Tuesday, 29 August 2017
Cruise control Kent and Manston-Infratil drug/gun-running
The latest Tom Cruise blockbuster American Made has opened to rave reviews: Cruise on top form, best movie he's done in years, film of the week, Cruise flying high and so on.
Certainly questions must be being asked at Universal studios with such superlatives and the August Bank Holiday opening, why such weak to nonexistent publicity - and that with the film being in the can for over a year too.
While with director Doug Liman attached to the package - giving Christopher Nolan of megamovie Dunkirk a run for his money as one of the world’s greatest living directors - of the Bourne movie franchise, and also working with Cruise on Edge of Tomorrow, a box office hit was almost guaranteed.
The Paramount theme park in West Kent once again drifting sideways would be a huge asset for the UK entertainment industry and Bluewater retail park. Certainly Mission Impossible rides would be a novel experience.
And if the Paramount drift understandably continues then a James Bond World would be apt for Kent as 007 county - a Roger Moore Scaramanga Hall of Mirrors or Octopussy circus surely another apt shoo-in amongst the VR rides. While a Harry Potter theme park is another neglected UK asset given the global success of the books and films and computer games. Hogwarts has been a massive injection of vitality into the UK's acting talent such as East Kent's Timothy Spall and special effects industries.
Perhaps the opportunity for UK film to move beyond an ad-hoc cottage industry will be lost without political will.
JK Rowling perhaps with Bond and Cruise make a rather neglected triumvirate for UK's Creative Industries. It's almost impossible to imagine that say Disney -even before its Star Wars expansion -would have neglected the opportunities from such talent.
There's possibly an argument for both Cruise and Liman to be given UK citizenship for their consistent support of Britain's movie industry. George Osborne when Chancellor was one of the few politicians to grasp the potential of UK Creative Industries through the studio system, post-production, music, skills and training, special effects and computer games.
But why the Kent Cruise connection? The Dunkirk megamovie has obvious connections here in East Kent with the Ramsgate Little Ships rescuing UK and French soldiers off the beaches, and Operation Dynamo directed from Dover by Admiral Ramsay.
Well, American Made has a clue in its former - and rather better title - Mena.
Not the Middle East and North Africa acronym, but Mena in Arkansas, USA, the airport which Cruise's real-life character Barry Seal flew in and out of with cocaine and guns to supply both the Contras in Nicaragua and Medellin drugs cartel in Colombia.
Clearly a small out-of-the-way rural airport used for gunrunning and drugs resonates with both Manston airport here in East Kent under Infratil, and indeed Lydd and Ostend airports.
The Infratil directors are still on the run, Fitzgerald, Clarke, Bogoievski and Baker, but based in Wellington airport - yet all the other Infratil UK and EU airports and even Rotorua in NZ closed down.
Almost a dozen airports closed from the airport monitors scandal with TDC council of removing the monitors and faking the data and missing multi-million pound fines to develop Manston as another Gatwick - mere minutes flytime from the half-empty Gatwick and Stansted.
As the ludicrous scheme fell apart a wave of illegal and semi-legal activity ratcheted upwards eg KAM Air Afghan air transport somehow managing to fly undetected across Europe via Vienna to almost crashland at Manston. The bellyflop onto the houses at the runway would have incinerated its claimed cargo of Argentine polo ponies as well as the residents in a Kent Lockerbie. The airplane tail dragging off the runway into the grass leaving a knee-deep furrow.
Cruise’s Barry Seal character managed to only crashland a light plane into houses.
While UN-sanctioned airlines were clearly involved in gunrunning via Ostend into Africa. Then sanctions-busting was evident with Iran Air:
Guns via Iran for the Contras being a key facet of the Barry Seal Mena flights.
While new narco-states such as Guinea-Bissau are also a correlation to the closure of airports such as Mena as cocaine routes out of Peru and Colombia into Europe change. While Ostend gunrunning certainly fuelled the conflicts in Africa from Libya to Sudan that have resulted in four famines not from crop failure, but conflict. While the Liberia and DRC Congo conflicts would yield only blood diamonds via Ostend to Antwerp.
