American Culture, Or Just Gun Culture?

by R J Adams     February 17, 2015 at 4:36pm


There was a time when the term ‘sniper’ was synonymous with cowardice. Today, there’s no such thing as honor on the battlefield, and an American who can kill hundreds of fellow human beings, one by one at great distance, is awarded a medal.

One has to query whether the killer of “American Sniper” subject, Chris Kyle, will receive a fair trial, given the case is being heard in Texas, where Kyle is considered a great hero and the gun is probably more sacred than the Ten Commandments – less the one that states, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, of course.

Having viewed some of the media coverage of this case, I’m struck by an obvious fact that appears to have been totally missed by the media generally. It seems Kyle, and his friend Chad Littlefield, took Eddie Ray Routh, a former US marine, to a shooting range to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder contracted during Routh’s time serving as a weapons technician in Iraq, and in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake.

Isn’t a shooting range a strange place to take an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD? Surely all the noise and explosions would only intensify the effects of this insidious disease on a mind already troubled and psychotic?

I love these words from the prosecutor:

The evidence will show that mental illnesses, even the ones this defendant may or may not have, don’t deprive people from being good citizens, to know right from wrong.”

I can’t wait to hear how he intends to prove that one!

Still, on the bright side, at least Kyle’s death mirrored the way he lived – shooting people in the back.


Hats off to NBC News for finally highlighting the shooting to death of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s a pity it took them three days to report it, and only then because of an uproar on the internet.

A hate crime against Muslims? Probably not.

It seems the killer, Craig Hicks, was no more than a George Zimmerman on steroids, patrolling the parking lot and intimidating anyone who parked their car in the wrong place. He was studying to become a paralegal (Zimmerman was desperate to join the police force) and obviously bestowed on himself the authority to patrol the local area, though not without his trusty firearm.

Hopefully, he’ll be put away, far from the weapon he used to commit his foul deed. But don’t worry, egos with firearms are like buses – you can rest assured there’ll be another one come by before too long.


Which leads me rather nicely to Mister Marcus Kaarma of Missoula, Montana whom, I’m happy to say, is just beginning a seventy year prison term.

Last April, after his garage was burgled, Kaarma set a trap to catch intruders by leaving his garage door ajar. His girlfriend even left her purse inside the garage as bait. Alerted by motion alarms, Kaarma went out and fired four shots from a 12-gauge shotgun into the garage, killing a 17-year-old German exchange student who was inside.

It’s not known why the boy was there, but he was unarmed.

There’ll be a some Americans who’ll support Kaarma’s actions. The law in Montana allows the use of ‘deadly force’, in some situations, to protect home and family. But, according to the judge, Kaarma was hunting when he killed his victim, not safeguarding his home.

I unreservedly agree. The arguments against gun control in this country are, frankly, pathetic. Here we have three separate incidents where six people might be alive today if guns had been subject to right and proper laws and controls.

The argument that the right to ‘bear arms’ is enshrined in the Constitution makes a mockery of the Second Amendment. That bit of old parchment is so obviously outdated it should be struck from the record once and for all.

There’s a lot of fear in American hearts. Fear of government, fear of loss of freedoms, fear of neighbors, fear of “the bad guys” (whoever they may be!). It’s all because of the gun culture. Americans may believe it’s in their nature to own firearms, but the truth is it’s the firearms that have molded the American character. Americans need firearms like an addict needs to mainline heroin, to fix the instilled fear those same weapons have imposed on them.

And if you don’t believe me, you should spend time living in a country that doesn’t allow firearms, and you’ll soon come to realize the citizens there live their lives free from all those fears endured by the good people of the United States, who can’t even trust their own police forces not to shoot them.

Aha, but that’s a whole lot more gun stories.

[1] “‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle said ex-Marine was ‘nuts'” BBC, February 11th 2015

[2] “Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shootings: Parking Dispute Eyed in Killings?” NBC, Undated (probably February 11th 2015)

[3] “Man Sentenced To 70 Years In German Exchange Student’s Death” Yahoo News, February 12th 2015

R J Adams     February 17, 2015 at 4:36pm     1 Comment

One Human Trait Too Many?

by R J Adams     February 7, 2015 at 3:38pm


ego


There’s a problem with the human species. It affects us all, and for most of us it sits simmering under the surface of our characters like a quietly bubbling volcano. There are those, however, from whom it will inevitably break free and erupt with disastrous consequences. The catalyst for this reaction is money, power, and the inevitable, accompanying, arrogance.

