Lest We Forget

At the moment I am watching a CNN documentary about the 1970s. An era that saw the advent of cable TV, the 24 hour news cycle, NIXON and the Watergate scandal – and the ignominious end of the VIETNAM War.

And it is that last segment that resonates with me. I lived in the USA in the mid-1960s, and many of my young colleagues were drafted to fight in Viet Nam. I was even taken off a bus to Canada and questioned by the FBI as a potential draft dodger. Fortunately I had already done military service in the UK, and was not eligible for the draft.

And one of my best friends here in Australia fought in the Viet Nam war. In fact we first met on vacation in Viet Nam.

 The CNN segment on the war ends with a clip of the presenter standing in Arlington Cemetery among the endless rows of white headstones marking the graves of young Americans who died in Viet Nam, and he says,

“If any future President ever thinks of going into a foreign war again, he should visit this place before he makes that decision. The Viet Nam War cost America 7 trillion dollars, the lives of 56,000 young Americans, and more than a hundred thousand wounded – some of whom will never recover from their injuries.”

He spoke those words in 1974 – and what he didn’t say was that it was all to no avail. When the Americans left Viet Nam after 10 years of bloody conflict the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese swept into Saigon and took over the South.

Now think Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The body-bags still keep coming home (although figures are no longer published) – and the cost escalates to unimaginable numbers, not just in trillions of dollars, but in civilians killed and maimed and forced to flee their countries as refugees. Will no American President learn the lessons of (recent) history and heed George Washington’s words:

“Interventionists are the result of refined education on minds of a peculiar structure,”

If you want insights into the recent history, and the chaos and confusion in the Middle East read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. It is written from the points of view of the archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf prior to the events of 9/11. They were victims of power-mad politicians’ wars, greedy finance house excesses – and in some cases just victims of avaricious Western wives, and out of control drug-crazed teenage children.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites for the USA, UK, Germany and Spain, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

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Why am I a Sceptic/Cynic?

I had a happy childhood. I am by nature optimistic – and yet I am sceptical of everything I see and hear – because:

My first management role was as Group Leader of SHELL’s jet fuel lab near Heathrow. My first project was the field testing of a water detector that had been developed by SHELL’s prestigious Amsterdam Research Laboratorium – and I, and my 3 research assistants, could not make it work.

Under intense pressure from my boss – and feeling like a failure who had fallen at the first fence – and in the throes of a panic attack at 3 am, I thought the unthinkable. What if Amsterdam were wrong? It took me and my assistants a morning in the lab to show that they were wrong.

I rushed to my boss shouting “Amsterdam are wrong.”. He was aghast. “You can’t say that,” was his reponse. And I had to invent a bullshit technology invoking Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to explain the difference between lab results and field experience. The SHELL Water Detector is still in safe use at most of the world’s airports – thanks to my 3 am panic attack.

Very much later, I was the Manager of SGS Redwood’s Production Laboratory in Aberdeen that devised the crude oil Production Allocation scheme for the EKOFISK field with the Norwegain Petroleum Directorate; and for Occidental’s PIPER/CLAYMORE oilfields. On that basis we were invited to participate in the development of a scheme for the vastly more complex Sullom Voe Terminal project along with SHELL, ESSO, BP and ICI.

Test samples were sent to all the labs for analysis – and the results were sent to a Cambridge PhD for collation and analysis. He issued a report that made no sense to anybody. Les Berqvist from ESSO then asked the 64K question, “What is the baseline you have used to compare the results?” His confident answer, “My results, of course.”

Instead of applying well known statistical methods to analyze all results, including his own, he had made the vain and arrogant assumption that his results were the most accurate – and he was hostile, embarrassed and defensive when he was found out. Contrary to popular belief, scientists are human. They are frequently vain, intellectually arrogant, insecure and desperate for recognition. And under intense pressure to conform to orthodox beliefs in order to attract funding.

Think what George Orwell said:

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas, which it is assumed right-thinking people will accept without question.”(GlobalWarming) ”Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban.” (think the late Dr. David Kelly, and Iraqi WMD)

Just like the scientists, the neo-Cons and neo-Liberals are so certain of their righteousness that they feel justified in spinning their half truths – and their outright lies. Tony B-Liar is still maintaining it was right to get rid of Saddam Hussein, in spite of the hundreds of thousands killed and being killed, maimed and being maimed in Iraq and Syria, the millions of refugees being displaced into Jordan, Turkey, and on into Europe – and the rise of ISIS, a far more terrifying and effective terrorist group than Al Qa’eda. He needs to seek asylum – in a psychiatric unit.

