Monday, February 21, 2011

Finishing the job Reagan started...

David Cameron today became the first western leader to head out to Egypt in the hope of discovering who's actually in charge.

My father was based in Cairo back in 1946 and was following the coverage of the recent uprising somewhat avidly. He told me how he dated an A.T.S. girl stationed at a large British army barracks beside the Nile, which appears to have since been demolished to make way for the Nile Hilton.

The British were deeply unpopular in Egypt at the time and the atmosphere was, he reports, "always unpleasant" except when you were in a shop trying to buy something. Just about all the soldiers and soldier-ettes posted out there had heard one possibly apocryphal story relating to that particular barracks: one night two squadies were attempting to return to base quite late in a taxi and had the misfortune to show up outside the gates just as a fairly ugly political demonstration was passing. The Egyptians turned on the British soldiers and began to assault their vehicle in an attempt to extract them. The sentries behind the gates stood and watched, because they had no authority on the other side and no instructions to intervene in such circumstances. Suddenly a young A.T.S. girl emerged from the barracks, picked up a sten gun and fired indiscriminately into the crowd. The two soldiers were saved, several Egyptians died...and there is no word in this tale on the fate of the taxi driver.

Meanwhile, it looks like Gaddafi is bombing his own capital, Pinochet-style. Let's hope this doesn't work out for him. (Some of his pilots are rumoured to be defecting to Malta...)

I remember once having to refuse to work on a brief from an organisation operating within the Libyan government aparatus. I called up the colleague who had emailed it me and explained my reasons — partially rehabilitated or not, Gaddafi is an odious turd and I missed the Lockerbie bombing by 24 hours. In fact the plane I was on had the other half of the ill-fated group of students from Syracuse, who were flying home a day earlier.

Had I read the brief, she asked, because this development body was not in fact part of the regime. I had read it, I replied, and had understood that the general gyst of it was to convince people around the world that said organisation had nothing to do with Gaddafi — a notion which had clearly already taken hold spontaneously in the mind of my colleague without much in the way of budget being spent on it.

*That said, I remain convinced that it was more probably the Iranians and Syrians who brought down the Pan-Am 747 and that the blame was shifted to Megrahi for rather cynical 'diplomatic' reasons. I also believe that Amanda Knox is innocent (of knifing her friend at least), but do not generally subscribe to conspiracy theories!

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