The problem is Egotism. It’s the bane of politicians, media personalities, and tycoons the world over, often resulting in their downfall. It’s particularly prevalent among the not-so-bright politicians of our time. They may have scholared at Harvard, or Oxbridge, but success relies more heavily on ‘Daddy’s money’ than anything resembling intelligence. Common sense, once considered a prerequisite for success, has no abode in the brains of these individuals.

Perhaps one of the most famous political figures of late to fall foul of their ego, was 2008 presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton.


hillary


Her account of being ‘under fire’ while on a visit to war-torn Iraq was rapidly discovered to be false.[1]

In just the last few days, NBC news anchor Brian Williams has been forced to eat humble pie after “mis-remembering” his flight in a helicopter hit by RPG fire over Iraq.


brian-williams-fake-story

Click to enlarge


The chopper he was in was a full hour behind the one that was hit.[2]

Of course, there are psychologists and psychiatrists only too ready to tell us such ‘mis-remembrances’ are perfectly normal, and we can’t be blamed when we get it wrong.[3] Or, is that merely a way of suggesting that no-one ever lies, they simply ‘mis-remember’? If so, then Brian Williams is a true mis-rememberer. In 2006, after reporting for NBC from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Williams said in an interview:

“When you look out of your hotel window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country.”[4]

He went on to relate how he’d accidentally ingested some of the floodwater and contracted dysentery. Apparently, there was no flooding in the French Quarter (so no body floating past) and no known outbreak of dysentery resulting from the Katrina catastrophe.

‘Mis-remembering’ could be something of a handicap for a news reporter. Does this mean NBC might not be telling us the truth during their news broadcasts? Surely not?

Today’s politicians are not only known for mis-remembering, they’re also easily recognized by acts or statements of gross stupidity. Here, the egotistical are caught out because they try to think – a function of the brain they’re not well practiced at.

Take Republican Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina.


Tillis


He’s just stated that restaurants shouldn’t insist employees wash their hands after using the toilet. Actually, they don’t. Restaurant owners stick a notice in the restroom and leave compliance entirely up to the employee. Even that’s not sufficient for Tillis. His argument is simply that if sufficient customers became sick, then the restaurant would cease to be patronized, and go out of business.[5]

Across the pond, in my UK homeland, the ego reigns supreme among certain politicians who might do well to keep their mouths under firmer control. The present Mayor of London, for instance, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.


boris-yawn1


A distant relative of George II, and hence a cousin to the British prime minister, David Cameron, (yes, these bloody aristocrats keep popping up where they’re least expected) he was educated at Eton and Oxford. Does that make him intelligent? Well, not necessarily, in these days of top jobs having more to do with who you know (and are) rather than acquired qualifications, but it does allow the ego to trip one up rather easily when one’s trying hard to be clever, and failing dismally.

Only last week Johnson described members of the Islamic extremist group, ISIS, as “porn watching wankers”.

According to the Guardian newspaper:

Citing a report from MI5 on the profile of jihadis, the mayor of London said: “If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are literally wankers. Severe onanists.”

Johnson described British jihadis as “tortured” and “very badly adjusted in their relations with women”, something he said was a symptom of “their feeling of being a failure and that the world is against them”.

“They are not making it with girls and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort – which of course is no comfort.”

He continued: “They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong – like winners.”

Johnson, who is one of the leading candidates to be the next Tory leader, made the comments in an interview with the Sun newspaper a week after he visited the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil to see the Peshmerga fighters who are pushing back against the Isis insurgency in Iraq. The visit, during which he posed for pictures with an AK47, was interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate his credentials as an international statesman…”[6]

Being photographed holding an AK47 is now a prerequisite for statesmanship. Presumably, this would explain where Winston Churchill went wrong.

Johnson’s outburst against ISIS says more about him than it does about the Islamic extremist organization he criticizes. He’s in the running to be the next prime minister of the UK, and probably considers such base language a vote-catcher among the poor, ill-educated, British masses he imagines tip their forelocks to him as he passes. As a sop to his ego, this Eton pseudo-intellectual threw in the noun, “onanist”, just to prove he knows a word the peasants don’t. Etonians would readily recognize it, of course, given that the college is full of them.

