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United Kingdom Headlines
Saturday, January 3rd, 2004
: RCN Administrator
Britain’s top interrogators – MI5’s Eliza Manningham-Buller and Richard Dearlove of MI6 – are heading the team of British interrogators who will question Saddam Hussein.
Both are formidable inquisitors who broke Soviet spies and traitors during the Cold War. They will work closely with the US interrogators led by CIA director George Tenet.
Hours after Saddam emerged from his hole, he came under the combined scrutiny of intelligence service psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioural scientists and psychoanalysts. They are known as “the specialists”.
They have prepared a detailed study of how the interrogators can break him.
The specialists studied the video footage of Saddam being medically examined. The search inside his mouth was not only to obtain a DNA swab – but to see if Saddam had a suicide tablet secreted in a back tooth. None was found.
The specialists concluded this was further proof that Saddam was not a suicide risk.
Nevertheless, he was dressed in a one-piece orange suit. It has fibre buttons that would dissolve if he tried to swallow them. The suit cloth is too strong to be torn to form a makeshift noose to hang himself. His feet are encased in soft fibre shoes which cannot be broken.
His cell in a US base in Quatar is constantly monitored by cameras and guards.
His every move is noted and used to assess his ability to withstand the interrogation he will begin to face over Christmas.
In the esoteric language of the specialists, Saddam has not “allowed the loss of his personal boundary to effect his collective ego”.
Saddam is no longer the man on the video: bowed down with despair, suddenly aged beyond his 66 years, a haunted look in his eyes.
The specialists have concluded he then felt “stupid” at being caught. That would explain his “compulsive talking” to his soldier captors. It was to disguise his near paralysing fear at being dragged out of his hole.
“He may well have expected to be shot on the spot”, the specialists have told the interrogators.
But in the past few days, there has been a marked psychological shift in his mentality. His arrogance has returned. His eyes are no longer dull or his lips slack from confinement in his hole. There is a swagger about him.
All this has helped his interrogators to plan how to break him.
The interrogation team are considering secretly flying Saddam to one of the interrogation centres the team has in Kuwait or at the high-security United States air force base at Ramstein, near Frankfurt, Germany.
Each centre is purpose built. It is rocket proof and guarded by elite US Special Forces. It has a medical facility with doctors constantly on duty.
Intelligence sources admit that Saddam could be given truth drugs.
A senior British intelligence officer said: “There is a real urgency to discover everything Saddam knows about weapons of mass destruction and the whereabouts of associates running the suicide bombers in Iraq. Another key answer is what he knows about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden”.
In the hope of triggering some response, Tariq Aziz, the former deputy Iraqi prime minister, was taken to see Saddam. Aziz is currently in a prison camp outside Baghdad airport. He was flown by helicopter to confront Saddam – and urge him to talk.
Instead Saddam exploded – calling Aziz a traitor.
Truth drugs will be administered intravenously shortly before Saddam’s interrogation begins – probably in the New Year. Drugs were used early on in their captivity on Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners on Guantanamo Bay to try and discover where bin Laden is hiding.
By the time interrogators get to work on Saddam, his links with the outside world will have been totally severed.
He will have no idea of time or date. There will be no such thing as day or night. The normal patterns of waking and sleeping and meal times will be deliberately disrupted.
There will be no physical torture. But he will receive what one intelligence officer calls “the full coercive treatment”.
But the interrogators do not underestimate their challenge.
The intelligence officer said: “Saddam presents a unique challenge. He is a man who saw himself as morally, spiritually and intellectually superior to the Western world.
“Coercive treatment will include sitting for hours with a hood over his head to increase his isolation. All the time, the questions will be to increase anger in his mind about being betrayed. For someone like Saddam, betrayal will be hard to cope with. Being confronted with Tariq Aziz was part of that. The interrogators will tell Saddam that Aziz is looking out for Number One. Saddam could do the same by revealing what he knows – which is a great deal”, explained the senior intelligence officer in London. He is a trained interrogator.
Interrogators like Eliza Manningham-Buller and Richard Dearlove know that nothing will rattle Saddam more than facts he believed were secret.
“It will assault his sense of importance and he will think more about lying because he could be caught out”, said the intelligence officer.
Members of the team will include Arabic speakers.
“Part of their job will be to see how Saddam answers in his own language. In Arabic certain words can have very different meanings. If he chooses to use one that is not correct, his interrogators will show he knows the right meaning”, said the intelligence officer.
After each interrogation – which could last for many hours, with the questions coming and going – Saddam will be assessed by the specialists.
They will be looking to see how he responded to certain questions. Was he lying? Covering up? Did those eye blinks caught on camera indicate sudden fear? Or was it arrogance or even indifference?
One of Mossad’s top interrogators was Michael Koubi. To even seasoned inquisitors like Manningham-Buller and Dearlove, Koubi is regarded as probably the world’s leading interrogator.
He lives today in Ashkelon, near Israel’s Gaza Strip. He knows exactly how the interrogators and their support team of specialists will be working on Saddam.
“The first thing is to establish their superiority over Saddam. To remove his self of self-control. At every stage, they will be looking for his weak point”, said Koubi
Those weak points will include playing on Saddam’s loss of power and the indifference to his family’s fate.
“The interrogators will lie to him. They will force him to keep eye contact as they press their questions. When he will look away, as he is bound to do, they will continue to stare at him silently. Saddam is not used to this. It will be unnerving for him to experience such treatment”, said Koubi.
From time to time, the interrogators will ask questions they know Saddam cannot answer. What was going on in Washington and London in the run-up to the Gulf War? Where was he on a certain date? When he cannot answer, he will be accused of covering-up.
“After a while, a question will be slipped in that he can answer. If the interrogators have done their ground work properly, he will be glad to answer it. Then the questions will move to other questions they want him to answer”, said the British intelligence officer.
