Saturday 25 November 2006

And the man died ...

Rare poisons

A few days ago, my DVD buff friends was over and we happened to see on of his Star Trek episodes (Death Wish), this one to do with the a Q who wanted to commit suicide – in the end, he obtained a rare poison that the computers on Voyager could not find an antidote for, this was because the poison was obtained outside of the realms of available knowledge, it was called Nogatch Hemlock – and the man died.

On 9/11 28 years ago, a man sought refuge in London and found a platform from which to criticise the government and policies of his home country, he had just walked over Waterloo Bridge when for some reason he got stabbed with an umbrella.

It so happened that the umbrella was a dart gun that injected a ricin capsule into his thigh, four days after that attack, having waited 9 years after his defection – the man died.

Slow death through unknown causes

Over the last week, we watched as a young man who sought exile in the UK and had become a British citizen, but attacked policies of his original home government where he had worked for the secret service – decay slowly as all speculated on what kind of poison might have been fed the man.

At first, it was thought Thallium, but further tests discounted that supposition, each day his systems failed till he had a heart attack and the eventually – the man died.

Then, they found out, he had somehow ingested Polonium 210, the last time I read about Polonium I was reading the history of Marie Curie and her work in radiation which eventually lead to her receiving the Nobel Prize - Polonium was named for the country of her birth, which at the time was not independent – it was auspiciously political, highlight the plight of her homeland.

The realities and the mirages

Whilst we have been distracted with the spectacular War on Terror, we watched the slow death of another man who being a victim of terror unmentionable left traces of radiation in a restaurant, a hotel, his home and no doubt the 2 hospitals in which he received treatment.

As it dawns on us that a “so-called” dirty bomb can be dispensed without the fanfare of a cack-handed Al Qaeda operative – it need not be a bomb, it only needs a host – but the material if administered in the sushi bar would most likely have contaminated the food batch on that day and subsequent days.

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko had become a dissident having left Russia, which only recently had its Parliament approve a - James Bond “Licence to kill” – opportunity to take out dissidents even in foreign countries – but we should not get ahead of ourselves.

Putin on people of no significance

Mr. Litvinenko was investigating the brutal murder of Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya in Russia who only died just about 7 weeks ago, then Mr Putin was meeting with Angela Merkel – he dismissively noted that Anna was not an influential person and as such all this media circus around her death was unnecessary.

This time, as Alexander died in London yesterday, Mr Putin was in Finland meeting with the EU, in the midst of offering condolences he alluded to the medical report that his death was not so violent.

Now, Mr Putin might be the last person you want to challenge to a game of poker, but I would like to understand how these people’s lives could be so trivialised.

Then some ex-KGB person suggested Alexander might just have been a victim in the settling of scores in turf wars amongst Russians in London, now, that is not an original stance to take – Saudi Arabia, years ago dismissed terrorist attacks as alcohol turf wars amongst Westerners until it became too evident that the kingdom was under siege.

Given that is the case, if Russian gangs can obtain something so dangerous and administer it so professionally in the right dose to create the desired effect of the victim walking away before realising he had been done – we live in more perilous times than Al Qaeda can deliver through jet planes, suicide bombers or incitements to violence.

Shackled to energy of compromise

Unfortunately, we cannot be firm with Russia because they supply 25% of our European gas requirements, the softly-softly approach allows for us to appease the rolling back of the frontiers of democracy in Russia.

However, as our inertia, complacency, hesitation and détente gets the better of a principled lecture on the value of human life and the freedom of expression, it would not be long before entering any public place would include being checked out with a Geiger-Müller counter.

The unknown and unexplained might just be made obvious as the crackling and ticking detects alpha and beta radiation.

As for Mr Litvinenko, depending on the level of radiation in his body, I would suspect is appreciable, the Caesium radiation dispersal in Goiania, Brazil offers an unfortunate lesson – they are first put in lead coffins and buried in concrete.

It was a murder most horrid, the culprits might never be found as the possibility of radioactive material entering the UK as diplomatic baggage (my speculation) is going to make this story run into the less expected areas.

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