Meanwhile, his cousin, British Prime Minister David Cameron, is endeavoring to bolster a flagging ego, not just among British voters but throughout the political landscape of Europe. Notable this week was his lack of invitation to peace talks taking place in Germany, between France, Germany, and Russia, over the future of Ukraine. Mister Cameron has taken pains to deny he was jilted over the affair, though observers have been quick to note a slight quivering of the proverbial stiff upper lip, precariously poised above his somewhat weak and flabby chin.[7]


cameron


Ukraine has been a godsend to politicians in the United States. They’ve taken every opportunity to spout egotistical rhetoric designed to quash their political opposition and win votes in 2016. Such are the political stakes that a full-blown war with Russia has already been hinted at, as good old American arrogance and bluster blast commonsense from the playing field.

Only today, according to the BBC, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, upset NATO’s top military ego, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, by stating her opposition to Washington sending weapons to Ukraine:

The US is considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine but Mrs Merkel said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

The statement put her in opposition to Nato’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.[8]

All of this leaves one with an impression of today’s world controlled, not by wisdom and commonsense, but solely by the egotism of those in power. Unfortunately, the ego has no commonsense and merely flounders around making one bad judgement after another, its purpose to bolster the macho image of its owner, much as a cockerel struts with puffed out chest around the chickens in his farmyard.

I began this article by stating that the human species has a problem that affects us all. It’s not just politicians and people with power that suffer from the affliction. It’s all of us. Instead of standing up and telling our leaders how stupidly they’re behaving, our egos force us to take sides. We assume positions, usually along political lines, that bolster our own egos, and happily go along with the most ridiculous of ideas because, in some strange way, it makes us feel better and more powerful to do so.

One perfect example of this is American talk radio. The best known ‘radio-jock’ in the nation, Rush Limbaugh, can spout the most ludicrous statements, secure in the knowledge that his many listeners will cling resolutely to his words, without ever attempting to decipher whether they’re utter nonsense, or not.

Perhaps this is merely evolution in action. It seems we have a stark choice. Either, learn to control our egotism, or flounder to inevitable extinction while proudly waving our national flags and singing our anthems, as we sink into the bottomless quicksands of our own arrogance.

[1] “Clinton under fire: Video contradicts Hillary’s claim she ran from sniper shots in Bosnia” Daily Mail, March 26th 2008

[2] “US anchor Brian Williams apology for Iraq helicopter story” BBC, February 5th 2015

[3] “The science behind Brian Williams’s mortifying memory flub” Washington Post, February 5th 2015

[4] “NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ comments about dead bodies, Hurricane Katrina starting to gain attention, draw scrutiny” New Orleans Advocate, February 7th 2015

[5] “US senator questions forcing food workers to wash hands” BBC, February 4th 2015

[6] “Boris Johnson: jihadis are porn-watching ‘wankers'” Guardian, January 30th 2015

[7] “Cameron under fire in UK for not joining Merkel & Hollande in Moscow, Kiev talks” RT, February 7th 2015

[8] “Ukraine crisis: ‘Last chance’ for peace says Hollande” BBC, February 7th 2015

R J Adams     February 7, 2015 at 3:38pm     2 Comments

MH370 – Flight To Armageddon

by R J Adams     January 29, 2015 at 10:33pm


The Southern Indian Ocean is one of the most fearsome seas in the world. Searching for a vessel on the surface is difficult enough. At depths close to three miles, with canyons and crevices that make the Grand Canyon look puny, trying to locate anything on the bed of the Southern Indian Ocean resembles searching for a pin-head in the proverbial haystack.

Nevertheless, the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370, which left Kuala Lumpur on March 8th 2014 bound for Beijing, continues. As yet no-one has determined why the aircraft apparently flew for seven hours on a directly opposing course to its flight plan, before crashing into the sea from lack of fuel.

And no-one ever will. MH370 will not be found in the Southern Indian Ocean. For ten months it has sat in a cave on a remote airstrip high in the mountainous northern region of Pakistan, near the border confluence with Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Taliban country. And the Taliban have formed a deadly alliance with the rapidly expanding military Islamic force we know as, ‘Islamic State’.

All the crew and passengers on MH370 are dead. They died within an hour of taking-off from Kuala Lumpur. A deadly nerve gas was released in the hold from the baggage of two Iranians on the flight. It seeped into the cabin via airways doctored by ground staff working for ISIS. Only the Iranians, Sunnis fleeing a Shia regime to join ISIS and embark on their final journey to Paradise, had breathing masks to avoid inhaling the noxious gas.

Once the passengers and cabin crew were incapacitated it took only minutes to enter the flight deck and overcome the pilot and co-pilot. The Iranians, trained in piloting big jets, were well versed in flying a Boeing 777. They turned off all communication devices, steered the aircraft’s head to the north-west, and headed inland from the Bay of Bengal. Skirting India by way of Bangladesh and Nepal it took seven hours, and most of the aircraft’s fuel, to reach their destination. A night landing in those remote mountains would have been impossible, but it was dawn as the big bird touched down on the make-shift runway, kicking up sand and rocks on an all-too-short strip of dirt serving as a temporary airfield.