If you want more insights into the chaos and confusion that preceded all this read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. It is written from the points of view of the archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf, prior to the events of 9/11. They were victims of powermad politicians’ wars, greedy finance house excesses – and in some cases just victims of avaricious Western wives, and out of control drug-crazed teenage children.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites for the USA, UK, Germany and Spain, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Is the (male) Working Class Hero dead?

In the last three books I have read, the protaganists have been 23 year old, American, white, female college graduates out in the exciting and frightening wide world for the first time. Is this the new trope for the classic hero’s journey?

My book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is also a classic hero’s journey – and my protaganist is indeed 23 years old and white; but male, and from the working class, and not college educated. Nevertheless he feels alienated and guilty because he has abandoned the hard life of his mates in the shipyard, and works as a journalist. He is a foreign correspondent out in the wide world for the first time. And it is probably this guilt that fuels his rage against Britain’s elitist foreign policies, and against his entitled University educated colleagues in the media.

For the working class male – and the cannon-fodder foot- soldier who fights not for Queen and Country, but for his comrades in arms – loyalty to your mates/comrades is central to your sense of masculinity. To rise above it, and break ranks is a betrayal.

But a sense of honour, comradeship, and betrayal is archaic now. We have moved so far away from the social revolution of the 1950s,(when the working class gained “free” access to higher education, and upward mobility), that feelings of guilt and alienation are riseable? And the anti-Viet Nam war riots of the 60s, and the Sexual Revolution, succeeded in putting women and under-25s on an equal footing with their Elders and Betters (who proved to be just older, and not better). And the feminist movement has succeeded in making it possible for 23 year old white females to be heros – and not heroines?

At least, for me, one benefit would be we no longer hear about John Lennon – the working class hero who never did a day’s work in his life.

The female protaganists do feel guilt, but it is because once the adrenaline rush of being out in a violent, unpredictable and squalid world has died, they come to realize that they are not connected. They are priveleged, affluent, healthy and hygenic, and wear nice expensive clothes – and always have a return ticket back to suburbia. This isolates them from the Third World residents they mingle with – for a while.

My protaganist Mick, coming from an underclass that has suffered the consequences of the blunderings of the ruling classes, and dying in the thousands in politicians’ wars, identifies all to easily with the Wretched of the Earth. So my stories are from the bottom up, while these new stories are top down.

Mick’s rage is a primal howl against the possibility of living a decent and honourable life in an increasingly squalid, corrupt and tawdry globalized world. As he says “The World is OK – it’s people who are pricks.”

I make no claim that my stories are better – but they are authentic, and felt, rather than observed. And it is my belief that any art form benefits from being an emotional journey – not intellectual. Perhaps in my next book the protaganist should be a 23 year old Liberalized Muslim woman? But then it would not be authentic. I am not a Muslim or a woman

THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is a linked series of character studies of the archetypal expatriates who wash up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf, victims of powermad politicians wars, and greedy finance houses excesses – and in some cases just victims of shopaholic wives, and out of control teenage children. Welcome to the modern world.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Tribal Weaving

One of the criticisms levelled at BREXIT it that it will encourage the rise of nationalism in Europe. The irony of the European Union is that it has already presided over the rise of nationalism, and a descent into tribalism.

First we had the breakup of Yugoslavia, with only Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia as viable economic entities, and the remainder as dependent entities for the forseeable future. Then Czechoslovakia broke up with Slovakia heavily dependent.

Now it seems that the UK might break up – with Scotland and Northern Ireland wanting to stay in the EU – and leave the UK. The EU encourages disintegration, with its promise of huge regional grants to support peripheral economies that actively encourages ethnic differences.

I am, on my Mother’s side, Anglo Saxon from Middle England, with surnames like Brown, Jackson and Washington, and possible distant realtionships with American Presidents. But on my Father’s side I am a Celt with grandparents from Greenock on Clydeside, and Wrexham, North Wales. I even have a Manx great grandmother, so there is some Viking in there. (And this raises the issue of The Shetlands, which are as much Norwegian in their thinking – UP HELLY Aa festival with Geizer Jarl and a procession of Vikings. And remember, The Shetlands were a gift from the Norwegians to the English Crown so legally does not belong to Scotland).

