Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lazy and deceitful part 2: the cover-up

Following on from Lazy and Deceitful part 1

The Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Times today expose the rot: this was no unfortunate breakdown between the immigration and prison services. This was a mess made worse by Blair himself.

In 2003 Blair caused a panic amongst mandarins at the 70,000-staffed Home Office Empire when he blithely promised to cut asylum applications by half in seven months in a BBC interview. Nice populist soundbite, Tony, but where was the consultation and the think-through? Nonetheless, the Leader had spoken, and officials were instructed by a caught-on-the-hop Blunkett to meet the target by September, (even though Blunkett was worried that it was ''undeliverable'').

What to do? Erm. Quick, tell immigration officers not to visit prisons to serve deportatation orders as they were wont to do on a weekly basis previously. Why? Because those pesky ex-prisoners will only go and claim asylum, tsk, and that'll bugger the fugures for Tony. Grab broom, lift carpet, sweep, and relax.

Except, what do we know about the reoffending rate?

The latest figures (2003), show that 61 per cent of offenders were reconvicted within two years; and 73 per cent of young offenders aged 18-21. The reoffending rate for male adolescents (aged 15-18) was 82 per cent.

Successful rehabilitation can have a dramatic effect on reconviction rates. In-prison drug treatment schemes, coupled with close monitoring for several months after release, have resulted to reductions in reconviction rates to around 30 per cent. Similar results have been achieved by prison work and education

What do we know about rehabilitation efforts for non-British prisoners? Too low a priority in an over-stretched prison service.

And so what does a foreign ex-prisoner do with no support and an urgent need to go to ground to avoid being chucked out the U.K? Sign on? Get a job? Start afresh? How can he? He's going to be hard-pressed to avoid going straight back to robbing, raping, using drugs or whatever he was doing before he was caught and sentenced. It doesn't take a genius to see the huge risks with this current Home Office strategy of ignoring the warnings and going lalalala I don't want to think about it I have a Top Tony Target to bust, ssssh.

Meanwhile, victims who have been brave enough to give testimony to send these now released men down must be terrified today. For a department that talks a great deal about the rights of victims and being tough on crime, this is lazy not-joining-the-dots short-term-target-walloping- quick-fix irresponsible thinking.

And it is deceitful, because the Home Office has given the impression that it is a muddle that only Mr. Clarke can solve by knocking heads together at the Immigration service and the Prison service. In fact, it is a problem of New Labour's own making, because of a shambolic system. Blair's, and Blunkett's on-the-hoof playing to the gallery about deportation and asylum, and a Home Office seemingly more concerned with making the right noises and hitting the right targets than the reality of protecting the public, and managing dangerous offenders have worsened the mess.

The enormous Home Office is too much for one person to manage anyway, and it is likely that the unfortunate Mr. Clarke inherited a mess and then was hamstrung from doing much about it because of New Labour's tabloid fears about asylum seekers and foreign criminals and being tough on crime. The prisons are overcrowded - more than 70, 000 inmates now - and even though rehabiliatation and education and resourcing make more sense in terms of cutting reoffending, fear of red-top ''Prison Holiday Camp'' headlines ties hands. This is an insight into the heart of the Blairite way of doing things, and it isn't good. Tabloid headline Government is not good Government. Mr Clarke got it half right when he attacked last week, decrying media coverage as''Lazy and Deceitful!'' - but it's the Government's obsession with grabbing the right coverage, rather than crafting the right policy that should be criticised, not journalists who rightly query his tough-sounding but ill-considered initiatives.

It's lazy, and it's deceitful, and it's time for Mr. Clarke, and for Mr. Blair to go. This shocking affair plays into the hands of racists, and bigots, and we all deserve better than this endemic focus on quick-fixes and column inches and Tony's latest populist wheeze rather than sensible, strategic, consultative policy-implementation to protect the people politicians are appointed to serve.

What can I do, you may be wondering? Well, you can go look at these...
Backing Blair and London Strategic Voter.

UPDATE: Blair in the News of the World. 'Will I sack Clarke? Well, that depends...''
..on whether he resigns first?
Game over. Surely.

UPDATE 2: Rumour has it that we will have a statement from Mr. Clarke after 6pm. Or Tony will bin him, so he looks tough on the causes of the causes of crime.

Update 3: Not yet...Why the fuss about Prescott? It's prurient. Who cares? Yuk.

Update 4: The reason Blair left Clarke on his own in the Commons on Wednesday was because Clarke lied to the PM; he didn't offer to resign . ( hat tip Blairwatch)

According to a source in a Sun exclusive ''The first the PM knew of his resignation offer was when he heard Charles say he’d done so on the BBC.
“That’s why the PM left the Commons in such a hurry. Charles did himself absolutely no favours there.”

Update 5: Oh dear. 3 weeks is too long to not tell your boss stuff, surely?
End of the week, then? Boot, arse, door.

Update 6: Mr Clarke in the Eastern Daily Press (the main Norwich& Norfolk) newspaper. He hopes to stay on. I do feel sorry for him. But the main point of the Home Office is to protect the public. Asylum targets and the pointless I.D card scheme has diverted attention from sorting out the chaotic prison and immiagrations services. It is not joined up thinking, coming on the back of Blair's ''harry, hassle and hound foreign criminals out of the country'' stuff just looks like Government incompetence. Blair has had 9 years to sort out the Home Office after all, and if it is still letting foreign prisoners out to reoffend when they shouldn't be in the U.K in the first place, and they should be deported as soon as they are released, then it is simply not doing its job effectively, and someone has to take responsibility for it. If you claim the work of officials as your own, then you have to claim their mistakes as your own too. That goes for both Mr. Blair and Mr. Clarke.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rape victim of foreign reoffender to speak out?

Rumour has it that a rape victim of one of the reoffending should-have-been-deported-after-serving-sentence criminals at the centre of the row engulfing Mr. Clarke is going to speak out and tell her story. Something that I thought might happen when I wrote this post. And if so, surely fatal to Mr. Clarke's tenure as Home Secretary.

UPDATE: Blair refuses to rule out Clarke's departure. And he walked out, remember, when Clarke gave his statement to the commons, leaving Mr. Clarke to face the Commons alone. (Which I thought was mean, and two-faced, and typical) . Save Charles! says Justin. Or else we'll end up with Dr. John 'Patronisng Bastard'/mates with Karadzic' Reid. Argh. Back by dope demand? Noooo...

UPDATE 2: Sunday Times - 'Rape Victim: Why Clarke Must Go'. Well, yes. Huge kicking has ensued in the Sunday Times, and everywhere else, and I can't see it letting up 'til it's over. People are furious.

What makes a suicide bomber?

Interesting article on the July 21st failed bomb attacks, from Jamestown. Were they copycat attacks, or were we fortunate that they failed to explode? The trial of these men has just started.

Meanwhile, just found this article on the BBC about how experts are puzzled as to what makes a terrorist, very interesting after the research I did today, and posted below. I agree that individual psychological profiling is pretty useless without an understanding of the individual's place in his group, and his place in society. It doesn't follow that someone who is an activist, or has extremist views, will go on to be a terrorist - and to conflate anger at foreign policy with being sympathetic to terrorism ( as Bush has done in the past) is disengenuous. The would-be jihadi suicide bomber must be susceptible to indoctrination and rigid, repressive, unquestioning adherence to a political extremist ideaology. Angry young men, idealistic, resentful lacking direction are easier recruits to suicidal death-cult extremism then those who have been taught to think, question and consider, who don't call for dramatic adolescent quick-fix dramatic gestures of nihilistic violence. And it is still rare to go to the brink, young men may flirt with extremism but grow out of it, or start to question what they are told, like Khaled al-Berry. It is noticeable how the July 7th bombers withdrew from their friends and families and local Mosques, and isolated themselves as a cell of 'brother-soldiers', apart from the 'sinful' world they hoped to change. Their seperatist group dynamic reinforced their beliefs. They saw themselves as heroes, martyrs, doing what they did for love of their people. I used the phrase 'pitiless narcism' once, but they would have seen it as altruism. To get to this terrible point you have to feel a huge sense of injustice, and you have to utterly deaden your normal human empathy towards all those who are Not Your People. See them as 'collateral damage' in the righteous war. Whose lives are of less value than the safety of Your People. You need a pretty apocalyptic worldview. Good People vs. Evil-doers. Sound familiar?

An intelligent understanding of the widespread anger caused by aggressive foreign policies and social injustice, never mind illegal invasions and the use of torture and chemical weapons, might help too. Terrorists are not utterly mad, or evil, or psychopathic, they are ordinary people with what seem to them to be sane and noble ideas. It is the raging violence and pitiless despair of their ideas we must challenge: terrorism is the messenger, not the message. Our strategy for tackling the ideas will have far more moral force and effectiveness if we are not bombing, torturing, repressing and inprisoning people in the name of freedom and democracy and safety.