No sooner was the plane on the ground than it was hitched to a tractor and towed out of sight, into a huge cavern hewn from the mountainside. There it stayed for many months, until today.

Great ideas take time to plan and execute. This one was twelve months in the making. Now all the threads are coming together.

Acquiring the bomb had proved the easiest part. Pakistan has over a hundred such nuclear devices deployed at various sites throughout the country. The Taliban have been infiltrating these establishments for years. It only took one corrupt official to sign a document authorizing the transfer of a warhead to a second site, then conveniently forgetting to notify the other site of its pending arrival, for the weapon to silently disappear into the mountain ranges of the northern Wakhan Corridor.

During its time in the cavern the Boeing 777 has changed its appearance dramatically. No longer a Malaysian Airlines plane, it now wears the colors and insignia of Air India. The dead crew and passengers have long ago been dragged out, unceremoniously, and buried in a mass grave. Inside the plane, the cabin seats are gone, the floor opened up to expose the cargo hold underneath. Nestled between the two, welded firmly in place, is the bomb.

“You!” The voice is gruff and authoritative. “Get fed, and then sleep. You’ll need to be in the air by dawn tomorrow.” He’s an imposing figure. The Boss. The AK47 he brandishes brooks no dissent. He waves in the direction of several large caves cut into the mountainside.

The Iranian pilots have just arrived after a grueling, three hundred miles road journey from Islamabad. They rub their backsides and grimace. One asks, “Where are we headed tomorrow?”

“You’ll get your orders soon enough.” A dismissal that brooks no argument.

Dawn breaks early over the Hinduraj mountains. MH370 thunders down the airstrip, and with only yards to spare, lifts lazily into the air and climbs steadily over the mountain peaks.

Only an hour previous had they received news of their destination. Both men had expected it to be Israel. To strike at the heart of that renegade intruder of Arab lands was dear to their hearts. They were disappointed.

The Boss had been succinct. “You’ll be flying to Al-Tabqa air base in Syria. It’s held by the Caliphate.” He noted their puzzled expressions. “Your plane would never get out of here with a full payload of fuel. We’ve given you just enough to fly the two thousand miles to Al-Tabqa. Hopefully, you’ll be light enough to get airborne and not fall off the side of the mountain.”

“Syria! But that means crossing Iran. They’ll shoot us down, for sure.” The Iranian’s face had contracted with alarm.

The Boss shook his head. “Your flight plan is already programmed into the computer. You’ll go north of Iran, fly west over Turkmanistan, across the Caspian Sea, and over Azerbaijan and Armenia. Then you’ll head south, skirting the Turkey-Iran border until you reach Iraq. Once there, the Caliphate will guide you in from Al-Tabqa.”

“Suppose we’re challenged?”

“It’s been fixed!” The Boss was becoming impatient. “The only time you may be spotted is on the Turkish border, but it’ll be noon when you reach there. Those idle Turks will be dozing at their posts.” He stood up purposefully, “If you’re challenged. Make something up. Use your imaginations. But get that plane to Al-Tabqa, or Allah will not be pleased with you.”

India’s Delhi International Airport is chilly at one o’clock in the morning. Most of the passengers waiting to board Flight 101 wear jackets or sweaters. The hot season won’t arrive for another month. Most of those returning home will be glad not to be there when it does. The hot season is ghastly; the air pollution intolerable.

In one corner of the gate lounge, two little girls – around seven or eight years old – sit at their mother’s feet and complain noisily at the delay. They spot a photo machine against the wall and harry the young woman for money so they can have their picture taken. She sighs and opens her purse. She’ll be so glad when this trip is over and she can be back home in her own country, with her husband.

The children run off, soon returning, clutching a strip of small monochrome photographs. The mother’s tired attempt at enthusiasm, as it’s waved in front of her, is drowned out by the public address system announcing Flight 101 finally ready for boarding.

Two and a half thousand miles away from Delhi, Syria’s Al-Tabqa airfield is festooned with the black flags of ISIS. American war tanks, abandoned by the fleeing Iraqi army, stand guard around the perimeter. When the big jet touches down it is immediately ushered into a hangar, the Iranian pilots hustled to a scruffy office nearby. They are told to sit and wait.

