat Yank Robert is posting from London on the attacks, and after my initial relief that he's okay, I'm going to be following his reports. (His first post is here, for the archivists among us.)
The Fox website direct story link is here.
6:58 - Damn. Damn. Damn. Half-expecting it doesn't make it any the easier.
It took me awhile to get onto the Telegraph website 'Terrible injuries' after London explosions so I'm going to just quote the entire article:
All London underground services and roads into the City have been closed after what is thought to be a major terrorist attack on the Tube and bus network during the rush hour.
At least six Tube stations have been affected, including Aldgate East, Edgware Road, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Moorgate, and Russell Square, Scotland Yard said.
Tube map (link opens to enlarged map)
[Circles represent left Edgware Road, top center King's Cross St. Pancras, bottom center Russell Square, top right Liverpool Street, bottom right Aldgate. Ed. Update: I'm quoting Jay here to give some idea of the location of the sixth bombing: "Add another one southwest of the more-or-less center circle, where the blue line intersects the black one, Leicester."]
Explosions have been reported on buses at Russell Square and Tavistock Square. Union bosses said there had been three bus explosions.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said there had been "terrible injuries". He advised people not to make unnecessary journeys into London.
A doctor at Aldgate underground station said there had been 90 casualties. There were unconfirmed reports that a number of people had died on the bus in Russell Square.
A policeman at the scene said: "We believe there have been a number of fatalities and a number of people who are seriously injured."
Alun Duncan, shadow home secretary, blamed terrorists for the attacks. He said: "This is the ultimate nightmare coming into play.
"It is not for us to guess what their motives are."
One train passenger at Aldgate said: "People were screaming, we could not get out. There was so much dust, people were choking. I thought I was going to die of dust inhalation.
"One woman told us to get down. We got out of one of the doors that had busted open. There were bodies and pieces of train everywhere.
"There was a huge hole on the side of the carriage."
Sky producer, Bob Mills who was at Russell Square, said an explosion "definitely happened above ground".
He described the top of a bus being "completely destroyed".
BTP initially blamed power surges, but the National Grid, which supplies power to the Underground, later said there had been no problems with its system which could have contributed to the incidents.
Union officials said they had been told by at least one senior Tube manager that there had been at least one explosive device on the Underground.
The incidents come a day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and on the day the G8 summit begins in Gleneagles.
A Metronet spokesman said: "It looks as if we have a major incident. The whole system is being shut down."
Mainline train company First Great Western said its services into London's Paddington station were terminating at Reading in Berkshire because of the Underground crisis.
June 4 - Thanks to Dave J. for pointing the way to EU Referendum, a site that is discussing the UK referendum on the EU Constitution.
Of course, there are rules ...
The value of blogs for political debate away from the closed circles of the elites is becoming apparent in Europe. Nicholas has a very interesting post about a French blogger, who, in the words of the BBC, made the European elites feel "the sting of these online upstarts, the bloggers" by using the medium to articulate his opposition to the EU Constitution and whose essay was disseminated throughout France. He didn't single-handedly create the "Non" vote, of course, but I suspect that the enthusiastic reception of his writing indicates that in France too, the mainstream media is no longer speaking to or for the people.
May 29 - Ben Macintyre writes tongue in cheek for the London Times on the Canadian-American and French-British rivalries in Everybody needs bad neighbours:
In our thoroughly globalised world, the US and Canada, France and Britain, cling anachronistically to their singular, ancient rivalries. Australia and New Zealand look further afield than each other for economic comparisons; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan do not expend energy anxiously surveying their respective sex lives. But the English Channel and the US border with Canada remain the distorting, two-way mirrors through which these neighbours perceive themselves.He emphasizes his point that the British-French rivalry is of the sibling order by a quote from columnist Claude Imbert in Le Point "To those French who still believe that Britain is a former Norman colony that went wrong ..." Ouch. We credit the Normans with doubling the English language and introducing chimneys but tend to believe the invaders were, in due time, anglicized, and can always view Shakespeare's account of the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V with some pride so long as we can gather our coats and file out of the theatre thus missing the final lines on the failure of the next generation to retain what Henry V won.
Americans and Canadians will, at the drop of a hat, bring up the War of 1812 and work backward to 1776 to present our list of grievances, but that list seems downright contemporary compared to two countries who can begin theirs in 1066.
Macintyre is looking at a bigger picture set in European terms and his conclusions are interesting but he doesn't address (or perhaps even know about) the impact of Adscam on Canadian thinking and sensibilities.
The family nature of U.S. and Canadian relations is one that we tend to rush past and it has been made easier by the wholesale re-write of history which de-emphasizes British rule and influence up here in order to side-step the end of French rule at the Plains of Abraham (Canada's Culloden, if you will) which brought a reluctant step-brother into the family.
The current scandel proves the point that we can re-write history but we can't undo it. Adscam is directly related to (if only because it formed the pretext for) anglo- and franco-Canadian relations, and many of us are re-examining our former attitudes to the cause of Quebec sovereignty and recognizing that the exposure of how basely that issue was manipulated by the Liberal Party in their pursuit of one-party rule justifies Quebec outrage and, further, may have irreparably damaged prospects for a truly united Canada.
The divide-and-conquer strategy of the Libranos is being exposed, and some are beginning to realize that the implications go far beyond Quebec and permeate the very weave of today's Canada.
Every time Bombardier is granted a contract there are grumblings in Ontario, but which profit most when the contracts are awarded to Quebec: Quebeckers or those who own Bombardier? It's past time to get deeply suspicious of the quasi-Socialist pretentions of the Libranos and look closer at who gains from these contracts. If it is done in the name of national, or family, unity, then why are the kids bickering?
Once the Libranos decided that they were the natural governing party of Canada and set about to do whatever they could to assert their rule they forgot the danger that the kids might get together and compare notes. Some are noticing that one family analogy which may fit is that of a parent who purposefully incites quarrels between the adult children in order keep them bitterly divided and, in the case of a wealthy family with sizeable assets, ensures they will continue to pander to the parent in order to get what they perceive to be their rightful shares.
But Quebec and the West have had enough and, within their own families, are seriously thinking of getting out of the family business and setting up their own. Ontario is the "good eldest child" -- compliant and obediently determined to uphold the patriarch's dominance (although it privately feels that it should get more for its loyalty than the parent is alloting) and is so invested in the family business that it tends to dismiss the mutterings of those who wonder if the price of unity is worth the cost of their dignity.
Like many parents, the Libranos shrug aside the signs of rebellion, thinking that "kids will be kids," and forgetting that the blind love of children for the parent is replaced by a more critical view once the kids grow up. Should the judgement be that the parental unit makes decisions more for its own benefit than that of the family as a whole then the justification for maintaining family unity is lost.
They played a good hand when they projected Paul Martin in the role of the sympathetic "other" parent and, by seeming to overthrew Chretien's iron rule, he gained some traction by apologizing to the kids for taking them and their contributions for granted and promising to address their concerns and to treat them with more respect, fix the democratic deficit, and distribute more of the profits from the family business.
But then the family quarrel was aired in the Commons, and the Libranos retained power by marrying both the NDP and Belinda Stronach and pre-emptively gave a larger share of the profits to the kids. Martin thus, to all appearances, retained control as this placated some of them, but there is a limit to how often that strategy can be successfully employed.
He will likely take the opportunity at the next family gathering (which would be the next election) to praise the children profusely and humbly, and this will work only to the extent that the kids are denied a thorough understanding of the business accounts for the family in part because foundations which receive federal money are not accountable for how they spend that money.
There is another who wishes to be made head of the family, and some of the siblings use their distrust or dislike of Harper as a pretext for their continued support for the Libranos, but I am genuinely perplexed that, by inference, Joe Clark is somehow be seen as more likeable and charismatic than Harper.
[In contrast, President Bush has many qualities I admire but even I wouldn't call him charismatic. My support for him stems from support for his policies, so his personal appeal is not even a factor. The same can be said for Australian PM Howard.]
I also fail to see how anyone can pretend that Paul Martin has personal appeal, and I am stunned that people still worry about the "hidden agenda" of the Conservative Party when, should the allegations at the Gomery Inquiry be proven, it would seem that it is the Libranos who had the hidden agenda and it was to enrich themselves and their friends at public expense rather than anything that resembled governance.
Oddly enough, it may be the experience of living under Liberal despotism that causes fears about the Conservatives; people may believe that the CPC is as capable of forcing unpopular legislation through Parliament as the Liberals.
I hope the Conservatives use the next period to craft and state their policies. Their failure to do so is probably due more to being a new party and needing to have those kind of discussions among their members but Eastern voters are not likely to buy another pig in a poke.
Canadians are facing a dilemma of another sort though when the media projects the value of personal appeal over policies. Is it possible to maintain illusions once the blinkers are off? The polls seem to say yes, and that is the challenge for both the Libranos and the opposition parties - everywhere except Quebec, that is. They, at least, had the grace to feel insulted by the bribery, and rightly wonder how much the rest of the family truly values them when the others don't share in that outrage.
And that's the real pity.
(Links via Neale News.)
May 17 - At first I thought this was a joke: Europe unites in hatred of French.
Pollsters asked Europeans to list five words that describe the French and the answers were not very complimentary:
Why the French are the worst company on the planet, a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.This probably reflects mostly that other nationalities are not really that fond of other nationalities in Europe, but it begs the question as to why are they trying to submerge the sovereignty of each nation by ratifying the EU Constitution. The minimum requirement ought to be mutual respect and trust, no?
But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". ..
For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".
Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".
The French were also asked about other people:
Another section of the study deals with how the French see the rest of Europe.12:48 Looks like Warwick got to the story first. Nice shots (heh.)
"Believe it or not, the English and the French use almost exactly the same adjectives to describe each other - bar the word 'insular'," Mr Coldong said. "So the feelings are mutual."
May 16 - The British media are noticing what is going on here (Your Majesty, this trip could get political.)
The Daily Telegraph notes that the Queen's trip here could be delayed if
... her private secretary, Sir Robin Janvrin, answers his phone between now and then to an apologetic Canadian prime minister delivering the news: "It's all off." For Canada is in political meltdown.The article goes on to question what would happen at government functions held in her honour should there be no government.
The Liberal government is teetering on the brink of collapse and, should prime minister Paul Martin fall before the Queen is airborne his advice could be to stay at home.
His demise will automatically trigger a general election, and Canada in the middle of an election campaign is no place for a Queen who has avoided political hot potatoes throughout her 53-year reign.
Mr Martin has so far staved off a vote of confidence over allegations that the Liberal government gave millions of dollars in contracts to firms in Quebec, with many of those firms, allegedly, then paying kickbacks to the Liberal Party.
But, under pressure from Conservatives, he is being forced to hold one on Thursday when parliament gathers to vote on his federal budget. That is two days into the Queen's nine-day tour of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
If he is still standing by the time she touches down, the prediction is he will lose the May 19 vote.
Thus the man who greets the Queen as her prime minister at the bottom of the runway steps at Regina may no longer be her prime minister two days later.
(And yes, the facts as reported are somewhat off.)
And, for all you Constitutionalists, Pixy Misa compares today's situation in Canada to a 1975 incident in Australia in which the Governor-General recognized and performed his duty.
May 14 - (retro-posting) It was worth waiting for:
A longtime ally of French President Jacques Chirac and a leading British critic of the Iraq war received huge contracts to resell Iraqi oil from Saddam Hussein under the U.N. oil-for-food program, Senate investigators have found.According to FoxNews,
In findings being released today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations charges that former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and British Member of Parliament George Galloway each received the right to market more than 10 million barrels of cut-rate oil from dictator Saddam's Oil Ministry between 1999 and 2003.
Senate investigators, who will air their findings in a hearing next week, based the new report on internal Iraqi documents, Oil Ministry correspondence and interviews with top Saddam-era officials such as detained Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.