Mind you, if these young men are found to have boarded the trains on July 21st intending to cause mass murder with bombs I hope they go to prison for a very long time indeed.

7/7 & the 7/7 Bradford riots - connected?

Fellow Kings Cross United-member Yorkshire Lass recently posted about being caught up in the Bradford Riots of July 7th, 2001. I wondered in a comment on Yorkshire Lass's blog, whether Mohammed Sidique Khan, the alleged ringleader of the July 7th bombers had chosen that day as a significant date to kill himself and his three friends and 52 others. Was he there at the riots? Was that date, 7/7, the beginning of his radicalisation, his starting to position himself against the percieved unfairness of the police, the media portrayal of young Asians as thugs, criminals, extremists? Against a background of poverty, gangs and drugs, racial divisions, BNP incitement, intra-generational community tension, violence flared, firebombings rocked the streets. Had Multiculturalism failed in Britain?

Was July 7 2001 the day Khan changed, and self-identified as an assertive Muslim man defending 'his people' against 'oppression'? The riots were hugely significant, especially to the fractured Pakistani community, and many young Pakistani men, from Leeds, Manchester and surrounding areas were caught up in the events in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford, where they sought to 'defend' themselves and 'their territory' from rumours of white BNP sympathisers' anti-Muslim violence.

There is an enormous difference between flash-point crowds of young Asian men acting 'defensively' against a real or perceived threat to their communities, and the political acts of mass murder in London on July 7th 2005. There is a long way to travel between the two, and we will never know exactly how or why 'Sid' Khan took the path he chose. Radicalisation takes time, takes place against a context, and Khan and his fellow-bombers were not mad. They were young British men, unremarkable, integrated before they withdrew and espoused such terrible, toxic political theologies. Something happened to cause them to become suicide bombers. Perhaps the process started on 7/7/2001, as frustrated Asian youths exploded onto the streets. There were other pivotal moments in Khan's journey. One of Khan friend's talked to Newsweek about Khan's witnessing a radical preacher Abdullah el-Faisal in 1999, an Abu Hamza associate ( now jailed for incitement to murder). Others talk of the bombers' anger at the Iraq war, their watching of ''atrocity videos'' of suffering Muslims in war-torn areas, and of the increase in racism and Islamophobia many British Asians faced after 9/11. Then there were the visits to Finsbury Park mosque to hear the sermons of extremist preacher Abu Hamza. Were all of these factors implicated in the decision Khan made to walk away from the Barelwi Islam he had grown up with, then walk away from his secular, U.S-admiring lifestyle, to finally follow the austere, extreme Saudi-Egyptian Salafi Islam of Bin Laden as a 'revert'? How did he become a suicide bomber?

I wonder, was that date, the original 7/7, that life-changing, frightening explosion of hatred and violence on the streets of ordinary Northern towns on Khan's mind when he chose the day to explode the bombs in London? The similarity in dates is troubling. Did Khan choose that day, or did somebody else? Or was it just a coincidence? Was it timed to coincide with the G8 conference, to make a statement about U.S and U.K foreign policy, and the controversial Iraq war? It's yet another unanswered question, ten months on, and we are still waiting for official, Home Office-sanctioned answers. In the meantime, Milan Rai's book ''7/7, The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War'' has helped me to understand something of the background of the London bombers. You can order the book here, or buy it in selected bookshops.

The Home Office ''narrative'', which will be out very soon, ( in a fortnight?) is expected to say that the bombers were self-radicalised and not controlled by an Al-Quaeda ''master-mind''. In which case, it was likely Khan chose the date of the attack himself, and could well have chosen it for the reasons Yorkshire Lass and I speculate about.

But could they really have made those [nail] bombs themselves? Was 'brilliant but directionless' 33-year-old Egyptian chemistry student, Magdi Mahmoud el-Nnasharan (who was arrested in Cairo after July 7th) involved in making the devices? ( No, say the Egyptian cabinet. ) Magdi Mahmoud el-Nasharan (''Nashar'') who arrived in the U.K in 20002 rented a flat a month before the London bombings from an Iraqi neurophysiologist for ''an aquaintance'' who turned out to be - bus-bomber Hasib Hussain.

On 13th July 2005 it was reported that Christophe Chaboud, head of the French Anti-Terrorism Co-ordination Unit, told the French newspaper Le Monde that the explosives' ''military source'' was "very worrying'' and that the bombs were definitely of military origin. ''C4 is manufactured mostly in the United States, and is more deadly and efficient than commercial varieties. It is easy to hide, stable, and is often missed by traditional bomb-sniffing detection systems, the newspaper said.
Forensic scientists told the newspaper the construction of the four devices detonated in London was very technically advanced, and unlike any instructions that can be found on the Internet''

But now we're told that the London bombs were made with TATP, a dangerously unstable substance to work with, but cheap and not that difficult to manufacture with recipes gleaned from the internet using ingredients that can be bought in the high street. TATP is normally used as a detonator, rather than the main explosive, but has gained a reputation as suicide-bombers weapon of choice. Were the bombs they used, and the other bombs found in the Leeds ''bombing factory'', and in a car at Luton railway station really all made by Khan and his friends? (Several kilos of acetone peroxide, an ingredient for explosives were found at el-Nasharan's flat near the bomb factory.)

If Khan or the other London bombers really knew enough to make their bombs themselves, without accidentally blowing their hands off, then how and where did they learn the skills? The internet? Or via el-Nashar? Or even via a ''suspected mastermind'' (& aide to extremist cleric Abu Hamza) Haroon Rashid Aswat ( accused by former U.S federal prosecutor John Loftus on Fox TV, and by Michael Meacher, M.P of being an Al Queda operative previously used by M16 to recruit Islamic fighters in Kosovo via the now- banned militant Islamist extremist London group al-Muhajiroun. Is Haroon Aswat, now apparently extradited to the U.S really an UK intelligence service asset, as reported by some sources ? ( or even a double agent?)

Or were the London bombers trained in bomb-making and terror tactics at a jihadi training camp in Pakistan set up after the Iraq invasion specifically to train British jihadi volunteers? Were they at the camp with 'supergrass' Mohammed Junad Barbar, the key witness for the prosecution in the current ongoing terrorism trial codenamed Crevice ( thwarted fertiliser-bomb vehicle plot) at the Old Bailey? Who else attended that camp and where are they now? ( Some are currently on trial in London, but there are more, and I wonder if they are known to the security services?).

This is as close to conspiraloonery as I will go, and as can be seen, I am not slavishly following the Government official version, unquestioningly. I do want answers. I just don't start from the presupposition that It Is All A Lie and a 9/11 Zionist/Masonic/Lizard Conspiracy, like the fruitbats do.

Will the narrative answer any of these questions? I doubt it. What is this narrative going to tell us? Not as much as an independent public enquiry could tell us, that's for sure. You can sign the petition for one by clicking here.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Ash Boy - go see

If you go and see one thing this Bank Holiday weekend, may I recommend The Ash Boy at Theatre 503 in Battersea Park Rd? Set in a grimey flat , where a troubled young man Jack, fizzing with anxiety, lives with his frail, but still sparky mother, Eve. It sounds bleak, but the lyricism of the language and the flashes of salty humour are dazzling. Jack and Eve may lead an isolated half-life, but it's one in which blood-love pulses and the web of shared memories bind the two in a tender, though volatile relationship. Into this world comes down-on-his-luck Benny, whom Jack finds sitting on 'his bench' in the park. Jack is both fearful and eager to have a friend. He shyly invites the charismatic stranger back to his home, where Benny's presence fills the flat, unsettling its fragile occupants. As the tension mounts, the protective mechanisms Jack has constructed to keep Eve and himself safe from the city are threatened. Jack asks Benny to help them both, but Benny's love is that of an avenging angel. The much shorter second half is shockingly tense; the conclusion half-expected but still shattering.

What lifts this play from being a potentially worthy 'mental health issues' drama is the music of the voices, the English, Irish and Scottish accents and the powerful, nuanced performances of the three actors. In the intimate setting of Theatre 503, the effect was at times almost unbearably moving. But the wit of the words and the casts' supple performances made this performance stay with me for days. (Ends Sunday).

Chris Lee’s The Ash Boy runs Friday and Saturday8-10pm; Sunday 5-7pm at Theatre 503 after its sell-out preview 22-25 March.Tickets: £10 and £7 concessions.

**** 4 stars: Powerful and deeply engaging, a performance to savour.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Some reading for the long wet weekend

Davide is on good form. Yorkshire Lass, fellow-passenger remembers another July 7th - the Bradford riots of 2001. Emma runs the London marathon.

More lovely links later, lurkers!

A Cabinet lunch menu...