Eventually, the door opens and a tall, heavily-bearded man, dressed in a black cloak and turban enters the room. The Iranians turn to look, and gasp, rising to their feet then dropping to their knees. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an easily recognizable figure, though now he’s known only as Caliph Ibrahim, founder and leader of the new Islamic State.

Baghdadi motions the two to rise and be seated. He speaks in Arabic, congratulating them on their success in completing the first part of their holy mission.

“Now,” he says, “it’s time for you to learn the final act of Allah’s Great Plan. Your success will usher in that which the western curs and infidels – those enemies of Islam whom Allah will confine to extinction – call the ‘end times’. Mohammed will return to earth and raise us all up to eternal Paradise. And you, my friends, will already be there to greet us.”

The Iranians glance at each other and smile knowingly. It has been their wish all their lives, to work for the Prophet, die for the Prophet, and live for eternity in Paradise with the Prophet. They lean forward, bewitched by al-Baghdadi’s stature and eloquence. Keen to learn more.

“Tonight,” he begins, “at around one-thirty, a Boeing 777 similar to yours will leave Delhi bound for…well, you will find out in time. By five-thirty in the morning it will be over northern Iraq, at thirty-five thousand feet. Thanks to our American friends…” his voice quivers with the sarcasm, “…we have the ability to shoot it down…” He pauses, watching for any indication of doubt in the faces of the Iranian pilots, but on seeing none, continues, “…at four-fifty tomorrow morning you will take-off and fly to the Turkish border. There, you will activate your automatic pilot. You will become that Air India plane. As we speak, the flight coordinates of Air India Flight 101, call sign AIC101, are being fed into your aircraft’s computer. It will take you to your final destination. Once there, you will descend to two thousand feet, as per the control tower’s standard landing procedure. At two thousand feet you press the red button recently fitted in the center of your cockpit panel. It will activate the detonator and explode the bomb. It’s a five megaton device, two hundred and fifty times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” He pauses momentarily, “That red button, my friends, is your passport to Paradise.”

Al-Baghdadi stands up slowly. He sighs. “Would that I could go with you. Allah has placed a great weight on my shoulders. However, I must finish my work here on earth before I may finally relax and enjoy whatever fruits of delight Allah may see fit to bestow on my unworthy being. Go, rest up. You will have more of Allah’s work to complete tomorrow, before you bask in your divine reward.”

Air India Flight 101 is asleep. Dinner has long since been served, the shades are drawn, the lights dimmed. Even the two little girls, worn out from excitement of travel and impatience to be home with their daddy, have been lulled to unconsciousness, huddled together, by the steady drone of the big jet’s engines.

They die before they can awake. The huge explosion, the fireball engulfing the plane from nose to tail, the break up of the fuselage, the long, slow, plunge of bodies, suitcases, cameras and bric-a- brac, through the thin night air, and finally to the desert floor, is unknown to them. They, and all the two hundred and forty-three passengers and crew of Air India Flight 101 die without knowing.

Only a Kurdish shepherd, an old man out alone in the desert tending his scraggy flock, sees the fireball light up the dawn on the distant horizon. Then, he catches a glimpse of heavy, black, smoke rising slowly, almost aimlessly, from the desert sand.

With an arthritic grunt he rises to his feet and begins to walk. There has been war in Iraq for a long time. Strange things happen. Machines often fall from the sky. Sometimes there are pickings, for those first on the scene. As he walks his rheumy eyes note early sunlight glinting on a small object blown across the desert sand. The wind carries much into the desert. Mostly, garbage, paper, worthless stuff. Once, though, as a younger man, he’d found a fifty thousand dinar bill. The memory causes a chuckle. He’d been drunk for a week on that one. He stoops, and with some difficulty, picks up the flimsy object. It’s a small strip of photographs, like the ones from those machines they once had in the bars, before ISIS came. It shows two little girls giggling together as the flash makes them wince. He grunts again, tosses it back on the sand, and carries on walking.

The Iranians reach the Turkish border ten minutes after the demise of Air India 101. At the coordinates given they switch over to the auto-pilot computer. The big plane swings in a wide arc before settling on a steady course – westward.

Almost immediately the radio crackles and the voice of Ankara control comes through. “Alpha India Charlie 101, do you read? Come in, please. Over.” The voice is agitated, almost panicked.

“Ankara, this is Alpha India Charlie 101, we read you. Over.”

“Oh! Thanks be to Allah. We thought we’d lost you, 101.”

“Sorry about that, Ankara. Had a slight problem with turbulence over northern Iraq and took a dive, but we’re fine now and able to continue to our destination, thank you.”

