Chilcot’s Inquiry – Stranger Than My Own Fiction

After waiting 7 years we finally have Sir John Chilcot’s report on the lead up and prosecution of the Iraq War based on the inquiry he lead. For the grieving and wounded I doubt it will bring much closure, whatever that means?

As those of you have been kind enough to read, I too have used the background to the Iraq war for my own scribblings in the Demise Trilogy (available at all good book stores – well Amazon and Lulu anyway)  The backdrop to the story is how a conspiracy manipulated data to make the dossiers used to justify the war more compelling. Little did I know that that was close to what the report has unearthed. Of course we already knew much of this. The farcical claim of a 45 minute of WMD attack on the UK was just that. Anyone who looked at weapons capability in Iraq knew this was a joke, in my view a criminal misrepresentation of the capability of weapons. To claim the UK was at risk was so far wide of the mark it beggar’s belief that anyone in Intelligence or Senior Military allowed such rubbish to be proposed in a Parliamentary document. In this respect I would not expect the political leadership to know. They are not experts they depend on advice yes the rubbish was allowed to stand unchallenged.

During a previous life I had the opportunity to be involved in some of the work used to monitor Iraq after the end of the first Iraq war. This was led by UN weapons inspectors and was part of the cease fire agreements put in place after that conflict.  Part of my role was to assess Iraq’s weapons capability and to then brief my colleagues on their remaining weapons systems.  When the claim came out in 2002/3 as a support for the war I was personally astounded. I was out of the military by then but nevertheless that assessment seemed amazing given the state of their weapons complexes which were bombed every time Saddam threw the Weapons Inspectors out of the country.

At the time of the war I used to state the right war for the wrong reasons. I meant that Saddam had to go because he was in constant breach of the ceasefire obligations and certainly intended to get WMD back, not that he had it right then. He continuously threatened his neighbours vowing revenge. Blair has defended himself by stating that Saddam had to go and he would do it again. That may be true but he did not have to go then nor in that manner and certainly not for that reason. We were already fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan and to redeploy troops to a different theatre was madness and again should have been challenged. Saddam was not going anywhere.

I say back about WMD because he had used chemical weapons against Iran and then against his own Kurdish minority. He had had not used them in the first war simply because he was threatened by the USA of the consequences if he did. Not that that stopped the deployed military being issued with NBC suits and medication in case they were used. During and after the first Iraq war, for the liberation of Kuwait, chemical weapon sites were attacked and stockpiles destroyed. Even after the second war some small residual caches were found left over from the Iran Iraq war which were mostly rusting artillery shells which were unsafe to fire. By the time the second war came around there was virtually nothing left to attack.

The fighting of that war leaves a sour taste due to the tactics employed. Many have concentrated on the failings in equipment and strategy of the British forces and the lack of planning for after the war.  It is not the military’s job to plan peace. Their job is to win a war as quickly and effectively as possible. There were major errors in this plan. In particular the destruction of main infrastructure which caused so many problems after the war. For example destroying whole power stations when sub-stations would have created the same effect. Useless destruction of main bridges. The Iraqi military was pitiful, especially after the first Gulf war. Their ability to fight as an Army was so degraded I’m surprised the war lasted as long as it did. The liberating armies became oppressive conquerors and subject to guerilla warfare because the hearts and minds cannot be won when there is no security, no water and no power.  From a military assault point of view overwhelming force is the key to win quickly but that is where civilian control comes in.

I have previously commented on the lack of military experience in Government on both sides of the Atlantic and in all political parties. Actually it is not just military experience but experience of anything other than politics.

There were 650 MPs in parliament who had a vote on going to war. The action was approved 412 to 149. As you can see not all MPs voted. Currently, approximately 50 have served in the Armed Forces. As decisions are normally taken primarily in Government and directly supposedly in Cabinet it is interesting to note the Chilcot findings on the lack of wider decision making outside the Prime Minister’s office and the failures of the senior military and Intelligence chiefs. MoD Procurement needs culling – perhaps a few days on the front-line with the equipment they procure would get their priorities right. As for the treasury Brown was far more interested in undermining Blair than he was in ensuring that the UK’s forces had the right equipment, size and funding to carry out government, Blair/Bush policy.

As I have written on previous blogs, Parliament is sovereign it really is time that our MPS not only served their party but their country. There is no bigger decision then going to war, or not. I would like to think that some of the MPs might actually know what they are arguing about. The evidence suggests they do not and cannot be bothered to find out. After all it is far more important to spend time briefing against your enemies in your own party than planning for real enemies and threats to the country. For evidence look at the Blair/Brown actions also going on at this time. The evidence before the war was out there. The distrust of the dossier was known yet we went to war on a false promise.

