Monday, April 30, 2007 

Forever delayed.

They say that good things (or in this case, depressing but motivating things) come to those that wait, or at least that advertisement for a particularly foul beer does, but the news accompanied by the conviction of 5 men for plotting what would have been far more devastating explosions than 7/7, was that, as had been well rumoured, they had links to two of the bombers that killed themselves and murdered dozens of others on that day now known only as two numbers.

These links were not just passing acquaintances, that they'd both encountered some of the plotters on internet forums and had been flagged up as possible co-conspirators. These links were, as Peter Clarke or John Reid would not doubt tell us if they weren't horribly on the back foot, extensive, detailed and authoritative, or do those terms only apply to sexed up dossiers?

One of the revelations is genuinely astounding: Khyam, alleged to be the ringleader in the plot which never came to fruition, and where it's not even clear where they would have struck, drove Mohammad Siddique Khan, the alleged ringleader on 7/7, for hours on the motorway while MI5 listened in. Rather than being, as we were told, that these were "clean skins" and that it was a complete bolt from the blue, from the very minute that the bombers were positively identified MI5 have worked to at least keep this information from coming out, whether because it was "subjudice" or rather because it was an unpleasant fact that the public didn't need to know about.


Within a week of 7/7 there were allegations being made that MSK was known to the intelligence services, and indeed had been missed in the Crevice raid, or at least had links to that investigation, facts that have taken close to two full years to finally emerge. The desperation of the spinning by MI5 is quite mind-boggling to see. The Spook on First Post suggested a month ago that the security service was going to produce a document entitled 'Rumours and Realities', and lo and behold, there's a document on MI5's website entitled Rumours and reality.

As the newly installed head Jonathan Evans is at pains to point out, "The Security Service will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation", which is quite true. The trouble with this statement is that MSK was considered such a peripheral player that he was put under surveillance, that it was known he had gone and trained in Pakistan, that everything about him now known suggests that he was a committed jihadist, and that even then it was clear he was considering killing himself and others for his perverse, wicked cause.


There is of course, as the cliché goes, nothing quite like hindsight, and as with most clichés, it has a ring of truth around it. Why though go to all the trouble of being at pains to show how deadly and enduring the threat we now face is, as the terrorists are complete unknowns, when they knew full well even then that it was nonsense?


This is exactly why there now needs to be a full, independent inquiry into what happened both on that day, before that day and then after that day. The government's tired, facile argument that this would take away vital resources from those who are so earnestly protecting our lives is exactly that; disingenuous and worthy of contempt. They treated us with contempt when they lied to us, when they continue to overstate the nature of the threat, when they relentlessly scaremonger moments after telling us to do exactly the opposite, and tell the leakers to stop leaking when the biggest leaks are often from them. Terrorism can be defeated, but only if our governments and protectors are honest with us will it encourage us to be honest with ourselves. They could do much to kick-start the beginning of such a culture by ordering the inquiry.


Related posts:
Rachel
Nether-World

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The Daily Express: dead horses beaten daily.

Sometimes, I just completely and utterly despair. The Express pretends to be a newspaper. Its owner pretends to be a philanthropic, caring man who donates to hospitals, while paying himself £52 million a year from the profits of his hate-filled rags, celebrity magazines and softcore pornography television channels.

In case you couldn't guess, Muslims are not getting their own laws in Britain, and they're not getting them now, either. Inayat Bunglawala, in one of a rare as rocking horse excrement decent posts on CiF, thoroughly destroys the article. It's true, as some have pointed to, that a judge in a German court recently made a shocking, dismissal worthy decision that a Muslim woman could not have a divorce because her husband had been beating her, as the Koran states that the husband is allowed to beat his wife (a scripture which is predictably controversial and highly debated), but there's no evidence that the setting up of entirely voluntary courts is going to lead to anything as disgraceful as that happening here.

To add insult to injury, the Express illustrates the story online with that now infamous photograph of 3 Muslim women, all wearing the niqab, with one flashing a two-fingered salute at the man behind the camera. That this was taken during the "beheading" raids in Birmingham, when the community as a whole was more than entitled to feel under siege, isn't worthy of a mention.

Get ready then for the next in the series of Express articles alerting us to the dangers of "our Muslim community". NOW MUSLIMS DARE TO STEP OUTSIDE THEIR HOUSES. NOW MUSLIMS PRACTICE THEIR RELIGION IN BUILDINGS CALLED MOSQUES. NOW MUSLIMS REFER TO GOD AS "ALLAH". NOW MUSLIMS FUCK US ALL IN THE ASS WITH LADLES. And finally: NOW MUSLIMS DARE TO COMPLAIN TO THE PCC ABOUT OUR HATE-FILLED FRONT PAGE SUPER-SPLASH.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007 

Sun in printing humourous story which isn't true shocker.

In case you couldn't tell by its sheer ridiculousness, the Sun's story that the Japanese are being fleeced (groan) by being sold sheep when they thinking they're buying poodles, as featured on last night's Have I Got News for You, is complete and utter ovine shit.

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All our heroes are dead or corrupt.

If we're to go by the diary of a soldier from the months after the beginning of the occupation of Iraq, Harry doesn't so much have the insurgents chopping his ears off to look forward to, but rather the intense pleasure of throwing "Ali Babas" into the Shat al Arab, killing two others and getting a beer as a reward, battering an Iraqi who threw a punch from head to toe, beating up more "Ali Babas" with sticks while filming it and finally referring to the death of a man who they tortured as "what a shame".

This was of course what the Sun referred to as a "so-called crime". Truly, these men are heroes.

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Friday, April 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: If in doubt, turn the emotion up to 11.

After a couple of weeks of silence over the faltering Sun campaign to introduce Sarah's law, the paper's decided to turn the emotion and sympathy factor up to 11. It today interviews the parents' of the girl abducted and raped by Craig Sweeney, who was last year at the centre of the Scum's outrage at "soft" judges, after he was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 5 years. Their bilious response, which John Reid responded to like a dog to a whistle, most likely directly led to the attorney general not increasing Sweeney's sentence. In fact, this isn't the first time the parents of "J" have talked to the Sun about their plight; they did so back in February as well.

ANGELA fights back a torrent of tears as she places two photographs of her precious daughter side by side.

