17 February, 2007

Blair in the frame for cash for honours.

According to the Daily Mail, the Scotland Yard team led by the intrepid Assistant Commissioner Yates is nearly ready to submit a file on the cash for honours case to the Crown Prosecution Service. "Insiders" have told the Mail that Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell (Blair's chief press officer), Lord Levy and Ruth Turner (Blair's advisor on something or other) are the four people the Yard will recommend bringing charges against.

The police are being optimistic. The final decision will rest with the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who received both his job and his peerage from Tony Blair. I fancy Blair will be calling in a marker or two.

Meanwhile, the world's few surviving socialists are enjoying the case and even the Iranian press is taking an interest.

First Sea Lord fires broadside at government.

Admiral Sir Jonathan Band, the First Sea Lord (head of the navy) has said that the Royal Navy needs £1 billion to sustain naval capabilities; otherwise Britain would be at risk of "turning into Belgium". The BBC and the Times have more.

Sir Jonathan's remarks follow criticisms of UK defence policy by senior army figures. As a reader comments on the Times site,

Will the Chief of the Air Staff now speak up, and have the government slammed by all 3 services?
In what is becoming one of the UK's major military traditions, having attacked the government, a senior military commander then goes on the MoD site to deny everything and does it without denying anything. Sir Jonathan played the game brilliantly. "Today’s Royal Navy is funded to do what is asked of it." In plain English that means: ministers ask if it can be done, their Lordships say no, so ministers do not ask the navy to do it.


Both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail say that Admiral Band said he would resign if excessive cuts were forced upon the Royal Navy. Neither the BBC nor the Times reported such a threat in the Admiral's remarks, made at a lunch with defence journalists, so perhaps the DT and Mail were reporting off-the-record remarks.

Previously on Crumbling Spires:

Britannia used to rule the waves.

Britannia used to rule the waves 2.

Royal Navy scuttled.

Human rights for terrorists.

Earlier this week the Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, delivered a major policy speech on human rights and terrorism in which he said that the fight against terrorism must be policy led, not dominated by human rights lawyers.

The judiciary was not listening.

Link: European Convention on Human rights.

16 February, 2007

Lance Corporal Matty Hull video.

The Lance Corporal Matty Hull inquest has descended in a legalistic farce. The BBC reports that the coroner has agreed not to show the friendly fire video as part of the official inquest proceedings.

Addressing a pre-inquest hearing on Friday, he said: "I can say quite categorically that if it were not for the potential delay and distress this would cause the family, I would not be willing to be bound by an agreement with the US as to use of evidence that I consider crucial to this inquest.

"I would be wrong to accept that the US are correct in seeking to bind the hands of the coroner's court in this way but in these circumstances I feel that in order to make progress and provide the family with closure, it seems to me that I must act in this way as far as the copy of that video is concerned."
Meanwhile, the rest of the world can watch the full video on the Sun's website and shorter versions on YouTube and various other places including, hopefully, Crumbling Spires.

YouTube Video via BestOfYT.com

Budd VC killed by friendly fire?

The Sun says it has been told by military sources that Corporal Bryan Budd, VC was "probably" killed by friendly fire.

An examination of his bullet-ridden body revealed that the ammunition used was of the calibre employed by British forces.

Pathologists who conducted a forensic examination of his wounds also concluded that they were inflicted by British bullets.

The only explanation other than friendly fire was that Taliban forces stole British weapons or bought Nato kit on the black market.

The 3 Para source added: “Although we’ve been told about the other possibilities, these seem highly unlikely. The fact the family have been told there is a possibility of a ‘blue on blue’ means that this is the conclusion to which the investigation is leading.”
The MoD have said the investigation will not affect the award.

The Daily Telegraph also picks up the story,

Nothing is yet proven either way, but it looks as though tragedy has been piled on tragedy in the confusion of battle. It does not detract from Corporal Budd's selfless actions.

Robert Cottage trial 2.

The trial of former BNP activist Robert Cottage on offences under the Explosives Acts has been continuing at Manchester Crown Court. Lawyers and experts have been arguing over whether Cottage had the correct ingredients to make a worthwhile bomb or if he only had sufficient household materials to scare intruders away with thunderflashes. The Lancashire Telegraph reports that Cottage's defence lawyer, Andrew Nuttall, told the court that

...key ingredients for making explosives were not found at Cottage's house, including charcoal to make gunpowder and sulphuric acid.

The solicitor said: "If someone had it in their mind to make an explosive they would order sulphuric acid - that is one of the key ones they would really go for."

Some forensic expert countered that it was possible to make weaker bombs using other acids.