The interrogators will offer simple inducements. If Saddam answers a series of questions, he will be promised uninterrupted sleep. And possibly a change in his carefully monitored diet.
But always the promises will not be quite kept. And followed by more promises that if he continues to cooperate, they will be fulfilled.
The deadly mind-games will continue until the interrogators and specialists are satisfied that no more can be wrung out of Saddam Hussein.
Then he will be left to his fate. More, he will know by then, he cannot expect.Results Page:
Friday, July 18th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Mr Speaker, Mr Vice President, Honorable Members of Congress. Thank you most sincerely for voting to award me the Congressional Gold Medal. But you, like me, know who the real heroes are: those brave servicemen and women, yours and ours, who fought the war, and risk their lives still.
Our tribute to them should be measured in this way: by showing them and their families that they did not strive or die in vain but that through their sacrifice, future generations can live in greater peace, prosperity and hope.
Let me also express my gratitude to President Bush. Through the troubled times since September 11th changed the world, we have been allies and friends. Thank you, Mr President, for your leadership.
I feel a most urgent sense of mission about today's world. September 11th was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue. Iraq; another Act; and many further struggles will be set upon this stage before it's over.
There never has been a time when the power of America was so necessary; or so misunderstood; or when, except in the most general sense, a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day.
We were all reared on battles between great warriors, between great nations, between powerful forces and ideologies that dominated entire continents. These were struggles for conquest, for land or money. The wars were fought by massed armies. The leaders were openly acknowledged: the outcomes decisive. Today, none of us expect our soldiers to fight a war on our territory. The immediate threat is not war between the world's powerful nations. Why? Because we all have too much to lose.
Because technology, communication, trade and travel are bringing us ever closer. Because in the last 50 years countries like yours and mine have trebled their growth and standard of living. Because even those powers like Russia, China or India, can see the horizon of future wealth clearly and know they are on a steady road toward it. And because all nations that are free, value that freedom, will defend it absolutely but have no wish to trample on the freedom of others.
We are bound together as never before.
This coming together provides us with unprecedented opportunity but also makes us uniquely vulnerable.
The threat comes because, in another part of the globe, there is shadow and darkness where not all the world is free, where many millions suffer under brutal dictatorship; where a third of our planet lives in a poverty beyond anything even the poorest in our societies can imagine; and where a fanatical strain of religious extremism has arisen, that is a mutation of the true and peaceful faith of Islam and because in the combination of these afflictions, a new and deadly virus has emerged.
The virus is terrorism, whose intent to inflict destruction is unconstrained by human feeling; and whose capacity to inflict it is enlarged by technology.
This is a battle that can't be fought or won only by armies. We are so much more powerful in all conventional ways than the terrorist. Yet even in all our might, we are taught humility. In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs.
There is a myth. That though we love freedom, others don't, that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture. That freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values or Western values. That Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban. That Saddam was beloved by his people. That Milosevic was Serbia's saviour.
Ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, any time, ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship. The rule of law not the rule of the secret police.
The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defence and our first line of attack.
Just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea and that that idea is liberty.
We must find the strength to fight for this idea; and the compassion to make it universal.
Abraham Lincoln said: those that deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.
It is a sense of justice that makes moral the love of liberty.
In some cases, where our security is under direct threat, we will have recourse to arms. In others, it will be by force of reason. But in all cases to the same end: that the liberty we seek is not for some but for all.
For that is the only true path to victory.
But first, we must explain the danger. Our new world rests on order. The danger is disorder and in today's world it now spreads like contagion.
Terrorist and the states that support them don't have large armies or precision weapons. They don't need them. The weapon is chaos.
The purpose of terrorism is not the single act of wanton destruction. It is the reaction it seeks to provoke: economic collapse; the backlash; the hatred; the division; the elimination of tolerance; until societies cease to reconcile their differences but become defined by them. Kashmir, the Middle East, Chechyna, Indonesia, Africa. Barely a continent or nation is unscathed.
The risk is that terrorism and states developing WMD come together. When people say that risk is fanciful, I say:
We know the Taliban supported Al Qaida; we know Iraq under Saddam gave haven to and supported terrorists; we know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people who regard it as God's will, in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgement. Some of these states are desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons. We know that companies and individuals with expertise sell it to the highest bidder and we know at least one state, North Korea, that lets its people starve whilst spending billions of dollars on developing nuclear weapons and exporting the technology abroad. This isn't fantasy. It is 21st Century reality and it confronts us now.
Can we be sure that terrorism and WMD will join together? Let us say one thing. If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.
But if our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.
But precisely because the threat is new, it is not obvious. It turns upside down our concepts of how we should act and when. And it crosses the frontiers of many nations. So just as it redefines our notions of security, so it must refine our notions of diplomacy.
There is no more dangerous theory in international politics today than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitor powers, different poles around which nations gather. Such a theory made sense in 19th Century Europe. It was perforce the position in the Cold War. Today it is an anachronism to be discarded like traditional theories of security.
It is dangerous because it is not rivalry but partnership we need; a common will and a shared purpose in the face of a common threat.
Any alliance must start with America and Europe. Believe me if Europe and America are together, the others will work with us. But if we split, all the rest will play around, play us off and nothing but mischief will be the result of it.
You may think after recent disagreements it can't be done. But the debate in Europe is open. Iraq showed that, when, never forget, many European nations supported our action and it shows it still, when those that didn't, agreed Resolution 1483 in the UN for Iraq's reconstruction. Today German soldiers lead in Afghanistan. French soldiers lead in the Congo where they stand between peace and a return to genocide.
We should not minimise the differences. But we should not let them confound us either.
