Timeline January - March 20. 2003: The Ricin Angle
I made a timeline out of this Ricin-issue in January 2003 that turned out to be bogus, because I've done that back home with other issues. Seeing events in a sequence like this may enable us to learn the patterns used to swing the vote in favour of strong arm government in general or a specific episode, like the Iraqi war. Or just be an interesting ride through the past
The status of the European opinion on the prospect of a US/UK-led war in Iraq in January 2003 is on the figure above.
This was what they had to change, if they were to get the support they needed. Because they wanted that war very bad, but the people across Europe (and also in the US) was against the war. Among the European leaders, France and especially Germany, was vocally against an invasion. So also in the Scandinavian countries, the BeNeLux and later coalition members like Spain and Italy. Nobody wanted an invasion like the one we got; by the Coalition of the Willing, led by US/UK. In the US, the mood was in favour of giving UN inspectors more time; seven out of ten Americans wanted to follow the UN track, according to a poll done by WP and ABC 01.22.2003 (Norw. link, sorry).
Tuesday, 7 January, 2003 Terror police find deadly poison Forensic analysis of the Wood Green address continues Doctors have been warned to look out for signs of exposure to the potentially lethal poison ricin, after it was found by anti-terrorist police at an address in north London. Six Algerian men are being questioned in connection with the discovery, made following an intelligence tip-off.
Tuesday, 7 January, 2003 Blair warning over terror threat Mr Blair says the US will remain the UK's closest ally Tony Blair has issued a stark warning of the "real and present" threat posed to global security by international terrorists. The prime minister said the arrest of six people in London after the discovery of traces of the lethal toxin ricin underlined the threat from international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Wednesday, 8 January, 2003 Ricin case unnerves community Six people were arrested at the Wood Green flat Waking up to find your street at the centre of a deadly poison scare would shock any community. Shop owners, shoppers and residents in a suburban part of Wood Green in north London are no exception.
Wednesday, 8 January, 2003 How worried should we be about Ricin? Breakfast's main story this morning is the discovery of a small amount of the highly toxic biological agent Ricin in a North London flat. This morning, anti-terrorist police are continuing to question six men, understood to be Algerians.
Wednesday, 8 January, 2003 Seventh arrest in ricin case A seventh man has been arrested by anti-terrorist officers investigating the ricin find in London. Police are still looking for at least two more people in connection with the discovery of the deadly poison in a north London flat. Six men - understood to be north Africans - were arrested on Sunday and security experts are trying to establish if they have links to al-Qaeda.
Friday, 10 January, 2003 FBI alerts police to ricin risk US police have been made aware of the risks of ricin The FBI has alerted police in the United States to the dangers of a deadly poison ricin after small amounts of the toxin were discovered in a London flat. The use of ricin "would be most effective in an assassination by injection or as a food contaminant," the special edition of the FBI Intelligence Bulletin warned on Friday. The toxin could also be used in a terrorist operation to contaminate closed ventilation systems, water supplies, lakes and rivers, said the FBI according to Reuters news agency.
Friday, 10 January, 2003 Police question seven over ricin find Ricin was discovered at the flat in Wood Green Anti-terrorist officers investigating the discovery of the deadly poison ricin in a north London flat are continuing to question seven people. Six people arrested on Sunday at addresses in north and east London are still being held. A seventh man, aged 33, arrested on Tuesday in north London, is also being questioned, Scotland Yard has confirmed.
Tuesday, 14 January, 2003 Six questioned in ricin investigation Dorset Police worked with the Metropolitan Police Anti-terrorist police are continuing to question five men and a woman detained after raids on two addresses in Dorset on Sunday. The arrests followed the discovery of ricin at a flat in London last week.
Tuesday, 14 January, 2003 Five released after terror raids Police have released five men detained in Bournemouth under terror laws and played down any links with an alleged plot to use the deadly poison ricin. The men were arrested on Sunday along with a woman in a joint operation by Metropolitan Police and Dorset Police.
Wednesday, 15 January, 2003 Blair's shock at policeman's death Tony Blair has said he is "shocked and saddened" at the murder of a police officer during a counter-terrorism operation in Manchester. My thoughts are with all of those injured and my deepest condolences go out to the families of the officer who was killed Dc Stephen Oake, 40, was believed to have been stabbed during the raid, linked to the recent find of deadly poison ricin in London. (...) In a statement, the prime minister said: "It is an appalling tragedy and wicked in the extreme. "The thoughts of everyone must be with his family and his colleagues. "His death and the injuries to the other officers involved in this incident underline the dangers that our police and security forces face in these times."