“I read you, 101. Continue on present heading to Black Sea and Romania control. Good afternoon to you.”

The Iranian co-pilot switches off his microphone and breathes a deep sigh of relief. Obviously the real Air India Flight 101 hasn’t yet been discovered. And neither will it be. ISIS fighters are at the scene long before the old Kurdish shepherd. Their huge American military diggers scoop out a hole in the sand large enough to hide the remains of Flight 101 and its unfortunate passengers. The old man sees the black ISIS flags too late. He turns to run. The AK47s rip his back apart. He lies paralyzed, but conscious, on the desert sand as they slit his throat, before dragging his body to the pit and throwing it in. By the time they leave, Flight 101 is invisible to any but the most curious of passers by.

On board the impostor aircraft, curiosity is consuming the co-pilot. “Where are we headed,” he mumbles, half to himself. “They might have told us. Surely, we’ve a right to know?”

The pilot, his friend, grins at him. “Let’s see if we can find out, then.” He reaches up into a cockpit locker, rummaging about, “They’re usually kept in here. Ah, yes, I believe this is one.”

He pulls a dog-eared, well-thumbed booklet from the locker and begins to turn the pages.

“What is it?” asks the other man.

“Flight listings. Almost every commercial flight is in here. I guessed they wouldn’t bother clearing out these lockers while this bird was in storage. Ah, here we are. Air India 101…Oh, my God! Oh, Allah be praised!” His face registers astonishment, then pleasure. “The Caliph said, ‘Armaggedon’. He meant it!”

He passes the booklet to his colleague, who glances down the page, then back up at his friend, “Shit!”

JFK Airport, New York could never be described as quiet at any time, but at four o’clock in the morning the busiest staff are the cleaners and floor polishers working to restore order from the ravages of the previous day.

One man stands alone in front of the arrivals screen. He scans the lists, finds what he’s looking for – Air India Flight 101, due to land at 4.45am – and decides he just has time for a coffee before greeting his wife and two young daughters, returning from Delhi after visiting his sick mother-in-law.

“JFK Tower, this is Alpha India Charlie 101 requesting landing instructions.”

“Good morning, Alpha India Charlie 101, we have you on-screen. Please proceed on present heading and await instructions.”

The atmosphere in the cockpit of the jet is tense; the red button on the console seeming to have grown in size over the last few minutes. Beads of perspiration stand out on the brows of both men. This is it. This is the moment they’ve been working towards all their lives. Nothing must go wrong now.

“I hope, for Allah’s sake, this thing works.” The younger man gestures towards the button.

“It’ll work, my friend. The Caliph doesn’t make mistakes. He’s had the best nuclear technicians in Pakistan assemble it.”

The radio crackles into life. “Alpha India Charlie 101, this is JFK Tower, reduce speed, two hundred knots, begin descent 2,000 and hold.”

In the Southern Indian Ocean, fifteen hundred miles south-west of Perth, the Australian frigate, HMAS Warramunga, is hove to after sonar reports a contact two and a half miles under the keel. On the bridge, Commander William Anderson sighs and orders the submersible launched. How many times has he done this, he thinks to himself.

“Maybe this time we’ll be lucky, sir.” His second doesn’t sound optimistic.

“Maybe, Number One. Damn thing must be here somewhere. All the boffins say it is.”

2,000 feet! The pilot claws back the throttles. The noise from the jet engines merge almost into silence. He pushes the joystick gently forward forcing the nose of the plane down. It’s speed begins to increase. The plane shudders as the co-pilot applies the air brakes.

Far below them the Statue of Liberty glows faintly in the early dawn. The altimeter casually counts down – ‘3,500’ – ‘3,200’ – ‘2,500’ – ‘2,200’, and then – ‘2,000’ feet.

The two Iranians turn towards each other. “Allahu Akbar!”

In the airport lounge the lone man drains his coffee cup. He stands up, walks towards the door, but never reaches it.

The fireball that had been Malaysian Airlines MH370 blots out the early morning sun. Within seconds JFK Airport ceases to exist. But that is only the beginning of the devastation.

This time there was no smoking gun. Only a mushroom cloud.



——————————————



Author’s Note: The above work is, of course, fictitious. No one knows the whereabouts of Malasia Airlines Flight MH370. It may, or may not, be at the bottom of the Southern Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, I believe the scenario detailed above is feasible. If not MH370, then in the future, with some other commercial aircraft.

I’m no aviation expert. My research has been as thorough as I can make it. There will be ‘experts’ out there who will say, “That’s not possible,” or, “With today’s technology, they’d never pull it off,” or, “The whole idea is preposterous.”

