MARK FRANKLAND

I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ISIS WANT THEIR OWN THERMOPYLAE. WE'RE GIVING IT TO THEM ON A PLATE

Donald Trump continually assures us everything is on track with his project to make America great again. Well, good for him. And a part of this vision is his determination to see his country start winning wars again. This particular element of the Donald's big dream makes the rest of us feel a tad edgy. Basic logic dictates that to be able to win a war you need to find yourself a war to fight. Of course it is rare for America to find itself in the position when it hasn't got a war going on somewhere. Right now the bad guys are of course those long bearded bad boys of ISIS and in his election campaign the Donald promised his supporters he was going to 'bomb the shit out of them'.

So is this about to be the first evidence of Trump helping America to turn the corner and get itself back on the road to greatness again? Well Donald certainly thinks it is. This kind of language comes straight out of the many 'how to succeed in business' self help books he must have read over his years of borrowing loads of money and losing it all. 

First is first, second is nowhere.

Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser.

You know the kind of thing. It is the beating heart of the American dream which has always worshiped at the alter of winners. Trump is pretty sure his can take the tacky bravado which has served him so well down the years and to succeed where the likes of Hitler, Napoleon and Alexander the Great failed. There will be no lost wars for the Donald. Only the sweet taste of victory.

Because winning is everything, right? We know this. That's why the 1% own more or less everything and the rest of us make like schmucks.

The problem is that what works in the testosterone fueled world of American capitalism doesn't always play out the same in the world at large. Sometimes a heroic defeat can have a much greater potency than an easy victory. The right kind of heroic defeat can be like money in the bank. A canny investment for the future. It can mean the chance to fight and win another day.

I don't think Donald has quite got his head around this. He isn't alone of course. A common feature of many modern leaders is their complete inability to read history. They like to live in the now. They like to live in their own bubbles. Well many, many moons ago I got myself a 2-1 in History and I still think it is a pretty good idea to look back before being too cocky about the immediate future. I vividly recall reading a superb article by Robert Fisk on the day GW Bush rolled into Iraq. Fisk urged readers to get a hold of a copy of 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' by TE Lawrence. As in Lawrence of Arabia. The book provided a perfect manual on how to get a result in Arabia. It showed how Bush and Blair were sleep walking into a prolonged nightmare which would do for them in the end.

How right he was. 

The lesson Tony and GW should have learned wasn't exactly difficult. If you go into the Muslim with overwhelming force and all guns blazing, the people who live there will see you as Crusaders and they will fight you to their last breath. No matter how many battles you win, you will never win the war. So we won a bunch of battles and we killed half a million people and we lost the war. Just like TE Lawrence predicted all those years before.

When a war becomes a battle for survival, heroic defeats can be pure gold. They inspire everyone else to dig deeper and fight on in honour of the memory of those who fought with such heroism. A heroic defeat can have a much greater impact than an easy victory. Big victories won by overwhelming force are seldom remembered with any kind of reverence. Heroic defeats are a different matter altogether. They are remembered forever. Statues are erected. Public holidays are called. Movies are made and re-made. 

We've had a few of our own down the years. We all love watching Zulu every Christmas. Most of us have heard of Rorke's Drift. Not many of us have heard of Ulundi where a punitive force of Brits taught the locals a lesson they weren't about to forget in a hurry. We had Gatling guns and cannons. They had spears. Ulundi duly became one of the many forgotten massacres we carried out in the name of Empire which we now prefer to not to talk about much.

Image result for rorke's drift


To this day we recall our gallant defeat at Dunkirk with much more fondness than our turning point victory at El Alamein. 

History is filled with any number of examples of heroic defeats which become inspirational for future generations. As things unfold in Mosul, I think it is worth looking at two in particular.

First up is the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. On one side was a monumental Persian army made up of over a hundred thousand infantry and cavalry. On the other side were 300 Spartans who blocked the narrow road to the heart of Greece. We've all seen the movies. The Spartans took the idea of defying the odds to a whole new level. The narrowness of the strip of land between cliffs and sea meant the vast numerical superiority of the Persians could not be made to count. Wave after wave of attackers were sliced to bits as they met the Spartan shield wall. The Persians won in the end. Of course they did. But the Greeks were duly inspired by the heroism and sacrifice of the 300 and they duly united around the magnificence of the defeat and found a way to turn it all around at the battle of Marathon.

