© Lionel Beck - North Yorkshire - UK 2002 was the year which proved that the terrible events of September 11th, 2001 had changed the world for the worse. The Land of the Free became the Land of the Fearful.  Democracies became paranoid. The "Fight against Terrorism" failed to take account of the reasons for terrorism. The Taliban in Afghanistan were defeated (temporarily), but their mentor, Bin Laden, disappeared. He could be dead, but nobody seems to know. He's a clever operator. He was trained by the CIA. The network of terrorist cells spawned by Bin Laden , Al Quaeda, (or versions of it) popped up all over the place, but the fight against them mysteriously metamorphosed into a blinkered campaign against Iraq led by George W Bush and his Administration, aided and abetted by Tony Blair, “Governor of America's 51st State”. India & Pakistan were on the brink of war over Kashmir (again), and India accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorist groups, one of which was alleged to be responsible for a recent bomb attack on the Indian Parliament building. Democratic India's relations with the USA deteriorated as Bush was giving moral support to the military dictatorship of Pakistan. The obvious solution was so simple that no one would do it - let the people of Kashmir have a referendum on whether they want to be in India or Pakistan. Pakistan wants this to happen, but India (which was the "democratic" country of the two) would not permit it - presumably fearing they would lose it. In Northern Ireland the bigots and thugs from the Catholic and Protestant communities were back on the streets of North Belfast again, attacking each other, attacking small kids going to Catholic schools, and throwing petrol bombs at the Police. Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted an international seminar of religious and political worthies from the worlds of Christianity and Islam in an attempt to promote a greater understanding between Christians and Muslims. A greater understanding between Christians and Christians would be nice! The trial of Slobodan Milosevic began at the international court in the Hague, for mass murder and crimes against humanity during his period as President of what was left of Yugoslavia. Of course he refused to recognise the authority of the court, but that wasn't going to stop him being tried. Strangely, though, his Serbian henchman Radavan Karadic  remained at large, as an indicted war criminal. (If the combined skills of the allied forces are unable to arrest an indicted war criminal within a small area of the Balkans, then what hope is there of finding Bin Laden?) The UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers was in constant and recurring trouble over the way he was running his Department, with lies being bandied about between himself and his civil servants about who has said what and when. This was a man who really needed to be booted out, but he managed to hang on by his fingertips. Eventually he went, probably accompanied by railway station announcements saying "We apologise for the late arrival of Stephen Byers' resignation, which is due to a signal failure at 10 Downing Street."  His biggest mistake was not to sack his personal advisor, Jo Moore, in September 2001, when she sent an e-mail round his department on September 11th (the day of the Twin Towers attack) suggesting that it would be a good day to slip out bad government news while nobody noticed. He continued to support her appalling lack of judgement. There had been several gaffs made by him, errors of judgement, and attempts to mislead the House of Commons over things he had done or not done. His place was taken by former Chief Treasury Minister, Alistair Darling. If he can sort out the mess that is Britain's public transport system then he will no doubt be everyone's Darling. Israelis and Palestinians spent the year beating the shit out of each other, and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (apparently a man of peace) continued the policy of building Israeli settlements on Palestinian occupied territory. Both Sharon and the Palestinian's Arafat were damaged goods. It was hard to feel sympathy for either of them. Ariel Sharon had always been a rabid warmonger. Yasser Arafat blew hot and cold on peace deals and could not or would not control the continuing waves of suicide bombers. These bombers - getting younger (with no desire to get any older) were hard to understand, and their wanton destruction of innocent men, women and children was and is despicable . On the other hand, whilst their methods were hard to understand or to forgive, their need to take some sort of action was fuelled by years of frustration. The whole sorry mess, it has to be said, was and is Israel's long-standing policy of occupation of other peoples' land and their construction of Jewish settlements on them. It is insensitive, against international law, and in defiance of UN resolutions. I say "A plague on both their houses" and (while I'm still in this bad mood) I will also say that it's about time that the USA modified their uncritical love affair with Israel. President Bush (to his credit) requested that Israel pull out of occupied territories but this was rejected, and at about this time they