The horror, the horror

There has been a bombing attack at Kabul airport. News reports are that civilians have died. An Islamic State affliate operating in Iraq is thought to be the likely culprit though as of now no group has claimed responsibility for the carnage. (Update: Islamic State have claimed it on their Telegam channel apparently. Which leads me to wonder why they haven’t been kicked off Telegram)

Tom Tugendhat who is chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs is reported by the Independent as saying (on ‘Twitter’):

The attack on innocent people at Kabul airport simply trying to escape the horror of Taliban rule shows exactly who the group has brought with them. The pattern is well established – from Nigeria and Mali to Syria and Iraq whenever Islamist extremists take power, terror follows.

I wanted to comment on this because it points to a particular outlook – one which I would say is profoundly delusional. I suspect that even if this is an usually direct statement of the belief system the basic ideas here are those shared by at least part of the UK’s military and political ruling factions.

Islamic State has been active in Afghanistan for some years and have carried out dozens of terror attacks. For example here is a BBC report about an attack in August 2020. [1] These attacks took place while the UK was occupying Afghanistan. It cannot be said that the Taliban “brought this group with them”.

The Taliban are a local Afghan movement. I don’t know what evidence links them to Nigeria, Mail and Syria. The purport of these remarks is to try to use this attack on Kabul airport to heap opprobrium on the Taliban. But the reality is that the Taliban are an enemy of Islamic State who regard them as apostates. The actual story here would be that, amazingly enough, both the UK and the Taliban have a common enemy in Islamic State.

It is offensive and ignorant to dismiss the Taliban as “extremists” – as much of the Western media and political classes do. There are many different interpretations of Islam. The Taliban follow a particular branch (which also manifests in parts of India and Pakistan [2]). Of course – their treatment of women is not based on a notion of “equal rights”, they don’t belive in parliamentary democracy (which I imagine they might see as some kind of blasphemous attempt to replace the law stemming from God and the Koran), their judicial system metes out harsh punishments. Not Western values, certainly. But a coherent religious philosophy.

As for “terror follows”, like many Western elites, the author of these remarks seems to think that the tens of thousands of civilian deaths which followed from the US/UK invasion of Afganistan – including many which didn’t simply “follow from” but were directly caused by UK/US actions – are not terror but the hundreds caused by groups such as ISIS (an enemy of the Taliban again) are. That takes some doing. I don’t know – but the toddler who was blown up by this US Hellfire missile (for example) probably felt some terror. [3] These kinds of actions were related to a “relaxation of conditions” for airstrikes which, according to a US monitoring group “resulted in a massive increase in civilian casualties”. [4] In all 71,000 civilians died in Afghanistan. [4] The UN breaks down responsibility for civilian deaths in the first half of 2021 like this: Taliban 39%, Islamic State 9%, 16% other anti-government of undetermined elements, 25% by pro-government forces, remainder crossfire. [5] It is a very approximate extrapolation but if we combine the two sources and assume the proportions were approximately the same throughout the war we get approximately 18,000 civilian deaths caused directly by pro-government forces (the US and allies and their trained and supplied Afghan National army). “Following from” the illegal US/UK invasion of Iraq an absolute minimum tally of dead civilians as a result of violence is 180,000 (but we know for example from Wikileaks that the US tried to downplay civilian deaths they caused so this figure will be higher – no wonder the British government is letting Assange languish in a terrorist prison). [6] Thousands of these were killed directly by the US in direct fire. This was an illegal war which the UK joined on false pretences.

The fact is that death “follows from” UK military adventurism far more than it does from the Taliban.

Update

I would concur with the analysis expressed by the head of National Security for Pakistan expressed in this interview in the Guardian. If the West does not engage with the Taliban and instead isolates them (sanctions, blocking aid programmes etc.) that is likely to lead to the very problems we claim to be concerned about.

Update 2

This is the US military confirming that the Taliban has cooperated with them to prevent terror attacks around the airport:

Gen McKenzie said that cooperation with the Taliban has probably thwarted other planned attacks on the airport:

“We share versions of our information with the Taliban, so that they can actually do some searching out there for us and we believe that some attacks have been thwarted by them,” the general said. “They don’t get the full range of information we have, but we give them enough to act in time and space to try to prevent these attacks.” [7]

This is a refutation it would seem of the view that the Taliban are somehow responsible for the Islamic State attack on the airport. On the contrary this appears to show that they have worked with the US and prevented other attacks.