Where I was born and raised in England our neighbours were predominantly Irish – the Brandons, the Braddocks, the Burkeys and the Hollingsworths – and Welsh, the Williams, the Roberts and Jones’s. And where my grandparents lived they were mostly Scottish – the Lawsons, the McTaggarts, the McCallisters. And the Anglo, Irish, Welsh and Scottish children all freely intermarried. The idea of racial purity is atavistic.

The British are a mongrel nation of Anglo-Celts with dashes of Viking, Norman and even Roman blood – and it was this broad gene pool that produced the hybrid energy and dynamism that changed and enriched the whole world. It is unthinkable that we will go back to the atavistic extremes of nationalism, tribalism and ferocious clan loyalties.

We have just recently emerged from 25 years of the blood letting and brutality of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. A battle between two Celtic tribes with the English as “piggy-in-the-middle”. Imagine if Sinn Fein get their wish, and Northern Ireland stays in the EU, and the EU supports the unification of Ireland. How will the Protestant Celts respond? I forsee a civil war with Scottish Protestants joining the fray. It will be The Balkans all over again, with the Americans and the UN joining in and turning a crisis into a disaster.

It is exactly this sort of outside interference and intervention that has caused the sectarian rivalry and tribalism and the apocalyptic and brutal conflicts in the Middle East.

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” there is a story, TRIBAL WEAVING, that appears to support tribalism. In a way it does, because the yearning to return to the simpler nomadic life of a hunter/gather, (the Noble Savage), and escape the boredom of sedentary and tedious suburban living, is very strong, particularly in the hard-pressed Western male. But the story is more serious than that.

Iran had a democratically elected government under Mossadeq – but he was socialist, and so the Americans deposed him and placed the despicable Shah and his cronies in power. They tried to drive the nomadic tribes to settle in towns and villages so that they could seize their lands. And the people revolted and threw out The Shahinshah and replaced him with the Ayatollahs. Out of the frying pan and into . . .

If you want authentic insights into the chaos in the Middle East from 1960 that lead to the events of 9/11, 2001 then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Based on 40 years working in the international oil industry it is a collection of stories about expatriates washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Flotsam and jetsam trying to survive in a rapidly changing and frequently violent world. You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Second time Farce

The Chilcott report has confirmed what most of us suspected – that Bush and Blair were determined to go to war, and “sexed up” dubious intelligence to justify it. I hope that Dr. David Kelly’s widow gets millions in compensation – of course the relatives of the military personnel who died or were wounded, are not far behind.

Blair’s repeated assertion “I did not lie” is on a par (although much more serious) with his mate Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”. Blair is either the biggest liar that ever existed – or his lying is pathological, and he is unable to distinguish lies from truth. And his assertion that the Middle East is better for his getting rid of Saddam is denial of the highest order. He needs to be sectioned and given electric shock treatment at a very high voltage. Or maybe he should just be “water-boarded”.

But Blair is not only a liar – he is also incompetent. Chilcott points out that the UK had no coherent plan for reorganising Iraq after the war was won. And the same goes for the Americans. If you want to put flesh on the bones of the Chilcott report then read Rory Stewart’s OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS (he was a British interim regional governor in Iraq after the war), and Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY. He reports on the delusional triumphalism of State Department Yahoos inside the safety of the Green Zone, while they carefully ignore the chaos and danger outside the walls.

But why be surprised? The Middle East is littered with the delusions of Western politicians causing chaos, and the death and maiming of innocents. The Great Game; Britain’s disastrous forays into Afghanistan; Sykes/Picot; the Balfour Declaration; Suez; the Shah of Iran; the Iran/Iraq war when we backed Saddam – and the First Gulf War.

There was some moral basis for that war – after Saddam invaded Kuwait. But there is strong evidence that the US State Department gave Saddam the green light to invade – and evidence that they wildly exaggerated (sexed up) the strength of Saddam’s Imperial Guard giving them the excuse to massacre hundreds of Iraqi conscripts and civilians (including women and children) as they streamed out of Kuwait towards Baghdad along the “Mile of Death”.