Nobody remembers Emperor Xerses and his vast army. Instead we watch blockbuster movies about King Leonidas and his 300 hundred Spartans. Maybe winning isn't everything after all.

Fast forward to 1863. A company of 63 officers and men of the French Foreign Legion were patrolling a forgotten corner of Mexico in an unnoticed colonial war. Their leader, Captain Jean Danjou knew there were enemy forces in the area. He didn't know how many. The Mexican commander, Francisco De Paula Milan, knew all about the presence of the French and he knew exactly how many they were. 

63.

Not enough.

Milan laid his trap and waited. The company of Legionnaires duly walked straight into the trap and found themselves holed up in a hacienda and surrounded by a force of 3000. Danjou gathered his guys about him and got them to swear an oath. The oath? Oh that was simple enough. Fight to the last man. Fight to the last breath. No surrender. And for what? For a few square yards in a forgotten war fought thousands of miles from France. Danjou had been around the block a time of two for the Legion and had a wooden hand to prove it. As it happened, he was killed early in the battle but his guys were true to their word.

They fought on and on and on. After eight hours there were only five men left and the farmhouse was ablaze. For the umpteenth time, Milan called a halt to the fighting and offered the Legionnaires the chance to surrender. When they had been down to 12 men, the officer in command had given a one word reply to the offer of surrender: 'Merde'. This time the French chose a different option. 

They fixed bayonets and charged. All five of them. Not surprisingly it didn't go so well.

As defeats go, Camerone was about as complete a defeat as you could find. Once the dust settled there was only one man left alive.
But it didn't take very long for the legend of Camerone to make its way back across the Altantic to France and to this day the men of the Foreign Legion stop whatever they are doing on April 30 to celebrate their most legendary heroic defeat. Danjou's wooden hand remains their most treasured possession.




For a hundred and fifty years, armies all over the world have been terrified at the prospect of coming up against the men of the Foreign Legion for a very simple reason. Legionnaires never give up. Their reverence to the 63 men of Camerone means they never throw in the towel. The legacy of that particular defeat is still strong and so long as there is a Foreign Legion, it will always be strong.

Which brings me to ISIS. To Mosul. To right now. 

Donald promises to bomb the shit out of ISIS. What does he think his air force has been doing for the last few years? Recent Pentagon estimates suggest at least 40,000 ISIS fighters have been killed care of American airstrikes since the campaign began. I would have thought such a figure is more enough for them to have had the shit bombed out of them. Obviously not as far as the Donald is concerned.

Now the net is being tightened around Mosul. We see it on the days when the home news is quiet. Not much happening today? OK. Nae bother. We'll fill up with five minutes from Mosul. It's always good for padding out.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a World Service podcast whilst I was splitting some logs. The topic was Mosul and the battle which is taking so long to win. And suddenly I stopped what I was doing and listened a little harder. The presenter described the forces facing each other. 

In the blue corner was a mixed force of just over 80,000 - British and American Special Forces, British and American fighter bombers and drones, The Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerger, and various Shia Militia groups.

In the red corner.....

400 ISIS fighters.

400.

As in 80,000 and two air forces versus 400.

As in a force of just a hundred more than King Leonidas commanded so many centuries ago.

The 400 know they aren't going to win. They are completely surrounded now and they have a simple choice. It is the same choice as the Spartans had at Thermopylae and the Legionnaires had at Camerone. Fight or die? Nobody is in much doubt as to which option they will choose.

We don't hear much about the 400 against 80,000 part of the Mosul story. We hear lots of stuff about how they are filthy terrorists and cowards. We hear how they are nothing more than human cockroaches who deserve to be exterminated. Who need to be exterminated.

And of course they will be exterminated. With extreme prejudice. Because 80,000 against 400 is a foregone conclusion. But does this mean we will win? Or will the legend of the 400 who fought down to the last man go on to sustain ISIS and similar groups in the years to come? It seems to me the guys with the long beards are rather better at reading history books than our leaders. They will capture the heroic defeat on their mobile phones and bequeath it to history. They will become legends among the millions who feel they are being oppressed by the Crusader nations of the West.

