“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mr Litvinenko had converted to Islam.What was the dead Russian ex-spy up to?

The Daily Telegraph has been told that Mr Litvinenko had converted to Islam.

Akhmed Zakayev, the leading Chechen dissident who lived next door to Mr Litvinenko, said: "He was read to from the Koran the day before he died and had told his wife and family that he wanted to be buried in accordance with Muslim tradition."

This is startling. Doug, here at the EB posted a link yesterday that caught my attention at Whit's post on Lies etc.. Later in the day, Wretchard, over at The Belmont, posted a story that was tangential to the big story pointed out by Doug. I put up a comment at the Belmont alerting Wretchard to Doug's post. Wretchard took another look at the article and as he is wont to do, developed a concise and I believe accurate assessment of the incident based on what is known at this time.

wretchard said...
There's too little hard information to judge what's happening here. Litvinenko himself categorically accused the Russian state on his deathbed, when a human being has nothing much to lose or gain either way.

But even if we completely discount Litvinenko's testimony we are still left the poison and the track from Russia. If Litvinenko's death were a work accident and he was not himself an actual target, the existence of the poison and the track means someone else is target. It is the existence of the weapons system and its probable source that is the key fact. Litvineko is incidental.

If AJ Strata's theory is correct, then the poison was being sold to parties who planning to poison someone else. As I said, it is the discovery of the operational capability that is the bombshell.

The clear implication of AJ Strata's speculation is that someone was buying the radioactive poison from the Russians and that perhaps the poison is still in the UK. It doesn't take a genius to speculate who that "buyer" may be. Pakistanis in the UK with access to al-Qaeda funds would be one obvious set of suspects. And with a poison so potent and incurable, it could be delivered to a statdium catering event, a hospital, an office building, a school or a church gathering.

But the alternative -- that the bulk supplies still aren't in London but still in Russia -- isn't very comforting. Because the radioactive poisoning capability is now known to exist, its small size means it can be delivered in the world within hours. Whether or not it is now in the UK is not particularly significant.

Collateral evidence suggests that a chemical warfare unit exists. Other people have ben poisoned. Nor is there any reason to think the available toxins are limited to polonium. And nothing in principle prevents the mass poisoning scenario from being implemented directly from Russia to anyplace in the world. Tokyo, New York, Flagstaff -- wherever.

Effectively we've just stumbled on a new weapons system with absolutely wonderful properties in the realm of terrorist warfare. I'm going to speculate that the bulk supplies are under positive control in Russia. They won't let the merchandise out until its ready to be used. It will be delivered just in time for the same reason nukes are kept under strict control until they are ready to be used. Even murder has logic.

But since any reasonable mass radioactive poisoning scenario will be effectively the equivalent of a unclaimed small tactical nuke or dirty bomb, the incident reveals our lack of a doctrine to deal with such threats. And if thousands of kids were poisoned with polonium tomorrow, would Blair nuke Russia? Or Pakistan? Would Pelosi even countenance the suggestion? Not as far as I can see.

We are in a war for our lives, whatever alternate universe certain people think they live in. And as Karen Carpenter said, "we only just begun".

12/02/2006 12:12:43 AM

Two comments. The story speaks for itself in some very disturbing tones.It is far bigger than most first thought. Pat Buchanan was quick to hypothesize that Putin was being framed. To my way of thinking the "death ded statement" is now suspect. Was Mr Litvinenko on a martyr mission? Never underestimate the zealotry of a convert. Are Muslim converts going to lead the next wave? This is very speculative at this time, but something that has bothered me since the shoe bomber incident.

My second point is this. The format here at The Elephant with the wide open, often off-topic running commentary by some of the outstanding news junkies and insomniacs on the planet often catches events well before the MSM sees the total significance. The information on the internet, combined with some of the exceptional sites linked here is a remarkable thing to behold. Damn good job all of you. Daily, I look forward to your input and to welcome new players. Hat tip Doug.