The first, taken in 2005, is a cameo of childhood innocence — sparkling blue eyes looking out from a beautiful, beaming face.

The second, taken a year later, is a terrible testament to the horrific ordeal suffered by the youngster — referred to here as “J” to protect her identity.

Her smile has been replaced by a haunted grimace and dark circles sit under her eyes.

Angela says: “I wish the world could see these pictures so people could understand how this monster devastated our little girl’s life.

“People have said her experience was not dissimilar to that of Sarah Payne, Holly Wells or Jessica Chapman — but because J survived she seems to be forgotten.”


Well, no, she hasn't been forgotten, mainly because the Sun especially has felt the need to keep reminding us that Sweeney was personally found with the blood of J on his hands. It clearly was a horrific case, and one for which Sweeney shouldn't and I would assume won't be released as a result for a very long time, despite his minimum tariff. Why keep reminding both yourselves and your daughter herself of the tragedy though? The very thing that will help J to recover from this experience is to deal with it and then move on - you can be angry about it, you can want to change the law, as they seem to want to, but it's not going to change what's happened, and it's not going to help her recover unless they themselves are prepared to consider that bringing it up constantly is anathema to trying to forget, even if you are highlighting the seeming individual mistakes and errors which have occurred.

Angela, 35, is referring to J’s abduction by convicted paedophile Craig Sweeney.

He snatched the tot, then aged three, from her home on January 2 last year and drove her 12 miles to his bail hostel in Newport. He then sexually assaulted her before driving east down the M4 and attacking her again in a lay-by near Swindon then again in the town.

He eventually lost control of the car on the A4 nearly 90 miles from J’s home during a high-speed chase with police. She was thrown from the vehicle just before it overturned and plunged down an embankment.


It's worth wondering then, considering that Sweeney was living 12 miles away, whether the family would have been informed about his release under the proposed Sarah's law that the Sun is campaigning for. On the basis of the Sun's own questionnaire, which it used to try to canvass support for Sarah's law, seeing as J was yet to go to school and Sweeney wasn't living next door or in the immediate surroundings of where they lived, he wouldn't have been known to them. Even if an exact replica of Megan's law were to be introduced, her parents would have either have had to hear the news that Sweeney was back in the area through word of mouth, an article in the local paper or searching on the internet itself. This is of course all being wise after the fact: it's simply impossible to know whether a version of Megan's law would have stopped Sweeney from snatching J.

Angela recalls the fateful winter evening which ended normal family life.

She says: “I’d known Sweeney since he was a lad. He used to do odd jobs for us and I hadn’t seen him for years, but this night he knocked on the door and said he was calling on old friends.

“We now know he had been in prison for child sex offences — but then I had no idea what sort of person he really was.


Which suggests that Sweeney's actions were premeditated, targeting those he'd known while young that wouldn't suspect anything. It also makes it likely, seeing as they weren't aware of his convictions, which would have almost certainly appeared in the local press, that they wouldn't have known any different if a form of Sarah's law had been enshrined in law, unless the details had been plastered everywhere, something that even the Home Office doesn't seem to be in favour of.

Angela and her partner James, 36, a self-employed businessman, dialled 999, giving police Sweeney’s name and car details.

A simple touch of a computer key should have flagged up his serious sex offender status.

But the couple later learned a detective misspelled “Sweeney”, rendering the checks useless.

A simple police mistake then tragically delayed the response. There's not much we can do about human error.

Failings in the police investigation were admitted last week after a long battle by J’s parents.

A superintendent and an inspector from South Wales Police were formally reprimanded.


It goes on, describing the disturbed state of J now, and the failings to even get her into treatment. It seems she might benefit from seeing a child psychiatrist rather than a counsellor, at least at first, which could be reasonably quickly arranged if they went to her GP, but whether they've tried to do so or not is unclear.

James says: “Critics say it would send paedophiles underground but probation services aren’t monitoring them properly at the moment anyway.

“Because Sweeney was loosely known to us we would undoubtedly have been made aware of his previous convictions for child abuse long before he got to J.

“If nothing else, Sarah’s Law would make offenders think twice about what they are about to do.”


That seems doubtful; someone who's as prepared and as blatant as Sweeney was is always going to be difficult to stop, with a law such as Sarah's or not.

As is usual with such articles on the Sun, we're then treated to perfect examples of what might well happen to alleged paedophiles if a law like that the Sun is campaigning for is introduced:

If that evil piece of **** ever gets out of prison, I hope you raise a fund to pay for a mercinary/bounty hunter/anyone to kill him, But do it slowly so that he dies slowly and in the worst pain Imaginable, Sweeney is a danger who cant be corrected and there is no point keeping him in jail for ever, so the best option is to put him to death, But inflict pain doing it so that he has some Idea of the pain he has caused to his victims, An innocent child and her family.

Castration using 2 house bricks then a lobotomy before locking this ******* up for life is still too lenient.

Why not go the whole hog and gouge his eyes out, sew his testicles into the sockets and tattoo "NONCE" on his forehead?

Or invent a collar that electrocutes there bits as soon as they get aroused that will show em.

Mongrels like this should be left to rot in a very deep hole somewhere! The critics who oppose Sarah's law (god rest her wee soul & that of Holly & Jessica) make me wonder why they oppose it, their excuse is that it'll drive those amoeba's underground?

Could it not be the case that they're against it more for their own interests?

Obviously. There's a five-year-old boy fellating me as I type this. The same reason is undoubtedly why Barnardo's and the NSPCC oppose Sarah's law as well.
NO TRIAL, NO LAWYERS, SEND THEM SOMEWHERE TO BE SHOT.
Microchip them and put mc readers on sale (10+ meters reach). That way every parent who wants to know will be able to find out where the danger is.
this man should be locked away in a cell all to himself and the government should let each one the little girls family members take it in turn to show him PAIN

Don't know how anyone cud hav done this to a 3 year old girl sick ****.. If he does get out everyone should remember his face then teach him a lesson if they see him n i dont just mean beat him up.. i mean really abuse the **** n see how he likes it then kill him after wards its wat he deserves and if the law wont do it someone else should..