The pitiful state of our current armed forces is for another day’s writing except – We have Aircraft Carriers being built with no aircraft. Our contribution to Syria is barely a squadron of planes. Our Royal Navy, once the commander of the seas, has barely enough ships to patrol a harbour. Our response to Putin is to send 500 troops to Eastern Europe two years after the events. We’ve even stopped allowing the Red Arrows to display at our primary Air Show. Let’s hope we never face a real threat. If we did someone else could take seven years to write a report that will change nothing.

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The Demise Trilogy

Out today on Kindle

Demise Trilogy Cover

The Complete Demise Trilogy
This is a complex thriller based on the lead up to and aftermath of the second Iraq war. A conspiracy to cover up the associated activities of parts of the intelligence services. Now available as a complete trilogy.

An Agent’s Demise
Intelligence analysts and agents have gone missing, some may have been killed. The press and the police suspect there is a serial killer on the loose. John Slater was near the latest victim, he is evasive, appears to have no history, and he might be the killer. The second Iraq war and the intelligence network may link the victims and so The Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch investigates, with the help or hindrance of the Intelligence Agencies. The mistakes made in creating the dossiers used to support going to war are supposed to stay buried on both sides of the Atlantic, but still a killer strikes and is everybody telling the truth?

An Agent’s Rise
The Demise operation was shut down the killer allowed to disappear. But the conspirators have not all been caught and the efforts of MI6 and the CIA to cover up the dirty deeds of the security services only results in more deaths and destruction. Slater returns to tidy up, but how can he reconcile his new life with what he is asked to do?

What happens to Jess and Michael? Will the newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Hooper really allow the suspected killer to go free?

Can the authorities continue to cover up the plot to alter the Iraqi Dossiers on both sides of the Atlantic?

Can the killer stop killing?

An Agent’s Prize
The conspiracy is over, the mistakes and cover up are hidden and buried for good. Both sides of the Atlantic can concentrate on the threats from Islamic Terrorism. That is what they all hope. They want to enlist a hidden black asset in the chase, but there are risks to that approach.

Meanwhile the FBI is still investigating what really happened. Is the conspiracy really over?

Al Qaeda plan new atrocities and MI6 with Homeland Security will try to stop them.

The newlywed Michael Johnson can help but his wife is still recovering from her injuries and she is suspicious of her husband and the authorities. From the streets of San Francisco to the suburban towns of England the terrorists are plotting an outrage.

November

There is no moustache to join in the fund raising of a Movember. It is long gone like the career I once expected that went with it. Seventeen years of no upper lip shaving swept away with the clip of some scissors and the scraping of a sharp blade. There was not even a tan line left behind, once the sink was rinsed. The face in the mirror was a shock, almost as much as the look on my children’s faces.  They had never known a non-moustached father nor one permanently out of uniform.

The moustache was a reminder from an earlier beard and other changes from my young adulthood. Like hair which occasionally was quite long. Now that is nearly all gone too. My multiple ages of man (The Seven Ages) may match Shakespeare’s words, but it feels like multiple adult lives.  There was the work time before the armed forces, then the military career which in turn encompassed multiple locations, jobs, stages, phases but not as many ranks as I had hoped.

Then there was the moustache-less rebirth as a civilian, jobs then as a self-employed consultant then back to the attractions of permanent roles. Again different jobs in different locations with one huge difference. I have stayed in one home. I have lived in this house longer than anywhere else, whilst jobs changed, children grew to adulthood and my little hair changed to grey.  Why this retrospective now, it is not an anniversary, but an anniversary has prompted these thoughts.

I worked from home on Tuesday and walked in the dull drizzle to the war memorial where at 11:00 I stood for the requisite two minutes and contemplated the war dead. The memorial was ill attended on Armistice Day although on Remembrance Sunday it had been busy. Then we had stopped the car for the two minutes, on a journey to see family. As I stood with my wife and the dozen others, cars drove by seemingly oblivious. The silence was in my head. The memories were in my head.

I have written before about my annoyance at not commemorating proper dates and I was glad to see the BBC make an effort on Tuesday with its coverage from The Tower of London and Ypres. Perhaps in 1918 we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the war on the proper day. I find it hard to enjoy the commemoration of the start of the war. On Monday I used my lunch break to join the crowds at the Tower of London for the stunning display:

IMG_0406Wednesday provided a shock, as my daughter’s boyfriend broke his leg during training on an Army course. This flooded memories of other notifications and more remembrance, from my service days of delivering bad news or hearing it.