ISIS are not looking for victory in Mosul. Instead they are creating their very own Thermopylae. From where I am sitting, it looks like we are playing ball every step of the way. In a few weeks we will beam pictures around the world of a bombed flat city and 400 dead guys. Sadly we seem incapable of understanding how this looks from the other side of the fence. We will see the dead 400 as nothing more than so many cockroaches. Many in the Muslim world will see them very differently. 

I wonder how they will be remembered in a few hundred years? 
 Image result for isis mosul

  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

KEEP ON SENDING ALL YOUR HATE, CONTEMPT AND DERISION NORTH OF THE BORDER GUYS. YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO MAKE 'YES' STRONGER. AND STRONGER...

The last few months have been pretty rough for those of us who like to think we are in touch with what Abe Lincoln once called the 'better angels of our nature.'

Brexit, Trump, Farage, Putin, Le Pen.... 

And for a while the world seemed to be turning darker with every passing week. Those who tried to highlight the alarming similarities between the world right now and the world in the 1930's were screamed down by the rampant followers of Trump and Brexit. Never before had Farage seemed so horribly smug.

And slowly but surely, people stopped uttering that most dreaded of sentences - 'it couldn't happen again.' Those are words which should never be spoken. The next Srebrinica is always waiting around the next corner.

Always.

When Nicola Sturgeon took to the airwaves to throw down the new Indyref gauntlet at the feet of our Westminster masters, there was no dancing in the streets. I watched three different news programs that night. Reporters had been dispatched to the streets of Scotland to feel the pulse of the public. I guess there must have been about twenty pavement interviews and surprise, surprise not a single one of the people they dug out were within a country mile of voting 'Yes' next time around.

All the news channels carried the same message. The good people of Scotland don't want another referendum. They hate the idea. They are frightened by the very thought. They know in their bones their country is far too small, poor and pathetic to even consider cutting the umbilical cord. I turned and said to Carol 'you would never guess the polls are 50/50.'

Never in a month of Sundays.

The common theme of the news that night? Contempt and derision. A lack of patience with an unruly child. When will they bloody well grow up? A jolly good slapping is what they need...

The next morning I wrote a blog and announced to the online world that I was bang up for the fray. And then? Well the 'and then?' bit is always the most interesting part of any blog. In the past, most of my blogs about 'Yes' have been popular. Would it be different this time? Was I throwing out my enthusiasm into an online world of jaded indifference? I tweeted the link to all the usual suspects but not many were much interested in helping my words on their way.

And then....

Well right now the blog is well on the way to being read over 10,000 times. Is that a lot? I have no idea. It is certainly a lot for me.

Almost from the moment I hit the 'publish' button it seemed as if the sun had broken through the clouds and for the first time in ages and the forces of darkness appeared to have been stopped in their tracks.

Over the pond, Trump had his worst day so far. All of a sudden he seems a whole lot more shambling and pathetic and a whole lot less threatening. Check out this link for a magnificent list of all the things that went pear shaped for the Donald yesterday.



Bloody great, right? 

And things just kept on getting brighter as the unexpectedly warm sunshine burnt away the dark clouds. The utterly hideous Gert Wilders was completely humiliated in the Dutch election. The latest Fascist bogeyman was only able to scrape together 13% of the vote. What a sickening blow for all the crowing Brexiteers and their warnings of an EU in terminal decline. 

In France the equally ghastly Marine Le Pen seems to have run into a brick wall and stands little or no chance of doing a Donald. 

Back in London a whole series of cracks started to open up in the seemingly mighty wall of the rampant Tory party. The Electoral Commission went public on fact they are all over the half of Theresa May's backroom team like a metaphorical rash. May herself suddenly seemed less of the ice queen and more of the bad tempered harridan. A few critical paragraphs in the Daily Mail proved to be more than enough to send her into a panicking tantrum. Her answer to having a bad day? She threw her friend and Downing St neighbour 'Spreadsheet Phil' under a double decker bus. It rather looks like Nicola has got well and truly under her skin. 

