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This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
time and alphabet, contains all issues since inception, including the current week.

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June 2005

ISSUE #101 - 25th June 2005

ISSUE #101 - 25th June 2005 [133]


Juncker's a Guy Who Can't Hear No


CAP Juncker


Patient Suicide Bomberess


Incest and Infanticide


The Joy of Tunnel Collapse


Dissing the Haka


Holiday Apartment Near Malaga


Quotes of Week 101

Juncker's a Guy Who Can't Hear No

And he's in a terrible fix ... over democratic reality and uncooperative voters.  

I'm just a guy who can't hear NO, I'm in a terrible fixJean-Claude Juncker has long been the prime minister of tiny Luxembourg (pop 0.5m) which currently holds the EU presidency, so he reckons he can liberally dispense philosophy and advice to the EU's 457m population and their leaders.  

On the now-infamous EU Tea or Coffee constitutional referendums, he seems to be so overcome by self-importance that he's taken complete leave of his senses, including those of seeing and hearing what's going on around him.  

Before the French and Dutch referendums, preceded as they were by polls that left no doubt as to their outcome, he was saying


The French vote is important, but I don't think it will be able to stop the ratification procedures underway in the other countries”; and then 


If it's a Yes, we will say on we go, and if it's a No we will say we continue’”.  

After voters went on to deliver a resounding Non and Nee to the coterie of Brussels imperialist dreamers whom he heads, he was still digging.  


On 29th May he said, the European construction does not stop today ... it is impossible to renegotiate the treaty ... The ratification procedure must continue in the other countries”;


and on 16th June, “I really believe the French and Dutch did not vote no to the constitutional treaty [What part of Non and Nee does he not comprehend?];  


and again, “Unfortunately the electorate did not understand that the constitutional treaty was aimed at answering their concerns.

Actually, according to Le Monde on 15th June, the Constitutional Treaty's primary architect, French ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing told the current president Jacques Chirac that copies of the hefty document should never have been distributed to the dumb French plebs, because he also reckoned it was too complicated and too long for them to understand it.  

Yet now, undaunted by the tsunami of EuroNo sentiment sweeping the Continent, the intrepid Mr Juncker is going ahead with his very own referendum on 10th July despite all his EU colleagues putting their respective ratification processes on indefinite hold.  For he is convinced that the sophisticated half-million Luxembourgeoisie will show the pig-ignorant other 456½m EUropeans the proper way to vote.  This is in the face of his domestic opinion polls where the Noes are rudely in the ascendant (from 24% to 45% in eight months and climbing),  which show that they will do precisely the opposite.  

This man has a serious problem with reality.  Most people, encountering bad news, go through five distinct phases - Shock, Denial, Anger, Acceptance, Action.  Mr Chirac passed through these phases very rapidly (skipping over Acceptance) and is now well ensconced in Action.  His action is to blithely ignore the French Non and distract his people from it by launching a withering and unprovoked budgetary attack on Tony Blair.  He's demanding more British money, with no quid pro quo, that he knows (and hopes) Mr Blair will not deliver.  Top marks for dynamism, hubris and changing the subject.  

But Mr Juncker?  He cannot get beyond Denial, and as a result is going to be pushed back to Shock when Luxembourg votes No on 10th July.  But at least by then his six-month tenure as top EU minister will have lapsed so his haywire ramblings can be safely ignored. Though you'd pity the people he goes back to serving.  It'll then be up to them to give him the boot he richly deserves.  

Meanwhile, to the horror of old-schoolers Juncker, Chirac and Schröder who are all on their electoral way out, the perfidious Albionite Blair, freshly re-elected, will take over the EU presidency.  And to make matters worse, he's also going to head up the G8.  

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CAP Juncker

Philosopher-President Juncker has also been giving us the benefit of his deranged wisdom in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy.  

While there is that fierce row raging between Britain and France over exchanging cuts in Britain's rebate for cuts in France's agricultural subsidies, and elsewhere about the whole morality of the CAP, here's a translation of what the Junckist had to say (in French, para 26), still in denial over the anti-Federalist Non and Nee. He was responding to Tony Blair's inference that money should shift from the wealth-destroying CAP toward wealth-creating research and innovation.   

The Cap is the only real community policy entirely financed by the EU budget. Research is essentially a national budget, supported by the European budget. You can't compare the two”.  

In other words, the CAP is, for the EU élite, a symbol of some would-be Federal United States of Europe.  This, alone, they deem to be sufficient justification for eating up nearly half the EU budget, regardless of whether it does any other good or bad.  

Let's recap on the CAP.  


The CAP absorbs 46% of the EU's tax-payers' €81 billion annual budget (that's a whopping €37bn).  


It also adds €700 to each EU family's annual food bill.  