To them I would simply say, cast your minds back to September 10th 2001. Would not the idea of Islamist terrorists hijacking American jets from American airports and crashing them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, have seemed equally preposterous on that day?

In today’s technological world anything can be possible. There are numerous experts throughout the world ready and willing to solve any technological problem, given the price is right. Right-wing, politico/religious ideology is a powerful incentive.

Islamic State is no rag-tag band of ruffians. It is powerful, well-funded, and well armed. We, in the west, need to face their threat squarely while we’re still in a position to do so.

R J Adams Copyright 2015.


R J Adams     January 29, 2015 at 10:33pm     6 Comments

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo?

by R J Adams     January 20, 2015 at 12:34pm


It’s been a fortnight since the appalling attacks and assassinations in Paris, France. Much has been said and written on the subject during that time and it might seem there was nothing left to add that was relevant.

It was with some degree of dismay I read, or listened to, the comments of certain media individuals and bloggers, following the killings. Their responses seemed to indicate that the staff of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ were in some way responsible for their own deaths, for daring to defy the Muslim extremists by publishing satirical cartoons of the prophet, Mohammed.

Perhaps the most prominent of these was Pope Francis, who suggested that, ”If you insult my mother you can expect a punch.” Apart from his total disregard for the obvious Christian response of ‘turning the other cheek’, a punch on the nose hardly bears any comparison to the devastating effects of an AK47.

The whole argument of whether ‘Charlie Hebdo’ was right or wrong to publish items insulting to the Muslim faith is entirely irrelevant. There is only one consideration to be made. It is simply this:

If someone insults you do you have the right to assassinate them?

I would hope that Pope Francis, and all other commentators quick to criticize those who were murdered in cold blood on that black Wednesday in Paris, would answer an emphatic, “NO,” to that question.

Any other response would be unthinkable in a civilized society.


R J Adams     January 20, 2015 at 12:34pm     4 Comments

The Long Road Home – A Personal Viewpoint

by R J Adams     December 19, 2014 at 11:21pm


If there are two subjects that bore me to death these days, it’s politics and religion. I’ve lived sixty-eight years and during that time my political opinions have never changed. I grew up believing governments and churches were there to help people, that true socialism – a fair taxation system distributing health and welfare to those in need, while encouraging jobs with wages that allowed workers a reasonable standard of living – was the only viable politics for any society.

My vision for the churches was a simple New Testament ideal of “do unto others…” and, “love thy neighbor.”

Both have become somewhat tarnished over the years. The first, for reasons that must surely be obvious to anyone but the most politically illiterate, and the second as my belief in any sort of supernatural being waned to the point of non-existence.

It’s here that some of you – the ardent believers – may decide this article not worth pursuing further: “If he doesn’t believe in ‘God’ then nothing he says has any worthwhile meaning”. I would argue that isn’t the case, but the choice is yours. If you prefer, turn instead to the ‘text for today’, only you won’t find it here.

Let me be clear, I’m no Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. I’m not here to preach atheism, while pocketing a hefty stipend in the process. After all, isn’t that just what the bishops and mullahs do? My concern is merely to point out that, in my humble opinion, we would all be a lot better off by accepting the finality of death, rather than clinging to the vain idea we’ll live forever in some ‘spiritual’ environment devised by a supernatural being for our eternal entertainment.

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that religion is responsible for all the wars and conflict in the world, it’s certainly been, and continues to be, one of the most powerful military recruiting tools of all time. Telling a warrior he’ll be rewarded in ‘Heaven’, for his sacrifice on Earth, is a powerful incentive to go to war.

In the beginning, when we first came down from the trees, I’m sure religion was no more than a tale evolving from the desire to understand the age-old questions of why we are here, and what is, ‘here’. Over thousands of years it developed into a tool to manipulate and control the populace, as well as proving a ‘nice little earner’, both in money and power, for individuals able to convince the simpler-minded of their ‘special relationship’ with the Divine. For years I believed our local priest/pastor had a spiritual ‘red telephone’ allowing him to intercede with God on our behalf. Then, of course, I grew up.

I didn’t come lightly to the conclusion that life ended at death. Much of my time on Earth has been spent studying religious books, and scouring the world’s religions for some modicum of comprehension that might ignite a spark of understanding, a moment of enlightenment that made the truth of eternal life apparent to me.

