So who blew up Beirut? The chances of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) accidentally blowing up in Beirut at this particular time do not seem to me to be high. The MSM love coincidences. Intelligence analysts do not. With every respect to those of my colleagues taking a different view I’m not thinking nuclear, nor the Israelis.
Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer. It’s not actually an explosive, which is why readers in Georgia are unlikely to hear conversations along the lines of ‘Hot diggety, I see Billy Bob got blown up by his fertilizer last night’ ’Dang, that just keeps happening, that’s the third this week’ ’We need to find a replacement for that ammonium nitrate’ ‘Darn tootin’’.
It’s a constituent of a number of explosives, including amatol, invented by us in the First World War and put to good use in-depth charges and the like. It’s also the main ingredient of ANFO, a widely used commercial explosive. These are all explosive compounds, however. Even ANFO is a tertiary explosive, that is to say, you need both a detonator and a primer.
Ammonium nitrate is actually quite stable at normal temperatures, which is why you don’t see farmers being blown into the air as you drive through Georgia. (I’ve driven right across the state and not once did I see a farmer blown up.)
Naïve journalists, if that is not a tautology with respect, might say ‘but wot about the fire?’ Wot indeed. Ammonium nitrate can cook off. The question, however, then becomes ‘who started the fire?’ I’m not a great believer in spontaneous combustion. Somebody wanted the Lebanese government to resign. It’s also difficult to believe that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in Beirut accidentally.
There might have been a legitimate reason for seizing the stuff in the first place, but why keep it in such a volatile place for so long? It’s not as though there isn’t a market for ammonium nitrate. If there was a dispute about ownership the sale proceeds could have been placed in escrow.
I’m fairly comfortable with the idea that the stuff was still in the warehouse. That brings me onto alternative explanations for the big bang in Beirut.
The explosive yield is certainly consistent with a mini-nuke. Beirut has been estimated at between 1 and 2 kilotons, which is big, albeit not the biggest ever recorded. (That dubious honor belongs to the port of Halifax, blown up by our community partner the Hun in 1917, which was about 3KT.) There is an overlap between the yields of large conventional explosions and small nuclear blasts.
The mushroom cloud we saw at Beirut is certainly typical of a nuclear detonation, but powerful conventional blasts can produce mushroom clouds as well, as the sinking of the IJN Yamato confirmed.
A nuclear blast will typically produce four main effects, aside from a loud noise of course: blast, fire, radiation and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The fall-out from a ground–burst is usually more severe – ground-bursts tend to be dirty.
I’m not hearing anything about an EMP at Beirut, nor are there any reports of radiation sickness, which I would expect, not least with a ground-burst. The heat signature may also have been a bit low for a nuke. As presently advised I’m not thinking nuclear.
I’m also very dubious about those videos showing missiles or drones. Videos and photos can easily be faked and in a high-stakes blame game like this hostile intel agencies will be involved. Where’s the radar imagery? If a missile or aircraft had been involved it would have been caught on radar or satellite.
I’m inclined to go with the Pentagon on this one. The boys seem to think that there was a stockpile of ammonium nitrate in the warehouse and that it was set off by an IED.
Who did it?
You can forget the Israelis. I’m well aware that a concerted effort is being made to blame them, but I’m not buying. For starters, it’s not their style. The IDF has always emphasized precision. A large explosion in a densely populated area, with a high risk of collateral casualties, would be a first for Israel.
I’m not leaving out of account the loss of civilian life at Qana in Lebanon in 2006, but as I reveal in Spyhunter that was down to Hezbollah gassing the victims. No Israeli aircraft was anywhere near Qana at the time. My experience of exposing the war crime at Qana leads me to question accusations of war crimes against Israel. Nearly all accusations against the Israelis are false.
It doesn’t follow that people who accuse Israel are anti-semitic. Some are, sadly, but many simply fall for sophisticated anti-Israeli propaganda, Qana being a classic example.
Hezbollah and Iran are far more credible culprits than Israel. Applying the cui bono principle it’s difficult to see what Israel had to gain from the collapse of the Lebanese government. There appears to have been tensions between the outgoing government and Hezbollah, however.
Then there’s the internal situation in Jerusalem to consider. That nice man Binny Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, (just in case there are any journalists reading this) now leads a broad coalition. For an operation on this scale, he would have to consult Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. (I’m not sure why they named their party like a shipping line.) Benny is a soldier and shares the true soldier’s instinctive aversion to massacres of civilians. Hezbollah massacre civilians all the time, however.
The jury’s still out on a number of points. I would like to know precisely what triggered the explosion. I’d also like firmer information on who exactly ordered this nonsense. It’s not impossible that it may turn out to have been an accident after all – Lebanon is not exactly a well-governed country. However, I think it highly unlikely. Somebody wanted a big hole in Beirut. Sadly they got what they wanted.
Senator Kamala Harris
I respectfully agree with President Trump that there is a question mark over Kamala Harris’s eligibility to serve as Vice-President.
