I am in a unique position to review this book for several reasons. I was part of the NATO planning team preparing to take over from the United Nations in Bosnia and then deploying to do just that when Aimen was cutting his teeth in jihad.
As a senior British army intelligence officer with access to the highest levels of intelligence I would often read CX reports, CX reports are highly classified MI6 reports, but they never give away the true identity of the source and I would often speculate where they had come from. The description Aimen has given regarding what he gave to his MI6 handlers now fills many of those speculative blanks.
The final reason is I know Aimen personally and knew him before he went public about his past and I am proud and privileged to see him as a friend. We have talked on many occasions about some of the events and stories so well-articulated in this fantastic book, Nine Lives by Aimen Dean, Paul Cruickshank, and Tim Lister. It also explains why there were times when Aimen went ‘off grid’ and I couldnt contact him.
Nine Lives gives an essential reading insight to the various paths people take to extremism and gives a frightening insight to the coordination that goes on across a globally linked network that is almost delivering terror by franchise.
I have seen some of the training manuals and other plans that Aimen refers to and know they sit in centralised hidden libraries in the dark web and elsewhere, easy for franchised extremist groups and individuals to request access to and learn their horrific trade from. Given their proliferation, it is near impossible for the authorities to remove every source of this extremist material from our ever-connected world.
We should remain concerned and recognise that it is everyone collectively who has a role to play in helping defeat extremism by reporting unusual activity. Remember, the extremists have only to be successful once, but the intelligence services have to be successful all of the time, and they have lost a real asset in the middle of the extremist networks when Aimen was compromised.
I know the pressures an agent and an agent handler go through as I have been there. If anything, Aimen doesn’t do his mental resilience enough justice as the stress of what he was doing to help keep us safe would have been unmeasurably large. I am not surprised he became ill on several occasions.
I know intelligence, I know spying and there is only one word that can describe this book – outstanding. For anyone who wants to know how extremist networks work this is a must-read. If it were a novel it is a page-turner, but the frightening fact is it is a true story. Aimen, Paul, and Tim, I salute you, but Aimen, for the countless lives you have saved, your contribution to humanity is truly awe-inspiring, thank you. This books contribution to understanding the sewer pit of extremism and the role of intelligence agencies is seminal.
I have been talking to a number of press outlets regarding how the detritus from the Skripal attack could have come to be in a position to contaminate and kill Dawn Sturgess and put her partner Charlie Rowley into intensive care in Salisbury District Hospital.
I will caveat this piece from the outset – it is based on speculation, this is purely scenarios I have come up with using a bit of knowledge from my intelligence background and a knowledge of how Novichok and other chemical agents work. As background reading on what Novichok is and more please see my previous article here: http://greyharemedia.com/salisbury-and-novichok-the-truth-and-myth/
One fact we have is that ‘ground zero’ for the Skripal attack was Sergei Skripal’s front door so I am going to work from that point.
Sergei and Julia Skripal were contaminated with Novichok on 4thMarch 2018, however this was not some random act that just happened on that day. The person or more likely persons involved in the attack will have been preparing for some time.
The first thing that will have been happening once the target was chosen is what is called a pattern of life study to establish Sergei Skripal’s regular routine. This will have required a surveillance team physically watching Sergei Skripal over a period of days or weeks as well as monitoring his communications and those of his relatives and associates. We already know Julia Skripal’s emails were being monitored by the Russian state and her phone will almost certainly have been monitored and if they could, the Russians will have been monitoring Sergei Skripals’ communications and online activity.
Whilst the pattern of life study was happening, the would-be assassination team would be practicing working with such a deadly substance, initially with inert substances and possibly have a final practice with the ‘live’ agent. They will he rehearsing their approach to a house in an estate and the application of the agent as well as carrying our many map studies of Salisbury and their route to the Skripal house.
The pattern of life team will then be carrying out practice runs to Sergei Skripals front door. They will adopt an alias based on the pattern of life study – so the delivery of the local takeaway menu, or local free newspaper, or charity clothes bag – all to check and see if Sergei or his neighbours would notice something slightly different.
At some time before 4thMarch 2018 the Novichok nerve agent will have been flown into the UK in a container, probably inside another container and sealed to ensure there could be no leakage. Probably separately the individual or more likely individuals who would be carrying out the attack will have flown in using false identities.