Agriculture accounts for just 5% of the EU's workforce.  


Within Ireland (and probably elsewhere) EU subsidies account for around 70% of family farm income; in other words farmers' actual work is worth only 30% to their customers.  

So with agriculture, we have an industry so woefully valueless that (most of) it should be abandoned.  Yet 95% of successful tax-paying individuals and enterprises are punished by having to reward this failed industry with an enormous subsidy. 

The EU no longer needs to grow its own food. The world has no shortage for anyone anywhere with the money to pay for it, and that includes all of the EU, the more so after the price drops that would follow termination of the CAP.  (And forget that old chestnut about food exporters holding the EU to ransom like OPEC in the 1970s over oil.  Unlike oil production up to the 1970s which was - though is no longer - the preserve and sole industry of a small handful of countries, anyone anywhere can produce food and will compete furiously for rich markets such as the EU.)  

EU-wide, nothing comes close to the CAP in terms of confiscating its citizens' wealth. And that is not to talk of the third-world livelihoods that the CAP destroys due to the subsidised dumping of surplus EU agricultural products.  American agricultural subsidies are almost as bad and damaging.

So people like Messrs Junckers and Chirac may fight tooth and nail to retain the structure and subsidies of the CAP.  But they should not pretend there is any logical, economic or moral merit behind the CAP monster. It should be, er, Juncked.  

The CAP money, or just a small fraction of it, would be far better spent on retraining the EU's farmers and farm workers to learn new, marketable skills that customers actually value.  They would be able to hold their heads up in pride again for the first time in half a century.  

However, clown Juncker's puerile defence of the CAP, combined with a veiled accusation of lying on the part of Tony Blair, earned him a standing ovation from MEPs.  At last Europe has discovered a great man of state, said an anonymous note of congratulations apparently posted on the presidency's website, (though I couldn't find it).   

Clearly, I should spread my derision of Mr Juncker to a large cohort of MEPs.   

Last week, incidentally, the Irish Times kindly published a letter from me along the above lines, which will undoubtedly earn the wrath of Ireland's farming community.  

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Patient Suicide Bomberess

Wafa al-Biss, the Patient Suicide Bomberess from GazaLast week, 21-year-old Wafa al-Biss, travelling from Gaza through the Erez checkpoint to Israel for medical treatment for serious burns at the famed Beersheba Hospital, was caught carrying a a 10kg suicide-bomb and ready to detonate it.  The BBC also ran the story and provided this photo.  

On the face of it, this is appalling - taking advantage of Israel's humanitarian processes to murder random Israelis.  But I don't buy this simplistic version of the story.  Look at the details


Wafa is a young Palestinian woman without a husband.  


She is suffering serious burns on her hands, feet and neck from a kitchen explosion”.


It takes five months to decide her condition is so bad as to warrant the superior medical treatment Israel offers to Palestinians.  


She is disfigured by her burns.  


She says she had been determined to carry out a suicide attack against Israel because of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, seemingly oblivious to Israel's imminent pull-out from Gaza.  “My dream was to be a martyr; I believe in death”, she declares.  

I'm sorry but this just doesn't add up.  

Women in the west hardly ever get burnt in kitchen fires, but it happens all the time in India and in various Muslim states.  Women are deliberately burnt, scalded or otherwise assaulted and killed in the kitchen because they have - or are suspected to have - transgressed the sensibilities of male relatives, usually through sex.  The story then given out is always that the woman had an unfortunate accident whilst cooking.  Yeh, right.  

You can be sure that, similarly, Wafa has had some boyfriend her family disapprove of, so her brothers go about setting her on fire to preserve the family “honour”.  She is supposed to die as a result but doesn't, and after five months of not healing properly she is becoming an embarrassment.  


Her boyfriend has meantime disappeared.  


Her disfigurement and dishonourable history make her unmarriageable.  


Her family despise her.

Her father later admits in a 2006 TV programme that not long before the kitchen “accident” he imprisoned her at home and physically beat her to such an extent that she couldn't walk for three weeks.  


She is in a state of deep depression as well as pain, with no end in sight, no money, no job, no future children to care for her, no purpose to her life and no-one to turn to.  

Then along comes a sympathetic recruiter, perhaps even her boyfriend, from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent offshoot of Fatah, offering a simple solution to her troubles.  He is her saviour.  All she has to do is get into Israel and blow herself up.  Instantly she will be relieved of all her suffering, go straight to heaven and be remembered on earth as a glorious martyr and an honour to her family.  Compared to her alternatives, this is a blissful scenario.   

And it is the pattern of almost every female Palestinian suicide bomber independently investigated.  Their suicides are rooted not in ideology but simply in man trouble; everything else is details.  