Subcommittee Chairman Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, said the findings "paint a disturbing picture of the dark underside of the oil-for-food program." (Emphasis added)
The allegations against Pasqua and Galloway, both outspoken opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, have been made before, including in a report last October by U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer.Please note that this is a different set of documents than the forged ones the for which Galloway successfully sued the Daily Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor.
But Coleman's report provided several new details. It also included information from interviews with former high-ranking officials now in U.S. custody, including former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.
Among the claims: New evidence suggests that a children's leukemia charity founded by Galloway was in fact used to conceal oil payments.
The report includes what Coleman said was a copy of a contract from Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization that mentions Mariam's Appeal, a fund Galloway established in 1998 to help a 4-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukemia, Mariam Hamze.
It says the fund may have been used to conceal the transfer of 3 million barrels of oil.
By the way, the Washington Times incorrectly states that Galloway quit the Labour Party; Fox correctly reports that he was expelled.
The transfer of oil to Charles Pasqua was handled by his aide, Bernard Guillet, and there was some wrangling over which bank should deliver the oil allocations.
Guillet has troubles of his own; he is under investigation for influence-peddling and receiving misappropriated funds.
Galloway denies the allegations and last month, the Daily Telegraph was granted permission to to appeal (it's unclear whether they are appealing the ruling or the amount awarded to Galloway, although I believe it is the former.)
The Bethnal Green and Bow MP, who was re-elected to parliament last week running for his own Respect party, described the Senate committee as a "lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George Bush".The Sun is carefully choosing it's words, strictly sticking to the basics of the report (if you've ever read the Sun, you'd know why that is news!)
He said: "Let me repeat. I have never traded in a barrel of oil, or any vouchers for it. I have never seen a barrel of oil apart from the one the Sun newspaper deposited in my front garden.
"And no one has acted on my behalf, trading in oil - Middle Eastern, olive, patchouli or any other - or in vouchers, whatever they are.
"Isn't it strange and contrary to natural justice you might think that I have written and emailed repeatedly asking for the opportunity to appear before the committee to provide evidence and rebut their assumptions and they have yet to respond, while apparently making a judgement."
(This is actually from May 12 - I'm doing some retro-posting to catch up.)
Apr. 15 - David Bay Chalmers Jr. of Bayoil U.S.A. was charged yesterday in Iraq Oil Sales by Hussein Aides.:
In an indictment, federal authorities in New York said David Bay Chalmers Jr., a Houston oil businessman, and his company, Bayoil U.S.A., made millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks to the Iraqi government while trading oil under the $65 billion aid program.The story in the Washington Post says much the same:
Separate charges were brought against Tongsun Park, a millionaire South Korean businessman, for acting as an unregistered lobbyist for Iraq in behind-the-scenes negotiations in the United States to set up and shape the United Nations program. The criminal complaint said Mr. Park received at least $2 million in secret payments from Mr. Hussein's government for serving as a liaison between Iraqi and United Nations officials.
Mr. Park was at the center of a lobbying scandal in the 1970's, when he was accused of paying bribes to lawmakers in Washington to secure support for loans to South Korea.
The authorities not only charged that Bayoil made illegal payments to secure Iraqi oil, but also that it conspired to artificially lower the price Iraq received, depriving the Iraqi people of money for sorely needed items. The charges also disclosed new information about an alleged plan to pay senior United Nations officials to influence the course of the program.
Catherine M. Recker, a lawyer for Mr. Chalmers, said the Bayoil defendants and the company would plead not guilty and "vigorously dispute" the criminal charges.
According to federal authorities and the complaint against Mr. Park, he was a partner in the lobbying effort with Samir Vincent, an Iraqi-American businessman who pleaded guilty in January to illegal lobbying for Iraq.
Mr. Vincent, who is cooperating with federal investigators, said Iraqi officials signed agreements in 1996 to pay him and Mr. Park $15 million for their lobbying, the complaint says.
One of their tasks was "to take care of" a high-ranking United Nations official, which Mr. Vincent understood to mean to pay bribes, the complaint says. The authorities did not identify or bring charges against the United Nations official. (Emphasis added)
David N. Kelley, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, said the complaint alleges that Mr. Park intended to bribe the official, but does not show that the official received any bribe.
The complaint also charges that Mr. Park met with a second unnamed senior United Nations official, once in a restaurant in Manhattan. After that, Mr. Park said he invested $1 million he had been paid by Iraq in a Canadian company belonging to the son of the second United Nations official, the complaint says.
Mr. Kelley declined to say whether the officials were still actively serving at the world organization. He said, however, that the investigation was "broad and large" and that his office would "wring the towel dry" in pursuing United Nations officials. (Emphasis added.)
A federal grand jury in Manhattan charged that David B. Chalmers Jr., founder of Houston-based Bayoil USA Inc. and Bayoil Supply & Trading Limited; Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian citizen who lives in Houston; and John Irving, a British oil trader, funneled millions of dollars in kickbacks through a foreign front company to an Iraqi-controlled bank account in the United Arab Emirates. If convicted, the three men could each be sentenced to as long as 62 years in prison, $1 million in fines, and the seizure of at least $100 million in personal and corporate assets.
The federal complaint against Park charges that he received a total of $2 million in cash from Iraq, including a fee to "take care" of an unnamed U.N. official. It also states that Park invested $1 million in Iraqi money in a Canadian company owned by the son of another unknown, "high-ranking" U.N. official. Park could face as long as five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000 or twice the value of profits he earned as a result of his alleged activities. (Emphasis added.)
The Telegraph (UK) has a fairly terse article on the arrests.
Thus far I've only found coverage of the arrests in The Globe and Mail which covers the arrest but as of 5:41 a.m. didn't report the allegations of a Canadian connection but does report that U.N. officials may be connected to these arrests:
The reference in the complaint against Mr. Park to two mystery high-ranking UN officials sparked widespread speculation in UN corridors of possible names.Any Canadian who read the NY Times or Washington Post today is probably speculating too!
Mr. Kelley, pressed repeatedly by reporters at a news conference to say whether U.N. officials had actually received money tied to Mr. Park, would say only that that issue was not part of the indictment.
The U.N. is claiming that the Americans and British were perfectly aware of the violations of the sanctions but refused to order their ships in the Persian Gulf to stop oil tankers heading for Turkish and Jordanian ports with illicit Iraqi oil. I have read reports that trucks loaded with illegally purchased oil from Iraq went to Turkey and Jordan (that became common knowledge after Operation Iraqi Freedom and the public learned just how corrupt OFF - or Oil for Palaces - really was) but I don't understand why oil headed for Jordan or Turkey would use rather lengthy sea lanes when they border Iraq and could drive it in.
Maybe Annan was thinking of Syria, a member of the U.N. Security Council, but, again, the oil was not transported by sea but by pipeline, two of which were turned off when U.S. troops got to them. Maybe he just forgot.
11:30 - Glenn Reynolds has lots of links on the arrests.
Apr. 16 - 10:05: FoxNews has no additional information on U.N. Official No. 1 and Official No. 2.
Mar. 16 - Robert at Expat Yank is continuing his excellent coverage of the IRA and Sinn Fein while they court Irish-Americans. Just keep scrolling.
I am of partial Irish inheritance, and had a sentimental attachment to the struggle for Irish freedom, but I understood quite clearly that our tolerance of the IRA had been wrong and that we couldn't allow for Irish terrorism if we were to honourably combat Islamic, Basque, and Columbian terrorists.
No "Yes, but" on this one.
19:03 Judi McLeod reports that Toronto Mayor David Miller attended a fund-raising dinner for Sinn Fein in 2002 (Miller was a city councillor at the time) but the heart of her article is a tribute to the courage of Robert McCartney's sisters, who have taken on Sinn Fein's continued ties with the IRA in their pursuit of justice for their brother.
CNN covers their visit with senators here.
Mar. 15 - All I wanted to do was link to Ex-pat Yank's coverage of the Robert McCartney killing and the exposure of Sinn Fein as hoodlums (more here, here, here, here, here, here and especially here and I find he's become famous!
He was quoted at Slate! And doing what bloggers are becoming known for doing best - fact checking.
Expat Yank Robert Tumminello takes issue with news stories that estimate there are 1 million Spanish Muslims. "Hmm, but less than a year ago," he says, the Boston Globe counted only 500,000 Muslims in Spain, and guessed there were perhaps only 200,000 more living there illegally. "Quite a growing population," he murmurs.No apologies needed, Robert, but congratulations are indeed in order.
Feb. 21 - I must really need some sleep (or perhaps wading through two feet of snow to get home has brought out my inner wacky.) Whatever the case, the main webpage for today's Telegraph features some, er, unusual headings:
Bush likes gays and smoked pot (Heh. Not a surprise!)
LONDON (AP) - Foreign terrorist suspects detained indefinitely without trial in Britain have suffered severe and possibly irreparable damage to their mental health, a group of psychiatrists who examined the men reported Wednesday.To be fair, I'll include the rest of his statement:
The experts, who met eight men held under Britain's anti-terrorist laws, said all displayed similar symptoms of depression, anxiety, self-harm and thoughts of suicide. "All of the men I saw were extremely desperate," said Ian Robbins, a clinical psychologist at St. George's Hospital in London. (My bolding.)
"All had considered suicide and had attempted self-harm, either through cutting themselves or in one case by trying to hang himself."The detainees were examined at the request of their lawyer. The British high court is considering an appeal brought by nine detaineese "who argue their detention is inconsistent with Britain's democratic principles."
In their report, the seven psychiatrists and one psychologist concluded mental health damage "is inevitable under a regime which consists of indefinite detention."
July 5 - Article in the Sun (UK) about the stirring bayonet charge by British sodliers in Iraq (Army's fearless five:
THE staggering heroism of five British soldiers as they helped rout more than a HUNDRED Iraqi rebels is revealed for the first time today by The Sun.
The men came to the rescue of ambushed comrades — saving their lives with the Army’s first bayonet charge since the Falklands War 22 years ago.
After a bloody battle which raged for four hours at least 28 of the enemy lay dead. Fleeing cohorts are thought to have dragged away at least the same number of bodies.
Just two of Our Boys were slightly wounded. Last night the brave troops — members of the same regiment as the private tipped for a Victoria Cross — told of the desperate fight.
Private Anthony Rushforth, 23, said: “We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry. It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that’.”
The terrifying bayonet charge by the members of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment — nicknamed The Tigers — saw trench after trench taken from the enemy.
It was led by Sgt Major Dave Falconer, 36. He said of his men: “I am very proud of them.”
The other heroes were Sgt Chris Broome, 35, and privates John-Claude Fowler, 19 and Matthew Tatawaqa, 23. The men, from C Company, raced to the rescue in Warrior armoured vehicles after an ambush by rebels loyal to rogue Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Two Land Rovers transporting Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had been pinned down by heavy fire south of Al Amarah, 150 miles from Basra.
As the Warriors arrived, they too were targeted by machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
Sgt Major Falconer, from Portsmouth, said: “Our Warriors were vulnerable to attack from the side by the enemy hiding in ditches.
“The only way you can hold ground in that situation is by having boots on it — so that’s what we did.”
That is military-speak for sending in infantry. Private Rushforth, from Southampton, said: “When the order came to dismount and attack, it was just like what we’ve done dozens of times in training.
“We sprinted in ten-metre bursts, then hit the ground to put down some rounds, and then carried on again for the last 30 metres. We broke into pairs and finished off the trench.”
The fight was dubbed the Battle for Danny Boy — after the name of the remote checkpoint where it took place.
FIRST Sgt Maj Falconer’s men defied enemy fire to charge 200 metres across open land.
They leapt into the first trench, killing three enemy with SA80 rifle bullets and “cold steel”. Four were taken prisoner.
