29 March 2007

Garton Ash - Government propagandist

Mr. Garton Ash appears to be Mr Blair's chief propagandist, Blair's very own Lord Haw Haw. In his latest demagogic missive he attempts to pressure Europe to help the British out of another fine mess they've gotten themselves into..

Why on earth should Europe help Britain, a criminal nation that launched an illegal and immoral war of aggression on Iraq and is seeking to do the same to Iran along with its American master?

The stench of the crime and corruption coming from Downing Street is insupportable. What is simply amazing is some people's (eg. Garton Ash) ability to believe pathological liars and war criminals like Blair, even when their lies have been proved in public. Either they are gullible and shouldn't be in the positions they are, or they are part of the propaganda effort in which case they are equally as criminal as our 'dear leader'.

Paul Reynolds has it exactly right on the BBC: "Britain and Iran are engaged in a propaganda battle over the 15 captured British sailors and marines" and both Paul Reynolds himself, the Guardian and Mr Garton Ash are at the forefront of British efforts.

Propaganda wars are played out in the media and we already know the servile attitude of the Guardian and the BBC towards this government. With the continued demonisation of Iran and its leaders over the last 12 months, this incident is exactly what the criminal warmongers in the UK were looking for.

In the famous Downing Street memos we have already seen how the Blair government found it "necessary to create the conditions" to make the illegal action of regime change 'legal' in Iraq. They failed by the way, it was a war of agression the "supreme war crime". (Originally published on Monday, March 10, 2003 by the Guardian/UK)

We also know that Bush and Blair discussed three possible ways of provoking a confrontation with Iraq, remember the memo revealed by the New York Times (subscription required) and reported by the BBC: "The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours...If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

We also know that they intended to mould public opinion or as Downing Street put it, according to the leaked memo in The Times: "Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action...An information campaign will be needed which has to be closely related to an overseas information campaign designed to influence...the Islamic World and the wider international community" For information campaign read propaganda in the press, exactly what we are seeing now.

Britain is now no better than Stalinist Russia, with regard to certain media in so far as taking the government line. Note how the BBC and Guardian always take as gospel truth whatever they are told by this government. I mean look closely at the wording of certain statements, and look at the wording on all the maps published in the press, who would think that the maritime boundaries in the Shatt-al-Arab are under dispute?

As Craig Murray says: "The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too" and "the line the British government had produced has been drawn by the British government. They failed to say that and are trying to pass it off as an international boundary. So I really don't see why I should not call it fake. It is fake."

And its not the only fake. Once again the ""evidence" provided by the British government just does not stand up to scrutiny.

They show a photo of a GPS in a helicopter above a ship. NO time or date is shown, so this photo could have been taken at any time.

However, according to the BBC the photo was taken 2 days after the incident and the boat had moved since the incident, Paul Reynolds again: "The British coordinates were given as 29 50.36 North and 048 43.08 East. (Note: the reading on the photo at the top, taken from a helicopter over the ship still at anchor two days afterwards, is slightly different as the ship's captain said the anchor had dragged since the incident)."

So in fact there is no proof that the coordinates given by the MOD are correct. None. There is also no proof the ship in the photo is the same ship that was searched by the Britsh prior to their arrest. Then we have the hullabaloo about supposed mistreatment, possibe torture, etc.

Complete propagandistic bullshit. Once again no proof at all. And what if what the British female said was actually the truth? But when they are eventually released they will be made to sign the Official Secrets Act (if they haven't already done so) and told to shut up.

05 March 2007

Remember those "Austrian" sniper rifles?

On the 13 February 2007, in a story in the Daily Telegraph, Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent claimed that "Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned."

Harding then went on to assert that "within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon" and that the "find is the latest in a series of discoveries that indicate that Teheran is providing support to Iraq's Shia insurgents."

Harding's argument goes that "The discovery of the sniper rifles will further encourage those in Washington who want to see Iran's uranium-enriching facilities destroyed before a nuclear weapon is produced."

Harding also claimed that "Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported." However, the previous day, there were no rifles on display when US forces presented "evidence" that weapons from Iran are being used in Iraq.

The story was picked up by the International Herald Tribune in its story also dated 13 February 2007 "Report: Austrian rifles supplied to Iran have found their way to Iraqi insurgents".

The IHT report differed somewhat from the Telegraph report in that it sought comments from the Austrian company concerned, Steyr Mannlicher GmbH : "Franz Holzschuh, Steyr's CEO, said the company had not officially been contacted by anyone to verify the serial numbers on the rifles. He said there was a possibility the weapons were reproductions and that there were "thousands" of these in circulation."

This, presumably prompted the Telegraph to follow up the story the following day: "We are not responsible for rifles, says Austria" Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 14/02/2007

"Franz Holzschuh, Steyr's chief executive, said the company had not been contacted by anyone officially to verify the serial numbers on the rifles. He said it was possibile that the weapons were copies."

Having heard nothing since then, I e-mailed the company on 28 February 2007:

"Gesendet: Mittwoch, 28. Februar 2007 13:41
An: Office Betreff: Rifles in Iraq?

Dear Sir,

I read with interest the news release by your company on your website ( http://www.steyr-mannlicher.com/index.php?id=248&L=1 ) in which you state "The serial numbers of the guns found in Iraq have so far not been forwarded to the producer for identification. In order to find out whether the weapons have been produced by STEYR MANNLICHER the production/serial numbers need to be checked. Only then will it be possible to clarify whether these are products originated in Austria."