surrounded the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in attempt to "take out" wanted Palestinians. They fired shots at it and started a fire inside. About the only country agreeing with Israel's action at this time was Israel! Colin Powell, American Secretary of State visited the region on a desperate peace mission which was doomed to failure. He could not persuade Ariel Sharon to withdraw his troops from Palestinian areas, and he refused to meet Yasser Arafat after a further suicide bomb attack on Israel. Moving on to personal affairs, having enjoyed a number of stimulating internet relationships brought about by the existence of this website, my wife and I sampled our first real live Internet Date!!! We met a couple living in Shropshire, UK, and had lunch together. Nobody was murdered. The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, presented his Budget, the main result of which was an increase in National Insurance contributions, most of which was earmarked for a massive injection of funds into the NHS. So, a government which had promised not to raise Income Tax actually finished up by increasing an alternative tax on income. Since both employer and employee contributions are affected, the biggest employer in the land (guess who - the NHS) will be partly funding it's own recovery plan! It will be receiving money raised by increased National Insurance contributions and then paying out increased National Insurance contributions. Alice in Wonderland. President Bush and I shared something in common this year ... we both enjoyed the pleasures of a colonoscopy ... • ... drinking a warm fizzy cocktail • eating nothing for 36 hours • living in the smallest room for a day • having an airline stuck up my arse • my intestines blown up like party balloons • and filled with coconut milkshake • laid on my stomach • laid on my back • injected with mouth-drying eye blurring cocktail • laid on my right side • laid on my left side • slid up and down like ham on a bacon slicer • rotated to vertical • having enough pictures taken ("stop breathing!") for Time Magazine (should I have gloss or matt finish?) • then shown to the toilet to deflate and fly around the ceiling uncontrollably ... I survived the ordeal, so did President Bush, but in his case the doctors were unable to establish the cause of his speech difficulties.  The French shocked everyone (including themselves) during the first stage of their Presidential Election - Marie le Pen, the ageing National Front candidate (who described the Holocaust as "a mere footnote in history") took second place to the incumbent Jacques Chirac, and knocked the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the race. 29% of electors did not vote. The left wing vote was split between a large number of other candidates and Parties. As a result of this vote split, plus huge voter apathy, France's choice the following week-end was between the odious le Pen and the supremely boring and ageing Conservative candidate Chirac. In the second round, the French came to their senses (well, almost) and elected Chirac. The UK's crumbling railway system produced yet another serious accident - a train from Kings Cross to Cambridge travelling at about 100 mph lost its last coach approaching Potters Bar Station, as a set of points inexplicably changed whilst the final carriages were passing over them. The end carriage tried to change direction, came loose from the rest of the train and hurtled into Potters Bar Station sideways, coming to rest across two platforms. About 5 dead and many injured. It was subsequently established that nuts had become detached from bolts on the points. This had not been known to happen before. Railtrack's maintenance was contracted out to a company called Jarvis, who had inspected the points a few days before! There had been recent complaints about this section of track from both passengers and railway workers. It was yet another demonstration of the problems caused by contracting and sub-contracting and sub-sub-contracting that has characterised the railways since privatisation. Jarvis tried to persuade us that the Potters Bar points failure was very likely due to sabotage. Not many other experts agreed with this theory. The only good thing to come out of this disaster was that the Government subsequently forced the infrastructure company "Railtrack" into liquidation and it has been replaced by "Network Rail" - a not-for-profit company on which the Government is represented. Royal Marines in Afghanistan fell victim to a mysterious stomach bug. Some became seriously ill, and were flown back to the UK. The Marines were joining forces with the Australians in the south east of the country to engage in fighting Taliban and Al-Quaeda forces. My home village became bedecked with flags during the summer - Union Flags and English Flags - a happy coincidence of the Queen's Golden Jubilee and the World Cup football. The pessimists were saying that the flags that were out for the football would not be out for long. At least David Beckham's left foot had healed, and England's team looked as good as it was going to get. There was an interesting mix of emotions when England played Sweden, since the England Team's manager was Sven Goran