People ask me, after the past months when let us say things were a trifle strained in Europe, why do you persist in wanting Britain at the centre of Europe?
I say: maybe if the UK were a group of islands 20 miles off Manhattan I might feel differently; but we're 20 miles off Calais and joined by a Tunnel. We are part of Europe - and want to be.
But we also want to be part of changing Europe. Europe has one potential for weakness. For reasons that are obvious - we spent roughly 1000 years killing each other in large numbers - the political culture of Europe is inevitably based on compromise. Compromise is a fine thing except when based on an illusion. And I don't believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism.
But Europe has a strength. It is a formidable political achievement. Think of its past and think of its unity today. Think of it preparing to reach out even to Turkey, a nation of vastly different culture, tradition and religion, and welcome it in.
Now it is at a point of transformation. Next year ten new countries will join. Romania and Bulgaria will follow. Why will these new European members transform Europe?
Because their scars are recent. Their memories strong. Their relationship with freedom still one of passion not comfortable familiarity.
They believe in the transatlantic alliance.
They support economic reform.
They want a Europe of nations not a super-state.
They are our allies. And yours.
So don't give up on Europe. Work with it.
To be a serious partner, Europe must take on and defeat the crass anti-Americanism that sometimes passes for its political discourse.
What America must do is to show that this is a partnership built on persuasion not command.
Then the other great nations of our world and the small will gather around in one place not many. And our understanding of this threat will become theirs.
The United Nations can then become what it should be: an instrument of action as well as debate. The Security Council should be reformed. We need a new international regime on the non-proliferation. And we need to say clearly to UN members: if you engage in the systematic and gross abuse of human rights, in defiance of the UN charter, you can expect the same privileges as those that conform to it.
It is not the coalition that determines the mission but the mission, the coalition. I agree. But let us start preferring a coalition and acting alone if we have to; not the other way round.
True, winning wars is not easier that way.
But winning the peace is.
And we have to win both. You have an extraordinary record of doing so. Who helped Japan renew or Germany reconstruct or Europe get back on its feet after World War II? America.
So when we invade Afghanistan or Iraq, our responsibility does not end with military victory. Finishing the fighting is not finishing the job.
If Afghanistan needs more troops from the international community to police outside Kabul, our duty is to get them. Let us help them eradicate their dependency on the poppy, the crop whose wicked residue turns up on the streets of Britain as heroin to destroy young British lives as much as their harvest warps the lives of Afghans.
We promised Iraq democratic government. We will deliver it.
We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens not a corrupt elite. We will do so.
We will stay with these people, so in need of our help, until the job is done.
And then reflect on this.
How hollow would the charges of American imperialism be when these failed countries are and are seen to be transformed from states of terror to nations of prosperity;
from governments of dictatorship to examples of democracy;
from sources of instability to beacons of calm.
And how risible would be the claims that these were wars on Muslims, if the world could see these Muslim nations still Muslim but Muslims with some hope for the future not shackled by brutal regimes whose principal victims were the very Muslims they pretended to protect?
It would be the most richly observed advertisement for the values of freedom we can imagine.
When we removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, this was not imperialism. For those oppressed people, it was their liberation.
And why can the terrorists even mount an argument in the Muslim world that it isn't? Because there is one cause terrorism rides upon. A cause they have no belief in; but can manipulate.
I want to be very plain. This terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Here it is that the poison is incubated. Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people, the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel; and to translate this moreover into a battle between East and West; Muslim, Jew and Christian.
We must never compromise the security of the state of Israel.
The state of Israel should be recognised by the entire Arab world.
The vile propaganda used to indoctrinate children not just against Israel but against Jews must cease.
You cannot teach people hate and then ask them to practice peace.
But neither can you teach people peace except by according them dignity and granting them hope.
Innocent Israelis suffer.
So do innocent Palestinians.
The ending of Saddam's regime in Iraq must be the starting point of a new dispensation for the Middle East.
Iraq: free and stable.
Iran and Syria, who give a haven to the rejectionist men of violence, made to realise that the world will no longer countenance it; that the hand of friendship can only be offered them if they resile completely from this malice; but that if they do, that hand will be there for them and their people.
The whole of the region helped towards democracy.
And to symbolise it all, the creation of an independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel.
What the President is doing in the Middle East is tough but right.
And I thank the President for his support and that of President Clinton before him, and members of this Congress, for our attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. One thing I've learnt about peace processes. They're always frustrating, often agonising and occasionally seem hopeless. But for all that, having a peace process is better than not having one.
And why has a resolution of Palestine such a powerful appeal across the world?
Because it embodies an even-handed approach to justice.
Just as when this President recommended and this Congress supported a $15 billion increase in spending on the world's poorest nations to combat HIV/AIDS it was a statement of concern that echoed rightly round the world.
There can be no freedom for Africa without justice; and no justice without declaring war on Africa's poverty, disease and famine with as much vehemence as we remove the tyrant and the terrorist.
In Mexico in September the world should unite and give us a trade round that opens up our markets. I'm for free trade and I'll tell you why. Because we can't say to the poorest people in the world: we want you to be free but just don't try to sell your goods in our market. And because ever since the world started to open up, it has prospered.
That prosperity has to be sustainable too.
I remember at one of our earliest international meetings a European Prime Minister telling President Bush that the solution was simple: just double the tax on American gasoline. He wasn't exactly enthusiastic.
But frankly, we need to go beyond Kyoto. Science and technology is the way. Climate change, deforestation and the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored. Unchecked, these forces will hinder the economic development of the most vulnerable nations first, and ultimately, all nations. We must show the world that we are willing to step up to these challenges around the world and in our own backyard.
If this seems a long way from the threat of terror and WMD it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being won.
So: America must listen as well as lead. But don't ever apologise for your values.
Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them that when the star-spangled banner starts, Americans get to their feet: Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Americans, Eastern Europeans, Jews; white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers and those whose English is the same as some New York cabbies I've dealt with, but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress.
Tell them why they stand upright and respectful.
Not because some state official told them to. But because whatever race, colour, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's what makes them proud.
As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible; but in fact it is transient. The question is what do you leave behind?
What you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty.
That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about.
We're not fighting for domination.
We're not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease.
We're not fighting for Christianity but against religious fanaticism of all kinds.
This is not a war of civilisations because each civilisation has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage.
We are fighting for the inalienable right of human kind, black or white, Christian or not, left, right or merely indifferent,
to be free.
Free to raise a family in love and hope.
Free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts.
Free not to bend your knee to any man in fear.
Free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.
That's what we're fighting for. And that's a battle worth fighting.
I know its hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country in Nevada or Idaho, these places I've never been but always wanted to go, there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you the political leaders of this nation: why me? Why us? Why America?
And the only answer is: because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time and the task is yours to do.
And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you've fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.
You're not going to be alone.
We'll be with you in this fight for liberty.
And if our spirit is right, and our courage firm, the world will be with us.
Sunday, March 30th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Salute from a Challenger tank crew off for night patrol in Basra city
JUST 20 infantrymen of Scotland's elite regiment
The Black Watch spearheaded a stunning British blitz on Basra.
On a night of stunning victories across several fronts, the daring Scots crept into the city under cover of darkness. They evaded hundreds of fanatical Iraqi militia to DESTROY five T55 tanks with handheld Milan missiles and WRECK more than five mortar positions.
A propaganda TV station was BLASTED and a bunker sheltering a paramilitary death squad was BLOWN UP. During other actions around Iraq's second city in a night of British glory, 320 senior Ba'ath party militia were KILLED and 300 Iraqis taken PRISONER.
Many of the actions involved targeting by SAS and SBS men. And as a parting shot eleven Challenger II tanks of the Scots Dragoon Guards entered the city, defying rocket-propelled grenades bursting on their armoured sides.
The Desert Rats attacked three targetsâ€”and symbolically toppled two Saddam Hussein statues, one a 15ft monstrosity made of cast iron. Tank commander David Ross, whose Challenger II destroyed the iron statue with one shell, said: "It just sort of crumpled, there was a big flash and sparks, and it disappeared. I wish it was the real thing." There were NO British casualties and it is believed not one civilian was killed.
The Black Watch have been in every major British conflict for 278 years, winning 169 Battle Honours, six VCsâ€”and instilling fear into all their enemies.
They last fought in Basra in World War Iâ€”and went on to drive the Turks from Baghdad. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Basra yesterday troops from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers knocked out three Iraqi troop carriersâ€”and Cobra helicopters zapped three more. As the victories racked up, Marines from 3 Commando blew up a T55 tank and destroyed enemy mortar positions on the Al Faw peninsula. They also destroyed two enemy militia bases and took 300 prisoners.
In nearby Az Zubayr more Desert Rats of 2 Royal Tank Regiment Battle Group routed a nest of Al Qa'eda terrorists and secured the town. As in Basra the tanks and armoured personnel carriers attacked in the face of rocket propelled grenade (RPG) strikes. Lieutenant Colonel Piers Hankinson, the officer in charge, said: "Air strikes were called in and a series of precision bombing
missions carried out. We followed with a dawn attack with Challenger II tanks and Warrior armoured personnel carriers. "
The enemy were armed with RPG 7s and many of our vehicles suffered multiple strikes from these. The Challenger II and Warrior APC are superbly well protected vehicles and this enabled our men to remain safe. The enemy's headquarters was paralysed and then destroyed. "At the centre of the headquarters area was the town hospital. This was left practically unscathed although the head doctor mentioned a tank round passing through his office â€”causing him to duck!"
As at Basra there were NO Allied casualties, but many of their tanks and APCs displayed two-inch dents and grenade scars.
IN THE NORTH
Saddam Hussein's vital Medina Republican Guard division protecting Baghdad were dealt scores of crippling blows in air attacks. Clear skies after a spate of sandstorms allowed our overwhelming air power to take full advantage of a four day "pause" in the Allied ground advance. Our advance infantry, armour and artillery are restocking with ammo, and reinforcing supply lines, before the big assault on Saddam's capital. RAF Harrier pilots are operating four hours on and four hours off, knocking out the Medina Guards' tanks and artillery and infantryâ€”softening up Iraq's strongest troops. At the Harriers' desert base Armour Chief Tech Chris Snodin totted up the bomb tally launched in one day by the RAF â€” just five per cent of Allied air power.
"Eight free falls, twelve Paveway, two laser guided bombs, two enhanced satellite guided Paveways, four Maverick missiles and two large free falls," he said. "I wouldn't want to be an Iraqi under all that."
Apache helicopters of America's Screaming Eaglesâ€”the 101st Airborneâ€”also attacked the Medina Guards. "including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and trucks, and at least 50 dead." High level bombing and missile attacks on Baghdad continued for a straight 10th day. What was left of the Information Ministry was flattened. Group Captain Mike Harwood, commander of our Harrier squadron, spelled out how the Allies are stepping up the pace of the war. He said: "We are not now using indiscriminate force we are still using precision bombingâ€”but the percentage of planes now coming back Winchester (having dropped all their bombs) is much higher than the first couple of days we went kebab side (RAF slang for over the Iraqi border). "When we first arrived there was the hope we wouldn't fight at all and then we had to say we meant business. "If the regime doesn't buckle under the first bit of pressure then you mount the pressure, and if they meet that then you go to the next level."
Thursday, March 27th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.
He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
It became very quiet in the room.
