By Ray O’Hanlon
Much ado over Waco again. Questions are now being raised over the presence outside the Branch Davidian compound of members of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force and the U.S. Navy’s SEALS. No mention at all though about the company the Delta and SEALS lads were keeping. The British Army’s Special Air Service, the SAS, was also hunkered down in the Texas countryside before the Waco affair ended in flames and death in 1993. The presence of the SAS is no great secret really and emerged well into the light of day three years ago when U.S. Senator Charles Robb from Virginia asked the FBI about it. Robb received a reply from the FBI stating that yes indeed the SAS was at Waco. It was stated in the letter to Robb that there was a longstanding relationship between the SAS and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, HRT.
The letter to Robb said in part, "during the Branch Davidian siege, two SAS soldiers visiting at Fort Bragg, N.C., requested and were granted a courtesy visit. The main purpose for their visit was to experience how the FBI operated its command post.
"They were shown the relationship of the FBI’s command post to the tactical operations center, were allowed a visit to the forward tactical area, and were provided generic briefings regarding the incident. Although the HRT had tactical interface with the SAS during routine practice and training, at no time was the SAS called upon to participate in any fashion with relation to the siege during the Waco incident. No advice was solicited from them and no sensitive information regarding the operation was provided to them."
Funny that the letter states that no advice was asked for. After all, the famous/infamous SAS, depending on point of view, is one of the more experienced military units in the world when it comes to hostage rescue or knocking off troublesome types with surgical precision.
As it turns out, one of the SAS men present at Waco later wrote a book after retirement from the force. He wrote "The Shooting Gallery" under the pseudonym Gaz Hunter. "Hunter" mentioned Waco and indicated that advice had been sought and tendered but that the feds didn’t take the advice, whatever it was. The rest, as they say, is history. The Branch Davidian compound went up in flames although the redcoats, for once, were long gone by then.
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The none-too-rosy portrayal of the city of Baltimore on the TV cop show "Homicide, Life on the Streets" is not too far off the mark. The place is a mess, according to a report last week in Time magazine, which stated that "Maryland’s largest city seems to have more razor wire and abandoned buildings than Kosovo."
Lord! One Echo reader who lives in Baltimore told "IF" that only a few blocks from the restored and very ritzy harbor area, the city, which has its namesake in Co. Cork, resembles a cross between a war zone and an open-air drug market. Well, into this earthy hell recently rode no fewer than 27 local individuals who would be Baltimore’s next mayor. Six of them have criminal arrest records, three have filed for bankruptcy and one is a convict, Time reported.
But at the top of the polls and leading the way into the Democratic primary — effectively the election — is Martin O’Malley, a former councilman and federal prosecutor who, according to Time, has so far emerged with his reputation in order. O’Malley might also be familiar to some readers as the inspiration behind a band called O’Malley’s March. Whether Martin O’Malley will march all the way to city hall remains to be seen.
"IF," as readers know by now, is deeply concerned about geography. This concern is particularly felt when it comes to the status of the wee North, that dot on the surface of our planet which has more aliases than a Cold War secret agent. The question which seems to defy rational answer concerns the exact status of the place. Is it in Ireland, the United Kingdom or Great Britain, or all three?
Nobody seems to be able to agree on this issue and adding to the confusion now is the Garda Siochana, the police force in the wee Republic, a state that is sometimes in Europe, sometimes described as being in the "British Isles," and is, betimes, in its own little world altogether.
A member of the NYPD auxiliary force recently contacted the Gardaí in an effort to secure a Garda shoulder patch for his collection. Collecting patches is popular among law enforcement folk. The guards duly obliged and mailed a patch together with a brochure briefly describing the force’s history and current role. The brochure came with a map of Ireland, or at least a map that was partly Ireland. That part of Ireland we know was the North was named on the map as simply "U.K." Belfast was plucked from its present position and plunked somewhere in the Mourne Mountains. Now while the Irish government does recognize the North as being currently part of the U.K., it has been generally the habit south of the border to describe the place in terms of its relationship with the rest of the island of Ireland first, Great Britain second. The guards, in their wisdom, seem to have arrested the tendency.
"Mutual confidence needs to be established. The Ulster Unionist Party needs to demonstrate that it is sincere about implementing the agreement, not grasping at each opportunity to delay, avoid, exclude and — in the long run — to renegotiate."
SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon in The Guardian
€ "Back once more in Belfast, a town he must sometimes wish he never sees again, George Mitchell, the former Senator, today begins a review of the Northern Ireland peace process. As he knows too well, this process is not so much flagging as near exhaustion."
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, op-ed New York Times