Ericsson. The Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations kicked off at the same time as England's first game in the World Cup Football tournament, so monarchists and republicans (like me) still had an excuse for some excitement. There was an open-air classical concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, attended by about thousands of ticket lottery winners. There were audio-visual relays to giant screens in the Mall for those who didn't get tickets. The highlight of the concert for me was 13-year old Julian Bliss - a brilliant clarinetist. The next day saw England playing Sweden and they drew 1-1. England played well in the first half but were a load of rubbish in the second. David Beckham was taken off in the second half because of fatigue - this was his first real game in 8 weeks following his foot injury. For the final day of the 4-day Golden Jubilee Celebrations we spent most of the time in front of the TV watching all the events - the Golden Coach to St Paul's Cathedral, the Service, the Carnival procession up the Mall, the 50-year lifestyle floats, the voluntary services and military services parades, and the fly-past (including Concorde). Speaking as a republican ("Off with their heads!") I have to say it was still a glorious and spectacular celebration. The weather was kind and millions of people enjoyed themselves. Clearly, in spite of this dysfunctional family ruling over us by virtue of nothing more than hereditary accident, they are strangely popular, and look set to be with us for a very long time, God help us. The whole shebang was so brilliantly organised that I feel it is a great shame that the same people who are so good at this kind of thing cannot be put in charge of the railways and other forms of public transport! I developed a little bit of World Cup Football fever! Who'd have thought it? I was following all the England games and also those played by the USA - who surprisingly had a damned good team. The England and USA teams lasted for about the same amount of time in the tournament, that is to say, not long. President Bush kept on making public announcements about his intention to topple Saddam Hussein, if necessary by a massive invasion of Iraq. No other country in the world shared his enthusiasm for this venture, and even Tony Blair - usually compliant with US wishes - expressed some reticence, although it was clear that he would ultimately go along with Bush. The UK and the rest of Europe was badly affected by flooding. Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Czech Republic. The centre of Prague was under 6 ft of water at one point, including the historic old city. 40,000 people of Prague were ordered to evacuate their homes. But don't you worry your little head, President Bush - we'll cope with the obvious climate changes that are going on even if you don't recognise their importance - you just carry on denying the importance of controlling global pollution (especially from your own country, the biggest contributor) and continue to use gas guzzling vehicles and let your polluting industries go on operating under lax regulation. Sorry to interrupt your concentration on launching a war on Iraq. Talking of Iraq, I ask myself, whatever happened to the principal of nuclear deterrence? It was good enough to keep the might of the former USSR in check for 40 years. Why is it not good enough to keep a tin-pot little country like Iraq at bay. How can Saddam be a threat to the USA? Nobody has yet produced any real supporting evidence. The anniversary of "9/11" came and went peacefully, thank God. There were moving memorial services around the world. In Australia several thousand people dressed in appropriate colours stood together on a beach to form a human US flag. There was a service in St Pauls Cathedral, and of course a ceremony at "Ground Zero" in New York. There were three personal highlights to the otherwise madly depressing year of 2002 ... We became grandparents for the first time. We celebrated our Ruby wedding anniversary, thus proving it is possible to stay married for 40 years and still be in love. Of course it might also addle the brain, for we were rash enough to charter a vintage steam-hauled Pullman dining train for the occasion, providing 60 guests with a hot and cold buffet during a 36 mile train ride over the North Yorkshire Moors and back. Much to our relief the whole thing was a magnificent success, thanks to the great service provided by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. (The rest of the British railway network please take note) We saw Andrea Bocelli perform at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Seeing the man and listening to his magical voice at the same time was an emotional experience. Former Conservative MP Edwina Currie revealed that she and former Prime Minister John Major had had a really hot 4-year affair. So the "Grey Man" turned out to be a sex stud! The revelations were published just before the Conservative Party Conference. The current Conservative leader, Ian Duncan Smith was not much pleased. Another vile Tory, Jeffrey Archer was also in the news for publishing a diary of his prison life, whilst still in prison for perjury, and naming other convicts and prison staff - against regulations. (By the