I wouldn't have any objection to Sarah's law if it had been objectively shown that it helps to protect children; as it is, all the evidence from America suggests that it further encourages vigilantism, puts children at more risk as less sex offenders comply with their probation restrictions as a result, and potentially puts the innocent at risk through the potential to be misidentified. We've recently learned that the investigations behind Operation Ore have been allegedly fatally flawed, with potentially hundreds of men the victims of miscarriages of justice. These are the same people that would find themselves named and shamed as a result of their convictions, further ruining their lives. To the Sun readers' who write such detailed descriptions of exactly what they'd do to a paedophile if they ever had one in a locked room, and indeed the editor herself, who has never shown any concern over what happened as a result of her previous naming and shaming escapade, it seems that this would be of little concern.

Elsewhere, the Scum willfully decides to mislead the public of the true level of crime:

Robberies are UP. Vandalism is UP. Drug offences are UP.

But if you believe police records, the crime rate is DOWN.

Reported offences have fallen over the last three months, with 4,000 fewer acts of violence.

The figures have been welcomed by ministers.

Interestingly, they usually prefer the British Crime Survey of householders which gives a softer impression of criminal activity.

But the latest poll shows levels of violence unchanged — while vandalism is up by 11 per cent.

The survey also reveals the chances of becoming a victim of crime have risen.


Yes, by a whopping 1% (PDF), which was the same percentage chance as the previous quarter of the year. The Sun decides not to bother to mention that the chance of being a victim of crime as recorded by the BCS is still at a historic low: it was 40% in 1995, now it's 24%. Gun crime, one of the issues that the Sun doesn't waste an opportunity to launch a moral panic about, was also shown to have dropped by 16% over the year, a decrease of 1,761 offences, to 9,513.

Next, let's undermine both the police and BCS figures purely because it fits the Sun's tough on crime agenda:

So who do you believe?

The answer is neither.

The British Crime Survey is flawed because it excludes murder, sex attacks and crimes against shops.


This is plain bullshit. It excludes murder and sex attacks for the simple reason that they're rare, and are better recorded as a result by the police themselves, while crimes against shops are not crimes against the person, as personal experience of crime is what the whole methodology of the BCS is based on.

As for police records, thousands of punters no longer bother to report muggings or assaults.

They rarely result in a charge, still less a courtroom conviction.


Punters? Surely citizens? As for not reporting them, shouldn't the Sun be urging the public to do so regardless so that we do get a true picture of crime in the country?

So if your impression is that crime is rising, you are probably right
.

Which goes some way to explaining why faith in the criminal justice system is shown by the BCS to be declining. Ministers say it needs re-balancing, the tabloids scream that the judges are soft, those working within it become demoralised, and so we have a self-fulfilling prophecy. All in a day's work.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007 

Lives are at risk.

In an age when we have vast amounts of information available at the click of a mouse, the reasons for denying the free flow of potentially sensitive or controversial data have become ever more questionable. Witness the way the government continues to try to cut the Freedom of Information Act it introduced down to size - first by being completely open about it, if arrogant and willfully ignorant, and then by subterfuge, hiding behind a useful idiot Tory MP's attempts to exempt parliament from the act.

The most continually repeated argument behind not releasing information of late though is also one of the most contemptible. Last year, when this blog along with others republished photographs of the News of the World "journalist" Mazher Mahmood after he tried to entrap George Galloway, one of his responses was that the images could lead to him being targeted because of the many "criminals" he had exposed; in essence, his life was at risk because a few websites had published public domain pictures of his ugly mug. As it happened, he was laughed out of court, with both him and his lawyers humiliated, but this seems to be one of the rare cases where the argument wasn't taken seriously.

Take the current trial involving the civil servant David Keogh and MP's researcher Leo O'Connor. The two men are accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act by leaking a memo detailing the discussions of George Bush and Tony Blair, in which it's widely assumed that Bush advocated bombing the headquarters of the television news network Al-Jazeera, due to its coverage of the American assault on the city of Fallujah. Blair is believed to have talked him out of it, although the response from the Americans when the existence of the memo was first discovered was that Bush had been "joking". Yesterday, "Sir" Nigel Sheinwald argued that the open publishing of the memo "could have put lives in danger", with "UK forces at risk". To say this is a despicable argument would be to give too much credit to it: it first assumes that UK forces are not at risk in the first place, when they most certainly are as a direct result of the foreign policy that Sheinwald has advised upon, and secondly it ignores the fact that if the contents of the memo are as they are believed, that the President of the United States was considering launching a military strike that would have broken the Geneva Convention, killed journalists doing their jobs, and put the lives of his own servicemen at risk through his own petulant dismay at a television station daring to report on the brutality of what was happening on the ground. If that's not playing fast and loose with the lives of potentially hundreds, if not thousands of people, then Sheinwald ought to inform us otherwise.

At least with the Al-Jazeera memo trial there are genuine questions over what can and cannot be leaked, especially over whether the public have a right to know about discussions at the very height of government over issues which are highly controversial. The same cannot be said for the MoD, which is appealing against an order for its staff directory of the defence export services organisation (DESO) to be released to the Grauniad. In a similar self-serving style to that taken by Sheinwald, David Wray, the MoD's director of information, an Orwellian job title if there ever was one, claimed that releasing the directory could lead to staff being harassed at home, all the way up to workers in Saudi Arabia possibly being the target of terrorist attacks, even though all those associated with the al-Yamanah arms deal are to be removed for the directory. This was despite the MoD admitting that 2,000 copies of the directory have been distributed, with 3 going to journalists, apparently ones that the MoD can trust not to turn over to the evil terrorists.

Peter Clarke too used "the lives are at risk" gambit in his speech on Tuesday, condemning leaks which may well have come from within his own organisation, as the Grauniad reports today. Clarke of course though doesn't actually care about what the very real consequences of such leaks are on those who are arrested and later released without charge, where their lives may be ruined or put at risk by such briefings, but rather on the sources of the intelligence in the first place, who are highly unlikely to be put at risk by such leaks. In some cases, as we know, the intelligence itself has come from those whose lives certainly are at risk, as it was tortured out of them.

As Craig Murray notes today, the sources of such leaks that are helpful towards the government or the police in their endless fight against terror are hardly ever prosecuted. He uses the example of this weekend's report in the Sunday Times, where if the journalist hasn't made it all up, there has been a potentially major breach of the Official Secrets Act, as JTAC reports are sometimes top secret and always classified.