The most encouraging thing of all for those of us on the 'YES' side of the coming argument has been the reaction to the prospect of IndyRef 2 that has come from south of the border. Last time many said we were 'love bombed' by England. Oh please don't leave us Scotland. We all love you. We really, really do. Look we're even building a cairn in Gretna Green just to prove it. We love your kilts and your Iron Bru and your haggis and and your..... well you know... all of it. And we promise never to laugh at deep fried Mars bar jokes ever again. And we promise never to suggest you are all smack addicts and subsidy junkies. It was only locker room banter. Honest. And of course we have done a few things we regret, but that is what relationships are like, right. Yes, yes, we know we always used Scottish soldiers when we needed some cannon fodder, and yes we probably should have gone a bit easier after Culloden, and in hindsight we maybe shouldn't have used the 4000 prisoners we took at the battle of Braemar as slaves in Barbados. But that is how it is with relationships, right! Good times and bad times. But you can't divorce us now. Not after 300 years. How can you even think about it.....

Love bombing. Tacky, tawdry, toe curling, yes. But I guess they did their best to pretend the passion still burned strong.

Especially with oil at $100 a barrel and the UK balance of payments well and truly up the Khyber.

Well it doesn't look like we're about to get any love bombing this time around. This time carpet bombing looks like the order of the day. We are about to get a lot more of Theresa May fixing us with her best Cruella Deville stare and telling us to stopping playing silly games and to concentrate instead on running our silly little country.

This time around we are about to be put on the hit list of the English tabloids. We will be put in the firing line along with all the other enemies of England's green and pleasant land. We now are the betrayers of Brexit. Stab in the back merchants. Traitors who should be lined up against a wall and shot. We are every bit as bad as the Muslims and the benefit cheats and the EU 27 and the supreme court judges and Michael Hesseltine and the remoaners and the European Human Rights Convention and Polish people and......

Oh it's a long list and we are well and truly on it. 

Just check out this charming chap who took to the airwaves yesterday to let the world know exactly what he thought of the Scots. For those of you of a nervous disposition, I best warn you to brace yourselves for a minute and a half of racist bile.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/you-fg-jock-cs-englishman-10033610#ICID=sharebar_twitter

There is going to be a whole lot more of this kind thing. And every time this kind of meathead pulls himself out of the swamp to splurge this kind of garbage the 'YES' vote will just keep going up and up.

And up.

It won't be so very long before we start to hear about Scots getting abuse when they look to pay for their goods with Scottish notes in English shops. It won't be a majority. It won't even be anything more than the tiniest minority. But that won't matter. It never does. Instead it will change perception. It will give clarity to the choice on the table. Do you want to be a part of a ghastly club where immigrants are despised and shadowy billionaires call the shots? The world of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage? Or do you want to be a part of something better? All of a sudden the economic questions won't seem quite so overpowering. All of a sudden it will be all about right and wrong. Do we want light or darkness? Do we want hope or hate?

I'm pretty sure the good folk of Scotland will choose the better angels of our nature.

The future is bright guys.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

THE UNIONISTS REACTED TO THE NEWS OF INDYREF 2 WITH WHITE FACED ANGER. NO WONDER. THEY KNOW THEY ARE STARING DEFEAT IN THE FACE.

So that's it guys. The time of 'will she, won't she?' is done and dusted. She has. IndyRef 2 is no longer an 'if'. As of yesterday it became a 'when'. 

In the wake of Nicola dropping her bombshell, the airwaves were filled with shouty people from England telling us how we really, really don't want a second independence referendum. It seems London once again knows best. What could the SNP possibly know about the way the Scots feel? 

I am pretty sure most of my fellow travelers on the 'Yes' side of the argument will have been punching the air with relief. Is this the ideal time to fire the starting gun? No, of course it isn't. In an ideal world we would have waited for a year's worth of polls showing a 60% plus majority for our independence. But the world of 2017 is a long, long way from being ideal. The big worry was always the 2021 Scottish Elections and the 'Yes' side losing a majority in Holyrood. And then what? Who knows. A bird in the hand is a hundred percent better than a bird in the bush. Right now we have the ability to take our chances. Of course Indyref 2 isn't about to be any kind of slam dunk, but now is a whole lot better than never.