In a few days before the 4thMarch it is probable that the would-be assassins will have been taken to Salisbury and driven around and past the Skripal’s house so they could familiarise themselves with the ground and confirm their detailed map reconnaissance’s.
I now get into the scenarios as to how detritus from the attack could have got into Queen Elizabeth park and remain in a concentration to kill Dawn Sturgess and put her partner Charlie Rowley into intensive care. This is pure speculation on my behalf, including the pick-up and drop off points and routes taken to the Skripals house. The only two fixed locations are Christie Miller Road where Sergei Skripal lived and Queen Elizabeth Park where Dawn and Charlie were contaminated.
Scenario 1: It came from pre-attack preparation.
The attack team is dropped off in the carpark beside Queen Elizabeth Park – they are sitting on a park bench, it is dark, they are looking like 2 drug users, regular visitors to the area.
On the bench they open a plastic bag and take out a Tupperware type container, it is dark, no one notices they are wearing elbow length protective gloves, unfolding the bubble wrap in the Tupperware container there is a small syringe containing a hand gel-like substance contaminated with the deadly Novichok nerve agent. They squirt the agent onto a cloth and put it back into the Tupperware container – that cloth will be used to smear the nerve agent onto the Skripal’s front door.
Knowing how deadly the agent is and the adrenalin rush of the live op, the would-be assassins are nervous, they accidentally knock the syringe on the ground. Not able to see it quickly and knowing they had a mission to do they left the syringe where it was.
They walk slowly along Churchfields Road, turn right onto Cherry Orchard lane and the cross the A36 down Canadian Avenue and make their way to Christie Miller Road, a quick walk to Sergei’s front door where the cloth is removed from the container and quickly wiped over the door, pretending to post something through the door.
The team moves quickly up India Avenue to the A360, in the process putting the contaminated cloth in a new bag and stripping off their gloves and anything else that could be contaminated and disposing of it in a bin on the A360 before being picked up and driven off to escape the country.
Scenario 2: It came from post-attack disposal of attack means.
The team are dropped off at the India Avenue and A360 junction and walk slowly to Christie Miller Road – they have a cloth in a Tupperware container pre-soaked with a Novichok solution cloth and after quickly wiping it onto Sergei Skripal’s front door they walk south, down Canadian Avenue, up through the industrial area of Lower Road and Churchfield road, heading for Queen Elizabeth Gardens, chosen so they could look like drug users as they took their protective clothing off and dispose of their contaminated detritus.
Unfortunately, as they carefully place everything into another bag, having removed their gloves, the Tupperware container falls to the ground. Un-gloved and unprotected they have no desire to touch it and leave it where it lies. The bag containing gloves, cloth, and other items is placed in a bin near the toilets. Walking down Crane Street to New Street they make their way to the A36 to be whisked away by a pick-up team.
Dawn and Charlie….
Sitting on a bench in Queen Elizabeth Park, Dawn sees a Tupperware container sitting under the bush, thinking “that could be useful” she picks it up and puts it in her handbag, thinking nothing of it, not knowing of its deadly contamination. Or, she sees a syringe and knowing children play in the park she picked it up meaning to put it safely in a bin. Either way, she is a short time off touching the contaminated part of the object and the countdown clock starts for her exhibiting symptoms.
Holding hands on the bus from Salisbury to Amesbury, some of the Novichok is passed from Dawn’s hand to Charlie’s hand. The countdown for him succumbing to the nerve agent started.
Scenario 3 is what happened, it could be a mix of one and two or most likely is something else, but I have highlighted these to show what could have happened. The real story will help the police and security services focus their intelligence processes and potentially identify the would-be assassins and their supporting team. Rest assured this was a team effort.
Under any and all of these scenarios, we have a few common factors. There were a number of people in the original assassination team and it was a carefully planned attack. More worryingly, there is likely to be more contaminated detritus than the one container the police are looking for at the moment.