Ostend airport – again as blatantly as Manston or Mena - the base for Viktor Bout eventually arrested and extradited from Bangkok by Thai police and the DEA/FBI, and who also achieved movie fame as the basis of the Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke film Lord of War.
Hawke also filming in Ramsgate for Juliet Naked, Nick Hornby’s book rather than Shakespeare raises the issue again of the need for an East Kent Film office and studio as a counterweight to the usual Maidstone/West Kent/Chatham Dockyard focus. And promoting and regenerating the area beyond the usual handful tarmac apprenticeships. £2BN a year in tax and central government funds doesn't seem to have bought much regeneration via Kent's councils in any of the 3 Kent districts.
And certainly not in East Kent far away from London and further away from Maidstone, indeed nearer to France and Benelux.
The absence of a Kent 50M Olympic pool speaks volumes - especially with France having the nearest sports facility to East Kent. While ice rinks in Bangkok one of the world's hottest cities but none in Bolero Kent suggests idleness as well as corruption infecting Kent's body politic.
The lack of imagination if not downright corruption on the Kent Fire $1M fire station on sports land or the mega-boozer castigated in The Guardian also speaks volumes of municipal failure and clunking incompetence opening the day after one of the hottest and busiest Bank Holidays:
While the BBC Plane Drunk documentary highlighting Wetherspoons at Gatwick with a shocking 50% increase in out of hand airport drinking. Even Barry Seal flew sober surrounded by bags of cocaine.
Clearly on EKFO S though there's plenty of projects available to core fund the project whether digitising the History of Advertising Trust and British Film Institute archives before they literally crumble to dust - the flammable decay of old films being a key plot point in the Quentin Tarantino- Brad Pitt movie Inglourious Basterds. With Pitt filming World War Z in East Kent at the Discovery Park science labs clearly the opportunity is there to deliver big budget studio and location filming on cruise control.
Indeed the new UK DIT trade offices in California's Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have UK film and TV as the remit along with the movie belt from DIT offices on the eastern seaboard from Boston to Virginia - Kent's sister state helmed by dynamic Governor Terry McAuliffe with former Governor and Senator and VP candidate Tim Kaine, and former Senator Vietnam's Jim Webb a movie expert too having written Rules of Engagement starring Tommy Lee Jones - and South Carolina.
But Cruise as Barry Seal and Mena has a disturbing variance on the Manston and Ostend crimes. For the Mena gunrunning and drug running was created and financed by the American government as part of the Oliver North Contra scandal of selling arms to Iran, to yield funds for the Contras to overthrow the Nicaraguan regime.
That an unusual twist on standard Monroe interventionist foreign policy in the USA's Caribbean and Latin American backyard over the last 100 years or so. Take your pick of Chile or Guatemala or Panama or Grenada in recent decades. Or further back Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Cuba.
But unlike say the Cuban exile armies in Florida and Guatemala with US military support plotting to overthrow Castro, Cruise's Barry Seal – and other pilots such as Gene Hasenfus who crashlanded and spilled the proverbial beans, as well as the Bolivian marching powder, to the John Kerry Congressional inquiry - would deliver arms and funds to the Contras from Mena, but on the return flight fill up the empty planes with cocaine to be sold for further funds in USA.
The US military, CIA and government directly funding and assisting drug trafficking into USA is beyond the norm and beyond the pale. While unmarked planes as at Manston or cargo planes into warzones raises issues of endangering aid workers compared to say guns only flown on marked air force flights with uniformed military.
Kerry who went on to be Presidential candidate against Barack Obama, then head of the Dept of State concluded: "there is no question in my mind that people connected with the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while in support of the Contras."
Perhaps though there's never been a better time for reversing the drugs trade - the FARC peace treaty in Colombia ends one key facet of the drugs trade, the Mexican drugs trade concentrates the problem in that nation with or without Trump's new wall.
And a new surge of US troops in Afghanistan will impact that heroin trade as does democracy in Myanmar under the Aung San regime. And the massive expansion of UK aid frees up funds for Doitung-style social projects. While UNODC regularly highlights the African nations and European ports descending into the narcotrade.