Hearty choke soup

Boiled lobster with sauce ta-ta

Confit-up of press leaks

Well grilled porker

Jugged Hare with Norfolk Dumpling

Stuffed Baboon with That's Shallot

Cabinet Pudding with Creme de la Creme

Cherie Trifle

Prescott Tarte

Or the light lunch, Porky Pies

Hat tip for the above - my mother. Well done mum! (Have we all made the Prezza 'Two-Shags' joke yet? Probably. Three shags? Hmmm... ).

UPDATE: Yesterday's 'tsk, bitterly disappointed' rant now published below.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lazy and deceitful

Right. I've bloody well had enough of the Home Secretary. I've tried to keep quiet about it because we are supposed to be meeting up again in May, this time with other survivors of 7/7, and so I judged it pertinent to keep it zipped in the interests of further fruitful dialogue. And he was very nice to me when I met him in Norwich. And he has apologised to my dad after the 'insult'. After our meeting, I felt sorry for him because he had been getting such a kicking, and I always want to believe the best of people. Maybe we had all been too hard on the poor beleagured Mr. Clarke, who had smiled at me when I shook his hand a few weeks ago.

But I can't keep schtum anymore. I am so disappointed with the man with whom I sat for 25 minutes. I really wanted to believe that he was doing his best to keep people safe from harm, (and that was why he was interested in talking privately to 7/7 survivors.)

Last week, the news that those who are wrongly imprisoned and freed on their first appeal receive will not receive any compensation. That really offended me. (Just how worried are you about having to compensate the wrongfully imprisoned, Mr Home Secretary? We all know about backing the 90 days imprisonment without charge - thankfully defeated but we're still left with the draconian 28 days. How many people are locked up who shouldn't be? How many more do you want to lock up on suspicion but without charge, without trial? And are we any safer for it?)

Then, yesterday, Mr Clarke was getting snippy with the ''lazy and deceitful'' pesky liberal media. Or, three journalists to be exact. I'm surprised he missed Matthew Norman's ''poisonous puffed-up jug-eared gargoyle'' column off the list (but hey, he'd already got his feelings off his chest about that. )

Yes, we know what you think about liberals, Mr. Clarke. We all know you know we don't know what's good for us. We know you think we need the paternal eye of the state watching over our every move, just to keep us safe from ourselves. Safe from demonstrating about the wrong things, thinking the wrong things, believing the wrong things, talking to the wrong people...

To call your critics ''lazy and deceitful'', Mr Clarke, is a bit much. The press is doing its job, calling you to account over the creeping authoritarianism of Blair's government. Those of us who protest about the frightening erosion of our civil liberties are dismissed as ''pathetic liberals'' but we will not shut up, and we are grateful to the media for highlighting what is going on and for having a debate about it.

Liberty and liberties are bloody important, Mr. Clarke. I do not think it is 'pathetic' to cherish and protect them.

The most important modern freedom is now apparently ''the freedom not to be blown up on the way to work''. No it isn't. The most important freedom is the freedom to be able to live freely, not fearfully. And anyway, how does clamping down on civil liberties make me safer on the way to work?
The ''rules have changed'' in the ''modern'' world according to Mr Blair. No they haven't, not that much. The bombs on July 7th were simple criminal acts of mass murder, and it demeans us to throw away long-cherished values because of posturing and fear-manipulation by those who want to keep their jobs by playing to the gallery . We've had worse than this, over the years, much worse. We're not at risk of invasion by a facist state, or being nuclear-bombed by a super-power. We didn't rip up the rule book then. Why now?

The laws we already have are sufficient to protect us all, there is no need for such sweeping legislation changes, and such unfettered executive power-grabs. I.D cards, for example, would not have stopped Germaine Lindsey detonating his bomb on my train last summer. In fact, it seems he was careful to carry I.D which was found at the scene.

This thinking, and this rhetoric is lazy and deceitful. And I have had enough of it.

What you should be concentrating on, Mr. Clarke, rather than busily colluding in the shredding of the fabric of the British constitution, is doing your damn job properly. Last summer, you were warned of an unholy mess as 900 dangerous prisoners - paedophiles, rapists, vicious robbers and murderers, who should have been deported - were set free. They have served their time, but they should not have been in the country in the first place. They should also have been under close scrutiny once they were released. I hope they had been rehabilitated, and no longer thought of doing harm. I hope.

Today we find out Mr Clarke does not know where the hell they are. It is your job to know. You don't, so you are not doing your job properly.

Tough on crime? Let's remind ourselves of what you were banging on about yesterday, Mr. Clarke. Remember this sentence?

''The right not to be killed by someone who has served his sentence for violent crime but remains dangerous''.

Right, exactly like the people who are now roaming the U.K who should have been deported? The ones you have lost track of?

For pity's sake, this is just *hopeless*. And once again, I'm sorry to say, it is scarily personal with me.

In July 2002 I was beaten, raped, robbed and left for dead by a foreign national, a violent and sadistic crack-addicted teenager from Jamaica who had entered the coutry illegally. He broke into my flat, having followed me home. In December 2002 he was caught after a series of violent street robberies, and locked up, thanks to the hunch of a policewoman in South London. His DNA matched that taken by the tireless police officers of Harringey Sapphire Unit, the Met's Sex Offences investigation team from my attack. In January 2004, after a drawn out and painful legal process, he was finally sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court to 15 years in total, 12 consecutively and 3 concurrently. The judge described him as ''a dangerous and sadistic young man.'' He'll probably be out in 2009, maybe 2008.

It was a hell of a battle to get justice, the conviction rate for rapes is less than 5%, despite the efforts of the Home Office when they talk about the rights of victims and improving the rape attrition rate. When my attacker is freed, he is supposed to be deported. Right now, I am very afraid and right now, I despair. Will JW, my rapist come after me in a few years time? Very possibly. What assurances can you give that the situation is under control?

Very few, it seems.

Yesterday you said that people like me, who attack you on your civil liberties record were ''out of step'' with public opinion.

Now, I think you are out of step with public opinion. The public wants you to go, judging by the calls that were coming into the news yesterday. You've let me, and people like me, down. Badly.

You can call me a ''pathetic liberal'' if you want, you can call me out of step with your opinions, you can tell me I don't know what's good for me, that I don't understand, that you need to stay to clear up the mess, but you have had since July last year to clear up the mess about the dangerous criminals who were not deported . You were warned. And it got worse, not better since the warnings. I can't believe you are still in your job. You can certainly call me an ex-Labour voter, at least while this rotten, spinning administration continues to cling to the power it so unhealthily craves.

I personally think you should resign. You've let us all down. I don't expect that we will meet again in May, but you never know. If we do meet again, I will want to know what you are actually doing to keep people safe. Rhetoric is one thing, deliverables another. You knew there was an almighty disaster waiting to happen, you were warned and warned and you still let 288 another dangerous people out anyway, and then you lost them.

And if one of them harms someone, then what will you say? How can I believe you when you say I will be safe when my rapist has served his sentence? How can I believe anything you say, Mr Clarke? I don't feel any safer than I did on July 7th last year. At least then I thought I would never see the man who raped me ever again. Now I am not so sure. And this week, how many victims of crime worry about their safety? We were told that by giving testimony and convicting such men, we did the right thing. We made ourselves safer. Really? Can you look me in the eye and tell me that, truthfully, now?

I used to believe in this Government. I voted for Labour at every election since I was old enough to vote. I was thrilled when Labour came to power.

I am not voting Labour again until I see people whom I trust and respect in Government. I have had enough, more than enough. Do the honourable thing, someone, tell the truth, show some humanity and gain back some trust. Mr Clarke should go, and so should Mr. Blair. Until they do so, there will be anger and mistrust between the leaders and the led. There will be a stinking cynicism at the heart of our democracy, and instead of dialogue, only a resentful silence.

A poisonous silence, that shames democracy, and all those who say they love liberty and freedom and believe in acountability. That shames us all, whilst we let it continue.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I've not blogged much because I got so indescribably fed up with the conspiracy theorists pestering me. But now comment moderator is on. And anyone posting conspiracy theories on here will be wasting their time, since they will not be published. Emails about 9/11 or 7/7 'conspiracies' will not be replied to. Letters to me or to my family will be binned and phone calls will not be returned. Bullies and liars will not be given the time of day. You've had enough of my time and enough of my energy, and if you really think you have information or evidence that is relevant to the suicide bombings of July 7th then can you flipping well take it to the police, your M.P or to a media representative of your choice. Please do not try and push your agenda via the personal diary of a survivor who is trying to get on with her life. I am absolutely pig-sick of it all. Shoo!

Thank you to all those of you who have stuck with me throughout this irritating time.
Normal service will now resume and comment moderator will be switched off once the pests have departed. Good, I feel better already. Onwards and upwards!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Friday Project on 'False Flag Fundementalism'

I have been a subscriber to The Friday Project Satirical e-zine weekly for some years, and this week there's a report on the book launch of last Wednesday, plus Justin, a fab new addition to the writing team some of you may already be aware of...