THEN they took two further trenches as the Warriors provided covering fire from chain guns and 30mm cannon.
Eight more enemy were killed and four surrendered.
Diehard rebels continued to hold out. FINALLY a Challenger II tank was summoned to blitz their bunker. The five were hailed heroes along with a sixth soldier Lance Corporal Brian Wood. He has since been posted back in Britain.
The last time the Army used bayonets in action was when Scots Guards assaulted Argentinian positions in 1982. Sgt Maj Falconer said: “The lads performed excellently and with the highest professionalism.”
OTTAWA (CP) - The tale of Bill Sampson, a Canadian jailed fort (sic) 31 months and accused of terrorism and murder in Saudi Arabia, has taken another bizarre twist with a claim that he finally won his freedom last year in a prisoner exchange brokered by the United States.Very, very intriguing.
In return for the release of Sampson and other westerners held in Riyadh, the Americans agreed to send five Saudi terror suspects they had captured back to their homeland, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Canadian government had no immediate comment, other than to say it was looking into the matter.
Sampson, in a telephone interview from Penrith, Britain, where he now makes his home, said he's convinced the story is correct.
"It confirms information that I have found from different sources myself over the last nine months," he said.
"It's my information that the Saudis themselves broached the idea of an exchange," said Sampson.
"We were used from the very, very outset as hostages, and this had been deliberate from the start, to use us as a means of leverage against western governments."
The Times, quoting anonymous U.S. and British officials, said the prisoner exchange that finally freed Sampson was engineered by Robert Jordan, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The deal was controversial in Washington, where some officials thought the U.S. was taking too big a risk by releasing potentially dangerous terrorist suspects from Guantanamo, said the newspaper.
But the Americans reportedly went ahead because they wanted to help British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a loyal ally in the war then shaping up in Iraq.
Blair's government had been trying to win the release of six Britons held along with Sampson, who is a dual Canadian-British citizen. Also held was Belgian Raf Schveyns.
All were arrested following a series of bombings in Riyadh that westerners claimed were the work of al-Qaida terrorists and the Saudis claimed were part of a turf war among western bootleggers involved in the illicit alcohol trade.
All eight westerners were finally set free in August 2003, three months after the five Guantanamo prisoners were sent home to Saudi Arabia.
Sampson said the Belgian documents, obtained and shown to him by Schveyns following their release, indicate that diplomats in Riyadh were worried about the three-month time lag.
05:12: CNN is carrying the story. The Saudis say the report is "pure fantasy" and US National Security Spokesman Sean McCormack said there was "no recollection here of any linkage between these two actions."
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.-D) is very worried about the release of the Gitmo prisoners and thinks there was undue influence by the Saudis, but his comments had nothing to do with the upcoming presidential campaign because CNN doesn't connect the two.
[Read on to see what kind of "influence" was being exerted, and I apologize to Canadians and the British for the indifferent CNN coverage]
The Daily Telegraph (UK) takes an entirely different slant:
United States officials yesterday accused Saudi Arabia of demanding - and receiving - the release of Saudi terrorist suspects from Guantanamo Bay as the secret price for last year's diplomatic deal to release six Britons accused of a deadly bombing campaign.That's more like it.
The allegations, levelled by senior American officials in the New York Times, cast new light on what was already one of the murkiest episodes in Saudi-British relations.
The six Britons and one British-born Canadian returned home last August after a bizarre two-year ordeal that saw them accused of plotting a string of bombings that ended in the death of a fellow Briton in late 2000.
Though western residents and diplomats insisted that the bombings were the work of Islamic militants, Saudi authorities claimed that the bombs were the result of a feud between foreign bootleggers, illegally selling alcohol within the expatriate community.
The seven confessed to a variety of "crimes", but later retracted their confessions. They have since launched a High Court legal action naming high-ranking Saudi leaders, saying they were tortured into false confessions as Saudi authorities tried to cover up the existence of al-Qa'eda terrorists in the kingdom.
Two men, Sandy Mitchell and a Canadian, William Sampson, were sentenced to public beheading, four were sentenced to 12-year jail terms and the seventh was detained for 10 months but not charged. They were all granted clemency last summer and were released three weeks later after signing a letter apologising to King Fahd and thanking his subjects for their hospitality. (Emphasis added.)
When they arrived in Britain, credit was given to British Government pressure and to the Prince of Wales, who made a private plea for clemency to the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah.
One American source described as knowledgeable about the negotiations told the New York Times: "This presented itself as a way for the United States to help its friends, both the Brits and the Saudis. It's what diplomacy is all about."
A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London declined to confirm or deny US involvement in brokering the three-way deal, saying: "We worked very hard to secure the release of the men, and were relieved when they were released."
July 1 - Robert at Expat Yank concludes that the BBC is bored with Iraq and that accounts for their sudden interest in what they perceive as sudden US interest in the Sudan, but rest assured, the BBC comes up with the usual suspects starting with the Oil (or maybe it should be oiiilll!!!.)
Robert calls the BBC on their dimestore punditry. One excerpt:
But never fear, the BBC belatedly edited (without comment and admission) the word nagging to the far less shrewish word lobbying. Aren't they special?One is the pressure from right-wing Christian groups in the US, who have taken up the cause of their fellow Christians in Sudan."Nagging"? She actually wrote, "nagging." Well, darn it, but slavery and sharia tend to make the open-minded, democratic and, yes, even "right-wing Christians", a bit tense. It might even lead some to "nag" . . . and one would think that might be a tad understandable.
Their nagging - on the issues of slavery and the forcible imposition of Sharia law - helped get sanctions imposed on Sudan in 1997. . .
It is getting harder and harder to keep up with the BBC. Since the item clearly indicates annoyance with (and perhaps even condemnation of) the
nagging lobbying of the right-wing Christians on the issues of slavery and sharia in Sudan, does that mean the BBC is pro-slavery? Or maybe that they are willing to tolerate slavery as an expression of diversity?
Oh well, the BBC got all bases covered for whatever happens in Sudan. It will be about the oil, right-wing Christians, and cited as another failure in Bush diplomacy (but not U.N. diplomacy. Never that.)
(Note that the BBC item was written before Annan's visit to the hastily abandoned refugee camp in Sudan.)
June 23 - Law enforcement agencies in Britain are openly acknowledging that honour killings are a problem there (Police chiefs try to end 'honour killings' with review of 100 murders.)
Police are to review more than 100 murders in an attempt to understand and prevent "honour killings", it was announced yesterday.One would think that feminists would be in the forefront of demanding justice for our Muslim sisters, but as Damian Penny notes, intellectuals like Germaine Greer actually try to justify their repression. Australian columnist Andrew Bolt nails it:
The examination of 117 cases believed to be honour killings, which are classified as murders "motivated by perceived dishonour to a family or community", was welcomed by an Asian community leader.
The majority of victims were women, with many from south Asia, though there were some from Africa, eastern Europe and Arab countries.
Scotland Yard announced the initiative amid growing evidence that women in the Asian community are being subjected to violence and sometimes murdered for defying cultural traditions.
Their perceived crimes can include wanting to go to university, refusing an arranged marriage, having a boyfriend or dressing in western-style clothing.
In 2000 the United Nations estimated that 5,000 women worldwide were killed every year because they had allegedly brought shame on their families or communities.
But women's rights groups and Asian leaders believe the figure hugely underestimates the scale of the problem.
Ram Gidoomal is the chairman of the South Asian Development Partnership, a charity that aims to overcome divisions in ethnic communities, and author of the book Sari 'n' Chips. He welcomed the review but said it should include suicide victims.
"Many more people are driven to suicide because of the 'dishonour' that is purported to have been brought on the family," he said.
"The attempted suicide rate among young Asian women is four times the national average, and with men, too, it is rising."
Scotland Yard announced its review as officers from across Europe gathered at The Hague to discuss ways of tackling honour killings.
On the same show, Greer, famed for leading the feminist revolution with her The Female Eunuch, offered a nutty excuse for Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving cars.When I proclaim my support of women to choose, I mean something a bit different than the current Liberal fear-mongering about abortion. I'm supporting the right of women to make decisions about their lives and futures, which includes our rights to be at-home mothers, wear a burka, have the independence we gain by driving ourselves to wherever we choose to go, and have the right to say "No" because ultimately, that's the definition of freedom: Having the right to say no.
"I get a bit worried about certain heavily veiled ladies driving because they have no peripheral vision at all," she said. "You can understand why in some countries they are not allowed to drive."
Oh, so that's why. And women are beheaded there because . . .?
The Official Feminist Movement jumped the shark long ago. Time to take back what is ours: the right to speak about ourselves for ourselves, and to celebrate our own diversity, that being our right to be individually individual.
June 10 - Paul and Fred have made certain that I'll be giggling as I go to sleep with the tale of a Scot with the unfortunate name of Ronald MacDonald and a nuclear shelter ... okay, just read Damn that clown.... I know it's not nice to laugh about this, but it's not my fault it's so damned funny.
May 22 - From The Telegraph (UK), Envoy injured by blast:
The British high commissioner to Bangladesh and his bodyguard were among 50 people injured yesterday when a bomb was thrown near a Muslim shrine.There's a bit more information in this item in the Australian news.
Two people were killed in the blast from the bomb which struck Anwar Choudhury, 43, in the stomach before rolling away to explode.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "deeply shocked" adding: "Details of exactly what happened and the nature of the injuries are not clear."
The shrine has been attacked before and it was not clear if the diplomat was the target.
A senior doctor who treated Mr Choudhury said he had soft tissue injuries in his right leg, but was "in good health". Mr Choudhury and his bodyguard, who was also lightly injured, were flown to Dhaka on a Bangladeshi air force helicopter sent by Begum Khaleda Zia, the prime minister.
May 15 - Now I call this a retraction!
May 18 - 01:37: Now the Boston Globe on the other hand ...
May 4 - I'm going back to bed, you should go read Mark Steyn on Margaret Thatcher, the U.N., and the Falkland Islands with special note to the "sources" and "experts" here.
May 2 - Six British soldiers are being questioned in connection with accusations of abusing prisoners in southern Iraq (Six British soldiers held over Iraqi torture photos.)
This investigation comes from pictures published in the Daily Mirror which details the alleged abuse.
The authenticity of the photos has yet to be established (the Mirror says they are satisfied) and what matters is to investigate and uncover the truth.
That is the difference between us and them. We do come face to face with evil in our own ranks (and I would count mistreating anyone in captivity as evil) but we also confront it rather than issue denials or excuses.
Those calling for outside investigations have obviously been following the quagmire of the Sept. 11 commissions and know nothing about the military. The military will be far harsher than any civilian court because they expect soldiers to follow a code of honour - a concept that was once sacred in civilian life too but has faltered in large part due to notions of moral equivalence.
The military doesn't do moral equivalence.
Just curious: are there any Arab journalists willing to issue a challenge to their governments to come clean and hold investigations on torture and prisoner abuse? Saudi Arabia (for Bill Sampson?) Syria (for Maher Arar?) How about Iran (for Zahra Kazemi?)
Update: Commenter Sandy P. gave a link to the webpage of a journalist who does make the comparison (two, actually, he notes the apology from an official as well) here - scroll down - there are two posts, including one that refers to this post by Omar at Iraq The Model.
May 2 - Remember the Apr. 27 story about senior diplomats in Britain chastizing Blair for the invasion of Iraq and his support for Israel? Seems the diplomats failed to mention one tiny little detail: to disclose their own Arab links.
The letter failed to disclose, however, that several of the key signatories, including Oliver Miles, the former British ambassador to Libya who instigated the letter, are paid by pro-Arab organisations.
Some of the others hold positions in companies seeking lucrative Middle East contracts, while others have unpaid positions with pro-Arab organisations.