There is a contradiction within the whole "lives at risk" argument that is a mile wide. No one wants anyone to die as a result of something as potentially inconsequential as the release of a directory of workers within the Ministry of Defence, yet when people do die as a result of the actions of the government or the police, dead men can tell no tales. Jean Charles de Menezes couldn't inform us that he didn't jump that barrier and that he wasn't wearing a heavy coat. The soldiers in Iraq that would have been threatened further by the release of the al-Jazeera memo or, if some right-wing commentators are to be believed, by the broadcasting of dramas such as the Mark of Cain, can tell us what they really feel about their mission on message boards like ARRSE, but their dead comrades killed purely because of Blair's "liberal interventionism" can't tell us what their feelings were about being in Iraq in the first place, or whether they were achieving anything other than simply becoming more hated by the day.

We do everything to protect ourselves from things that we don't want to hear, but to those who have to suffer the consequences either way, we have little to offer other than platitudes. But didn't you hear? If we were to be brutally honest, lives would be at risk.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007 

We don't want to scaremonger, but there are some really nasty men out there...

It's somewhat odd that it's taken the comments of Peter Clarke, about an incident which took place two months ago, for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to pull their heads out of the sand and start asking pertinent and important questions about where the briefings about the alleged plot to behead a serving British Muslim soldier came from. At the time there were articles in the Guardian, outrage from the West Midlands police themselves and press releases from Liberty, yet little was said. One has to suspect that party political concerns, with the local and regional elections fast approaching, are one aspect behind it.

As seems to happen every so often, and thanks partly to the splitting of the Home Office, we're currently going through another round of being reminded just how deadly, enduring and frightening the "threat" is. Clarke's speech is part of this, and is full of the familiar justifications that the police have come up with for botched raids, leaks of their own and downright lies about some of those who have been arrested, tried and convicted.

He starts off by comparing the threat posed by the IRA to the threat now posed by "al-Qaida and its associated groups", covering the usual territory. It's when he breaks down what's happened during the years past that it starts getting interesting:

During that year, 2002, we focussed on groups of North Africans, mainly Algerians, to find out whether they were engaged solely in support, fund raising and the like, or whether they posed a real threat to the UK itself. We followed a trail of petty fraud and false identity documents across the country. Eventually that trail took us to Thetford, where in the unlikely surroundings of rural Norfolk we found the first real indication since 9/11 of operational terrorist activity here in the UK - recipes for ricin and other poisons. That led us eventually to Wood Green and the chemicals, the Finsbury Park Mosque, and of course the terrible murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake in Manchester in January 2003.

Chemicals? What chemicals? There were no chemicals found at Wood Green, and there was certainly no ricin either. There were indeed recipes for ricin found, but they were crude forgeries from which ricin could not have been manufactured. Even if the recipes had been legitimate, Kamel Bourgass had planned to smear the poison on car door handles and doorknobs, when ricin has to pierce the skin in order to work. It was an embarrassing cock-up which both the US and UK governments exploited for their own purposes. Bourgass additionally had no links whatsoever to al-Qaida, and the evidence against his co-defendants who were acquitted only to be later re-arrested and detained was acquired through torture in Algeria.

That case taught us many things, not least about our ability to operate across borders, both within the UK and overseas. It showed us the difficulties that international terrorist conspiracies pose for our domestic judicial system. For the police, it also marked the beginning of our understanding of the impact that the emerging distrust of intelligence in early 2003 would have on our relationship with the media and therefore the public. This was the first time, in my experience, that the police service had been accused of exaggerating the threat posed by terrorists in order, it was alleged, to help the government justify its foreign policy.

Why accuse the police service when we can point the finger directly at Peter Clarke himself? After Bourgass was convicted, Clarke had this to say:

"This was a hugely serious plot because what it had the potential to do was to cause real panic, fear, disruption and possibly even death," said Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch. "This was no more, no less than a plot to poison the public."

Except, well, there was no chance of there being any poisoning. The panic, fear and disruption were created by the media who were wrongly briefed that ricin had been found when none existed.

He goes on:

In terms of the broad development of the threat, it is frustrating that I cannot describe in more detail much of what we have discovered during the course of investigations, but suffice it to say that the alleged plot to bring down airliners last year was yet another step in what seems an inexorable trend towards more ambitious and more destructive attack planning.

Quite. It's going to be fascinating to see exactly what was found as a result of the "liquid bomb" plot raids; Craig Murray reported last December that after searching woods in High Wycombe for 5 months, they had found, err, nothing. Clarke's own press conference only mentioned that hydrogen peroxide had been found, which is certainly not a liquid explosive and which could not have been concealed like the bombs partly made of hydrogen peroxide used on 7/7 and 21/7. An article on Raw Story, based on an ex-British Army expert on explosives' testimony, claimed that the whole plot as described in the media was a "fiction".

He then explains how the intelligence services and the police are now working hand in hand as a result of having to intervene earlier. He can't avoid having to mention the Forest Gate fiasco:

Sometimes this inevitably means that there will not be enough evidence to prosecute, and then we face the criticism that we are being indiscriminate in our activities. The operation in Forest Gate in June 2006 is often held up as an example of this. If anyone seriously believes that we, and here I mean the police, would embark on an operation such as that lightly, or not genuinely believing it to be necessary, they are quite simply wrong. Sadly, I can't go into the full background of the case, but if anyone is interested I would refer them to the Independent Police Complaint's Commission Report. The Commission came to the clear conclusion, having seen the intelligence, that the operation was necessary and proportionate.

Which is quite true, they did. The report was however critical of the police's conduct of the raid and of the treatment given to both the families involved. The IPCC were only allowed to see the intelligence on a "confidential" basis, so we still don't exactly what the police were meant to be looking for in the first place, or whether the intelligence was believable. Somehow, the idea of a suicide vest spraying out poison, which was what some papers reported was what the police were looking for, doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.

Forest Gate also helps to illustrate the rank hypocrisy of Clarke and the police themselves in denouncing the leaks which occurred during the Birmingham raids in February. The whole Forest Gate operation was punctuated by unsubstantiated leaks to the press which could only have come from the police. The News of the World claimed that one brother had shot the other in trying to grab the gun held by a police officer, later proved to be completely untrue by the IPCC, while the Sun splashed with the story that the home had £38,000 in cash in it, ignoring completely the family's explanation that they didn't use bank accounts because of the Islamic belief in money not accruing interest. Even then they weren't finished with the Koyair brothers; taking the "evidence" that one of them had child pornography straight to the News of the World, only for no charges to be brought.