The growers of the Movember Moustaches raise funds for Men’s Health. By raising funds they hope that there will be fewer notifications or treatments required. I shall not be growing one to join in although for an unshaven weekend I was tempted, but I can support them. My son is growing one – so well done him, He’s growing the one I once had my wife has just commented. I wonder, if, at the end of the month, the growers will be glad to cut, trim, and shave, the hair away. Perhaps some will remain for several years or return next year for an anniversary.

Ramblings on a Referendum

IMG_0169 I’ve just returned from a week in Las Palmas in The Canary Islands of Spain, don’t worry this is not trip advisor. Away from the UK my wife and I missed the Scottish referendum election and much of the ongoing horrors in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine alongside the Ebola crisis. Not that these events have gone away, even the referendum will have ramifications for months in the UK as the politicians will decide which of the bribes they proposed to the Scottish electorate will be fulfilled – oh and England, Wales and Northern Ireland may get some constitutional change too. How generous, although the argument now seems to be either: from Labour on what the impact will be on reducing the ability of Scottish Labour MPs to vote on English matters; the Conservatives need something to continue their fight with  UKIP.
Meanwhile another group of MPs continue to receive their salaries and benefits of MPs without ever attending Parliament or taking up their seats. Sinn Féin step forward no news there.

As I discussed in a previous post the whole referendum process for Scotland was anything but democratic for the rest of the UK in the end 55% of those voting which was 85.5% (thanks for bothering, but what happened to the other 15%) of the 4.3m, or 3.6m decided the future of 64m. We had the unedifying view of all the main political parties disappearing to Scotland with vague promises on DevoMax which they had all decided previously should not have been on the ballot. Promises put forward by Gordon Brown, so we can all believe those!. I think the SNP were right to describe this as a pointless halfway house if Scotland really wanted control it had to vote yes. Further devolved powers do not make us more united. Of course the independence movement failed to mention the real problem – with so much legislation decided by Brussels or other treaty obligations even an independent Scotland would not have had that much control just like Westminster does not. That was if the EU (Spain may well have vetoed), NATO (would take defence commitments) and the UN (they will take anyone) accepted applications. What about the World Bank, IMF, World Health Organisation these international institutions are all part of legislative and economic power base of the world. Would an independent Scotland have joined the European Space Agency? Perhaps it was this and the currency uncertainties that tipped the balance in favour on a no. Who knows perhaps it was the colour of the flag that appealed.

The Liberal Democrats (remember them they are still in the Coalition) have proposed a federal organisation of the UK as part of the reform. My son who has studied this stuff likes the idea. If it creates another layer of bureaucracy which the previous Labour regional assembly proposals did then I would be against. Labour wants to follow the example of London for more power to big cities but then what about those of us that do not live in big cities? Whatever happens Parliamentary reform is long overdue we should have far fewer MPs given the devolved powers already and even fewer in the Lords. Perhaps 500 MPs with devolved powers to regional parliaments and 250 in the Lords – elected please.

Meanwhile the Pope thinks World War 3 is effectively under way due to the conflicts throughout the world. Not quite; however brutal and the number of conflicts. Clearly it makes no difference to the victims whether the Pope thinks it’s a World War or not but human history is full of mostly unreported conflict. The battles in Africa seem never ending mostly based on tribal divisions made worse by the colonial false borders. There seems no easy resolution of the Syria conflict without supporting Assad, the very man the Western powers (and others) wanted removed, in order to defeat the allegedly bigger threat of ISIS, IS or ISL.

The appalling beheading on video of hostages adds to the fear element in the West allowing/forcing the politicians to act as if that one death is worse than the death from Ebola, Malaria, AIDS, or cancer. Horrific yes but so is a bomb from a coalition aircraft or a shell from an ISIS fighter. Remember those wonderful pictures of precision bombing. Someone’s son, brother, father, daughter, sister or mother has just been publicly killed. No squeamishness from western media in showing that video, but of course the victims are not journalists or aid workers. Not that we know who was in the vehicle or building alongside the fighter. The famous unverified reports beloved of BBC speak especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, must not get in trouble with the government when the next license fee discussion is under way even to the point of not reporting a story about a famous tennis player in case his view influences (only during voting day) the Scottish Referendum – really? The BBC’s efforts not to fall foul or the Electoral Commission are sometimes laughable, just like the promises of constitutional reform which we will now have to sit through.