Talk about counting angels on pinheads.

"Muslim Fanatic Works on Trains"

Omar Khayam, a Muslim fanatic, who demonstrated against the Danish cartoons dressed as a suicide bomber, works as an unsupervised train cleaner. According to the Sun, some train drivers are not happy about it. I suspect many passengers will be less than enthusiastic.

Good News from Iraq and Afghanistan 5: Rebuilding Basra.

Continuing the occasional series of stories unlikely to be found the mainstream media.

In Iraq, the Yorkshire Regiment is in Shit Street, literally. Az Aubayr is the second largest town in Basra province and it has a sewage problem. On one particular road patrolled by the regiment, the tarmac is hidden under a layer of the brown stuff. What else would the army call it?

The regiment is in Az Aubayr, the second largest town in the province, as part of Operation Sinbad, helping the Iraqi people to rebuild society. Essentially, that means rebuilding the infrastructure through projects ranging from reconstructing the sewage and water systems to installing generators to provide hospitals with electricity. The MoD has much more on the story.

[It should never be forgotten that, at the same time as they are helping to rebuild Iraqi society, the troops are dealing with the security situation, sometimes with tragically fatal consequences. Only six days ago the Yorkshire Regiment lost Private Luke Simpson, who was killed returning from a routine patrol.]

That dam Taliban.

In Helmand, Afghanistan, NATO is continuing Operation Kryptonite, its attempt to clear the Taliban from around the Kajaki dam.

The New Zealand Herald, carries a Reuters, India report that the Taliban have been using children as human shields to escape NATO forces.

The Independent has an on-the-spot report on the fighting.

The Daily Telegraph publishes an account of an earlier action at Kajaki by a film maker spending a year with the Royal Marines.

15 February, 2007

July 7th Truth Campaign.

As conspiracy theories go, this is a belter.

According to the 7th July Truth Campaign, the London bombings were not a terrorist act. That theory was cooked up by the authorities to cover the truth: a rehearsal for an anti-terrorist operation went wrong and a bus was accidentally blown up, and there was deadly power surge on the underground. At least I think that is what these prize loonies are saying but I may have misunderstood since I glazed over after the first three or four pages.

The campaign wants a public inquiry. Sounds like a job for inquisitor supreme, Lord John Stevens. For under £5m he will lunch well for a year, conclude there was a series of explosions and offer to run a further inquiry into the matter.

I came across the campaign through finding Islamic Networking, thanks to lgf.

On one point they are correct. Nobody has ever been convicted of the attacks, but then we do not put corpses on trial in the UK, whether dismembered or not.

President Bush on Afghanistan.

President George Bush has been addressing the American Enterprise Institute on the Global War on Terror. Click here for the full text of his remarks. The President referred to Iraq but the bulk of his remarks concerned Afghanistan, on which he outlined a five point strategy for NATO forces. The strategy is summarised here as:

  • increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces;
  • strengthen NATO forces in Afghanistan;
  • improve provincial governance and help develop Afghanistan's rural economy;
  • reverse the increase in poppy cultivation that is aiding the Taliban;
  • fight corruption, especially in the judicial system.
With regard to NATO the president called on member states to provide more troops and to allow their troops to be deployed whenever and wherever, required by commanders on the ground.
For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and the equipment they need to do their jobs...

... when there is a need, when our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, we need additional help, our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission.

As well, allies must lift restrictions on the forces they do provide so NATO commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand. The alliance was founded on this principle: An attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation, or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. By standing together in Afghanistan, NATO forces protect our own people, and they must have the flexibility and rules of engagement to be able to do their job.
I doubt he will meet with an enthusiastic response from our so-called allies in NATO.

Mrs Thatcher

Buried away in the Daily Mail, an article that deserves a wider readership: Margaret Thatcher's Life in the Shadows, a moving account of the great lady's declining years. How we need somebody like her now.

As a bonus, here is the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website which contains her speeches and extensive documentation.

Coaltion security operations underway in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defence has announced that 2,000 Iraqi troops, supported by 1,200 British troops from 19 Light Brigade, have launched a major security operation in and around Basra (or Al Basrah), in south eastern Iraq. Over the next 72 hours, Operation Troy will attempt to counter criminal and militia gangs through a series of intelligence-driven operations. Basra city has been surrounded and all traffic into and out of the city will be stopped and searched at checkpoints. Royal Marine boat patrols will search traffic on the Shatt al Arab and other waterways. The nearby border with Iran has been closed. The MoD link, above, has a map showing the disposition of forces.