Clarke goes on:

This is not going to be easy. We must increase the flow of intelligence coming from communities. Almost all of our prosecutions have their origins in intelligence that came from overseas, the intelligence agencies or from technical means. Few have yet originated from what is sometimes called 'community intelligence.' This is something we are working hard to change.

It's widely rumoured that the intelligence about the Forest Gate raid did indeed come from within the community, and we know how wrong it was quickly proved. This doesn't exactly inspire confidence either in the police's contacts, or within communities where grudges and rivalries can play a part in briefings.

We must maintain that trust. But how to do so? I have no doubt that the operational and political independence of the police is the key to this. The communities must believe, and it must be reality, that the police stand aside from politics in the exercise of their powers. That is why the allegations of political partiality that seem to have been made so lightly in recent times are so damaging. They undermine the relationship between police and public.

Surely the solution is simple: stop the briefing before anyone has so much has been in custody for hours, let alone before they are charged. The media do play their part, it's true, but it's the police that seem to be the source for much of the wrong information which has found its way into the papers in the aftermath of raids under the terrorism acts. Either stop the briefing, suggest who it is if it isn't the police, or expect to find yourselves sneered at when arrests are made when so little hard evidence seems to have been collected.

He then goes on about 90 days:

When asked by how much the period of detention should be increased, we suggested a maximum of 90 days, subject to judicial oversight. We were asking not for a police power, but for a power to be vested in the courts on application from the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

This is an attempt at obfuscation that doesn't work. It's quite true that the police have to put the case for having a further detention period to a judge, but there are few judges who are going to go directly against the wishes of the police or incur the wrath of the tabloids when a deadly terrorist might be released as a result.

As we all know, the ensuing debate, both in Parliament and elsewhere was a little lively. I know there have been concerns expressed about the role of the police service in that debate, and whether we overstepped the mark in terms of political neutrality - but I find this slightly puzzling. If we are asked for our professional opinion, and we express it, and the Government brings forward legislation, are we supposed to be silent the moment a draft Bill is published? We were accused of being politically partial, but I reject that.

It wasn't so much that the police as a whole were openly supporting the bill, it was more that local police officials were being encouraged to ring up their MPs and tell them of their support for it which angered politicians themselves. Clarke seems to be suggesting that the police support for 90 days should be beyond reproach, that they had only good intentions in proposing it, even though they have only had to use the full 28 days so far once, and that seemed to be more aimed at making a point than in having to do so for lack of evidence to charge. Clarke ought to have known that such a lengthy period of detention without charge, in effect a six-month prison sentence, was going to raise passionate opposition and support, and that politically partiality, especially the way in which the police and this government have operated at times almost in tandem, was going to be a factor. To be puzzled by it seems to show a willful naivety.

After all of this (and more) he finally gets to the remarks which have got the political parties off their backsides:

I am not referring to the normal day to day discourse that occurs between journalists and their contacts. What I am talking about is the deliberate leaking of highly sensitive operational intelligence, often classified, and the unauthorised release of which can be a criminal offence. I make no allegations about the source of leaks or about individual cases. What is clear is that there are a number, a small number I am sure, of misguided individuals who betray confidences. Perhaps they look to curry favour with certain journalists, or to squeeze out some short term presentational advantage - I do not know what motivates them. The people who do this either do not know or do not care what damage they do. If they do know, then they are beneath contempt. If they do not know, then let me tell them. They compromise investigations. They reveal sources of life saving intelligence. In the worst cases they put lives at risk. I wonder if they simply do not care.


The recent investigation in Birmingham into an allegation that a British serviceman had been targeted by a terrorist network is but one example of this. On the morning of the arrests, almost before the detainees had arrived at the police stations to which they were being taken for questioning, it was clear that key details of the investigation and the evidence had been leaked. This damaged the interview strategy of the investigators, and undoubtedly raised community tensions. I have no idea where the leaks came from, but whoever was responsible should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

The implication being from all of this is that the Home Office was responsible, as the Guardian reported at the time. Notice that despite all this, there's still no apology to those who were caught up in the raid and who weren't even questioned about anything to do with the plot which was leaked to the Sun before the police had nearly even so much as acted.

It's worth noting however that nowhere in Clarke's entire speech does he so much as mention the most noteworthy gaping sore which did so much to undermine faith in the police: Jean Charles de Menezes. The police then were either involved in openly smearing him, claiming that he was acting suspiciously, wearing heavy clothes, jumping the barrier, etc, when he did none of those things, or failed to act in dispelling these untruths when it quickly became clear that an innocent man had been shot dead. That he's not worthy of even being discussed as a reason for why the police are little trusted seems to sum up the contempt with which he was treated both on that day and since.

Speaking of summing up, John Reid did his best today to show the very worst of his government. One minute he laughably called for an end to scaremongering over the terrorist threat, something that his government has exploited time and again, then in the next breath he was orgasmic in warning of how al-Qaida intends to "bankrupt" us through attacking financial markets or energy supplies, without explaining how they would manage to do either. He even talked about the long-held myth of al-Qaida somehow being able to bring the internet to its knees, as if they are a whole waiting army of extremist Islamist hackers about to stop the wider public from visiting MurdochSpace and bidding on eBay. Despite their differences over leaking, Clarke and Reid appear to be a match made in heaven.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007 

So who the hell do I vote for?

With the local elections fast approaching, I'm faced with something of a quandary. I have the misfortune to live in a ward which is essentially a modern day rotten borough, in that the Conservatives have held the seat for decades, with a winning margin usually in the region of a 1000 votes over the nearest candidate.

The other parties standing are Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP, with the Greens apparently not thinking it worthwhile to even attempt to put up a candidate. I wouldn't piss on UKIP if they were on fire, so that leaves me with the choice between the first two.

To say I'm frustrated with what Labour has done nationally is a understatement; the giving in to corruption by ordering the SFO to abandon the probe into BAE, the continuing mass wastage of taxpayers' money in PFI schemes, the constant, worthless reforms being imposed on the NHS, the idiotic appeasement of the tabloids on crime and the lunacy of our foreign policy has all meant that I vowed not to vote Labour ever again, even though I'm sure I'll probably end up eating my words at some point.