Barbara Victor has written quite movingly about these women in “Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers”, his Roses being what the thug Arafat used to call them.  I also wrote in a previous post, “The Depravity of Suicide-Bombing”, about Reem al-Rayashi who blew herself up at the same Erez checkpoint to gain release from her complicated man troubles here on earth.  

These women should, of course, not be spared our opprobrium for the vileness and unforgivability of their deeds.  Yet we should also recognize the circumstances surrounding those terminal acts and reserve some condemnation for the role that their so-called loved ones have played.

Only proper Western-style democracy, which thanks to the death of Arafat, is now a realistic possibility for the Palestinians, has any hope of saving these women (as well as their would-be Israeli victims) from the depraved, nihilistic barbarity that is suicide bombing.   

Meanwhile, Wafa is deservedly serving a twelve-year sentence in a high-security Israeli jail. 

Late Note (June 2007):
I've just come across this Youtube clip about the case. 

In it, one of Wafa's friends confirms that indeed
man-trouble lay behind Wafa's actions. 

After her terrible burns, Wafa’s fiancé left her. She felt abandoned and ugly. 
She cried and said
“I want to die.  Someone give me a bomb”.

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Incest and Infanticide

A 58-year-old control freak, claiming he is Jesus, routinely has sex, forcible as well as consensual, with his wife, his daughters, his nieces and his granddaughters, some of whom he marries, and they bear him nine children.  He also beats them, confiscates their money and forbids them any contact with men.  After police officers call at his house, he convinces his oldest daughter to shoot her eight siblings dead through the right eye and then to commit suicide.   The police find a pile of bloody bodies in a back bedroom.  

After a three-month trial in Fresno, California, he is convicted on 23 counts of murder, rape and continuous sexual abuse of his daughters, granddaughters and nieces.  

Ho, hum, boring.  

Well, that seems to be the attitude of the American and indeed international media.  As far as I can find, the LA Times is the only mainstream US newspaper to carry the story in any detail, and the The Scotsman internationally.  Even the blogosphere seems hardly to have touched this tale of multi-murder, abuse, incest and polygamy.  Do a Google search on Marcus Wesson incest” and you'll see what I mean.  

Yet can you imagine a more horrific set of crimes that Marcus Wesson, for that is his name, or anyone could have committed?  Yet nobody's interested.  

It must be some measure of modern society's moral degeneracy when Michael Jackson's fondling of young boys and licking their hair are regarded as much more shocking and newsworthy, and his acquittal a matter for outrage.  

The only solace is that Wesson will never again be a free man, and with a potential death sentence hanging over him, may not even be a live one.  Either penalty is too good for him. 

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The Joy of Tunnel Collapse

Collapse of a tunnel has pretty grim consequences - unless the collapse is financial rather than physical.  

Eurotunnel, the public company that owns the tunnel - or Chunnel - which runs under the English Channel connecting the UK to France and known to some as the mother of all white elephants is, as ever, in dire financial straits.  It Chairman Jacques Gounon has threatened the Board that it is facing collapse unless saved by its long-suffering creditor banks, to whom it owes £6.4 billion.  It has no hope of meeting interest payments on this vast sum, let alone debt repayments. But with fierce competition from both ferries and low-cost airlines, there is not much it can do, other than self-liquidate and start again.  

The company, its banks and the market all think this is a terrible idea because of the huge amount of money that will instantly vanish.  So do the shareholders, although they've already seen the value of their shares drop by 98% so you'd wonder why they don't just forget about the remaining 2%.  For the truth is that whatever the theoretical value of the company, that value simply no longer exists.  

The ferries and airlines should be just as worried by Eurotunnel's imminent demise.  

For, from the customers' point of view, it's joyful news.  Following liquidation, the tunnel itself and all its facilities will not disappear.  Someone else will end up buying the Eurotunnel company for a sum that is linked solely to its future revenue-earning capability in a cut-throat market and with no regard whatsoever to the cost of construction or past debts.  

That means, with a low capital base and no debt to speak of, the collapsed and then resurrected Eurotunnel will instantly start undercutting the boats, Ryanair, Easyjet etc, which will also drive down their prices.  Consumers win; so do traders at both ends and also the carriers thanks to the increased traffic prompted by the lower fares.  

It was Margaret Thatcher's brilliance in the 1980s to refuse to commit Exchequer money for digging the tunnel despite screams from the nationalise-everything Labour opposition.  As a result, every now-vaporised penny and franc that went in to it was from willing private investors instead of coerced taxpayers.  

Indeed, no railway construction project in the UK has ever made money; Eurotunnel has merely been following a well-worn tradition.  It is those who pick up the pieces who are able to cash in.  