Yesterday we were treated to a preview of the Unionist line which will become horribly familiar over the coming months. The Scottish people don't want this..... the last referendum was horribly divisive.... you're economy is a joke .... your schools are a joke... your hospitals are a joke .... your parliament is a joke... you're a joke.....

The British economy is a magnificent rolling juggernaut. 

The Scottish economy makes Zimbabwe look like Finland.

They never learn do they? They could have taken the news with dignity, respect and class. Now that would have been a bit of a problem. But they didn't. They were no more able to resist being condescending than a crack addict is able to resist the next pipe. 

Theresa May had the chance to take the news with a bit of statesmanship. It was her big opportunity to look the people of Scotland in the eye and start to punt a positive view of our treasured Union. Instead she did what she now seems to do all the time. She pandered to the Daily Mail.

She sneered and did her mocking headmistress act. Big mistake lady.

Of course the sneering was as predictable as winter snow falling on Moscow. What was rather more interesting was the white faced anger most of them completely failed to hide. Wow, were they ever raging. 

David Mundell was hopping about like a man who had spilled a mug of boiling coffee in his crotch. He was absolutely beside himself. This was probably quite understandable. As Secretary Of State for Scotland he was supposed to be the Tory with a finger on the pulse of the Northern Province. Had he been telling his Prime Minister not to worry, it was all an SNP bluff? And were his ears still on fire from the screaming angry phone call from Number 10 he had just endured? 

You useless, worthless, pathetic piece of shit!!! You said she would never do it! Christ I wish I could fire you..........

And of course David knows he is in for a pretty grim couple of years as the main man in the firing line. And when the Union falls apart after 300 years, his career will be deader than dead. There will be no knighthood and nice cosey seat in the House of Lords for Scotland's last Westminster Tory. He's about to be the fall guy and yesterday you could see it in his eyes.

Theresa May's face also said it all. The anger was in danger of morphing into full on hate. Is this so very surprising? Of course it isn't. Nicola's bombshell was the Prime Minister's worst nightmare for a whole bunch of reasons, none of which she could mention.

Behind the arrogance and the bluster, there must be blind terror in the corridors of Whitehall. The Brexit negotiations look doomed before they start. The EU 27 are going to play hardball over the divorce payments and Theresa May knows she will be between a rock and a hard place from day one. The EU negotiators will demand their pound of flesh and the Daily Mail will do all they can to make sure Britain doesn't pay it. No wonder there is already plenty of talk about the UK throwing a tantrum and storming out of the talks before they really get started.

May knows she has barely a decent card in the hand she is about to play. The shadowy money men who prop up the cardboard cut out party she leads will have already laid down the law. Only one thing matters and only one.

The beloved City of London.

She will be expected to trade everything in exchange for business as usual in the City. Well yesterday Nicola wrenched a few of those cards from her hand. No wonder the Tories decided to grab control of post Brexit fishing and farming policy. Once again these key chunks of the Scottish economy were about to be sacrificed in exchange for business as usual for the City.

Well it ain't so easy now. She might try to buy off the Spaniards with promises of Scottish fish, but her empty offer will be met with mocking laughter. It's not yours to give lady. And if she is seen trying to  sell out Scotland to look after London banks, she will make Independence a near certainty.

Then of course there is the border nightmare. Ever since the Brexit vote, the party line on the Irish border has been problem, what problem! Of course there won't be a problem. The border will remain as open as open can be. Just like the border between Gibraltar and Spain will remain as open as open can be. So how on earth can they say the borders between the UK and EU Ireland and Spain will be wide open but the border between EU Scotland and the UK will be like the Berlin Wall? Well she might try to say it but it won't hold any water.

Another high card is supposed to be the European need for the comfort blanket of the British military in the scary new world of the Donald. All of a sudden throwing the Trident card onto the table won't look so very convincing when their beloved missiles are about to made homeless.

It is about to get a whole lot harder to keep peddling the line about how miraculously great the British economy is, Brexit or no Brexit. A few pesky economists will start to look at what the much vaunted British economy will look like once it loses all of those Scottish exports. All that whisky and oil and beef and timber and fish and...

