Daily archives: September 10, 2009

Should Stephen Farrell Have Been Rescued

Stephen Farrell is coming in for a lot of criticism. But let us start by remembering what he was doing. He was investigating a bombing by the United States, in co-operation with Germany, which killed at least seventy Afghans, over fifty of them non-combatants. The government would love all journalists to be “embedded” with the military, giving out messages like the pure state propaganda on BBC News today from a female reporter who concluded that the British troops were making excellent progress in winning hearts and minds, but needed many more years in Afghanistan to do so.

If any truth is ever to break through, it needs brave men and women like Farrell to go out and get the truth. He should not be condemned.

Today it is credibly reported that the military hostage rescue was not in fact necessary as the Afghans were close to a negotiated release. That may be true. However I understand from FCO sources which I trust that the military option was taken in genuine good faith. It was thought there was one last moment to rescue Farrell before he might be taken beyond reach.

It is not possible now to tell what would have been the outcome otherwise. But I do not believe the military option was taken from nefarious motives.

There remains the moral dilemma of whether rescuing Farrell was worth the British soldier, Afghan interpreter and Afghan civilians who were shot. It seems likely that all the Afghan casualties, including the interpreter and woman, were killed by the British soldiers. Whether the British soldier also died from “Friendly fire” remains to be seen.

I am tempted to say that the solution to the ethical dilemma is for journalists entering dangerous areas to inform their governments that they do not wish to be rescued militarily if anything goes wrong. But that is not so simple. What is a dangerous area? One thing this incident underlines yet again is that neither the Karzai regime nor NATO has any control on the ground over vast swathes of Afghanistan – indeed probably in 80% of the land area “Government” writ does not run.

But it is our responsibility as part of the coalition. We chose to be an occupying power. That gives us responsibility to maintain law and order in the land we occupied. Those in Afghanistan – Afghan or foreign – have every right to expect the occupying powers to fulfil their duty. If we don’t want to, we should leave.

If we have bit off more than we can chew, that is not Stephen Farrell’s fault, He is only trying to report the fact.

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The Mystery of Rashid Rauf

Finally, with its second jury, the State obtained the conviction of three people for attempting to blow up airliners with liquid bombs, as the end result of the greatest of all terrorist plot media hypes. We are left with the continuing War on Shampoo at the airports.

Let us for now accept the convictions as safe, although the whole history of “terrorist” trials in the UK calls for especial scepticism at this point. It does indeed appear that some British born men of Pakistani origin were motivated to attempt a terrorist atrocity. What more does the case tell us?

Well, firstly this is yet more proof of the alienation of British born Muslims from their natural affection for the country of their birth, by Blair and Bush’s policy of securing access to mineral resources by war in Islamic lands. It counters exactly the Gordon Brown claim that occupying Afghanistan somehow keeps us safe here. Every civilian death from NATO action in Afghanistan and Pakistan actually stokes terrorist sympathies here. We are creating, not combating, terrorist sympathies.

Secondly, there is little evidence that the plot was actually viable. There remains great doubt about the ability of the bombers to create liquid explosive of sufficient potency. The airport security idea that liquids are somehow more dangerous than powders or solids is a nonsense.

But the key question, as with the “Islamic Jihad Union” trial in Germany, the “La Guardia” plot in the US and the “Sears Tower” plot in Canada, is who put these useless idiots up to it? How far does surveillance and penetration blend into instigation by agents provocateurs?

Which leads us to the quite extraordinary story of Rashid Rauf, said by the UK and US governments to have been the “mastermind” of this plot Rauf was allegedly the source of the initial information, through the Pakistani ISI. Whether under torture, or whether as a double agent, remains obscure.

The extraordinary thing is that although Rauf was the so-called “mastermind”, and although he was already wanted as a suspect in the UK for the alleged (non-political) murder of an uncle, the British authorities were so keen for him not to appear in a witness box that for over a year they failed to put in any request to Pakistan for his extradition to trial in the UK.

Then, still more amazingly,Rauf mysteriously “escaped” from maximum security detention in Pakistan, in circumstances which have yet to be explained. Finally in November last year the US government announced they had killed Rauf in a targeted drone bombing in Pakistan – a non-judicial execution which (if true) is illegal under Pakistani, US, UK and international law. Rauf was a British citizen, but there was no protest at his murder from the UK authorities.

(His family’s theory is that he was killed in captivity, and the “escape” and subsequent bombing death are simply a twist on the old “Shot while escaping” line.)

We will, therefore, never know the truth of the genesis of the infamous so-called liquid bomb plot. Everything indicates that the British government never had any interest in us knowng the truth, made no attempt to secure Rauf’s appearance at the trial, and appeared unperturbed, to say the least, by his murder.

What conclusions should we draw from that?

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