The police investigation potentially identifying a number of “Russian” suspects is what I would expect at this stage of a complex investigation. However, the reports of a perfume spray cause me to raise an eyebrow as it would be a dangerous method for would-be assassins to deploy such a deadly substance. Dangerous because a spray would create an aerosol of this deadly substance that is absorbed through the skin so all exposed skin would have to be covered and the splash back risk from spraying ti would be great potentially contaminating more fo the would-be assassin’s clothing. I would describe it as a ‘brave’ way of deploying a nerve agent. Time will tell.
This is a very complex investigation and we may never get all of the answers. No matter what I have written, the risk to the general public remains small, but there is a risk, that risk should get smaller as time goes on.
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Army Intelligence Officer who was based near Salisbury in the past. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE
Updated 07/0718 1645 by request for additional information
As someone who commanded an intelligence unit with a capability for the covert surveillance of Russian intelligence operations, has studied organic chemistry related to defence against chemical and biological weapons at both degree and master’s degree level, I think I am qualified to do some analysis of detail that is coming out from the reporting of the Sergei and Yulia Skripal and subsequent incidents in Salisbury.
Also, having commented widely in the national and international press I thought I would put all my thoughts in one place.
What is Novichok?
Novichok (новичок meaning “newcomer” or “newbie”) are a series of organophosphate-based nerve agents. They were designed by the Russians in the 1970’s and 80’s as they sought to produce a binary chemical warfare agent whose constituent parts would fall out with the chemicals that were to be banned in the International Probation of Chemical Weapons Convention, that was in its diplomatic infancy at the time.
A binary device consists of two ‘safe’ compounds that when mixed together form the nerve agent but on their own are little or no danger. An organophosphate nerve agent is one that works on attacking the chemical switch inside every nerve cell in your body that turns the nerve cell off after being stimulated. That chemical switch is an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase and nerve agents destroy the body’s ability to synthesise that enzyme.
Nerve agents fall into 3 persistence categories, non-persistent, eg Sarin (used by Assad in Syria), which has the consistency of petrol and evaporates relatively quickly; persistent agents eg Vx (used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam (Kim Jong Un’s half-brother) in Kuala Lumpur airport last year and has the consistency of engine oil; and very persistent such as Novichok that can be in a solid, powder or treacle level of consistency.
Aside from Sarin, the primary method of absorption for nerve agents into the body is through the skin, so it is unlikely that you would know that you have been contaminated with this the colourless, odourless substance until you start to exhibit symptoms. The symptoms can build slowly for low exposure or come on rapidly for high dose exposure and include: Runny nose and eyes, small pupils or blurry vision, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhoea, fatigue, headache, or sweating, muscle twitching or a seizure, leading to collapse, respiratory failure and death. Nerve agents are designed to cause casualties first and foremost to overwhelm evacuation and medical facilities on the battlefield and to deny ground through a sort of chemical minefield.
Why were the Skripals attacked?
Contrary to popular belief assassinating Sergei Skripal was not the main aim of his attack. Sergei Skripal was chosen because he lived in Salisbury and in President Putin’s eyes, was a legitimate target, more of which in a minute. The main reason for this attack, 14 days before the Russian Presidential election was to send a message to any Putin dissenters across the globe that he could get them anywhere, any time and in a horrible way. The second reason was to build a nationalistic strength call, into his campaign domestically.
Sergei Skripal was chosen because Salisbury in next to DSTL Porton Down, the UK’s chemical defence labs and this allowed an element of plausible deniability where President Putin could claim that this was set up to undermine him in the eyes of the international community, and that is exactly the messaging that came out in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The Russians have a doctrine called маскировка (maskirovka) which is all about this and is central to all they do.
The Russians also have an unhealthy belief in conspiracy theories and that the west is out to get them no matter what!
Was this a new attack or related to the Skripal attack?
This latest incident is almost 100% related to contaminated detritus left from the Skripal attack. Novichok has only ever been used once, and that was 4 months ago in Salisbury.
Looking at the timeline from probable contamination to hospitalisation my assumption for what happened would be: Dawn Sturgess in Queen Elizabeth Park touched some residual contamination on a bench, or spotted a syringe (or other object) in the hedge. Knowing children were in the park, she picked it up to put in a bin or dispose of later. She wouldn’t have noticed the colourless, odourless contaminant that had been transferred to her skin. The nerve agent will have started its path of adsorption through her skin and into her bloodstream. Initial symptoms would be minor, building over time and dependent on 2 factors, the amount she was exposed to and the absorption rate through her skin. Only when sufficient was absorbed would she collapse with classic nerve agent poisoning symptoms.