The BBC and has an early report.

Map from CIA World Factbook.

On a wider front, Iraq's border with Syria has also been closed as the US army clamps down on the security position in Baghdad, Reuters reports.

More from the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

Oil for Food.

The Serious Fraud Office is turning its attention to the Iraq Oil for Food scandal. The Guardian says the SFO will base its investigation into the alleged involvement of British firms on the Volcker Report, that is, the UN Oil-for-food Report. At the bottom of the page the Guardian has a link to a pdf download of the report.

According to the the Evening Standard, Scotland Yard has George Galloway in its sights, even though the SFO has dropped that aspect of its oil for food inquiry.

Dam Taliban strike back.

The Taliban have struck back at the Kajaki Dam project, in Helmand, Afghanistan. The Royal marines had retaken and secured the area around the dam, so that the contractors could resume work. However, work on the project has now been halted, again. The terrorists fired 14 "cheap rockets" in the general direction of the dam; consequently, the US contractors were pulled out by their company, USAid, leaving behind some not very impressed Royal Marines and Afghan civilian workers.

Anthony Loyd, the Times' man at Kajaki has the story.

14 February, 2007

Lord Falconer on human rights and terrorism.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, has been addressing the Royal United Services Institute on the subject of human rights and terrorism. Here is the full speech.

The speech itself is mostly waffle about the value of this government's human rights legislation and similar worthy sentiments. Falconer's main arguments appears to be three points about the fight against terrorism: it must must be policy led, not dominated by human rights lawyers; it is a struggle for values, so it must involve a hearts and minds campaign; and the Human Rights Act is an essential part of "identifying, defining and protecting" those values.

There is no detailed proposals in the speech, only what the BBC refers to as hints but the press has obviously been briefed. According to the Daily Telegraph report of the speech, the government will attempt to increase the permitted detention period for terrorist suspects from the present 28 days to 56 days; and the police will no longer be prevented from questioning suspects who have already been charged. However, the DT points to Whitehall speculation that nothing will actually be done until Blair has left office.

Colonel Mendonca not guilty.

Colonel Jorge Mendonca, DSO,who hold the dubious distinction of being the most senior British officer ever to face a court martial, has been cleared of all the charges instigated by the anti-army human rights lobby. Four other soldiers have been cleared of similar allegations, amounting to less than gentle treatment of captured terrorists, brought under the International Criminal Court Act, 2001. The show trial of two other soldiers continues.

That this case was ever brought is a damning indictment of the left's anti-military mind set and, equally, of society's disregard for the armed forces. I fear there is little hope for a country that sends its finest young men into combat, daily risking death and serious injury, only to unleash the profiteering human rights lawyers on them at the slightest chance. Here is the roll of shame.

Colonel Mendonca is one of our most distinguished solders, As an holder of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), he was a prize scalp for the left. Well, they have not got him.

The Daily Telegraph has the best report and links. The Times and the BBC also weigh in.

Update 15/2/07:

The Daily Mail sums up how many people will feel about this politically motivated nonsense. What can you expect from a government whose ministers' have spent years involved with CND and various "troops out" movements. Ranting Stan has addressed the government's lack of a military voice.

Tags: ,

CIA rendition: the European Parliament report.

The rag tag and bobtail of socialists, eco-nutters and various other surrender monkeys in the European Parliament have approved a report condemning some European countries for allowing the CIA to transport Islamic terrorists through their air space, to destinations where they might be tortured. Click here for an html version, and Word/OO and pdf downloads of "Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners."* Not so much a report, as a long winded motion.

The Parliament has been busy condemning this and deploring that but they have conspicuously failed to answer allegations that their report is largely based on hearsay and rumour, and there is a distinct lack of evidence for the torture allegations. The Parliament is also somewhat miffed that some countries - notably, Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the UK, - did not exactly fall over themselves to assist in the preparation of the report.

The BBC, the Guardian and the Times have early reports. So far the reporting is reasonably factual, but it is a bit early for the real US-bashing. Most senior journos will still be drowning their lunch. No doubt the sanctimonious onslaught will begin in tomorrow's editions.

And the sum total of all this earnest activity of reporting, press conferences and comment: nothing. The European Parliament can stamp its feet till the cows come home, it is not going to affect the policy of the EU member states.

Last November, the Times gave the EU parliament's roll of honour for countries allowing CIA flights stop-over facilities:
  • Germany 336
  • Britain 170
  • Ireland 147
  • Portugal 91
  • Spain 68
  • Greece 64
  • Cyprus 57
  • Italy 46
  • Romania 21
  • Poland 11
The shame of being beaten by Germany.