Wednesday, 15 January, 2003 Police death 'wake-up call to UK' The prime minister led tributes to the officer The murder of Manchester police officer Stephen Oake will redouble the UK's determination to tackle all terrorism, Tony Blair has said. Dc Stephen Oake, 40, was stabbed during a raid in Manchester, which was linked to the recent find of deadly poison ricin in London. His family has lost a very fine man, the community has lost a very fine police officer At prime minister's questions, Mr Blair said he had met Dc Oake more than once when the officer had been in his protection squad on visits to Manchester. (...) Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith also voiced his sympathy for the family of the father-of-three. The murder was "a wake-up call to the nation" in reminding people of the threat facing the UK, argued the Tory leader. Mr Duncan Smith pressed for new measures to ensure terrorists could not "abuse the asylum system".
Wednesday, 15 January, 2003 Blair warns against weakness on Iraq Future generations will be haunted by the consequences of weakness if the threat of Iraq's weapons is not confronted, Tony Blair has warned. (...) Mr Blair again warned the chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could fall into terrorist hands if left unchecked. He continued: "This is a difficult time and I understand the concerns that people have." "But sometimes prime ministers have to say the things people do not want them to say but we believe are necessary to say.
Wednesday, 15 January, 2003 Inquiry as terror raid officer killed Police have launched an internal inquiry after an officer not wearing body armour was stabbed to death during a counter-terrorism operation in Manchester. Father-of-three Stephen Oake, 40, died and four other officers were injured as police searched three men in a flat in Crumpsall, in the north of the city. The officers had already been with the men - aged 23, 27 and 29 and of North African origin - for more than an hour, and the suspects had not been handcuffed at any stage. (...) The three suspects had not been handcuffed because they were being forensically searched - which involved putting them in a special suit to preserve any evidence on them, he said. He said one of the suspects broke free, ran into the kitchen area to grab a knife, and attacked the officers.
Wednesday, 15 January, 2003 Who's pressing Blair against war If Tony Blair commits the UK to war with Iraq, he risks alienating many of his own backbenchers, his party, even ministers in his cabinet - not to mention voters.
Saturday, 18 January, 2003 Anti-terror police arrest three The men are being held under the Terrorism Act 2000 Three men have been arrested by anti-terrorist police after being stopped at Gatwick airport. The men aged 28, 29 and 30 were detained by immigration officials at the airport while "in transit" on Thursday at 1400 GMT, Scotland Yard said. (...) The arrests are not believed to be linked to the counter-terrorism raid in Manchester on Tuesday in which Special Branch officer Stephen Oake was fatally stabbed. Nor are they thought to be connected to the investigation into the discovery of the poison ricin in London.
Tuesday, 21 January, 2003 Fifth man charged over ricin plot A fifth man has been charged with developing or producing a chemical weapon, following the discovery of the poison ricin at a London flat two weeks ago. Nasreddine Fekhadji was one of several people arrested during a series of raids in north London on 5 January.
Thursday, 23 January, 2003 Terror police arrest ricin suspect Police raided a mosque in Finsbury Park Police have made another arrest in connection with the discovery of ricin during a raid in north London earlier this month. The 31-year-old north African was held under the Terrorism Act 2000, Scotland Yard said. (...) The arrest is linked to the discovery of traces of the potentially fatal poison ricin during a raid on a flat in Wood Green, north London, on 5 January.
Saturday, 25 January, 2003 In pictures: Stephen Oake's funeral The funeral of PC Stephen Oake - who was shot during a counter terrorism raid - has taken place at Manchester cathedral. About 1,000 people attended the service for the father-of-three, including the prime minister and his wife.
Monday, 27 January, 2003, 22:45 GMT Iraq must do more, UN told Iraq has complied with United Nations demands only reluctantly and may still possess biological weapons and rockets, the chief UN weapons inspector (Blix) has said. (...) The United States has made it clear it would be prepared to go to war without UN backing, if necessary. Britain backs Washington on the issue of Iraq. (...) George W Bush is meanwhile preparing to deliver his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, in which he will again seek international support for action against Iraq, and counter the apparently growing doubts of the US public. The US president will then meet UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on 31 January, for talks which some analysts have already dubbed a council of war.