At some stage later, she touched her partner Charlie Rowley, possibly just held his hand. Some of the contaminant would have been transferred but a smaller dose than Dawn had been exposed to but his path to showing symptoms would have been the same. It is possible (I say possible, as there are other scenarios and this is pure hypothesis) that the dose Dawn was exposed to was extremely small and that is why it took time to build up to show symptoms of nerve agent poisoning and that smaller dose, combined with slower absorption is why it took several hours more for Charlie to exhibit symptoms.
If the reports suggesting they were known drug users are accurate, their drug habit could affect the absorption rate, symptoms and treatment they are receiving but I am not a medic and this borders on a speculative comment. Eventually, the nerve agent would build up to an LD50 level where 50% of people with that quantity in their body would die, the amounts we are talking about are extremely small, probably less than a grain of salt.
So, what was missed?
My Blog (http://greyharemedia.com/clear-and-present-danger/), ‘Is there a continuing clear and present danger?’ published on 15th March 2018 and quoted the following weekend in some of the national newspapers, outlined a continuing threat. That threat related to the would-be assassins.
The would-be assassins will have transported the Novichok in a container, they will have worn some form of protective clothing when they applied it and, unless this was left at the crime scene, they will have taken it away with them. That meant that there was Novichok contaminated item or items somewhere away from the immediate crime scene and possibly anywhere in the country.
I fully expected the police, if they had recovered these items, to make a statement like they do on murder-suicide cases along the lines of “we are not looking for anyone else in respect of this crime.” That type of statement didn’t come and I was concerned that this container and the protective clothing could have been discarded over a school fence, in a train station, in the local fast food restaurant, anywhere! I called the MET Police who refused to discuss it.
It seems that after the path the Skripals took that fateful evening had been checked and decontaminated, the threat from potential residual contamination was wished away and the police followed what I call the ostrich effect and hoped. Unfortunately for Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, that hope didn’t protect them.
In defence of the police and other security and emergency services.
Novichok is very, very, difficult to detect as it is designed to evade what is normal nerve agent detectors and whilst very persistent it will degrade, albeit very slowly, over time. It also requires you to come into direct contact with it to get contaminated. So, the chance of getting contaminated, even if the assassins gear was never found, was very low indeed. Maybe Charlie and Dawn should have bought a lottery ticket!
That difficulty in detecting means that swabs, samples, items found have to be sent to Porton Down for testing. Porton Down won’t have a high capacity testing capability, so it takes time to get through the hundreds or thousands of samples collected, a lot of time.
Is Public Health England right in their advice?
In a word, yes, the statistical chance of coming in contact with a contaminated object or area is very small but there is a chance! So they should have caveated their advice. The advice to wash clothes and wipe objects down with baby wipes is sound, it is a matter of chemistry for minute amounts of this substance.
What should be done?
The local council should set up a hotline and app to report discarded items as a specialist collection team sent to recover them quickly. This would be expensive but would leave Salisbury the cleanest city in the country and restore public and tourist confidence. It would be a lot less costly than another city close down!
The police have to find the container used and any protective clothing discarded by the would-be assassins – this is a very small needle in a very large haystack and doing it blindfolded with your arms tied behind your back. It is that easy!
Government scientists should be developing a method for testing for Novichok easily in the field. Of note, only today I was talking to one British Biotech company who have the solution to this problem, the issue is they are a research company and not manufacturers. They just need someone to rapidly develop what they know works, for the current threat. A challenge to the wider biotech world and government research laboratories, drop me a line if you want to know more, but I can’t put more out publicly, unfortunately.
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Army Intelligence Officer who was based near Salisbury in the past. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE
‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ a phrase linked to the 19thcentury American circus owner Phineas T. Barnum, is clearly something still believed by some companies in their approach to marketing. However, it does not hold water in today’s society.
Earlier this month at INFOSEC in London, the company Radar Services used women in red ball gowns as part of the marketing hype on their stand despite the show organisers having a policy banning ‘booth babes.’ The girls themselves were not from Radar Services, they knew nothing about the products the company was selling and were clearly there as sexist ‘eye candy.’ Rightly, a social media storm highlighted this continuing unacceptable practice.