* It is a typical EU document with many cross-references ( without hyper-links) to other documents, which have to be read to gain a full picture.

Suspected British al Qaeda links in Somalia.

The strange tale of the suspected four British jihadis in Somalia is beginning to unravel.

As recounted in yesterday's Times, four Britons, suspected of fighting in Somalia for the al-Qaeda linked Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), were amongst 10 foreigners deported from Kenya, to whence they had fled after the UIC got a hammering from Somali government forces. The Kenyan authorities sent the quartet sent back to Somalia and, from there, they have been deported to the UK. The four were: Shahajan Janjua, Reza Afsharzadagen, Mohammed Ezzoueck and Hamza Chentouf.

Once back in the UK, the four suspected jihadis were arrested by police under the Terrorism Act, 2000 but, the BBC reports, they have now been released without charge. Not surprisingly, reveals the Daily Telegraph, the terrorist suspects' families have been declaring the men's innocence with, by now, familiar refrains: "My son is innocent. He is not an extremist", said Ezzouecks's mother; and, "'He is not a terrorist. He went there for a friend's wedding", said Janjua's brother.

When attending his friends wedding, Janjua obviously fell into bad company, including two American al Qadea sympathisers, one of whom has been charged with terrorist-related offences by the US authorities. Details from Little Green Footballs.

The latest from Kajaki: Operation Kryptonite.

The ISAF has released a statement on how the Taliban were removed from some areas around Kajaki in Operation Kryptonite. It is good to see the British army retaining a sense of humour in such circumstances.

A small part of the operation is described in the Times, which had a correspondent with the Royal Marines in the Kajaki dam area.

The ISAF has also released a brief statement telling how a rocket attack at Kajaki was dealt with.

Previously on Crumbling Spires: Taliban build-up in Helmand.

13 February, 2007

The Taliban in Pakistan.

With the Taliban about to launch, or perhaps having already launched, its spring offensive in Afghanistan, here are a few timely articles on the problems being caused for both the Coalition and Pakistan by the Taliban safe areas in the Afghan-Pak border regions. Reading these articles is more instructive than following the ritual insults in the latest round of (un)diplomatic exchanges between the neighbours.

Middle East Report Online has an interesting article on The Pakistan Taliban.

Newsline examines Pakistan's Long Night of Terror resulting from the Taliban presence in the tribal belt.

Last month, in Harboring Terrorists, the Center for American Progress painted a gloomy picture of the consequences for US policy of the Taliban safe bases in Pakistan.

Forest Gate inquiry reports.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has finished inquiring into the police anti-terrorist raids on two houses in Forest Gate, East London in which a man was shot by police. The IPPC press release has links to the reports' findings and recommendations. In fact there were three inquiries and two reports: the earlier Forest Gate 1 related to the shooting; and Forest Gate 2 and 3, which is one report on two investigations into the house raids. Here is a direct link to the pdf file of the reports on the house raids.

In summary, the IPCC finds that the police did nothing wrong but they acted on inaccurate intelligence and they should have apologised more profusely to the offended innocent parties so as not to upset community relations.

According to the BBC, the man shot in the raid, Mohammed Abdulkahar, is said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. A profitable law suit against the police will no doubt provide effective therapy.

Through their lawyers, families involved in the raid have issued a statement; the Guardian gives it in full.

The Times headlines the fact that only 2 out of 153 complaints were upheld by the IPCC, and these were minor matters of failing to supply sufficient painkillers or food to suspects in custody.

Ex-BNP activist on trial.

Robert Cottage, a former BNP activist, has gone on trial charged with offences under the Explosives Acts. Manchester Crown Court was told that Watkinson kept a stockpile of explosives, in case of a civil war, which came to light thanks to his wife. According to the Guardian:

Mrs Cottage, who suffered mental health problems, had told a social worker her husband possessed several crossbows and had chemicals stored at his home... This sparked a police raid which uncovered 21 types of chemicals which, when mixed together, could form explosives. Officers also found a 300-page computer document, the Anarchy Cookbook, detailing how to make different types of bombs, the jury was told.
Mrs Cottage also said that her husband wanted to shoot Tony Blair and the liberal peer, Lord Greaves.

The BBC also has a report.

Lord Greaves is perhaps better known as Tony Greaves, of the Association of Liberal Councillors based at Hebden Bridge, in Yorkshire. During his time there, the ALC, led by Greaves and his partner in crime, Andrew Ellis (widely known as Smelly Elly and the Hebden Bridge mafia) pioneered the Liberals' distinctive style of election campaigning, achieving notoriety for being a wretched a set of unprincipled political muck-rakers.