Once, I thought I’d found it. It was a ‘Hallelujah’ moment, when God in the form of Jesus, appeared to open my mind and lift all my troubles from my shoulders. My heart leapt with joy. Finally I was experiencing what all Christians hoped for. The ‘moment’ lasted for a couple of years. At this immature time of life (late teens, early twenties) I threw myself into local church activities and was soon convinced ‘taking the cloth’ was the future God had mapped out for me.

Thankfully, before I could embark on this crazy notion, reason and logic combined to call a halt and I came to realize my ‘Hallelujah moment’ was merely the product of loneliness and teenage depression finally burning itself out. The communal whirl of active Christian life replaced this negativity with new social excitement and a raison d’etre.

It gradually dawned that religious communities were self-perpetuating for social, rather than spiritual, reasons. Prayer only gets answered 50% of the time (if that) making it all mere chance, and the ‘power of prayer’ has more to do with being in mutually sympathetic company each Sunday, rather than any Divine intervention.

To put it bluntly, if I’d felt the need to go train-spotting I could have joined the local railway club and had a similar experience.

I still wasn’t ready to give up on religion altogether. I became a lapsed Christian, then began checking out all those other enticing ‘Eastern’ mysticisms so beloved of sixties pop and film stars. After all, if the Maharishi’s teachings could produce, “Sgt Pepper”, for the Beatles, maybe it could do something for me. It wasn’t until later I realized “Sgt Pepper” was conceived from the Beatles’ love-affair with drugs, rather than religion.

For many years I held onto personal spiritual beliefs that evolved from a mix of mostly ‘New Age’ ideas. I was done with organized, hierarchical, religion of any kind but not yet ready to leap the reality void and admit to myself that neither ‘God’, spirits, nor angels of any variety, existed.

For some years I’d been living in the heart of the Welsh countryside. It was a beautiful, and to me, spiritual environment. Then I made the move to America, but my spirituality remained firmly located in Wales, causing a degree of mental confusion that required serious consideration.

The conclusion I arrived at was that the thing we call ‘spirituality’ is linked, not to the Universe or any form of Divinity, but directly to an environment – a very earthly and material environment. My loss of spiritual awareness was not due to some break in communication with the ether. Like an alpine orchid transplanted to a lowland bog, my ‘spirituality’ was simply failing to thrive in a foreign habitat.

Unlike plants, humans can adapt more readily. After twelve years in America I’ve adjusted quite well, but the sense of spirituality I experienced in Wales has never revisited me. Spirituality, I’ve deduced, has nothing whatever to do with ‘God’ or the Universe, but is very much to do with our connection to the Earth. This conclusion has formed the basis for what I believe is the final home straight of my religious journey through life.

We are of the Earth. We evolved into what we are, just as every other living thing has done over eons. Like them, we’ll eventually die and return ourselves to the Earth from whence we came, as trillions of organisms have done before us.

Frankly, I find this cycle of life and death, of which I’m a part, far more satisfying than any forlorn hope of living on for eternity in some new form. For me, one life is quite enough.

Ego requires immortality. The ego becomes less relevant as one grows older, at least, for most of us. At sixteen the idea of not living forever was an anathema. I was far too important to myself to simply disappear after three score years and ten. Now, past sixty, I’ve learned I’m not really important at all, except perhaps to those who love me.

And so religion has become a bore, its discussion the habitat of college students late at night, egos swelled from free-flowing wine bottles; or, among the blinkered, ermine-robed, church hierarchy who don’t have any answers but pretend they know it all. They spend their time arguing the finer points of ancient scripture, and by so doing waste it, in the belief their immortality transcends all time.

Those of you who’ve stayed the course of this rambling essay will likely, by now, conclude my atheism is complete. If so, I have misled you, for it isn’t. The ego alone can conclude it has solved the vexed question of its mortality. As a mere human being I must keep doubt in the equation. After all, quantum physics is in its infancy. Who can say what discoveries in that field might cause a change of heart?

I don’t like pigeon-holes, unless specifically for pigeons. Atheist, I am not. But to those of my species content to believe in the existence of eternal fiery lakes, sons of ‘God’ waking from the dead, walking on water, or performing any other supernatural acts, I say, “Wake up!” and “Grow up!”

Equally, for those young men stuffed with the belief their warrior death will be rewarded with numerous nubile heavenly virgins, I can most positively assure them it won’t be.

I once asked a Catholic lady how, in the 21st century, she could still believe in the literal fiery pit of Hell. She thought for a moment, then responded: “I do. It’s in the Bible. And, after all, it must be true or so many people wouldn’t believe it.”

I’m so glad not to be one of them.


R J Adams     December 19, 2014 at 11:21pm     7 Comments