Perhaps the rather feeble UK support for Aung San's Mynamar is currently the weakest link in the chain.
The Manston crimes were slightly less blatant than Mena but clearly Charles Fitzgerald the Manston manger moving from Manston to Lydd airport suggests a lack of CAA rigeur to put it mildly. And Afghan flights wandering across all of EU airspace is also surprising as Egyptair flights taking off from Cairo to land at 3am at Manston. When the airport closed at 11pm - before the planes even set off.
DAS Air, Cargolux at Stansted and KLM off-route pollution ignored, falsified and buried by politicians and bureaucrats and police can yield only a crop of tumours. The cancer effect and explanation perhaps taking as long as Mena to come to light in Kent.
While the lack of extradition efforts by Kent Police for Infratil's directors` - and an inquiry into the Gloag-Stagecoach running of Manston - is turning a blind eye worthy of Nelson given developing Manston was a KCC and TDC and the now defunct SEEDA core aim.
The silence from the bureaucrats and politicians is simply deafening - and all the more horrifying with Gale MP and Mackinlay MP and Wells supposedly wanting to reopen Manston yet refusing to confront the Infratil and TDC crimes.
Barry Seal ended up being pursued by the FBI, DEA, ATF and State police, yet Manston seems to warrant only a coverup. And a cargo airplane can carry an awful lot of drugs.
The book The Candy Machine How Cocaine Took over the World by Tom Feiling though provides a rigorous review of both the Mena-Contra case, and cocaine in general, with Hangars 4 and 5 at Ilopango airport in San Salvador (El Salvador with one of the world's highest murder rates) used as a trampoline to Mena by Oliver North and CIA for cocaine from Colombia and Costa Rica.
So much cocaine between 1982 and 1985 flew the Mena-Contra routes, that the wholesale price of cocaine in Baltimore and Los Angeles and Miami fell by half.
Feiling posits the view that Mena also directly fuelled the explosion in crack cocaine from the 1980's with Baltimore as a post-industrial town (shades of East Kent again) with the closure of the Bethlehem steelworks causing a social implosion as depicted in the TV series The Wire.
The Mena drugs route shifted the drugs trade away from Miami to Central America and eventually Mexico contributing to that nation’s problems and Trumpian wall.
Feiling estimates 290 tons of cocaine a year constitute the US drugs trade - that could in theory be carried by just 13 trucks - with 90% of that coming through Mexico and the 6,000 trucks at just the Laredo border crossing. Worryingly often hidden inside pineapples. While an astonishing 30% of Mexican farmland is estimated to be sown with marijuana or opium seeds - certainly also ripe for Doitung projects on crops and markets.
5,600 drugs deaths in just one year, 2008, in Mexico are in stark contrast to 2,400 US troop deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.
While the CIA collusion in Laotian heroin in the American War – Air America being a similar Mena airline and an awful Mel Gibson movie - and Afghan heroin in the Russian War are part of a dangerous pattern. Indeed the expansion of both Shan heroin in Myanmar and Afghan heroin from the current USA war has resulted in the highest ever UK and USA drugs deaths, and 1.8M US citizens are estimated to work in the drugs trade.
Clearly East Kent's small-ish 30 or so market towns aren't comparable to the inner-city decay of USA - although that is partly why the blatancy of the Manston-Infratil crimes stands out. And the lack of any effort by the $3BN a year councils symbolised by the still-empty Chatham Dockyard after 30 years except as a barren film set, or Medway with the worst primary schools in UK, and at least 2 of the UK's worst councils, all by the government's own figures, is astonishing.
Yet Kent Police have Dover Europe's largest port on their patch as well as the small harbours such as Ramsgate with Operation Kraken, and Operation Pegasus for small airports such as Lydd that are part of the EU Golden Triangle of London, Paris and Amsterdam. And 90% of illegal drugs seizures in Belgium.
Clearly the Manston crimes, beyond local government involvement, are part of a wider illegality in Frontline Kent with the UK's largest gun haul at Rochester Marina by Kent Police and numerous drugs arrests.
