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Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category

Latest British bombing attempts

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 30, 2007

Here’s a rather well-done, not to mention on-the-spot analysis of the latest attempted bombings in Britain, which can be found here on the Guardian UK website.

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New face of the bomber

Jason Burke analyses eight key issues already emerging from the attacks
Sunday July 1, 2007

Observer
1. Islamic militants are almost certainly responsible.
This will become finally clear when the identity of the men arrested at Glasgow airport becomes known. The police are still working on gathering images of the London attacks, but will hope the Scottish strike will lead them to any fugitive bombers.

2. The attacks are linked.
They are probably the work of the same loose network. The strike on Glasgow is unlikely to be the result of the pure ‘copycat effect’ for the simple reason that it takes longer than 36 hours to assemble in secrecy a car, petrol and gas canisters.

3. The bombs are amateurish.

We are a long way from the technologically advanced devices and the painstaking preparation work of 9/11, the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa, or even the 7 July attacks on London. This is good news, in that it means Islamic militants are short on expertise and find running sophisticated operations very difficult, not least due to public vigilance and the work of the security services. But it is bad news in that it means that the threat is coming from the people who are hardest to stop: ordinary citizens angry or disturbed enough to become radicalised. Terrorist organisations can have a highly trained, structured, disciplined body of very competent militants or a diffuse network of less skilled and less disciplined individuals, but not usually both. The former is more effective, the latter more resistant.

4. No suicide bombings.

The fact that the London attacks, at least, did not involve the death of the bomber points to a domestic source. Almost all strikes directly commissioned by the al-Qaeda ‘hard core’ of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri involve the death of the bombers. This change may be the result of a lack of long-term psychological preparation of the attackers.

5. Plots involve British citizens or immigrants who have spent some time in the UK.

However the cell behind the recent attacks could be heterogeneous: one emerging theme is a new mix of ethnicities and even languages within groups. The internet remains extremely important to the radicalisation process, with British security services desperately trying to track the moment when ‘the virtual goes real’. Following recent trends, the bombers are likely to be young (possibly in their late teens) and radicalised very rapidly.

6. Too much can be made of the ‘Iraq link’.

Yes, vehicle bombs with gas cans and petrol have been used extensively in Baghdad, but car bombs are hardly an innovation. There were massive vehicle-borne bombs in Pakistan in the Nineties, in Lebanon in the early Eighties – and of course in the UK.

7. Bands of brothers.

Though not yet identified – reports about a ‘clean image’ of one bomber were not correct – officials say there is a strong chance that anyone involved in last week’s events will be linked to other plots. Islamic militant terrorism works through personal associations, which means that everyone eventually has a connection to everyone if you follow enough links.

8. Message to the UK.

The attacks are something that say: what we are engaged in is far bigger than politics. This is about a battle between good and evil. The timescale is long, the cause is far greater than the arrival or departure of a Prime Minister or even a single war, even those in Iraq or Afghanistan. The threat will remain high for the foreseeable future.

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Posted in bombings in Britain, Britain, car bomb, Guardian UK, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, Jason Burke, news, Observer, politics, Scotland, suicide bombing | Leave a Comment »

Werewolves of London

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 16, 2007

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Sometimes, I don’t find much of interest in the Guardian Weekly.

This issue (June 15-21 2007, Vol 176 No 26) was too preoccupied with the latest British scandal — government involvement in paying a 1 billion pound bribe to a Saudi prince to secure an arms deal for BAE Systems — not to mention the government’s attempts to suppress any reporting or investigation of the matter. It’s front page news, a two-page spread on BAE, and a good percentage of the Comment & Debate section.