Monday, February 24th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
About the author: In 1936, the NBC network invited Alistair Cooke to do a weekly broadcast of reflections on British life called London Letter. Cooke then emigrated to the United States in 1937, and asked the BBC to let him do the same thing in reverse. Eventually he succeeded, and 'Letter from America' is now the longest running radio broadcast in human history. In the process it has won a faithful worldwide audience of several million and many friends in high places. When Cooke was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1973, the Queen is reputed to have expressed bewildered admiration at his ability to sit down, week after week, and communicate so directly with his audience.
...I promised to lay off topic A - Iraq - until the Security Council makes a judgment on the inspectors' report and I shall keep that promise. But I must tell you that throughout the past fortnight I've listened to everybody involved in or looking on to a monotonous din of words, like a tide crashing and receding on a beach - making a great noise and saying the same thing over and over. And this ordeal triggered a nightmare - a day-mare, if you like.
Through the ceaseless tide I heard a voice, a very English voice of an old man - Prime Minister Chamberlain saying: "I believe it is peace for our time" - a sentence that prompted a huge cheer, first from a listening street crowd and then from the House of Commons and next day from every newspaper in the land. There was a move to urge that Mr Chamberlain should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In Parliament there was one unfamiliar old grumbler to growl out: "I believe we have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat." He was, in view of the general sentiment, very properly booed down. This scene concluded in the autumn of 1938 the British prime minister's effectual signing away of most of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. The rest of it, within months, Hitler walked in and conquered. "Oh dear," said Mr Chamberlain, thunderstruck. "He has betrayed my trust." During the last fortnight a simple but startling thought occurred to me --every single official, diplomat, president, prime minister involved in the Iraq debate was in 1938 a toddler, most of them unborn. So the dreadful scene I've just drawn will not have been remembered by most listeners. Hitler had started betraying our trust not 12 years but only two years before, when he broke the First World War peace treaty by occupying the demilitarised zone of the Rhineland. Only half his troops carried one reload of ammunition because Hitler knew that French morale was too low to confront any war just then and 10 million of 11 million British voters had signed a so-called peace ballot. It stated no conditions, elaborated no terms, it simply counted the numbers of Britons who were
The slogan of this movement was "Against war and fascism" - chanted at the time by every Labour man and Liberal and many moderate conservatives
- a slogan that now sounds as imbecilic as "against hospitals and disease". In blunter words a majority of Britons would do anything, absolutely anything, to get rid of Hitler except fight him. At that time the word pre-emptive had not been invented, though today it's a catchword. After all the Rhineland was what it said it was - part of Germany. So to march in and throw Hitler out would have been pre-emptive - wouldn't it? Nobody did anything and Hitler looked forward with confidence to gobbling up the rest of Western Europe country by country - "course by course", as growler Churchill put it. I bring up Munich and the mid-30s because I was fully grown, on the verge of 30, and knew we were indeed living in the age of anxiety. And so many of the arguments mounted against each other today, in the last fortnight, are exactly what we heard in the House of Commons debates and read in the French press. The French especially urged, after every Hitler invasion, "negotiation, negotiation". They negotiated so successfully as to have their whole country defeated and occupied. But as one famous French leftist said: "We did anyway manage to make them declare Paris an open city - no bombs on us!"
In Britain the general response to every Hitler advance was disarmament and collective security. Collective security meant to leave every crisis to the League of Nations. It would put down aggressors, even though, like the United Nations, it had no army, navy or air force. The League of Nations had its chance to prove itself when Mussolini invaded and conquered Ethiopia (Abyssinia). The League didn't have any shot to fire. But still the cry was chanted in the House of Commons - the League and collective security is the only true guarantee of peace. But after the Rhineland the maverick Churchill decided there was no collectivity in collective security and started a highly unpopular campaign for rearmament by Britain, warning against the general belief that Hitler had already built an enormous mechanised army and superior air force.
But he's not used them, he's not used them - people protested. Still for two years before the outbreak of the Second War you could read the debates in the House of Commons and now shiver at the famous Labour men -Major Attlee was one of them - who voted against rearmament and still went on pointing to the League of Nations as the saviour. Now, this memory of mine may be totally irrelevant to the present crisis. It haunts me. I have to say I have written elsewhere with much conviction that most historical analogies are false because, however strikingly similar a new situation may be to an old one, there's usually one element that is different and it turns out to be the crucial one. It may well be so here.
All I know is that all the voices of the 30s are echoing through 2003...
Monday, February 17th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
One year ago, the world witnessed a unique kind of broadcasting -- the mass murder of thousands, live on television. As a lesson in the pitiless cruelty of the human race, September 11 was up there with Pol Pot’s
Mountain of Skulls in Cambodia, or the skeletal bodies stacked like garbage in the Nazi concentration camps.
An unspeakable act so cruel, so calculated and so utterly merciless that surely the world could agree on one thing - nobody deserves this fate. Surely there could be consensus: The victims were truly innocent, the
perpetrators truly evil.
But to the world’s eternal shame, 9/11 is increasingly seen as America’s comeuppance. Incredibly, anti-Americanism has increased over the last year.
There has always been a simmering resentment to the USA in this country; too loud, too rich, too full of themselves, and so much happier than Europeans -- but it has become an epidemic. And it seems incredible to
me. More than that, it turns my stomach.
America is this country’s greatest friend and our staunchest ally. We are bonded to the US by culture, language and blood. A little over half a century ago, around half a million Americans died for our freedoms, as
well as their own.
Have we forgotten so soon? And exactly a year ago, thousands of ordinary men, women and children -- not just Americans, but from dozens of countries -- were butchered by a small group of religious fanatics.
Are we so quick to betray them?
What touched the heart about those who died in the Twin Towers and on the planes, was that we recognized them. Young fathers and mothers, somebody’s son and somebody’s daughter, husbands, wives, and children, some unborn.