The disclosure last night prompted allegations - denied by the diplomats - that they were merely promoting the interests of their clients. Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, said: "If an MP had made statements like these without declaring an interest in the subject they would have been before the standards and privileges committee we would have had their guts for garters.
Guts for garters. I have got to remember that one. (On second thought, complete with a visual, maybe not.)
Apr. 27 - Update on the arrests in England last month on terrorism charges: Two men and woman held by terrorist police were released when the court did not approve an application for their further detention:
Warrants for the further detention of the seven men until this Thursday have been issued by Manchester city magistrates. But District Judge Michael Abelson ruled at a specially convened court which sat on Friday and Saturday that there was no right in law to hold the other three.Imagine the Sept. 11 hijackers had been detained before the attack. Imagine how long they would have remained in jail.
Conspiracy charges are very difficult to prove.
Apr. 27 - The three IRA members who had been accused of training Columbian terrorists in bomb-making techniques were acquitted of the charges but the prosecution has filed an appeal.
The news report says the defence destroyed key witnesses on the stand.
Apr. 27 - Sheesh, and I thought our State Dept. was a total screw-up! Dismay over Blair stance on Mid-East:
Tony Blair's approach to Iraq and the Middle East was savaged last night by 52 senior diplomats, who questioned his support for America's "doomed" policy in the region.
Their unprecedented onslaught came as the Government confirmed it was discussing sending more troops to Iraq to fill the gap left by Spain's withdrawal.
The former ambassadors, high commissioners and governors called on Mr Blair to stop supporting President George W Bush's policies unless he could persuade the US to rethink its approach.Now I do understand how diplomats feel. They are supposed to go to dinner parties and have pleasant conversations, not be confronted by people who say "You just like to fight and kill." It must be really hard to contend with that kind of thing when your job is to be likeable.
However, adults are generally people who understand that "being liked" isn't really all that it's cracked up to be.
The letter is here. It isn't very long, and the proposals in the letter may surprise you.
Naturally I dashed over to see if Expat Yank had commented on this letter (he had) and got a brief history lesson and some insight into Who's Responsible for the basket case we call the Mid-East because
Underlying those moves was an attitude -- as a group, such "professionals" had come to take the appallingly patronizing view that Arabs/Muslims were somehow "beguiling," "romantic," "unique" and "exceptional" in their cultures and outlooks. Worst of all, they believed that Arab/Muslim culture was incapable of "adaptation", "change" and "modernity".Read the post; it isn't very long, and Robert makes a pretty compelling case that the decisions their predecessors made and the ones they still urge are the heart of the problem, not the solution.
Apr. 22 - The Oil for Food program scandal (UNSCAM) has been covered by several articles today in the Daily Telegraph (UK) as well as other media in Britain, Canada, and the U.S.
From the Telegraph, UN officials 'covered up Saddam theft of billions in aid for Iraqis':
Saddam Hussein diverted huge sums from the £60 billion United Nations oil-for-food programme for the poor and sick of pre-war Iraq to foreign governments and vocal supporters of his regime worldwide, the US Congress heard yesterday.The Telegraph also has a scathing leader (editorial) Iraq has enough troubles without adding the U.N. which concludes:
Senior UN, French and Russian officials were alleged to have connived at the scandal, said Claude Hankes-Drielsma, who is leading the Iraqi Governing Council inquiry into the affair.
He said some suppliers, mostly Russian, routinely sent out-of-date or unfit food, or sent fewer goods than were paid for and padded out contracts. In that way they created an excess that could be skimmed off by Iraqi officials.
One of those named in Iraqi files as having received bribes on the sale of oil is Benon Sevan, the UN official in charge of the programme. Mr Sevan, who is on extended leave pending retirement, denied the claims.
Mr Hankes-Drielsma, a former leading executive at the London-based auditors Price Waterhouse, said that Saddam and his henchmen pocketed billions in surcharges and bribes.
The biggest humanitarian scheme in the UN's history had provided the dictator and "his corrupt and evil regime with a convenient vehicle through which he bought support internationally by bribing political parties, companies, journalists and other individuals of influence.
"The very fact that Saddam Hussein, the UN and certain members of the Security Council could conceal such a scam from the world should send shivers down every spine in this room today."
There are enough problems attendant on the birth of democracy in Iraq without burdening the country with an organisation that proved so inadequate in confronting the previous dictatorship, whether over oil for food or defiance of Security Council resolutions. George W Bush and Tony Blair may welcome shedding the odious status of occupiers. But they should be under no illusions that the UN will prove an adequate substitute. Given its record in the Balkans and the Middle East, their continuing faith in that body as providing a unique cloak of legitimacy is astonishing.
Another article, Saddam cronies grew rich on cash meant for the starving, points out the hypocrisy of those on the UNSC opposed to the war:
Yesterday, the United States Congress was told that Iraqi files indicated that some of the most vocal critics of sanctions were on the take from Saddam Hussein, benefiting from monies intended to buy food and medicine.Then, in How the system was abused,
Such friends of Iraq were granted vouchers to buy and trade Iraqi oil, though such vouchers should have been reserved for oil firms with refineries. The vouchers allowed the bearers to make millions in profits.
One of those named in Iraqi files as having profited from the sale of oil is Benon Sevan, the top UN official in charge of the oil-for-food programme. Another is a former French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Bernard Merimee, according to Claude Hankes-Drielsma, who is leading the Iraqi Governing Council's inquiry into the issue.
He told a Congressional sub-committee that Iraq's suppliers routinely sent out of date, or unfit, food to Iraq, or sent fewer goods than were paid for, in order to "pad out" contracts so they could be "skimmed off" by Iraqi officials. Most of those suppliers were Russian companies.
Those involved have reason to fear, Congress was told.
The fall of Saddam uncovered a mountain of meticulous files in several Iraqi ministries, detailing every last aspect of the bribes and commissions extracted by those in Saddam's pay.
UN officials, for their part, have called for evidence of the claims being made, and hinted - off the record - that the investigations were being driven by the political animus of Ahmad Chalabi, a Pentagon favourite who is disliked and distrusted at the UN. But Mr Hankes-Drielsma told Congress that the UN had a clear case to answer, which ran to the very top.
"From the information available to date, it is clear that the UN failed in its responsibility to the Iraqi people in administering the oil-for-food programme during the period 1995 to 2003. It will not come as a surprise if the oil-for-food programme turns out to be one of the world's most disgraceful scams and an example of inadequate control, responsibility and transparency, providing an opportune vehicle for Saddam Hussein to operate under the United Nations aegis to continue his reign of terror and oppression."
He added that it appeared to be no coincidence that the countries most involved in the corruption - Russia, France and Syria, to name just three - were among the fiercest opponents of toppling Saddam as they sat in the UN Security Council.
According to Al Mada, the Iraqi newspaper that listed the names of some of the individuals allegedly involved in the scam, French and Russian middlemen formed the largest group.More, in French and Russian politicians 'bribed to relax UN sanctions':
Russians received more than 2.5 billion barrels of cut-rate crude, some 1.4 billion barrels of which went to the Russian state, according to Iraqi documents leaked to the paper.
French oil traders gained 165 million barrels of cut-rate crude.
The scam worked on two levels. Not only did Iraqi oil purchasers benefit from being able to resell at huge profit but also Saddam distributed "oil vouchers" to corporations, political parties and individuals whom he favoured.
Documents emerging from Baghdad appear to show how Russian and French politicians and businessmen were bribed by Saddam, using money skimmed off the oil-for-food programme. These claims have been denounced by many in France as American propaganda.The Telegraph even links to the U.N. News Centre story of the independent panel that will probe the Oil-For-Food allegations. London NewsNet quotes panel head Paul Volcker on the aims of the panel here, and the London Times has an article (but I'm not a subscriber so I couldn't access it.)
UN officials say their programme was audited more than 100 times, although it has never made public the detailed findings.
What is known is that France and Russia's financial interest in Iraq was heavily influenced by Saddam's failure to pay for billions of pounds of arms sold to him on credit during the late 1980s. Many of the weapons were then used to invade Kuwait.
France joined the Allied liberation of Kuwait at the last minute, but its government was left guaranteeing £3 billion in loans to Saddam which he had no intention of repaying.
France's relationship with Saddam dated back to the mid-1970s when Jacques Chirac, the then prime minister, visited Baghdad. Between 1974 and 1990, more than 20 French ministers from all the main parties travelled to Iraq to expand France's commercial interests, which ranged from construction to armaments and a nuclear reactor that the Israelis promptly bombed.
Iraq became France's second biggest oil supplier and France in turn became Iraq's second largest civil and military supplier.
Even when Iraq began to show signs of financial strain during its war with Iran, France helped out. In 1986, M Chirac promised French arms makers that it would guarantee any credit they extended to Saddam.
Even after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the US-led war to evict him the following year, the special relationship between France and Iraq continued.
In 1994, Charles Pasqua, the then interior minister, gave a visa to Saddam's right hand man, Tariq Aziz. France's UN ambassador lobbied for the easing of sanctions against Iraq. The fruit of this was Iraq's acceptance of the oil-for-food programme in 1995. A French bank, BNP Paribas, was chosen to do much of the financial administration.
Critics of the programme say it swiftly became a way for Saddam to reward his friends in the West and manipulate the UN.
In Russia, companies supplying goods and services to Iraq under the UN's oil-for-food programme enjoyed years of inflated contracts and preferential treatment with Iraq.
In return, Moscow used its clout as a permanent UN Security Council member to influence the sanctions programme in Iraq's favour.
Sweetheart deals between Moscow and Baghdad for products ranging from rice to refinery equipment continued right up to the moment American and British forces invaded Iraq last year. In 1997 Lukoil, one of Russia's leading oil firms, signed a deal for exploration and extraction in Iraq's western Qorna region, where reserves were estimated at 20 billion barrels.
In the summer of 2001 when London and Washington were pressing the UN to reduce the list of goods and services permitted under the programme, Russia threatened to use its Security Council veto unless the sanctions were left unchanged for a further five months.
Mohammed Salekh, Saddam's trade minister, said that as a reward, Russia received contracts worth £22 billion, almost 10 times more than it had received in the previous five years.
The Toronto Star carries the story, U.N. backs probe of Oil-for-food scandal which makes it look as though Annan always wanted this investigation; the Toronto Sun has UNSC approval of the investigatory panel which has a bit more substance than the Star coverage but not by much.
CTV-Canada has a story about Muslims leaders urging a greater role for the U.N. in Iraq but I saw nothing about the probe.
The CBC - surprise - takes a very sharp tone in UN Security Council approves oil-for-food probe:
Russia and France wanted a discreet internal probe, thinking it was better to keep the corruption charges in-house at the UN rather than have outside investigators poking into the alleged links between Saddam, top UN staffers and Russian and French companies.
Resolution 1538, as it is officially known, may come to be remembered as the official lifting of the lid on a financial scandal that could ultimately dwarf even the worst excesses of Wall Street.
The UN oil-for-food program in Iraq was supposed to be a humanitarian effort. Profits from Iraqi oil sales were to be used exclusively to buy food and medicine for the people of Iraq.
But it seems billions of dollars may have gone missing.
Glenn Reynolds has some links from yesterday as well as today's links to US papers on the scandal, including one that goes into politicians who received money from Samir Vincent and Shakir Alkhalaji who were on the list of those who allegedly received oil vouchers from Saddam.
Austin Bay has an article on The Myth of Oil for Food at Strategy Page.
Something I didn't have a chance to post yesterday is an article by Claudia Rosett in OpinionJournal - The Real World and some ideas how the U.N. could realistically help Iraq.