Go subscribe...

This is from B, one of their best regulars...

'There is a central question: how young men born and bred in Britain, with all the rights and freedoms a British citizen enjoys, could decide to blow themselves up on London's public transport system, killing fellow citizens.' - Milan Rai, introduction to '7/7' '7/7: WHO REALLY BOMBED LONDON?...

'Inside job frame-ups are routine operations when ruling fraternities want another war or more police-state powers... these 'black ops' are also known as 'false flag terrorism' because they throw the blame onto innocents *allegedly* linked to the enemy of today.' - Leaflet from 'The Independent People's Investigation into July Seventh'....

Milan Rai wasn't sure if he'd make it to his own book launch.He's been in court this morning, charged with organising anunauthorised demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament - thiswas when he and Maya Evans read out the names of dead soldiers bythe Cenotaph last year. However, he's here (having been fined,although he's refusing to pay) for the launch of his measured, analytical book '7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the IraqWar' and a public meeting at a Friends Meeting House in centralLondon. Evans, a member of the group Justice not Vengeance, is the chair, and the speakers are Iraqi activist academic Nadje al-Ali, 7/7 survivor and writer Rachel North and 'radical historian'Mark Curtis.

The room is filled with thoughtful people who want to listen and discuss the issues, and as it transpires, some who are convinced that a lack of CCTV footage proves that Tony Blair personally Sellotaped exploding wombats to the underground tracks.The speakers are excellent. Iraqi Londoner Nadje al-Ali explainsthat 'In Iraq, people say goodbye every morning as if for thelast time, because it could be.' She herself is 'scared by Bush'spolicies and Islamic extremism alike'. She's insistent that peaceful activists have to examine what they have achieved and what they haven't, and have to ask 'What is our failure?' Just as the people at the meeting are not the ones who need convincing, the people who ask these hard questions are the ones who least need to. Governments rarely ask this of themselves. But there's a solid self-awareness about these panelists which can be used; they openly acknowledge that you can't just preach to the converted. We get a niggling sense, though, that the consistent willingness to acknowledge failure and shortcoming, although only the right thing to do, is seen as a weakness itself by those who disagree. Still, what else can you do?

Mark Curtis is especially thoughtful and eloquent, saying it's'entirely rational' for Iran to be acquiring nuclear weapons, asmilitary intervention is sending a clear message that countriesneed to protect themselves. Well, yeah. He reels off interestingand terrifying interconnecting facts about British arms exports,alliances with oppressive elites, and how the 'foreign policyboomerang' is making us less safe.

Rachel North talks about how it's possible to eke positive things out of the atrocities. She's written copiously in the press and on her blog about the sense of unity and solidarity felt by the victims and the people ofLondon, and is also tireless in pressing for a public enquiry and stressing the need to put constant bugs in the government's ear.This evening she firmly stresses the need for insight, insistingthat 'we need to understand what made [the bomber on the King's Cross train] do it, then we can engage with it and attack it at the source'. She understands that 'ideas can't be made war on'but we've got to do better than 'fighting violence and fear with more violence and fear'.

Rai himself is engaging, funny and impassioned. He explains with a deliberate drawl that he's 'a living demonstration of the misnomer that the Serious... Organised... Crimes... Act... has become.' He goes on to say that there's pretty much unanimousagreement on the part of the government, the Home and Foreign Offices and the British people that there's a link between theattacks and the war on Iraq, but Blair is doing his best to deflect it with nifty lawyerly pronouncements. He speaks about media self-censorship and complicity, the hardening of attitudes towards Muslims - all heavy and depressing stuff, but it's heartening to hear it aired with a view to attempting to alter it.

Then questions are taken, and the fun really begins after thefirst one or two. An imperious voice says something about Rai's book being, with all due respect, wrong. Maya Evans gets heavy.She is aware that 'some people have come to disagree', and gives the speaker three minutes to talk. Although this is a public meeting, there is an agenda of sorts which this speaker isn't aligning himself with - since the agenda isn't completely clarified, there's immediate tension. A tall middle-aged man in a crinkled cream suit comes to the front and explains that 'the purpose of 7/7 was to abort the G8 summit - there were no Muslim terrorists - the bombs were maybe strapped underneath thetrains...' The hot, stuffy room goes still - any incipient boos and tuts are suppressed, exasperation released only in barely-audible sighs. It's standard-issue conspiracy theorist tripe, andyet there's a discomfort felt in hearing it which may come fromthe knowledge that if he believes this, others will, and the search for truth is put into further needless jeopardy by people who loftily claim to be the only real seekers of it. He continues with strident pronouncements as to train time discrepancies andother details he considers evidence of governmental skulduggery,and insists that 'synthetic terror' is being created. Wonderful phrase, but unfortunately anchored in nothing but hubris. He sits down to a mighty clatter of applause from one row.

Nadje al-Ali wearily responds that 'your anger is misplaced. Mil is trying to expose government lies - we are not polarised. But in saying there were no bombers, you're not helping me, you're not helping anyone.' North, the subject of some colourful theories herself(apparently, she's a whole team of MI5 operatives), merely says,'I think you can probably guess my response.'

There's further fuss from the Independent Enquiry contingent.Maya Evans has a formidable presence but struggles a little,veering between allowing free speech to show its silly arse aswell as its fresh face, and insisting that the subject must beclosed because it's not on the agenda. We veer along with her. On one hand, yes, let them give themselves enough rope to hang themselves with, and don't give them an excuse to cry'suppression of information'. On the other hand, they're wasting time, souring the atmosphere; and although they're civilised enough and there's no risk of a chair-hurling saloon brawl erupting, the small group are a dominant presence. One man behindus in a loud and clear Brian Sewell tone asks 'if Milan Rai believes in "innocent until proven guilty", and if so, why is hepresuming the guilt of these three lads without trial?' Rai looksdown at the table. Evans says that they've covered this and won't answer the question. 'If you won't answer then we'll draw conclusions,' huffs the man. Evans backs up a bit. 'If we answer this, can we have a promise from you that we'll move on?' The man says he can't promise for the rest of the group, and besides,'You're the chair - you decide when we move on.' He's right, ofcourse - she does, and he's just niftily pointed out how she'sundermined her own authority. Bugger. But like most of the people in the room, Evans wants more than anything to be reasonable, to have reasonable debate. She's torn, like the rest of us, between letting the loons let rip and shushing them like a schoolmistress.

'Would you like to sit down?' she asks the man.'I wouldn't *like* to,' he retorts, 'but I shall'. It's all pettypoint-scoring, and the assumption that a refusal to answer a silly question speaks simply *volumes*, when in fact it's the only sensible thing to do. Start bickering with conspiracy theorists and you begin to eat into what's already been achieved- the fragile establishment of rationale and a tentative wayforward for debate. You might as well just down tools and have acustard pie fight - y'know, to relieve the tension.

The meeting breaks up amicably enough, with acknowledgement of the 'tension in the room' and relief that it's been resolvedpeacefully enough for now. It's been something of a microcosm ofthe situation being discussed. The difficult struggle to reach a consensus and a solution through civilised discussion, in order to avoid further violence (or in this case shouting, and moreplaintive bleats of 'that's *censorship!*'). The importance of hearing everyone's view versus the strong instinct to block someunpleasant voices out. There's also the sad realisation thatpeople will always scrap amongst themselves whatever common ground they have; and also that people's beliefs, whether in the absolute imperative of jihad and martyrdom or in the perpetration of black ops and the non-existence of suicide bombers, become unshakeable fast. Conspiracy theorists are still fundamentalists of a kind, and it's too late to convince them they're wrong, but thankfully it is safe in their case to ignore them. Still,they're fascinating, with their obsessive attention to superfluous detail, their misplaced paranoia and twisting of thewords of witnesses to fit their agenda. It's sad when they actually want many of the things the rest of us do, as was pointed out.

The problem they create is that they give questioning officialdom a bad name, making it easy to write everyone off who raises a hand and says, 'No, I don't think that's a good enough explanation.'

Then again, as we walked to the tube full of Quaker tea and flapjacks, it did occur to us that there never *has* been any official explanation as to why the bombed number 30 bus carried an advertisement for the horror film 'The Descent', including thereview quote 'OUTRIGHT TERROR... BOLD AND BRILLIANT'. Perhaps we should be told?

Justice Not Vengeance:
Rachel's Blog:

They Did It In America Too, You Know:


Here is a picture of a fruitbat. See if you can spot more fruitbats on this blog. Happy Good Friday! So far I have eaten a hot cross bun. It's raining. There's nothing on TV. J and I are about to start painting the sitting room, D.I.Y being the traditional Spring Bank Holiday activity. Up the ladders we go, while Miff purrs on a nest she has made out of an old tracksuit. She is absolutely filthy, having rolled outside in the yard. She is more like a fat labrador than a cat.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Blair backs down over regulatory reform bill

Save Parliament

Today's Financial Times...