And these people brought it on themselves? Their nation is to blame for their meticulously planned slaughter?
These days you don’t have to be some dust-encrusted nut job in Kabul or Karachi or Finsbury Park to see America as the Great Satan. The anti-American alliance is made up of self-loathing liberals who blame the
Americans for every ill in the Third World, and conservatives suffering from power-envy, bitter
that the world’s only superpower can do what it likes without having to ask permission.
The truth is that America has behaved with enormous restraint since September 11.
Remember ... remember ... remember ... the gut-wrenching tapes of weeping men phoning their wives to say, "I love you," before they were burned alive.
Remember those people leaping to their deaths from the top of burning skyscrapers. Remember the hundreds of firemen buried alive.
Remember the smiling face of that beautiful little girl who was on one of the planes with her mum.
Remember ... remember ... And realize that America has never retaliated for 9/11 in anything like the way it could have.
So a few al-Qaeda tourists got locked up without a trial in Camp X-ray?
Pass the Kleenex ...
So some Afghan wedding receptions were shot up after they merrily fired their semi-automatics in a sky full of American planes? A shame, but maybe next time they should stick to confetti.
AMERICA could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it didn’t is a sign of strength. American voices are already being raised against attacking Iraq -- that’s what a democracy is for. How
many in the Islamic world will have a minute’s silence for the slaughtered innocents of 9/11?
How many Islamic leaders will have the guts to say that the mass murder of 9/11 was an abomination?
When the news of 9/11 broke on the West Bank, those freedom-loving Palestinians were dancing in the street. America watched all of that -- and didn’t push the button. We should thank the stars that America is the
most powerful nation in the world. I still find it incredible that 9/11 did not provoke all-out war. Not a "war on terrorism." A real war.
The fundamentalist dudes are talking about "opening the gates of hell" if America attacks Iraq. Well, America could have opened the gates of hell like you wouldn’t believe.
The US is the most militarily powerful nation that ever strode the face of the earth. The campaign in Afghanistan may have been less than perfect and
the planned war on Iraq may be misconceived.
But don’t blame America for not bringing peace and light to these wretched countries. How many democracies are there in the Middle East, or in the Muslim world? You can count them on the fingers of one hand -- assuming you haven’t had any chopped off for minor shoplifting.
I love America, yet America is hated. I guess that makes me Bush’s poodle. But I would rather be a dog in New York City than a Prince in Riyadh. Above all, America is hated because it is what every country wants to
be -- rich, free, strong, open, optimistic. Not ground down by the past, or religion, or some caste system. America is the best friend this country ever had and we should start remembering that.
Or do you really think the USA is the root of all evil? Tell it to the loved ones of the men and women who leaped to their death from the burning towers.
Tell it to the nursing mothers whose husbands died on one of the hijacked planes, or were ripped apart in a collapsing skyscraper. And tell it to the hundreds of young widows whose husbands worked for the New York Fire Department.
To our shame, George Bush gets a worse press than Saddam Hussein. Once we were told that Saddam gassed the Kurds, tortured his own people and
set up rape-camps in Kuwait. Now we are told he likes Quality Street. Save me the orange center, Oh Mighty One!
Remember ... remember ... September 11. One of the greatest atrocities in human history was committed against America.
No, do more than remember. Never forget.
Monday, February 10th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
A SERIOUS rift has opened up between Prince Charles and the government because he is seen to be AGAINST a war on Iraq and AGAINST America.
Whitehall also believes the prince is sympathetic to the view of his Arab friends that war on Saddam Hussein is a bid by the US to grab a stake in the Middle East’s oil.
Yet despite being colonel-in-chief to 17 regiments, Charles has shown little public support for the soldiers, airmen and sailors who are about to risk their lives in a Gulf conflict.
There are also worries that he makes no secret of his anti-American views in conversations with members of Arab royal families and their leading officials.
A Whitehall source said: "Downing Street tries not to involve the prince in anything?because they have concerns over how he will react.
"He has this lunatic view he is the voice of the people."
And a diplomatic insider said: "It would be very unhelpful if the prince were to indicate anything other than unswerving support for the government."
The prince’s stance was illustrated last week when—in his role as colonel-in-chief of the Paras—he said a stiff, formal farewell to his men as they prepared to leave for the Gulf.
His visit to the Parachute Regiment barracks in Colchester does not merit a single line on his official website. It was not announced by his own office.
Yet his opening of an Islamic education centre in Leicester two weeks ago is reported on the website with 19 paragraphs, two pictures and a full transcript of his speech.
Charles is rightly feted for his pioneering work creating understanding and tolerance between Islam and other faiths.
He also holds many honorary military positions, including chief to the Welsh Guards, the Paras and the Gurkhas. He is Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy, Air Marshal in the RAF and Lieutenant General in the Army.
Critics say the prince likes to cut a dash in the Paras’ coveted red beret—strutting around with a chestful of medals on his tunic. But they ask how the men of the Parachute Regiment would feel if they knew their colonel’s true feelings on the war.
The prince’s views have led to a worrying split with the American leadership. Two months ago, Charles had to abandon an official visit to the US because the White House made it clear he wasn’t wanted.
The snub—directly from President Bush—came after security sources advised that Charles’s presence in America would be "very unhelpful".
Washington diplomats were concerned the prince would show his disapproval during meetings with President Bush.
Charles—who reads the Koran every day and often adopts Islamic dress at home—spends long hours discussing the Middle East’s problems with Saudi royal family members.
One of his closest friends is the former Saudi ambassador Ghazi Algosaibi who wrote a poem in praise of the first woman suicide bomber.