I found a pair of articles — Angelique Chrisafis’s “French right poised for parliamentary victory,” and “Sarkozy looks to Mediterranean” by Reverchon and Tuquoi in Le Monde — to have interesting implications. Sarkozy’s UMP party is predicted to sweep elections for the National Assembly, getting up to 500 seats out of 577, ushering in a conservative “blue tide” of “slashing taxes, loosening the 35-hour week, limiting strike powers and cutting the numbers of public sector workers.” Buoyed by victory upon victory, Sarkozy is turning his attention to creating an economic union between Europe and North Africa, on the logic that France and other European countries can discourage immigration from North African countries by encouraging rapid economic development in the Maghreb. That’s, of course, the same logic of NAFTA, supporters of which claimed would help Mexico develop economically, thus cutting down on the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US. We all know how well that worked out. Sarkozy’s victory, and the victory of the UMP, will no doubt heighten class struggle in France. Sarkozy will face a combative working class, rebellious students, and riotous banlieue that should make Margaret Thatcher’s confrontations over striking miners and the poll tax look like a pink tea.

Finally, there’s an item in Derek Brown’s “Week in Britain” about East Sussex police putting more officers on duty during full moons to “combat nocturnal violence and rowdiness.” He mentions Michael Zimecki, of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who wrote a paper linking lunar cycles and criminality. “There is no evidence, as yet, of werewolf activity in either Poland or Sussex.”

Posted in BAE Systems, bribery, Britain, East Sussex, France, Guardian Weekly, Margaret Thatcher, Ministry of Defense, NAFTA, news, North Africa, Sarkozy, Saudi Arabia, UMP, werewolf, werewolves, werewolves of London | Leave a Comment »

All the news that fits

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 12, 2007

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What? No front page story on Paris Hilton’s latest travail?

Well, it is the Guardian Weekly after all. I just wanted to highlight a few items in this week’s edition (June 8-14 2007, Vol. 176 No 25).

— Jean-Jacques Bozonnet has a fascinating story on the Italian state. (“Torrent of criticism has Italian politicians fearing implosion”) Apparently, the Italian political apparatus is ten times the size of its neighboring European countries. A local business leader is quoted as saying: “The cost of political representation is equal to that of France, Germany, the UK and Spain together. The party system alone costs taxpayers 200m euro a year, compared with 73m euro in France.”

— A day in the life of an anonymous private security contractor in Iraq entitled “It’s the wild west: we’re a taxi service with guns.”

— A reprint from the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein entitled “US middle class doing just fine.” I think I’ll run down a copy of the study in question as it flies in the face of most things I’ve experienced about the American economy.

— “Danger: upheaval down under,” an opinion piece by Will Hutton of the Observer, details striking parallels between the political climate in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with an emphasis on the state of the social-democratic Left. Here’s two salient quotes: “One answer is being provide by a nascent Australian progressive think-tank, Per Capita. The left has to invest in people, design markets so that companies deliver public-interest outcomes, extend the polluter-pays principle to every form of economic activity where private companies do not pay for the damage they generate and start to develop a story about promoting individual wellbeing. It is a fine wish-list, and the ambition can hardly be faulted. The question remains: how?” And there’s Hutton’s concluding paragraph: “It is not that the right has a better or even good answer to the questions of our times. It is that the modern left, unless it is prepared to say something concrete about how it wants the economy to look in the future and takes steps to shape it, has little to say either. And if it’s the incumbent government, the consequences is staring it in the face.”

— A whole secti0n on the “G8 and the world.” It asks the rhetorical question: “Developed nations’ leaders have promised to give poorer states a better deal. Are they delivering?” The answer is, no.

— A cyberpunk flavored story about how RFID tags are being used to help make sense out of the baffling confusion that is Tokyo. (“Tagging Tokyo’s streets” by Michael Fitzpatrick) “The city with no street names.”

— A well-deserved savaging of Don DeLillo’s latest novel which I think applies to most of the man’s pretentious oeuvre. (“An inevitable DeLillo, an unoriginal DeLillo” by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post)

It’s still probably on the newsstands, in case you’re interested.

Posted in Australia, Britain, Don DeLillo, G8, Guardian Weekly, Iraq, Italian politics, Italy, life, New Zealand, news, Paris Hilton, private security contractors, RFID, the Left, The Observer, Tokyo, Washington Post | Leave a Comment »