I am a Blogger ( http://dailysketcher.blogspot.com/ ) and am writing a follow-up to this story. I would just like to ask your company if you have now received the serial numbers of the guns found in Iraq, and if so were they in fact produced by your company?

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer this mail.

Yours Sincerely,"

This morning, 05 March 2007 I received this response:

From: Reply
To: The Daily Sketch
Date: 05-mar-2007 11:46

Subject: Rifles in Iraq?

Sent by: steyr-mannlicher.com

Dear Sir,

thank you very much for your email.

At this time we does not have received any serial numbers of the
mentioned rifles.

Thank you very much in advance for your follow up story.

Best Regards,


Over 2 weeks later and the US have not sent the serial numbers. Does anyone else find this odd?

01 March 2007

Letter to Nature re: Death toll in Iraq: survey team takes on its critics

The latest edition to Nature has an article by Jim Giles "Death toll in Iraq: survey team takes on its critics" (1 free view then subscription required).

Here is my e-mail to the Editor:

Dear Philip Campbell,

I have just read the article authored by Jim Giles in the latest edition of Nature. In it, he gives substantial space to the views of "researchers" such as "Madelyn Hicks, a psychiatrist at King's College London" and "Michael Spagat, an expert in conflict studies at Royal Holloway, University of London", who have both "published criticisms of the study's methodology". The first regarding "whether the interviews could have been done in the time stated", the latter regarding "main-street bias".

I am writing to you to ask if your publication made any checks as to why these two researchers should be so interested in challenging the Lancet figures? So interested in fact that Spagat has dedicated a whole section of the Royal Holloway Dept of Economics web page entirely to this issue and even published a research paper ("Bias in epidemiological studies of conflict mortality") on the subject. Is this purely scholarly interest? I believe not and my own research has lead me to this conclusion.

Prof. Michael Spagat (along with the co-author of his Bias 'paper - Prof. Neil Johnson) is an "academic visitor" to CERAC. Madelyn Hicks is a "research associate" for CERAC.

CERAC is the "Conflict Analysis Resource Centre, a private research organization specialized in data-intensive studies of conflict and criminal violence. Based in Bogotá, Colombia, CERAC was established in December 2004 by an international and multidisciplinary group of researchers."

CERAC is according to Spagat himself "the brainchild of my infinitely energetic and entreprenuerial PhD student, Jorge Restrepo" and Spagat further describes CERAC as "a think tank that we have set up in Bogota specializing in the analysis of conflict and violence".

CERAC has compiled its own Integrated Data Set for Iraq, the CERAC Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID). According to Spagat et al "The CIID builds on the event description from three datasets that monitor violence in Iraq: Iraq Body Count (IBC), iCasualties and ITERATE." Prof. Mike Spagat is one of the co-authors (along with the aforementioned Prof. Neil Johnson) of the research paper called "Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism" which uses the CIID. The Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway, University of London, also uses IBC in its country specific datasets.

To summarise, both Hicks and Spagat have connections to CERAC, both CERAC and Spagat's Dept. of Economics base their research on figures provided by Iraq Body Count. This leads me to believe that there is a conflict of interest here.

Iraq Body Count has been in the forefront of attacks on the Lancet study. On 16 October 2006 Iraq Body Count issued a Press Release: "Reality checks: some responses to the latest Lancet estimates" by Hamit Dardagan, John Sloboda, and Josh Dougherty. In it IBC state "In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data."

On 21 October 2006, an international group of eminent epidemiologists and other Public Health researchers published a letter in the Melbourne Age in which they stated that "the study was undertaken by respected researchers assisted by one of the world's foremost biostatisticians. Its methodology is sound and its conclusions should be taken seriously."

On 23 October 2006, John Sloboda, IBC's director, sent an e-mail to many (if not all) the signatories of that letter, pointing to IBC's own attack and the further attack in Science which used the arguments put forward by Spagat, Johnson, Hicks - the CERAC group, and challenging the signatories "how, in particular, you would defend the study against these criticisms which we, and many others, believe cast serious doubt on the author's claims that the study's results can validly be extrapolated to provide a meaningful estimate for the whole of Iraq."

Why has IBC been at the forefront of attacks on the Lancet Study? One doesn't need to be a scientist to understand this. If the Lancet figures are correct, then IBC figures are quite simply a gross undercount, not surprising given the chaotic conditions in Iraq and IBC's own methodology, which relies on 'reported deaths'. Indeed, IBC states on its own web page (click on the Quick-FAQ link on the Home page) "Our maximum therefore refers to reported deaths - which can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war."

And the CERAC group, Hicks, Spagat, et al? They have spent a lot of time and energy producing research papers for their specific Universities and for CERAC, using IBC data. If IBC figures are wrong, and the Lancet figures are correct, then the conclusions reached in these research papers and indeed any other that used the IBC figures, could be seriously compromised.

Consequently, IBC, Spagat and Hicks all have a vested interest in seeing that the Lancet report is discredited. On 03 November 2006, I e-mailed Dr. Hicks with the same informaton and asked for her comments. I am still waiting for a reply.

Curiously, the overwhelming opinion of scientists in the field of bio-statistics support the Lancet study, yet politicians such as Bush, Blair, Howard rubbished it the day it came out, and the further criticisms have come from 'interested' quarters. The attacks on the Lancet study appear to be political, not scientific, and I would be interested to hear your comments on this matter.

Yours Sincerely,