It seems the U.N. is holding approximately $100 million to cover potential liabilities from the Canal Hotel bombing last August that destroyed the U.N. HQ in Bagdad:
Given that the independent report last October on the U.N.'s security systems in Baghdad found the entire U.N. security apparatus "dysfunctional," and given that the dysfunction was so egregious that the U.N. recently fired the official in charge, it seems strange to reserve that $100 million to help the U.N. potentially cover the cost of its own grievous mistakes. That money was meant to help provide for the betterment of the 26 million citizens of Iraq, not insure the U.N. against its own malfunctions.Pay a visit to the Iraq Memory Foundation and see what you think.
As it happens, Iraq-born architect Kanan Makiya was in New York recently seeking funds for the project of building a memorial and a holocaust museum in Baghdad, the better to help Iraq's people understand and come to grips with the atrocities of Saddam's regime. The project would include the cataloguing and preservation of millions of pages of documentation, and the presentation of evidence about the decades of abuse that took place, from which Iraq must still recover. Mr. Makiya is director of the Iraq Memory Foundation (www.iraqmemory.org), which is trying to assemble this project. His proposal states: "The Iraq Memory Foundation is not a project intended to apportion blame or play politics. First and foremost it is designed to allow future generations of Iraqis to glimpse the inner sanctum of the atrocities that were perpetrated during the period of Ba'athist rule from 1968 until 2003."
For this project, Mr. Makiya is seeking, ultimately, an endowment of some $40 million. That's less than half what is still sitting in the Secretariat's own Oil-for-Food account, and it is hard to imagine a more appropriate use of this money than to help Iraqis document, preserve and confront the full truth of Saddam's abuse. In the interest of fairness, the U.N. might also want to turn over a portion of the remaining $60 million or so for a memorial in northern Iraq, where Saddam used chemical weapons to murder thousands of Kurds, and another portion to southern Iraq, site of so many of Saddam's mass graves. It would be the philosophical beginning of restitution for U.N. collusion with Saddam, and of genuine re-legitimization for the U.N. in Iraq.
Dang. This post is long even for me.
Apr. 20 - Speculation is unavoidable when an arrest on charges of sabotage involves high-speed trains - Cops quiz 'rail vandal':
POLICE are questioning a lad aged 15 over an apparent series of attempts to derail a high speed train, it emerged today.This may or may not be connected in some way with a recent incident in which obstructions were placed on German train tracks but it would seem that trains are becoming (or remain?) a target.
It appears the youth was arrested after rail workers reported that obstacles had been placed on tracks near London’s Paddington Station.
Debris was discovered on the rails where First Great Western trains travel at speeds of up to 100mph.
One train smashed into 8ft of steel fencing, which it dragged along the track, ripping off early warning safety equipment used to alert trains to danger.
The attacks have all affected trains heading into the capital.
Superintendent Andy Ball, of the British Transport Police, said the damage caused to the trains was "fairly substantial".
"We are not just talking about vandalism, we are talking about premeditated damage with intent to harm human life," he said.
Mr Ball told how four pieces of troughing - used to cover cabling at the side of the track - had been dragged 5ft across both railway lines.
Each piece of troughing weighed 60lbs.
"There are serious safety fears that the train could have been derailed," he said.
There have been eight incidents over the past six weeks at Westbourne Park, west London, police said.
Apr. 20 - From the Daily Telegraph (UK): Ten held in raids over 'Islamic plot' in Britain.
Ten people were arrested in dawn raids yesterday by anti-terrorist police alerted to an alleged Islamic extremists' plot to blow up civilians in Britain.Police arrested 9 men and 1 woman (6 men and a woman in Greater Manchester, 1 in Staffordshire, 1 in South Yorkshire and 1 in the West Midlands.) The suspects are believed to be North Africans and one Iraqi Kurd.
Security services are believed to have intercepted mobile telephone and e-mail messages that indicated the possible bombing of a large gathering.
It is understood that officers from the Menwith Hill listening station in North Yorkshire, GCHQ in Gloucestershire and the United States National Security Agency spent weeks monitoring the movements of a number of suspects before the search warrants were executed.Jay found the story first via Reuters in The Sun (UK), and the Sun unabashedly claims that a suicide-bombing attack was planned on Saturday's upcoming Manchester United-Liverpool match:
Intelligence chiefs believe al-Qaeda fanatics planned to blow themselves up amid 67,000 unsuspecting supporters. A source said: “The target was Old Trafford.”Yes, I know it's the Sun, but they do tend to be more aware of what concerns most of us have.
The Islamic fanatics planned to sit all around the ground to cause maximum carnage.
They had already bought the tickets for various positions in the stadium, cops revealed last night.
But armed cops foiled the horrific plot - which could have killed thousands watching Manchester United’s home game against Liverpool on Saturday - in a series of dawn raids yesterday.
May 2 - 13:41: According to this report from Australia, the British paper the Observer says the grounds for a plot to set off explosives during a soccer match are groundless based on a statement by one of the lawyers for the defence. (End update)
Sheikh Mohammed bal Qadri, deputy director of a mosque in Upper Brook Street, said he did not believe any of his members were among those being held.I doubt we'll ever know or fully appreciate the level of support and cooperation that anti-terrorism forces receive from Muslims in Britain, the US or Canada (or, in fact, anywhere,) but it's something to keep in mind before any of us blindly assume that there is no cooperation.
He added: “Since September 11 we have been very vigilant, as mosques should be.
“If I see a person who is new, I ask him why he is here and what he is doing and ask these kind of questions.
“We are against these evil acts. In the religion of Islam we have tolerance.” The raids follow revelations last week that police in Manchester had raised their terror alert level.
Apr. 17 - No one should be surprised that British PM Blair is in accordance with the president's support of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and portions of the West Bank; what would have been a surprise would have been if the president had not discussed this with the prime minister before the announcement was made. That's just common sense, but few expect that in the news media any more.
To the story: Bush, Blair endorse Israel's land claims:
"Look, what have people been asking for years?" he added. "They've been asking for the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories."Both leaders sensibly refused to comment on some comments of Israeli PM Sharon's until they saw the context.
Sharon reportedly said that the plan would bring an end to the dreams of Palestinians.
As the avowed aim of a great many Palestinian groups is the annhilation of Israel, I can't help wondering if that's the dream Sharon was referring to, but I too haven't seen the context of the comments.
In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinians are reported to have marched demanding the release of prisoners being held in Israel:
In Gaza City, parents carried pictures of their imprisoned sons and daughters. Actors dressed as Israeli soldiers beat shackled and blindfolded Palestinian "prisoners," using the back of a truck draped with barbed wire as their stage.There have been no successfuly terrorist attacks in Israel since Yassin was killed.
Leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips in future prisoner swaps with Israel - a tactic successfully used by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.
09:04 - CNN has a summation of the Israeli disengagement plan.
Apr. 1 - To update this post about the UK arrests of eight British men and the Ottawa arrest of a Canadian, Mohammed Momin Khawaja, on terrorism charges, there was another arrest in the UK Thursday evening.
The CNN reports this on the arrest in Saudi Arabia of Khawaja's father, Mahboob Khawaja:
Saudi intelligence sources said the arrest was made at the request of the Canadian government. It was not known what charges, if any, the elder Khawaja might face.Some odd statements by the families of those arrested in the UK might imply, to an amateur detective type, that the bombing was planned for next week and the perpetrators had an escape route planned. (And yes, this could also all be a terrible misunderstanding and they are all innocent.)
Police in Canada and Britain were exploring any links the men may have had to extremists in Pakistan. Seven of the eight men arrested in Britain on Tuesday are British-born of Pakistani descent. The eighth is a naturalized Briton born in Algeria.It's hard not to wonder about the implications of this last part.
Ansar Khan, whose 18-year-old son Ahmed was among those detained in Britain, has said that his nephew, Omar Khyam, age 22 and also detained Tuesday, traveled to Pakistan in January 2000 after telling his family he was going on a school trip to France.
The family enlisted the help of relatives in Pakistan's military and intelligence services to find Khyam, who was eventually located in a Kashmiri "freedom-fighters" camp and returned to Britain, his uncle said.
The family said that Khyam was attending a computer school at the time of his arrest this week.
Omar Khyam's brother Shujah, age 17, also was detained in Britain Tuesday.
The Khan and Khyam families also said they were approached in recent weeks by a man who identified himself as "Mr. Gould" and said he worked for the British domestic intelligence agency MI5.
After meeting family representatives on several occasions, "Gould" suggested that the young males of the family -- who are now in custody -- should leave Britain.
According to the family, "Gould" said the young men did not represent a threat to national security but had been in contact with people who did represent such a risk.
The family said they had made arrangements for the three -- Ahmed Khan and Omar and Shujah Khyam -- to travel to Pakistan next week.
A spokesman for MI5 denied the claim that one of its officers had contacted the families.
Apr. 2 - 15:30 British admit they were "liasing" with RCMP. (Their word, not mine.)
(CTV link via Jack's Newswatch.)
21:28: The arrests in Jordan may be part of the arrests in the UK and Canada, according to this article in the Ottawa Citizen by Robert Fife. Excertps:
Officials say the RCMP's arrests this week of Mr. Khawaja in Ottawa and the arrests of nine British Muslims in London -- all of whom are of Pakistani descent -- are just the start of a series of anti-terrorism operations to take place around the globe.(Link via Nealenews.)
On Tuesday, authorities arrested three al-Qaeda suspects in Jordan for allegedly planning terrorist attacks.
Mr. Khawaja is being dubbed "The Fixer" by several newspapers in Britain that claim he was acting as a mentor for a cell of young British terrorist suspects before he was arrested.
Before the arrests, the British spy agency MI5 had conducted a two-month surveillance operation during which the suspected cell is alleged to have discussed bombing several targets in and around London. Lip readers were used to study films of the cell taken by undercover officers and tracking devices were attached to cars
While the cafe and its owners have no connection with terrorist activity, British newspapers are speculating that the suspects have been using the e-mail to talk with al-Qaeda "mentors" or "fixers" in other countries. Police are looking for communications between members of the cell and "fixers" whose job is to offer help.
Insiders say Prime Minister Paul Martin and Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan were briefed on the extensive file on Mr. Khawaja, 24, a contract employee at Foreign Affairs.
Apr. 3 - 10:34: Canadian Mohammed Momin Khawaja appeared by videolink in court and was remanded into custody until Wednesday. And this report from the CBC implies that the Canadian government didn't ask the Saudi government to arrest Mahboob Khawaja.
Mar. 31 - The Mar. 29 (Monday) arrest in Ottawa of 24-year old Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a software developer who works on contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, makes for a very interesting supposition:
Mohammad Momin Khawaja, 24, is charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act with participating in the activity of a terrorist group and facilitating a terrorist activity.An insert on the CBC page details the charges:
According to an RCMP news release some of the activity may have taken place in London, England.
That Mr. Khawaja did:The speculation is inevitable: were the near-simultaneous raids in Canada and England conducted as a result of coordinated and cooperative investigations?
1) On or between November 10, 2003 and March 29, 2004, at or near the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and at or near the City of London, England, did knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, an activity of a terrorist group, for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity, as defined in section 83.01(1) of the Criminal Code, thus committing an indictable offence, contrary to section 83.18 of the Criminal Code.
2) On or between November 10, 2003 and March 29, 2004, at or near the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario and at or near the City of London, England, did knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity, as defined in section 83.01 (1) of the Criminal Code, thus committing an indictable offence, contrary to section 83.19 of the Criminal Code.
Mr. Khawaja appeared in court today at 1:30 p.m. in Ottawa at which time he was remanded in custody until Friday, April 2, 2004 at 1:30 p.m. A publication ban on the proceedings was granted by the court.
A portion of the MCB letter, which was redrafted after the arrests, urges British Muslims to remember that they too must do what they can to stop terror attacks:
The letter asks for the "utmost vigilance" to help "safeguard" the UK.The laudable stand taken by the MCB is somewhat diminished though by the BBC report that says that the letter was drawn up as part of the council's long-term plan to combat "Islamophobia". I liked it better when I thought it was drawn up to combat terrorism (although the BBC may be putting their own spin on it.)
