Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is that a GPS in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?



As a history buff, I have to say how great it is to see that the ancient and noble art of the well-crafted, heavily reported, naval incident is still alive and kicking.


There’s nothing like a fuck-up involving a couple of ships to really get the party going.

Ships and sailors have always been well-suited to the task of breaking the ice between potential adversaries for several excellent reasons…
  • Ships are portable and can be easily positioned somewhere provocative. Somewhere on or around a disputed boundary usually works best

  • Ships are considered to be national territory. An attack, real or imagined, on one of your ships is tantamount to an attack on your homeland

  • Ships and sailors have a tendency to sink when you put holes in them …and they therefore tell no tales

  • The number of independent witnesses passing by in the middle of the sea is normally on the low side



And what a fine catalog of seaborne shenanigans and marine mischief history has to offer us - the USS Maine, the RMS Lusitania, the Elli, the USS Liberty, the Altmark, the Belgrano, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and, not forgetting, Captain Jenkins Ear – possibly the most bizarre pretext for a war ever!!! and an all time personal favourite…


The thing about wars in general, and the War of Jenkins Ear in particular, is the better you think you are at winning wars, as the British did for a while, the more inclined you are to grab any opportunity, and I mean any opportunity, to start one.

Cue the tragically sad story of Captain Robert Jenkins…


Under the 1729 Treaty of Seville, the British had agreed not to trade with the Spanish colonies. To verify the treaty, the Spanish were permitted to board British vessels in Spanish waters. After one such incident in 1731, Robert Jenkins, captain of the ship Rebecca, claimed that the Spanish coast guard had severed his ear. Encouraged by his government (which was determined to continue its drive toward commercial domination of the Atlantic basin), in 1738 Jenkins exhibited his pickled ear to the House of Commons, whipping up war fever against Spain. To much cheering, the British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, reluctantly declared war on October 23, 1739.

Only time will tell if Leading Seaman Faye Turney and her fourteen shipmates will make it back to Blighty with all their appendages intact.


Before


After


I genuinely wish them all well, unlike the bastards who put them in Harm's way in the first place.


Still, it was handy that the BBC and The Independent had the forethought to interview LS Turney just before she was arrested by the Iranians. I thought that was a nice touch.

.

12 comments:

paul said...

Still, it was handy that the BBC and The Independent had the forethought to interview LS Turney just before she was arrested by the Iranians. I thought that was a nice touch.

If I was as lucky as those embedded newshounds,I'd do the lottery

Anonymous said...

A comment I posted on My Lord Patel's site:-

Interesting to note that the current UK hostages in Iran, ie the Services personnel who boarded a vessel in the Gulf; claim that they were in Iraqi waters rather than Iranian, based upon GPS data. Remind me again, why are the Europeans trying to set up their own GPS satellite system? Further, hasn't Paul Virilio discussed this in the past?

Viz, "Thus, for the US, GPS are a form of sovereignty! It is hardly surprising, then, that the EU has proposed its own GPS in order to be able to localise and to compete with the American GPS. As I have said before, sovereignty no longer resides in the territory itself, but in the control of the territory. And localisation is an inherent part of that territorial control. As I pointed out in The Art of the Motor and elsewhere, from now on we need two watches: a wristwatch to tell us what time it is and a GPS watch to tell us what space it is!"

Anonymous said...

"Still, it was handy that the BBC and The Independent had the forethought to interview LS Turney just before she was arrested by the Iranians. I thought that was a nice touch."

The propagandists have a thing for "birds in peril" ... cf the Jessica Lynch Lie.

Stef said...

@paul: the BBC also has a solid track record for predicting building collapses too

@anon: ta for the Virilio piece - I hadn't seen it

@anon: I'm a Lynndie England fan myself. Has anyone made a True LIfe TV movie of her story yet?

Wolfie said...

Isn't all this the plot line to 007 : Tomorrow Never Dies?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow_Never_Dies

Its not the first time that American strategy has strangely imitated art.

Another point, why don't the Iranians just earn brownie points with the UN and diffuse Brit Sabre rattling by sending the hostages home by private jet with armfuls of gifts for friends, family and Tony Blair?

Because they are not playing to the international audience as we might suppose, they are playing to a home audience because that's what they really have to worry about - their own people, who are dreaming of "regime change" themselves.

Stef said...

@wolfie: spot on

Anonymous said...

Don't mean to keep banging on about the Euro GPS system but ... here's a link from Wired 17-Jan-2002, "Europe GPS Plan Shelved" with a few choice quotes.

"BERLIN -- Exasperated European officials say U.S. pressure appears to have torpedoed a $3 billion project to build a European version of the U.S. global positioning system, which uses signals from orbiting satellites to track geographical position within 36 meters.

The proposed system, dubbed Galileo, was intended to give Europeans more autonomy, both industrially and militarily. That's no small concern, since the United States can selectively block access to GPS, as it has during the military campaign in Afghanistan.

Also, European plans to develop a rapid-reaction military force will become much more credible with their own GPS in military operations."

Further, "President Jacques Chirac of France was quoted in the International Herald Tribune as saying that if Europe did not pursue Galileo and other space projects, the failure "would lead inevitably to a vassal status, first scientific and technical and then industrial and economic.""

It's not that what's going on is obvious to me, to Stef, to other commentators and most probably readers of Stef's blog; its that no one else seems to get it!!!

I despair ... it isn't even an Urban Myth

Shutter said...

Galileo is not dead - Bad news and Good news

Very Bad News - Galileo's second test satellite Giove-B is late launching after problems during final testing in Italy.

Very Good News - The Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU) will conclude a preliminary agreement with the industrial consortium by October, with a final contract in 2007. The European Commission expects the industrial consortium to pay 2/3 rds of deployment costs.

see

http://tinyurl.com/2rryhq

Curiously Israel are members of the GJU but do not appear to have much technical input.

The system is working - albeit ina limited way and in fact GPS devices are on sale that are (allegedly) Galileo ready.

Stef said...

"In your face from outer space"...

www.globalsecurity.org/space/agency/swc.htm

Anonymous said...

Shutter, Stef ... thanks for the links.

In times past it used to be considered mutinous for a ship's crew member to do his own navigation. When Galileo is working ... will the law be revived?

Anonymous said...

Wolfie 4:57 pm said ...

"Another point, why don't the Iranians just earn brownie points with the UN and diffuse Brit Sabre rattling by sending the hostages home by private jet with armfuls of gifts for friends, family and Tony Blair?"

A few days later and the Guardian reports ...

"Before leaving Tehran, the sailors and marines were shown on Iranian television drinking tea and receiving gifts. They looked relaxed and smiled as they went through bags of presents, pulling out what looked like black lacquer boxes. They also posed for a group shot and some waved at the cameras.

The 15 personnel flew back to the UK in business class and their privacy was keenly guarded by the aircraft crew.

Laughter could be heard from the front of the plane while reports suggested the champagne was flowing.

They were released on Wednesday after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced he was pardoning them as "a gift to the British people".
"

Stef said...

I do love a Happy Ending...