The industry-leading author, CISO and champion for women, Jane Frankland, highlighted the issue and reported in her LinkedIn blog the following responses from the show organisers:
“Eleanor Dallaway, the editor of U.K. trade publication Infosecurity Magazine, an official media partner with close ties to the Reed Exhibitions (Infosecurity Europe’s event organisers), gave the following statement:
Hi all. @infosecurity does have a no booth babe policy, which it has worked hard to enforce over the years. They are looking at the exact terminology of what is considered ‘booth babe.’ It’s sad that exhibitors are insulting visitors by misunderstanding what they’re looking for.
Around the same time, Infosecurity Europe responded.
@K4tyS @KateOflaherty @JaneFranland @infosecEditor @drjessicabarker thanks for raising, booth babes are indeed a step backwards for the industry which is why our contracts expressly forbid this. We’ve addressed this directly with the company involved #womenintech #infosec18”
The use of ‘booth babes’ has been in the news several times in the past few months as event after event bans the practice. The RSA event and ISC West in the US have banned them and the Geneva motor show 2018 has too, the practice has no place in today’s marketing mix in any industry.
Fast forward a couple of weeks we have IFSEC, one of the largest commercial security events with keynote speakers such as Frank Gardner and Christian Horner and you walk past the QVIS stand and much to my surprise and shock handing out brochures and screwdriver sets was a gaggle of young girls in tight union jack minidresses with QVIS on the front hand back. All the QVIS staff were in smart work attire.
One of the marketing managers from QVIS said: “we have the girls in Union Jack dresses to emphasise we are a British Company.” The girls, when asked about QVIS, said they were a CCTV company but knew nothing else about them as they had been hired for the event.
Just as I spotted them I asked IFSEC what their policy was as I couldn’t find it on their website.
The girls were clearly embarrassed as when they went off for breaks they put coats or tops on over their minidresses before walking off the stand and they certainly did not look comfortable on the stand. The fact that they were being used is not their fault.
QVIS booth babes at IFSEC 2018 – their faces have been blurred
I was there on the last day and only spotted them late in the day but I know at least one person working on another stand formally complained to the organisers UBM and to QVIS and met with silence. Having chatted to a number of industry leaders they were shocked and dismayed that someone thought this acceptable and that UBM didn’t stop it.
Gerry Dunphy, Brand Director of IFSEC & FIREX, replied to my questions saying, “We have a set code of conduct which is sent to every exhibitor and the teams are drilled to be watchful when the shows are operating. It’s hard to police however and even more complex when the companies don’t see any damage in how they’re presenting their business. It’s an issue which is all pervasive in the events industry and we’re all on a mission to remove this activity from the shows. Our Sales Director spoke to them to remind them of the policies and highlighted the responsibilities they have for stand personnel wearing appropriate dress. ”
However, it seems that QVIS didn’t listen and their ‘speaking to’ was ignored. The time has come for the industry to stand up and make this practice unacceptable. Rather than generating leads I suspect QVIS marketing has just generated a bad taste in all who passed their stand.
The historic meeting in Singapore between Kim Jong Un the North Korean dictatorial leader and Donald J Trump the quoted leader of the free world is certainly raining more than one or two interested eyebrows around the globe today. Was it Kim and Donald playing their game of Top Trump if so who got trumped?
2 Hours after the 13-second historic handshake between the 2 leaders they signed a Joint Statement that stated:
The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Reaffirming the April 27,2018Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
The text of the statement is not as strong as Bill Clinton got in November 1994, but nothing came of that agreement and nothing in the Joint Statement is as groundbreaking as President Trump made out in his press conference. However, the one positive is that it is a start and like eating an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time.
President Trump’s post-summit press conference was interesting, he said some truisms and the most profound was, “The past does not have to define the future – our adversaries can become friends.” This is something politicians across the globe should listen to and in particular Sinn Fein and the DUP in Northern Ireland.
However, try as he might he had some veiled threats pointed at Chairman Kim when he said, “Chairman Kim has an incredible opportunity to seize…” and highlighted, “I had 300 sanctions, very big and very powerful ones, I didn’t apply last week as I thought it would be disrespectful….” Trying to suggest that he was leading the talks. Chairman Kim won’t like that.