Should the Democrats cheat their way to victory in November (very frankly I can’t see them winning a clean contest), her eligibility will be important, as Dick Morris emphasized this week in one of his illuminating lunchtime alerts. Sadly, it’s unlikely that Joe Biden would make it through even a first term. He might not snuff it, but as his mental decline accelerates the 25th Amendment would come into play.
I’m not much impressed by the argument that the Democrats will have done their homework before putting Senator Harris on the ticket. Barack Obama, the first non-citizen to have become POTUS, was no 1 on their ticket twice. I’m not even sure that everybody on the DNC actually knew where their candidate was born.
There’s no doubt that Kamala Harris was born in the United States, or at any rate California. The issue is her dual nationality by descent from her Jamaican father, Professor Donald Harris. By reason of Article 2 of the Jamaican, Constitution Kamala became a Jamaican Citizen at birth.
The issue then becomes whether a dual national fulfills the constitutional requirement of being a natural-born citizen. Constitutional scholars are divided on the point. It can’t turn on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, although in practice it might. My guess is that the Supreme Court would uphold the right of an American-born dual citizen to serve as President, but the law is not entirely clear.
There’s no point abusing the President for raising the point, which is properly arguable. Race simply doesn’t enter into it. The issue of whether or not a dual national is eligible to serve as President is a point of constitutional law.
Barack Obama wasn’t the only ineligible candidate in the 2008 race, by the way. John McCain wasn’t eligible either – he was born in Panama. Since his father was serving in the military in the Canal Zone at the time that was kind of tough on him, or would have been had he not been a German agent, like his father, but as they say in Texas, the lawah is the lawah.
I would not be at all surprised to learn that the President had consulted the Attorney-General, who is a good lawyer, with respect, before his tweet. The President is known for his thoughtful and carefully considered tweets.
I don’t think that race is going to be an issue with Senator Harris. It’s her politics that may drag the ticket down, with respect. If the Democrats had put say James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman on their ticket in 2008 they would have won by a landslide. Moreover, both would have won enormous respect. (I’m fairly convinced that Morgan Freeman was one of the motorcycle cops in Live and Let Die, which if right would have made him the first Bond actor to have become Vice-President!)
The quality of an individual does not depend upon their race or color, but that works both ways. Just because you’re black doesn’t necessarily make you a wise or honorable person, any more than being white does. (John Major and Tony Blair are white.)
I respectfully commend to all y’all a series of recent tweets by Dr Simone Gold (@drsimonegold). She has some very sensible things to say about HCQ, the use of which to treat Covid-19 is apparently now supported by some 50 studies.
For Dr Gold to have been terminated from her employment, as apparently she was, for expressing a genuine medical opinion is an outrage. You don’t fire medical men and women for expressing a professional opinion, even if you disagree with it, or they turn out to be wrong. As it happens Dr Gold is right. I hope she writes a book!
Respectful congratulations to President Lukashenko on his landslide win in the presidential election. I’m well aware that assorted troublemakers, the EU, the DVD and George ‘von’ Soros are not as happy about the outcome as I am, but tough. He won fair and square. The count seems to have been generally fair, with a low percentage of mail-in ballots.
Belarus is known for its sensible approach to capital punishment and human rights. They do human rights in Kiev, but they don’t make a fetish of it.
This week’s movie review: Octopussy (1983, dir. John Glen)
After a lengthy interlude, I’ve resumed my series of reviews of the Bond movies! Please don’t write in and complain that I’ve already done Octopussy, or that my views have changed. All y’all should realize that I haven’t quite reached the level of sophistication of compiling a list!
Octopussy, which was aired again on ITV in Britain this afternoon, was the penultimate movie starring the late, great Sir Roger Moore as 007. Sir Roger, of course, is my favorite Bond. It was also one of the first in the series to feature an entirely new plot – only the title comes from the works of the murdered Ian Fleming.
Roger Moore was getting on a bit by the time he made Octopussy, but what he lacks in athleticism he more than makes up for in charm and sophistication. I also doubt that there’s ever been a better-dressed actor!
It’s not the best Bond movie by any means, but it’s still a watchable and highly entertaining intelligence yarn. The supporting cast is strong, led by Maud Adams and Douglas Wilmer, MI6’s art adviser. (The auction scene at Sotheby’s is very well done!)
The chases are hilarious and the Indian locations exotic. The dramatic finale on the Beech 18 is superbly done. Bernard Lee, sadly, had passed by the time Octopussy was made, indeed he wasn’t well enough to appear in the preceding movie in the series, For Your Eyes Only. Robert Brown stands in for him, although it’s not entirely clear whether he’s the new M, or just acting in M’s absence.
Desmond Llewellyn is on his usual form as Q, indeed we see more of him in Octopussy than we usually do. The movie’s premise – that the really dangerous nuke is the one inserted covertly – is entirely credible. The score is up to usual standards, and at times is haunting. Watching it again, it still retains the engaging mix of drama, style and humor that attracted me in the first place.
I had a pleasant vacation, I’m pleased to say, which included a day out on the delightful Swanage steam railway.
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