Read the story ‘IF YOU DON’T, SOMEONE ELSE WILL’ in my book THE GULF  “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Very little of that story is fiction. I met the US Colonel who was responsible for re-supplying Desert Storm – and I was working for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia during that war responsible for jet fuel quality. My description of the helicopter Forward Operating Base is from personal experience. And my description of the sickening massacre along the “Mile of Death” comes from TV footage shown in Saudi Arabia – and the reports of one of the few journalists allowed in.

The tag line for my book reads “It’s all about oil…” but that really only applies to the 20th century. The Middle East is the cradle of our civilization, and the crossroads of our world – and has always been the scene of conflict. Mesopotamia, The Fertile Crescent, The Silk Road, the Ur of Chaldea, the birth of monotheastic religions, Jerusalem and the rise of Islam and the bloody Christian Crusades. And I am quite sure that those atavistic struggles have always been littered with the lies and incompetence of vainglorious and narcissitic politicans. History repeats itself – first time tragedy – second time farce.

If you want authentic insights into the chaos in the Middle East from 1960 to the events of 9/11, 2001 then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Based on 40 years working in the international oil industry it is a collection of stories about expatriates washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Flotsam and jetsam trying to survive in a rapidly changing and frequently violent world. You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle. Or if you prefer a real book order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Reaping the Whirlwind

My novel THE GULF is a linked series of stories about the expatriate characters in The Arabian/Persian Gulf washed up there because of the blunderings of ignorant and arrogant politicians, and venal and corrupt businessmen.
I subtitled it “Reaping the Whirlwind” because the chaos in The Gulf can be traced back to the politicians and businessmen of The British and French Empires who sowed the wind in the early 20th Century.
The Sykes/Picot Agreement that broke up Assyria and created Syria and Iraq, and later split off Lebanon and Kuwait. The Balfour Declaration that gave Zionists the green light to occupy Palestine. The deposing of the democratically elected Mosedeq government in Iran and the installation of the corrupt Shah and his venal cronies that led to The Ayatollahs’ rule. And America’s greed for cheap oil that led to the fabulous oil wealth of Saudi Arabia that funded fundamental Islam and led to the events of 9/11.
The USA inherited the mantle of the British Empire in the Middle East, and they have sown the wind again with two Gulf Wars, and unconditional support for Israel. They reaped the whirlwind with 9/11 and continue to do so with the Iran backed Hezbollah, Al-Qa’eda and the now even more terrifying ISIS (The Islamic State).
In the early days Israel, backed and supplied by the USA, had little problem dealing with threats from Egypt and Syria, and invaded and destabilized South Lebanon with impunity. But if I remember correctly in their last incursion into Lebanon they were fought to a standstill by The Hezbollah. And now it seems that in the not too distant future they will face a battle-hardened, well-organized, well-funded and well-armed army of many thousands on their Eastern flank.
How much longer can America afford financially and strategically to support Israel and be so distracted from facing the growth of China, and the re-emergence of Russia as world powers?
In the final chapter in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” the protagonist is Layla, a Christian Palestinian who runs a Church of England orphanage in Ramallah. She says that this conflict is not really a religious or idealogical battle between Judaism and Islam: it is an ancient and atavistic blood feud over territory and resources between Arab tribes. The West understands the issues, but do not understand the people.
The West should not be involved.
You can preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”</strong at:
http://www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards
and download it if you have a Kindle.
Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:
http://www.thebookdepository.co.uk
The ISBN number is 978-1908147097
They offer free delivery worldwide.
I hope it enriches your life.

The sound of Axes being Ground is DEAFENING (Part 2)

Following on from my comments on the MH370 hijacking I had completely forgotten that the Prologue to my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” starts from the premise of a possible hijack that causes the protagonist, a world weary journalist who thinks he is about to die (and is not unhappy about that), to review his life in the Middle East – and the roller coaster ride of his past life in all of its exhilarating and frightening diversity in that atavistic and brutal part of the world.

This was my fictional means to present a series of linked stories that are authentic and journalistic based on events that I witnessed myself, or were reported to me by reliable sources. Each story features a character typical of the sorts of expatriate who wash up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf for whatever reason. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances trying to survive in a rapidly changing and hostile world.

It is in such situations that the surprising strength (or weakness) of characters shows through – revealing the truth.

You can preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a Kindle.

Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

The ISBN number is 978-1908147097

They offer free delivery worldwide.

I hope you enjoy it.