Sermons will be delivered on Friday saying terrorism has no place in Islam, while booklets being printed will remind Muslims of their obligation to help safeguard Britain's security.
"A terrorist attack will not discriminate between Muslims and Christians", Mr Bunglawala said.
"As British citizens, we have a right to help the safeguarding of this country by co-operating with police."
However he also urged caution because a number of "high-profile arrests in the past of Muslims" had led to no charges or convictions.
Or not: an MCB campaigner said the press coverage of the arrests was unfair:
Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain picked out one headline which described the police operation as: "Islamic bomb attack foiled".Robert notes on the first
"First of all we don't know whether it was a bomb attack," he told BBC Breakfast.
"And secondly, to describe it as Islamic is offensive to ordinary Muslims."
But, he's right, technically, one supposes. After all, the chemical hadn't been turned into an explosive as of their arrests.and on the second
Actually, that's profound: Is an unexploded explosive actually an explosive?
However, it is an unfortunate and undeniable fact of life that all Islamist terrorists are indeed Muslims. They blow up themselves and/or others in the name of Islam. If that is a problem for most Muslims, then one would think most Muslims would want to begin to deal with it.It might seem that we are still are square one: as Dr. Daniel Pipes noted some time ago, the solution to Muslim radicals is Muslim moderates. Yet public statements by Inayat Bunglawala notwithstanding, there have been quieter (and less publicized) actions by Muslim citizens in places like Cleveland, and the recent elections in Malaysia resulted in a complete rejection of fundamentalist Islamists.
Yet the media by and large remains focused on one theme: Muslims are victims - not of radical Islamists in Muslim countries (which they are) but of Western nations who take action to stop terror attacks by arresting suspected terrorists before they strike.
A BBC website report about arrests made under Britain's Terrorism Act of 2000 is headlined Whatever became of Britain's 500 'terrorist suspects which does eventually refute accusations of racial profiling:
Of the 529 arrested, 77 people have been charged under the Terrorism Act. Only seven have been convicted. Baghdad Meziane and Brahim Benmerzouga were found guilty in April this year of raising funds for terrorism and were each jailed for 11 years. Last year two men were jailed for belonging to a banned network, the International Sikh Youth Federation.Note that the Red Hand Commandos is a banned group, not a terrorist group.
In June this year, three men were convicted under the act of belonging to another banned group, the Red Hand Commandos, linked to the Irish UVF.
And then this:
Critics say the sweeping powers granted by the law, which lower the normal standards of reasonable suspicion, have been used to target Muslims in particular.I don't know British law so I don't know exactly what "arrested then released without charge" means, but can someone be arrested without charges being laid under British law? Is this the equivalent of "taken into custody for questioning" which, under Canadian and US laws, is not the same as being arrested?
Community groups describe this as "racial profiling", for example considering somebody suspicious because of their style of dress.
But the law has been applied more widely. The trial of three men charged under the act with possessing guns and bomb-making devices to further the aims of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters, is due to start soon.
Yet to some, the fact that so many have been arrested then released without charge is evidence of a "fishing expedition" by the police.
If indeed the "fishing expedition" is to conduct an interrogation, then it isn't that different from the steps taken in any criminal investigation. I tend to doubt that the British police and anti-terror divisions have sufficient personnel to question everyone in Britain because of the apparel and that other evidence is necessary before someone is picked up.
But the MCB letter is also somewhat after the fact given this:
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the raids followed the infiltration of alleged extremist Islamist groups.Infiltration likely means that British Muslims infiltrated and were instrumental in gathering the evidence that led to the arrests and ammonium nitrate seizure.
He said sources had told him the alleged targets of any bombing were not military or government-related but members of the public.
Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui has lost family and friends in terror attacks. He therefore posed as a terrorist sympathizer and then wrote a book, Inside al Qaeda, which states uncategorically that Britain is the biggest safe haven for hard-core fundamentalists. He also denounces the foolish romanticising of terrorists and the failure to comprehend that they primarily murder Muslims.
And last September, Mohammed Nasim, chairman of the moderate Central Mosque in Birmingham, accused the British authorities of letting British Muslims down by not taking stronger action against radical Islamists in Britain.
Early reports on the arrests of the Lackawana Seven (more here) said that some members of the Lackawanna Muslim community were concerned about the odd behaviour of some of the men so contacted the FBI. That tip led to the discovery of an al Qaeda cell.
There are several reasons to believe the early assertion (not the least being televised interviews with members of the Muslim community in Lackawanna immediately after the arrests) and of course the fact that the defendents pled guilty and thus the US government did not need to call witnesses during trial proceedings but I still find the failure of the media to credit American Muslims with the willingness to confront terrorists within their midst disheartening.
The CBC coverage of the Khawaji arrest has thus far been a repeat of their coverage of the Khadr family - interviews with family members who might not necessarily be objective and insist this has been a dreadful mistake and the police are storm troopers.
They are proving their enlightened state by sympathizing with the victim, and it is that assumption on their part - that anyone arrested for terrorist related activities must be a victim - which most clearly indicates their bias.
The BBC couldn't run the the same show on their side of the Atlantic because half a ton of unexploded explosives is a little hard to explain away, so they are forced to content themselves with portraying all British Muslims as victims who will suffer because 8 Muslims have been arrested.
It aggravates me because the CBC and BBC, in their desire to prove that they are enlightened beyond all other mortals, overlook the primary targets of Islamist terrorists: other Muslims.
We know that they don't mind killing other Muslims. Think of how many Muslims have died in the terror attacks in Istanbul, Riyadh, Mombasa, Casablanca, and Baghdad? Jakarta? Pakistan? Kashmir? Bombay?
After all, what does a word like apostate imply? Something a little stronger than "we'll have to agree to disagree."
We know that the ultimate aim of the Islamists is to purge the world of infidels and that includes Muslims who do not accept the narrow, constricted view of Islam made manifest by the Taliban.
We know this because they have told us this repeatedly through their videotapes, indeed through the very press agencies that would have us believe that Muslims are victimized by Western societies that allow them to practise religion freely and without state interference.
No thinking person should doubt that the vast majority of Muslims support the goals of the war on terror yet the media have done everything in their power to divide those of us who would fight.
We must strive to change this.
22:40: Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew says moderates must speak against acts out or Western countries will think they are the only ones fighting terrorism.
Apr. 1 00:15: Silence the preachers of hate
Britain's most prominent Muslim leader last night demanded a crackdown on "rogue" Islamic preachers, blaming them for brainwashing young men with sermons promoting holy war against the West.Read the whole thing.
Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was backed by the families of some of the eight men arrested in Tuesday's anti-terrorism raids in south-east England.
21:18: Rantburg has a good compilation and solid speculation as to the possible targets of the British cell.
Mar. 30 - Robert is keeping abreast of developments in the raid that netted half a ton of ammonium nitrate in London, England here. He'll be updating as more information comes out, so keep checking. (Time zones - I guess it's 10 p.m. there?)
He's also following the raid in Ottawa and notes:
When they are arresting people even in Canada, you have to suspect that "things" are really "going on."CBC Newsworld is responding as we'd expect: they've described the chemicals seized in the UK as "a large amount" - and interviewed one of those questioned in Ottawa who said the RCMP had machine guns when they approached the house. Machine guns? On second thought, I'll let that one pass.
The CBC link for the Ottawa raid is here. It provides little information but makes it up for that with lots of nuanced information.
Mar. 19 - I fell asleep on the couch shortly after No. 1 Son left last night. I wonder why? The real question: am I looking too closely, or are there signs that al Qaeda and other terrorists have started a major counter-offensive? Events in Syria and Iran indicate that the forces for freedom are also on the move.
Mar. 2 - Multiple attacks on Shiite commemoration of Ashura in Iraq.
Mar. 4 - Abdul Raouf Naseeb captured in Yemen.
Mar. 4 - Abdurahaman Khadr admits family closely connected to al Qaeda
Mar. 4 - Sunni and Shiite clerics march together in Iraq to protest terrorism.
Mar. 4 - Insurrection in Iran.
Mar. 4 - Abdurahman Khadr says he was a CIA agent in Bosnia.
Mar. 5 - Palestinian civil war begins?
Mar. 8 - Interim Iraq Constitution signed
Mar. 8 - Int'l Women's Day march in Iran attacked by security forces
Mar. 9 - North Korea issues rhetoric, withdraws from meaningful talks
Mar. 9 - Abu Abbas dies
Mar. 11 - Terrorist attack in Spain.
Mar. 12 - Millions of Spaniards demonstrate against terrorism
Mar. 13 - Uprisings in Iran
Mar. 14 - Elections in Spain, appeasers voted in.
Mar. 14 - Two terrorist attacks in Ashod, Israel, kills 10
Mar. 15 - Israel retaliates
Mar. 15 - New Spanish government announces they will withdraw from Iraq.
Mar. 15 - Polish government says Fine, we'll carry on without Spain
Mar. 15 - Uprisings in Syria, Iran.
Mar. 15 - Vandals in north Toronto target homes of Jewish citizens with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Mar. 16 - Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir (aka Kahlid Ali Hajj, "The Poet") killed in Saudi Arabia
Mar. 16 - Group with possible Chechen links threaten French over head-scarf ban
Mar. 17 - Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad hit by car bomb
Mar. 17 - Renewal of violence in Kosovo.
**Mar. 17 - Spain goverment received communique dated Mar. 15 claiming to be from al Qaeda which declared a cease-fire with Spain.
Mar. 18 - Pakistan troops heavily engaged in battle in north, may have surrounded al Zawahiri.
Mar. 18 - Additional troops go into Kosovo in response to renewed violence.
Mar. 18 - British announce additional 650 (+-) British troops to be deployed to Kosovo which will be augmented by US and Italian forces.
**Mar. 18 - Second communique claming to be from al Qaeda threatens further attacks in retaliation for death of Khaled Ali Hajj (aka Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir, The Poet) in Saudia Arabia.
**Mar. 18 - Attempted assassination of Jose Murat, Governor of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Mar. 19 - First of British troops land in Kosovo; an additional 600 German troops are also to be deployed.
Mar. 19 - French restaurant in Bahrain stormed by Islamists angered by alcohol served. Cars of restaurant patrons hit with Molotov cocktails.
**Mar. 19 - Car bomb in Basra kills 3 people, angry residents catch bomber and kill him:
A man who left the vehicle shortly before the blast was caught by passers-by and stabbed to death, said police Lt.-Col. Ali Kazem. Two others spotted getting out of the vehicle were caught by members of the public and later arrested.Three Iraqi journalists killed, nine wounded in by drive-by shooting, three US soldiers killed by mortar fire.
Mar. 19 - Plans for the Pakistan-India cricket match remain firm. (I see a major political message in this sports event.)
I left some things out,
including the letter purporting to be from al Qaeda declaring a cease-fire in Spain and today's bomb threat targeting DC schools.
Do you suppose the seeming simultaneity is what Sec. of State Colin Powell meant when he used the expression a nexus of terrorism to describe the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during his UN presentation last year?
These events may be linked on purpose or they may have inspired one another, but anyone who understands that we are at war might also believe that terrorists are being flushed out into the open.
Others will doubtless say that the events are a direct result of US intervention in Iraq, but there were so many events which preceeded that war that I don't think it an adequate explanation.
**late additions to list
Mar. 18 - Can't fight on more than one front? Renewed violence in Kosovo is being met with determination: 750 British troops are being deployed to Kosovo in response to a NATO request after violence broke out Wdnesday. 8 people were killed, and a Serbian Orthodox Church was torched. French troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the Albanian mob.
Three companies of NATO peacekeeprs, approx. 350 soldiers, have already been sent into the area and hundreds more are on standby.