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 23:26 GMT Saddam denies links to terrorists Saddam rebuffed accusations from the US and Britain Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has denied allegations by the US and UK that Iraq has links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. "If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it," the Iraqi leader said in a rare interview, conducted by the former British MP Tony Benn and broadcast on Channel Four television. (...) The Iraqi leader said he did not want a confrontation, and accused America of looking for a pretext to launch an attack. "Iraq has no interest in war," he said. "No Iraqi official or ordinary citizens has expressed a wish to go to war."
Wednesday, 5 February, 2003 Full text of Powell speech (pt I) Full text of Powell speech (pt II) (...) Iraq today harbours a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants. Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago. Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialities and one of the specialties of this camp is poisons. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosives training centre camp. And this camp is located in north-eastern Iraq. You see a picture of this camp. The network is teaching its operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons. Let me remind you how ricin works. Less than a pinch - imagine a pinch of salt - less than a pinch of ricin, eating just this amount in your food, would cause shock followed by circulatory failure. Death comes within 72 hours and there is no antidote, there is no cure. It is fatal. Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq. But Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organisation, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq.
Wednesday, 5 February, 2003 Americans weigh Iraq evidence By Steve Schifferes BBC News Online in Washington US Secretary of State Colin Powell had several audiences in mind when he addressed the UN on Wednesday concerning Iraq. (...) And most importantly, he was addressing the American public, trying to lay out the case against Iraq in terms that would command widespread public support. And polls suggest that the public, by a margin of 63% to 24%, has more confidence in Mr Powell than President Bush when it comes to deciding what to do about Iraq.
Wednesday, 5 February, 2003 Zarqawi and the 'al-Qaeda link' American claims of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda rest heavily on reports that a Jordanian al-Qaeda associate, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been given a safe haven in Iraq. (...) He said that after the fall of the Taleban, Mr Zarqawi travelled to north-eastern Iraq, where he and his network helped establish another camp specialising in producing deadly poisons, including ricin. Mr Powell alleged that Mr Zarqawi's lieutenants were operating in a part of Iraq outside the control of Saddam Hussein but controlled by an Islamic group called Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam). (...) Mr Powell linked him with al-Qaeda operations in Europe, specifically mentioning France, Britain and Spain.
'Terrorist poison camp' This photo was titled “Terrorist poison and explosives factory, Khurmal”. Mr Powell said it shows a training camp in north-eastern Iraq run by a network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom he said was “an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden”. “The network is teaching its operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons,” he said.
Tuesday, 11 February, 2003 Polls find Europeans oppose Iraq war Europe's leaders may be divided on the Iraq crisis, but the majority of people across the continent are united in their opposition to war, polls suggest. From Portugal to Russia, opinion surveys suggest that without a further UN resolution, most Europeans are overwhelmingly against war - and even a second resolution would not convince many of them.
Wednesday, 12 February, 2003 Poll gloom for Blair on Iraq A poll carried out for the BBC has underlined Tony Blair's view that he has a lot of persuading to do if he is to rally public support for his tough approach to Iraq. Fewer than one out of every 10 Britons believe it would be right for the country to take part in a war against Iraq without the UN passing a new resolution in favour of it, the survey suggests. And 45% of people polled said the UK should play no part in a war on Iraq - whatever the UN decides. (...) Almost three out of every four Britons believe a war against Saddam would damage relations with Muslims in the UK, according to the poll.
Friday, 14 February, 2003 What if a dirty bomb hit London? A dirty bomb explosion would cause chaos It wouldn't take much for terrorists to wreak havoc in London - just a simple explosive and some industrial waste. Such is the gruesome reality of the dirty bomb. Fears of a terrorist attack on the UK by Islamic extremists are running at an all-time high. The discovery of the deadly poison ricin in a London flat has heightened concerns and recently Tony Blair said it was not a case of "if" but "when".
Monday, 17 February, 2003 Nobody is breathing fire and smoke There was to us a sad sentence in the paper on Wednesday, buried deep in a huge piece about the rift in Nato. This was the sentence: "Sympathy for the United States over the September 11th attacks has largely evaporated in a Europe troubled by the American drive to oust Saddam Hussein." (...) The very latest polls show 65% of Americans willing to go to war if the United Nations sanctions it. Only 37% if not. But it has to be said that as the prospect darkens, no more than half the American people want to go to war at all.