Algosaibi said that the "doors of heaven are opened for her". He once described the Israelis as worse than Nazis and he was a regular guest at Highgrove—Prince Charles’s country home—before he was recalled by his government last year.
Charles is also close to King Abdullah of Jordan. His glamorous wife Queen Rania is a close friend of the prince’s partner, Camilla Parker Bowles and is a regular guest at St James’s Palace.
In private the prince talks about "Americanimperi-alism" collapsing the whole of the Middle East.
"Of course Saddam is an evil man, but American imperialism will not solve the problem," he said in one discussion.
He sympathises with his Saudi royal friends when they talk about their fears of America’s true intentions in Iraq.
One close friend said: "They believe the US intends to collapse the whole Gulf economy and take control of oil.
"Once that happens the tensions in Israel and Palestine will explode."
Charles’s meeting three days ago with French President Jacques Chirac was fraught with diplomatic concerns.
Before the meeting the Foreign Office asked the Prince of Wales’s staff if he would promise not to discuss Iraq.
They said yes, but Charles would feel free to give an opinion if Chirac raised Iraq first.
Downing Street is understood to have washed its hands of winning Charles’s support.
"At such a sensitive time his views are wrong, wrong, wrong," said a Whitehall source.
"Unfortunately he is making them a little too widely known."
TODAY—with our forces poised for action in the Gulf—we ask: Where does the heir to the throne stand? (Editors of News of the World)
Prince Charles is colonel-in-chief of 10 UK regiments, seven more abroad.
He also holds the exalted ranks of Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy, Air Marshal in the Royal Air Force and Lieutenant General in the Army. About as high as it gets.
The prince rightly speaks with warmth on the subject of Islam and the East.
But privately he argues war could and should be avoided. He blames the West’s hopeless failure to understand Muslim culture.
We have no problem with his affection for Islam. Like most religions it has important qualities, and we are all for understanding other faiths.
But the regiments—whose fine uniforms he adopts—have a right to know their chief supports them.
For the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the nation turned out in millions. Now Charles must support the nation.
President Bush has a simple way of putting it: You’re either with the civilised world or the terrorists.
Of course, we do not expect the Prince of Wales to lead our troops into battle.
But since he enjoys the honour of wearing the uniforms, we are entitled to ask:
When will he come out and back our boys in public?
Thursday, January 30th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
By Judge William Young -- Ruling by Judge William Young
U.S. District Court Judge William Young made the following statement in sentencing "shoe bomber" Richard Reid to prison. It is noteworthy, and deserves to be remembered far longer than he predicts. I commend it to you and to anyone you might wish to forward it to.
January 30, 2003 United States vs. Reid. Judge Young:
Mr. Richard C. Reid hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.
On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General.
On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutive with the other. That's 80 years.
On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years consecutive to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 for the aggregate fine of $2 million.
The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.
The Court imposes upon you the $800 special assessment.
The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need go no further. This is the sentence that is provided for by our statues. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr.
Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.
Here in this court , where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice, you are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.
We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice. So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big.
You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and he said you're no big deal. You're no big deal. What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so
horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing. And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as
close to understanding as I know. It seems to me you hate the one thing that is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.
Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful
courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their,their representation of you before other judges. We are about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the
measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden, pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.
The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.
See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. You know it always will.
Custody Mr. Officer. Stand him down.
How much of this Judge's comments did you hear on our TV sets?
Sunday, January 12th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
As the European continent moves to merge their political and economic interests, there are serious questions that come to the average observer’s mind. Chief among them is the question of whether the new European entity will be proactive, reactive, passive. Will the new Europe take the somewhat anti-American posture of nations like France and Germany, or will it adopt the more America-friendly tone of countries like Spain and England? Speaking of England, what role will that stalwart ally of the U.S. play in the new body? Will it steer the new Europe towards a more proactive course that obviates the need for the U.S. to constantly take a leadership role in solving European problems? Will it be consigned to the dust heap of irrelevance, within the new entity, forever regarded with suspicion and perhaps contempt, by its new partners due to its association with the U.S.? Or will England eventually yield to its rich history, culture and traditions, and refuse to become a part of the new Europe that appears bent on subsuming national identities under a new somewhat amorphous, bland giant with an identity that is yet to emerge? England is after all the land of the Royal Family, the land of Big Ben, the land of Fox-Hunting, the land of Afternoon tea, and most important of all the land of the British Pound, a currency that has existed for over 1,300 years, in contrast to the other European currencies some of which have lasted for only 60 – 65 years. Will the average Briton be prepared to subsume that stalwart, time-tested currency to the currency of a new, unproven, continental currency? A currency without a record?
Europe does have a record of some sort, but that record is not necessarily one that inspires confidence. The record is one of spouting a lot of lofty words, ideals and promises, but not generally living up to them. In 1914, when the Austria-Hungary government was working itself into a frenzy over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in Serbia, and embarking on an angry path that would eventually lead to war, Europe showed a singular un preparedness for handling the problem. The German Kaiser who had pledged full support for Austria, went away on holiday in Norway on his yacht, at the peak of the crisis, General Von Moltke, head of the German army was receiving treatment at a foreign spa, The Serbian Prime Minister was preparing the groundwork for his election campaign in Belgrade, and the French President was visiting Russia on a state visit. The British offer to mediate in the unfolding crisis was rejected as ‘insolent’ by the Austrian Kaiser, and from there onwards, things spiraled out of control. The resulting First World War raged on until 1917 when the U.S. officially joined the war, and 19 months later, the war which should never have started, was over. The second world war is a similar story, with the European nations watching Hitler first torment and then exterminate Jews, swallow up Czechoslovakia, march into Austria, and doing virtually nothing, until he entered Poland. The first major European power to declare war on Hitler was England, and once again, the U.S. virtually forced into the war by the Pearl Harbor attack, joined the war in 1941, and ended it in 1945.