Notes

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53633450
  2. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/23/hold-the-taliban-and-sharia-law-in-afghanistan
  3. https://www.rt.com/usa/533035-us-drone-pilots-afghanistan-leak-footage/
  4. https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan
  5. https://unama.unmissions.org/civilian-casualties-set-hit-unprecedented-highs-2021-unless-urgent-action-stem-violence-%E2%80%93-un-report
  6. https://www.iraqbodycount.org/
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/aug/26/afghanistan-live-news-updates-evacuation-refugees-taliban-kabul-airport-latest?page=with:block-6127eb9a8f08b1506f20fdab#block-6127eb9a8f08b1506f20fdab

Lab leak cover-up push-back

Those who argue in favour of the lab leak origin for Sars-Cov-2 often cite in support of this theory the evidence of a cover-up by the Chinese authorities. If it didn’t leak from the lab why would there be any need for a cover-up?

But, unfortunately, there is quite a lot of evidence of a cover-up. The obvious attempts to control and steer the WHO mission away from investigating the lab leak theory is itself suspicious. The refusal by the Chinese authorities to share raw early patient data with the WHO team. [1] The attempt to put forward pangolins as the supposed intermediary animal – an attempt which foundered fairly quickly. And the well-known case of the deletion from a public database of genetic sequence information from early cases. [2]

It is clear that there is a lot of push-back against the lab-leak theory. On the question of the deleted data the New York Times has published an “explanation”. [3] Interestingly this story is being actively promoted by the US NIH (National Institute for Health) [4] – a government agency and one of the suspects in the case. (The NIH part funded the work at the Wuhan lab!) [5]

The explanation in the New York Times is far-fetched, so unlikely sounding in fact that they have to preface it with this:

“But now an odd explanation has emerged, stemming from an editorial oversight by a scientific journal”.

The explanation is indeed “odd”. The explanation for the deleted genetic information about Sars-Cov-2 is as follows. Reseachers at Wuhan State University sequenced part of the genetic code of the virus; they wrote an article about their work which was published in a journal called “Small” in June 2020 and they uploaded the sequencing information to the public database (run by NIH) – this latter in March 2020. Now comes the “odd” bit. They subsquently realised that the journal which published their work had forgotten to put a link to the genetic database in the article – and so they thought there was no point the data being in the database and they removed it!

The reason this is an “odd” explanation is obvious. If you have done some novel scientific research on a major issue of the day and had your work published in a scientific journal and you noticed that the journal has forgotten to put a link to the database where the actual data which the article was about was stored what would you do? A) Send an email to the editor of the journal asking him to correct the mistake – after all obviously you have his or her contact details as you’ve been in discussion with her about publication or B) delete all the data from the public database and thus invalidate the published article?

Is is indeed an “odd” explanation. It has to be said that the editor of the journal is reported by the New York Times as supporting this account of a missing link. But this still doesn’t explain the unusual behaviour by the researchers.

The New York Times story also mentions that the explanation given to the NIH by the Chinese researchers in June 2020 when they requested removal of the data did not include this story about a missing link in an article. (The original FT story about the data deletion request [2] just cites an NIH official as saying that people have the right to remove their data). Apparently, according to the NYT, the scientists said that the sequences were being withdrawn to be updated and then uploaded to a different database. (This eventually happened in July 2021 to a Chinese run database “China National Center for Bioinformation” according to the NYT – more than a year later). In general when people provide two separate excuses it is a sign that they are not being truthful. At least that is my experience.

It looks to me like this is possibly a carefully curated story to explain away one of the suspicious factors which paint a picture of cover-up by the Chinese authorities.

Notes

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-56054468
  2. https://www.ft.com/content/b53661d6-a70a-44ca-92a7-fa2fa4944d52
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/science/coronavirus-sequences-lab-leak.html Unfortunately this article is behind a money-sucking “paywall” but I was able to read the article here: https://web.archive.org/web/20210801003522/https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/science/coronavirus-sequences-lab-leak.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/search/research-news/14197/?utm_source=gquery&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=gquery-home
  5. https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/