Sweeping ministerial powers in a proposed bill designed to cut red tape are to be curtailed following a row over their constitutionality, the minister responsible said on Wednesday.

Jim Murphy, the cabinet office minister, said the government would back down from the highly contentious plans to cut the bureaucracy burden on business and amend the proposed law, which has been dubbed a shortcut to dictatorship.
Mr Murphy told the Financial Times that the bill, which as currently framed would allow virtually any law to be introduced, amended or axed without full parliamentary scrutiny, will be amended. He said he would amend the legislative and regulatory reform bill “so that it can no longer be misconstrued as an attempt by government to take a wider constitutional power”.

Yes! Hurray for freedom and democracy!

London Assembly 7/7 Survivor testimony

The transcript of the 23rd March meeting that I and 12 others gave evidence at is now available to read online. You can also see the webcast here. It was part of a series of meetings chaired by Richard Barnes of the London Assembly, and the report of the Committe will be presented to the Government and the public in May, with its recommendations.

The survivors' transcript is dated 23rd March; you can also read about the emergency services and the phone networks in earlier meetings. As well as our public testimony, there is also the testimony of survivors and bereaved given privately which will be incorporated into the final report. I hope that some good comes of it, it was an emotionally shattering, but hopefully worthwhile day.

Slow time

I dreamed of being back on the train last night, which I suppose is because of all the thinking I have been doing about July 7th. Yesterday, as I stacked the last of my books in the new shelves, I played a beautiful piece of music by Francis Pott called 'The souls of the righteous', which moved me to silent tears. But in a good way. I have written before how I had found it impossible to listen to music but now I have some time off I have been tentatively experimenting with playing music that I love, or new music that I think is going to have an emotional effect, because I have the time and space to let it affect me and to cry if I want to.

So I am so very grateful for this break from work, because I finally have time to grieve, and feel the anger and the shock, and then to try to let go of all the July 7th feelings instead of pushing them away because they are too painful and overwhelming. And now music is helping me to do that. Music, and small things, like tidying my house, a drink with fellow-passengers, time to read and sleep and be quiet and still. Slow time, gentle time, time just to appreciate still being alive.

Milan Rai's 7/7 book launch

Milan Rai's book, '7/7, the London bombings, Islam and the Iraq war' is very good and I recommend it. It does give a sense of how it all happened, and the journey that the bombers made to get to the point of no return. Yesterday the book was officially launched.

Milan had managed to avoid being jailed earlier in the day. His crime? Reading out the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq at the Cenotaph with Maya Evans, who was arrested last year. As the 'organiser' of the 'unlawful protest' ( which consisted of two people reading out the names of the dead by the Cenotaph) Milan was arrested and charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act; he was fined by Bow St Magistrates Court yesterday. He and Maya intend to appeal the decision

The official book launch, organised by Voices in the Wilderness UK, Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Justice Not Vengeance, with support from Pluto Press, was an interesting evening on 12 April with Milan, radical historian Mark Curtis, and Iraqi activist academic Nadje al-Ali and myself speaking on a panel. The room was full.

It was a shame that a small but determined band of conspiracy theorists, who had not even read the book, but who had decided that they wanted to come along and challenge it anyway, turned up and attempted to hijack the launch. They were courteously given three minutes to put their case to the floor, and their claims included *gems such as ( *taken from their leave-behind densely printed little pamphlet that they shoved at everyone later) :

*'1000 man simulations/terror exercises' going on at the time from the blasts '( debunked by C4 here)
*Claims that there were in fact TWO bombed trains with fatalities at Kings Cross ( no, there was one train, with some initial confusion as to its number)
*Talk of 'New World Order', 'globalist-facists', determination to find bizarre coincidences e.g: *'Bob Kiley was once assistant to the Director of the CIA!', claims that Mossad warned the *Israeli PM in advance of the bombs, talk of 'black ops' and 'false flag operations' and so on and so on. The predictable obsession with 9/11.
*And of course, the implacable denial that the train was suicide-bombed at all!

Unbeknownst to them, sitting in the audience was one of the drivers of the train and several fellow-survivors, three of whom were even closer to the bomb than me, as well as J and two of my friends. We exchanged wearied glances as the conspiracists ranted on. Nadje, the Iraqi academic gently pointed out to them that suicide bombing did exist, but all they could do was demand CCTV footage of the bombers actually blowing themselves up! There was no CCTV on the train, and even if there had been, it would likely have been destroyed, as the blast was powerful enough to smash through the ceiling and floor of the train, and blow the doors off, killing 26 people immediately around the bomber by the second set of double doors. Had the train been less crowded, even more would have died. To demand CCTV images of this is utterly obscene. But then these are the people whom, when faced with a survivor who has the temerity to argue with them have no comeback but to decide that I am a Government disinformation agent! Or even, a team of 'criminal spooks'! One of them shouted at me 'that Rachel had her facts all wrong'. I suppose they were not so brave as to call me a liar, in a public meeting, though they are happy to be personally abusive via the anonymity of the internet.

It was a shame that they were so disruptive, because there were many people there who had intertesting things to say and the room was full of people committed to peace, and to considering the issues of terrorism, war, foreign policy and protest. All the energy of the conspiracy theorists could be so usefully deployed in so many positive causes instead of peddling nonsense and handing out pamphlets.

But I have come to see that how they are extremist fundementalists of a kind, and it is pointless engaging with them. They cannot engage. They see the world through the prism of everything being a Giant Lie. They feel that only they, the select few have access to the Truth. Anyone who disagrees with them is a liar or the puppet of evil forces. The police, media, politicians, survivors, emergency services, are all engaged in a giant cover-up or willing dupes of the sinister forces of the New World Order, a facistic zionist cabal. Perhaps hundreds of years ago they might have been drawn to Gnosticism, or some religious cult which promotes the idea of a saved Elect with access to secret Truths in a world of corruption and lies. They are not, it strikes me, so very different in their mentality from the converts to any extremist group, though of course they are not dangerous at all.

It is quite sad, really, they are so passionate about it all but so misguided. Still, we all had a good laugh at them, and their ludicrous pamphlet down the pub afterwards. And I don't think they did themselves any favours or won themselves any converts, and J and my friends can now see who the people are who have been upsetting me with their abusive comments on this blog and their smears and lies about me on their silly website. Having read their nonsense we all agreed that they are just rather pitiful oddballs and eccentrics, and not worth bothering about. Another step forward, because now I agree, and I feel so much better now for the laughter at their expense around the pub table last night from my fellow survivors.
Sorry, I mean my fellow elite Zionist M15 Illuminati Mason lizards of the Neo-Facistic World Order. You'd better watch out. There's an awful lot of us and we're apparently taking over *wink*

P.S: There will probably be an avalanche of fruitbat anonymous comments now. If I put comment moderator on, temporarily, or disable anonymous comments, that is why. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fractured Fundementalisms

Very interesting article by Karen Armstrong, long but worth it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do It Yourself

A quick break from political ranting and struggling for peace and justice to say that I am sleeping better and a lot less stressed. To celebrate this new lease of life I have started painting the bathroom daffodil yellow. Sixteen shelves have been put up by our friend Long Dave, and painted white. They are floor to almost-ceiling, either side of the chimney breast in the sitting room, so I now have a place to put my book collection, which must be over a thousand books, currently jammed into higgledy-piggledy bookcases in a scruffy study.

The flat is in utter chaos and stinks of paint and white spirit, but it will be worth it because the idea is by Easter everything will be painted and fresh and tidy. And I will feel much better when it is. Life admin and general household tasks have gone tits-up for the last nine months: I am hoping that this break and getting my house in order will feel like a new start. It's good that I am thinking about the future again. Planning the wedding, decordating, digging and planting a bed of different kinds of lavender and rosemary in the front garden. Pulling up the weeds and slinging out the rubbish. Moving forward. Moving on.

About bloody time; not everything in life is about politics. The Rachel I was before July 7th was busy and interested in lots of things, and hopeful. She's coming back. It's spring now, (not that you'd know from the snow and the chill in the air). But the buds are out on the trees, the daffodils have almost finished and the lillies are growing in their pots. I have a dozen violas to plant out, and when it gets a little warmer I will clean the windows and let the sunshine in.

Any ideas?

More political polemic. I try and stay out of it but I can't.

This post, on commentisfree at the Guardian, follows on from The Observer's leak of the soon-to-be-published civil servant's narrative from the Home Office, in which it is revealed that the Iraq war was thought to be the main motivator of the 7 July bombings' perpetrators.

Curious Hamster takes up the theme very well, go visit.

