Brits Abandon Amarah Base

You may have seen news reports recently about British forces “handing off” their major base in Amarah to Iraqi military forces for the Iraqis to take over security for the region. The actual situation is quite a bit less rosy:

First, the British withdrew from Camp Abu Naji near Amara. They only gave the Iraqis one day notice. This short notice suggests that the evacuation was done under considerable duress; one suspects that the British position was becoming untenable because of repeated Shiite guerrilla attacks (there were only 1200 British troops there). When they left, they left behind nearly $300,000 in equipment, intending that the Iraqi police should have the use of the base.

Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers on the provincial Governing Council crowed that the Mahdi Army was the first Iraqi group to force a substantial withdrawal of Coalition troops from an Iraqi territory, according to Amit Paley. The LA Times says that the Mahdi Army boasted of having forced the British troops to leave so abruptly.

While a small contingent of Iraqi security forces (mainly recruited from the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army) was on the base, they professed themselves helpless when some 5000 looters, some armed with AK 47 machine guns, showed up to strip it bare. The poor British officer corps was reduced to maintaining that the camp had been kept in perfectly good order on their departure. God, they must hate Blair.

The day before, the Iraqi troops at the base briefly mutinied when they were told of a plan to transfer them to Baghdad. They were from local families and complained that this was a plan to “get rid of them.” The government relented and left them in Amara. It may as well have. If they couldn’t stop the looting of their own base on their home turf, what good would they have been in Baghdad?

Amara Base Looted as British Withdraw
Informed Comment
August 26, 2006

The Brits plan for 600 soldiers to slip “into the marshlands and deserts of eastern Maysan in an attempt to secure the Iranian border…[using] lightweight Land Rovers…They expect to become a flexible, mobile force with no fixed base and receive supplies by airdrops.”

“This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!” trumpeted a message from [Moqtada al-]Sadr’s office that played on car-mounted speakers in Amarah, capital of the southern province of Maysan. “We have to celebrate this occasion!”

A crowd of as many as 5,000 people, including hundreds armed with AK-47 assault rifles, attacked Camp Abu Naji and hauled away window and door frames, corrugated roofing and metal pipes, despite the presence of a 450-member Iraqi army brigade meant to guard the base.

“The looters stole everything — even the bricks,” said Ahmed Mohammed Abdul Latief, 20, a student at Maysan University. “They almost leveled the whole base to the ground.”

The volatile situation worsened when the 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi army’s 4th Brigade mutinied and attacked a local military outpost, said [an] official, who spoke on condition that his name not be used.

“British Leave Iraqi Base; Militia Supporters Jubilant”
The Washington Post
August 25, 2006

“Looters Ransack Base After British Depart”
The Washington Post
August 26, 2006

Confronted by Iraqi troops…some looters continued to ransack the base, taunting the security men by saying, “Shoot me!” They then burned what remained of the facility, which had been an Iraqi army camp before the British moved in after the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

“Looters Descend on Iraqi Camp After British Soldiers Pull Out”
Los Angeles Times
August 26, 2006


Paul Simms writes, in A Prayer, in The New Yorker (5 July 2004):

[Lord?] …Please don’t let me cut my own head off while trying to revive the lost Scouting pastime of mumblety-peg…

And while surely this is a wish that no one could argue against, or criticize in any way, I am left to wonder, “Is mumblety-peg lost?”

I fear that it is.

I mean, I am 50 years old, and I learnt it myself only from what was even then a somewhat ancient book of Pastimes for Boys, and had to teach it to my contemporaries in order to have opponents with which to compete.

(“It’s more fun to compete!” — Gottlieb Super Jumbo)

And we’ve surely, for some reason, passed the time when we expected small boys to carry small knives as a matter of course.

Still, alas.

Someone once asked Dad: “But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?”

“For work, if you love that best,” said Dad. “For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.” He looked over the top of his pince-nez. “For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

Efficiency Expert Frank Gilbreth, quoted in the book, Cheaper by the Dozen

Learn the Lost Art of Mumblety-Peg.

“Root, Root!”

Horrible TGN1412 Drug Trial Gets Even More Horrible

I have written before, first here, and then here, about the horrible TGN1412 drug tests that went so disasterously wrong in Britain. And now, an update:

On March 13 this year, [Nav] Modi and [five other] patients were injected with TGN1412 while in the Parexel drug testing suite at Northwick Park…

Four months later he still suffers from occasional lapses of memory, severe headaches, back pain and diarrhoea.

He and the others had been led to believe that while their symptoms might persist for a while, their long-term future was not at risk.

However, a study by Professor Richard Powell, an expert in immunology at Nottingham University, has changed all that. Last week Modi received the results of Powell’s medical tests, commissioned by his lawyers to establish the extent of the damage the drug has done to him. The assessment has left him in a state of shock.

“The doctors told us we would be all right. They said they thought that in six months’ time we would be normal,” he said.

Martyn Day, the lawyer representing Modi and three of the other patients, showed them Powell’s findings last week. “They face a lifetime of contracting cancers and all the various auto-immune diseases from lupus to MS, from rheumatoid arthritis to ME,” he said.

With auto-immune diseases, the body attacks itself by mistake. Ironically, this is the type of condition the drug was being developed to treat.

Modi was the only patient last week willing to speak about Powell’s study, which was based on detailed tests on their blood samples.

According to Powell, Patient A has developed signs of cancer: “It is highly likely (more than 50% chance) that A will develop auto-immune diseases and has definite early signs that a lymphoid malignancy is developing.” This is a cancer of the lymphatic system that grows aggressively and will lead to death if left untreated.

Powell said Patient B had more than a 75% chance of developing auto-immune diseases. A split in his cells could possibly indicate an early sign of a lymphoid malignancy.

Modi’s prognosis is equally worrying. Summarising the medical report, Day said: “It is highly likely that Nav will develop auto-immune diseases. His (cell analysis) may be an early sign that a lymphomatous process (tumour growth) is developing.” Powell said Patient C was in the same situation.

The problem for all four, according to the report, is the depletion of T cells. A shortage or dysfunction in T cells can lead to destruction of the immune system, meaning the body cannot fight diseases…

Last Friday Powell produced further results that confirmed T cells could not be detected in the four patients.

When news of the disaster broke, TeGenero admitted liability. But it has since gone into liquidation and its insurance cover is worth only £2m, payable if court proceedings are not pursued. The company, set up for the purpose of making the drug, is not worth suing.

Modi reserves his greatest anger for Parexel, the American pharmaceutical services company. Its revenues are expected to be nearly £400m next year.

“They are supposed to be experts, but on the day of the trial they didn’t seem to have the expertise. They gave me paracetamol when they should have given us steroids. That would have made a lot of difference. I would not have suffered so much. Parexel should be banned from further clinical trials. They nearly lost the lives of the six of us and could still do so…”

“I have made the biggest mistake of my life,” [Modi] said last week. “I feel like I’ve given away my life for £2,000. None of us is sure about the future. It could be that in six months’ time we are dead.”

Read the full, horrible story at The Times Online.