We may be pathetic and poor, but we export and whole lot more than we import and once Scotland is removed from the equation the economy of the Rest of the UK starts to look like a bit of a basket case. 

Here's a comparison which is guaranteed to piss off the Unionists, not that they are remotely likely to read this. 

1942. Hitler has taken the gamble to end all gambles and invaded the Soviet Union. His beloved 6th Army has reached Stalingrad and the Generals tell him the best option is to by pass the city and keep blitzkrieging their way to the oilfields. Instead Der Fuhrer can't resist a the chance for a toe to toe slugfest. And of course it all ended in tears. The 6th Army was doomed from the get go. They were totally reliant on supplies coming in along hundreds of miles of rail tracks. And every mile of this over stretched supply line was vulnerable to attacks from the partisans who were hiding out in the forests. Stalin had no such problems. His supply line from the factories he had shifted east were just as long, but there were no partisans to blow up the trains. In the end the 6th Army ran out of bullets and food and warm clothes. 

Well, the hard Brexiteers have chosen their very own Stalingrad with the same blind arrogance Hitler showed seventy years ago. And yesterday they had their first supply train blown up. We are the partisans and they know only too well they don't have the spare troops they need to deal with us. Instead they will pour everything into the Stalingrad of the Brexit negotiations whilst we wreak havoc behind the lines.

No wonder Mundell looked like he was ready to throw up. No wonder Theresa May looked like a woman who was dreaming of sending one of her treasured nukes to Edinburgh. 

The nightmare just got serious. After four hundred years, the sun is about to finally set on the British Empire. One by one the jewels in the Crown have slipped from London's grasp. First it was America. Then India. Then Hong Kong. And now the very last colony is about to fly the nest. 

And being angry won't be enough to make it stop. Hitler was angry every time some poor sod brought him the news that another train loaded up with new tanks had been blown to bits in the back end of the Ukranian nowhere. 

So he ranted and screamed until the spittle ran down his chin and onto his jacket.

And then he lost.

It is 310 years since we were bought and sold for English gold. I think it is high time for us to join all the other countries of the world to have walked away from London rule.

Don't you?

Yesterday Nicola added her name to a long and distinguished list - George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, David Ben Gurion, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Eamon De Valera and many, many others. London was every bit as angry at each and every one of those men as they are with Nicola now. London mocked them and threatened them and rubbished them. And it made not a jot of difference to the remorseless march of history.

Where better to finish this particular blog than with the magical words of Mahatma Gandi.

'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you then you win'

Too bloody right we will.       

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WHY I FIND RONALD FIDDLER'S STORY SO TROUBLING.

From the moment I first heard Ronald Fiddler's story a couple of weeks ago I have felt a sort of nagging feeling. Something was a little off. A little troubling. Not right somehow.

I guess you will know who I am talking about from the picture. For a couple of days Ronald's smiling face beamed out of every front page under suitably appalled banner headlines. The coverage was all about shock, horror and disgust. A Brit suicide bomber. This made Ronald the absolute worst of the worst.

For a while I couldn't get a handle on the nagging feeling. Then I worked it out. There were too many uncomfortable similarities. Ronald was a man in his fifties from the North West of England. A Mancunian. And of course I am also a man in my fifties from the North West of England. But not a Mancunian of course. God forbid.

The nagging feeling only grew stronger when I watched Ronald's demise being discussed on the BBC News 24 Paper Review. One of the guests for the night was Tom Newton Dunne who is the senior political correspondent at the Sun. Tom has always come as something of a surprise to me. He is careful, considered, knowledgeable and always articulate. In fact he is everything you wouldn't expect to find working for that particular lying, filthy rag so conspicuous by its absence from the newsagents of Merseyside.

So. What was Tom's assessment of Ronald's final mission? I can't remember his exact words, but they were along the lines of diabolical, cowardly, despicable, appalling. It was the party line. Ronald was a terrorist and that was all there was to say. 

And yet....

Did Ronald drive his explosive packed vehicle into a market place filled with innocent civilians? No. He attacked a military base filled with soldiers. So in a way he was an ISIS version of one of our much vaunted smart bombs. He was what we would term a surgical strike.