And that's the heartless Capitalist system for you.  Nearly everybody benefits nearly all of the time and ordinary consumers most of all.  But some people, such as Eurotunnel's current shareholders and creditors, most certainly don't.  The Socialist system, of course, ensures that no-one benefits any of the time (except the rulers).  

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Dissing the Haka

Last Saturday 25th June, the British and Irish Lions rugby team were ignominiously and deservedly defeated 21-3 by a rampant New Zealand All Blacks squad in the first of three weekly test matches.  The series is conducted only every 12 years on the hallowed rugby soil of New Zealand.  

Every single Lion, with just a few honourable exceptions, underperformed spectacularly, and added to this by implementing a give-the-ball-to-the-All-Blacks-at-every-opportunity strategy that ensured the Lions were never in a position to score, not that they made the slightest effort to.  

The All Blacks frighten the ever-respectful Lions with their girlie HakaBefore major matches, and this was nothing different, the All Blacks always perform their Haka.  This is an ancient war dance handed down by the native Maoris, involving a lot of stamping, arm-waving, shouting and sticking out tongues.  It's designed to give them courage for the contest ahead and to intimidate their opponents, and generally achieves both aims, particularly it would seem against the latest Lions. 

The question that always occurs to me, though, is why do their opponents accord it any respect whatsoever?  Why do they, as in this photograph, just stand and politely face the All Blacks as they do their girlie thing?  

The Haka is nothing but a pre-match mind game, and an eminently successful one.  But in my view it works only because opposing teams always choose to co-operate.  

However their opponents, since they don't have a comparable ceremony, really ought to play a mind game of their own.  They should simply ignore the Haka, turn their backs, chat among themselves, giggle derisively at the dancers and generally diss the performance, all behaviour that the proud macho All Blacks would find supremely irritating.  

What an excellent state of mind to start the real battle!  

Maybe after their drubbing, the Lions will at last adopt a new attitude towards the Haka for their next test match on 2nd July.  Actually, they should adopt a new everything and especially a new team.  


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Holiday Apartment near Malaga

Wonderful, guitar-shaped swimming pool available to residentsIf any readers are interested, I have available for holiday lettings in Spain a comfortable, recently-renovated, three-bedroom family apartment in Los Boliches, which is beside Fuengirola and just 20 minutes from Malaga Airport.  It's on the fifth floor, has two balconies and use of a large, guitar-shaped exclusive pool with lovely surrounding garden for sunbathing.  

Los Boliches lies on the coast, and within ten minutes stroll from the apartment are countless restaurants, tapas and other bars, lively nightlife, great shopping, magnificent sandy beach and pristine sea.  In fact everything you'd expect from a modern Costa del Sol resort, including the sunshine of course.  

For full details, photos and map, click here.

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Quotes of Week 101
(Actually this covers the past seven weeks since Issue #100)

Quote: “I come from a country where my mother, when she wanted to say something scary, would say: The Turks are coming’.”

In a wonderfully racist inference, Romano Prodi, 
leader of Italy's opposition left-leaning Olive Branch coalition, 
who as past EU commission president 
was among the strongest advocates 
of opening membership talks with Ankara, 
suggests that he and other Italians have a deep-seated dislike 
of Turkey's application to join the EU.  


Quote: No sane person could understand the verdict

Russian billionaire businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. 
replying to one of his three judges 
who asked whether he understood the guilty verdict 
passed against him for fraud, 
for which he was sentenced to nine years in jail

We find the verdict fair and objective

Natalia Vishnyakova, 
speaking for the Russian prosecutor general's office 


Quote: Britain has been making a gesture because, over the past 10 years, even with the British rebate, we have been making a contribution to Europe 2½ times that of France. Without the rebate, it would have been 15 times as much as France. So that is our gesture.

Tony Blair, in an answer designed to infuriate Jacques Chirac,
responds to the French president's invitation 
to make a gesture of solidarity for Europe 
by renouncing Britain's £3 billion annual rebate from the EU

For the arithmetically minded, the reply means that
Britain's average net contribution to the EU has been £600m pa 
which compares with France's £240m.  
The difference over 10 years is a whopping £3½bn.  
Why did he keep these cash figures camouflaged?


Quote: It's said that being rich doesn't make people happy, but Ireland's experience shows that it definitely helps and quite a lot.

Sociology professor Wil Arts, one of the authors of a new 25-year survey, 
the Atlas of European Values,
that reveals the Irish are among the happiest people in Europe.

(Other commentators, in similar vein, have observed that 
though money might not make us happy, most of us would prefer 
to be rich and unhappy than poor and unhappy)

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review


Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

As for BP, only a wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.


Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,


part of a death march to Thailand,


a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,


torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,


a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.


Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.


This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.


Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.


Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 


Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.


False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:


Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 


Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.


Other books here

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