The USA will send one company from Bosia as will Italy. A third will come from the Nato-run peacekeeping force's strategic reserve.
Recent events are described as being the worse since 1999. There have been uprisings in every major city in Kosovo, and at least a dozen soldiers in the NATO forces have been injured and a French soldier killed.
See this for 600 Brit troops and more troops from the US and Italy to go in.
The death toll in Kosovo now stands at 31.
Albanian crowds trying to enter a church through hand grenades at Finnish soldiers guarding it and they fired back.
This CNN report states that 150 US and 80 Italian troops arrived in Kosovo Thursday and 750 British troops will arrive Friday.
UPDATE: Mar. 19 0800 The first 100 have landed in Kosovo.
Mar. 5 - This contains some highlights of a speech British PM Blair recently delivered which I noted with more interest than a speech would normally engender perhaps due to this post at Instapundit about the lure of forgetfulness (the post has grown considerably since I read it early this morning. It's well worth checking out.)
One thing I noted as I watched CNN this morning: the early airing stated (I'm paraphrasing) that "the families of victims of Sept. 11 object to the ads; later in the morning I noted that the newscaster was saying "some families of victims" etc.
Jan. 11 - The suspension of Robert Kilroy-Silk is causing more ripples: BBC chiefs accused of 'double standards' over TV presenter:
The BBC was accused last night of operating double standards over its suspension of Robert Kilroy-Silk for his comments about Arabs while it continues to use a contributor who has called for Israelis to be killed.Expat Yank reports that the BBC page contains Kilroy-Silk's response:
Tom Paulin, the poet and Oxford don, has continued to be a regular contributor to BBC2's Newsnight Review arts programme, despite being quoted in an Egyptian newspaper as saying that Jews living in the Israeli-occupied territories were "Nazis" who should be "shot dead".
Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP, said he found it hard to understand why the BBC had moved against Mr Kilroy-Silk but had not taken any action against Mr Paulin.
"I am not defending anything Mr Kilroy-Silk has said, but I was greatly upset by what Mr Paulin said, and I think the rules should apply to people equally," said Mr Dismore. "Mr Paulin said awful things about Israel and Jewish people. He should have been kept off BBC screens while his own comments were investigated. I was surprised that that did not happen. It smacks of double standards on the part of the BBC."
Mr Paulin made his comments in the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram almost two years ago, saying that US-born settlers in the occupied territories should be shot dead. "I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them," he said, adding: "I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all."
BBC presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk has argued that he has a right to say "there are Arab states that are evil, despotic and treat women abominably".Don't those of us who believe in human and especially women's rights have a duty to criticize states that violate those rights?
Tim Blair links to the Board of Management of Arab Press Freedom Watch head Egyptian Ibrahim Nawar who supports many of the statements of Kilroy-Silk as well as his right to make them.
Jan. 10 - In all the posts over the BBC suspension of Robert Kilroy-Silk for his comments about the dubious achievements of Arab states, the ones that resonate with me are at Expat Yank here, here and here.
If he and I seem somewhat dismissive of those people who are claiming to be offended by an April column of Mr. Kilroy-Silk, maybe it's because we actually remember what was being said by Arab states last April, or maybe it's because we are offended on a daily basis by the tolerant and inclusive types in our respective countries.
As Robert points out in the 2nd link:
Come to think of it, I am often "offended," too. As a group, Americans are regularly -- and apparently easily -- targeted for a group condemnation by, to quote Trevor Phillips, "the weak-minded." [Robert gets bonus points for posting the quote before the BBC changed it. Such is the BBC journalistic integrity.]And from the first link, Robert points out
>From an "anti-war" protest in another E.U. member state in February 2003, here is just one example of the numerous nasty things often said about Americans -- and as a whole people, by the way:
. . .The only thing everyone seemed to agree on is that Americans are evil. "Go home, killers!". . .
Well, it doesn't get much clearer than that, does it? That seems to be at least as rude as what Kilroy-Silk wrote, which supposedly "offended" so many.
Hmm, maybe that sort of rhetoric used within a European state and directed at Americans should be dealt with in the European Court of Human Rights? And has anyone thought to ring up Trevor Phillips and the CRE about such "indisputably stupid" comments? After all, that above appears on what is apparently a British-based, web site.
No, Americans would not look to pursue either avenue of possible redress or retaliation. That's because Americans believe in the freedom to shout out all manner of stupidity. And neither do Americans want anyone to try to use oppressive law to muzzle what might be considered "offensive" commentary about us.
We would rather have the freedom to shout back. One wonders, though, just how much longer we may have the freedom to do that? For it seems we are rapidly approaching a time where it is inappropriate to "offend" anyone EXCEPT Americans.
For an American, what is most shocking is not so much Kilroy-Silk's opinions (such as they are), but those last two sentences: In Britain, expressing an opinion about "race" that someone else might be "offended" by could well get you reported to the police by the Commission for Racial Equality.Anyone who reads the Toronto Star or watches the CBC or Showcase is exposed to offensive attitudes towards Americans on a regular basis: Made in Canada, anybody? Imagine the uproar if Made in Canada had a black American as protagonist.
Indeed, if George W. Bush had the power to pronounce a newspaper writer's article "indisputably stupid" and then call in the police, I'm sure the likes of Phillips would be bananas over that.
How about the This Hour Has 22 Minutes segment "Talking to Americans'? Would it be as funny if it was "Talking to Ecuadoreans?" Or "Talking to Haitians?"
For those who protest no, it's against Bush and his policies, what tune are you going to sing when he wins by a large margin in November?
The playing field isn't level, folks; so long as the targets are American or Jewish, anything goes.
Jan. 4 - British PM Tony Blair made a surprise visit to southern Iraq today visiting troops and Basra governor, Judge Wael Abdullatif.
Jan. 3 - The conclusion from this is that whenever private gun owners use their weapons to stop violent crimes, the media doesn't report it. There are several instances cited in the report where the fact that a citizen was armed prevented death or injury, including an attack by a pit bull that was dealt with effectively and cases where children used guns to stop a mother or grandmother from being killed.
Draw your own conclusions. I believe in my right to defend myself and my property, as apparenty do BBC listeners.
The British government yesterday warned citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia amid disputed reports that two small airplanes loaded with explosives were prevented from crashing into a British Airways jet. (Emphasis added.)The official Saudi Press Agency released a statement yesterday claiming the assertions were untrue. British Airways cited security concerns for their no comment.
(I'm not posting the sections that deal with the sitution with France over the cancellation of the flights into LAX last weekend. They are well covered elsewhere.)
[...]Not a bad idea, considering this AP report Car Explodes in Street in Saudi Capital:
The State Department issued a warning similar to Britain's about Saudi Arabia on Dec. 17, just days before the Homeland Security Department put the nation on Code Orange, or high alert of a terrorist attack.
Free flights out of Saudi Arabia were offered to nonessential personnel and their dependents at the U.S. Embassy and consulates, and American citizens were advised to leave the country.
"Following terrorist attacks in Riyadh in May and November, we continue to believe terrorists are planning further attacks in Saudi Arabia and that these could be in the final stages of preparation," the British advisory read. "We advise British nationals against all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia."
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- An unmarked police car exploded in the Saudi capital Monday, but there were no casualties, police said.There are some conflicting accounts from witnesses who wished to remain unnamed, and this:
Nobody was in the car when it exploded in Riyadh's eastern Al-Salaam district, and it was not known what caused the blast.
The blast destroyed the car and shattered windows in nearby buildings, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite channel reported.I've seen this reporter's name, Adnan Malik, on a few AP reports, and he does a professional job. He gives us the facts; when the sources are questionable, he makes that clear without being snide or sarcastic, and when they are contradictory, as in this case, he reports both and leaves it up to the reader to take the appropriate grain of salt.
Security forces cordoned off the scene, and armored vehicles drove through the neighborhood. Police searched cars parked nearby and asked pedestrians in the area to present identification.
Islamic extremists have detonated four car bombs in Riyadh this year, killing 52 people, including the assailants, and wounding more than 100 others. The attacks on May 12 and Nov. 8 targeted housing compounds for foreigners.
Dec. 25 - Too often, we overlook the fact that the military force in Iraq is multi-national, and that they too sacrifice to serve their countries in the defence of freedom. Reading this article from the Daily Telegraph (UK), Quarter of Armed Forces personnel abroad for Christmas, I was astonished at how many British service men and women are deployed abroad, not only in Iraq but throughout the world:
The largest deployment of British forces abroad remains Germany with 21,500 soldiers and airmen still based there. An additional 13,500 are serving in northern Ireland.Over 2,000 Australians are deployed abroad including Iraq, East Timor and the Solomon Islands:
But the next largest deployment is 8,300 in Iraq with a further 1,270 in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. The number of British troops in Afghanistan has dropped to just 377. Deployments in the Balkans have also been heavily cut but 1,449 servicemen and women remain in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
There are 3,250 British servicemen and women in Cyprus, 1,240 in the Falklands, 420 in Gibraltar and small numbers in Nato bases in Europe.
There are also 456 on UN missions abroad. Most are in Cyprus but there are 22 in Sierra Leone and smaller numbers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Liberia and Ethiopia and Eritrea - the smallest detachment with three people.
Australian forces are spread in more countries now than at any time since World War II.There are also American, Canadian, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Bulgarian, Danish, French, German, Indian, Japanese and soldiers from other nations who have sworn to serve their countries and "hold the line" far from their native shores.
They will miss their wives, husbands, children, relatives and friends. But from Baghdad to Dili to Honiara, they're doing their best to replicate a traditional Aussie Christmas, enjoying a cold beer and a hit of cricket.
In the Solomon Islands capital Honiara, Australian Federal Police agent Darren Booy has organised a cricket grudge match against his Kiwi colleagues.
Never forget them. Never take them for granted. God bless the men and women who serve, and let them know that their sacrifices are known and valued.
UPDATE: The Queen's Christmas message this year was a departure from tradition, filmed from Combermere Barracks at Windsor and praising the valor of the men and women serving as well as those volunteering in the UK.
UPDATE: Pride and gratitude for the troops and their families were also the main feature of President Bush's Christmas Message (full text not online yet, although there's a press release dated Dec. 19 here.)
Canadian troops in Afghanistan got snow and enjoyed a brief snowball fight, and in the tradition of servicemen and women everywhere, American soldiers count one another as family until they get back home, and to bring the Christmas spirit of giving wherever they are.
Dec. 22 - I am continually astonished that too many in the media can only view events through the lens of re-election. Seriously, how many people heard of Saddam's capture and immediately set to pondering how that will affect the 2004 US presidential election? I shouldn't be overly surprised that the Daily Telegraph, which supports the Conservative Party, adds that dimension, I guess.
This article Iran and Syria are next to feel the heat indicates that talks have been secretly ongoing with Syria and Iran over the past few months but can't resist tying it into PM Blair's political fortunes:
Tony Blair will seek to use the diplomatic breakthrough with Libya to secure similar concessions on weapons of mass destruction from Iran and Syria. Ministers believe that his New Year offensive will restore his fortunes.An opinion piece in that paper does give credit to Blair for his farsight and wishes him a merry Christmas, but points out that, come the New Year, Normal service will resume next year.
Secret "back channel" talks, which have been going on for months with both countries, will be stepped up as London and Washington try to capitalise on the surprise U-turn by Col Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator.
The capture of Saddam Hussein and Libya's announcement on Friday that it would dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes were being seen in Downing Street as vindication of the Prime Minister's strategy for tackling the threat of WMD.