Wednesday, 19 February, 2003 'New Europe' backs EU on Iraq Doves and hawks: Chirac attacks pro-US nations Thirteen EU candidate countries endorsed on Tuesday a declaration by existing members warning Iraq that it had one last chance to disarm. But a number of Eastern and Central European states hit back furiously at French President Jacques Chirac who condemned them on Monday for their pro-US stance. (...) LATEST LETTER SUPPORTING US Albania Bulgaria* Croatia Estonia* Latvia* Lithuania* Macedonia Romania* Slovakia* Slovenia* *EU candidate country
Wednesday, 19 February, 2003 Nato approves Turkey mission Nato has approved a plan to send defensive equipment to Turkey, after a compromise that papered over a damaging split in the military alliance's Iraq policy. The alliance is to dispatch Awacs radar planes, Patriot anti-missile batteries and chemical and biological response units to Turkey - the only Nato member that borders Iraq.
Friday, 21 February, 2003 UK tight-lipped on Iraq timescale Downing Street has refused to be drawn on reports that the UK is working behind the scenes to persuade the US to allow three more weeks for diplomacy. (...) Mr Blair is also facing mixed messages from opinion polls. A Guardian/ICM poll suggested for the first time that a clear majority - 52% - oppose war on Iraq, while support for war is at 29%, its lowest yet. But in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph an online poll conducted by YouGov suggested that public might be won round to the idea of using force to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Tuesday, 11 March, 2003 UK pushes new Iraq initiative British diplomats at the United Nations are putting forward proposals aimed at securing wider support for a new resolution setting a deadline for Iraq to disarm. (...) A CBS television poll in the US suggests the proportion of Americans backing an immediate war - as opposed to giving the arms inspectors more time - has increased in the past week from 45% to 50%
Thursday, 13 March, 2003 Chile's Iraq dilemma As last-ditch efforts continue to reach agreement on a new UN resolution on Iraq, the US and UK are increasingly focusing on the "undecided" non-permanent members of Security Council. However, the support of one of them, Chile, is said to be proving particularly elusive - with President Ricardo Lagos publicly denying on Thursday that the US had Chile's vote. The US pressure comes at a delicate time for President Lagos who is waiting for the American Congress to ratify a free trade agreement between the two countries. (...) A poll by Gallup International reported in early February that opposition to a war against Iraq surpassed 70% of poll respondents in most Latin American countries.
Saturday, 15 March, 2003 Leading Australia into battle (...) Opinion polls suggest John Howard is about to lead an unwilling nation into battle. Howard has a loyal following in "Middle Australia" The majority of Australians believe war should only be waged with the approval of the United Nations. Mr Howard has acknowledged that many people disagree with him, but he is forging on regardless. As a former adviser, Graeme Morris, put it: "The prime minister and his colleagues know that they may well have to make a decision on what they think is right without a clear majority support."
Tuesday, 18 March, 2003 Key vote after Blair appeal A crucial Commons vote on Iraq is taking place after Tony Blair urged MPs to back his stance on disarming Saddam Hussein. MPs are filing through the voting lobbies to cast their verdict on the prime minister's polict on Iraq. As Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wound up the debate after almost eight hours there was disruption in the Commons chamber as protestors shouted from the public gallery. (...) VOTING ARITHMETIC 165 Labour MPs must rebel before Mr Blair has to rely on Tory votes 245 Labour MPs must rebel for Mr Blair to lose a vote on Iraq, even with Tory support (...) A YouGov opinion poll for ITV News on Tuesday suggested that Mr Blair is winning over public option for a war on Iraq. A total of 50% said they supported military action, while 42% said they were against. US President George Bush has given Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours from 0100 GMT on Tuesday to leave Iraq or face invasion - a demand later rejected by the Iraqi leadership.
Tuesday, 18 March, 2003 Blair loses third minister over Iraq A third minister has quit the government over the Iraq crisis as Clare Short announced she would stay in her cabinet job despite earlier threats to resign. Home Office Minister John Denham has now followed Health Minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath in resigning on Tuesday morning. Their resignations come in the wake of Robin Cook's departure from the cabinet after he objected to war without a fresh United Nations mandate. (...) An ICM poll for the Guardian suggests public opinion is shifting towards backing war although more still oppose (44%) than back (38%) war.
Thursday, 20 March, 2003 UK issues terror attack warning Britons around the world must be vigilant for terror attacks as war with Iraq begins, the Foreign Office said. The warning came shortly before the first US strikes on Iraq. US and UK forces are already deployed in battle positions in the Gulf. (...) The Foreign Office has said that there is an "especially high risk" of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public places on UK citizens. A spokesman said: "You should be vigilant, take sensible precautions, be aware of local sensibilities, monitor the media, and check our travel advice for the country you live in or plan to visit."