Bin Laden did not personally direct the July attackers from his aescetic batcave.

But his idea that the West is engaged in 'a war against Muslims' did reach them

'Is there a war against Muslims?
a war in which illegal bombing, chemical weapons, torture, prisoner abuse and detention without trial or charge is rife,
a war which is said to be about 'freedom' and 'democracy, ' but is about greed and enslavement to money,
a war in which holy places and books are desecrated by unclean infidels,
a war where I am called as a holy warrior, defending my oppressed people?
(for surely my soul feels unfulfilled until now)
What greater death? What better life?
than to fight against these people, this war
to fight them with whatever weapons there are to hand
and to be a hero and a martyr...'

Khaled al Berry's story gave me a foot-soldier's insight into this extremist worldview. When this is how the current U.S and U.K foreign policy is seen by those who fight against it, and when those who resist it are not organised into armies or Governments but are ordinary young men, British citizens, walking bombs, what are we to do?

We can't get them round a table and negotiate with them. They don't have a leader. And they don't even have an agreed set of demands.

We can ignore them whilst carrying on with our foreign policy and take the increased risks of being blown up on ther way to work on the chin. There's not so many of them and we shouldn't panic. We managed the Blitz and the I.R.A.

We can keep a closer look out for them and try to stay one step ahead by increasing surveillance and giving more funding to the Security services, and increasing police powers, and tightening up immigration, and introducing identity cards. With a lot of data on the citizens, the Government and security services can keep much more on top of what people are thinking and planning. And as terrorists are not really discernible from the general public, (being chip-eating, trainer-wearing, sport-following news-watching types like everyone else it seems), we should all be treated as a potential terrorist. It's for our own protection. If we have done nothing wrong, read nothing wrong, talked to no dodgy types, then we have nothing to fear. And anyway, keeping watch over people is not the monopoly of the Government. Neighbours could be encouraged to keep tabs on neighbours, employees on each other. Imagine if businesses could target their advertising towards me by knowing about me from my centrally-stored data? Based on what they know about my credit history, salary, savings and marital status and property-ownership status? Based on what they knew about my medical history, driving history, tax history, criminal record? Wouldn't that be something else?

(''Fear'-stories are high-impact news, garnering greater audience share, deeper demographic penetration, and increased message-retention of the target audience. This then enables a strong platform for Government-voter communication messages, and , research shows, results in the audience becoming 19.4% more receptive to Government calls for increased security measures, tougher legislation and no-nonsense foreign policies...' )

We can threaten, invade and bomb places where we think they are known to be sympathetic to the idea that we are intent on threatening, invading and bombing Muslims. Terrorist-harbouring countries.
Like um, Saudi Arabia, where the 9/11 bombers were from. Oh, sorry, Afghanistan then. And Iraq. And Iran. And...
Or Leeds, where 3 of the 7 July terrorists were from?

Hang on. They could be anywhere, these people, who think we're engaged in a war against them. These terrorists. They're following an idea. We can't catch and idea and try it or make war on it. We can't control it.

Maybe we should do something else?

Any ideas?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

'7/7, Islam & the Iraq War' by Milan Rai

Milan Rai has written a new book called '7/7: the London bombings, Islam and the Iraq War'. I recommend it.

On 12th April ( next Wednesday) I will be speaking as part of a panel at the London launch of the book. It's at 7-9pm, Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ. Organised by JNV, Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Voices UK

See also: SPEAKING TOUR BY MILAN RAI (author of Chomsky’s Politics and War Plan Iraq) on his new book 7/7: the London bombings, Islam and the Iraq war. Events include 5 Apr, Belfast; 10 Apr, Berwick-upon-Tweed; 11 Apr, Kendal; 12 Apr, London (see below); 13 April, Lewes (7.30pm, Newton Room at Southover Grange, 01273 473912); 19 Apr, Southampton University; 20 Apr, Yeovil; 23 Apr, Hereford; 29 Apr, Aberystwyth; 3 May, Stevenage; 18 May, Tower Hamlets. More info or 0845 458 9571

Britblog round up # 60

Rev. Julie Nicholson and Sunday Times forgiveness article

An inspiring interview with Rev. Julie Nicholson, whose daughter was killed on the 7 July bombings can be found in the Sunday Times today, titled 'The Good That Came From Grief'. Alongside it is 'Finding Peace', an edited version of the article on forgiveness that I wrote some weeks ago.

The full version of my Sunday Times article on forgiveness'The F-word' (with links to fellow-survivors' thoughts) can be found here, and the background 'Rachel's Story', about 7/7/05 - the bomb - and 16/7/02 - the rape and beating - which I wrote last year, here. This is where I first began to explore the theme of forgiveness.

Readers of this blog's thoughts on forgiveness can be found here, and some intesting links here

Save Parliament!

Save Parliament

Netherworld on the narrative

Davide on the 'narrative.

'The necessity for a full public inquiry is becoming more obvious as the official ‘narrative’ is asking more questions than it answers.'


Out of the loop

Holly meets another survivor...

Bush goes nuclear?

Bush planning nuclear strikes on Iran

'But Mom, it's no fun having the toys if you don't get to play with them..'

For pity's sake.

More 7/7 Home Office narrative leaks

From today's Observer

'The official inquiry into the 7 July London bombings will say the attack was planned on a shoestring budget from information on the internet, that there was no 'fifth-bomber' and no direct support from al-Qaeda, although two of the bombers had visited Pakistan.
The first forensic account of the atrocity that claimed the lives of 52 people, which will be published in the next few weeks, will say that attacks were the product of a 'simple and inexpensive' plot hatched by four British suicide bombers bent on martyrdom.
Far from being the work of an international terror network, as originally suspected, the attack was carried out by four men who had scoured terror sites on the internet. Their knapsack bombs cost only a few hundred pounds, according to the first completed draft of the government's definitive report into the blasts.
The Home Office account, compiled by a senior civil servant at the behest of Home Secretary Charles Clarke, also discounts the existence of a fifth bomber. After the bombings, police found an unused rucksack of explosives in the bombers' abandoned car at Luton station, which led to a manhunt for a missing suspect. Similarly, it found nothing to support the theory that an al-Qaeda fixer, presumed to be from Pakistan, was instrumental in planning the attacks'


Meanwhile, the Sunday Times is running a story about M15 and police wanting more funding & resources to counter the '400' terror suspects they think are in the U.K, a call supported by the Tories. What about the causes of terror? Terrorism is the messenger, not the message.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

None of the above?

No victor, but many spoils? May 4th. None of the above, says Justin.

Grand National

J and I just made our annual trip to Ladbrokes for Grand National Day. I did the old-school-scribble-on-a-bit-of-paper, and J carefully filled in six proper betting slips. He backed six horses each way, and I backed four to win.

Ladbrokes was very red inside, and stuffy. Men puffed on fags as they stared hard at TV screens. At the front of the shop as you came in there were two eager young men in red 'Ladbrokes John Smiths Grand National - Here to Help' T-shirts. All the men in the shop were studiously ignoring them - even the ones who had no idea how to fill in a betting slip and had clearly been sent there by their wives and children for the annual family flutter looked like they would rather die than ask another man for guidance on such a Proper Bloke Activity as betting on horses. I distinctly saw one man furtively copying his neighbour as he filled in his paper.

My mother used to live by the racecourse in Aintree when she was a little girl, she said you could watch the race from the Blue Anchor Bridge at the bottom of her lane, or from the Railway Embankment to watch the horses go over the terrifying Bechers Brook. She told me about Jump Sunday, when locals would walk the course the Sunday before the race and swap tips and inspect the jumps. When I was a few months old Mum took a bet out in my name and I won, so she bought a horse mobile that hung over my cot. So betting on the National is a family tradition, and we have done it for at least three generations.

Hope no horses or people are hurt this year. The National is a brutal race.

I put £45 on. Come on Hedgehunter, Innox, Garvivonnian and Jack High! One of you must be able to pull it off.

UPDATE: Damn, why am I a risk-taking mupppet, backing everything to win? J sensibly backed his horses each way, and got first and second and third, so we made about £30. I recommended him Numbersixvalverde, the winner, though, so I feel a small glow of victory. We spent our winnings on satinwood paint for the new shelves and some dinky small paint rollers. Rock n' roll.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Meeting the Home Secretary

And so, the meeting between the Home Secretary, my father, and me.

My father and I arrived early, at 9.45am, and we sat in our suits outside Mr Clarke's offices, which were on the top floor of a former Church building in Norwich city centre. I had expected something grander, but there was the Home Secretary, the M.P of Norwich South, at his desk, in a small office, clearly visible through a glass front. Mr Clarke looked up and saw us, and got up from his desk and stepped outside his office, and greeted us, shaking our hands, and saying 'Oh, so you are here already, do come in'. His handshake was warm. He did not ask me for proof of identification.