The Sun (UK), which supported Labour in the last election but takes a Euroskeptic stance on the EU, has a more up-beat approach:
TONY Blair will seal a sensational peace deal with Libya by shaking the hand of Colonel "Mad Dog" Gaddafi, it emerged last night.The Sun Says proclaims Peace on Earth:
THE world is a safer place after Libya's welcome decision to stop trying to make weapons of mass destruction.Maybe those who feel slighted because Pres. Bush doesn't read their columns should consider that their compulsive desire to relate everything to an election (especially one that is a year away) cheapens the astonishing events of this past year and their narrow interpretations insults those of us who understand that we are at war.
Will history record that there was a determined effort to bring democracy to the Mid-East and reduce the chances for terrorist attacks using WMD and even another war fought with nuclear or chemical-biological weapons, or that there was to be a presidential election three years after Sept. 11?
(USA Today link via Neale News.)
Dec. 2 - It appears that some people don't understand plain english, especially the folks at the Plain English Campaign who awarded US Def. Secy. Donald Rumsfeld this year's Foot in Mouth award for the most baffling statement by a public figure for what is one of my personal favourites:
"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know," Rumsfeld said.The Def. Secy. was responding to a reporter's question during a DoD briefing which required speculation (as most of them do) rather than sticking to the known facts.
"We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."
I have to wonder what the Plain English folks would make of Yogi Berra.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was awarded second place for this quote:
"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."Guess the Society doesn't do humour, either.
On the other hand, who seriously claims that the Queen's English is spoken in America? As Prof. Higgins said, "There are places where English completely disappears! In America, they haven't spoken it for years."
Nov. 30 - This information brings to mind concerns recently expressed by Roger L. Simon about where the money is coming from to finance the terrorism in Iraq:
A price has been put on the head of the senior British policeman seconded to supervise the restoration of law and order in Iraq by loyalists of Saddam Hussein.Some build, some destroy. It's that simple. Moral relativists who don't get that might try explaining it to Iraqis.
Douglas Brand, a South Yorkshire assistant chief constable who is in charge of retraining the Iraqi police, has discovered that former members of the deposed dictator's Ba'athist regime have issued a contract to "do him harm".
Mr Brand, 52, said that the news was broken to him by the mayor of an Iraqi city in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north-west of Baghdad during a recent visit to his offices at the coalition HQ in the Iraqi capital.
"The first thing the mayor said was, 'I know who you are. There are people who want to harm you'. I asked him what he meant and he said, 'People will be paid money to do so'. I wasn't quite sure if he was warning me or threatening me."
During an interview last week, Mr Brand said that such threats were becoming a daily hazard for senior coalition staff and the Iraqis who work with them. Estimates of the going rate for a successful "hit" are thought to be between $5,000 and $10,000 (Â£2,900-Â£5,800). Mr Brand, who is based in Sheffield but moved to Baghdad in July, said that 15 senior Iraqi policemen had been assassinated since he began work.
Mr Brand will remain in Baghdad to oversee what the coalition hopes will be the transformation of a demoralised, corrupt and widely hated police force into a modern security apparatus capable of tackling a front-line war on terrorism. As part of the world's biggest police training programme, up to 40,000 police officers have been recruited. The aim is for a further 35,000 to be trained up by the time the coalition cedes authority to a sovereign Iraqi government next summer.
In the meantime, car-bomb attacks and gun battles continue to claim the lives of his men almost daily: 30 have been killed and 75 injured in Baghdad alone since he arrived. Mr Brand, who has a masters degree in applied criminology from Cambridge, remains optimistic. "I always look to be positive, but actually I do think there are a lot of competent policemen out there. The absence of skill is because of a lack of opportunity.
"Last Monday, I went to a police station that was car-bombed a few weeks ago. You don't expect them to be doing cartwheels, but the commander just said, 'This is our job'. The police generally have a focus on what needs to be done and are courageous enough to go out and do it."
Oct. 20 - The ever nuanced French give another lesson in diplomacy as Dominique de Villepin is said to have boasted that the French will sink the Queen:
THE Queen WILL be stripped of her powers as sovereign by the new EU Constitution, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin boasted last night.I love reading the Sun!
De Villepin said the new masterplan demands a EUROPEAN policy on foreign affairs.
So the Queen stands to lose her power over foreign policy and new treaties - which would be agreed in Brussels.
Tony Blair vows to defend our control over foreign policy, defence, tax and social policy.
But during the Dimbleby Lecture on BBC1, de Villepin stated categorically: "Europe must have its own foreign policy and be able to fight for its principles.
"This is what the current draft constitution provides for."
His admission supported fears voiced in The Sun last week. (Their emphasis)
He also said the Euro army deal agreed between Mr Blair and French president Jacques Chirac in 1998 signalled the end of Nato.
But De Villepin's biggest surprise came when he claimed his country shares with Britain - "a refusal to surrender."
He seemed to forget France's surrender to Germany by signing an armistice in June 1940.
De Villepin, 49, also claimed France was a "reliable" ally to the US, despite leading opposition to the Iraq war.
He made no mention of how furious Americans famously branded French president Jacques Chirac and his cronies as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."
Sept. 3 -- This book review of Inside al Qaeda The man who got inside al-Qa'eda hammers home a point that is too often overlooked by the liberal intellegentsia and media: the largest numbers of those who suffer terrorist attacks are not Westerners but Muslims. Who, after all, is hurt when bombs go off in Algerian or Phillipine marketplaces? Muslims comprised the greatest number of fatalities in the recent Jakarta and Najaf bombings.
Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, who has had friends and family who died in terrorist attacks, posed as a terrorist sympathizer to gain insight and information as a way to write this book and protest against the too-often indulgent and romanticized view of terrorists.
Sifaoui's book has sold 60,000 copies in France. It is to be hoped that its readers include President Chirac and his Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, and that the book will have had an educative effect on French thinking, though I wouldn't bet on it. The French book L'Effoyable Imposture (The Dreadful Fraud), which claimed that the 11 September attack was the work of the Jews and the CIA, sold over 100,000.The author, however, states that Britain is the biggest safe haven for the hard-core fundamentalists. Good review -- and there's a link to Amazon if you want to buy the book.
Sifaoui reminds us that the terrorist attack on the Paris Metro in 1995 was seen by many in France as a plot by the Algerian military government to discredit Islamic exiles. (The "brothers" - the terrorists - resented this attempt to exculpate them, since it detracted from their glory in the operation.) Given the French neurosis about America, one can well imagine where the finger would point should fundamentalists succeed in a new outrage in France. Unless the French authorities take a tougher line with the aiders and abetters of terrorism than they appear to do in this book, sadly - as in Britain - such an atrocity seems only a matter of time.
July 19 - "Freedom of the press" has long been interpreted to include the right of reporters to protect their sources. In turn, the public has to trust that there really is a source that has leaked sensitive material to a reporter, and, since Jayson Blair of the NY Times is only the latest in a series of reporters who have fabricated sources and stories, we are in a dilemma when it comes to trusting reports based on "unnamed officials".
In other words, "unnamed officials" is sometimes journalistic code for "I made it up."
I also try to remember that there is more than one possible explanation and that it is wise to wait until the facts are in before I jump to any conclusions. But, oh the temptation . . .
My desire to remain open-minded is further offset by my tendency to evaluate who benefits the most from sensationalist headlines and aim my suspicions accordingly (sort of a political application of "follow the money").
Having said all that, it appears to me that the BBC, the Conservative Party (UK), and the anti-war leftists have everything to gain by making Dr. David Kelly's death look as though he was either hounded to commit suicide or outright murdered by shadowy government officials. (I have yet to see the last in print, but I trust the Idiotarians to be, well, idiotic.) As all of them, but especially the BBC, gain politically from Dr. Kelly's death, I don't believe that they are going to keep open minds but that they will exploit this to an absurd degree.
I am already sure of a few things. The Tories in the UK are as stupid as the Tories in Canada, and may even be stupider than the Democrats in the USA. The UK Tories have everything to gain by forcing the BBC to be more accountable (as the Tories are often maligned by the BBC) but, like their Loyal Opposition counterparts in North America, they take the simple-minded approach of being the Opposition. That's opportunism, not leadership.
According to the CNN webpage report UK police confirm expert's death, UK PM Tony Blair was asked if Dr. Kelly's death was "in some way on your conscience", if government officials would be asked for their resignations, and at the conference's end a journalist shouted "Have you got blood on your hands prime minister? Are you going to resign?"
I think I am entitled to doubt both the objectivity and integrity of journalists so ready to implicate PM Blair's government in the tragic death of Dr. Kelly so my Skepto-meter needle is already in the red zone as I read reports on this matter.
Even though I enjoy reading the Daily Telegraph (UK), I don't forget that they tend to support the Conservtive Party. As for CNN, I don't know for a fact if they support the Dems but I do know that, with a few exceptions like Lou Dobbs and Jack Cafferty, they are deeply stupid.
On to the feeding frenzy:
>From the Daily Telegraph (UK) report (even the title is not objective!) Death of the dossier fall guy:
Tony Blair was plunged into the biggest crisis of his premiership last night after a leading Ministry of Defence adviser who became caught up in No 10's vitriolic battle with the BBC was found dead in woodland near his Oxfordshire home.If they felt responsible, where is the quote that would support that contention? Could he have felt guilty for speaking out of school and causing such an uproar? After all, that's another possible explanation and, as there's no mention of a note, it's going to be easy to make a lot of assertions that are speculation rather than fact.
Dr David Kelly had been named as the likely source of the BBC allegation that the Government "sexed up" intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
His suspected suicide shocked Westminster and Whitehall as the Government faced up to the prospect that Dr Kelly could have been driven to his death by the attempts to identify him as the mole.
This article is from the same paper MoD official was not main source of Iraqi dossier story, says MPs filed July 16 which explains Dr. Kelly's involvement in this investigation and tends to exclude him as the leak:
They [the MoD] believe that identifying him will show that the BBC's story was unreliable, because Dr Kelly was not senior enough to have first-hand knowledge of how the final draft of the dossier was compiled.That the MoD believes that identifying him will cast doubt on the BBC story is outright conjecture, not fact. What is a fact is that when anyone in the Ministry (or Department) of Defense of any country leaks information, that leak must be tracked and stopped. Some of the documents retrived in Iraq strongly implicated journalists and news agencies as being on Saddam's payroll [as opposed to paying bribes to stay in Iraq] as well as at least one Labour MP, George Galloway. PLUGGING THAT LEAK is of primary importance to security.
We engaged in a war against terrorism. I know that this isn't an everyday reality for a lot of people, but it is a truth that we mustn't forget. Terrorist's chief weapons are fear and surprise; our chief weapon is gathering intelligence from all departments and trying to connect dots. Loose lips sink battleships, etc.
Although Dr Kelly contributed to the document, he only wrote the historical sections, not the material based on up-to-date intelligence. Yesterday Dr Kelly told the committee that he confessed to his MoD bosses that he had met Gilligan because he thought he might have "contributed" to the story.Gilligan is the BBC reporter who made serious charges against the veracity of PM Blair's case for the war on Iraq.
In particular, Gilligan said his source had told him that there was a 30 per cent probability of Iraq possessing chemical weapons. Dr Kelly said that was "the sort of thing" he might have said.It will be interesting how the independent investigation is reported by the international media. Or should I say predictable?
Gilligan said he was told by his contact that Alastair Campbell was to blame for the fact that the controversial claim that Iraq could deploy WMD in 45 minutes was inserted at the last minute. Mr Campbell, the Prime Minister's communications chief, strongly denies this.
Dr Kelly told MPs he discussed Mr Campbell's name with the journalist but, when Gilligan's exact words were put to him, he said: "I cannot recall using it in that context. It does not sound like anything I would say."
Although Dr Kelly was at times evasive, he insisted that he did not believe he was the "main source" of the BBC story.
He was more decisive when Richard Ottaway, a Tory, put it to him that he could not be the central source because he did not know that the 45-minute allegation was included late or that it came from a single source. "Correct," Dr Kelly replied. (Emphasis added)