Criminals have human rights .

The Lord Chancellor dissembles about human rights legislation but the truth is out there, again and again and again.

The scandalous benefits to criminals of the Human Rights Act is one area where so far David Cameron has talked sense.

The Royal Marines battle for Kajaki Dam.

The battle for the Kajaki dam has kicked off, again. The Daily Telegraph quotes official reports that Royal Marines, supported by artillery and Afghan forces, fought a 12 hour battle. No NATO casualties are reported, but a "several" terrorists are said to have been killed. According to the Times, the Taliban have been routed.


Reuters, India says that 300 ISAF troops were involved in the operation , which involved clearing 60 compounds from an area used recently to launch regular mortar attacks.

12 February, 2007

Speak English or lose benefits.

The BBC reports that:

Unemployed people who cannot speak English will have to show they are learning the language or face losing benefits, the government has announced.
Quite right. There is increased danger to minorities of isolation, discrimination and victimisation, if they cannot communicate with the majority. It is long past the time when Scousers should be integrated into the rest of society.

Now that I have tested for the existence of the legendary Scouse sense of humour, here is the serious part of the BBC's story. At the same time as the government is shifting resources into language teaching for the unemployed, it is shifting resources out of language teaching elsewhere.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Philip Hammond said making working migrants pay for classes may end up trapping them in low-skilled jobs, because they cannot afford more tuition.

"We need to help them as well to acquire the language skills that will unlock the other skills they may have and allow them to move on," he said.
That is far too sensible a point for this government to grasp.

Steven Lanham - the first British casualty in the War on Terror?

Last Saturday, the Evening Standard ran the curious story of Steven Lanham:

Steven Lanham, it can be revealed, was a hero - the first British agent to give his life in the global war against terror.

Disguised as a dispatch rider, the 39-year-old former soldier was on "close target reconnaissance" when he was killed in mysterious circumstances.
The Standard's stable mate, the Mail on Sunday ran the same story but the rest of the British press seems to have ignored it. Make of it what you will.

11 February, 2007

Taliban build-up in Helmand.

The BBC reports that that it has been told by Haji Asadullah Wafa, the new governor of Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, that 700 insurgents (ie Taliban terrorists) have entered Helmand with the aim of attacking British troops protecting a major dam project.

The BBC does not name the dam but presumably it is Kajaki hydro-electric dam, from which the Royal Marines ejected the terrorists in early January. It is also the area where Corporal Mark Wright of the Paras was awarded the George Cross last July.

The International Herald Tribune carries a numerically similar Associated Press report that 700 "foreign fighters" (the Taliban's foreign legion to the rest of us) from Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Pakistan are in the area around Musa Qala where negotiations to peacefully remove the Taliban are apparently still underway.

Little is to be gained from a detailed analysis of the numbers of terrorists in parts of Helmand given by these press reports. They may be correct , they may not. We can only trust that NATO has its own accurate intelligence, which is not for public consumption. The key point is that the Taliban seems to be moving its forces into Helmand in preparation for the expected spring offensive which may kick off any time now.

Cameron the dope.

When I first saw the story that David Cameron - the liberal we have somehow been saddled with as leader of the Conservative Party - smoked dope at Eton, I misread it as Cameron was a dope at Eton. My instinctive reaction was so what, we know he is a dope but I bet Boris Johnson was a bigger one at Eton. Anyway, we can leave that to any amateur psychiatrists.

If Cameron had graduated to snorting coke at his Islington dinner parties, or shooting heroin before speaking in the House of Commons, or taking LSD prior to focus group meetings, or even slinking off to an opium den when Teresa May got a bit too much for him, that might be a story. At least it would explain some of the party's present policies. But he did none of things, as far as we know.

The Independent basically has a story that a 15 year old school boy smoked dope. It has a few Cameron drug quotes at the end of the piece, trying to nail him for hypocrisy, and failing. So long as nobody can dig up a really damaging Cameron quote on cannabis, it is a non-story which will excite briefly the chattering classes and their equally vacuous media but will have little effect in the real world.

Here are the links for your entertainment.

The Independent, which broke the story in a serialised biography of Cameron, despite claims by the Mail on Sunday to an exclusive.

The Observer, the Times and the Sunday Telegraph also weigh in with what seem to be hastily written articles cobbled together after the Indy hit the streets.

The BBC has been leading its radio news with the story and, no doubt, will have little else on its television current affairs programmes and its 24 TV news channel.

Prepare for much sanctimonious comment over the next few days.