And he led us inside. We sat at a small table facing him, and Mr Clarke requested that a constituency secretary be able to attend the meeting too. We agreed and we thanked Mr. Clarke for his time, and especially for seeing me, which was unusual, as was his personal office's response to me answering my questions raised on my blog.

(Nobody took notes in the meeting, which was scheduled for 10 minutes but went on for 25. I made notes as soon as I came out from which this post is drawn).

Mr. Clarke sat opposite me, with his arms crossed over his chest, resting his forearms on his tummy, (which is exactly what I do, when I am thinking what to say and how I feel about saying it.) He said that he wanted to say a few things first: to express his personal sympathy for what had happened to me and my family, to agree that water had passed under the bridge with regard to the cathedral altercation, ('though I still don't accept the version that was published about it'), to point out that he would always meet his constituents, to stress that he had given a very great deal of time and consideration to the matter of a public enquiry, and that he had spoken to many different people and departments during the course of the decision-making process, 'including families, whom I met after the November 1st service, and Muslims'.

I explained that I felt that I pretty much knew WHAT happened on 7th July, ( 'though I'm sure the narrative will have some interesting nuggets'), but what I was interested in was WHY July 7th happened 'because if we can understand that, we can have a dialogue and then there are seeds of hope for the future'. I thanked him for his letter explaining the points that I'd raised on my blog, and I said I understood its confirmation that there were a number of internal inquiries going on behind closed doors, with police, intelligence services, politicians, 'but this debate is not just for police and politicians to have. It affects all of us, the whole country - and it is ordinary people like me who take the tubes and buses, not politicians'. And that was why I supported a public inquiry.

He asked about Kings Cross United. I explained that it was a group of over 100 survivors. I explained that the group was non-political, comprised of people of all ages and backgrounds with different opinions, yet we had all found a sense of unity and support in talking together. And that I had been struck that there seemed to be a common desire amongst the survivors I had met to understand the reasons for July 7th, and to get something positive out of the experience, some learnings. I explained that I and some other survivors had recently had a letter from Tessa Jowell eight months on expressing sympathy and offering a meeting, and that this had arrived after survivors had given evidence in public at the London Assembly. The London Assembly was the first time that we had been asked for our testimony or feedback as far as I knew.

Mr. Clarke listened carefully as I spoke, and rocked backwards and forwards slowly ( something I do when I am listening but also thinking what to say, and a little uncomfortable.) He replied that he understood, and that he had survivors of dreadful tragedies come to see him before, and it was notable how people 'usually want two things, to understand why it happened and to get something positive out of it. And, we're not set up very well in this country for that to happen, for various reasons, usually legal ones, and insurance ones.' He looked thoughtful. He explained that there was a great deal of desire to learn lessons from July 7th, and that he was sorry that the letter from the DCMS took so long to arrive, and that there had been a division of responsibilities early on, with care of the victims, organising the Memorial Service, being done by the Department of Media Culture and Sport, and the Home Office managing other areas.

I said there was a sense of frustration when you felt you had useful things to contribute but were not able to. And that though I was not part of a political group, but just a random group of people who were on a tube train, I suppose the questions I was asking were 'political'. But I also thought this was above politics and not about blame. I said I 'd consider personally moving from a public to an independent enquiry 'if things like Crevice and defence of the realm stuff meant that some parts could not be shared with the public'. But I didn't see why we shouldn't be learning all we can, and discussing it together, publicly.

Mr Clarke looked thoughtful again. And then he offered to meet Kings Cross United, personally, and to come to one of our meetings, so he could listen to people's concerns and we could ask questions of him. He mentioned the media. I said KCU meetings were private and no media had ever been allowed access. And I thanked him, and said I would discuss it with the group but I personally thought that would be fantastic.

And I do. I think it is a great result.

My father talked of how there was a lack of trust between people and authorities including the Government, how he had been reading Exodus in the morning's service and spoke of people's anger and alientation from Government and power, then and now. He said for a moment, in the Cathedral, he had felt something of the rage and impotence of the young men, not being listened to. There was a brief moment of discomfort when Mr. Clarke quickly said that he didn't want to go over 'the incident' again. But then Mr. Clarke said he agreed that there was a lack of trust between people and Government. He began to speak almost wistfully about meetings he had attended ten years ago, set up by the Labour Lord Mayor of Norwich, Harry Watson. These meetings were an open forum when local politicians and the Bishop and local priests talked together two or three times a year, about the issues of the day.

This was ten years ago, it must have been in the early days of the Blair administration. My father said he remembered the meetings, and he offered to talk to the Bishop about setting them up again, and Mr. Clarke agreed. Or maybe he even suggested it, I can't remember.

He asked us if we had any more that we wanted to say, and I said, would he like a Kings Cross United badge? I gave him the badge, and he thanked me, and said that he could wear it if he met Kings Cross United. AndI thanked him, and so did Dad, and the meeting was over. Dad and I had coffee in another converted church ( Medieval-wool-boom-town Norwich is stuffed full of medieval church buildings now used for other purposes, like Puppet Theatres and cafes). Then we walked home.

I emailed Kings Cross United to let them know about the Home Secretary's offer to meet up with survivors. I phoned J, and then three friends from KCU.

And then I got out of my suit and into something more comfortable and chilled out on my parent's sofa with a cup of tea and some cheese & biscuits.

Later: I think it is good that Mr. Clarke offered to meet some survivors, but the point of yesterday for me was to say that it wasn't really behind-closed-doors private meetings and narratives that were appropriate, it is about asking and answering people's questions in public. If we get the Kings Cross United meeting with Mr. Clarke in the diary, that is what I will say to him: this is about more than the people who were on the train, we're just a random section of the public, this is about everybody. The questions and the answers and the debate should be opened up to all of us.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Time off, and time in front of the Home Secretary

I have been officially signed off work for a few weeks with exhaustion. The last nine months since July 7th have led to me getting very run down last week saw me going down with bronchitis yet again. ( How many chest infections have I had since I got out that tunnel?) It is good to take a bit of a breather, I needed it. I have busied myself trying to make something positive out of the whole atrocity: writing, setting up Kings Cross United and being involved with the running of the group, dealing with many emails and enquiries, meeting with many people involved in July 7th, asking for an independent public inquiry, trying to look after people, trying to find answers. It has been like having two jobs. Much positive stuff has come out of it all, but all this had a cost and the cost has been my health. I have not looked after myself very well, and of course, there comes a time when all the activity in the world does not actually make you feel any better. So, time out, doctor's note, work being very supportive, me being very grateful for the rest.

Of course, it has not completely gone away, it never does. Every day there are emails, ( and I like emails, I like hearing from people, it just takes time to keep on top of it all) , every day there is news about July 7th - and I am still watching the news, more than ever. I had a very good counselling session yesterday when I was able to deal with some of the more nasty effects relating to survivor guilt. I have not had the recurring dream for two weeks, though two nights ago I dreamed of a dead body and a toxic contagion poisoning me. I do feel things are getting better though, and not being in the office, and being able to rest and to sleep helps a great deal. And the sun is out, the daffodils are out, green shoots and buds cover bare branches and there is a sense of hope after a long hard winter.

I blogged recently about the forthcoming meeting with my father, myself and the Home Secretary and the questions I wanted to raise. I am pleased to report that yesterday a letter arrived from Charles Clarke addressed to me c/o my parent's house, and it covered some of the questions that I had flagged up in my blog that I was hoping to raise at the ten minute meeting. This was most helpful and I am grateful for it, and gratified to see that Mr. Clarke, or people in the Home Office are reading my blog. Hello to my Home Office readers!

My mother read Mr. Clarke's letter out to me over the phone. I haven't seen it yet but I will see it tonight when I take a late train to Norwich to stay with my parents. There is a Kings Cross United pub session tonight, then I will rush to Norwich and we will see Mr. Clarke tomorrow morning, and stay with my parents for a short while.

I am sure that it will be a most interesting meeting tomorrow, and I will, of course, report back about it on my blog. Thank you to everyone who has sent in interesting suggestions as to what I could ask Mr. Clarke in the meeting, unfortunately I don't think there will be time to to cover all of them but they have certainly provided great food for thought.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

London Ambulance Service on July 7th

The ambulance crews and the emergency services performed many heroic deeds on the day, as I and many others have said many times before. They were valiant, compassionate and dedicated. I have never criticised any individual responder to the scenes of the bombs, nor the care I and others received after, in fact, I have always said the opposite. What I have criticised is the Russell Square situation, where ambulances needed did not come for two hours. I think one ambulance did come, but I did not see it, and Russell Square was the scene where 26 died, and there were many very serious injuries at that scene. So I have always wondered why the ambulances did not come for so long. People were looked after by staff from nearby Gt. Ormond St. children's hospital, by London Underground staff, and by fellow-passengers.