The council up until recently was Liberal Democrat run, and while they haven't done too bad a job, they haven't exactly been impressive either. Nationally, I might well end up voting Lib Dem at the next election, simply because if they promise to bring in PR it'll hopefully mean the end to the ridiculous vacuousness of so-called "radical centrism" which currently infects and stifles politics. The rest of their policies though have always come across to me as Blairism with a slightly kinder face, even if their opposition to the war was welcome. With the abolition of their most noteworthy policies at their conference last year, it's worth wondering what exactly they are for.

On a personal basis, I sort of know the Labour candidate and he's a decent sort that I'd normally be more than happy to vote for. As it is, I'm finding it difficult to do so, even though my vote will be more or less worthless either way.

Do I then ignore national politics altogether and vote Labour? Vote for the Lib Dems knowing that whatever I do doesn't matter? Spoil my ballot to make a similarly pointless gesture about the lack of genuine choice? Not even bother wasting my time? Your input is welcome.

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Monday, April 23, 2007 

That scaremongering round-up in full.

The propaganda war against Iran seems to continue to heat up. Yesterday's Sunday Times was the latest to be slipped an "intelligence report" which is preaching doom about the almost undoubtedly improbable links between Iran and some of the insurgent groups in Iraq:

AL-QAEDA leaders in Iraq are planning the first “large-scale” terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.

Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on “a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki” in an attempt to “shake the Roman throne”, a reference to the West.

Another plot could be timed to coincide with Tony Blair stepping down as prime minister, an event described by Al-Qaeda planners as a “change in the head of the company”.

The report, produced earlier this month and seen by The Sunday Times, appears to provide evidence that Al-Qaeda is active in Iran and has ambitions far beyond the improvised attacks it has been waging against British and American soldiers in Iraq.


It's difficult to know where to begin with this assertion. Al-Qaida in Iraq has openly declared that it considers Shia Muslims kafir, in difference to al-Qaida itself, which for the moment wants to unite rather than divide and rule, which may come later. This was related by Zawahiri to Zarqawi before he was killed, rebuking him for the suicide bombings which targeted and continue to target Shias. Zarqawi and the subsequent leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq have ignored this advice, continuing to target innocent Shia while not personally claiming responsibility for outrages such as that which killed 150 in a Baghdad market last week. It does however openly claim responsibility for attacks on both the Badr organisation, which is openly backed by Iran as the militia or former militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and on the Mahdi army, which may be receiving some help from figures inside Iran, although nothing has been comprehensively proved.

The article predictably goes on:

There is no evidence of a formal relationship between Al-Qaeda, a Sunni group, and the Shi’ite regime of President Mah-moud Ahmadinejad, but experts suggest that Iran’s leaders may be turning a blind eye to the terrorist organisation’s activities.

This is the usual step of making you think that something is happening, then somewhat denying it without completely dispelling the notion. As it happens, this is almost certainly complete nonsense, for al-Qaida in Iraq does pose a threat to Iran, due entirely to the brutal attacks on the Shia. Iran is not a passive bystander in Iraq, as we all know. The last thing Iran wants is a fundamentalist "Islamic" state in northern Iraq, breeding hatred which could easily be transferred into suicide bombings in Iran itself. Al-Qaida in Iraq has already most likely carried out a bombing in Jordan, which backfired enormously, hopefully putting paid to any further attacks outside of Iraq for a while, but Iran is unlikely to be taking any such chances. There is of course the possibility that al-Qaida in Iraq supporters are in Iran and operating from there, as they are from other countries in the region, but the chances of there being any actual backing by the state is little short of ludicrous.

The intelligence report also makes it clear that senior Al-Qaeda figures in the region have been in recent contact with operatives in Britain.

It follows revelations last year that up to 150 Britons had travelled to Iraq to fight as part of Al-Qaeda’s “foreign legion”. A number are thought to have returned to the UK, after receiving terrorist training, to form sleeper cells.


Again, it's impossible to judge the veracity of these claims. It's likely that some jihadis have gone to fight in Iraq, and one who wanted to was placed under a control order, but how many is always going to be difficult to judge. Most of the foreign fighters in Iraq are from Algeria and Syria, a report from 2005 stated, and it's unlikely that the frequency has changed much since then, judging by al-Qaida's own recent parades of foreign "martyrs" (WMV), which mainly seem to feature Syrians, Saudis and Egyptians. It was always going to be likely that some from this country would go to fight, and indeed that some would return trained. The head of the "Islamic State" himself last week proclaimed that Iraq was becoming a "university for terrorism", and while self-aggrandisement plays a part, he's also probably right, as the intelligence agencies warned before the war.

“A member of this network is reportedly involved in an operation which he believes requires AQ Core authorisation. He claims the operation will be on ‘a par with Hiroshima and Naga-saki’ and will ‘shake the Roman throne’. We assess that this operation is most likely to be a large-scale, mass casualty attack against the West.”

The report says there is “no indication” this attack would specifically target Britain, “although we are aware that AQI . . . networks are active in the UK”.


So again, there's no evidence that this is even going to target Britain if it isn't indeed crying wolf to begin with, but you can never be too sure in letting these documents out to the Sunday Times just in case.

Despite aspiring to a nuclear capability, Al-Qaeda is not thought to have acquired weapons grade material. However, several plots involving “dirty bombs” - conventional explosive devices surrounded by radioactive material - have been foiled.

More rubbish. There have been no actual foiled plots which would have involved so-called "dirty bombs", unless you include Jose Padilla, where the charges were subsequently dropped, or the fantasist Dhiren Barot, who had no funding, no materials and only the laughable idea of setting fire to or exploding 10,000 smoke alarms. The truth, as the al-Qaida leadership no doubt itself knows, is that dirty bombs are almost entirely useless, likely to only increase the chances of developing cancer to the level of those who came in near contact with the polonium used to assassinate Litveninko, and even that's uncertain. Their use would be mainly for the extra fear effect, as the use of the chlorine in recent attacks in Iraq has illustrated.