  1. Meeting the Italian who lives as if he is in a Cold War spy novel

    By Peter Popham in Rome
    Published: 02 December 2006
    "I learnt yesterday that I belong to a select club: those who have been close enough to Mario Scaramella, the Italian KGB expert, since his now notorious lunch with Alexander Litvinenko at the Itsu sushi bar in London on 1 November, to require testing for radioactivity.

    Because yesterday, in the latest twist in the poisoning saga, the world learnt the Italian is contaminated with polonium-210.

    When I met him in the lobby of Rome's Termini station on 20 November, it was the first interview he had given to the Western press since being implicated in the Litvinenko case. He was clutching a large envelope with the name of a hospital in Rome printed on it. He had just returned, he said, from being tested for contamination by radioactive thallium. They had given him a clean bill of health.

    Did he even then have reason to believe that he was contaminated? If so, he wasn't letting on - and even yesterday, as news of his positive test became known, he said reassuringly from London that he was in the clear.

    He agreed to see me because I was the only British journalist who knew him personally. He was behind a story last year claiming the Soviets had laid 20 nuclear torpedoes on the seabed in the Bay of Naples. To follow the story up, I had lunch with him near the Pantheon in Rome.

    Meeting Scaramella is like walking into the pages of a Cold War thriller. This time, post Itsu, he showed me e-mails from an ex-KGB agent called Limarev warning that he and Litvinenko were in danger. This, he said, was the reason for meeting Litvinenko - only Limarev has denied sending them. Yesterday, in London, Scaramella said he was unable to return to Italy yet as there was "a problem". He may be away some time."

  2. Wretchard is right there is too little hard information.

    Still, Russia loses an enemy and the Islamists get blamed somehow.

    That too would be dreadfully convenient for Putin. If theres any organization capable of wheel within wheel double-bluff machinations then its the new heirs to the old KGB.

  3. Exactly fellow, "it's a mystery wrapped in riddle inside an inigma".

  4. Oh man, Robert Ludlum triple cross wierdness in real life.

    There hasn't been that much of it since the Cold War, has there? As much an old divil as a new menace.

  5. When I was your age fellow peacekeeper, I listened to Radio Moscow on my vintage Grundig. From there I would the go to what was then the very respectable BBC. The Soviet heel stretched from the Arctic to the Black Sea across all of Europe. The radio reports were coming from two different worlds. This is like an echo from the past.

  6. boy, that's for sure. USSR was scary as hell.

  7. Ha! That was back when the BBC was not a communist organization. Now that was a different world.

  8. Fellow peacekeeper said, "Ha! That was back when the BBC was not a communist organization. Now that was a different world."

    It was inevitable that the Beeb's political slant would come to reflect their business model.

  9. Certainly. As soon as US Treasury started writing as many checks as it cashes, the country found itself @ 50/50 politically.

  10. It was inevitable that the Beeb's political slant would come to reflect their business model.

    But their business model is cornering the British government into legislating fixed public purse revenue combined with zero actual accountability to either public or government. They are supposedly, by the charter, responsible only to the listeners/watchers, thought the feedback mechanism is of course subject to positive selection bias, which is Beeb bureaucrats only listening to listeners they want to listen to. That may explain a prelidiction to socialist dialectical materialism but it does not explain their prelidiction to cultural marxism, unless one stereotypically believs that ex-theatre types and journalists are a bunch of poofs.

    Incidentally, Russian defector Oleg Gordievsky called it "The Red Service".

  11. Fellow, you need to get that blog of yours fired up again. You have some very interesting points of view.

  12. Fellow, you need to get that blog of yours fired up again. You have some very interesting points of view.

    Bizzare, you meant bizzare and/or unhinged points of view. :D Too much desert, too much snow, trying to twist my brain around Adorno's truely abominable Negative Dialectics, but you need to use a socialist readers guide, I don't think Adorno really has squat to say, what matters is what socialist idiots believe he says.

  13. Whether Litvinenko converted to Islam or not, for all practical purposes he was a Jihadist shill. The more of his kind are disposed of, the better.

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