New Books – Philip G Henley

Phenweb Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of two new books by

Philip G Henley

Both available now on Amazon

An Agent’s Rise is the sequel to An Agent’s Demise

Cover Plain Front 300

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Observers Series Part One – The World of Fives is the first in a new science fiction series. Please also see The Interplanetary Geographic Service

World of Fives cover

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Intolerance

After my excursion into religion last week I did think of writing on a less controversial subject like gay rights or paedophilia. This week’s headlines have been dominated by the events in Iraq whilst Ukraine nervously continues. Elsewhere the impact of missing girls in Nigeria has not gone away nor has the continued fighting in Afghanistan even if it is now local troops fighting rather than American or UK troops, or the other NATO forces that have been deployed there and shed their blood as well. As with Iraq, coalition forces will soon have departed and we can fully expect Afghanistan to return to its historical state of occasional tribal warfare. The Pakistan forces have just launched a major offensive.

All of the conflicts have one thing in common – religious intolerance. Just as my previous blog attracted some comments it does not mean I shall give up on my view in that all religions behave appallingly, given half the chance, and yes I do include Christianity in that view. This time I am not focusing on historical inaccuracies or whether the Bible say this or that or the Koran , Torah, and onward into whatever belief system or set of rules that for one reason or another the individual believes is the truth.

One thing is clear they cannot all be right, they cannot all have their version of God and religious duty. At the moment the conflict spreading from Syria to Iraq is between different branches of Islamic faith, Sunni and Shia. With perhaps the ISIS or ISIA forces another version of Sunni. Once Europe was full of competing version of Protestants and Catholics, helped by tribal rivalries amongst warring families so to see the Islamic faith fighting their wars should not be surprising.

Then we have on-going issues between in Muslim, Sikh and Hindu faiths in India.

The common factor is religion, not resources for a change. Organised religion as a proxy for the power of individuals. Whether it’s a leader in Iran, Saudi, Syria or or the never-ending fight of the Jewish faith and Arbia still seen in the battles over the future of Israel and Palestine. It was not that long ago that Hammas and Hezbolah were taking their fight onto the streets of what passes for a modern city in Palestine.

Compare and contrast these activities with more secular liberal societies. Has Western Europe become immune to religious tension. Certainly on the scale seen in other nations. The argument falls down where we have Syria and Lebanon. Both partially secular on the surface, Assad’s regime was and is oppressive but there did appear to be some religious freedom.

1960’s Lebanon was seen as a typical Mediterranean European-like city before it descended into chaos which thanks to the activities of Syria and Israel (expelling Palestinians) remains on the precipice of civil war.

What of the role of West in all this, the West a loose term for the alliance of USA and it’s allies. Falsehoods led to the second war in Iraq. The world’s moral indignation after 11th September 2001 has been lost. Instead of concentrating on fixing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iraq was attacked and Afghanistan ignored until it was too late. Just like Afghanistan was ignored after the Soviet Union left until the Taliban were firmly in charge.

Now we have nations whose idea of the rule of law is secret courts and mass surveillance of their own citizens using carefully worded statements to explain how they comply with a law. We have had secret rendition, we still have Guantanamo and even here in the UK we need the new Supreme Court to tell us whether a trial, for the first time in our legal history, can be held completely in-Camera.  Is this the freedom we believe we want. Judging by the lack of outrage ot these events I suppose it is. I looked at the Newspaper headlines today. There were more stories about the sex lives of minor celebrities and various free offers than there were about any of these issues.

Judging by the number of people who bother to vote in the UK approx 30% in the latest local and Euro polls and approx 60% in last general election. No one cares. The scandal of MP expenses rumbles on but virtually all of the MPs were returned at the last election just because they wore a particular rosette. The average MP is elected with 35% of the vote from 60% of the electorate who bother to turn out. Democracy in action but at least it’s better than a religious dictatorship, although it’s no guarantor of freedom of expression, religion or action and as for equality don’t get me started.

Controversy for Controversy’s Sake

I recently commented on the GoodReads forum http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1471999 discussing the subject “Would You Write About Controversy

I said I might blog so here it is starting with my own comment, I haven’t reproduced others’ comments as I haven’t asked the writer’s permission.

One of my favourite discussion subjects along with censorship.  Freedom of speech in the UK is not as formally protected as it is in the USA, but it is protected.  There are always controversial subjects although the USA arguments of religion and politics are not as ribald, neither is abortion.