Lab leak

This website has consistently argued that the idea that Sars-Cov-2 leaked from the lab in Wuhan is a serious theory. This web site has queried why a reasonable theory has been dismissed by the mainstream media as “a conspiracy theory”. This “conspiracy theory” line is strange. A “conspiracy theory” is something which has no evidence to support it and is inherently unlikely – such as the Pentagon organised 9/11. But there is nothing inherently unlikely about the lab leak theory for the origin of the Sars-Cov-2 virus. The Chinese Communist Party is a secretive and untrustworthy organisation so official denials carry no weight. There is a lab in Wuhan where gain of function experiments have previously been carried out on Coronaviruses. The lab is just a few kilometres from where the outbreak is said to have started – in a food market; an amazing coincidence considering the natural location for these viruses is in bat populations some hundreds of kilometres further south. The evidence to support the alternative theory – transmission via an intermediary animal and then an infection source at the food market has looked less likely over time because no evidence has emerged to support it. China has not provided the WHO team (which they stalled for months and then loaded with favourable scientists) with all the data such an investigation normally gets. [1] Journalists investigating the outbreak in China have been blocked by state security. [2]

All the above makes it very strange that until the last few days the mainstream liberal media has consistently called the lab theory a “conspiracy theory”. The only credible basis on which to discount the lab leak theory is that the majority of virologists who have studied the genetic composition of the Sars-Cov-2 virus have said that it looks natural and not man-made. But even so there have, for some time, been several exceptions – perfectly credible mainstream scientists who have said “it could have been engineered”. Some of these are mentioned in the DM article linked below. [3]

The DM article [3] anticipates a paper by two scientists who have studied the virus and who claim that based on its structure it is unlikely to have occurred naturally. These scientists previously published a paper in which they discussed the virus and asserted that it looked man-made. In that paper the question of the origins of the virus was not the main theme of the paper and at the time they promised to produce a paper which would focus on this question. The new paper is, according to the DM, due to be published in The Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery shortly.

It is extremely interesting to observe how the liberal press has flip-flopped on this. Until recently the lab leak theory was dismissed as a “conspiracy theory”. (E.g. this piece in the Guardian by a scientist who is financially linked to the Wuhan lab by being a member of something called the Eco Alliance which funded work at the Wuhan lab – described as ‘partnering’ in the article. Or this piece aiming to discredit an Australian journalist who has been researching and arguing for the lab leak theory). In the last few days with no new information the media narrative has flipped. Suddenly it is ok to consider the lab leak theory. All this is a nice illustration of how what passes for news and objective reporting in the liberal press is really just ideologically-driven narratives. When Trump was promoting the lab leak theory it was ‘fake news’. It appears to have become respectable because it is now being investigated and considered seriously by the Democrat Biden.

This web site has previously questioned why the liberal press is has been so keen to supress the perfectly credible lab leak theory. Apart from a kind of reflex desire to oppose anything which Trump backed there are probably other drivers. One is probably an affinity amongst Western liberals for China. They might not like to admit it but they are probably attracted to the Chinese model of efficiency and political repression. As to why there has been a ‘consensus’ amongst scientists in the West to dismiss the lab leak theory the authors of the new paper reported in the DM [3] have a suggestion; in defending their Chinese colleagues these people are defending their own discipline (no doubt with many lucrative business links). They are worried that if the lab leak is established their own research projects into viruses may come under scrutiny. – And, perhaps, it is in part just an instinctive reaction to back colleagues no matter what.

At any event it looks like the new paper by Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr. Birger Sørensen will make interesting reading.

Notes

  1. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-china-idUSKBN2AD090
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-55404485
  3. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9629563/Chinese-scientists-created-COVID-19-lab-tried-cover-tracks-new-study-claims.html

The “outlandish” “hijacking” of a plane over Belarus.

The EU is up in arms over the antics of Belarusian President Lukashenko. Using the ruse of a hoax bomb threat he managed to divert a passenger plane flying from Athens to Lithuania to Minsk as it overflew Belarusian airspace – the aim; to capture an opposition activist called Roman Protasevich. Roman Protasevich played a significant role in the protests against Lukashenko following contested elections last year; he worked on a Telegram Channel NEXTA which because the leading source of information for the protestors.

Roman Protasevich is misleadingly called a “journalist” by some media e.g. The Guardian. [1] However he is an anti-Lukashenko activist; for example having previously been a player in a VK channel “This Lukashenko bores us” . [2] On what appears to be the Twitter page of Roman Protasevich the author calls himself a “journalist-terrorist”:

Continue reading “The “outlandish” “hijacking” of a plane over Belarus.”