And all of a sudden the sheer, unashamed hypocrisy of Tom's words hit me. I had a Kurtz moment. 'Like a diamond bullet straight through the forehead.'

One of our highly trained fighter pilots identifies an ISIS target on the ground and and kills everything in the vicinity care of a 'smart' bomb which has cost the British tax payer tens of thousands of pounds. No civilian casualties. Only soldiers burnt and dismembered. And our reaction? We will marvel at the pilot's professionalism and dedication. We might even comment on his heroism. Fair enough. He's a young guy far from home and he can never know if this is the mission when he runs into an unexpected surface to air missile. He is following the instructions of his political masters and he is following them to the letter.

Is he in Iraq because of a cast iron belief he is on the right side of the Shia/Sunni hatred that has rolled through hundreds of years in that neck of the woods. I doubt it. He is there because he chose a career with the RAF and has made it all the way to becoming a fighter pilot. And at the moment he releases his high tech smart bomb, he is hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles an hour. So there is a risk, but not a big risk. We have been in Iraq for fourteen years now and we have yet to lose a fighter jet to enemy fire.

Ronald on the other hand had picked a different side. The other side. Was it a career move? Well, I suppose it was in a way. But it wasn't a career which promised a good salary and an excellent pension. We can disagree with his decision to join ISIS all day, but it doesn't alter the fact that Ronald traveled to Mosul to fight for what he believed was right. He could have stayed in Manchester and carried on with his work as a carer. Instead he chose the hard miles.

Do our fighter jet pilots have more right to deliver their smart bombs than Ronald had to become one? Mosul is as far from Whitehall as it is from Manchester. Iraq isn't exactly our back yard. And yet we feel it is our absolute right to send our fighter bombers out there to kill from the sky. We do it in the name of an Iraqi government with a diabolical human rights record who lock up and torture Sunni citizens without any kind of charge. 

Are the Government of Iraq and their Iranian pals any better than ISIS? Probably. There are few worse outfits in the world than ISIS. But the torture rooms of Baghdad are not exactly an advert for human decency.

What did Ronald have in common with his fellow Brits involved in killing people with smart bombs? Courage certainly. Though the courage required to drive a vehicle to your certain death is probably of a higher order than pressing the release button at 10,000 feet. But that doesn't mean the RAF pilot wouldn't also be willing to become a suicide bomber if there was no other choice. 

What is it the Bible says? 'Greater love hath no man, that a man might lay down his life for his friends'. Well Ronald certainly did that. Of course we don't like his friends. We hate his friends. But there is no escaping the fact they WERE Ronald's friends and he most certainly laid down his life for them. Would it really be so very hard to acknowledge his courage? It would appear it is.

A few days later I came across an old black and white NBC documentary on YouTube. It was filmed a few weeks after the Americans had been in their first major engagement in Vietnam in 1965. Their Air Cavalry found themselves outnumbered 7 to 1 in the Ia Drang valley. For a few desperate hours young Americans and young Vietnamese locked horns and displayed extraordinary levels of courage and heroism. Without massive air support, the men of the Air Cav would have been completely overrun, but the fact they managed not to break was remarkable. The fact the North Vietnamese soldiers kept advancing through napalm strike after naplam strike was equally remarkable. Ia Drang was later turned into Mel Gibson's film 'We were soldiers'. 

There were a couple of things in the old documentary which caught my attention. First was the way the presenter framed the coming battle. 'One one side was the strongest military force in the history of the world, on the other side was the toughest guerrilla army in the history of the world.'

So no talk of foul and cowardly terrorists. Instead there was respect. Sure the NVA were the enemy and sure the Americans were out there to kill them down to the last man. But it didn't mean they didn't respect their vast courage. Check out the film via the link below. Go to 6 minutes and 30 seconds. You will find an interview given by Major Charles Beckworth of the Green Berets. He commanded a fire base which hung by a thread for several days as wave after wave of Viet Cong attacked. Again, only huge air power enable the Americans to survive. An interviewer asked Beckworth for his opinion of the VC soldiers he had fought. His answer?