One of the most interesting controversies, over the years, has been Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.  Irrespective of political viewpoint it is a work of fiction, but look what it led to and that was mostly in a pre-Internet Social Media age.  Did this book sell more copies because its opponents were so vociferous in denouncing it and the author?  Has Salmon Rushdie sold more of his other books as a result or has he changed writing subjects to avoid further death threats?

In my own work, controversial decisions and some politics are backdrops to my stories.  In my first attempt, it was the creation of the dossiers to support the war in Iraq.  With Syria going on, the recent UK decision to not support military action can be traced to the Iraq dossier debacle.  In my second, I deal with several controversial subjects like rape and summary execution, hidden in a story about survivors.  My third has insider trading to generate huge wealth and the misbehaviour of big business.  Who knows what I might write next as news stories often provide a creative spark.

At the front of all of my books is a disclaimer.  This is a work of Fiction, in other words I made it up, it’s just a story, I don’t necessarily share my characters opinions, although I like to have a basis of fact behind all my stories.”

That said, is controversy useful?  In an age of trolls, flame wars, email barrages, and 24/7 media sound and video bites, should a writer of a blog, article or book deliberately try to be controversial.  Another quote attributed to Brendan Behan

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

In the UK we have had threats of rape caused by promotion of the image on a bank note followed by more threats to female writers and journalists who had the temerity to comment on the threats.  Opinion piece writers in newspapers and other media are supposed to be controversial, that’s why they are employed.  A newspaper editorial and front page headline are designed to support the political leanings of the newspaper and act as an advertisement for sales.

Let’s be controversial then – Martin Luther King, Jr said

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

A nice uncontroversial quote, so lets dissect it.

The ultimate – really this is the ultimate meaning the peak, the top? Are we sure it’s really the ultimate.

Measure – by what metric is this a measurement and to what standard and against what comparitor?

Of a Man – Many commentators would regard this as sexist, but of course at the time of the quote man in this sense meant humankind or to use the terminology mankind still shouldn’t the same measure be used for women?

I’ll stop there I have no wish to denigrate Mr King who was a fantastic orator on the speeches I have seen, I don’t know if he was a good man or not I didn’t know him personally or professionally.

So, if I write about abortion in a novel, will I face controversy and criticism regardless of the viewpoint the character, or characters, propose.  Under-age sex or any sex often causes controversy.  I’m not sure why, it has always happened and despite sex education, moralistic pronouncements, campaigns and so on it always will.  Should I avoid that subject to avoid controversy?  Because a character has under-age (a subjective legalistic viewpoint with different morals, laws and conventions around the world) sex in a story should that automatically rate a book as adult only content?  If I write about it does that make me a paedophile (another nice controversy there).  If I look at a naked woman in a Rueben’s picture in an art gallery that is cultural, if I look at a naked woman on a porn site it’s bad or degenerates women.  For women is a Michael Angelo sculpture porn?  It’s a naked man!  My word we cannot show that on prime time TV and if the man had an erection it would be porn and not suitable for any regular TV viewers.  In case nobody noticed the human race has survived and expanded thanks to sex including erect penises.  If you don’t want them described in a book or film don’t read or watch, but why would you avoid human nature.  I don’t particularly like watching people chew gum, maybe we could censor that, but of course I might just be trying to be controversial so you will read my blog, if I tag it correctly for Internet searches.

If I argue for against creationism, Islam, Christianity, Scientology, Buddhism, etc., etc., will I attract more interest, more blog followers, more complaints, will that sell more of my books.  Who knows?  There are millions of blogs, tweets, and emails.  Thousands of newspaper articles around the world and nearly seven billion people on the planet each with their own opinions and beliefs.  Just because a politician, media outlet, or journalist says something in Iran, the UK or the USA does not make it so or true.  In general I think there is too much opinion dressed up as facts.  If you hear the words common sense, the people believe, it is God’s wish, step back, ask if that is really true is it a fact or an opinion?

If you don’t discuss controversial subjects then you are simply avoiding facts which is often the advice given for polite conversation – no religion, sex, or politics.  Whichever side of an opinion you may take, remember it’s an opinion not a fact.  I like to argue, I like controversy, I think I’m right and so do you.

Now back to writing my next story about a homosexual atheist who rapes a disabled veteran on his nation’s flag whilst looking at kiddie porn having forced his 14 year old sister to have an abortion only because the father was a black Islamic preacher– or maybe not.  Still it’s an idea…  now for the tags, light blue touch paper stand back and….