Because the bomb exploded at the front of the train in carriage one, in the middle of the first carriage, those at the very front of the carriage who could walk, which included myself, left via the driver's cab and walked forwards to Russell Square which was much further away than Kings Cross. Though the train had not long left Kings Cross, and Kings Cross was a lot nearer, we could not go backwards because that was where the bomb was, behind us, and the centre of the carriage was devastated. The carriage was also in a very narrow part of the tunnel, so we could not go round the train and back along the tracks. There was no option but to walk forwards, between the tracks which we thought might be live, and it took about fifteen minutes I think, and it is a walk I will remember for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile those at the back of the first carriage who had survived, (the bomb having exploded in front of them), and the rest of the train's passengers ( carriages 2-6) went back to Kings Cross. So the majority of passengers went to Kings Cross, and were treated there or picked up and taken to hospital in ambulances, or on three requisitioned London buses, or just wandered off and self-presented at hospitals and their G.Ps later in some cases. There were about 700-900 people on the train. It was, as has been recorded, extremely crowded due to series of delays and cancellations. It was the most crowded train I have ever been on in my life, in twelve years of travelling on the Piccadilly line at rush hour.

The second difficulty with Russell Square was the highly-visible explosion of the bus 500 yards away in Tavistock Square. The injured at Russell Square were of course not nearly so visible, being either still underground, in the station or having been taken to a nearby hotel. Resource therefore was I think diverted to Tavistock Square, and the communication failures meant that it was perhaps not clear that many more ambulances were still needed at Russell Square. There was also a suspect device, and a fear of secondary devices in the tunnel, in fact, when the bus exploded people thought it was a second bomb in or near the station or just outside and at this point I think many people were moved out of the station and moved to a hotel. I left Russell Square in a black cab just before the bus bomb exploded and went to University College hospital. I did not see any ambulances and I was outside the station looking for them. It is through talking to other carriage one people and LU staff that I have found out about the delays for ambulances at the scene I left behind.

The initial meeting about London Ambulance response, held at the London Assembly was on November 3rd, and a transcript can be f0und here.

BBC London then did some digging and found out more about the call sheets and response times and the communication problems; survivors gave further testimony on 23rd March, and further clarification was asked for. You can read the request for more information from Richard Barnes the Chair of the 7 July Review Committee, and the detailed response here.

Letter from Richard Barnes - 7 July Review Committee.pdf 1MB

Response to Richard Barnes about lessons learned from 7 July.pdf 65Kb

More details about the London Assembly review can be found on their website.

You can also look at Mark's excellent 'nee-naw' blog, which contains in the archives an account of being a dispatcher in the London Ambulance Service on July 7th.

Once more, a grateful thank you to London Ambulance staff and the medical teams and the emergency services and London Underground staff for all you did. It is reassuring to read of how most people got help quickly, and to now have some answers about what happened at Russell Square, where I was, on that day.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Reaping the whirlwind: Iraq and terrorism

The Observer has seen the Home Office narrative (first draft) which is what we have been told we are getting instead of a public enquiry into July 7, and it is official: the link between Iraq and July 7th.

''Despite attempts by Downing Street to play down suggestions that the conflict has made Britain a target for terrorists, the Home Office inquiry into the deadliest terror attack on British soil has conceded that the bombers were inspired by UK foreign policy, principally the decision to invade Iraq. ''

''Initial drafts of the government's account into the bombings, which have been revealed to The Observer, state that Iraq was a key 'contributory factor'. The references to Britain's involvement in Iraq are contained in a section examining what inspired the 'radicalisation' of the four British suicide bombers, Sidique Khan, Hasib Hussain, Shehzad Tanweer and Germaine Lindsay.
The findings will prove highly embarrassing to Tony Blair, who has maintained that the decision to go to war against Iraq would make Britain safer. ''

Ha. Remember this?

''The Foreign Office's top official warned Downing Street that the Iraq war was fuelling Muslim extremism in Britain a year before the 7 July bombings, The Observer can reveal.
Despite repeated denials by Number 10 that the war made Britain a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull - obtained by this newspaper - makes the connection clear.''

''However, all mention of the Iraq connection to extremism was removed from 'core scripts' - briefing papers given to ministers to defend the government's position on Iraq and terror.''

(Observer's source document .)

Finally, they cannot deny it any longer: this war has led to hatred and terror and suicide bombings in the U.K. Blair knew this risk, and he denied it, and he went ahead with the war, and he lied about the reasons for the war and the risks and consequences of the war - and people were murdered because of this.

The Sunday Times cites different sources to make similar points. From the Sunday Times, today:

''A government report, compiled by a senior civil servant using intelligence from the security services and due to be published in the next few weeks, is... expected to recognise that the July 7 bombers were motivated by the invasion of Iraq.''

''A leaked top-secret memo from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) says the war in Iraq has “exacerbated” the threat by radicalising British Muslims and attracting new recruits to anti-western terror attacks.

''The four-page memo, entitled International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq, contradicts Blair’s public assurances by concluding that the invasion of Iraq has fomented a jihad or holy war against Britain.''

''The leak of the JIC’s official assessment — marked “top secret” — will alarm Blair as it appears to be directed at undermining the public statements in which he has denied that the war in Iraq has increased the terror threat from Al-Qaeda.''

More, from the Sunday Times today

Let's look at some background: Blair makes the case for invading Iraq in 2003 to the public in a Paxman interview with audience questions.

What is so frustrating to me is that he DOES seem to get the link between unstable states and terrorism, and with Iraq being attacked and subsequently al Qaeda' 'coming together' with Iraq to support its struggles. But he gets it totally wrong.

It is not about Saddam and WMD and al Qaeda all 'coming together' like James Bond super-baddies to take over the world with nuclear weapons, with Bin Laden cackling evilly down the batphone in his secret mountain lair to the strutting swivel-eyed Saddam in his palace, planning 'world domination by TERROR! mwah hahahah!...

Such nonsense is the stuff of stupid movies, and macho fantasies.

The reality was - and Blair was warned of this - that a chaotic, post-invasion Iraq is somewhere that al Qaeda sympathisers and hardline jihadi fighters will swarm to, keen to struggle to set up a hardline theocracy, using whatever weapons they can. Including suicide bombs. And not just in Iraq, but in the U.K too. It becomes an idealogical war, that we call a 'war on terror' - and they call 'a war on Muslims'.

A 'jihad', a 'righteous war' to both sides. And the way this 'war' is being fought is disgraceful: both sides lie, both sides bomb civilians, both sides glorify criminal acts and use a poisonous ideaology to justify murderous acts, spin propoganda to recruit young soldiers to their cause. Both sides are careless of international law and agreements about torture and the Geneva convention. Both sides are now locked down for the long run, with deadly consequences, because of stupid bloody arrogance, because they will not see what fools they are.

There is a horrifying Shakespearean symmetry about how it all began.

Two spoiled directionless sons of oil millionaires, Bush and Bin Laden, both motivated by religious fundementalism and a longing for power. Two idealogies, both of which sees human lives as disposable collateral damage to be sacrificed in the 'war' to win. Two 'shock and awe' spectaculars - 9/11 and Iraq. Two sides of the same coin, feeding the fire.

It does not have to be this way. Our leaders are suppposed to be accountable to us. Unless we hand over all our power and allow them to bully and frighten us, tag us and watch us and scare us into submission. But until that day, when our leaders are running mad, when they are in denial or lying, it is our responsibility to challenge them and bring them to account.

I don't see what else to do. Too many lives are at risk and this policy, this stupid 'War on Terror' is not working. It is making things worse. Much worse.

Please, do what you can. Engage. Debate. Protest. Care. We condemn ourselves to a bloody and unstable future if we do not make them reconsider now, and change their behaviour, admit their mistakes. The first step is official recognition of the links between the invasion of Iraq, and attacks on the U.K , including July 7th. Wilful refusal to accept this clear connection is not acceptable. Lying is not acceptable. Excuses are not acceptable. This disconnect between what we know and what the Government has denied until now, must end. Every day in Iraq is July 7th now. And July 7th will happen here, again, and again, and again, until this madness ends.

Finally, it seems, with the publication of this 'narrative', the link is made clear.

Our leaders need to stop, think, admit their faults. They need to change their behaviour and their policies. They need to learn from their mistakes. The 'narrative' is a start.

But only an independent public enquiry will reveal the full picture, and allow us to learn from what happened before July 7th, what happened on July 7th and what happened after July 7th, so that we may save lives and spare future suffering.

It is not about a blame game, it is about stopping innocent people being killed.

You can sign the petition asking for an independent public enquiry by clicking here.

And you can email your M.P by clicking here

UPDATE: Curious Hamster on the case, getting up even earlier than me at 3.14am. Or possibly not going to bed. Well, righteous anger makes it hard to sleep these days.