There are lots of things that Chairman Kim will like. He hasn’t actually made any new concessions. The suspension of joint exercises between the US military and South Korea has been a long-standing desire and he has been given that assurance, without the South Koreans having been informed apparently.
More importantly to Chairman Kim, he has been given legitimacy and it is based on his possession of Nuclear weapons. He will see the possession of his nuclear weapons as the reason he has been able to get the US President to come to meet him, the reason why he believes the world now sees him as being at the top table alongside President Trump.
So, what is Trump’s motivation? President Trump genuinely wants to be seen as a good guy, as someone who when he threatens another nation, they back down and he gets the glory. He sees North Korea as an opportunity, an opportunity that may see the world moves closer to peace, an opportunity for him to grandstand on the world stage, an opportunity for him to continue his rhetoric against his predecessors, an opportunity to achieve something on the scale Obama did when he found and had Osama Bin Laden killed, an opportunity to have his ego stroked with the smell of a Nobel Prize. He is a bit like Muttley in ‘Chase the Pidgeon’ when offered a medal by Dick Dastardly (now I’m showing my age).
What does Chairman Kim want? Legitimacy and an easing of sanctions so he can increase his wealth, he wants to be seen as an equal on the world stage. He has got most of that already! China and Russia are likely to increase sanction busting trade relatively quickly to ensure they remain in favour with Chairman Kim and in the knowledge that to preserve the negotiations, America will turn a blind eye.
He also wants to court increased favour with other like-minded world leaders. He admires Xi Jinping who he will see as a grandfatherly figure and is pleased with President Putin, after all as Trump stated Xi has been sanction busting already and Putin has put a fast internet connection into North Korea. The one thing he doesn’t want is to give up the very weapons that have put him on the world stage, but he knows he can string negotiations along, eking out concessions and he can hide technology whilst putting a show of destroying it on.
So, who are the other players and what do they want? President Moon Jae-in of South Korea was elected on a promise of seeking Korean reunification. He wants peace on the peninsula and all Korean people to be free. He has been the warm-up act for Trump and has arguably contributed most to facilitate the current position and cooperation with Kim Jong Un.
Xi Jinping is next, he wants the US focus off his border region, he doesn’t want the prospect of a nuclear conflict near his borders and certainly doesn’t want a regional conflict of any kind as he is not ready yet. He wants the US military presence in the South China Seas area to decrease rather than the escalating presence with 3 carrier groups that has happened because of Kim Jon Un’s activities. Xi has developing ambitions around the Spratley and Paracel islands that he wants to be able to get on with quietly.
Xi Jinping wants to strengthen his hand in negotiating away any trade barriers with the US and wants his long-term plan to progress without interference. By positioning himself as a “Grandfather” figure to Kim Jong Un, keeping Chairman Kim sweet with trade, he can keep President Trump sweet with promises of keeping Chairman Kin in line. It is not by accident that Chairman Kim went to meet Xi Jinping twice before this meeting.
Then we have the final player. One not immediately associated with North Korea, but one who has been developing his relationship with Xi Jinping and with Kim Jong Un, but we don’t know why. He keeps popping up in many global scenarios and it is President Putin of Russia. Last year TransTelekom a major Russian telecommunications company that owns one of the world’s largest networks of fibre optic cables and is a full subsidiary of Russian national railway operator, Russian Railways who are owned by the Russian Federation put a fast internet connection into North Korea.
Around the same time, the North Koreans went from having a small nuclear capability with short-range missiles that failed more often than not, to have a hydrogen bomb capability with ICBMs that worked more often than not. None has explained how that technological advance happened so quickly in a country under strict international sanctions.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, Xi Jinping hailed ties with Russia as he held talks with President Putin who was on a state visit ahead of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with the Chinese leader calling Putin his “most intimate friend “and presenting him with the Friendship Medal. The dots start to join up!
We have a new world order developing – and it is those countries who can plan 20+ years out as they have predictable political conditions versus those countries tied to prime ministerial or presidential elections every 5 ish years. Add in a pinch, nay glug of ego with a sniff of Kompromat that may or may not exist and we have a recipe for changing political times.