Thursday, 20 March, 2003 Home front quiet as war starts Americans woke up to find they were at war with Iraq, after a surprise missile strike aimed at Saddam Hussein himself. President Bush addressed the nation at 2215 Eastern Time (0315 GMT) as the US networks cleared their schedules. The months of uncertainty and waiting were over as he told the nation that "American forces were in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger".
And so they went to war.
"American forces were in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger"
There is one part of that sentence that is correct; about the early stages. But Iraq is not free, it is a violent hell. And the world wasn't saved from grave danger - to the contrary; as we all now know, the danger of terrorism increased.
As for Tony Blair's eternal claim that the Iraqi war doesn't incerase the likelyhood of terror on homeland, and for UK citizens; didn't he just say so in that second last article?
""especially high risk" of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public places on UK citizens"
That shows that he knew all the time that the Iraqi war would harm British citizens, increase the risk. They managed to trick the US/UK opinion by using invented terror in combination with heavy pressure from the top politicians, by splitting Europe in 'old' and 'new', and also by keeping the hope up for a UN coalition, while planning for the bilateral scenario behind the screen. And all the time it shines through that it would be a short war, a quick operation. Like 1991.
I'm off to bed, but some wrap-ups first.
From 2002, some signals from UK Muslims:
Thursday, 29 August, 2002 UK 'Islamophobia' rises after 11 September Muslims in one of the UK's most ethnically diverse cities have suffered an increase in racist abuse and attacks since 11 September, according to research. (...) Dr Lorraine Sheridan who conducted the research for the university, said that she had been shocked by what she had found. "The attacks are being carried out by people who don't like Islam, the abuse is more about the religion than the race. "They think that it victimises women and that Muslims refuse to integrate. "The people behind the attacks think that Muslims are outside of society and they are different.
Monday, 28 October, 2002 British Asians uneasy over Iraq - poll A survey conducted for the BBC reveals fears among British Asians over a possible war on Iraq - but also admiration for Tony Blair. (...) Q: Is there more or less racial prejudice than five years ago? More now: 33% Less now: 19% The same: 34% Don't know Refused: 1% (...) Community leaders have warned of growing concerns over the prospect of war, for two reasons. Firstly, Asian groups in Britain - not just Muslims - have suffered fallout in the wake of September 11 with a reported increase in racism. They fear that war will bring more of the same. Secondly, and among Muslims in particular, there is a fear of where exactly the war on terror is headed.
If we go fast forward to late 2003:
Tuesday, 11 November, 2003 Blair wants rift with US healed Europe and the US must heal their divisions over Iraq and work together on winning the peace, Tony Blair has said in a speech. The prime minister told the Lord Mayor's Banquet that anti-Americanism and Euroscepticism made Britain weaker. His plea came as a poll suggested many people think the UK gains nothing from his close ties to US President Bush. (...) But a Populus survey for the Times suggested 60% of voters disapproved of Mr Bush's handling of Iraq. The poll found only 40% of respondents thought the personal relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Bush benefited Britain. Support for the war came to just 37% of those questioned.
And of course, the illusory ricin, wasn't revealed until 2005 - to us.
Thursday, 15 September 2005 Ricin results not told to police MoD scientists knew no ricin had been found at a north London flat raided over an alleged terror plot for weeks before telling police, it has emerged. Fears the deadly substance was in the Wood Green flat were raised during a raid on 7 January 2003 but disproved by scientists two weeks later. But it was not until 20 March that police and ministers learned no ricin had been found, the MoD confirmed.
The policeman killed, Stephen Oake, turned out to be a committed Christian in the Poynton Baptist Church, and was buried with an honor guard in a official ceremony January where Tony and Cherie was present, the family was hoping for a Georges Cross posthumously, but the pomp and circumstance around PC Stephen Oake ended abruptly when he wasn't needed for use in the war on terror anymore, so he had to settle for a plaque outside the house where he lived. Kamel Bourgass, 27, was charged with PC Oake's murder and the attempted murder of four other officers, but, as far as I know, not on any terror charges.
Large number of US citizens demonstrated against the war in Iraq (and the possible war in Iran) during this October weekend. Massive turnout in Boston and San Fransisco, and also in Chicago, LA and DC people took to the streets. The message was: NO more war in Iraq! NO to a war with Iran!