'I would give anything to have 200 of them under my command. They're the finest soldiers I have ever seen."

https://goo.gl/lFr5E3

I wonder what the Major would have made of Ronald? A fifty year old Mancunian carer who had the courage to become a human smart bomb. My gut feeling is that this would have represented the kind of guts to win the respect of the tough Green Beret from Georgia. 

An officer would never be allowed to talk like this now. To do so would kill their career stone dead. The new narrative is Tom Newton Dunn's narrative. Now we call describe courage as cowardice. Now we are expected to portray our foes as being somehow depraved and sub human. We must never show any kind of respect. Is it any wonder our so called 'War on Terror' shows no sign of an end?

The story of Ronald shows how utterly impossible our leaders find it to learn from our questionable history. In 1955 we interned hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu in concentration camps in Northern Kenya. It was our way of taking on the Mau Mau 'terrorists'. Instead we turned a whole country against us and nine years later Kenya claimed its independence.

In August 1971 we launched Operation Demetrius across the six counties of Northern Ireland. We interned nearly two thousand guys and locked them up without any kind of trial in our new Long Kesh prison. And what happened next? Well, most of them were entirely innocent which meant they got really, really pissed off at the way they were being treated. They signed on the dotted line for the IRA and went onto make our lives a misery for the next 35 years. 

In 2003 the Americans opened up a huge prison in the Iraqi desert. They called it Camp Bucca in honour of a New York fire chief who died on 9/11. They interned over 20,000 Iraqi's without any kind of charge. And guess what? They got pissed off. It was hard for the Americans to keep order so they looked to influential prisoners they could work with. Their main man was Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Oh yeah. Him. They gave him a free hand to do pretty well what he liked in Camp Bucca so long as he kept a lid on things. So he made like Gerry Adams all those years before. He turned the camp into a university and he created ISIS.

So why all the talk of internment and how it tends to get people so pissed of that they can't wait to get their hands on a gun and the chance of some payback? Well Ronald was interned. In 2001 he was backpacking is way around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Seldom in history can a guy have been more in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once Bin Laden's planes smashed into the twin towers, Ronald knew Afghanistan had become Dodge and he needed to get out. He tried to cross into Iran but the Taliban were having none of it. His British passport made him a spy in their book so they arrested him and locked him up in a Kandahar prison.

Without trial of course.

We can only imagine what a relief it must have been to Ronald when the US Special Forces turned up. The cavalry, right? Free at last. Well. Not really. The Special Forces guys were more than happy to turn him loose but the spooks in Bagram air base saw things differently. They stuck him on a plane to Guantanamo for two years of 'torture light'.

Without trial of course.

Two years was more than enough for the Americans to establish Ronald was guilty of nothing whatsoever. In fact they had a few kind words for all the information he had given them about the Taliban.

So they let him go and when he got home the British Government gave him a million quid for his troubles. Now this seems pretty compelling to me. The British Government doesn't exactly make a habit of coughing up a million quid to people who have been wrongly arrested. Ronald's case must have been pretty damn compelling. 

And yet ten years later Ronald upped sticks and went to fight for ISIS. And this of course begs the $64,000 question. If we had brought Ronald home in 2001 after the special forces guys had liberated him from the Taliban prison in Kandahar, would he have still gone to ISIS? If we hadn't rounded up Gerry Adams in August 1971, would he have still joined the PIRA? If we hadn't banged Al-Baghdadi up in Camp Bucca, would he still have founded ISIS?

I can't answer any of these questions. Only Ronald, Gerry Adams and Al-Baghdadi could answer the questions and Ronald will never answer any question ever again.

Surely there is an easy enough lesson to be learned here. A good start for our brave leaders would be to take so time out to listen to the words of Major Beckworth of Atlanta, Georgia way back in 1965. 

Showing respect isn't weakness. Trying to understand the other guy's point of view isn't weakness. Owning up to your own mistakes isn't weakness. Pumping out endless propaganda is always a mistake. Describing people you don't agree with as sub human cowards is always a mistake. 

Hypocrisy is always a mistake.

Time to go back to another off message officer from the US Special Forces. This time it is the fictional Colonel Walter E Kurtz of Apocalypse Now fame.

'We train our young men to drop fire on people but we won't allow then to write 'FUCK' on their aeroplanes.... why ... because it's obscene.'