There was further stretching of credulity at the weekend when the US claimed that it had intercepted a shipment of Iranian arms which had been destined for the Taliban. That the Iranians had long supported the Northern Alliance, and welcomed the downfall of the Taliban is quickly forgotten once the new enemy has emerged. As the NYT article itself stretches, the only possible gain Iran could get for arming the Taliban would be as a part of a region-wide attempt to further tie down American forces, and would suggest a complete change in policy. The US military instead seems to be pointing the finger and letting others place the blame, when the most likely explanation would be it was again a private shipment by supporters within Iran rather than anything associated with the regime.

Finally, we were also told that Prince Harry is going to be ruthlessly targeted by the evil insurgents, who in one case want to send him back to the Queen, minus his ears:

Together the testimonies suggest that Shia and Sunni paramilitary forces, traditionally sworn enemies, have joined forces to try to capture Harry, a deeply disquieting development for British senior officers.

Sigh. As again, see above. There are few Sunni paramilitary forces operating in the south for the obvious reason that there'd be quickly turned out by the Shia themselves, and as Juan Cole notes, the Observer has wrongly suggested that Thar Allah is Sunni when it's Shiite, and he can neither find any evidence that what the article refers to as the Malik Ibn Al Ashtar Brigade is even anything to do with the Mahdi army. As it is, it seems another load of scaremongering which does disservice to the other British troops whom are facing the real threat for no discernible reason, while Harry is likely to be permanently covered in any case.

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Just how much madder can Mad Mel get?

In years to come, it's hard to dismiss the possibility that Melanie Philips' trajectory from seeming sanity into abject madness won't be a well established case-study for psychology students. Unlike those who slowly lose their minds over time for no apparent reason, or descend into psychosis as a result of imprisonment or abuse, Ms Philips is providing the whole world with the evidence of how someone utterly convinced in their own righteousness will use any evidence, however disreputable or clearly unfounded to prove their wider aims.

Mel herself of course denies that she is batshit crazy. When told disarmingly by Jackie Ashley that some of the ideas she espouses in her Londonistan diatribe come across as "bonkers", she spat back that to say so was akin to the tactics of Stalin, and reminiscent of the treatment of Jews in 1930s Germany, who were ignored when they raised the alarm about what was taking place. This feeds from Mel's obsession with the Holocaust; she believes that a second genocide is either taking place, or is about to take place, and that anyone who dares to criticise Israeli policy is helping it to happen. Her response to the setting up of Independent Jewish Voices was to call them Jews for Genocide.

Even by her standards, her latest investigations into the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are incredible. Writing in the Spectator, presumably because even the Daily Mail wouldn't print such staggering inanity, she has almost single-handedly found where they went. Amazingly, it seems that she was right all along in believing that the weapons were secretly smuggled out to Syria, which is a nice bonus:

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq— two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was in the first place because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20-30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

Mr Gaubatz verbally told the ISG of his findings, and asked them to come with heavy equipment to breach the concrete of the bunkers and uncover their sealed contents. But to his consternation, the ISG told him they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to do it and that it would be ‘unsafe’ to try.

‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would’.

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learned from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.


It's perhaps worth the reading the Wikipedia entry on the Iraq Survey Group, which is reasonably extensive. This seems to directly contradict Gaubatz's account on at least one count: there were three separate sectors, based in the north, around Baghdad and in south, so his claims that the ISG weren't interested due to their apparent immobility seem to be nonsense. The entry also mentions how they were in fact remarkably successful in moving around, only suffering very minor losses, although this was well before the insurgency had reached the strength which it's at today. As Not Saussure also notes, in order for these great bunkers to have been built, it seems that they would have had to diverted the course of the Euphrates, something which might just have been noticed from a country which was one of the most monitored from the air for well over a decade.

All of this begs the obvious question: if such WMD stockpiles had existed, wouldn't a Bush administration desperate to justify its aggression have done the obvious thing and done everything in its power to make it known that the war had been worth fighting after all? Well, as it turns out, Mel has the answer to that as well:

The Republicans won’t touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD. The Democrats won’t touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Incompetence sure hasn't stopped the Republicans from doing, well, anything, over the last 7 years. As for the Democrats, wouldn't the more hawkish among them, notably Hilary Clinton, love to able to prove that she was right to support it after all, as well as being able to blast the Republicans for allowing the Syrians to get their hands on Saddam's most deadly weaponry, making the Middle East yet more dangerous?

In fact, it's even worse than we thought. Mel has the testimony of John Loftus that there's an even bigger conspiracy taking shape:

Saddam’s nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

‘Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand.’


You would have thought if such activity was taking place in Syria that we would have heard about it, and that indeed, Israel would be even more concerned about it than it is about Iran, seeing as it shares a border with the country. It's also somehow difficult to imagine how Saddam and the mullahs, implacable enemies, would even in defeat have decided to share the hidden spoils of his labour with them.

In order to further her argument, Mel then published in full the memo from which she quotes John Loftus. It's incredibly lengthy, so I'll leave it to Glenn Greenwald from Salon to sum it up:

On her blog today, Phillips expounds on her article by printing a lengthy Memorandum which claims that: (a) John Negroponte is persecuting various groups which are trying to bring the WMD conspiracy to light because (b) Negroponte is part of what they call the "Red Team" in the U.S. government, which is exceedingly loyal to China, which is crucial given that (c) the stolen-WMD-plot involved the subsequent transfer of "Saddam's WMD technology to Syria and Iran" and that all happened (d) "because the Chinese Army created an international consortium of rogue states to develop the Islamic Bomb" (and Negroponte, it implies, is concealing that by persecuting these groups because he is an agent of China).

John Loftus shares a world-view with Melanie Philips. He too believes that al-Qaida, Hamas, etc are the new Arab equivalent of the Nazis, and that a second Holocaust is a real possibility. One has to wonder if this apparent group-think, with Philips apparently believing anyone as long as they share her own unshakable ideology (Dave Gaubatz now runs a website dedicated to keeping tabs on Muslims across America, and heads a group amusingly called SANE, which in its mission statement says it stands for "A strong commitment to preserve and to protect America’s Judeo-Christian content and moral grounding", which is almost exactly what Mel claims to be doing here in poor Blighty) is what is really behind this phenomenal exclusive. To Mel, anyone who believes that the moral decay in society is a result of multiculturalism and the supposed loosening of our Judeo-Christian shared values is worthy of supporting, even if they come up with such ignorant, conspiratorial, paranoid rot as the above.