way, why is he still called Lord Archer? The little toad will always be just Archer to me. People like that should have their peerages taken away.) A massive bomb explosion in Bali reminded us of the continuing threat of random terrorism. About 200 people lost their lives, mostly Australian visitors, but also about 30 British. We may be living in the 21st century now, but it is a century that started with pure evil bestriding the world. To the Australians this was like America's twin towers of a year ago. Why is President Bush so obsessed with one particular leader of a State (Iraq) when these terrorist outrages come from a loose collection of fanatics whose locations and allegiances are to no state or country - just to a fanatical view of an Islamic world ruled by "Taliban-style" laws. They are a nightmare and must be stopped - but how? When Bush stresses America's Christian roots and beliefs, he should perhaps also recall that there are a million Christian Iraqis in the country he talks about invading. Oh, here's another point worth pondering ... the perpetrators of "9/11", came from Saudi Arabia. In the land of widespread and largely unrestricted gun ownership the "Washington Sniper"  successfully terrorised suburban America in the townships around Washington DC. He killed a dozen or so people in separate single-shot operations, innocent people going into shops, filling their cars with petrol, and so on. The police eventually found him, with an accomplice (step- son) asleep in their car in a rest area. It turned out that this guy was trained in the military and was a veteran of the Gulf War. He converted to Islam and developed a hatred of America. He is the second home-grown and army-trained terrorist in recent years - the other notable one being Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber. In Britain a school caretaker and his girl friend were arrested and charged with the murder of two school girls, Jessica and Holly. Where are the stones from under which these kind of people crawl? The UN finally passed a resolution imposing a requirement that Saddam Hussein give unfettered access to weapons inspectors. The Iraqi parliament rejected it, leaving it to Saddam to make a decision. If Saddam was not going to yield up his weapons of mass destruction he would be struck by America's weapons of mass destruction. If (or when) this aggression by America and Britain takes place they should remember that they will be fighting a country in possession of weapons and equipment supplied by America and Britain, and Iraqi pilots trained by the Royal Air Force. Saddam Hussein accepted the UN Resolution on admission of weapons inspectors! Of course the USA stance was that he was lying, and I suspect that Bush will still be looking for any excuse for war against Iraq. A 12,000 page document was submitted by Iraq to the UN, supposedly outlining their whole nuclear and biological capability. Some wag (and no, it wasn't me!) suggested that President Bush  would not be allowed to read it, because it would wear out his index finger! No doubt if his advisers found a semi-colon out of place somewhere in the document, the dogs of war would be unleashed. UK Firefighters went on a series of strikes for the first time in 25 years, having staked a claim for a 40% pay increase. This brought the military into action to provide fire cover with their 50-year old fire appliances, and until the pay dispute has been settled, George Bush will have to wait for any British help in Iraq, because our brave warriors might still be required for further fire fighting duties. Al-Quaeda struck again later in the year, this time bombing a hotel in Kenya in which there were Israeli tourists. About a dozen people were killed and many more injured. On the same day, anti- aircraft missiles were fired at an Israeli airliner taking off from Mombassa Airport. Thankfully they missed. The only good thing to be said about these low-life, evil, disgusting apologies for human beings is that they usually (deliberately) kill themselves in their attacks. Towards the end of the year three American missionaries were killed by terrorists in the Yemen. They were "accused" by their attackers of spreading Christianity. Isn't religion wonderful? In the period leading up to Christmas, Bush continued to make threatening noises about Iraq. Meanwhile the UN weapons inspectors continued with their work. The Fylingdales Early Warning Station (about 5 miles up the road from where I live) was earmarked as a key player in the unproven American "Son of Star Wars" defence project, thus intensifying our profile as a potential target for terrorists and rogue states. I became, officially, a senior citizen with a State Pension in December, so just start treating me with the respect I deserve! The UK Conservative Party ended the year the same way they started it .. derided and unloved .. in spite of the Labour Government's increasing store of errors and unpopular moves. Again there's talk of a leadership challenge. The leader of the Conservatives is Iain Duncan Smith. Not a lot of people know that. (Read this website and learn). P.S. Please can Brits be granted the right to a vote in the next American Presidential Election? 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