The Alternative War espoused in JJ Patrick’s book of the same name has just taken on new dimensions. Donald Rumsfeld was so right when he said “you don’t know what you don’t know” and the reality is you can’t see it unless you open your eyes. So in the game of Top Trump, Kim trumped Donald but Xi and Vladimir are yet to play.
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Army Intelligence Officer who has served in the Middle East and Cyprus and visited the Far East, having recently walked the path in Singapore the 2 world leaders took. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE
The poignancy of the lyrics to the opening theme tune to one of my favourite TV shows, MASH, is something I never thought I would realise personally but when you get to that moment, suicide is painless.
In the UK we have just had Mental Health Awareness week and the US has Mental Health Awareness month. The reality is, mental health awareness should be all year round. The World Health Organisation (WHO) say that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental illness through their lifetime.
Mental Health by the very nature of the wording seems to generate a stigma and is something people are reluctant to talk about. Those self-same people are happy enough to explain how bad their cold is or the last time they had food poisoning or the time they were in a hospital for an operation. Why should mental health be any different?
That stigma is killing people, in the past few days we have seen the death of Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, Kate Spade the fashion designer, it seems that ever 2 or 3 days there is another post on social media paying tribute to a veteran who has committed suicide yet the government with combat stress stated that the rate of suicides among UK veterans is comparable to that of civilian statistics.
There are 2 issues with that, the first is that veteran suicides are not recorded in the UK. Until this year it was only Scotland that had a policy where GPs asked their patients if there were veterans, the MoD doesn’t gather any statistics. The second is with the military population being very small compared to the population of the UK and given flawed data collection, it is easy to provide statistical analysis that says what you want, and the Government doesn’t want to admit to a problem
I decided, when I got a call from Maxine Mawhinney to appear on her new YouTube Show “The Moment” and she asked me to choose a moment in my life, that that moment had to be the one that nearly killed me. One that led to me suffering horribly for almost 20% of my life. One that changed my life dramatically but one I have recovered from and can use to improve awareness.
I am not afraid to speak out and say I suffered from a mental health illness, I feel no stigma attached to it, I am me and I have been successfully treated and I have normal Philip back. I urge you to watch my moment:
On the back of that I was asked to do a piece for BBC Northern Ireland with Vinny Hurrell on the very popular Stephen Nolan Show. Baring my soul to my home country but also to a place where people will just judge me negatively because of my old profession. I say to those people, I can look back on my military career and see the lives I have helped save. The smiles on the faces of the children in a little destroyed village in Kosovo when they gathered around my Land Rover – the cheeky children throwing snowballs at our vehicles in Sarajevo and playing football in the street when all around them was destruction, but the shelling and sniping had stopped. Please listen to my interview here:
And then to the Sunday People who took my story and published it on the day after the Royal wedding. Given the help the ‘young royals’ are giving to mental health awareness I felt honoured to be in that edition. Please read my story here:
‘I put a gun to my head’: Hell of high-ranking soldier hit by crippling PTSD
Mental illness is something you don’t know you have until it is often too late. Those around you may see it and certainly get hurt by it. People shy away because they don’t know what to do and are afraid of being tainted by it. Some people rebel and see your weakness and for unexplained reasons want to try and hurt you further.
Not everyone gets PTSD, not everyone’s mental illness is PTSD, as a phrase, it is thrown around a little too liberally and is used by some as a marketing ploy to get charity money or as a badge of honour by misguided individuals, which it most firmly isn’t. It takes a long assessment process to be properly diagnosed. I do not feel fortunate for having suffered but I do feel fortunate to have survived.
For those I have hurt, I am sorry, for those who have hurt me, I forgive you, for my friends who broke off contact, I have missed you, for those who had responsibility for me and saw my suffering but did nothing, I forgive you but beg you take action if you see someone else suffering, for those who have stood by me and picked me up when I have fallen, I salute you, for those who still try to hurt me, please stop.
The time has come to recognise that there are illnesses where you will never get a ‘get well soon’ card. The time has come to recognise those casualties of war who have died because of their service but at their own hand. The time has come for our remembrance services in November each year to have a moment of reflection for those who are not here because they have made the ultimate sacrifice to get rid of their demons.
For anyone who is suffering in silence, watch, listen, read my story and talk to someone. You can get normal you back.