One reassuring aspect is Thailand now active in South to South cooperation with the Colombia and FARC ceasefire to reduce cocaine through the afore-mentioned Doitung Royal projects that have been a superb success in Thailand. But the wave of drug deaths, from amphetamines rather than heroin, under the Shinawatra regime and now the Philippines Duterte regime show the increasing threat of drugs and terrorism funding in Asia-Pacific.
The new USA troop surge into Afghanistan is in response to the failing security situation with essentially the loss of Helmand fought and bled over by UK troops, and all points out of Kandahar. Just 600 troops in Kabul something of a failure of UK and NATO resolve as is the flow of heroin actually increasing.
This week's Sunday Times details the potential collapse of Afghanistan and certainly a Taliban takeover without NATO troops. And Pakistani safe havens for the Taliban is astonishing for a Commonwealth nation. Osama Bin Laden killed just yards away from the Pakistani Sandhurst hardly suggests a NATO and Commonwealth united front.
While, UK success in bus exports to one side for the moment, in Mexico the wave of drug crime has destabilised the whole nation and surely calls for greater UK support.
Indeed Lincolnshire Police have begun scoping out Operation California which should encompass both road safety expertise sharing - a sort of CHiPs with everything - all the more important with the dawn of autonomous vehicles on UK roads next year from Silicon Valley, and drug crime coordination in USA and Latin America and the Caribbean Commonwealth, with Kent Police and Cheshire Police.
Kent Police's Innovation Fund begun with Deputy Chief Brandon's Las Vegas Predictive Policing hasn't yet rolled out and is perhaps more fitted to some of the larger Commonwealth nations such as Jamaica that wouldn't necessarily know of it or fund it themselves. Nor has community activity been prioritised as yet by Charlton Athletic or Arsenal that provide future teen BMXers FA Cup and Olympics sports opportunities beyond drug running.
And those honest Mexican or British Virgin Islands or Colombian or Peruvian - or USA - police might well appreciate British police contacts.
Feiling's book details the growth of Jamaican Yardies: Operation Airbridge by UK-Jamaican police found 25% of passengers arriving from Jamaica were carrying cocaine, with over 400 Jamaican female drugs mules in UK prisons, and Feiling interviewing one in Cookham prison in Kent. Yet still Jamaica seizing a record 3.7 tons of cocaine in 2002.
While East Kent is familiar with the drugs supply chain of banks and accountants - along with dodgy lawyers and barristers and judges such as Grabiner's One Essex Court - that UK still hasn't prevented in the Commonwealth: British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands all fronting mysterious Kent property developments and secret directors to much shuffling of feet and umming and ahhing by the councils and police.
Add in Turks and Caicos or Bermuda or nearer to home Jersey and Gibraltar and Isle of Man and you have the UK pretty much facilitating the entire money laundering industry for the drugs trade in USA's backyard. Monroe would be turning in his grave.
Clearly as with Jamaica, UK police could close down much of that Commonwealth activity almost instantly - the UK Supreme Court being the Supreme Court of most of the Caribbean Commonwealth, although the existence of the death penalty in some of those nations but not UK rather makes a mockery of that legal process - and certainly even more rapidly with the support of Bolivian generals or Mexican and Peruvian police and politicians and civil society.
While Thailand's ACT anti-corruption activity is far more advanced than UK and another Doitung template available for export.
Thailand and Doitung has proved that the drugs war can be won in the long-term through a mix of policing and crop markets, and where UK could support too, in medicare. The medicalisation of say cocaine use would, without contributing to the drugs tourism that even Amsterdam is rowing back on, also reduce much of the cultural glamour.
Tom Cruise on location in London for Mission Impossible 6, despite nursing an injured knee from his stunt work can revel in some of the best reviews of his career and has moved Kent into cruise control in flagging up the drugs war.
If the Latin American drugs trade, and USA drugs trade, certainly at Mena and the Contras, was American Made, then the Manston-Infratil crimes are made in UK and NZ.
Time for Change