Europe again was unable to sustain itself after the second world war, and looked to the U.S. for support through the Marshall Aid plan from the U.S. As far as modern areas of European ineffectuality, Bosnia is a prime point, where till today, thousands of American troops remain, playing the leading peace-keeping role on a continent that is supposed to be creating a new self-sufficient political, economic and presumably military entity. The Yugoslavian situation was also one that the European nations did nothing about, until it was too late, whereupon they again looked westward for the U.S. to solve their problems.
As far as an issue like that of Iraq, the Europeans did nothing after the 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait, until the U.S. took a leadership role, and all the while, they counselled negotiation and sanctions with and against Iraq, while Iraq was looting and plundering Kuwait. They were tepid at best, in their support of the commitment to evict Saddam Hussein, until then President George Bush went to the United Nations, and rallied international support. At that point, when war seemed inevitable the Europeans decided to take a more active role. Of course, their contribution (apart from the U.K.) was limited to money and limited troops in the coalition force which was once again, U.S. led. In the modern day problem of the Middle East, the Europeans continually ignore suicide attacks on Israelis, and loudly condemn the Israelis whenever there are any Palestinian deaths from Israeli anti-terror operations. They do so both through political officials and through crass United Nations Resolutions against Israel, and show no balance in dealing with the Israelis and Palestinians. They then wonder why the Israelis pay no attention to them whatsoever in their recommendations and suggestions for peace, and at that point, yes, you guessed it - They turn to the U.S. for help. They do this by pressuring them, and then criticizing the U.S. for not exerting enough pressure on Israel to show ‘restraint’. Naturally, the U.S. is expected to help them override Israeli political will, and right to self defence, so as to comply with European sensibilities, even though these same European politicians regularly express veiled contempt for President Bush and the new American administration, and even though, European sensibilities were notoriously silent when 6 million Jews were butchered in Europe in the last century. On another topic, for 11 years, the European nations did nothing about Saddam Hussein’s flouting of the conditions he agreed to for cessation of war, when he was soundly defeated in the gulf war. Now that President Bush has taken charge of the situation, they smart and chaff at his ‘aggressiveness’ and ‘hastiness’, and caution against War. The German Chancellor and Foreign Minister have gone even further, using a dangerous situation like the Iraq issue, for political means. They took advantage of anti American feelings in Germany, to get themselves elected to power, never ceasing in their strident criticism of Washington’s position against Iraq. They have been more critical of President Bush’s position against Saddam Hussein, than they ever were about Saddam Hussein’s butchery of Kurds, political opponents, hostile relatives, Kuwaitis, and his violation of the terms under which the gulf war was ended. They rarely made a peep of protest, when the Weapons inspectors were kicked out of Iraq in 1998. In place of Washington’s policy, they counsel the policy of ‘containment’, one which they never made any attempt to enforce, over the past 11 years.
As far as North Korea and its sudden dangerously belligerent and erratic stance on Nuclear weapons, the Europeans are once again, markedly silent, even though North Korea’s Nuclear activity could affect the entire world. So how’s that for political courage? Or responsibility? Or diplomatic dexterity?? How’s that for taking up the role as the big new power in the world? Easier said than done, isn’t it? Mr. Blair has taken a lot of heat in Europe and within his country, for his whole hearted support for the U.S., despite the ambivalence of the average British citizen towards the U.S. position. The truth is that it is his resolute support based on sheer principle, regardless of public opinion, that makes him more of a leader, than those who constantly attack the U.S. position because it is good for their internal politics. A leader does not follow public opinion. He leads his country to where he believes is in its best interest to go, whatever the popular school of thought may be. That’s what he is elected to do. To lead, not to follow.
The British have never been followers, and that is why it is hard to conceive of how they will fit into the whole new European World Order-type entity. Perhaps they should take a long, hard look at this whole new body that they will soon be a part of, and wonder whether the new Europe will ever be anything beyond a toothless bulldog that simply detracts from the U.K. without giving much, if anything back. Otherwise British independence, common sense and courage which have been evident through all the major crises of the last century and this century, might disappear as rapidly as the concept of European independence disappears upon a crisis.
Sunday, September 22nd, 2002
: RCN Administrator
The largest earthquake to hit Britain for 10 years struck large parts of England and Wales today, triggering at least one aftershock.
The quake, which measured 4.8 on the Richter scale, hit at 12.54am. The aftershock, which measured 2.7, struck at 4.32am.
Both tremors had their epicentres "right under the city of Birmingham" and people as far apart as south and west Wales, Northamptonshire, south Yorkshire and Oxfordshire felt the main quake, which shook homes, broke windows and set off alarms.
Emergency services across the region were deluged with calls, but there were no reports of serious injury.
Glenn Ford of the British Geological Survey (BGS) said the earthquake reached 4.8 on the Richter scale. "It’s an extremely large earthquake in UK terms but not large in world terms, we’d only classify it as a light earthquake.
"This would have been right under the city of Birmingham itself and we’ve already had reports of the fire brigade being called out to fallen chimneys."
The earthquake would have lasted for at least 10-15 seconds, he said.
The BGS has only registered one tremor and one aftershock.
Raymond Higgs, from Dudley in the West Midlands, told BBC Radio WM of the moment he felt the earthquake hit. "Suddenly I was woken up with this jolt. I waited for something else to happen and nothing else happened. Everything else was quiet outside so I assumed it was an earthquake."
Greater Manchester Police said hundreds of people called immediately after the tremor, with most saying they thought they had intruders in their homes after they were woken by noises.
Forest Bank Prison in Salford also called to report a suspected jail-break, only to find the noises prison officers had heard were also caused by the tremor.
People across Lancashire had also felt the tremor but there were no reports of damage to property.