As instructive as this is in measuring Mel's sanity, it's also illustrative of the malaise affecting the neo-con right. Its war has become a disaster worse than even the most pessimistic opponent could have predicted, yet it's still so obsessed with proving its righteousness that it will turn to the most improbable and laughable claims and demand that they be investigated. It draws upon on the slightest clink of light, the never completely debunked although daft theory that the weapons were moved into Syria before or after the war, and is willing to believe any construct which takes advantage of it.

And it isn't just on this that they're completely opportunistic. From the second that the first news came from Virginia that Cho had gone his rampage, right-wing bloggers have been desperate to try and link his anger to Islam. Mel's friend Gaubatz did exactly this. So did Debbie Schlussel, who runs what I can only describe as possibly the worst blog I've seen since Little Green Footballs. This all links back to another spree-killer, who just happened to be Muslim, who committed "extroverted suicide" in a mall in Salt Lake City. His apparent martyrdom is explained to us by... Gaubatz.

Mel then keeps what can only be described as good company. She does at least try somewhat to cover her back, mentioning in each article that she doesn't know whether the allegations of Gaubatz and Loftus are true, and tries and fails to self-deprecate at the beginning:

You may be tempted to dismiss this as yet another dodgy claim from a warmongering lackey of the world Zionist neocon conspiracy giving credence to yet another crank pushing US propaganda. If so, perhaps you might pause before throwing this article at the cat. Mr Gaubatz is not some marginal figure. He’s pretty well as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

Mel is far too dismissive of herself. She's not a lackey, she's one of the arch propagandists in this country for the neo-con world outlook. She might object to us calling her mad, but we ought to take her no-nonsense, politically correctness-baiting attitude and throw it back at her. Why call a mad animal that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck anything other than a mad duck?

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Saturday, April 21, 2007 

Immigrants ate my baby.

Immigration is "ruining the British way of life" screams the Express. David Davis tells the Torygraph that the effect of the government's "inability to get a grip on immigration" is "destablising" British society. The Sun, which agrees with the Home Secretary that unless immigration is seen to be under control that some may turn to extremists such as the BNP, ignoring its own role in demonising Muslims and immigrants in general, also mentions the report which has started the latest soul-searching about the end of life in Britain as we know it.

A quick trip over to the think-tank's website, which promises "classic liberal comment" but which links to such well-known liberals as David Frum, EU Referendum, Mark Steyn, Melanie Philips and Stephen "Vicky" Pollard, soon makes you wonder just how impartial and independent this report produced by David Conway is. In fact, the think-tank is so impartial that it recommends you visit those other well-known totally impartial immigration warriors, MigrationWatchUK.

I rest my case.

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Friday, April 20, 2007 

And so the blame game commences.

The blood has been washed off, the funerals are beginning, classes recommence on Monday, so it's time to move on from the pictures of the bullet-ridden pretty girls and on to finding something to blame. With Columbine, instead of wondering where the parents had been and how the teenagers had been able to get their hands on their arsenal, they quickly found out that Marilyn Manson was most definitely the one who was really responsible, despite the boys' both disliking his music, as well as the first-person-shooter Doom, which the boys had at least played.


The Daily Mail then has started the ball rolling by noting the striking similarities between some of the poses struck by Cho and by two of the characters in the Korean film Oldboy, directed by Chan-wook Park. Notice that? It's a Korean film, and Cho was Korean. QED, right? QED! The whole article is a sensationalist, over-the-top joke:

He wouldn't have drawn much attention as he strolled across the campus.

Cho Seung-Hui was just another anonymous face that morning among the scores of people criss-crossing the sweeping lawns and wide, sunlit streets of Virginia Tech university.

It was approaching 9am and everyone was preparing for the start of the college week.

But the 23-year-old Korean was on a mission. He had just killed the teenage brunette with whom he is thought to have been infatuated, and blasted to death the college prefect who appears to have come to her aid.

Now he was about to play the leading role in a sickening finale to what would become America's most devastating gun massacre.

In his twisted mind he carried images of a violent Korean movie that appears to have scripted his thoughts.


Just a slight problem here. Cho was a 23-year-old college student suffering from mental illness. In Oldboy, Oh Dae-Su is imprisoned for 15 years without knowing the reason, then released and given 5 days to find out why. The only use of guns in the film is the image depicted on the front page of the Mail, which also coincidentally spoils part of the ending. It does feature cathartic and visceral violence, but the wider themes of redemption, forgiveness and the eventual emptiness of the revenge itself are just as prominent. Cho's stance with the hammer does seem similar to that of Oh Dae-Su played by Min-sik Choi, but Dae-Su also eats a live octopus in one scene, something that Cho has yet to have been proved to have done.

With whom exactly is Cho supposed to have identified with? Oh Dae-Su, who spends 15 years wondering who he damaged so much that they'd pay to have him locked up, or with Woo-jin Lee, the character that's tormented by his involvement with the death of his sister while they were both teenagers? Woo-jin Lee, as Peter Bradshaw wrote in his review of the film, is so Bond villain-esque that it seems difficult that Cho would have sympathised with his plight; indeed, despite his stunning good looks, he's a broken man of appearances. Cho was most certainly broken, but it seems more likely by his own failure to fit in and his whole subsequent avoidance from the world and reality as a whole. It really is a case of seeing resemblances and clutching at straws.


As he turned the gun on himself, it is difficult to imagine that he didn't allow himself a rare smile.

For while police scrambled hopelessly to bring his killing spree to an end, he still held the power to control the finale from beyond the grave, which is precisely what he wanted.

Seldom have 28 poor-quality video clips and the monotone rantings of a deluded maniac been given so much air time.


Oh, I don't know. Richard Littlejohn used to have a TV show on Sky.

Speaking of clutching at straws, Lenin identifies how the usual suspects have already tried to link Cho's murderous rampage to Islam. Elsewhere, this blog rounds up all the current blaming that's started and that's probably yet to get into full swing.

Update: Oh God. Gerald Kaufman, the obnoxious Labour MP, has also been pointing the finger at Oldboy, even though he describes it as a splatter film, which it certainly is not, which ought to make you wonder whether he's even seen it. As someone commenting mentions, this is the guy who's Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Thankfully, the Telegraph has provided its own fisk.

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